Chilaquiles

Only one week between posts? Woo-hoo! I rule!

And IIIIIIII-ey-IIIIIIIIII will always love you...

Chilaquiles are my new best friend. (To those that currently hold that dubious distinction, I hope you are ready for competition…er, company.) Chilaquiles kind of defy definition, except that they don’t because they are a Mexican staple of stale tortilla chips in a chile sauce that is generally eaten for brunch, and I just defined them, except that they are so much more than that. They can be “plain,” they can be done in a red chile sauce or a green chile sauce, the sauce can be tomato based, you can top them with chicken or make them completely vegetarian, or in my case you can top them with some classic favorites, cotija cheese, diced onion, sour cream and avocado.

This is one of those recipes that shouldn’t have sucked me in, but did. I was reading Matt Bites and he takes such pretty pictures, and there were chips! And cheese! And I was intrigued, so I saved it in my recipes link list that gets longer and longer and longer every day, and I picked up some tortillas last time I was at the grocery store, and let them hang out in the fridge until I found a good time to make these. It happened on Sunday.

Last weekend seemed really long, but not in a good way really…I mean, not bad, exactly, just LONG. I had a long night on Friday, both good and less good, and then Saturday I volunteered in the morning and my volunteering job was making lunch for 35 in three hours. I made enchiladas, and they were very tasty, but I was totally beat afterwards…anyway, by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, I needed a pick me up, and I thought Chilaquiles, even though it is traditionally a breakfast or brunch dish(?) would do the trick.

Oooh-wee, I was correct.

First things first, I made the chips. You don’t technically HAVE to make the chips, but actually, yes you do, because they are so easy, and I can’t even a little bit imagine this with bagged tortilla chips…yeah, no, don’t do that.

Making tortilla chips really couldn’t be easier. And not easy like “shut up Meghan you’re an idiot -fill in the blank here- is not easy it’s super annoying when you say things like that,” easy, it’s actually easy. Heat oil over medium high until it is good and hot in a frying pan a couple inches deep. Cut corn tortillas (taco sized) in quarters. Fry without over crowding the pan. I did eight at a time in a 12″ cast iron skillet, I’d do six at a time in a 10″ skillet. Fry for two minutes or so until they are starting to look golden, flip once, fry for another minute, remove to paper towels and salt. Dunzo. Cooking enough chips for this dish (I started with an 11 oz bag of tortillas which was 12 of them) took me approximately 15 minutes of not hard work. I even drank wine while I did it. Incidentally, if you are looking to impress guests or just to enjoy the heck out of your next batch of guacamole, I would recommend this as well. I mean, sometimes you just want a delicious chip asap, but if you have a minute and your guests aren’t rolling their eyes at you because you are making them wait and all they want is some stupid guacamole for crying out loud, you should try this. Note though, I wouldn’t do this the day before if I was using them for chips and dip, but I would totally do this the day before if I was using them for chilaquiles. So, to that end, next time you are having non-eye-rolling guests, make some for your dips and then make extra for the next day’s breakfast. If you do know some eye rollers, make Chilaquiles for them, perhaps you will get an apology for the eye roll.

Once the chips are done, You just need 15-20 minutes for the rest and you are good to go.

This version, which is the one Matt picked, wisely because it is a Rick Bayliss recipe and I love him (also though? The Rick Bayliss recipe is pretty much exactly what is on Martha Stewarts’s site with absolutely no credit to Rick, and while for somethings she may reign supreme, I SUSPECT she did not create this recipe nor come up with almost exactly the same thing on her own given that the use of chipotles in adobo is different from most other recipes. Sorry Martha, I am going to give credit to Rick on this one, nice try, get your minions in line, they’re getting too big for their britches…)

Anyhoodle, puree a can of whole tomatoes with two chipotles in adobo. You can find them in a can in the Mexican food section of the grocery store (Also, I am adding them to my pantry list from last post. Stock up on them, they’re great.)

Brown onions in oil and then add garlic, then the tomato mixture and reduce for a minute or two…then chicken stock and reduce for another couple more minutes.

browned

simmering

then you add the chips, and that, my friends, is it. Top it with whatever your little heart desires. Cotija cheese, Mexican crema or sour cream, chopped onion and scallions, shredded chicken, poached eggs, the possibilities are endless.

delightful

The chipotles in adobo are spicy and smokey and are really well balanced by the tomato. You have to eat these right away, because the best part is that in between time when the chips get soaked in the sauce and aren’t really crispy anymore but aren’t soggy. The soggy part happens pretty quickly though, so there are no leftovers here. Get them while they’re hot. And make them soon, I promise you won’t be sorry. And use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock if you want to go vegetarian. Easy peasy.

And now, as has become the norm, I leave you with some thoughts.

1. I watched The Fighter. Hadn’t seen it. AWESOME. Great movie. Christian Bale was fantastic, of course, but he will always be Jack Kelly to me. (I have not given up my no tv for Lent quest. I had set the ability to watch a pay per view movie now and again as a parameter ahead of time…)

2. In contrast to the prior weekend, this past weekend was one of those times when I realize just how lucky I am. Between my awesome family and my incredible friends, I have some very very awesome people in my life.

3. Five words for you: Lionel Richie station on Pandora. You are welcome. All thanks go to the Swiamse household for that tidbit.

4. My tournament bracket is destroyed. Notre Dame and Louisville killed me.

5. I need this…or maybe two. That and a $700 camera and I’d be in business. I pick expensive hobbies.

6. I have a pet peeve people. I know you are surprised. I hate the idea of vegan “cheese.” I think it is usally made out of ground pressed nuts. I don’t mind the idea of a spread made out of ground pressed nuts. In fact, if you said “I made this delicious vegan spread with nuts!” I would probably say “ooh, that sounds delightful, let me try it!” But if you say, “hey look, I made vegan “cheese” made out of nuts” I am going to say…”does not compute, not cheese.” I am not saying the spread wouldn’t be delicious, but I am fairly confident it would not be similar enough to cheese to make me think I am actually eating cheese, in which case, I will be disappointed. And I know that people say it DOES taste like cheese, but I don’t believe it. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that ground nuts in any form are going to taste like Goat Gouda. I’m just saying, don’t call it cheese.

And now, as I continue to plow through life leaving offence in my wake, It’s probably time to wrap this up…

Chilaquiles (serves 3-4)

(adapted from Matt Bites)

1 can of whole tomatoes (28 oz), drained with 1/4 cup of the liquid reserved

2 whole chipotles in adobo

1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, three-quarters sliced thinly, one-quarter in a fine dice

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

8 ounces tortilla chips

¼ cup Cotija cheese

1/3 cup sour cream or Mexican crema

¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Toppings of your choice (shredded chicken, avocado, eggs, cilantro, chorizo, pickled onions, steak…I could go on and on.)

If you’re making your own tortilla chips, simply fry pieces of corn tortillas in hot oil until golden brown and then drain on paper towel.

In a blender, add the canned tomatoes and the reserved liquid and the two chipotle peppers. Blend until smooth.

In a large deep skillet (I used my high sided saute pan, a cast iron skillet is probably not deep enough,) heat the oil and the sliced onion (not the green) and cook over high heat until browned, 7-8 minutes (since it’s over high heat pay attention here so they don’t burn.) Add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and chipotle puree and simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Add the chicken stock and boil the sauce over moderately high heat until it reduces a bit, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Gently stir the tortilla chips into the chile sauce, making sure they’re totally coated in sauce. Top the chips with the diced onion, the green onions, a sprinkle of cheese, a dollop of sour cream or crema and your chosen toppings. Eat these right away, they are not good once they are too soggy. You are going to like these a whole lot.

In which I take forever…

So last Wednesday (oof! two Wednesdays ago…you guys, I am the WORST) was one of those days when I planned on being out after work, and not getting home until late. It was supposed to be dance class day, and I would not have been home until after 9 probably, so I packed my bag for work and off I went.  About midday, I found out that my good friend M Sizzle would not be able to make it to dance class that night after all, and, what with my crippling social phobia and awful dance skills, dance class is NOT something I am yet capable of managing on my own, so I found myself with an entire evening with nothing on the schedule. Couple that with getting out of work a bit earlier than normal, and suddenly I had HOURS of time to fill. I decided to really fill it good. I had some things I wanted to do, and I was going to accomplish ALL OF THE THINGS. I didn’t make a written list that would hang around and mock me, I just thought of the things I wanted to do in my head, and set about doing them. This might be my new ticket to success, because had I had a visual of my plan for the evening, I may have stopped before I even started. I was going for a run, and I was going to do 30 Day Shred, because it was March 2nd, and March 2nd is the most obvious day to start a new work out regimen. New Year’s is for chumps, I’m for March 2nd all the way. I was also going to do some laundry, necessary due to a troublesomely few pairs of skivs remaining in the drawer that morning, and I was also going to make some delicious linguine with clam sauce for dinner because I have a blog post from a month ago that has been languishing, and I needed something to share with all of you….

heaven on a weekday

So I stopped at the store on the way home and picked up some clams and some shallots, all the while formulating my plan of attack. I changed into my running gear, separated my laundry and was off to the races. I popped the laundry in the machines, turned on the iPod and took off in the FREEZING WINDY COLD at a pretty good clip. I got about a quarter mile into the run and thought “look at me go! I am so good at accomplishing things!” Of course, by the time I was rolling pasta dough at 8:40 and I was so hungry I was going to eat my hand, I was starting to think maybe all the things were way too many things…I didn’t sit down to this dinner until 9pm. Making fresh pasta was probably foolish, but I was in the mood for fresh and it is better than dried with this particular sauce. But I recommend dried if you’re not crazy.

This dinner actually comes together really quickly if you do use dried pasta, which I use a lot, dare I say, most of the time when I make this because I do usually make it during the week.

It starts with bacon, as all wonderful things do.

mmmm, bacon

Once the bacon is starting to brown, I take it out of the pan and set it aside for later. I add a splash of olive oil, lots of shallots, some minced garlic and some red pepper flakes.

shallot-y

Once the shallots get soft I add a not insignificant amount of white wine, simmer for a minute, and then add clams.

Cockles!

In this case, cockles, because they are cute and miniature, just like I like things to be, you get more for your money, at least visually, and they are similar to the Italian vongole, that I believe are traditional in this dish. The pot gets covered for a couple of minutes until most of the clams are open, which is when I drop the FRESH pasta into the water (if you are using dried, I would do this when you add the wine to the pan.) When the last clam opens I turn off the heat, add lemon zest and juice, and the bacon back into the pan, followed by the cooked pasta, and I toss them all together in perfect harmony.

On to the plate they go, sprinkled with fresh parsley (don’t skip it, even if you are generally a parsley hater) and some fresh pepper and then I eat ravenously. Rarely do I not have seconds.

bliss

And, in case you were wondering, that particular Wednesday night, I did in fact go for a run, do my Shred workout, do three loads of laundry and make myself some linguine con vongole. But just in case you think for a second I felt victorious in my many accomplishments, I will have you know that just as I was getting a little cocky I found my sweaty post-run self standing in the laundromat in my running leggings (yes, leggings…as if that wasn’t humiliating enough) as the strange lady that works there fawned over the two very cute boys that were in there and I folded, in plain sight of said boys, my unmentionables. So, touche world. You always win. I’ll try not to forget again…

The things I am thinking…

1. There are some amazing – in the best and worst possible ways – things going on in the world right now. This is what living history means I guess? Thoughts to Japan, and the Middle East, and the mid west, and all people doing their best to band together and make their world right in the face of wrongs, natural or man-made.

2. I volunteer at an awesome organization called Community Servings that prepares and delivers thousands of meals a week to critically ill patients and their dependents and care givers. I love that I found something food related to spend my time on. If you have extra cash (ha?) and find yourself looking for somewhere to put it, they always welcome donations…and if you are in the Boston area you should totally come and volunteer because it is actually really fun.

3. I gave up television for Lent. Cra-cra-craziness. So far so good. I am going to read A LOT of books and blog a lot??

4. My karaoke song of the moment is “Valerie.” The Amy Winehouse version. (Amy, where did you get to? I haven’t seen your brand of crazy in ages!) Incidentally, while I was looking for that link, I found THIS “Valerie.” Steve Winwood! I didn’t even know that’s what you were saying! Maybe that version is my new favorite karaoke song! Also, the fact that I have a karaoke song is humorous, since simply imagining doing karaoke makes me panic and sweat. And back to Amy Winehouse for a minute…could you imagine being a parent of a little girl, and one day she opens her mouth and that voice comes out of it? How awesome is that? And then she turns in to Amy Winehouse and it is decidedly less awesome and you sort of just wish you had a tone deaf kid? (Hey Mom and Dad, you totally win after all!)

5. This…SuperHamm! Please, somebody get on this.

6. I am slowly compiling a list of things I want you guys to have in your kitchen at all times. I think at some point I will have a stocked pantry section of this here blog, but here is what I have so far: a) canned beans – black, cannelleni, chickpeas, whatever kind you like, just have cans of them at the ready. So versatile! (Dried too, but canned are key for last minute stuff.) b.) Cotija cheese – random, I know, but if you see some in the store pick some up. It is salty and crumbly and awesome, lasts forever in the fridge and works with so many things. c.) Pickled onions. These take all of about three minutes to make, also keep forever and are the most fantastic garnish for pretty much everything. d.) A Liter of Gruner Veltliner – this wine, conveniently, often comes in liter size, goes with all sorts of foods, is a white wine for all wine drinkers and is generally a great deal. Doesn’t keep forever though, both because wine doesn’t really do that, and also because it is delicious. e.) Shallots – I just love them and use them all the time. f.) Limes and lemons – sometimes needing a gimlet becomes an emergency. Also they are good for other things. g.) Eggs – you should just really never be without these. They are good for every meal. Every meal. h.) Dried pasta – doesn’t need an explanation, just find your favorite shapes, one long and skinny, one short, and have them in in the house always. i.) The number of your favorite sushi delivery…

7. Can we talk about Aerosmith for a second? (What? Is that weird?) So, somebody was talking about American Idol at work the other day, and they were commenting on Steven Tyler making a comeback or whatever, and they said something like “the greatest American rock band” and I thought. “what? Aerosmith? What country are you from man?” Ireland, actually, he’s from Ireland, but then I looked it up and he might actually be correct! I mean, I suppose it depends on how you categorize “the best” and how you categorize rock (does Grateful Dead count?) but they have the highest album sales of any American rock band, and their first album came out in like 1974. And then I was thinking, “yeah, but I have NEVER in my life heard anyone ever say they were an Aerosmith fan…like ANYONE.” But then I looked at their albums, and I actually own one (Get a Grip, from junior high…don’t judge me, you don’t know my life…) and I actually know at least one song on EVERY ALBUM. And, know a song like I recognize it immediately and can sing most of the words…so, there you go. Also discovered, “Janie’s Got a Gun” is about incest. I mean, kind of d’uh, if you think about it, but I hadn’t, and even though I can sing them, I never really delved into the lyrics. Informative day on Wikipedia. I’m still gonna make fun of Steven Tyler though, because that guy is cra-cra…

8. You wonder why it takes me so long to write these freakin posts??

9. Just had my last class for this semester the other night and we went over the final exam. Nailed it! I am turning into a real estate dork and I carry a financial calculator in my purse. I assure you I did not expect this from my life.

10. JT (Justin Timberlake, not James Taylor) is single! Ryan Reynolds, JT, THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!

Linguine con Vongole (serves 3-4)

4 oz bacon (preferably thick cut) cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1-2 tbl olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

pinch of red pepper flakes

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 lb cockles or littlenecks

zest and juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

chopped parsley for garnish

3/4 – 1 lb pasta, dried or fresh (weights will vary depending on whether you are using dried or fresh. Cook enough for three to four people)

Boil salted water for the pasta in a large pot.

Cook the bacon in a deep skillet or saute pan over medium heat until starting to crisp and brown, and fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan, and add olive oil (use 1 tbl if the bacon has rendered a lot of fat, 2 tbls if the pan is still looking a bit dry) and then add the shallot. Saute for 1-2 minutes until the shallot starts to soften and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for another minute. If you are using dried pasta, now is the time to drop it in. Add the wine to the shallots and bring to a boil. Let simmer and reduce for a minute or so. Add the clams and cover the pot. Cockles will take 2-3 minutes to open, littlenecks will take a bit longer. When most of the clams have opened, add the fresh pasta, to the boiling water, it will only take two minutes or so to cook. When all of the clams have opened, turn off the heat. Add the lemon zest and juice an the bacon to the clams and stir together, adding salt and fresh pepper to taste. Add the pasta and toss together. Serve the pasta and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!

(Tip: for a more cost effective option, use half the fresh clams, and supplement with a can of drained chopped clams. Add the canned clams off the heat, as they are already cooked and you don’t want them to get rubbery.)

voila