Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Chilaquiles with ancho tomatillo salsa

chilaquiles rojos and verde ancho tomatillo salsa

When I first moved to New York, one of the dishes that was lacking was migas. That Texan breakfast staple of eggs scrambled with fried tortillas, along with a host of other good things such as cheese and chiles, was nowhere to be found.

Then one day a friend called and said, “I’ve found migas! This Mexican restaurant is calling them chilaquiles, but if you close your eyes you won’t tell the difference.”

Desperate for a migas fix, the next morning I hopped on the train and met him for breakfast at his local Mexican joint. We ordered the chilaquiles and were presented with scrambled eggs tossed with fried tortillas coated in a bright salsa verde. My friend was correct—they were very similar to our beloved migas and we ate them with gusto and joy.

fried tortilla wedges

Chilaquiles (pronounced chee-la-kee-lays), to those who’ve never had them, are fried tortilla strips or wedges that have been simmered in salsa. As the fried tortillas cook, they absorb the salsa and impart it with its toasted corn flavor until the two become meshed into one. You know when you get to the bottom of the cereal bowl and the cereal has absorbed some of the milk and the milk tastes like cereal? Yep, chilaquiles are kind of wonderful like that—though hopefully not as soggy.

Now, sometimes other things can join the party, such as sliced chicken, shredded beef or even scrambled eggs, the latter of which causes people to think that migas and chilaquiles are the same.

But they’re not.

tomatillos and ancho chile

Here’s the deal. In Texas, Migas are always fried tortilla pieces with scrambled eggs. (The term migas in Spanish means "little crumbs," which is why in Spain there is a dish called migas that is made with bread crumbs. But we're talking Tex-Mex here!) It’s the tortillas and eggs that define migas and without the two you just don’t have that dish.

On the other hand, chilaquiles are nothing without fried tortilla pieces and salsa—it’s the tortillas simmering and soaking in the salsa that defines this dish. The word itself derives from a Nahuatl term that means "in a sauce of chile peppers."

One of the salsas I like to use is an ancho-tomatillo salsa, which I love for its earthy and tangy tones. Of course, you can use any salsa for chilaquiles—red or green. And if you’re feeling especially festive this time of year, you can make two batches of chilaquiles—one with a red salsa and one with a salsa verde and put them on the same plate.

Chilaquiles are intended to get rid of your day-old tortillas, so you’ll want to use stale tortillas, as they’ll absorb more of the salsa. Though if you don’t want to mess with frying tortillas, in a pinch I’ve known people to throw in some stale tortilla chips instead. I also find chilaquiles are a perfect vehicle for leftover chicken, which I often add to make a heartier dish.

chilaquiles rojos and verde ancho tomatillo salsa

People tell me they are starting to see migas on New York breakfast menus, which is a good thing. Though this would never stop me from eating chilaquiles, as the two are completely different and equally wonderful. And if you're a fan of migas and have never tried chilaquiles, I know you'll love them, too.

Chilaquiles with ancho-tomatillo salsa

Ingredients:
For the ancho-tomatillo salsa:
1 ancho chile, stem and seeds removed
1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed or one 11-ounce can, drained
2 cloves garlic
1 cup water
Salt to taste

For the chilaquiles:
2 cups ancho-tomatillo salsa or the salsa of your choice
Vegetable oil or lard for frying
8 stale corn tortillas, cut into quarters or 32 tortilla chips
2 cups diced cooked chicken (optional)
Salt to taste

For serving:
Cilantro
Cotija cheese
Sour cream
Lime wedges

Method:
To make the ancho-tomatillo salsa, in a dry skillet heated on high, toast the ancho chile on each side for about 10 seconds or until it starts to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the chile. Leave the heat on until water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chile soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Once hydrated, discard the soaking water and rinse the chile.

Meanwhile, place the tomatillos under the broiler and turning once, cook for 10-12 minutes or until blackened. (If using canned tomatillos, skip this step.)

Place the ancho chile, blackened tomatillos, garlic and 1 cup of water in a blender and blend until smooth, about a minute. Add salt to taste. You should have about 2 cups of salsa. If you have less, add a bit more water.

To make the chilaquiles, in a large skillet heat about 3/4 inch of oil on medium high until it’s 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In batches, place the quartered tortillas into the hot oil and fry about one minute per side or until light brown and crisp. Remove fried tortillas with a slotted spatula and place on the paper-towel-lined sheet. Repeat until all the quartered tortillas have been fried.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour out all but one tablespoon of oil, discarding the rest. Place the skillet back on the burner and heat to medium-low. Pour in the salsa, and cook the salsa for 2 minutes or until warm. Add the chicken (if using) and the chips and gently stir to coat the chips in the salsa. Cover the skillet, turn down the heat to low, and cook for 2 more minutes.

Serve with cilantro, Cotija cheese, sour cream and lime wedge.

Variation:
To make chilaquiles rojos and verdes, use one cup of the ancho-tomatillo salsa (or any other red salsa of choice) and one cup of salsa verde. Divide the fried tortillas and chicken in half, and cook them separately in each salsa. To serve, place on each plate some of the chilaquiles rojos and the chilaquiles verdes.

Note: If you prefer, you can use any salsa that you like to make chilaquiles. Likewise, I add chicken to mine for a heartier meal, but you can serve them without the chicken, or with beef, beans, sautéed vegetables or scrambled eggs instead.

Yield: 4 servings

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36 comments:

Amber | Bluebonnets and Brownies said...

Migas are basically my go-to food when I can't think of anything else to eat. But I love Chilaquiles so much too!

I kind of think of Chilaquiles as something you make for more than one person, while Migas I can make just for me because they are *so easy*.

We put both scrambled eggs and chicken in our Chilaquiles - double the chicken, double the fun! ;)

Deanna B. said...

We used to go over to my parents friend's house every New Years Day for what he called chilaquiles but was actually migas. We haven't gone in a few years, but migas will always be the gold star for hangover food.

I can't wait to try your chilaquiles, but mine will definitely have avocado slices as one of the toppings.

Anonymous said...

Essex in the LES has a dish called "Mexican Matzo Brei" that is similar to Migas and definitely fills the void.

Alyssa said...

I LOVE Essex! What restaurant did you find chilaquiles in?

Jen said...

I can't read any if your posts now without imagining your voice saying all of the words! I listened to you talk about your book on several radio shows and now I hear that voice in your blog writing. It's good though--makes me like your blog even more.

DNak said...

Can I use store-bought tortilla chips as a short cut? I've done that in the past when making black bean chilaquiles.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Amber--That's an interesting distinction between the two. And yeah to both eggs and chicken!

Deanna--Of course, avocado slices are a must!

Anon--Thanks for the tip!

Alyssa--It's called Essex and it's on their brunch menu.

Jen--Ha! Good to know!

Heather @ chiknpastry said...

these look so great! I know exactly what you mean about moving to a new place and finding all your favorite dishes. we did that from NC to IL, and now IL to CA. We are still in search of good barbeque (and by bbq, I mean pork, not just anything on a grill! ha ha).

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

DNak--Of course! In the ingredients I suggest you substitute 32 chips.

Heather--Good luck with your search in California!

SeattleDee said...

With tomatillos, peppers tortillas and cilantro in the fridge, I can hardly wait to whip up a batch of red and green chilaquiles... once I stop chuckling over your very specific suggestion of 32 chips. Love it!

Michelle Stiles said...

I got this dish last time we in san antonio. I thought I was ordering migas but this dish was way better - it stole my heart and I proceeded to steel the dish from my husband who ordered it!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Seattle Dee--Glad to give you a chuckle!

Michelle--It's definitely a heart stealer!

Kassi said...

Though I've seen them used interchangeably in Houston, I've since seen the difference. Lots of chilaquiles here in san francisco. They tend to put the eggs on the side if they're served with eggs. Or right over the top,not all mixed in. The sauce is usually more of an enchilada sauce than salsa (unlike migas). Also, the whole chips kinda make the difference too. I've come to love chilaquiles, but i still miss some migas. I love your two colored chilaquiles! That's pretty amazing!

hm. it won't verify my livejournal ID, so weird!

Frank said...

My absolute favorite breakfast! I'm lucky to have many places close by here in ATX that serve chilaquiles-all with their own take on them. Funny how something so simple can come out different, depending on where you get them, but they are usually all good!

SecretDinnerService said...

This looks great. I can get anchos on this side of the pond, but not tomatillos. Would tomatoes be ok, or is there something better I could use? Thanks, Andy.

Anonymous said...

mmmmm
¡chilaquiles!
¡¡qué bueno!!
:-D

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kassi--I also like them with the eggs on top, especially fried eggs. And that's true about the chips since migas usually are strips. Next time I'm in SF, I'll have to get chilaquiles!

Frank--That's what makes it such a wonderful dish! The varieties are infinite!

SecretDinnerService--Sure, you can use tomatoes though it would taste different. Did you know you can order tomatillos from mexgrocer.co.uk?

Cinde said...

How many adults will this recipe serve as a dinner entree?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Cinde--it's 4 servings.

DessertForTwo said...

I've long been a fan of green salsa with a hit of something red, especially ancho! Can't wait to try your version with all the tomatillos I froze from my garden!

kale @ tastes good to me! said...

It's so funny, cause each time I scan the "You might also like:" suggestions, I go, "Oh, yum. Ooh, yum! Oh my, yes, YUM!" Literally everything I see, I want. NOW.

reggie said...

Over easy egg on top is good too

Dionisia Munoz said...

Migas, I love making them for an easy dinner dish...it's our Mexican version of eating semi vegetarian...or a Lenten meal!

Maria said...

So funny, I grew up eating migas and never knew it! My dad (who is Mexican American, but from California) would always make them for me on weekend mornings when I was young, but we just called them fried tortillas and scrambled eggs. Now I have a REAL name for them. Thank you!

Lisa | Dust with Flour said...

A few years ago, IHOP had migas on the "international" section of its menu. Go figure. Well, it could've been chilaquiles, I don't recall, but I was surprised and happy to see it. Your ancho-tomatillo salsa looks so good!

Desksnacker said...

Yes, I can relate! I moved to the east coast from southern California and what the people around here call a great "Mexican" restaurant is sadly not even close.

redsilvia said...

Mmmm! That is indeed one of my fave dishes. My fave brunch dish is chilachiles with spicy mole. The eggs and cheese love the mole (no chicken since I eat brunch with a veggie). My fave place in Berkeley puts two homemade salsas on the side, one pico and one spicy green yumminess. Now you've made me hungry.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Dessert for Two--It's one of my favorite combinations, too!

Kale--I like that! Time to get cooking!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Dionisia--It makes for a great Lenten meal.

Maria--Migas sounds much more fun than scrambled eggs and fried tortillas!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Reggie--Yes, it is!

Lisa--No way!

Desksnacker--Yep, that happens.

Redsilvia--I'll have to try it with mole, sounds wonderful!

Jill Mant said...

Can I just say "Saturday Morning Breakfast"? YUM!! Dashing off to chop some Serrano's, tomatoes and onion for salsa right now. Thanks!!

Steph said...

I moved to Dallas from TN about a year and a half ago and tried migas/chilaquiles for the first time. Had to recreate them the next day at home! So good.

Anonymous said...

As a homesick Texan up in Kansas, I have got to say that this is one of the best blogs ever. The Texas cooking on here is outstanding. The stories with the recipes are great. Thanks and keep it up!

Anonymous said...

It's really weird, I can't find Chiliquiles ANYWHERE in Texas outside of San Antonio (and as a homesick San Antonian displaced to East Texas) I do love someone w/ a healthy love of the breakfast chilaquilas dish.

Cool post.

Stephdip said...

Amen, sister!

Anonymous said...

I love migas n chilaquiles they are almost the same but they sure delicious all the same . I'm also a Texan residing in Kenosha , Wisconsin since 1972 n its very hard to find some good ol texan plates up here .

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