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How To Make Chilaquiles Verdes

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

There are some words you don't normally associate with good food. Wet. Limp. Soggy. These are not descriptors you generally want to be putting in your mouth. But there are exceptions to every rule, and it just happens that one of the most delicious dishes of all time fits all three of those definitions. Chilaquiles just happens to sound a whole lot better than "wet, limp, soggy nachos."

Ok, I'm being a little bit unfair here. The best chilaquiles (the kind we're after) aren't so much wet as moist, and aren't so much limp as "gently softened until the chips retain just a bit of crunch but dissolve in your mouth into a mix of comforting starch and hot salsa." But sill, when it comes down to it, chilaquiles are essentially soggy nachos—an excuse to eat chips and salsa for breakfast.

It's a super-simple dish to make once you have the basic ingredients ready. All you've got to do is heat up some salsa in a pan, thin it out with a little water or chicken stock, fold in some chips, and top it all with a few garnishes: Mexican crema, crumbled cheese, sliced onions, chopped cliantro, and fried or scrambled eggs are my go-to. But there's some finesse in perfecting them.

First and foremost, you must use freshly-fried tortilla chips. I've yet to find a brand of store-bought chips that have the heft and crunch required to stand up to being simmered in salsa. I make my chips by cutting whole soft corn tortillas into wedges, then deep frying them in a wok until they're puffy and crisp but not yet deeply browned. Frying the chips just before adding them to the salsa will give you the best possible results.

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As for the salsa, you can use a doctored-up store-bought salsa verde or even a couple of cans of enchilada sauce with some fresh cilantro and lime juice if you'd like. But if you go through the trouble of making your own, you'll be rewarded with a breakfast fit for a jefe. Especially when it's topped with a runny egg.

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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