As friends and frequent readers know, I grew up around a lot of Mexican food during my childhood in Colorado. For people from the Western states Mexican food is an obsession. And mine has been further fueled by a decade plus of trips to visit my parents who now live in Santa Fe. At my house Southwestern flavors are a central part of entertaining and everyday menus. That being said I am not sure when I first started making Chilaquiles – a mexican breakfast dish centered around chilies, corn tortillas and scrambled eggs. Unlike most Southwestern food I like to cook, the recipe or idea did not come from my family or one of the Mexican restaurants where I worked during high school. Instead it came from trips to Mexico, where the dish was a culinary godsend for nights spent drinking too many Cheladas with tequila chasers. Chilaquiles are the ultimate hangover helper and breakfast comfort food. Accordingly, through the years I have made the dish at vacations rentals in Mexico and for overnight guests at The Richmond. We even served it a 1:00 am at Jimmy’s 40th Birthday Party to sober up the troops and keep the festivities going.
The central ingredients in all Chilaquiles are pieces of corn tortillas mixed with scrambled eggs. Variations add chilies, cheese, different sauces, and chorizo or pulled chicken. The dish is generally served one of two ways. The first is as scramble where all of the ingredients are loosely combined in a skillet. The other is as a casserole where ingredients are layered and baked. My recipe goes the second route. It makes it easier for large groups and I love the almost polenta like consistency which comes from the time in the oven. After many ad hoc preparations through the years, what follows is a well tested measured version which consistently hits the mark. I like to serve it with an easy pico de gillo which I combine while the dish is in the oven. That recipe is also included below.
Chilaquiles with Avocado Queso Fresco Pico de Guillo
serves 4 to 6
non-stick cooking spray
12 corn tortillas
20 oz frozen or fresh shredded hash brown potatoes*
1 medium onion diced
1 TBS Vegetable Oil
2 – 4 oz cans diced Green Chilies well drained (I prefer Hatch** “Hot”)
2 – 15 oz cans Red Enchilada Sauce (I prefer Hatch** “Medium”)
8 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated
1 dozen large eggs
1 TSP Salt
Pico de Gillo
1 Large Ripe Avocado
1 Pint Grape Tomatoes
4 ounces Queso Fresco (Mexican Crumbling Cheese) grated
1 large jalapeño
salt and pepper to taste
preheat oven to 350 degreen
Arrange the corn tortillas, 6 each on two large baking sheets, with minimum overlap. Spray tortillas on both sides with non-stick cooking spray and bake for 15 minutes or until the tortillas are lightly brown and crisp. Place on a wire rack to cool.
Heat the vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet. Swirl to coat and add the potatoes and onion. Turning minimally, cook until portions are well browned and the onions are cooked through – about 10 minutes.
Grease a 2/12 quart or medium sized baking dish generously with the non-stick cooking spray. Spread the hash brown mixture evenly in the dish. Drizzle with about a quarter of the enchilada sauce. Crush four tortillas evenly across mixture. Sprinkle one can of the green chilies evenly across the top in clumps. Drizzle a with a quarter of the enchilada sauce and cover with a third of the cheddar cheese. Repeat step beginning with the crumbled tortillas. Once the second layer is in place crumble the final four tortillas over the top and cover with the remaining cheddar cheese.
Crack eggs into a blender and add the Salt. Blend on high for thirty seconds. Pour the mixture into the casserole. Drizzle another quarter of the enchilada sauce over the top. Retain the remaining enchilada sauce to serve with the casserole.
Bake the casserole for 45 to 60 minutes or until the casserole is well set and a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. I also check by patting various spots with my hands to make sure it is set all over.
While the casserole is baking cut the grape tomatoes into eights. Place in a large bowl. Remove the seeds from the Jalapeno, chop into small pieces, and add to tomato mixture. Cut the avocado into small chunks and fold it in with the Queso Fresco. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper and set aside.
Allow the Chilaquiles to cool for about 15 minutes. To serve cut into squares and top with the Pico de Guillo. Warm the remaining enchilada sauce for passing (I often add an additional can because the Hatch Sauce is so popular).
* I use Simply Potatoes brand Shredded Hash Browns. These can be found in the dairy case at most major supermarkets. To get all of the water out of the potatoes, and assure a firm casserole, I freeze the bagged potatoes in advance. Day of cooking I thaw the bag for around 2 – 3 minutes in the microwave before frying. After they are thawed I cut a slit at the top of the bag and literally wring out all of the excess water. You will be shocked by how much liquid comes out of the bag. When I skip this step, I find the liquid shows up in the casserole, and ruins the firmness of the finished dish. Another option is to use frozen hash browns which seem to be less wet when thawed.
** Some chefs will scoff at using canned ingredients. But in my opinion Hatch Brand makes the best chili products available – all grown sustainably in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. Their green chilies have real heat and flavor and their enchilada sauce is made exclusively from red chilies (it doesn’t contain the tomatoes which ruin the Mexican flavor of most supermarket brands). You can buy from Hatch Foods On Line, or find the brand at most Super Markets in Western States or nationally at most Whole Foods or other Natural Markets. Before Hatch was available at our Whole Foods in Chicago I used to mule cans back from every trip to New Mexico. It is THAT good.