I first encountered Chilaquiles in my previous blogxistence in New York, thanks to the dean of American ethnic food criticism, Robert Sietsema. (His master list of the best cheap eats in New York was like a trail map to a wider world for me, and the availability of such a broad spectrum of culinary excellence is possibly the single thing I miss about New York.) Chilaquiles are basically taqueria leftovers for breakfast, but the whole is more than the sum of the parts – the eggs don’t hurt either.
Of course, I never cooked in New York – shout to Ian for co-surviving that roach motel flat with me – so while the chilaquiles always stuck with me, the idea of manufacturing them myself was put on ice for a while.
Then last October, when I was in Philly hanging out with A&S&Co, the free time I had due to not needing to car shop left me with time to experiment. We had bought literal pounds of meat at a very traditional taqueria and of course had plenty left over, along with the accompanying salsas and tortillas. Why not try to reconstruct the magic?
It turns out that Chilaquiles (or Migas, the tex-mex version – same idea) is a great framework to hang your leftovers on, and make 2 plus 2 equal 5. You don’t need to go fancy ingredient shopping. You just need eggs and yesterday’s taqueria leftovers, or yesterday’s meat leftovers plus some stray tortillas and salsa. It’s that easy.
Let’s start with the basic ingredient framework:
Oil in a frying pan – enough to cover the bottom but not much more than that.
Tortillas cut into sixths – I prefer corn tortillas for this but you could certainly try it with flour.
Salsa – depending on the amount of tortillas used. If you don’t have enough salsa, or you want to use pure hot sauce, cut it with tomato sauce. See below.
Optional but delicious: cheese (crumbly), cheese (melty), crema/sour cream (to drizzle/dip).
Step 1: Start frying up those tortillas (r). Simultaneously, if you are mixing e.g. tomato sauce and hot sauce, you may want to heat them up together and get them well mixed (l). You don’t need to do this, especially not if you’re just using a pre-made or leftover taqueria salsa.
2. Wait until the chips are done frying (make sure to turn them a few times for best results), then mix in the sauce/salsa. How will you know when they’re done, you ask? They should be just before burning – the surfaces that have been face down for most of the time should be browning, and they should be crispy – like you would eat them with a bowl of salsa. (Some people go so far as to make this with store bought chips, but that’s cheating on a not particularly hard exam.) Also, you (also) ask, how much salsa to use? You want the chips to soak up almost all of the sauce you use. So if your chips are not totally salsa-fied, you need more. If your chips are totally soaked through and you have a little bit more sauce, that’s enough. If they are swimming, that’s too much.
Step 3: take a couple more swigs of the beer you have had open the whole time. Remind yourself via photo that you need a haircut and a tan.
Step 4: Once the chips have soaked up most/all of the salsa, it’s time to throw in your eggs. Also some cheese if you are so inclined. (Note: the way you make eggs with this is a central difference between the Chilaquiles I had originally in New York and the way I’ve ended up liking to make them, which may be a bit more like Tex-Mex Migas. I basically use the salsa-soaked chips as an ingredient in scrambled eggs – or vice versa. Feel free to make some sunny-side-up eggs if you prefer them that way, and load them on top of the plated chips.)
Step 5: Once eggs are cooked to your liking and cheese is melted, dinner is served! Drizzle some crema on top if you like, and some crumbly cheese if you have it in the fridge.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the Michael King pseudo-bachelor cooking hour! Next time, beef wellington, I swear.