It must be Spring, because I crave chilaquiles

Rotel

So you’ve been turning over the compost heap with a garden fork? Celebrating Spring rather heartily with friends? Just feeling a little crappy but a lot hopeful, as if, with a good meal, the world might become a better place after all?

This is a great moment for a big gloppy plate of comfort food, Mexican style: yet another recipe you can pull together, like stone soup or tacos, out of whatever’s lying around, as long as you start with crisp tortilla chunks under a chile-sauce blanket.

I’d be ashamed to call this my recipe. There really is no recipe for chilaquiles. They’re a Mexican family staple that is said to originate among the Aztecs, their name in the Nauhatl language meaning “chiles and greens.” I don’t cook mine with greens, nor do you see them that way in restaurants much up nawth. Can’t speak for locations closer to the source.

Chilaquiles

This serves two people. Scale up if you’re hungrier.

This is basically just corn chips stewed in a rich salsa – totally a leftovers meal. Some people put minced serrano peppers in it, or pickled jalapeno slices. Some get fancy. Some add meat or eggs. Most top it with shredded cheese.

You can do this the hard way, which is what Mexican restaurants do with yesterday’s leftover corn tortillas, or you can do it the easy way, with a bag of restaurant-style corn chips, sometimes labeled Tradicional (the thick and greasy kind).

The easy way:
2 cups restaurant-style corn chips

OR the hard way:
6 soft corn tortillas
4 T olive oil

The sauce:

1 6oz can Rotel
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped and smashed
2 T more olive oil

The toppings:

Shredded cheese
Shredded leftover chicken or other meat
Sliced avocado or guacamole
Canned pinto beans, warmed
Sour cream
Whole fresh limes cut in quarters

The hard way: Put a stack of six small corn tortillas on a cutting board and cut through them all to make wedges – six pieces to the pie, or three cuts. Pour a few tablespoons of a strong flavored olive oil – I use Goya Spanish olive oil because it’s made from manzanilla olives, very fruity and olivesque – into a frying pan and heat it. Lay the corn chips in the oil in a single layer and fry them; turn them once; remove them to a plate. (NO, don’t blot them with a paper towel. What kind of wrongheaded health nut are you? And leave the rest of the oil in the pan! If you don’t like oily food, you shouldn’t be eating chilaquiles.)

The easy way: open a bag of corn chips – leftovers are fine, since it doesn’t matter if they’ve lost any crispness.

Pour into the pan (carefully because the oil will sputter) a 6 oz can of Rotel (which is a Southern staple containing roasted tomatoes and chiles and maaaaybe some spices but probably not) and two or three fat cloves of fresh garlic, chopped coarsely and then smashed, for good measure. Add another couple of splashes of oil. No, really. Heat this brew to simmering point.

garlic-100x86One at a time, drown the chips (either fresh-made by you, or store-bought because easy) in the simmering sauce and keep them immersed. Keep putting chips in and drowning them in sauce. Simmer the chips until they are mostly limp. Some people like them to have a little crunch in the middle, which takes some practice to accomplish, and who cares?

One at a time, drown the chips (either fresh-made by you, or store-bought because easy) in the simmering sauce and keep them immersed. Keep putting chips in and drowning them in sauce. Simmer the chips until they are mostly limp. Some people like them to have a little crunch in the middle, which takes some practice to accomplish, and who cares?

When the chips are limp enough for your taste, ladle this glop out onto a plate. Sprinkle a strong-flavored shredded cheese like a cheddar over it. Add some shredded chicken, chopped avocado or guacamole, a tablespoon plop of warmed refried pinto beans, chopped fresh onion, a couple of fried eggs … get creative!

Top with a plop of sour cream. Squeeze at least one quarter of a fresh lime over the top to offset all the grease.

Hints:

If you want a lot of crunch, which is the regional preference in some parts of Mexico, just pile the chips on soup plates and pour the hot salsa over them.

In restaurants they sprinkle on the cheese last, over the top of the pile of goodies on your plate, and then run the plate under the broiler, but their plates are really thick and can take that abuse. Mine can’t.

If you want to use chorizo, squeeze out a tube of chorizo (the squishy, uncooked kind) into a bowl, top the bowl with a plate, and put that in your microwave for a minute or a bit longer on high. Serve it as a chorizo topping, or dump it in your salsa or on top of your stewing tortilla chips, but DO NOT drain the good red grease! What did I say about draining the oil? That goes for chorizo grease. Stir the grease in so that your chorizo is good and soupy.

You will eat this so fast, you will wonder why you didn’t double the batch.

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Coed Demon Sluts: Beth by Jennifer StevensonThe Coed Demon Sluts love chilaquiles. They mostly use bottled salsa, because they buy that stuff by the case, and it’s even faster to make. Team leader and chef Pog goes for fast and bulky when feeding these ladies, who are forced, positively compelled to eat a minimum of 4500 calories a day in order to keep their succubus bodies svelte. Start by reading the first one, in which North Shore socialite divorcée Beth becomes a sex demon, pursues her ex-husband, and learns to relax and enjoy eating greasy food.

Coed Demon Sluts: Beth, wherever ebooks are sold.

Jennifer Stevenson

Jennifer Stevenson's Trash Sex Magic was shortlisted for the Locus First Fantasy Novel Award and longlisted for the Nebula two years running. Try her fantasy series Hinky Chicago, which is up to five novels, her paranormal romances Slacker Demons, which are about retired deities who find work as incubi, or her women's fiction fantasy series Coed Demon Sluts, about women solving life's ordinary problems by becoming succubi. She has published more than 20 short stories.

Find Jennifer at the Book View Cafe blog, at the second row at fast roller derby bouts in Chicago, or on Facebook.

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