Back from Mexico with a Craving for Chilaquiles

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They say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. But when you’re in Mexico spending most of your day in water that’s unbelievably blue and not knowing what time it is (and not caring), I think that number shrinks by quite a bit.

We were at a beach north of Cancún for a family vacation, and Danny and I started a morning ritual of chilaquiles followed by tequila sunrises. There was no reason for this morning routine to change — except that we had to go back home. To reality. To wedding planning. To decisions about moving. This is where the tequila comes in.

We were back from Mexico with some serious tans and a serious craving for chilaquiles. It was time to make my own.

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Chilaquiles are easy to make, and you can adapt the recipe to use what you have on hand. The version I loved in Mexico came with a red sauce and shredded chicken, so it’s what I went for here. The chipotle adds a great smokiness, but if you don’t have it at home I wouldn’t sweat it. Just make the chilaquiles!

And I didn’t forget about the tequila sunrises. I’ll have a drink recipe for you next, but you’ve gotta eat your tortillas before you can have your tequila.

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chilaquiles

Chilaquiles are a Mexican dish of leftover tortillas simmered in a quick tomato sauce. It’s often served for breakfast or brunch, and I love it topped with a fried egg. My version includes shredded chicken, but I’ve also seen recipes that call for chorizo or no meat at all.

This recipe is adapted from Rick Bayless via Food & Wine. I reduced the amount of broth for a less saucy skillet of chilaquiles. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet worked beautifully for this dish. I left the tortillas out on the counter overnight so they’d harden, but you can also do this in a low-temperature oven. Many other recipes will also fry the tortillas lightly, turning them into chips. Feel free to take this step; it’ll be delicious. As for the tortilla, it’s gotta be corn. Always corn.

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and 1/2 cup liquid reserved
2 chipotles in adobo or 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
salt
10 or 11 corn tortillas (8 ounces), left out at room temperature overnight
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
1/4 cup crumbled cotija or shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I actually forgot this! Consider it optional.)
1/3 cup sour cream or goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
fried egg (optional)

Cut tortillas into quarters or sixths.

Use a blender to combine the tomatoes with their reserved 1/2 cup of liquid and the chipotles; blend until almost smooth.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add two-thirds of the onion and cook  until browned around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. heat down slightly. Pour in the tomato purée and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and simmer the sauce until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt, stir in chicken and coat with sauce. Remove from heat.

Gently stir the tortilla chips into the sauce, making sure they are well coated. Top with the remaining onion, the shredded chicken and the cheese. Dollop the sour cream over the chilaquiles, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve immediately. Top with fried egg, if using.

Serves 4.

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