Now I understand. When Anthony Bourdain trash-talked nachos on his excursion to a Mexican border town, I felt a little violated. Though my favorite cuisine is Mexican and I eat it almost every day, for some reason I couldn't shake that messy Tex-Mex dish. When I've had one too many drinks, I've been known to whip up batches of nachos from scratch, complete with freshly fried corn tortillas and my own cheese sauce. It was my guilty pleasure, and Bourdain didn't have to make me feel bad about it.
But that's all different now. Chilaquiles are similar to nachos except lighter, spicier, and altogether superior. Instead of each chip competing for coverage, with gloppy toppings like yellow cheese and hamburger meat, these chips are bathed in an incredible sauce so each bite has all the right flavors.
They're then topped with leftover roasted chicken, thinly sliced onion, and a sprinkling of cheese. They are even messier than nachos, and a fork is absolutely necessary. But they are, in my humble opinion, better. Plus, nearly every recipe I looked at mentioned that these were considered excellent hangover food. The ingredients might change, but my ritual can remain the same.
This recipe is adapted from Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican, and, like everything else I've tried from the book, the recipe is spot on. But I am particularly astounded by this one. Why aren't these on every menu across this nation instead of nachos? Anyone have answers for this?
- For the tomato chile sauce:
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
- 3 jalapeños, stemmed and chopped
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- For the chilaquiles:
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 7 ounces corn tortilla chips
- 1/2 cup leftover chicken
- 2 tablespoons Mexican queso fresco, crumbled
- 1/2 onion thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- Handful of cilantro
Start with making the sauce. Add the tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, and garlic to a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.
Heat the lard in a skillet set over medium-high. When it's hot dump in tomato chile sauce. It will splatter a little bit, but that's okay. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to low and season with salt.
Pour the chicken broth into the skillet, and stir until combined. Then add the tortilla chips. Stir until covered with the sauce, then cover and let cook for about 5 minutes. They should be soft but not mushy.
Warm leftover chicken up in a pot or in the microwave.
Assemble the plate. Spoon some of the tortilla mixture onto a plate. Top with the thinly sliced onions, queso fresco, sour cream, and cilantro. Serve.