What Are Chilaquiles, Exactly?
Alright, c’mon. Everybody now,
You now will sound like more of a badass than before at any given Mexican joint that just so happens to make this mélange of tortillas and salsa, plus chicken, eggs, or beans, if you so desire. And I always so desire.
The first time I had chilaquiles it was a hot mess of stuff… and cheese. But mostly cheese. When is this ever bad? Only when it tastes like red enchilada sauce mush that they attempted to camouflage by distracting you with mounds of gooey orange cheese.
The second time I had chilaquiles, I made it myself, having been recently inspired by all of the Mexican breakfast food in Austin, TX. That’s when I knew. That’s when I knew that chilaquiles were, actually, awesome.
During our stay in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, we feasted on enormous and enormously heavy traditional Mexican food for breakfast each morning, which may or may not have been the cause of the combined extra ten pounds we came home with. O opted for chilaquiles one day, per my recommendation, and he fell in love.
And then, when we came home and I made them myself, he fell in love again. But this time not with an inanimate object, but with me.
He, indeed, even claimed that my chilaquiles were better than those in Mexico, and usually I would think he’s just saying that, but I tried both, y’all, and he was right. I’m not sure if my chilaquiles are totally and completely authentic, but who cares? They’re totally and completely delicious, so there.
How To Make Them
It’s best to make with slightly stale tortillas, so if you are the plan-ahead type, leave what you need out overnight, if all your tortillas are otherwise fresh. I usually make this dish as another way to draw out the meat from a roasted chicken–an absolutely killer way to stretch a budget–but you can substitute in beans or scrambled eggs for chicken if you wish. Us? We throw all three–chicken, beans, and eggs–in the pot. I’m fancy, so I fry an egg and balance it on top of the chilaquiles at the very last moment, but you don’t have to be as fancy as I.
See how I used proper grammar to try and convince you I’m a lady? Also, Kate Middleton is my actual best friend. In real life. I’m not even kidding. She texts me all day long.
Then fry your tortilla triangles.
Then clean it all out, and fry up half of your chopped red onion.
Then pour in 1 cup of your salsa.
Stir in the chopped cilantro.
Add in your fried tortilla triangles to the onion-salsa mixture. Then take the roasted chicken you already had… or didn’t have, before making my recipe…
Add it in to your salsa-tortilla-onion mixture. Now’s the time to throw in any beans or scrambled eggs you might want.
Ta-da! Plate that sucker. Put in your chilaquiles, sprinkle on cilantro and red onions, then top with a fried egg. Fill a little ziploc bag with sour cream…
Then snip off a tiny corner of the bag and use your makeshift device to drizzle sour cream over your dish.
Serves: 2 hungry people
*You can sub in traditional tomato salsa for the salsa verde, but I haven’t tested that recently, so fly by the seat of your pants, reader! And let me know how you liked it.
**If you don’t have leftover chicken, follow my directions at the bottom for perfectly cooked chicken thighs that work well in this dish.
***Feel free to make your own salsas/sauces for this dish. I intended to, but couldn’t find some dried pepper I needed for the recipe, and shunned it all. I’m no worse for wear.
Vegetable oil, for frying
5 small corn tortillas, ideally stale
1/2 of a red onion, chopped and divided into halves
1 – 2 cups salsa verde
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped, divided
1 1/2 cup cooked chicken, cut in bite-size pieces, but not too small–see below recipe if you don’t have any cooked chicken on hand
1/3 cup pinto beans
Shredded cheese, Monterey Jack, a Mexican blend, or whatever you prefer
Crumbled feta, cotija, or queso fresco
Sour cream or crema Mexicana for drizzling
1. Stack your tortillas on top of one another and slice them into eighths, or the regular tortilla chip shape. Over medium to medium-high heat, heat enough vegetable or peanut oil to cover the bottom of a wide skillet.
2. Test the heat of the oil by putting in one individual tortilla triangle. If it bubbles and fries instantly, the oil is hot enough. Fry your tortilla triangles in the oil in batches. Don’t overlap them. And watch carefully. If you turn your back, those suckers will burn! Turn them over to fry both sides to a golden brown. Remove and place on a couple paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Repeat with the remaining tortilla triangles.
3. Clean out your skillet and then drizzle in about 1 to 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry half of your chopped red onion (1/4 of a total onion) for a few minutes or until beginning to become translucent.
4. Pour in 1 cup of the salsa verde and heat through. Allow to come to a slight boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Stir in 3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro.
5. Throw in your tortilla chips and cook for about five minutes, or until becoming softened.
6. At this point, you can add whatever else you might want in your dish: chicken, beans, eggs, etc. Heat through. Add more sauce if you like. I always end up using about 2 cups of salsa.
7. If using a fried egg, heat 1 tablespoon of butter, vegetable oil, or chicken grease in a small skillet. Crack in your eggs, one at a time, allowing each to begin to set before adding the next one, so they don’t run together too much. Cook until the yolk is the consistency you like–I like over-easy, so I flipped the egg after it was set enough to make the jump. If you prefer, you can fry the eggs individually, just half the cooking oil or butter for each egg.
8. Plate: pile chilaquiles in a bowl and top with a bit of grated Monterey Jack cheese (or not, if that’s blasphemy to you); sprinkle on chopped cilantro and red onions; place fried egg on top; drizzle sour cream over the egg; sprinkle with a bit of crumbled feta, queso fresco, or cotija.
Pan-to-Oven Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs (bone in)
Salt and pepper
Skillet with metal handle that won’t melt in the oven
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Over medium-high heat, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil per two chicken thighs in a skillet large enough to fit your chicken thighs.
3. Salt and pepper chicken thighs.
4. Place chicken thighs skin down in the pan. They should sizzle! Cook about four to five minutes on this side, only turning if the skin is nicely browned. Cook on the other side about five minutes, or until browned.
5. Place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Take out very carefully*** and set aside. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes. This will rise the temperature a bit.
***Don’t accidentally bump into your pan. Yeah.