Chilaquiles Verdes (and Tomatillo Salsa)
First of all, I know that many of you are already thinking, “what are chilaquiles?” (Or the rest of you, who know about them, are already thinking, “mmmmm.”)
Chilaquiles are torn or cut up corn tortillas, fried in oil till partially crispy, then cooked up with salsa, so that they just begin to soften again, then topped with cheese and– for the best breakfast ever– poached or fried eggs. And chilaquiles verdes are made with green tomatillo salsa, rather than red salsa or mole.
I first fell for green chilaquiles at a small restaurant, and excellent brunch spot, in Madison, WI called Bon Appetit Cafe. Bon Appetit uses crispier chips, and generously tops their chilaquiles verdes with dollops of sour cream and crumbled queso fresco. The version here– as made by my girlfriend from the recipe in her head– is a little less crispy but probably a little more healthy, and all the same flavors jump out at you when you take your first bite.*
Chilaquiles are one of my all-time favorite things to eat as a savory breakfast (second only to huevos rancheros, but only because those are easier to make). Not that chilaquiles are all that difficult either… the most elaborate part of this recipe is the homemade tomatillo salsa. But I suppose if you’re really craving weekday-morning chilaquiles, you could prepare the whole dish a lot more quickly if you used a pre-made salsa instead. Or if, say, for your first batch of weekend chilaquiles you blended up enough homemade tomatillo salsa to stretch across a few batches of weekday ones.
Believe me, these things will keep you coming back for more. (And may even bring fans of sweet breakfasts over to the savory side.)
One more note about this chilaquiles recipe: this is it! The origin of the blog name “Spontaneous Tomato.” I almost always have fresh red tomatoes sitting out on my countertop, and my girlfriend once tossed one of those into the blender with the boiled green tomatillos. We were making breakfast for my friend, Sarah, who had come to visit, and Sarah asked me what ingredients had gone into the salsa. I told her, “lots of tomatillos and one spontaneous tomato.”
* Actually, these particular (pictured) chilaquiles happen to be the ones my girlfriend made for me the weekend before I left on this trip to Korea and Japan, since we knew I’d be spending over a month in Japan: the land of no cilantro! (Or, more accurately, the land of difficult-and/or-impossible-to-find cilantro.) There are many wonderful flavors to be sampled in Japan, but typically– outside of Tokyo– cilantro isn’t one of them. Not to mention how difficult (and/or impossible) it is to find anything resembling Mexican queso fresco or soft corn tortillas here…
(Makes enough to fill 3-4 small jars of salsa, or enough to make chilaquiles 3-4 times…)
~ 20-25 green tomatillos
~ 1-2 cloves of garlic
~ 1 jalapeño pepper
~ 1 large bunch of fresh cilantro
~ ⅓ of a white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
~ salt and pepper, to taste
~ 1 spontaneous tomato
How to make it:
EDIT: The recipe below suggests boiling the tomatillos, but we have since modified the way that tomatillo salsa is made around here: Roasting all the ingredients in the oven is easier and tastier!
Skip the boiling and just roast everything (except cilantro)
for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Here is the alternate version of this recipe, in PDF form: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.
1. Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos, and rinse them well (they will probably feel pretty slimy, so you’ll want to wash your hands again afterwards). Add the de-husked tomatillos to a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Then simmer, uncovered, until most of the tomatillos have mostly changed color, from brighter green, to a darker brownish-yellowy shade (about 20 minutes). You can use a spoon to try to flip some of the tomatillos over while they’re boiling, but many of them will just flip themselves right back up in the water; don’t worry about it too much.
2. Meanwhile, place the garlic clove(s) and the jalapeño pepper in a small pan, and slowly brown them on all sides over medium-high heat. (You might want to open a window and turn on the fan over the stove, since the air will get spicy!) Once they are browned, remove the jalapeño and garlic from the pan, and carefully cut open the jalapeño to remove most or all of the seeds (the part that would make your salsa super spicy).
3. Once almost all of the tomatillos have changed color, and they are soft, drain them in a colander. Some of them might be heavy with liquid inside, while others will be lighter. You can puncture the heavy ones with a knife to drain them a bit if you want a thicker salsa, or just throw them all in a food processor, as is.
4. In small batches, add the following to the food processor: boiled tomatillos, de-seeded browned jalapeño, browned garlic clove(s), cilantro, and onion. Blend all ingredients together until you have a liquidy green salsa. Add salt and pepper to taste.
~ small corn tortillas (about 4-5 per person)
~ ¼ cup olive oil (for frying 12-15 tortillas)
~ 1 small/medium size jar of salsa, or use about ⅓ of the tomatillo salsa recipe above
~ 1-2 eggs per person, poached or fried
~ 1-2 Tbsp. of queso fresco per person, to top the chilaquiles
~ refried beans (on the side)
~ sour cream (as a topping)
~ cilantro to garnish
How to make it:
1. Cut or tear up the corn tortillas (I think 4-5 per person is about right, but then again, leftovers are always nice, too).
2. In a large pan or pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high, then add the tortillas and fry them, turning them every once in a while, until most of them have gotten at least a little crispy or browned.
3. Pour some of the salsa over the tortillas (enough to at least coat each of them), then lower the heat a bit, and stir the fried tortillas and salsa together to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Serve the chilaquiles topped with crumbled cheese (like queso fresco) and a poached or fried egg. Optionally serve with a side of refried beans, a dollop of sour cream, or a few fresh chopped sprigs of cilantro as a garnish.