Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican peasant dish of fried tortillas bathed in either green or red salsa (depending on the region) until tender. Slightly tart green tomatillo sauce is my preference and is the base of the recipe from the famed restaurant ¡Lotería! in the L.A. Farmers Market.
Tomatillos are referred to as the green tomato (Spanish: tomate verde) but are not related to tomatoes, but are in the plant family related to goose berries. The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by a paper-like husk that can be easily removed. Fresh ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator. They may also be frozen whole or sliced.
Chilaquiles are most commonly eaten at breakfast time, unlike nachos; chilaquiles are a meal to be eaten with a fork. Nothing is wasted in the Mexican home, so this dish was born as a clever way to revive yesterday's tortillas and leftover salsa. You can top with a fried egg (my choice) or shredded chicken or beef, even black beans. If frying your own tortilla chips seems too involved (I recommend you try it, though-it is really very easy!), as a shortcut this dish can be made with store bought tortilla chips, but choose the unsalted variety.
recipe from ¡Lotería!
- 8 medium tomatillos (about 1½ pounds), husked and rinsed
- 1 serrano or jalapeño chile, stemmed
- ½ white onion, halved again
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ bay leaf
- Pinch of dried oregano
- Pinch of dried thyme
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp. corn oil
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 12 six-inch corn tortillas
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 Tbsp. crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese
- 3 Tbsp. finely chopped white onion
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Crema fresca or sour cream for garnish
To make the salsa verde: Put the tomatillos, chile, onion, and garlic in a medium pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are soft and the tomatillos turn pale green, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Carefully transfer the boiled vegetables, along with the cooking water, to a blender. Puree for a few seconds to blend; be sure to hold down the lid with a kitchen towel for safety. Add the ½ bay leaf, oregano, thyme, salt, and broth. Continue to puree until smooth. You should have about 1 quart of salsa verde.
Place a wide pot or pan over medium-high heat and coat with the corn oil. When the oil is hazy, pour in the salsa verde; it will bubble a bit. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Cover, reduce the heat to very low, and keep warm while you fry the chips.
Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed pot or countertop deep fryer to a depth of about 2 inches and heat to 375° over medium-high heat. Stack the tortillas and fan them with your thumb to separate. Cut the tortillas into 8 wedges like a pie.
Working in batches, fry the tortilla chips, turning them with a skimmer or slotted spoon so they don't stick together, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chips to a paper towel-lined baking pan or brown paper bag to drain and cool. (let the oil return to the proper temperature between batches.)
To finish the chilaquiles, uncover the salsa verde and raise the heat to medium. Just when it starts to bubble, stir in the beaten eggs. Cook and stir for about 5 seconds, until the egg feathers into the sauce, thickening and binding it. Immediately add the chips, tossing gently until they have absorbed enough sauce to become soft. Take care not to break the chips. Sprinkle Jack cheese on top and let it melt.
Divide the chilaquiles among 4 plates. Sprinkle with queso fresco, chopped onion, and cilantro. Garnish with crema fresca and serve immediately.