Getting Your Chilaquiles On
My absolute favorite breakfast food is chilaquiles. If it’s on the menu, that is what I am ordering! Crunchy tortillas, spicy red or green sauce, topped with an egg and cheese. Yum!
While watching a re-run of Beat Bobby Flay recently, the challenge was chilaquiles. Bobby made a roasted tomatillo salsa and then topped fried blue corn tortillas with white cheddar, jack and goat cheeses and popped them in the oven on a sheet pan to melt the cheeses. He finished with the tomatillo sauce topped with chorizo and a fried egg. Bobby won this round, and I was excited to try his recipe, but when I mentioned it to my friend whose family has restaurants in Mexico City, I got the “That’s not chilaquiles, that’s breakfast nachos!”
According to my friend, for authentic chilaquiles, you have to quickly sauté the tortillas in the sauce just enough to coat the tortillas but not to soften them; otherwise, you are just making nachos. OK, I’ll mention that to Bobby Flay next time I see him (:
She went on to share photos of a favorite restaurant in Mexico City that only serves chilaquiles. WHAT? I want a restaurant like that in my neighborhood. Heck, I’d even drive for a restaurant that only serves chilaquiles. But, since Mexico City is too far to drive, I thought I would whip up my version of this recipe for chilaquiles with tortilla chips.
Somehow the discussion next turned to nopales (prickly pear cactus) … I learned that you grill them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and then chop them up with tomatoes, white onion, chiles and cilantro for a crunchy salsa.
Plus, I discovered that “Nopales aid in weight loss, improve skin health, protect heart health, regulate and improve digestion, boost the immune system, and optimize metabolic activity.”
OK, I’m in on that too! Maybe some Nopales salsa will offset the calories from the cheese and tortillas…or not.
I sent Tom to our favorite Mexican market (shout out to Vallarta Market if you are in So. Cal.!) for the ingredients. I was very tempted to use the fresh salsa from the market and skip making the sauce but, in for a peso, in for a pound. (The cost of all the veggies for this dish at Vallarta? $6.63. The most expensive item was the bag of Nopales which was $2.29.)
I made the same sauce I used for my Hatch Chile Chicken Enchiladas Suizas sans the sour cream and cream. I Went with super chunky house-made tortillas chips at the Vallarta Market, with Oaxaca cheese (from Wiki: a white, semi-hard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture). If you aren’t making your own tortilla chips, be sure to use the thickest tortilla chips you can find, so they hold their crunch in the sauce.
How to cook the eggs? Some recipes call for adding beaten eggs to the sauce and simmering over low heat until the eggs are set and the mixture creamy. On Beat Bobby Flay, Bobby fried his eggs while his competitor poached his in apple cider vinegar. I like my eggs scrambled which is what I did with this recipe.
If this seems like a lot of work for breakfast, remember you usually make chilaquiles from leftovers. The salsa and the sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated; or, you can go with your favorite store-bought fresh sauce and salsa to save some time.
One last note, chilaquiles need to be eaten as soon as they are ready otherwise the tortillas will get soggy, and for me, it is all about the crunch. Once you make the sauce and salsa, this recipe comes together in a few minutes. Just simmer the chips in the sauce while you cook the eggs. Finish with some cheese and the Nopales salsa, and maybe, just maybe, you can Beat Bobby Flay!
Ingredients and Directions for BBQ Nopales Salsa: (Makes about 3 cups of salsa and can be made ahead and refrigerated for a few days.)
3 Nopales (purchase with the needles already removed), grilled and cubed
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
½ small white onion, diced
2 Jalapeños or Serrano chiles, seeds removed and diced (optional)
½ bunch cilantro, stems removed and chopped
1 fresh lime, zested and juiced
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Brush the Nopales on both sides with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until slightly charred and wrinkled a bit (6-7 minutes per side). Best to err on the side of overcooking otherwise the Nopales will be slimy when cut. Let cool about 5 minutes and then dice and combine with the tomatoes, onion, chiles, and cilantro. Add the lime zest and the juice from the squeezed lime. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Ingredients for Roasted Hatch Chile and Tomatillo Sauce:As you will be pureeing the sauce, there is no need to dice the vegetables, just coarsely chop. This too can be made ahead and probably should to save time. If made ahead, bring to a simmer before adding the tortilla chips.
½ lb. tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ sweet yellow onion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
½ bunch cilantro with stems removed and chopped
3 Hot Hatch Chiles (or more!), roasted (skins and seeds removed) or 1 can of diced chiles
2 ½ c. chicken broth
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 eggs per person (prepared to your liking)
½ lb. crunchy, thick tortilla chips
1/2 c. Oaxaca cheese, grated
For garnish (optional):
½ bunch cilantro, stems removed and chopped
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Queso Fresco, crumbled
In a Dutch oven (or large sauté pan) over medium heat, heat the olive oil and sauté all the vegetables until the onion and pepper are softened (about 10 minutes). Add the chicken broth and cook until the vegetables are tender (10-12 minutes). With an immersion blender, blend the vegetables until smooth. Return the sauce to a simmer, stirring often, until it begins to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste.
Once the sauce has thickened, gently add the tortilla chips making sure they are completely submerged. Let simmer for 3 to 4 minutes while you make the eggs so the chips absorb the sauce but don’t get soggy.
While the sauce is simmering, in a separate pan, make your eggs – fried, poached or scrambled – however, you prefer your eggs. I used two eggs per person. I like to scramble eggs with milk, salt, and pepper.
To assemble: Transfer a portion of the tortillas and sauce to a plate. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Top with the eggs and salsa. Serve at once with the Nopales salsa or guacamole on the side. Garnish with more cilantro, sliced radishes and a sprinkle of Queso Fresco if you would like. Serve immediately.
Depending on serving size, serves 4 to 6.