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Chilaquiles Esteban

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.  

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Chilaquiles Rojas

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Serves 6

Sauce:

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

Tortillas/Assembly:

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
Sliced jalapeño
Lime wedges
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.]

Tortillas/Assembly:

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.

The Cheese Soufflé.

Sauce Béchamel: Cheese Soufflé

We’re egg eaters. We eat a lot of them. Lucky for us, we also love a good sauce béchamel. Béchamel is one of the “mother sauces” in French cooking (Hollandaise is another). It is the base white sauce from which many other sauces are created. Adding cheese to béchamel creates sauce Mornay, another classic sauce. Béchamel, Mornay, or Hollandaise can be served over asparagus in the spring,  over poached eggs for Eggs Benny (or Benedict),  on top of bread with vegetables or ham ala croque monsieur and can also be used as the basis for a gratin in the cooler months. And at anytime of year, we love it folded with fluffy egg whites and shredded cheese then baked into a toasted cloud. Poof, it’s a soufflé.

It took us years to take the soufflé plunge. We didn’t talk about it, but soufflé recipes seemed overly complex. But once we figured out just how quickly béchamel comes together – 10 minutes max – and how easy it is to hand whip egg whites, the rest of the work of a soufflé seemed a snap.

While simple enough, a soufflé requires that we all pay attention to a few little details to ensure that a lofty puff of pillowy custard comes out of the oven. The right sized cooking dish, properly beaten egg whites, a tasty base sauce and a hot oven are all that is required for soufflé success. If there is one soufflé rule etched in stone, however, it is that a soufflé waits for no one. It must be eaten piping hot and straight from the oven, served at the table in its baking dish.

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Cheese Soufflé Recipe:

Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 onion, skin and roots removed
1 bay leaf
1 clove
5 black pepper corns
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg

For the soufflé:
5 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, cheddar, Parmesan)
Butter

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the béchamel sauce:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk with the onion, bay leaf, clove and peppercorns.

While milk is warming, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, and before it browns, add flour and whisk thoroughly making sure no lumps form. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned in color.

Strain warmed milk and pour into roux while whisking, again being careful not to let lumps form. Grate a tiny amount of nutmeg into the sauce and salt to taste. Cook, whisking regularly, until sauce thickens, approximately 2 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set-aside until ready to use. At this point the sauce bechamel is complete and can be used many different ways.

To complete the soufflé:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack to the lowest setting.

Using a 2 quart soufflé dish and butter and coat the interior with two tablespoons of shredded cheese, fit the soufflé dish with a buttered baking collar made of parchment paper. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with a hand-held wire whisk (OK, or in your KitchenAid stand mixer or with a hand-held blender) until they just begin to foam. Add a pinch of cream of tarter and a pinch of salt. Continue beating until whites form glossy peaks being careful not to overbeat.

Whisk the egg yolks into prepared béchamel sauce.

Fold one cup of the egg whites into the béchamel and egg sauce until just mixed. Pour the sauce into the bowl of whipped egg whites and gently fold until just mixed. While folding, sprinkle remaining grated cheese into the batter.

Pour soufflé batter into prepared dish. Set dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the top is a deep brown, 30 – 40 minutes, depending on the shape of your dish. Test the soufflé with a skewer, it should be clean.

Serve the moment it comes out of the oven by digging into the top at the center using two serving spoons. After all, Soufflé waits for no one.