9/1/13

Chilaquiles
 
 
If you are anything like this Cat, you probably go in cycles with types of foods. Every year in the fall kimchi seems to be the only thing to do. In the summer, brine cured dill pickles. In the fall there's always a plentiful supply of local orchard apple cider. Jersey vine ripe tomatoes, YES.

Then there's the on again and off again rounds with the various culture cuisines. Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Mid-Eastern, Italian (of course, Italian). And to a lesser extent every other distinct cuisine in the world.

Currently we're going through our Mexican period. And, speaking of Mexican dishes (Salma Hayek does come to mind, one plentiful dish for sure) . . . after homemade tortillas, tacos, tortilla soup, and quesadilla's, naturally you would expect that Chilaquiles would come over the horizon. That's kind of funny, because Chilaquiles is often a breakfast item; over the horizon, sunrise . . . get it?

Chilaquiles is a conflation of some sort of cooked spicy salsa type sauce with fried tortilla pieces mixed in, along with eggs, maybe some boneless chicken bits, all garnished with a cheese or two (one crumbly, the other melty) sliced scallion/fine chopped white onion, chopped cilantro. Drizzle with some Crema/Crème fraîche and put some refried pinto beans on the side and you are good to do some serious chores today.

And, that's just our take. Look at the photo montage at the head of this article. Chicken? Why not chorizo with chicken, or any other flavorful meat bits you happen to have on hand. Bacon? Not so much. But, it's for your taste, so whatever you want. Experiment.

The question is over how crunchy you be likin' your tortilla bits. Now, in a pinch you could just do this with store bought tortilla chips in a bag. But, hey, don't put a price on love. Go all the way and make your own from scratch. We do (sometimes). Or, get yourself a bag of fresh small thin corn tortillas; it'll set you back all of a coupla bucks. In a proper Mexican grocery there will be several brands to choose from. They preferably should be refrigerated in the store for freshness. Be sure to select the ones that feel right to you. We like them soft and fluffy (we're thinking Salma Hayek again).



Now what. We don't do the usual, which is to cut the tortillas in quarters before frying to a crisp in vegetable oil. We cut them in half and make one stack which is then cut in to fine strips, like noodles (think fetuccine style) 2-3 long. Then to the oil to a golden brown crisp.

Now is the moment of truth. If you like them crunchy put them on a plate or shallow bowl and serve the Chilaquiles on top just before bringing the dish to table. If you like them soft, then cook them into the sauce a bit. If you like it Goldilocks, a little soft/a little crunchy, then make sure your sauce is liquid enough to soften tortillas bits after you pour on the goodies.

Another place where the road diverges. Do you put this dish all together in the pot, or do you layer? A lot of cooks seem to need a recipe to follow. Fair enough. But, why not do what top chefs (who are kindred with the Master Cooky Cat) do, think ahead to what you would like it to look like and taste like, then proceed from there, both in terms of ingredients and assembly. It's what you like and what your guests will like, after all.

Also, just because it's a Mexican dish, you don't have to have everything with a Mexican name or label. What you got right now in your very own refrigerator should be sufficient for this dish. But, you do need the tortillas. Pita chips? In a very serious pinch only if stranded out in a desert.

This morning for Sunday breakfast we made a sauce with fresh tomatillos, red tomatoes, garlic and onions. Chopped all fine and cooked into a sauce. In a large skillet we first poured in the sauce, topped it with beaten eggs, on top of which went a crumbly farmer type cheese and some creamy Gouda (hey, that's what we have right now) and let the eggs cook over the sauce, covered. The eggs come out souffléed.

Here's a note to the fellas out there eager to please the lady of your heart with a breakfast you rustled up on that first morning after that first night; you know what we're talking about. Souffléed eggs will seal the deal. She'll ask for more.

Just before serving spinkle finely sliced scallion or diced white onion and lots of chopped cilantro leaves. Add avocado cubes. Serves this saucy melange over a bed of crisped totilla strips. It will send you both over the top. And back to the bedroom for some further "consideration". Guaranteed. 

One last point, don't get some idea there is one standard version of Chilaquiles. If you do an image search on the Internet you will see a variety of versions. The common elements seem to be fried tortilla pieces, a salsa type cooked sauce, and add-ins.

We like to make a sauce out of tomatillos, fresca or sometimes roasted. And, you can try such a sauce poured simply over scrambled eggs.

Now go make some Chilaquiles.

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