“Austin is long on music, migas and markets”—Molly Ivins
If you’ve ever had breakfast in Austin, chances are you’ve had a plate of migas. This dish of eggs scrambled with fried corn tortilla strips, salsa and cheese is ubiquitous in some of the Texas capital city’s most popular breakfast spots, including Las Manitas where it’s almost a crime not to order their marvelous migas. I have fond memories of spending lazy mornings in this bustling Congress Avenue diner, scooping spoonfuls of the crunchy, cheesy eggs and bacon-laced refried beans into fluffy flour tortillas. There’s no better way to start the day.
I took a holiday from my office last week and subsequently decided to take a holiday from the Internet as well. Do you remember what life was like before we became beholden to the Interweb machine? I had forgotten, and it was satisfying spending most of my time in the real world. Though I have to admit that not only did I upset my mom when I didn’t respond to an e-mail from her within 24 hours but I am also now woefully behind on correspondence with others. No matter, I haven’t felt this recharged in years!
One of the things I insisted on doing every morning was starting my day with a satisfying meal, the kind of food that normally I just don’t have the time to either make at home or linger over in a breakfast spot. One of the things I craved was migas. You won’t find migas on menus here in New York City but there is something a bit similar, chilaquiles, which someone I know insists is just a fancy-pants way of saying migas. But I have to disagree.
There have been endless debates if chilaquiles and migas are the same thing. There’s no need to question this further: there is indeed a difference, however slight. Chilaquiles, which are also made with fried tortilla strips, traditionally are just the tortillas, salsa and cheese; you don’t need eggs for the dish to qualify as chilaquiles. Furthermore, to make chilaquiles the salsa is added to the pan with the fried tortilla strips before anything else is added to the pan, whereas with migas the salsa is added at the end. Likewise, Tex-Mex migas are nothing without eggs; they don’t come any other way.
Then, to make things even more confusing, you have your Spanish migas, a dish I ate every Saturday morning when I spent time in Granada my junior year. The word migas in Spanish means “crumbs” and like Tex-Mex migas, Spanish migas are a way to use up something stale, in this case bread instead of corn tortillas. The bread is torn into pieces, soaked in water overnight and then cooked in chorizo fat and served with said sausage and fried eggs. A hearty way to start the day, much like Tex-Mex migas.
This dish is designed to use up your old stale tortillas, though if you only have fresh ones the end result will not suffer. You can use any kind of salsa you have on hand as well—migas taste just as good with a green sauce as with a red. While cheese is pretty much a must, you can also jazz these up with crumbled Mexican chorizo, chopped poblanos, bacon, pico de gallo, onions or whatever else you have lying around. And that’s the beauty of migas—as long as you have your fried tortillas, eggs, cheese and salsas, you can add anything else you like.
How do you eat your migas?
1/4 cup of milk or half-and-half
1/3 cup of peanut oil
4 corn tortillas cut into strips
1/2 an onion diced (about 1/2 a cup)
4 jalapeno peppers diced
1 cup of shredded cheese such as Longhorn cheddar or Monterrey Jack
1 to 2 cups of salsa
1 cup of cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Refried beans , for serving
flour tortillas, for serving
In a bowl, whisk eggs together with milk. Add a dash of salt and pepper.
In a large iron skillet, heat up peanut oil on medium-high, and place tortilla strips into skillet, cooking for about three minutes, turning once. Remove the tortilla strips with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Drain the oil from the skillet leaving 2 tablespoons in the skillet.
Add onions and jalapenos to the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes
Add egg mixture and tortilla strips to the skillet and let eggs sit for about one minute or until set on the bottom and then gently stir. Sprinkle cheese on top of eggs and continue to cook until melted.
Add salt and pepper to taste and top eggs with salsa and cilantro. Serve hot with flour tortillas and refried beans.
Yield: 4 servings