To explain why I tried this dish tonight, I have to back up about 3 weeks and tell you about a night when our friend Nicole showed up at our back door, (which she frequently does) bearing a leftover box from dinner. In the box was something called chilaquiles (say “chee-lah-KEE-lace”). Kirk and I greedily snarfed it down, and wondered why we had never heard of this delectable thing before, given our years of Mexican food fan-hood. (There’s an answer to that, and I’ll get there.) I proceeded to hunt down recipes for chilaquiles, and after looking at about 40 of them and realizing that it is a very simple method, really, I went for it. Tonight’s dinner was fantastic, and I can safely say we will be having MORE chilaquiles–probably this WEEK! So here’s the low down on them:
The reason we hadn’t ever heard of chilaquiles before was because they are a really common breakfast food in Mexico, usually made to use up all your stale tortillas. So it’s not considered some kind of fancy delicacy. Putting it on the menu at the restaurant would be like offering, I dunno, ….cream of tuna on toast is the nearest equivalent from my family’s food repertoire. I happen to like cream of tuna on toast, but it’s not really company food. So that’s why I’d never had chilaquiles in a restaurant before.
What is this dish? Basically, it’s layers of tortillas and other things, cooked in a deep skillet. Here’s what we did, along with a few things I might do differently next time:
First we heated about 4 TBSP of peanut oil in the skillet. When it was good and hot, we lightly fried about 12 corn tortillas. (And you want them to be a bit stale–if they are fresh, they will just fall apart.) We set those aside until the rest of the ingredients were ready.
Then we added another TBSP or so of oil to the pan, and laid down a layer of 4 tortillas on the bottom. On this layer, we drizzled some Mexican crema (if you can’t find this in your grocery store, you can use sour cream, although the taste is different.) Then we sprinkled some grated cheddar. We threw in a splash of some molé sauce that Nicole had brought us on Saturday (but this would be optional.) Down went another layer of tortillas. On top of that, we drizzled more crema, a little more cheese, and a good layer of salsa. This time we used plain old Pace Medium Picante, but I’d like to try Salsa verde. Then the top layer of tortillas went down. We covered the pan and let the whole thing cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the bottom was crispy and brown. I think next time, I’ll try to flip the whole thing and brown the other side. As it was, we flipped it out onto a plate and served wedges, with more crema drizzled over top.
The meal was a rousing success, I must say. Kirk and I couldn’t stop doing that, “MMMMMMM!” thing that says, “This is SOOOOO good!” The boys both tried it and expressed approval (#1, the picky eater: “Not bad.” #2: “I want MORE of that!”) We had to call up Auntie Nicole and invite her over for some (turns out they were calling to her loudly enough that she heard them way over in Minneapolis!)
Nicole tells us that chilaquiles is frequently eaten with an egg–sunny-side-up–served on top, for breakfast. Sometimes the crema is drizzled over the top, and a bit of crumbled Queso Fresco (it tastes a bit like Mozzarella, but the texture is more crumbly and less stringy/rubbery.) We could also add to the layers with scrambled eggs, refried beans, shredded meat, vegetables, etc. We could cut down on the fat by skipping the tortilla frying, and by using non-stick spray on the bottom. (But I have to say, the crispy fried tortilla on the bottom was FAB!) Further cutting down the fat, we could use fat-free sour cream instead of the crema, and use skim-milk mozzarella instead of cheddar. The really essential ingredients here are the layers of tortillas, cooked with salsa and other stuff in the skillet.
I’ll be adding further posts as I experiment more with this tasty and economic dish. If anybody out there has any fantastic tips or additions for chilaquiles, please share!