Chilaquiles are a traditional breakfast dish throughout Mexico, and as such, they vary from region to region and home to home. The baseline dish consists of fried strips of tortilla cooked with a sauce and cheese. They can be made with a green tomatillo salsa, red tomato salsa or a mole sauce. They originated as a method of using up stale tortillas, much like panzanella in Italy and fatteh in the Middle East. I have been making these semi-regularly for brunch and occasionally dinner over the past few years, and they are truly one of my favourite things to eat. While this may not sound like a ringing endorsement, they remind me of the nachos that I used to have as a child in an American theme restaurant in Dublin, which I still remember vividly 25 years later. They have a wonderful combination of crunch and softness. Whenever I have a tortilla or two leftover at the end of a pack, I chop them up, stick them in a zip lock bag and freeze them until I have accumulated enough to make a batch.
This recipe is basically a template that you can build on with whatever meat or vegetables you want to add, although it’s also great without any additions. I have sometimes added a handful of finely chopped spinach to the sauce, or mixed some roasted cubes of sweet potato in between the layers. Pulled pork or fried chunks of chorizo would not go amiss. Add more cheese if you like, or scale it down if you’re attempting some semblance of healthy eating. The sauce can be made a day ahead and refrigerated or frozen so that it can be put together quickly for breakfast. I have also used it as a sauce for baked beans. The one shortcut I have tried and do not recommend is baking the tortillas. They don’t puff and crisp the same way, and end up tasting greasier than if they had been fried. You don’t need to deep-fry them, a thin layer of oil is enough to get the right effect.
Serves 2 very hungry people.
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 bunch of fresh coriander
- One shallot or half of a red onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 chipotle in adobo plus two teaspoons of the sauce
- Honey to taste
- 4-6 large corn or flour tortillas, cut into triangles
- Neutral oil
- 1 tin of black beans
- 50-75g grated melting hard cheese like cheddar or gouda
- 40g feta, crumbled (optional)
- 2 avocados
- 1 lime or lemon
- Sour cream, creme fraiche or yoghurt
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Make the sauce by blending the tomatoes, most of the coriander leaves (reserving a handful for the avocados), the shallot, cloves of garlic and chipotle with a stick blender until smooth.
- Add some honey to bring out the sweetness in the tomatoes, and season with salt as required. You can either cook this sauce down a bit for 5-10 minutes in a saucepan on a low heat, or use it as is.
- Heat a large frying pan to a medium-high heat and coat the bottom with a thin layer of oil.
- Fry the tortilla triangles in batches, turning them in the oil and leaving them until pockets of air have appeared and they are crispy and lightly golden brown.
- Season them with some salt, and leave on a piece of kitchen paper to cool.
- Once all of the tortillas are done, put a layer in a heavy casserole pot or ovenproof dish.
- Cover with 2 tablespoons of sauce and spread with a spatula to evenly distribute over the tortillas.
- Drain the beans and add a handful of beans and a sprinkle of mixed cheese on top of the tortillas and sauce.
- The sauce/bean/cheese ratio will depend on how big your pot is, and how many layers you can make.
- When you reach the top, cover it with a final layer of grated cheese and stick it in the oven.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes until everything is bubbling and the cheese is melted. You can also stick it under the grill for a minute or two at the end to melt and crisp a bit more.
- While the chilaquiles are cooking, scoop out the avocado flesh and roughly dice.
- Chop the remaining coriander leaves.
- Season the avocado with lemon and salt to your preference, then mix in the coriander.
- Serve the chilaquiles warm with avocado and sour cream.