Saturday, September 28, 2013
This is another of those look-how-far-I’ve-come posts, because I used to detest the idea of eggs with salsa. Like, it actually turned my stomach. Perhaps because I grew up in the Midwest in the 1980s, where the salsa was Pace and the eggs were most likely dry and overcooked. (As I’ve previously mentioned, I hated corn tortillas, too.) I don’t know whether to credit my maturing palate or expanding horizons, but after all these years I finally Get It where huevos rancheros and breakfast tacos/quesadillas/burritos are concerned. First I discovered good tortillas and salsa, and then I became downright egg-obsessed, and then finally I started craving them all together.
I’d been wanting to try my hand at migas or chilaquiles for a while, since I always seem to have leftover corn tortillas lurking in the fridge, and then one day I saw this variation on the concept at Budget Bytes, which throws in enough black beans and salsa and cilantro to totally qualify as dinner in my book (in fact, you’ll notice I’ve dropped the “breakfast” part of the title). The recipe calls for corn chips, but I decided to take things up a notch and bake my own from those troublesome spare tortillas. I’m sure it’s good enough with storebought corn chips, and it does feel kind of silly to spend 20 minutes hardening up some tortillas only to turn around and soften them up again with salsa and eggs and cheese the next moment, but I love the flavor and chewy (rather than soggy) texture the homemade chips impart.
But then, I love everything about this recipe. Let’s face it, it’s basically the lovechild of scrambled eggs and nachos. It’s warm and homey and soft and cheesy, but not heavy, and chock-full enough of protein to make a satisfying meal. It’s incredibly quick and easy, it’s simple but flavorful, I usually have the ingredients on hand already, and it makes surprisingly good leftovers. Because the eggs are scrambled slowly and carefully, they don’t dry out or toughen up, even when reheated the next day. It’s become my comfort-food default, and I’ve probably cooked it half a dozen times in the few months since I first tried it. I’ve made it as lazy single-lady fare while A was out of town, eating the leftovers all week long. I’ve made it just after returning from vacation, when the fridge was empty and I only had the time and energy to pick up a few things at the store. I’ve made it when I’m too stressed out for anything else, when I have salsa or tortillas to use up (and once, with leftover tomatillo salsa verde, an excellent variation), or just when I’m hungry for it, which seems to be often. (I’m actually making it for dinner tonight, in about an hour.) I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m not sure I could ever get tired of it. Who knew that eggs plus salsa could someday become one of my favorite foods?
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 cups tortilla chips (I recommend baking your own)
1 cup salsa, plus extra for serving if desired
1 cup shredded cheddar or pepper Jack cheese
1 generous handful chopped fresh cilantro
2 or 3 scallions, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and lightly whisk them.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Pour in the eggs and let them cook slowly. As the bottom layer begins to set, use a spatula to drag the outside edges in toward the center, allowing the uncooked egg to run back into the empty space. Continue to gently move the eggs around in the skillet in this manner until they are about 75 percent set; they should still be moist, but in large pieces. (They will continue to cook as you add other ingredients, so make sure not to overcook them now.) Season the eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add the drained beans and tortilla chips to the skillet. Gently fold them into the eggs, breaking the tortilla strips into smaller pieces as you go. Spoon one cup of salsa over top of the egg mixture and then sprinkle the shredded cheese over top.
4. Place a lid on the skillet and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the skillet to heat for 5 minutes, or until mostly heated through. Remove the lid and gently fold the ingredients in the skillet, so that the cheese gets a little mixed in and melts slightly. Sprinkle the cilantro and scallions over the top, and serve with additional salsa if desired.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.
Monday, September 23, 2013
Making my own tortilla chips is exactly the kind of fussy kitchen experiment I didn’t think I had time for anymore. Now that I’m back in an office for 40 hours a week (no more cozy telecommuting days while bread dough rose on the counter or beans simmered on the stove) and working a faster-paced job that leaves me drained by the time evening rolls around, I’m trying to get back to basics with quicker, less ambitious weekday meals that make plenty of leftovers and can hit the table before 8 p.m. But when you find yourself with a giant stack of tortillas getting stale in the fridge, you have to do something—and it turns out that, after immersion-blender mayonnaise, this is about the easiest DIY I’ve ever tried.
The last time we stopped by the Mexican market to get fresh corn tortillas for fish tacos, they were out of our usual 24-count bags. All that remained were the massive “family size” packages, easily eight inches tall. They still only cost a couple of bucks, so we rolled with it. The leftover tortillas get too dry for making tacos after a couple of days, but they remain perfectly good for tortilla soup, tostadas, and quesadillas. After a couple of weeks, however, despite our best efforts, we barely seemed to have made a dent in the pile, so I consulted the Internet and found this nifty procedure at The Kitchn for making baked tortilla chips.
And really, it couldn’t be any simpler. Coat baking sheets and tortillas with oil, sprinkle with salt, bake until crisp. You can use cooking spray if you want to make it even easier; I usually do that on the baking sheets, but I don’t think it gives even enough coverage on the tortillas themselves, so I prefer to use my silicon pastry brush. It takes surprisingly little oil, so you might even consider this downright healthy—if you can actually manage not to gobble up every warm, salty, crispy morsel right out of the oven. The first time I made these I was so impressed that they actually turned out like real tortilla chips that A and I stood over the baking sheets and happily snacked away…until I realized I’d eaten the equivalent of about six tortillas in one sitting. Be forewarned, the texture is a bit different than storebought/fried chips, less shatteringly crispy and with a little bit of chew, especially when they’re still warm. You can dry them out by leaving them in the oven with the heat off after baking, but I’ve found that can almost make them too crunchy for me, at least with the tortillas I've been using. Because they’re a bit sturdier, though, it makes them great for nachos, dipping, and so forth. (Next time I post I’ll share with you a recipe I used them in that knocked my socks right off.) And the flavor is excellent.
You can do this in any quantity you like. I’ve found that 10 to 12 corn tortillas yields the right number of chips to cover two of my large baking sheets in a single layer (and two sheets is all that fits into my oven at one time). Even at that rate, it took us six batches or (over the course of several weeks) so to get through all our leftover tortillas. Luckily, this recipe works just fine with older tortillas—the chips maybe get a bit denser in texture, but the flavor is unaffected. Of course, now that we’ve finally finished off the bag, I find myself craving them again, so there’s probably a trip to the Mexican market in my near future. I can see that this is going to become a vicious—but delicious—circle.
Good-quality corn tortillas
Neutral vegetable oil, like grapeseed or canola
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour a tablespoon or so of oil into a bowl. Brush a thin coating onto one or two baking sheets and set aside.
2. Place one tortilla on a cutting board and brush the top with a light layer of oil. (You don’t need a lot of oil, but make sure it’s spread evenly across the entire surface, including the edges.) Place another tortilla on top of the oiled one and brush its top with oil. Continue until all your tortillas are oiled and stacked in one pile.
3. Cut your tortilla stack in half. Cut one of the halves in half and cut each of those halves in half again, forming wedges. Repeat with other side, so you have eight stacks of tortilla wedges.
4. Arrange the tortilla wedges in a single layer on the baking sheets (don’t overlap them or they won’t get crisp), un-oiled sides facing down so that they have contact with the oil on the tray. Sprinkle a pinch or two of coarse salt evenly over the tops.
5. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 8 to 12 minutes. Check your chips at 8 minutes and rotate your pans. The chips are done when the edges are crisp and dry and slightly lifted from the tray. They should be a few shades darker, though not completely browned. The chips will still be slightly flexible in the middle, but they will crisp further as they cool. If you want crispier chips, turn the oven off and let them sit in there until they dry out a bit more, from 10 to 60 minutes.
6. Remove trays from the oven and let cool slightly.
Yield: Whatever quantity you like.
Time: 20 minutes
Leftover potential: These are best when fresh, but can be stored (after cooling) in an airtight container for several days.