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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.

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Quick & Easy English Muffins

Of all the things in my baking repertoire, I have never attempted to make English muffins. Why? They don’t seem too complicated. A little yeasted dough cooked on a griddle pan for a few minutes on each side. Pancakes, right? I mean, how hard can it be?

I stumbled across Emma Christensen’s recipe from thekitchn.com and immediately wanted to try it, but this recipe was going to take way too much time. Even though I knew the muffins spend most of the time unattended, it was still going to take at least two days. I wanted English muffins today.

When I was ready to jump into a recipe, most of the day had already passed. With another quick google search I found Melissa Clark’s whole wheat English muffin recipe. They seemed to be more like a crumpet and less like an English muffin, but who am I to complain when these would take maybe two hours. And since this was my first attempt at homemade English muffins, why not go for instant-ish gratification? Plus, there was just enough sunlight for some good photos.

The muffins weren’t perfectly round, but the taste was amazing considering how simple this recipe is. We made them for Sunday dinner which turned out to be a great substitute for the typical roll. The leftovers were a great treat for breakfast Monday. We decide to use them as a shortcake-type platform for a faux strawberry shortcake. We used whole milk Greek yogurt in place of whipped cream. The strawberries macerated overnight in a little balsamic vinegar, sugar, and salt. The next morning, the strawberries were strained and the sauce reduced over medium heat with a touch of honey, and a few grinds of black pepper. We split the muffins and toasted them with a small pat of butter. Perfect for breakfast or a healthy dessert.

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English Muffins
yield 8

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
½ cup warm whole milk
½ tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cup whole-wheat white flour (we like Josey Baker Bread’s flour)
½ teaspoon baking soda
Masa Harina (cornmeal), as needed

In a small bowl combine yeast and 1/3 cup warm water and let rest until yeast has dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Melt butter and put 2 tablespoons in a large mixing bowl, put the other 2 tablespoons in a small bowl and set aside. In the large bowl, whisk in yogurt, milk, honey, salt and the yeast mixture.

Add flour and baking soda to bowl and beat thoroughly with a spoon or rubber spatula until well combined. Cover bowl and let rest in a warm spot for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough has doubled.

Lightly dust a small baking sheet with Masa Harina (or cornmeal).

Place a large griddle pan over medium heat. Once pan is hot, brush some of the reserved melted butter onto the griddle. Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/2 cup measuring cup, drop batter onto the griddle to form round muffins about 4 inches in diameter, mounding the batter in the center. (You may need to coax the dough a little with your fingers, so be careful of the hot pan, and don’t worry if they’re not perfectly circular.) Cover griddle with a baking sheet and cook 4 to 6 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. (Be careful not to let them burn.) If you don’t have a griddle pan you can use a large skillet and make the muffins in batches.

Uncover griddle and flip muffins using a spatula. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a little Masa Harina. Cover again and cook 4 to 6 minutes or until the other sides are golden brown. Flip again and brush with butter. Cook for another minute or two, covered. Remove from the griddle and cool a few minutes.

Split the muffins with a fork and toast before eating with your favorite topping.