If I had to pick a favorite class of food as of late, I’d have to go with Mexican.
The flavors are always big, bold, and exciting, the food looks rustic and mouth-wateringly good, and it never fails to hit the spot. So you might discount me some given my predisposition when I say that this dish is absolutely incredible comfort food: chilaquiles.
So what are chilaquiles? They’re like nachos but far more awesome and actually authentic rather than some over-priced pub appetizer. I think the best way to describe it is a casserole of stale/fried corn tortillas, a sauce of your choosing (red, verde, molé–whatever), and a whole bunch of whatever else you have handy (chicken, eggs, avocado, radish, cheese, crema, etc). This dish is meant to be relatively simple to prepare, a great way to make the most of leftovers/random odds and ends, and most of all, is said to be great hangover food. Chilaquiles are simple, unassuming, totally open to experimentation, and will simply leave you feeling good and craving more.
In this particular rendition, I opted to go with a simple red sauce featuring various chiles and tomato, brightened with lime. I also topped mine with shredded chicken, but honestly, scrambled/fried eggs would have also worked beautifully (or both if you want some serious protein 😉 ). As for other toppings, I went with cilantro, radish, crumbled salty cheese, green onions, and crema.
- 2 tomato
- 1 onion
- 3 jalapeno
- 4 ancho
- 1 chipotle
- 1/2 cup stock
- juice of 1 lime
- ~20+ corn tortillas
- chicken (I poached a whole chicken, but ~2-3 lbs of any cut of chicken would be fine)
- cotija cheese (or substitute feta)
- crema/creme fraiche/sour cream
- green onions/green garlic
First, if you don’t have cooked chicken handy, it would be worthwhile to cook that. I just poached a whole chicken in a pot like I was making stock (and conveniently, made stock in the process). This amounted to throwing some coarsely diced celery, carrot, onion, Bay leaves, thyme, salt, and peppercorns in a stock pot, adding the chicken, covering with water, and simmering for ~40-60 minutes.
I then removed the bird, broke it down, throwing all of the bones back in the pot and leaving it to simmer further to make stock (and later, strained and stored, but that’s not the feature here…). Shred the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces and set this aside for now.
The part that takes the most effort in this dish (and its not hard): the sauce.
Begin by briefly toasting the anchos and chipotle in a hot pan (no oil), once on each side until they become fragrant (a minute or two). Then soak in hot water for 30 minutes. Stem and deseed.
Add the reconstituted anchos, tomatoes, jalapeños, and ~3/4 of the onion into a food processor along with a good handful of cilantro (leaves and stems). Add the chicken stock and a dash of salt, puréeing until smooth. Set this aside–the sauce is nearly done.
Now, time to get moving on the rest of this dish. Cut the tortillas into quarters and fry these in a good amount of oil in a large pan. Don’t crowd the pan–you will need to work in batches. The goal is to get them crisp as if you were trying to turn them into firm chips/nachos. Remove and set aside on a paper towel lined plate, frying all until completion.
While you wait during this process, you probably should prep all of the other toppings for the finished dish. This means slicing radishes thinly, chopping cilantro, dicing the green onions/garlic, and cutting the lime.
Once all of the tortillas have been fried, the pan should have ~1/4 cup of oil remaining. At this point, you want to fry the sauce you prepared earlier, stirring regularly for ~5-7 minutes. The sauce should become rather fragrant. Drop the heat to low, squeeze in the lime juice, and season to taste.
Return the fried tortillas to the pan, gently tossing in the sauce to coat them all over. They will gradually soften and be pliable again (this is why you fried them so hard earlier).
I also threw the chicken into the pot and tossed it about to coat the meat as well (but be certain the tortillas get a good coating first).
Once thoroughly coated with sauce, you can now transfer the contents of the entire pan to a casserole/serving plate and lay on the toppings to your heart’s content. For me, this meant topping with chicken, radish, cilantro, diced green onion/garlic, crumbled cheese, and a drizzle of crema.