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.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chilaquiles Rojas

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Serves 6


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
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.]


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.

Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas? Yes please! Fresh, made-at-home corn tortillas?! We’re listening …

This year, we decided to skip the grocery store corn tortillas and opted instead to make our own. Every recipe you’ll find makes it sound like a 5 minute project. It is not. Kitchen DIY projects always take longer than you think they should and corn tortillas are no exception. Yes, measuring masa harina and water take no time. Mixing them takes slightly more, but still no time to speak of. Rolling them (or pressing them) and then cooking them takes time. But when you’re also enjoying a cerveza or cocktail there’s no real rush, right?

A typical recipe for homemade tortillas will yield anywhere from 18 to 24 tortillas, depending on their size and thickness. Because the dough dries out quickly, it isn’t something that can just sit around waiting for you. You have to work to get them all onto the griddle before they get away from you and that cooking takes real time. We suggest you budget a half hour for mixing and griddle time.

A note on masa harina: dried masa is available in just about every grocery in the country. It is inexpensive and a 5 pound bag will yield plenty of tortillas. Be sure to use it quickly as corn flour will oxidize and taste terrible after a while in your pantry. If you’re lucky to live where there is a good sized Latino population and local Latin American groceries, you may be able to find corn masa freshly ground and ready to press. Go for it if you can find it.

We used a fresh batch of tortillas for an evening of venison tacos. The leftovers will be fried and used in an upcoming chilaquiles recipe post so stay tuned. Now, pass the tequila!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Fresh Corn Tortillas

2 cups masa harina
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water

Heat an iron skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Whisk masa harina and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a little well in the center and add the warm water. Work the water into the masa and knead it for 2-3 minutes until the water is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. It should be very soft but not sticky to the touch.

Take about a walnut-sized portion of the wet masa and form it into a ball. You can roll the tortillas out with a rolling pin or you can use a tortilla press. If you use a press, you’ll want to use a couple of pieces of plastic to keep the dough from sticking to the press. We cut the side seems of a quart sized ziplock bag and put the ball of dough between the plastic sheets before pressing.

Once pressed, gently ease the wet tortilla onto the pan or griddle and leave for a couple of minutes without disturbing them. They’ll dry a bit around the edges and release from the pan. Flip and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip again and cook until they start to brown slightly. They’ll seem a little dry, but once you take them off the griddle, you will wrap them in a clean town or a sheet of aluminum foil where the residual heat and water will steam them while you continue to cook the remaining tortillas. The steam will soften them by the time you’re ready to eat.

Leftover can be wrapped and refrigerated. Reheat in microwave or toast over an open gas flame on your stovetop. Better yet, cut them into quarters and fry in veggie oil until crips. Salt and serve with your favorite salsa, queso or guacamole.