Why It Works
- Canned chipotle chiles and dried ancho chiles toasted in the microwave add rich chile flavor and fiery heat to a base of canned tomatoes, garlic, and onions.
- A splash of soy sauce adds umami depth to the salsa.
- Tilting the pan before adding the eggs helps them keep their shape as they fry.
Some folks go for pancakes. Others like their sausages and home fries. Breakfast sandwiches are popular, I hear. But sit me down at a brunch spot with huevos rancheros on the menu and everything else disappears. There's nothing like runny fried eggs, fiery salsa, and fresh corn tortillas to start my morning. Add some refried beans on the side, and I'm likely to hit my daily happiness goals before lunch.
Making huevos rancheros—"rancher's-style" eggs—is an inherently simple, impromptu affair at home. Briefly fry some corn tortillas to soften them; add a couple of crisply-fried, runny-yolked eggs; and ladle on plenty of salsa. That's it. Everything else is just window dressing. As someone who makes a ton of salsa at home, and who has access to the extraordinary array of local brands available in San Francisco's Mission District, it's easy for me to think of huevos rancheros as a dish so darn casual that it doesn't even need a recipe.
But then I wouldn't be doing my job, now would I?
I've already shared a recipe for my go-to—huevos rancheros verdes, with a green tomatillo salsa—but after a trip to LA, where I was introduced to the awesome huevos rancheros with a chile morita sauce at Lotería Grill, they've haunted my dreams.
My goal was to come up with a recipe for huevos rancheros, with a smoky and wickedly spicy tomato and red-chile salsa, that requires nothing more than basic supermarket pantry staples. And I wanted it all in under half an hour, because who has time to wait for breakfast?
(Spoiler alert: I reached my goal.)
A Quick-and-Easy Salsa With Depth
I knew that I needed two basic ingredients in my salsa: tomatoes and chiles. I started my testing using fresh Roma tomatoes and fresh chiles, which produced a nice, fresh-flavored salsa, but it wasn't quite right. I wanted something richer, smokier, and more brooding for my eggs.
Making the switch from fresh chiles to dried chiles was a big step in the right direction. Morita chiles, the ones used in that sauce I loved so much in LA, are the dried form of a red jalapeño-like chile. It's very similar in flavor and smokiness to a canned chipotle chile, so that was an obvious first step. For extra depth and richness, I added a couple of dried ancho chiles, which I toasted in the microwave—30 seconds in the microwave will toast your dried chiles faster and better than either the stovetop or the oven—then snipped into strips with a pair of kitchen shears so they incorporated more easily into the sauce.
I sautéed these snipped chiles, along with onions and garlic, in canola oil, adding some Mexican oregano at the end. Then I added my diced Roma tomatoes and chipotle chiles, cooking the whole thing down until it was completely softened before puréeing it.
It tasted great, but those Roma tomatoes simply took too long to cook down. Making the switch to canned crushed tomatoes—fire-roasted tomatoes from Muir Glen were my favorite—delivered a salsa that went from pantry to ready-to-eat in just about 15 minutes.
Well within my timeframe.
A quick blast with the hand blender, along with a splash of lime juice and soy sauce (my secret weapon for adding a salty, umami boost to my sauces) and a handful of chopped cilantro, and the sauce was exactly where I wanted it to be.
Strike that. Not quite where I wanted it to be (my mouth).
Warming Tortillas, Frying Eggs, and Plating
With the salsa out of the way, the rest was a snap.
Normally, I like to heat my corn tortillas by dipping them in water and heating them in a dry skillet until they're nicely charred—the water ensures that they stay moist and pliable as they char—but this time, I decided to use an alternative method: light frying.
The goal is to hit that sweet spot right between soft and crunchy. I like it when the tortillas have a few crispy bits around the edges and in the center, but are still pliant and flexible enough that I can swipe them through stray sauce and runny egg yolk (there will be plenty of both). About 15 seconds per side is ideal.
As for the eggs, some people like their fried eggs completely pure white and tender. Not me. I like my fried eggs with plenty of crispy, bubbly edges. This means using plenty of oil and heat.
To ensure a nice shape in my eggs (I hate it when the egg whites spill around all over the place), I heat up canola oil in a nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet, crack my egg into a small bowl, then tilt the pan so the oil collects in one corner.
Next, I gently slide the egg into the pool of oil, letting it rest long enough just for the outer edges' shape to set. This takes about 10 seconds. You can then repeat the process, tilting the pan in a different direction, until you've added as many eggs as you'd like.
To really get the eggs extra crisp, while keeping the yolk completely liquid, I use a spoon to baste hot oil over the surfaces of the egg whites (be careful not to scratch your nonstick pan with the spoon!). This creates tons of little bubbles on the surface, while also ensuring that there's no runny, snotty undercooked egg white left over.
I slip the fried eggs on top of the crisp tortillas, then spoon the salsa all over the eggs, making sure to keep their liquid yolks exposed—they just look so good that way.
A spoonful of perfect refried beans and some slices of avocado, and breakfast is ready. That first knife stroke? The one that breaks the yolk and pulls it through the salsa, so it flows like a river of liquid gold through a lava field?
That's the knife stroke that I live for.
How to Make Extra-Crispy Fried Eggs
2 whole dried ancho chiles
1/4 cup (60ml) canola oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted (such as Muir Glen)
2 whole chipotle chiles packed in adobo, plus 2 tablespoons (30ml) sauce from can
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems (1/4 ounce; 7g), plus more for serving
1 tablespoon (15ml) soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15ml) juice from 1 lime, plus lime wedges for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Up to 12 fresh corn tortillas (2 per serving)
Up to 12 large eggs (2 per serving)
Crumbled Cotija cheese, for serving
Hot store-bought or homemade refried beans, for serving
Trim tops of chiles and discard seeds (see here for more detailed instructions). Place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power until pliable and fragrant, about 15 seconds. Cut chiles into thin strips using kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add oregano and chile strips and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add tomatoes and chipotle chiles with their sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.
Purée mixture with a hand blender or in a standing blender until a loose purée is formed. Stir in cilantro, soy sauce, and lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a medium cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Working one at a time, fry corn tortillas until lightly browned but still pliable, about 15 seconds per side. Transfer to a paper towel to drain and stack them as you work. Cover with foil or a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.
When tortillas are cooked, reheat skillet over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering (add more oil if necessary). Fry eggs, using a spoon to baste the tops with hot oil as they cook in order to help set the upper whites while keeping the yolk completely liquid. Fry until crisp on the bottom, whites are set, and yolks are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and slide onto a clean plate.
To serve, place 2 tortillas on a serving plate. Top with 2 fried eggs. Spoon salsa all over the top, leaving the yolks exposed. Sprinkle with Cotija cheese and more chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with refried beans.
Blender or hand blender, medium nonstick skillet or cast iron skillet
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 23g||30%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||26%|
|Total Carbohydrate 37g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 8g||28%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 15mg||77%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|