Tuesday, April 3, 2012



Now, I know that you have waited, breathe baited, for the last 3 days wondering just what in the world was special enough for my special bloggerversary dinner.  Did I finally make the lovely lobster dinner that I promised Ben for his birthday 3 months ago?  Did I conquer crepes?  Rule over a roast chicken?  Cross another line off my kitchen bucket list?  Or rather, did I slather some red sauce over store bought tortilla chips and tell Ben "It's basically Mexican lasagna"?

I know, I know, it's not.  But the boy was bugging me and making weird faces and just annoying me to wits end and I had to give him something to shut him up.  The quarter of myself that is Mexican cringes when I admit that, but the other 75% doesn't care.  Because it got this to the table faster.

This dish made a wonderful bloggerversary dinner.  One, because it was delicious and two, because it made me happy.  Back when I lived in McAllen, TX and there wasn't too many reasons at all that I was happy to live there, the cafeteria at work would occasionally make this for breakfast.  And while I have relatively few good memories about McAllen, I remember the chilaquiles.  And how they could turn a crappy morning into something exciting, even if just for 15 minutes.  They just made everybody happy.  

But the ultimate icing on the um, chilaquiles, came the night before, when I was making the sauce (which I would suggest, because it makes dinner the next night ridiculously easy).  I poured boiling water over the dried chiles and then just a few moments later, suddenly, it smelled like my grandpa's house.  I just sat in my kitchen inhaling and smiling to myself.  It brought back such a vivid memory of being in my grandpa's kitchen, the whole big family coming over to help make tamales, a yearly Christmas time ritual, and my grandpa elbow deep in a huge vat of chili con carne.  It smelt just like that.  If chilaquiles sound weird, or if you think it'll just be strange soggy tortilla chips, that's fine.  Just know that this sauce, if nothing else, this sauce is killer.

One day in the future, when I have my act together and don't rely on tubs of Greek yogurt for my dinners each week, I want to have cups and cups of this sauce tucked away nicely in the freezer.  Then I could always be minutes away from a breakfast of chilaquiles.  Or enchiladas for dinner, or chili con carne...


I served this with a fried egg over top, the runny yolk just adding amazingness to amazingness.  I am used to chilaquiles with shredded chicken mixed into the sauce, which will be my next approached when I make this next.  Also, Ben found it a little too spicy, I thought it was perfect.  So adjust your chile input accordingly (I used 7).  BA has you make your own tortilla chips.  I was lazy and used store bought.  I don't really regret that decision, just get the nice thick cut ones, because they have to put up with a lot!  

Lastly, and most importantly, when working with hot peppers (and these guys are!) it's never a bad idea to wear plastic gloves.  And NEVER, EVER touch your face or eyes until you have very thoroughly washed your hands.  I tell you, you make that mistake once as a 7 year old and you never forget it the rest of your life.

Red Chile Sauce:
5-7 dried guajillo or New Mexico chiles
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained
1 medium white onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (with seeds)
1/8 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 tsp. honey
Kosher salt, pepper, to taste

Tortilla chipes (~ 6-8 c.)
4 ounces quesco fresco, crumbled (~1 c.)
4 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (~1 c.)
4 large eggs (optional)
Shredded chicken (optional)
Cilantro, for topping (optional)

To make the red chile sauce, place dried chiles in large glass bowl.  Cover with 2 cups of boiling water, making sure chiles are submerged.  Let sit at least 15 minutes, until they are softened.  Inhale deeply and enjoy the smell!  Once softened, remove chiles and reserve soaking liquid.  Discard stems and seeds (seeds = heat!) and roughly chop.

While chiles are soaking, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno and paprika in food processor.  Add chiles and 1 cup of reserved soaking liquid, process until sauce it smooth.

In large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil.  Add sauce (careful: splatter alert!) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let sauce simmer, lid only partly on, stirring occasionally.  Simmer until sauce is reduced and thickened.  Stir in honey and season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly (a tortilla chip works great for this, just don't eat too much of the sauce!)  Remove from heat.  If preparing the sauce before hand, cover and refrigerate up to three days.  Warm sauce again before assembling chilaquiles.

To make chilaquiles, preheat broiler.  In large bowl, toss tortilla chips with 1 - 1 1/2 cups sauce.  Coat chips, but you don't want everything covered, leave some chip showing.  If using shredded chicken, toss with chips and sauce to coat.  In large broil safe dish, lay out half of chips.  Sprinkle half of each cheese over chips.  Layer remaining chips on top, drizzle 1/2 c. more sauce over top, followed by remaining cheese.  Broil until cheese is melted and golden, 5-6 minutes.  Top with cilantro, fried eggs, etc.

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