There are some recipes or food ideas you come across that stick with you, who knows why. Chilaquiles is one of those ideas for me. Over the years, I have come across recipes or food travel articles about Mexico or the Southwest that talk about this dish – one that uses leftover tortillas, sauce and meat. My impression of chilaquiles came to be of a dish that Mexican housewives throw together in the days following a big cooking occasion, to use up the homemade tortillas that had gone stale, the intricately layered sauces and the remaining bits of perfectly roasted meat. This idea appealed to me, and stuck in my mind as something I hoped to try someday. Then it happened. I came across chilaquiles on the menu of a local Mexican restaurant. This particular place specialized in seafood, and offered shrimp as a chilaquiles option, with red sauce or green sauce. I ordered green shrimp chilaquiles and absolutely devoured the dish, glad to finally have an understanding of what it was all about. I ordered green chicken chilaquiles in New Mexico some time later, and that convinced me to try to re-create the dish at home. First I considered frying freshly bought tortillas, carefully constructing a sauce with fresh tomatillos, roasted peppers and a raft of ingredients. But it occurred to me that the whole point of chilaquiles is a great dish to throw together when you are not in the mood to spend hours in the kitchen. So I went the other direction, using ingredients where most of the work had been done for me. I find all these ingredients readily in the Hispanic food aisle of my local chain grocery. Chilaquiles are often served for a late breakfast, but I prefer them as a quick-to-throw-together dinner.
Green Chicken Chilaquiles
If you can’t find the canned tomatillos, use an equal weight of fresh, husked and cleaned.
For the sauce:
1 (12-ounce) can tomatillos, rinsed and drained
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon mild chili powder
½ teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional)
A big handful of cilantro leaves
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
9 – 10 tostadas
12 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place all the ingredients for the sauce in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Pour about 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of a 9” by 13” casserole, spreading to cover the bottom of the dish. Crush the tostadas in a ziptop bag to rough shards and place about a third over the sauce. Add the chicken and half the queso fresco, then another third of the tostadas. Pour over the remaining sauce, and then layer on the last of the tostadas and top with the remaining cheese.
Bake the chilaquiles for 15 – 20 minutes until warmed through, bubbling around the edges and the cheese is golden in places. Serve immediately, with extra crushed tostada if desired.