My connection with Mexican food started with a girl who’d become my best friend, Beatriz Zapata.
Best Friends since 3rd grade. Beatriz and I met at St. Bartholomew Elementary School in 2004. We were both the new kids and we quickly bonded. We would go out every weekend together with my aunt who would take us to the movies or museums.
I don’t remember the exact moment when she told me her parents owned restaurants but it feels like I’ve always known. I don’t remember when I first started visiting. I didn’t go there too often to eat but when I did it was always fun. And not just because I never paid. I mean it was obviously a nice perk of being the owner’s daughter’s BFF but I’d protest! I swear! I always felt weird not paying for my own food but she’d just scoff and say I was her best friend so I didn’t have to pay. Even today I don’t! But, trust me the food is so good you’d want to make a quick stop at the bank to have enough money for all the food you’ll want to eat! After high school, we sort of drifted, going to different schools, and stuff so it was always nice to meet up at the restaurant. Talk like no time has passed.
When I started taking this class I knew I had to tell her right away. So I texted her about meeting up. We discussed the class over some Thai food and she looked at my syllabus appraisingly. She looked at her sister Rosa and shook her head in disbelief. If only she didn’t go to Queens College she joked. In truth, they loved their school and their major of Anthropology. She told me that the class reminded her of an Anthropology class. Right away she and her sister told me they wished to help with my projects as best they could. We made arrangements to meet at their restaurant and she told me about chilaquiles.
The behind-the-scenes look at the making of Chilaquiles.
Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican dish that consists of Tortillas, green or red salsa, pulled chicken, cheese, and refried beans. The etymology comes from the Classical Nahuatl chīlātl “chili pepper water”, from chīlli “chili”+ ātl “water” + quilitl “edible plant or vegetable“. Some people even call it the Mexican Lasagna.
The cooking of Chilaquiles. It’s already looking good!!
When I tried the Chilaquiles I thought it was sooo good. I will say that at the time I was very hungry and when I’m starving everything tastes great to me. But!! Despite this, I genuinely thought it was delicious. I don’t know how to describe it in such a way that does it justice. But, oh my god. (I don’t eat egg by the way so I gave them to Beatriz…) The beans with the meat and ~everything~ was just *Italian chef kiss*😙 👌 utter perfection!
According to Beatriz and Rosa, Chilaquiles are a wartime or food of poverty. Poor people who are ravaged by war make Chilaquiles with food that they can find with old tortillas. Although as with anything that once belonged to the poor the dish has gone mainstream. I have heard that it is a popular breakfast or brunch meal. I wouldn’t mind waking up to it! Even BBC got a hold of it to make their own recipe: Chilaquiles in mulato chili sauce
I found a recipe on Wikipedia so you guys can try to make your own! (metric units):
“The following recipe is quite common in most of Mexico as a breakfast item, due to the addition of eggs, but is also eaten throughout the day including during dinner time. I’ve included an additional recipe for a salsa de chile de árbol that will be used as the primary sauce. The following recipe is intended as a single serving, adjust the ingredients exponentially to make larger quantities.Vegetable oil (enough to cover the tortillas to deep-fry them)”: Chilaquiles Recipe
- 2 corn tortillas (preferably day-old), cut into strips and then into squares
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 of an onion, diced (Mexican cooking mainly uses white onion)
- Salsa de chile de árbol
- 1 cup tomatillos, dehusked (these are found extensively in most Mexican groceries and are somewhat common in larger urban supermarkets)
- 4 to 6 dried chiles de árbol, roasted (these are quite hot and you should adjust to your liking)
- 1 garlic
- 1/2 cup water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Crumbled or shredded cheese (you can use anything that melts well, ex. Monterey Jack or Manchego, however, you can utilize your favorite cheese for this recipe)
- Begin by making the salsa de chile de árbol: roast the tomatillos by wrapping them in heavy duty aluminum foil and placing them on a comal over your stovetop (this does not need to be done in the oven, it never is in Mexico). After roasting the tomatillos for approximately 15 to 20 minutes you can pull them off the fire and roast the dried chilies and garlic directly on the comal (caution, the dried chilies will roast in less than a minute while the garlic will take longer). Combine the roasted tomatillos, chilies and garlic along with the water, salt, and pepper in a blender. Liquefy the mixture thoroughly for a few minutes to ensure that the sauce is smooth and consistent with no large pieces left floating around.
- Next, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan until it is hot enough so that when you drop the pieces of tortillas into it they immediately begin to fry at a rapid pace.
- Allow the tortillas to fry until they become a chestnut brown, just not too dark or burnt. At this point, drain most of the oil out of the pan leaving only enough to fry the rest of the ingredients.
- Crack the egg into the fried tortillas and scramble it, folding the fried tortilla strips into the egg. At this point season this mixture with salt and pepper. Take mixture out of the pan and let it rest on a plate while you continue with the rest of the dish.
- Add some of the oil that was taken out of the pan earlier back into it and heat it up again. To this add the diced onion and allow it to soften for a few minutes. Add the salsa de chile de árbol to the oil and onions and sauté it for a minute or two. Add a little bit of water to dilute it if it becomes too thick.
- Finally, return the fried tortilla and egg mixture to the onion and chili sauce in the pan and allow it cook only for about a minute, enough time to allow the tortillas to soak up some of the sauce. Before plating it, add the cheese and enjoy!
Beatriz has always been my best friend and I hope she will be for more years to come. We started out as these new kids in a new school (that we have mixed feelings and memories about but that’s neither here nor there). She has always allowed me to eat the food at her parent’s restaurants and is always eager to introduce me to new foods. I’m pretty much a gringa ESPECIALLY with food (specifically Latino food) so whenever I do go to the restaurant or bakery she always has me try things I might not ordinarily try. Normally I eat the same stuff but when I’m with her it’s always something new. It’s great.
“Chilaquiles.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Jan. 2018, 17:05
“Cookbook: Chilaquiles.” Cookbook: Chilaquiles – Wikibooks, open books for an open world, 22 Dec. 2016, 20:51
Food, Good. “Chilaquiles in mulato chili sauce” BBC Good Food, Good Food, 1 Aug. 2010
Jordan, John Erik. “143 English Words That Are Actually Spanish.” The Babbel Magazine, Babbel.com