Today is National Tortilla Chip Day, and what better way to celebrate it than by making chilaquiles? If you’re unfamiliar, chilaquiles, whose name comes from the Nahuatl word chil-a-quilitl, meaning “herbs or plants in chili water,” is a sort of Mexican casserole, sometimes made in the oven but often done on the stovetop. Most chilaquiles recipes call for tortilla chips (or fried stale corn tortillas), which are simmered in red or green salsa until they soften, and are then topped with queso fresco and crema. Refried beans, eggs and/or pieces of pulled chicken can be added to make the dish extra hearty. There are dozens of regional variations: the western Mexican state of Sinaloa, for example, calls for a creamy white sauce instead of red or green salsa, whereas black bean sauce is typical of eastern Veracruz.
Chilaquiles were first introduced to the U.S. in 1898 by Encarnación Pinedo in her cookbook El Cocinero Espanol (The Spanish Cook). They have since become a brunch favorite in restaurants all over the country, and it’s easy to see why. Picture yourself on Sunday morning: You’re a little bit sleepy, maybe a little bit hungover and very hungry: Does anything sound better than a plate of tortilla chips, whose treacherous points have been disarmed through a simmer in spicy salsa, then topped with sour cream, cheese and a beautiful sunny-side-up egg? I didn’t think so. But you might have to wait an hour in a brunch line to get in on some chilaquiles action; here are four versions you can make at home.
This recipe from White on Rice couple Todd Porter and Dianne Cu has a simmer sauce that’s packed with spices like chili and cumin, and then topped with shredded chicken breast. It also swaps out the traditional queso fresco for feta for a nice hit of salty richness.
Rick Bayless keeps this recipe simple by doctoring canned tomatoes with canned chipotles in adobo, available at Latin grocers and many supermarkets.
Instead of eggs or chicken, Alex Stupak combines hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with a spicy, rich salsa made from pasilla chiles, resulting in a light but satisfying vegetarian main course.
For this chilaquiles recipe, Grace Parisi bakes whole chicken legs with tomatoes, hominy, jalapeños and tortilla chips.