Be on trend: Make your own chilaquiles

Tan Vinh
The Seattle Times

For something different to break up the brunch monotony. For your gluten-free guests. For when you need to cook for a tribe on a budget.


You want to make chilaquiles. I know you do.

Consisting of fried corn tortillas, cheese and salsa, this Mexican breakfast can be — and often is — fortified with the crack of an egg.

It’s cheap (my grocery bill for this recipe was under $20) and fast to make (under 20 minutes).

Many maize dishes on your gourmet getaway can be challenging to replicate because good masa is hard to come by (or expensive) in some areas.

But you can master chilaquiles. Stale and day-old tortilla scraps are meant for chilaquiles. Like fried rice, this dish is born out of leftovers.

I’m about to show you: the. best. damn. chilaquiles. recipe. ever. It comes from Gabriel Chavez, who once ran the critically acclaimed Chavez Mexican restaurant on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

Four reasons why this is the only chilaquiles recipe you will ever need.

The mozzarella adds a layer of umami and binds all the ingredients for a consistent bite.

The sizzling olive oil wakes up these stale corn tortillas and punches up the flavor by a factor of three.

This green sauce has a brighter, vibrant flavor than many brunch takes around town.

This green sauce is also easier to make than those red salsas. No need to de-seed. This recipe calls for the earthy stems of the cilantro. No cilantro leaf plucking needed.

Now, a word about how this dish should be served since its sudden popularity has created much discussion over presentation and authenticity. I usually see it served with just a fried egg in Mexico.

But here I once saw a family look agape when flaxseed was sprinkled onto this tortilla casserole. I’ve heard that scrambled eggs is a no-no and that only a sunny side egg can sit atop chilaquiles. Pay these so-called purists no mind.

America is a melting pot. We incorporate dishes of our homelands to the seasonal ingredients available in our produce aisle. Our recipes get reinterpreted and evolve all the time.

Seattle’s most famous chef, Tom Douglas, fancies up chilaquiles with king crab at Etta’s by Pike Place Market.

Jack’s BBQ in Amazonland serves it with a Central-Texas-style barbecue chicken breast.

Chavez, a proud born-and-bred native of Durango, Mexico, uses two staples (mozzarella and olive oil) you would find in the Italian kitchen where he’s an executive chef — Cantinetta in Seattle’s Wallingford.

In other words, if you don’t want to trek to the market to buy Mexican chorizo as some chilaquiles recipes suggest, the Jimmy Dean in your fridge will do just fine. Your kids will love it.

To paraphrase from Michael Mann’s “Collateral”: improvise, adapt, I Ching. Whatever man. Just roll with it.

Gabriel Chavez’s Chilaquiles Verdes

When I’ve used other recipes to make chilaquiles, I sneaked in a dose of MSG to give the sauce a little oomph that I felt it needed. I don’t need to with this version. Chavez’s two tweaks, olive oil and mozzarella cheese, amount to a double dose of umami for that same pop of savoriness.

Good olive oil really makes this dish sing. I used a tad more olive oil than the recipe calls for. My chips glisten. Corn tortillas work better than store-bought chips for this dish. And remember to buy corn, not flour, tortillas. Also many recipes call for crema (a light sour cream). I don’t think you need it since the yolk gets me the lusciousness already. I would serve two fried eggs for each serving. Makes 4 servings.

10 tomatillos

1 jalapeno pepper

1 bunch of cilantro (just the stems)

1 dice shallot (sub in onion)

3 ounces of grated mozzarella cheese

3 ounces of queso fresco

16 corn tortillas

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 tablespoon of sugar

Salt as needed

Clean the husks of the tomatillos, rinse and drop them in a pot of water.

Add the whole jalapeno to the pot of water and turn on high to bring to a boil. Remove the tomatillos and jalapeno after 2 minutes of boiling, then put them in the blender.

Rinse the cilantro, cut the stems and add just the stems to the blender with the tomatillos and jalapeno. You want a smooth puree, not chunky texture.

Add a tablespoon of sugar into the blender.

Blend on high. Add salt to taste.

Heat a pan and add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Cut tortillas to chip size (or bite size). When oil is hot, add tortillas to fry, constantly turning the tortillas in the pan — add oil as needed. You want the tortillas to be golden brown. Add a couple pinches of salt to taste.

When tortillas are golden brown, turn heat to medium. Add the tomatillo sauce to the pan and coat the tortillas. Add the shallots and mozzarella, continue to stir all ingredients together until the mozzarella starts to melt.

After you plate the chilaquiles verdes, crumble queso fresco on top.

Optional: add a fried egg. Or chicken and sour cream. Leftover rotisserie chicken from the supermarket works great here.