Posted by: gbdub | May 16, 2010

Not Your Mama’s Nachos… Chilaquiles Verdes

Uggh. Sorry for the one month hiatus. The weeks catch up on you – especially when you’re buying cars and entertaining family ;). Entry #2 in the Bayless series is actually the fulfillment of a recipe request from the blog’s early days. Better late than never. So, at long last, Chilaquiles Verdes.

These are just flat out good. There is something magic about thick fried tortillas soaked in all the flavors of tomatillos, chiles, and broth, finished off with rich cream, sharp onion, fresh cheese, and alluring epazote. The flavors, the texture, the aromas – everything about this dish is heart-wrenchingly drool-inducing. I can’t even explain precisely why these are so delicious, but they are. All I know is I made a batch, and had to force myself, with a great deal of difficulty, to not consume the entire skillet in less than ten minutes.

They are also very versatile: breakfast (traditionally made with yesterday’s leftover tortillas), lunch, dinner, whatever. Top with chicken, pork, beef, scrambled eggs… If you already have the sauce on hand (and you could certainly use a bottled sauce instead of the homemade, vastly superior version here), chilaquiles come together in just a few minutes. They can look a bit messy, as casseroles often do, but holy guacamole, you will never go back to nachos. Go make some.

Fun fact: chilaquiles comes from Nahuatl words meaning “chiles and herbs”.

Ingredients. Yes, that’s a lot of green and white.

Simmer the husked and cleaned tomatillos in salted water until tender.

Place the tomatillos, onions, garlic, serranos, and cilantro in a blender or food processor…

… ’til you get this. Notice that it’s mostly smooth, but still has a bit of texture. You’re not done yet.

Add the puréed proto-sauce to a hot skillet in which you’ve heated a tablespoon of oil or (if you’re being traditional) lard. It will spatter like crazy unless you stir constantly. Don’t wear anything fancy. Don’t go shirtless either, unless you find the idea of scalded chest regions appealing.

After a few minutes of frying, add chicken broth and simmer until you have a sauce just thick enough to coat the spoon. This is salsa verde – make it your friend.

Now it’s time to turn that salsa verde into dinner (or breakfast, or a late night snack – though my lawyer advises me to warn against working with hot oil late at night). Take some medium thick, store bought tortillas, and cut them into eighths (you did pay attention in math class, right?). It’s helpful if the tortillas are rather dried out and stale. If they’re fresh, dry them out for a few minutes in a 350° oven until they are leathery. Fry them in a thin layer of hot oil, stirring frequently. It should only take a minute or two – you’re going for lightly toasted, not fully crispy.

With that, you have fresh, homemade tortilla chips.  Don’t eat too many.

Build your chilaquile sauce: add salsa verde, chicken broth, salt, shredded chicken, and epazote to a skillet. Epazote is a wonderful herb with a complex, unusual flavor. It actually smells a bit chemical-y at first (sort of like hot, citrusy plastic and anise in a weird way), but something about the flavor really works in Mexican cooking. It’s a great addition to canned black beans.  While it may be hard to find in an area without Mexican specialty markets, it’s a worthwhile buy if you can get it.

Add the fried tortillas and simmer for a few minutes. You want them softened, but not mushy.

Dish out and top off with crumbled queso fresco, sliced onion, and fresh Mexican crema. Crema is like a more liquidy, less tangy sour cream. Sort of like creme fraiche, but less French. Sour cream thinned with a little milk will do in a pinch, but it’s not really the same. Dig in.

By the way, the leftover salsa verde is good on just about anything too. I just had it on eggs this morning.

Chilaquiles Verdes

from Authentic Mexican

Ingredients:

  1. 6 medium thick corn tortillas, stale (store bought work best)
  2. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  3. 1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa (see below for recipe, or use store bought salsa verde)
  4. 1/2 cup chicken broth
  5. 1/2 cup boneless chicken, cooked and shredded (I like to boil chicken breasts until tender with some cut up onion, salt, and bay leaves)
  6. 1 large sprig epazote
  7. 1/4 tsp. salt
  8. 1/4 cup Mexican crema or sour cream thinned with a little milk
  9. 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco, farmer’s cheese, feta, or similar fresh cheese
  10. 1-2 thin slices of white onion, broken into rings

Cut the tortillas into eighths. If they are still moist, dry them in a 350° oven for a few minutes until leathery (but not crisp or totally dried out). In a medium skillet, heat the oil on medium-high until hot enough to make the edge of a tortilla sizzle. Fry the the tortilla pieces in two or three batches, turning frequently until lightly browned and beginning to crisp.  This only takes a minute or two. Remove the tortilla chips and drain on paper towels, then repeat with the remaining batches. Discard any remaining oil.

Return the tortillas to the skillet and add salsa, broth, chicken, and epazote. Stir well, and simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the tortillas are softened but not mushy.

Transfer the chilaquiles to plates or a serving platter. Drizzle with crema, sprinkle with cheese, and top off with onion rings. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish.

Quick-Simmered Tomatillo Salsa

from Authentic Mexican

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb. (~11 medium) tomatillos, husked and washed (can replace with 2 13 oz. cans of tomatillos)
  2. 3 serrano or 2 jalepeno chiles (serranos will give more heat)
  3. 5-6 sprigs cilantro
  4. 1 small white onion, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  6. 1 Tbl. lard or vegetable oil
  7. 2 cups chicken or other meat broth (broth can be matched to use – pork is another good choice)
  8. salt, ~1/2 tsp. (depending on saltiness of broth)

Boil the tomatillos and chiles in salted water to cover for 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain. OR drain the canned tomatillos. Place the tomatillos, chiles, cilantro, onion, and garlic in a food processor (in batches if necessary). Process until mostly smooth, but with some texture.

Heat the lard or vegetable oil in a medium-large skillet on medium-high heat. When hot enough to make a drop of the sauce, sizzle, pour in the sauce all at once. STIR CONSTANTLY (or it will bubble all over the place) for 4-5 minutes. The sauce will darken and thicken somewhat. Add the broth, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes, until thick enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt to taste.

If not using immediately, store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 1/2 – 3 cups.

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Responses

  1. Made this last night for dinner. It turned out great. Not as good as when you made it for us of course, but still good.-MOM


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