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Chilaquiles with Poached Eggs and Black Beans

This traditional Mexican dish uses leftover tortillas, much as bread puddings were initially a way to use day-old bread. The tortillas, torn into strips as they are here or cut into triangles like chips, are fried, covered with a sauce and cooked on the stovetop or baked in the oven. The sauce for this version is made with fresh tomatillos, a tomato relative with a crisp, clean citrus flavor. The lime green sauce is slightly spiked with chilies. Chilaquiles are often served with poached or fried eggs and accompanied by black beans to make a colorful and hearty dish.

Ingredients:

For the tomatillo sauce: 

  • 12 tomatillos, husks removed 
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped 
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped 
  • 2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 2 Tbs. canola, sunflower or grapeseed oil  
  • 1 cup chicken broth 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper 
  •   
  • 2 cups canola oil 
  • 18 to 20 corn tortillas, each 6 inches in diameter, torn into strips 
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped 
  • 1/4 lb. Monterey jack cheese, shredded 
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano 
  • 1 can (16 oz.) black beans, drained 
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice 
  • 4 to 6 eggs 
  • 1/4 lb. queso fresco, crumbled  

Directions:

To make the tomatillo sauce, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the tomatillos, and cook until they soften and become paler in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a cutting board and let cool. Coarsely chop the tomatillos and place in a blender or food processor. Add the garlic, onion, chilies and cilantro and process until pureed.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the tomatillo puree and cook, stirring, until the puree darkens, 4 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the broth and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until a medium thick sauce forms, about 10 minutes more. Stir in the salt and pepper and set aside.

In a heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Working in batches, add the tortilla strips and fry until golden on one side, about 30 seconds. Turn them over and fry until golden on the other side, 15 to 20 seconds. Transfer the strips to paper towels to drain.

Pour off all but 1 to 2 tsp. of the oil from the pan and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 1 minute. Add the tortilla strips and tomatillo sauce and cook, stirring gently, until the chips are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the cheese and half of the oregano. Cook until the cheese has melted, 4 to 5 minutes more. Stir in the remaining oregano.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the black beans, stirring often to prevent sticking, until they are hot and steaming, about 10 minutes.

Carefully pour water to a depth of 2 inches into a large saucepan and add the lemon juice. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Break the eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl. Hold the bowl so it is just touching the simmering water and slide the egg into the water. Repeat with the remaining eggs, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Keep the water at a gentle simmer. Cook until the whites are set and the yolks are glazed over but still soft, 4 to 5 minutes.

About 1 minute before the eggs are done, spoon some of the chilaquiles onto each plate. Using a slotted spoon, lift each egg from the simmering water, letting the excess water drain into the pan. Trim any ragged edges of egg white with kitchen scissors. Top each serving with a poached egg and sprinkle with some of the queso fresco. Serve immediately, accompanied by the black beans. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).