Delving into the Archives… Chilaquiles

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chilaquiles wp-image-2142 summary: recipe for Chilaquiles; re-reading past issues of SAVEUR magazine; delving into our photo archives; Linden trees in blossom (click on image(s) to see more photos and larger views)

There are as many recipes for chilaquiles as there are cooks who make them. – SAVEUR Magazine No. 78 (October 2004), 10th Anniversary Issue: “The Joy of Real Food”, Chilaquiles recipe

Over the past few months, we have been re-reading articles from past issues of SAVEUR. And even in the earlier SAVEUR-100s (the issues that I used to find a little dull and empty), the writing and photography are superior to SAVEUR’s recent offerings. I still haven’t written to them to tell them officially that I will not be renewing my subscription. But our decision is already made.

What a shame! We really miss the old SAVEUR.

chilaquiles wp-image-2141 But don’t let me get sidetracked into whining about that. I’m really here because I’ve also been wandering through our photograph files and realize that I neglected to rave about the chilaquiles we made last June.

Last June?! Why did I wait so long. Because rave-worthy they were!

This is how they came about:

SAVEUR Magazine no. 149 Aug/Sept 2012 Cover wp-image-2143 Born to a Mexican father and an American mother, I grew up in Mexico City, but we summered in Maine. I travel back and forth to Mexico a few times a year, but I struggle with the transitions. In my psyche, both worlds remain achingly remote. Now, I was witnessing their ambivalent convergence.
I dug into my plate of chilaquiles, yesterday’s tortillas—stale and torn but fried and reborn with a tangy, gently spicy tomatillo salsa and a dollop of crema. A humble but filling meal, chilaquiles is born of an imperative to not waste food. Like refried beans, those gratifying leftovers that are spread on day-old bread and smothered in cheese and salsa for molletes, another of my breakfast favorites, chilaquiles is redeemed by its ingenuity and deliciousness. As I savored each bite, I was struck by a feeling of connection. My eyes were trained on the greener grass on the other side of the fence, but my taste buds held me here, in Mexico.
– Monica de la Torre, Breakfast at the Border, SAVEUR No.149 ‘The Mexico Issue’ (August/September 2012), p. 42

After re-reading that last year, with our newfound ability to make corn tortillas, how could we not try making chilaquiles?!

But there was no recipe in the “Mexico Issue” of SAVEUR. The internet came to our rescue:

Chilaquiles. Chee-lah-KEE-less! I mentioned I wanted to make chilaquiles to a Mexican friend the other day and you should have see the smile and look of rapture that came over his face. This is true Mexican comfort food, what your mom made you for breakfast when she had some stale tortillas that needed to get used up. […]
Do you like enchiladas? Chilaquiles are basically the same ingredients, but with a lot less work. No rolling.
-Elise, Chilaquiles Recipe, Simply Recipes, 11 November 2008

With many thanks to Elise, here’s what we did to make this wonderful dish:

based on the Elise’s recipe for Chilaquiles at Simply Recipes

  • corn tortillas, day old
  • vegetable oil (we used sunflower)
  • Kosher salt
  • red chile sauce ¹
  • Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • faux creme fraiche ²
  • Roast chicken or barbecued chicken or grilled pork, cut into bite-size pieces (optional) ³
  • fresh oregano leaves
  • green onions, finely chopped
  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  1. Roughly cut the tortillas into large-bite size pieces.
  2. Pour a good splash of oil into a large frying pan placed over medium to medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tortilla pieces and fry until they are golden. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
  3. Splash a little oil into another large frying pan, and add the salsa. Let it bubble nicely for a few minutes.
  4. Add the tortilla pieces to the salsa and toss with tongs to coat the tortillas well. Allow to cook a little more to ensure that everything is warm.
  5. Put the tortillas onto warm plates and top with meat, faux creme fraiche, grated cheese, onions, radishes and fresh oregano.

Serve immediately.


1.) red chile salsa Alas, because it was a year ago, we don’t exactly remember what we did to make the salsa. But it must have been one of these: Dried Chile Salsa) For Elise’s red chili sauce, she says to seed and stem dried ancho chiles and to dry-fry them briefly over medium heat. She then puts them into a small pot and pours boiling water overtop – just enough to cover – and lets the chiles sit for 15 minutes. After they have steeped, put the chiles, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 cups of chili soaking liquid [into] a blender. Hold down lid of blender tightly while blending, blend until completely puréed. Strain through a mesh sieve into a frying pan. Elise also says that salsa verde can be used in place of red chile salsa.

2.) faux creme fraiche To make faux creme fraiche, we use a disc of softened goat cheese and mix it with plain yoghurt, pepper and a small garlic clove that has been minced. Elise says to use creme fraiche or Crema Mexicana.

3.) meat If we’re using chicken, we like to butterfly a whole chicken and rub the skin with thyme, garlic powder, salt, pepper and perhaps a tiny bit of olive oil and leave it in the fridge to meld for 4 or 5 hours. Then we put it on the barbecue with the lid down and cook it until the skin is mahogany brown and the juices are running clear. It’s also very good if the chicken has been rubbed with a spicerub such as Old Bay Seasoning or Iraqi Yellow spicerub to make the wonderful Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar. If we’re using pork, we use a simple dry rub on butt roast and then thinly slice the meat and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

radishes wp-image-2139 Hmmm…. It’s the height of radish season again. I think it’s high time for us to make chilaquiles, don’t you?. Alas, there are no radishes growing in our garden but there is a farmers’ market not far from us on streets filled with blossoming Linden trees. Guess where we’ll be riding our bikes. :-) :-)

Saveur No. 78 wp-image-2147 Anyone who has ever woken up hungover or just plain hungry in Mexico has likely had the good fortune to dip into a plate of hearty, chewy chilaquiles – shreds of stale corn tortillas fried in oil and simmered in spicy tomato or tomatillo sauce, then topped with cool, tangy thickened cream, crumbled white cheese, chopped onions, and cilantro. […] As with any culinary creation born of leftovers, variations on the platillo de pobres, “poor man’s dish”, abound. The requisite chile sauce is usually red (with tomatoes) or green (with tomatillos) but recipes from the western Mexican state of Sinaloa call for a “white sauce” of ground ancho chiles, onions and garlic.
– Carolynn Carreño, “Hot Hat”, SAVEUR No.78, 10th Anniversary Issue (October 2004), p. 47

Correspondence Oh yes. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m still waiting to hear from Adam Sachs with regards to the email I wrote to him in early spring – the email that he suggested in his forward to the March issue….

June and the wonderful smell of tortillas As we were riding our bikes through the neighbourhood, we kept smelling corn tortillas! How could it be that so many people in Toronto were making corn tortillas?!

It turns out that it’s the Linden trees.

You don’t believe me? Go out for an evening walk under a blossoming Linden tree. You’ll be amazed!



This entry was posted in 'Saveur' Magazine review, food & drink, posts with recipes, spicy on by . chilaquiles

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