Every Halloween I like to cook something warm and pumpkin-y for dinner. This year I'll pair my favorite pumpkin tortilla soup with enchiladas de pipián rojo, a smoky, nutty, spiced (but not too spicy) sauce made with pumpkin seeds, chile peppers, and roasted vegetables.
In Mexico, pipián is a type of mole or sauce served with meat or over enchiladas. Made with ground seeds or nuts, it may be green (verde) or red (rojo). In pre-Colombian times, the seeds would have been squash; later, nuts like peanuts and almonds were introduced. My version has pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and peanuts, which give it a toasty, nutty flavor and add body to the sauce. The "rojo" comes from charred tomatoes and ancho and guajillo chile peppers – de-seeded so you get the bittersweet flavor without too much heat.
The simple enchiladas are filled with a cotija, a white, salty cow's milk cheese. If you can't find that, substitute any cheese you like, or fill the corn tortillas with vegetables, such as small cubes of squash or pumpkin, for a vegan version. I also love saving some of the deeply flavored sauce to eat with beans or eggs.
Enchiladas de Pipián Rojo
For the pipián rojo:
3 dried guajillo chiles
1 dried ancho chile
3 cups boiling water
3 plum tomatoes
1/4 onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the enchiladas:
12 corn tortillas
1 cup cotija cheese
Cilantro, for garnish
Place the chiles in a dry skillet over high heat and cook until toasted, about 2 minutes on each side. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
Return the skillet to high heat. Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic in the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until charred, about 10 minutes. Remove from the skillet and slip the skins off the garlic.
Return the skillet to low-medium heat. Place the pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and sesame seeds in the skillet and cook, stirring continuously, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and cloves.
Drain the chiles, reserving the liquid, and remove the stems, veins, and seeds. Place the chiles in a blender along with 2 cups of the liquid, the tomatoes, onion, garlic, seed-nut mixture, and salt. Puree until smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the skillet and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Keep warm.
Heat oven to 400°F.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a separate skillet over medium-high heat. Hold one tortilla with tongs and fry until pliable, about 5 seconds. Transfer the tortilla to the skillet with the sauce and turn to coat. Place the tortilla on a work surface and fill with about 2 tablespoons of cheese. Roll the tortilla around the cheese and transfer it to a baking dish. Repeat the process with the remaining tortillas. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Bake until hot, about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese and cilantro and serve.
(Images: Emily Ho)