All Hail The Crispy Enchilada Cheese Skirt!

Daniel didn’t even ask me if we could do this newsletter. He just sent me the piece below, and said: “Our people need to know about the wonders of the crispy enchilada cheese skirt.” I was intrigued. And after reading this, well…he’s not wrong.

To add to the cheesy extravagance (it is Super Bowl weekend, after all), I’ve also included two recipes (with videos) that I did last year for Grub Street: Buffalo Shrimp with Blue Cheese, and Mushroom Queso Fundido. They’re easy, fast (we’re talking less than 15 minutes), and I’d be pretty damn happy eating both of them on the couch this Sunday.

— Mark

It’s true, I didn’t ask: When crispy melted cheese is hanging in the balance, I’ll take forgiveness over permission any day.

To many (myself included), the best parts of a grilled cheese or quesadilla, or any similarly constituted hot cheese delivery system are the bits of Cheddar or Jack or Parm that escape out the sides and sizzle themselves into crackly shards when they hit the skillet. This is serendipitous cooking at its finest. But sometimes life’s too short to wait for serendipity. If the crispy cheese is the best part, why not force the issue?

The last few times I’ve made enchiladas that’s exactly what I’ve done, and I’m pretty sure there’s no turning back for me now. If you like cheese (non-negotiable) and appreciate some added crunch (preferable), I submit for your consideration the crispy enchilada cheese skirt.

Mark’s classic chicken enchilada recipe is below. Start with that (halve the recipe if you like, it serves 8) or any other version you want; it makes no difference what these enchiladas are filled with, and in fact our story only really begins when it’s time to arrange them in a pan. You’ll need a baking dish or skillet with lots of extra room (cast iron, carbon steel, enamel, and non-stick will all work; avoid stainless steel, the cheese might stick). Once you’ve tightly rolled your filling of choice in the tortillas, pack them snugly together in a row (or your desired pattern), but make sure to leave plenty of empty space on either side; that’s where the extra cheese is going to go.

Top the enchiladas with whatever sauce you’re using, being careful not to get those empty sides of the pan too wet (which will inhibit the crispification process). Instead of just sprinkling shredded cheese directly over the top, you’re also going to sprinkle it directly onto the pan on both sides of the enchiladas. Be generous: while a light scattering of cheese will certainly yield some crispy bits, a nice even layer is what’s going to get you the full-on skirt (i.e. big crunchy flaps of cheese surrounding your enchiladas).

You bake these as you would any normal enchiladas, at 350 degrees or so until everything is melted and heated through. Once that happens, it’s time to focus your attention on that extra cheese to either side. Your goal is essentially to turn it into a giant cheese crisp (also known as “frico”). I do this by putting the pan under the broiler (not too close), at which point the cheese skirt will really start to sizzle. Keep an eye on it, and check its progress by running a spatula underneath; if the cheese is molten it isn’t ready. When it’s done, the skirt will be golden brown and lacy, with the texture of a pliable cheese cracker (see the photos below).

It will crisp a bit more as it cools, which leaves you two options: 1) While the cheese skirt is still malleable, fold it from either side over the top of the enchiladas as if you’re wrapping a gift (equal parts dramatic and unnecessary). 2) Just let it cool for a minute until you can snap the skirt into crunchy sheets (or shards), and serve them right on top (expedient, lazy, and easier to eat). I’m never making enchiladas any other way again.

— Daniel


This is a classic taqueria dish that's even better when made at home. Although the preparation takes some time, enchiladas are delicious and fun for parties or potlucks. You can fill and roll the tortillas ahead of time and then top with the sauce and cheese and bake immediately before serving. The version in the recipe is for no-frills chicken enchiladas, but if you want to add a crispy cheese skirt (like in these photos), just follow the instructions above.

ENCHILADAS WITH CRISPY CHEESE SKIRT


This appetizer manages to be delicious without requiring much work from the cook at all (cheese is really doing the heavy lifting here). With pre-grated cheese, this recipe comes together in minutes. Just toss everything in a pan and open a bag of chips.

MUSHROOM QUESO FUNDIDO


This dish has all the classic buffalo flavors: hot sauce, blue cheese, butter, and even some celery. Swap the chicken wings for shrimp and you get a slightly upgraded American classic that’s ready in 11 minutes flat.

BUFFALO SHRIMP


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.