Monday, January 12

No Deja para Mañana. . . .

I eat a lot of stupendous Mexican food. Loads. I love it, I crave it, and I devour it like I'm going into hibernation and need to build up fat reserves for months ahead. If I haven't had tacos in a span of a couple days I start to get edgy. I ponder over how much it might cost me to buy a whole spit of al pastor. I trade info about what restaurants have the best enchiladas verdes with my coworkers like insider stock tips. Oh and cecina. Cecina is my abusive paramour that I am always yearning for and who sometimes treats me so bad (only internally).
This is just the tip of my fanatical love of the cuisine. But for all that insanity, I rarely ever make any Mexican food.
Every time I go out to eat, which is pretty frequently, I eat these amazing dishes (Usually, there have been a few sub-stellar moments in my dining experiences). "Every time" is not much of an exaggeration either. I have eaten pizza twice at the beach and three times in Miahuatlán (once was so horrible I can't even think about it without gagging. It was like Taco Bell and Totino's got together and came out with a St. Louis style Mexican pizza. I can personally advise these companies that it would not be a wise or successful venture and if they take that venture, you have been warned).
Beyond these scattered moments, I haven't eaten anything else that wasn't Mexican food. Since I frequently partake in these bountiful resources of Mexican food that surround me, when I make dinner I'll concoct something that bears as much resemblance to Italian and Asian food as possible.
It ends now. Not the eating out or the attempt to fill the void in my life which the lack of Italian,Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants has caused, but the fact that I'm not even attempting to make some traditional Mexican dishes. I'm seizing the day. I'm taking up the mantle of a favorite quote of mine: No deja para mañana lo que puedes comer hoy. Translation: Don't leave for tomorrow what you can eat today. I love it when buds of truth spring up on the cafeteria white board.
Well the new year is upon us and at last I have a functioning stove in my new apartment. The bag is packed for my journey into traditional Oaxacan cuisine. It may be wrought with peril, but neither I nor my subjects (the people I make eat my food) are weak of spirit or stomach. I decided to begin my expedition with a dish that I have done extensive research on (meaning: I've probably eaten it at least once a week since September). Chilaquiles.
Chilaquiles rojos, chilaquiles verdes, chilaquiles con pollo, chilaquiles con huevo.
All delicious and fantastic variations of fried tortillas in a sauce. The classic chilaquiles (rojos) sound, look, and essentially are, slightly soggy chips in a tomato sauce. I know that doesn't exactly sound appetizing, but they are fantastic. Some recipes I've seen layer and bake the chilaquiles like a lasagna. I have never had them this way (and do not have the oven-capacity to make them this way), but have always been served a generous portion of tortilla "chips" messily swimming in sauce, dolloped with crema and queso fresco crumbles. I say "chips", because chilaquiles are a breakfast dish traditionally meant to use up stale tortillas. Mexico's pan perdu. You slice them up, fry them, and top with sauce. I used some really nice tortilla chips to avoid my apartment smelling like a Moby Dick's (replace Moby Dick's with Long John Silver's if you haven't lived in Kentucky.)
I consulted a few recipes, but overall just followed my well-informed gut. So here you are
friends, my first real recipe for an authentic Mexican dish. I hope you enjoy. I must say, I'm still brimming with pride over the compliments I received on them.

serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 medium onions
1 lb of tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup of chicken stock
2 chiles de arbol, crushed*
1 canned chipotle pepper, chopped, or 1 tbsp of a chipotle sauce**
1 bag quality corn tortilla chips
crema or créme fraiche or sour cream
queso fresco***

Heat oil in skillet on low heat. Dice garlic and 1 1/2 of the onions, add to skillet. Sauté over low heat until onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, chiles de arbol, and chipotle sauce. Stir and sauté 5 minutes. Transfer tomato mixture to a blender and puree until smooth and return to skillet. Cook over low heat until thoroughly warmed. Slice remaining onion into rings. Divide chips among plates, cover generously in sauce, top with onions, queso fresco, and crema. Enjoy. Don't wait until tomorrow!

Shredded chicken or a fried egg are often found atop chilaquiles. They are a delicious way to give some extra heft to the meal.

*don't discard seeds, unless you wish to cut back the spice
**the chipotle also adds more heat, but a nice smoky flavor too. If you want to cut back the spice, cut back the chiles de arbol and taste and add more if needed.
***queso fresco can be found at many large chain groceries and always at a Mexican grocery. If you can't find it, substitute some feta or goat cheese crumbles.

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