When we were in Long Beach last weekend for J’s cousin’s wedding, we ate a quick lunch at the restaurant attached to our hotel, Cafe 3737. I had a serious craving for huevos rancheros, but unfortunately the black beans that came with the dish weren’t vegetarian, so I went with the chilaquiles instead.
I’d never had chilaquiles before, and this was definitely a refined version of the dish. I tend to think of chilaquiles as something you make when you wake up after a long night and realize you want eggs but have no vegetables or other omelet fillings around. So you pour the dregs from a bag of tortilla chips into your eggs and eat them out of the pan to fortify you with enough energy to go to the grocery store. Or at least, that’s about how I imagine the dish is usually executed.
Café 3737’s version of chilaquiles sported a carefully composed circle of tortilla chips that had been softened in a red sauce and fried. Perched atop this was a precisely folded little omelet. The masterpiece was encircled with a red chili sauce that seemed to be just pureed red chilies with a lot of oil, and the whole thing was topped off with some queso fresco and avocado. I was determined to recreate the dish, but I knew my version wouldn’t be winning any sculptural awards.
I scrambled the eggs with some crumbled up tortilla chip crumbs and put that mixture on top of some roasted potatoes. (Every breakfast item is better with potatoes). I topped it with salsa, avocado, and cotija cheese (feta cheese would work well here too). Alone, that would have made for a perfectly serviceable breakfast, but the red sauce took it over the top.
Red Chili Sauce (adapted from Simply Recipes)
This sauce takes the chilaquiles to a whole new level, but it would make a great enchilada sauce as well. You can leave in some of the Ancho seeds for extra spice, or add spice with cayenne at the end where you can more easily control the level of spice. My grocery store had the dried Ancho chilies in the bulk section, but I’ve also seen them packaged by the spice section in other grocery stores. I’ve made the exact recipe from Simply Recipes, but found it a little thin for my preference, so I added the tomato paste to thicken it up, and used stock instead of water for some additional flavor. I also cooked it for a longer time at the end to help it thicken up. The sauce is at the right consistency when it coats the back of a spoon.
- 3 dried Ancho chilies
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt, more to taste (at the end)
- 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- Cut a slit in each dried chili lengthwise and remove the stem and the seeds.
- Flatten out the chilies and toast them in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes. Add water to the hot skillet until you have completely covered the chilies. Let them soak for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes add the chilies to a blender along with the garlic, cloves, black pepper, salt and vegetable stock. (if you like the taste of the liquid the chilies soaked in, you can use this instead of the stock. Both times I’ve made this I’ve found the soaking liquid too bitter for my tastes)
- Blend the mixture until smooth, and strain through a mesh strainer into a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Whisk in the tomato paste and olive oil.
- Taste the sauce and add cayenne if you want a little more spice. Also add additional salt to taste at this point.
- Allow the sauce to cook down over medium heat for 15 minutes. Skim off any lighter colored foam that forms on the surface.
Slightly more complicated than tortilla crumbs in eggs, but just as satisfying.