I used to call this dish “Chili-killies” until I was instructed about the error in my pronunciation by some pretentious bastard, I’m sure. But my relationship with chilaquiles has been fraught with problems over the years. It wasn’t until recently that all became copacetic between me and this delectable breakfast or dinner treat.
The main problem I had with chilaquiles had nothing to do with the dish itself. Rather, it was a profound fuck up in the kitchen, one that dictated the direction of an entire Saturday, that scared me away from them so I wouldn’t have to relive that experience. Let me explain in a more narrative voice…
It was a brisk Saturday morning and I, in my shorts and T-shirt, decided that I wanted to make something special for me and my lady for brekkie. The idea of breakfast nachos appealed to me for whatever reason, so I reminisced about chilaquiles, a dish comprised of tortilla chips immersed in enchilada sauce, topped with cheese and eggs and all sorts o’ stuff. This was my direction that morning. I would make this happen.
So as I scoured the pantry in our 888 square-foot house, I noticed that I was out of a few items. I needed pinto beans and tomato sauce, which required a quick trip to the store. I made it there and back with no problem, and I proceeded to make the sauce. Of course, the first time one makes anything, it always takes a bit longer, and I was in no hurry. I then realized that, like a jackass, I forgot the tortilla chips. So, in the car I went again down to the store and got some chips. I admit, I was annoyed, which will make me hurry more than normal, which is bad news in the kitchen.
By this time, which was about an hour and half after I initially had decided on making this damn breakfast, my wifey woke up, rubbing her eyes because she doesn’t have balls to scratch. She was as excited as I was about the prospect of chilaquiles that morning, and I was putting the finishing touches on this monster of a dish, laden with chips and beans and sauce and sour cream and cheese and you name it. The oven was set at 350° and it was time for them to bake.
I believe my exact words to my wife were, “Look at this goddamn beautiful thing!” The oven door was open and two racks were in there. As I thrust the baking dish into the oven, its side hit the middle of the bottom rack. Since I wasn’t expecting it, I fumbled with it. The whole dish flipped forward, and with a giant whoosh and an ensuing sizzle, the entire mess of chilaquiles covered the racks, bottom, and sides of that piping hot oven.
In those three seconds, my entire Saturday’s course was decided for me. There would be no picnics or wine tasting that day because I got the pleasure of cleaning the equivalent of meconium from an oven for about 4 hours. It was such a fuck up that I couldn’t even be mad.
I hope that wasn’t too much story for little pay off. I think I just needed to reflect, and I do feel much better now.
Anyhow, these babies are easy to make as long as you don’t literally throw them in the oven as I did. I found a recipe years ago online by someone named Jeanne Lemlin, but I have improvised with it quite a bit. You can top them with nothing or with eggs any style. In the pictures, those eggs are poached and there’s something about the yolk dripping over it that welcomes me.
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup salsa (I dig on the hot stuff myself)
2 cups canned tomato sauce (1 14-15 oz. can is fine)
1/2 cup water
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 14 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed well
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 bag o’ plain tortilla chips, about 8 cups of them
1 cup sour cream
2 cups cheddar, Mexican blend, or jack cheese
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced black olives
2 eggs for every serving, any style (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Combine the salsa, tomato sauce, water, chiles, beans, cumin, and oregano in a bowl and mix it well. Pour about half of it in the bottom of a baking dish (I used a 9″x 13″ one). Top this with half of the chips, and crush them down a bit to make an even layer. Drop spoonfuls of half of the sour cream over the chips, and then sprinkle on half of the cheese. Top this with the remaining chips, sauce, sour cream, cheese, and all of the olives.
Bake this guy for 35 minutes until it’s hot and bubbly, like Jessica Simpson. Remove it from the oven and cut it into squares like a lasagna. For each square, top it with some of the green onions and the eggs, if you’re doing that.
If you like some heat on this, the Trader Joe’s Habanero Sauce is no joke, by the way. Careful. (http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article.asp?article_id=140)
So now I make chilaquiles with reckless abandon without the fear of oven cleaning or mispronunciation.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013