Chilaquiles - Simple Magic Food
As morning breakfast for a broke college student or at 2:00 a.m. during a wedding in Mexico, chilaquiles are simple magic.
Chilaquiles with tomatillo salsa, shredded chicken, cheese, cilantro and crema.
Memoirs of my Chilaquiles
I remember being in college (of course as a poor and hungry student) and going to the main cafeteria of my college the Tec de Monterrey. It was easy to find a cheap and delicious breakfast in the main campus restaurant, the Cafeteria Centrales: los Chilaquiles Tec. Imagine you were able to have a half order of chilaquiles for $2 and if you were really hungry the full order for $2.66. And you could go fancy by adding sour cream, extra cheese or ham for $.50 each. And by the way, this are prices in U.S. dollars as of June 15, 2020 (not the price during my college days).
Later on, chilaquiles appeared in other facets of my life, specially during weddings in Mexico. Those rumors that weddings in Mexico are big parties that last many hours way into the morning, are completely true. It is not uncommon for a wedding in Mexico to start with a 7pm religious ceremony and then go to the reception at about 8:30pm. You are welcome with some spirited beverages and appetizers while you mingle. Dinner is served around 9:30pm and then you continue with the dancing and drinking, and about 2:00am, right when you feel you are the "dancing queen (or king)...young and sweet..." you notice people looking at each other with a big smile on their faces and walking fast back to their tables. YES they are serving chilaquiles to help your stomach settle a little for the last stretch of the wedding.
What are Chilaquiles?
Chilaquies is a very simple plate with two basic ingredients: fried corn tortillas and salsa. Crunchy tortilla pieces or strips, are smothered in a salsa and left a few minutes aside to let the flavors penetrate the tortillas just before they become to soft.
Layers of Deliciousness Something amazing about the chilaquiles is that even though it has just two basic ingredients (tortillas and salsa), you can be creative and add more layers. For example my brother just sent me a picture of a Torta with Chilaquiles inside and Chicharrones. Belive it or not, the tortas with chilaquiles inside DO EXIST and here is proof.
Our friend Chef Pati Jinich shared on her Instagram information on many types of tortas in Mexico. She tells us that torta de chilaquiles are called Tecolota and a torta with chicharrones are called Guacamaya. So maybe the torta with chillaquiles and chicharrones should be called the Tecamaya? (sorry for the "Dad joke")
If you ask me, I love my chilaquiles the following way: Chilquiles verdes, media crema, cheese, a little shredded chicken and a sunny side egg on top. But I have seen many varieties with some/all of the following: salsa roja; salsa habanero; steak; chilorio; fried beans; carnitas, etc. So don't be afraid and be creative with your chilaquiles.
There are many different recipes for chilaquiles. Here is our take on it (good or bad) so please go ahead and try it out and make your own version.
Chilaquiles Verdes Recipe
10 corn tortillas (cut in bite-size strips or pieces)
2 pounds of tomatillos
1 bunch of cilantro
Mexican "media crema"
1 chile serrano
1. Make the Tortilla Totopos
Heat the canola oil (about 1/4 a cup) in a pan and add a batch of the corn tortilla pieces. Once you see they are crispy, remove from pan and put it on a container with some paper towels to soak the oil. Sprinkle with some salt (preferably kosher salt).
2. Make the Salsa
For the salsa, in a large pot, put the tomatillos (husk removed and washed) and 1/4th onion. Cover with water and let them boil until they are soft. Carefully put in a blender (with the onion as well), sprinkle with salt, add some fresh cilantro leaves and blend until liquefied (be careful with the steam).
In a plate put a bunch of the tortilla pieces and coat with the salsa. Mix this several times and let it wait for 3-5 minutes so that the salsa incorporates into the tortillas. Sprinkle some cheese (if you don't have queso fresco use some shredded mozzarella or monterey jack) drizzle some media crema, garnish with more cilantro leaves.
4. Enjoy and Repeat (you will have seconds for sure)
Play around with your recipe and maybe add some shredded chicken, or top with a couple of fried eggs, maybe some refried beans, or all of the above.
We believe you should use as much as possible some local ingredients. We used in Tucson the following for our chilaquilles verdes:
Where to Buy:
Corn Tortillas: Carniceria La Noria