A decade ago (yes, a decade! feeling old!) my friends and I spent spring break in Playa Blanca. Sitting on the beach, drinking Long Island Iced Tea and napping in a big hammock, we may as well have been in Daytona. The only part of Mexico we actually explored on that trip was the bathroom at the gas station on the road from the airport to the hotel.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a thing or two since then about how I prefer to travel. Sadly, I have yet to return to Mexico. But I will. And when I do, I will explore as my younger self didn’t know I always wanted. Of course, with limited vacation time, and lots of family to visit right here in the U.S., I know that trip might not happen for a few years.
But I can cook my way to Mexico in the meantime. I may be in Boston, but my apartment certainly smells like I’m a lot further south. I can’t honestly claim authenticity, since I’ve never even eaten chilaquiles in Mexico, but I will say that this brunch was fantastic. I did do my reasearch, reading dozens of recipes and searching for the tricks to this Mexican breakfast classic. We’ve already covered my Rick Bayless crush, so it should come as no surprise that I took a bit of inspiration from his direction. But in the end, turning leftover tortillas and salsa into breakfast isn’t rocket science, so I pretty much just winged it – and I learned a few things along the way.
First of all, for proper chilaquiles, frying up your own tortillas is certainly the way to go. This simple dish is all about the tortillas and substituting chips makes for a mealy mess. Secondly, the toppings and garnishes are key, so if you can get Mexican crema and cotija cheese, do it. And finally, while not necessarily the most traditional way of eating chilaquiles, the dish is lovely topped with a fried egg. But if you want some more authentic protein, you might add a bit of shredded chicken breast, or some browned Mexican chorizo. I made my own salsa, but if you’re short on time, I think a good jarred version would work just fine. I might go for a tomatillo salsa next time, but certainly play around with what you like, as the dish is extremely adaptable.
I’ve now made it to the second challenge in the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog! So exciting! And this comforting Mexican classic will serve as my entry into challenge number two. So please don’t forget to vote for me. Click here to vote.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
15 ounces corn tortillas (about 15 small), cut in wedges
3 medium tomatoes, halved
1 white onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jalapeno, halved lengthwise (seeds removed if desired)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 cup cojita cheese, divided (substitute feta if you can’t get cojita)
1/2 cup crema (substitute sour cream thinned with milk if you can’t get crema)
4 lime wedges
4 eggs (optional)
Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Fry the tortillas in batches; they will soften at first and then begin to brown. Remove the tortillas to a paper-towel lined plate when they are still slightly pliable, and not too brown. You don’t want chips! Sprinkle the cooked tortillas with salt.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the tomatoes, onion, garlic and jalapeno in a greased baking dish. Roast until the edges of the onion and jalapeno are very brown and the tomatoes shrivel, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Puree, adding a few tablespoons of water if needed. Add the lime juice, half of the cilantro, and salt to taste.
In a large skillet, warm the salsa with about 1/2 cup water over medium heat until bubbling. Add the tortillas and toss to coat well. Cook, tossing, for 3-5 minutes. In the last minute, add half of the cheese and mix well so that the cheese begins to melt. Meanwhile, if using the eggs, heat a well-greased pan over medium. Crack in each egg and cook until bottoms are set. Flip once and cook for just a few moments more for over-easy.
To serve, mound the chilaquiles on 4 plates. Top with the remaining cheese and cilantro, drizzle with the crema and top with an egg, if desired. Serve hot with a lime wedge.