Chilaquiles is a traditionally Mexican dish. Chilaquiles are all about spices and flavours. I get excited when I think about chilaquiles. I have very fond memories of eating chilaquiles with special people and as such, associate it with breakfasts made for people I love. I first learned about chilaquiles from my parents. I had it a few times in Mexico City, and again when visiting my best friend in Visalia, California. This is one of those recipes where everyone has a slightly different method of making it and none of them are wrong! What I’m going to share with you is my recipe, altered based on ingredients I can easily find in Melbourne.
If you use corn tortillas, often times you find yourself opening a pack, not wanting to use them all and sometimes, they’ll dry out.
Have you ever done this and thrown them out? Don’t! I have a delicious recipe for you to use. Save those dried out corn tortillas!
Ingredients you’ll need
Old corn tortillas, but you can use fresh as well!
Red, brown or white onion, whatever you have in your pantry
2 nice, big aussie garlic cloves
1 blanched and skinned tomato OR
2 tablespoons tomato paste and 1/4 cup water
salt to taste
2-3 beaten eggs for every 4 tortillas (optional: see note)
feta cheese OR
romano cheese if you don’t like feta
a paper bag
a comal or cast iron skillet you can toast your jalapeños on
Start by heating up your comal or hot plate and begin toasting the jalapeños. Make sure you rotate them frequently to get all sides nice and even until they look like the photo on the right or you can even go a little longer depending on how much flavour you want.
Pop them into a paper bag and let them steam in there for about 10 minutes. Have a special cutting board set aside just for prepping hot chillies or you risk adding a bit of spice to anything you cut on that board in the future. There shouldn’t be too much risk as jalapeños are relatively mild, but if you have a delicate palette, be warned! If you want to be extra careful, use gloves when handling the chillies so you don’t risk cross contamination the next time you touch your eye or … well I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. I’ve had it all happen. Milk on standby.
Once the jalapeños are done in their sauna, take them out and with a sharp paring knife, cut a circle into the skin around near the stem at the top. This will make it easier for you to grasp the thin membranous skin that should now peel off very easily. What you should be left with is a clean, naked jalapeño. Repeat this process for all the jalapeños you’re preparing. When done, cut off the stems and discard along with the skins. Make a slice down the body of the pepper and de-seed and de-vein. If you like more heat, though, leave them in! My grandfather used to insist on whoever was making his salsas to grind the seeds and add them in for extra heat!
Toss the prepared jalapeños into your blender with the garlic and small/medium sized onion and your skinned tomato. If you don’t have one on hand, you can used some tomato paste and a little water. Blend well! If it’s not blending well, put in a splash of more water. Add a pinch of salt.
A warning, if you’re not sure how much heat you can take, start with blending one jalapeño and taste and take it from there. If you’ve added one and it’s just too much, add more tomato to make it milder. You may have to adjust your other ingredients accordingly. If you know how much heat you can take, ignore this!
Once your salsa is made, set aside. Break or tear your tortillas up into quarters or sixths. You don’t want them too much smaller than what’s shown. Tortilla chip/bite size is what you’re after. Heat a large cast iron skillet and add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Once it’s hot, add the tortilla chips and toast until they’re golden brown. This should take several minutes. Keep turning them to ensure an even browning. If you’ve decided to use fresh corn tortillas, fry them in oil until golden, but not browned.
This next step is optional, but I really like the addition. Add your beaten eggs and coat the tortillas. Once the egg is coated and cooked, add your salsa and combine well.
This part smells AMAZING.
Once they’re cooked to your satisfaction, turn off the heat and serve.
Top with a very dry and crumbly feta or romano if you’re not a fan of feta, cilantro/coriander and sliced avocados. Drizzle some crème fraîche on top. Or lime juice. Usual sides include refried beans and fried eggs. It is a breakfast food, but you don’t have to follow those rules. I don’t. I’m an adult now. I can make these decisions. So can you.
Ancho chillies are a popular dried variant of a poblano chile. Both are used in numerous Mexican dishes. The ancho is usually used in sauces, and the fresh poblanos in dishes such as chile rellenos or chiles en nogada. The flavour of the ancho chile itself can range from spicy to mild. This sauce, however, yields a pleasantly mild, savoury sauce.
The recipe I’m about to divulge (as previously, it was a closely guarded family secret, sorry mom and dad) is fairly easy to make, delicious and can be used in many dishes that I’ll suggest at the end.
Ancho chile sauce
ancho chile pods
salt to taste
choice of herb seasonings to taste
fine mesh sieve/strainer
The texture of a good ancho chile pod I find is like fruit leather; dry, but pliable and slightly sticky. You’ll want to begin by cutting off the stems, slicing the pod open and deseeding it. Open the pod so it can lay as close to flat on either side.
Heat a small frying pan and add a little bit of vegetable oil to coat. Fry each side of the pod briefly until it turns red. Some pods go bright, others just a dark brown depending on freshness. You don’t want to let it linger in the pan or the taste of your sauce will turn bitter.
The true secret to a delicious sauce is to soak them in very hot chicken broth or stock, or pour boiling water over the chillies and then add chicken stock. Soak them for 15-20 minutes or until they go soft. Then let them cool enough to blend and use a blender has a rubber seal or you’ll have liquid flying everywhere. (Note: this may or may not be from experience.)
Pour the mixture into a pan through a fine wire mesh sieve and use a spoon to push the liquid through. What you’re doing here is straining all the pulp and liquid, but not letting any of the skins into your sauce.
Put the strained sauce over low heat to reduce and season to taste. Add enough salt to take the bitterness away. (Take care here that if you add salt and taste, be sure the salt is fully incorporated before you decide it needs more otherwise you’ll end up with a VERY salt sauce.) If you desire an even thicker sauce, you can temper in an egg yolk or add a teaspoon of corn starch at a time and whisk until the desired thickness is achieved. It will also thicken some upon cooling and will thicken if added to any meats.
Some herb seasoning suggestions: cumin, granulated garlic.
Once it’s reduced, you can add it to any savoury dish for a rich, delicious flavour. It’s good with chicken over Spanish rice, with a slow cooked shredded or cubed beef over rice, or pork as a red sauce for enchiladas or in tamales!
I hope you enjoy this recipe. It really is delicious enough to not share.
Where to buy:
I’ve seen some in the deli section of the Queen Vic Markets, Casa Iberica has them sometimes, as does Oasis Bakery. See the Where to Buy page.
The word frijoles means beans in Spanish. Now, we’ve all heard the schoolyard melody;
Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel. So let’s have beans with every meal!
Beans are delicious, but let’s face it, they make for noisy seconds. (See: blog title) Usually. Unless you know the trick my mother taught me. Once they’ve come to a boil for several minutes, throw out the first boil, add more water and continue to cook until done. Bam. Gas-less beans! (Or close to. Some people can’t be helped.)
I haven’t found that pinto beans are easy to come by in Melbourne, but I do know of two places where you can get them easily. I’ve seen them occasionally at the Queen Vic Markets at the dry legumes stall closest to Victoria St. and also in Murrumbeena at Oasis Bakery.
My pride and joy tool for cooking beans is my bean pot–bought in Mexico by my parents and given to me as a gift just after I was married.
Don’t be afraid to cook beans from their dry form. They taste better and have less salt than the refried canned slop in the international food aisles in grocery stores.
My recipe for refried beans will (hopefully) make you never want to buy store-bought bean dip again!
1 cup pinto beans
ground cumin to taste
granulated garlic to taste
salt to taste
1/2 cup milk
ceramic bean pot or equivalent (small/durable stock pot)
strainer or slotted spoonvegetable masher
large cast iron skillet
Fill your pot with 1 cup of pinto beans and the rest water and heat on medium. Once they have begun to boil, strain the beans and rinse. Put back in the pot and refill with water. The best way to cook them is on low for a couple hours. Check and stir your pot every little while to make sure they still have plenty of water covering them. Burnt bean smells are horrible! You’ll know they’re ready by their tenderness and peeling skins. In my bean pot, depending on your heat, they should be done anywhere from 2 hours.
Have your cast iron skillet and slotted spoon ready. Heat to medium/hot and then add 1/2 cup oil to start. Refried beans are pretty oil-hungry, but at least you’re in control of how much goes in. Begin straining the beans from the pot into the pan with the slotted spoon until they’re all in and let fry whole for a minute. Then begin mashing. If they feel too dry, add more oil. Remember, they should be a watery paste. You can also add milk and some of the water from the bean pot in lieu of more oil. Continue mashing until all the beans are mashed. If they still feel too dry, add more oil, milk or bean-water. Season with salt, garlic and cumin to taste. If it still tastes grainy, it needs more oil. The final product should be a smooth tasting paste. If it’s too watery, keep it on the heat and reduce until desired consistency is achieved. Keep in mind that they will thicken a little once they begin to cool.
Serve immediately. Freeze for several weeks or refrigerate and consume within a few days.
(For more flavour, you can cook a ham hock with the beans in the pot. Just remove before mashing, then shred, add and mix once the refried beans are done. Or shred the pork and eat with the beans whole!)
Dish ideas with refried beans.
Refried beans are delicious in burritos, naked burritos, tacos, as a side for enchiladas, on tostadas or toast with slices of avocado or parmesan cheese or a crumbly feta sprinkled on top, mixed with spanish rice or by themselves!