Chilaquiles are a dish that you make with leftovers. The basic recipe calls for three ingredients: stale corn tortillas, salsa (either red or green), and cheese. It is perfect for breakfast. The first time I ever had it was when a community health worker brought a hot casserole to a staff breakfast in our clinic in the colonias southeast of El Paso. Since then, I have had chilaquiles many times in Saltillo, Mexico, gatherings in many small towns, and in Santa Fe.
The beauty of the dish is that you can dress it up as much as you wish with lots of other ingredients. That way you can turn it into a party dish. In fact, Texans have done just that. The famous Texas buffet dish, King Ranch Chicken, is basically chilaquiles made with canned mushroom, chicken, and celery soups instead of salsa.
Chilaquiles are perfect for cleaning out the refrigerator (It seems like I am always cleaning out the refrigerator). That is exactly what I did in anticipation of “Senior Day” at the local grocery store when the elderly (me) get a 10% discount on their grocery bill. I had a big can of El Pato brand green enchilada sauce (The Duck, hecho in México) that had been sitting in the pantry for months if not years. I also had a lot of stale corn tortillas. Of course I always have a bunch of stale corn tortillas. As to the enchilada sauce, it was way too vinegary for my taste. You would be better off to make your own. But then this would no longer be a recipe that you can toss together after you get home from work. I also had some cooked chicken, scallions, and snacking peppers that needed to be used. The only other ingredient I needed was cheese. For this dish I cheated and got shredded Mexican cheese from the grocery store. This is a combination of Cheddar, Monterrey jack, queso de quesadilla, and asadero that they sell for tacos and enchiladas. Again, you can just grate your own. Mozzarella works for asadero. Mushrooms would be a good addition. Just let your imagination and what needs to be used up be your guides. Here’s the recipe.
Green Chicken Chilaquiles
- stale corn tortillas, about 1 dozen
- vegetable oil
- 28 ounces (one large can) green enchilada sauce
- snacking peppers, about 10, sliced thinly
- 6 scallions, cleaned and sliced, including the green tops
- 1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
- Mexican shredded cheese, about ¾ pound
- sour cream
- fried eggs, preferably sunny-side up (optional)
- Cut the tortillas into eighths and fry in the vegetable oil until lightly crisp. Drain and set aside.
- Lightly oil a 12 x 8 inch glass baking pan and place a thin layer of the enchilada sauce on the bottom.
- Arrange 1/3 of the tortilla pieces over the sauce so that it is completely covered.
- Arrange ½ of the sliced snacking peppers on top. Then a layer of ½ of the sliced scallions, ½ of the shredded chicken, and 1/3 of the grated cheese. Dot with generous dabs of sour cream. Top with 1/3 of the remaining enchilada sauce.
- Arrange another layer of tortilla pieces on top. Then repeat the peppers, scallions, chicken, cheese, sour cream, and half of the remaining enchilada sauce.
- Arrange the final layer of tortilla pieces on top and cover with the remaining enchilada sauce. Generously sprinkle grated cheese over the top.
- Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for one hour. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve, topped with the optional fried eggs if desired.