Saturday, September 24, 2011

Migas? Chilaquiles? Migaquiles???

Warm sunny days, on or near the water, with someone waiting on me... in my dreams. At least these sunny thoughts kept me from frowning at the gray, windy weather outside the galley windows this week. Those same thoughts took me traveling back through some wonderful memories.

Quick flashback to my first trip to Texas. It was memorable for a photo tour of the Alamo, a leisurely drive through the Hill Country when bluebonnets were in bloom, horseback riding and relaxing at an amazing dude ranch, and discovering fajitas and migas for the first time. Love at first bite! Fast forward to another decade and a stay in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. There we explored the local mercado, wandered the beach, ran around on ATVs, ate a lot of shrimp, and enjoyed chilaquiles for breakfast at a seaside restaurant. (Dim memories of an evening with a lot of tequila, wandering mariachis and friend Arturo knowing all of the words to every song - but that's another story.)

Chilaquiles are a traditional way in Mexican households to use leftover tortillas; end of story, or so I thought. Then I ran across several internet discussion threads debating migas vs chilaquiles as THE decidedly different and authentic use of leftover tortillas. I ran a Google search on "chilaquiles vs migas" and was stunned to see over 2000 hits, and many with conflicting descriptions. Baked casserole or pan-fried mixture? Eggs or eggless? Crispy or soggy tortillas? and on and on. So what do you call a dish with crisped tortilla strips, a red chili sauce, pepper strips, eggs and cheese?   

I vary my cooking method and ingredient list, depending on whim and dining partners, and still call the dish chilaquiles. That word is just more fun to roll off the tongue than migas. Authenticity aside, here's a tasty way to use up a few corn (or flour) tortillas for a breakfast treat. 

Chilaquiles - this week's version

Serves 4

10 small corn tortillas
salad oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano chili, diced
4 green onions, green and white portions, chopped small
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
red chili sauce (homemade or from a jar)
4 eggs, poached or scrambled
1/2 cup shredded cheese, queso fresco, jack or manchego
fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Optional sour cream, avocado slices and /or salsa to accompany
  1. Tear or cut the tortillas into short 1/2-inch strips. Put some oil about 1/4-inch deep  into a wide skillet and heat over medium-high heat. In small batches, fry handfuls of tortilla strips until lightly browned and drispy, about 3-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on a paper towel covered plate. Place in a 200 F oven to keep warm. (Add more oil to the fry pan as needed for later batches.)
  2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil in the frypan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and poblano and cook briefly to soften, not brown. Add the green onions, tomatoes and a few tablespoons of that optional chili sauce; stir to mix and cook until the tomatoes begin to give up their juices.
  3. Now you have some choices. I like to make four holes in the pan sauce, drop an egg in each hole, cover the pan and cook slowly until the white are set and the yolks are still runny. OR soft-scramble some eggs in the pan sauce or in another pan. OR you could warm up some pre-poached eggs in warm water and use them…. Cook the eggs any way you like!.
  4. Scatter the tortilla strips on a plate, cover with eggs, pan sauce, cheese, cilantro and any other toppings and garnish you like. 

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