Saturday, May 23, 2009

Guanajuato, Mexico Food: Chilaquiles


Cindi Bower

Chilaquiles (pronounced chee-lah-KEE-lehs) is a popular breakfast or brunch dish throughout Mexico. It may have been developed by cooks as a way to use up stale tortillas and leftover salsa from the previous day's meals.

The name, chilaquiles, comes from the Nahuatl word chil-a-quilitl, which means "herbs or greens in chili broth."

Chilaquiles are made from stale tortillas cut in strips or, more popularly, in triangles (called totopos) that are fried until crispy and then covered with red or green sauce.

There are a number of different ways to prepare chilaquiles. Instead of using red or green salsa, some cooks cover the fried tortillas with mole (a spicy-sweet sauce made with many ingredients, including nuts, chilies, vegetables, seeds, tortillas, and often chocolate). Some recipes call for the tortillas and salsa to be cooked in a pot on the stove until the tortillas are soft while others layer the tortillas and salsa in a casserole dish and bake in the oven. In the Mexican state, Sinaloa, the tortillas are topped with a white sauce. In Guadalajara, chilaquiles are cooked in a pot on top of the stove until the tortillas soften into a mush similar to polenta.

Some cooks add shredded chicken or pork to the salsa; others add scrambled or fried eggs. When served, chilaquiles are usually topped with shredded cheese, crema (similar to sour cream), and onions (sometimes chopped, but more often, the onion is cut into rings).

Many people swear that eating chilaquiles will cure a hangover. Mexicans believe that spicy foods aid the recovery process.

We like chilaquiles any way they are served as long as the salsa is not too spicy. We've had them alone as well as with sides of eggs, shredded chicken, beans or chorizo. The style of chilaquiles we like the best are the ones baked in the oven with salsa and cheese…similar to lasagna.

Try chilaquiles on your next visit to Mexico. I think you'll like them!

Here is an easy recipe for oven-baked chilaquiles:

Cooking oil
18 small corn tortillas (preferably a bit stale); cut into wedges
A jar of your favorite red or green salsa (or around 2 ½ cups of homemade salsa)
1 pound shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup queso crema or sour cream
½ cup queso cotija (aged Mexican cheese) or mild feta cheese
½ medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
Coarsely chopped cilantro

Cook the tortilla wedges in oil until golden and slightly crispy. Drain on paper towels.

In an oven-proof casserole dish, spread a layer of salsa on the bottom. Top with a layer of tortilla chips. Cover the chips with some Monterey Jack cheese, then a layer of salsa. Top with another layer of chips. Continue layering in the manner until all the ingredients are used, ending with a layer of cheese. Place in a 350° oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Serve garnished with the queso crema, the queso cotija, the onion slices and the chopped cilantro.



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