October 5, 2010

Sweet Potato Enchiladas with Refried Beans

I have always loved sweet potatoes, but Michael has been fairly lukewarm on them. This is probably due to my sweet tooth and the fact that I always ate my sweet potatoes sweet - I'm talking baked with crispy golden marshmallows on top or mashed with tons of butter and brown sugar. Those things tasted good. But we both had a revelation about sweet potatoes when we tried a side dish of sweet potatoes at Doña Tomas, a California/Mexican restaurant in Oakland. The potatoes were sweet, savory, and spicy all at the same time, mashed with cumin and chili powder and other delicious Mexican spices. Michael was sold on sweet potatoes and I became a sweet potato convert - ah ha! Sweet potatoes are already sweet. What better way to enjoy them than by complementing the sweetness with savory and spicy flavors? (By the way, I'm not knocking the sweet sweet potatoes. if someone put a plate of sweet potato and marshmallow casserole in front of me right now, I would definitely eat it.)

So, we created this dish, using a green tomatillo sauce from Bon Appétit and adding a side of what we call refried beans (I say that we call them that because we haven't consulted any recipes here and are not really sure if they are authentic refried beans; we just put some things together, and they tasted good.) The enchiladas are also good with butternut squash or a combination of squash and sweet potato, and we've done it with the addition of fresh corn in the past, which was delicious. You could even put the beans inside the enchiladas rather than on the side.

Tomatillo Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
Adapted from Bon Appétit, July 1998

- 4 tomatillos
- 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
- 3-4 chopped green onions, white part and a few inches of green
- 1/2 of a jalapeño
- Salt and black pepper to taste

Husk the tomatillos and remove the stems. Cook them in boiling water until they are just soft, about 4 minutes. Place tomatillos in a food processor with all other ingredients and puree.

Sweet Potato Enchiladas (makes 6)

- 1 large sweet potato or yam
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 of a small white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 6 corn tortillas, 6 inch diameter
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated pepper jack cheese or other soft, mild cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a fork to poke holes in the sweet potato so that the juices can be released as it cooks. Put the potato on a piece of foil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Let the sweet potato cool, peel of the skin, and chop into large pieces (or, if you're rushed, you can just burn your fingers!)

Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook the garlic and onion until soft, about five minutes. Add the sweet potato and the stock and cook together for 3-4 minutes. Then, using a potato masher or the back of a spoon, mash the potato until it is fairly smooth but still has some chunks. Add the butter, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and salt and pepper, and mix well.

Before you assemble your enchiladas, check what kind of tortillas you have. We use a corn/wheat blend that is quite flexible, but many corn tortillas will break if you bend them when they are cool. If your tortillas are not flexible, moisten a paper towel and wrap the tortillas in it. Place them on a plate and warm in the oven for about ten minutes.

Put a thin layer of tomatillo sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Scoop some sweet potato filling into a tortilla, add a sprinkling of cheese, roll the tortilla, and place it, seam down, in the baking dish. Continue until you've filled all your tortillas. Cover the enchiladas with the remaining tomatillo sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Bake until they cheese is golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

"Refried" Beans

- 1 can of black beans, drained
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño
- 3 tbsp vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic, and jalapeño until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the black beans, stock, butter, and all the spices. Stir together until the butter has melted, then mash the beans in the same way you did for the sweet potatoes, leaving a few beans whole or not fully mashed.

(Notice that there are no pictures of the bean making process. We took some. They did not look appealing. Refried beans are not the most aesthetically pleasing food, but they are tasty!)


  1. Enchiladas look spectacular. Nothing much to refried beans--traditionally they are just left over beans mashed a bit and heated in lard. Yours are definitely upscale and read like a must make version.

  2. Can't wait to try this! Or maybe I can get my daughter to make it...