The first time I had chilaquiles there were eggs, beans, a random sauce thrown in, and some chips. I thought, “Ok. Love me some chips. Not too shabby.” Then, I was taught a few things:
1. Nope. That ain’t right.
2. Really, really not how it’s done.
3. …You’re fired…
So after not passing Go, not collecting $200, and going straight to jail for that monstrosity, I was shown by some dear friends how it’s actually done. It was bliss. The real hero of this dish is the sauce, which is made with a myriad of peppers, onions, and lots of patience. At first I questioned the home-frying of the tortilla chips (because yea, I can be lazy sometimes. I’m American.) but that was a huge mistake– home fry. Do it. Do it now.
Chilaquiles needs no eggs, no beans, no elaborate fan fare. It stands on it’s own and the following is the only recipe you’ll ever need. Thank you, Tyna and Lowell, for showing me the WAY.
The following will feed about 5-6 people and takes about 2 hours to prepare.
from Tyna O., a champion of the home-fried tortilla chip, and Lowell, a lover of all good foods
18-24 tortillas, cut into sixths
3/4 c olive oil
3/4 c vegetable or canola oil
2 lb tomatillos, boiled for about 5 min or until tender and drained, with liquid reserved (you will need about 1 qt cooked, so you may want to prepare more to be on the safe side)
2 large onions, diced fine
7 dried California chilis
2 dried ancho, pasilla, negro chilis
1 chili japones or chili de arbol
1 dried New Mexico chili
1 chipotle chili
(NOTE: you can make your own combination of dried chilis. The beauty is that it’s probably going to be great whatever you pick, but if you have favorites go crazy.)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 – 1 ½ lb Monterey jack cheese, grated
salt to taste
Heat the oils over medium heat until hot (test with a single chip— when bubbly, it’s ready to go). Working in small batches (don’t overcrowd the chips), fry the chips until golden brown on each side. Some may be crispier, some may be chewier– this all adds to the beauty of the finale. Meanwhile, saute the diced onions until soft and brown. It is recommended to do this in two pans, because quite a bit gets added to the pan over the course of the recipe). Remove ALL seeds from ALL peppers by halving them with a knife and scrapping them out with your fingers or a knife. Place peppers, garlic, cumin, and tomatillos in a blender and puree until smooth. Add to pan with sauteed onions (divide between the two pans) and cook for 1o minutes, simmering.
After ten minutes, add a generous handful of chips to each pan and cover with sauce. Let them soften a bit and cook in the sauce before adding another handful. This process can take 20-30 minutes, so be patient. You may not be able to fit all of the chips in when things are said and done– that’s ok. Eat them on their own! Once you have a pan full of sauce and chips, sprinkle with cheese and let cook until melted (About 5 minutes). Remove from heat and serve.