Steve is obsessed with chilaquiles. He talks about them endlessly. And he’s been talking about making them forever. A staple Mexican comfort food, chilaquiles is essentially fried corn tortillas simmered in chili sauce and topped with lots of cheese. A sort of soft, saucy nacho dish. Chilaquiles are relatively simple to prepare. We used the stale leftover homemade tortillas from the last post, but you could use store bought just as well. But be sure to find good quality, thick tortillas. They’ll stand up better to the frying and the sauce.
On Saturday afternoon, after days of futzing around making homemade tortillas (and talking about chilaquiles more than anyone should), Steve decided to jump into cooking his beloved dish, a la Steve—at the last minute. Luckily our dinner guest is more like family, so all we needed to do was to supply her with a cocktail while Steve put the finishing touches on the dish. Alas, the chilaquiles came together deliciously!
Lots of people add an additional protein like shredded chicken or fried chorizo. In this iteration, we added some chopped venison steak leftover from a dinner earlier in the week. Finally, garnishes. Chilaquiles is fine with no embellishments, but it’s traditionally served with thin slices of onion, radishes and jalapeños. Some crema, sour cream, or plain yogurt, and probably a little more grated cheese, preferably a crumbly white queso and a fried egg, to gild the lily.
Adapted from Bon Appetit.
8 Guajillo or New Mexico chilies
1 28 oz can tomatoes
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 medium onion, cut into large dice
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying
12 6 inch corn tortillas (homemade or store bought)
Kosher or sea salt
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, fried chorizo, left over steak, or other meat (optional)
1 cup crumbled queso fresco or mild feta
1 cup shredded white cheddar
6 large eggs
Finely chopped white onion (or thinly sliced green onions)
Thinly sliced radishes
Chopped fresh cilantro
Crema, sour cream, or yogurt
Preparing the sauce:
Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chills, break them into large pieces and place them in a large enough bowl to cover with 2 cups boiling water. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes (do not discard the soaking liquid).
In the container of a blender, add the tomatoes, the rehydrated peppers, garlic, jalapeño, onion and paprika, along with a cup of the soaking liquid from the peppers. Purée until you can no longer see pieces of chili pepper skins. It should be very smooth.
Heat two tablespoons vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add purée to the pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover the pot while the sauce cooks and thickens, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.[Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead, kept in the fridge. Be sure to reheat it before using.]
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat vegetable oil in a heavy pan or skillet at a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees (we guessed, but you should be sure about the heat and a deep fry thermometer is very useful here).
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut tortillas into quarters or sixths and carefully add them to the hot oil one at a time until you have enough in the pan to cover the surface of the oil without the chips overlapping. Fry until golden brown and then remove to the paper towels to drain. Season with salt.
Once the chips are fried, add them to a large mixing bowl and toss them with a cup of the chili sauce until they are well coated. Add half to a casserole or large baking dish and sprinkle with half the cheese. Add remaining chips, the remaining sauce and the rest of the cheese.
Cover the casserole with foil and place into hot oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and turn the oven to broil. Place the casserole under the broiler for 6-8 minutes or until the cheese getting toasty brown spots. Slice into 6 portions.
Plate the chilaquiles and top with a fried or scrambled eggs. Top with an array of sliced radishes and jalapeño, with chopped red, white, or green onions, crumbled fresco queso or feta, and a little drizzle of crema, sour cream, or yogurt.
How spicy is this dish. It sounds delicious, but when it come to heat, two of us are absolute wimps. (I am not among them at my daughter eats habaneros for fun.) I will be making it soon, I may have tame it down a tad.
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There is no heat in the dried chili peppers. Any heat you get here will come from he jalapeño, so taste a bit of it first before tossing it into the blender or just leave it out. If the non-heat loving folks in the house love tacos and chili, they’ll love this dish!