It’s hard to dislike chilaquiles, a not particularly pretty mishmash of fried corn tortillas bathed in a fiery chile sauce and topped with anything from eggs to cheese to leftover chicken. Colloquially, the term has come to mean “a broken-up old sombrero,” alluding to the bits of broken-up tortillas that are the dish’s defining ingredient.
Special equipment: A 12-inch cast iron skillet is perfect for making chilaquiles, but any large, heavy-bottomed frying pan will do.
What to buy: Look for dried ancho chiles and Cotija cheese in Latin grocery stores and gourmet markets.
Crème fraîche and crema are both types of naturally thickened fresh cream (the French and Mexican versions, respectively) with a tangy flavor and rich texture. If you can’t find either, sour cream is a decent substitute, but you may need to thin it with a little water so that it’s easier to drizzle.
Game plan: Top the chilaquiles with leftover rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or poach your own. To poach, combine 3 skinless chicken thighs, 1 peeled garlic clove, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 10 peppercorns in a medium pot, cover with cold water, and simmer until chicken thighs are cooked through. When the thighs are cool enough to handle, shred the meat.
If you’re sensitive to spiciness, remove the seeds and membranes from the serrano chiles.
This dish was featured as part of our Chile Pepper Recipes photo gallery.
For the chilaquiles:
- 3 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 2 medium tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
- 1 medium white onion, small dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 serrano chiles, stems removed and coarsely chopped (seeds and membranes removed if you’re heat-sensitive)
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, tough stems removed and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups vegetable or canola oil for frying
- 20 (6-inch) corn tortillas (preferably stale), each cut into 8 wedges
- 1 medium lime, juiced
For the garnish:
- 3 chicken thighs, cooked and shredded (optional, see “Game plan” above)
- 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese or shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche, crema, or sour cream
- 3 medium radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 medium limes, cut into wedges
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Place ancho chiles in a single layer in a small frying pan and toast over medium heat until crispy and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer chiles to a medium, heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over chiles to completely cover them and soak until they are soft and pliant, at least 10 minutes.
- Drain chiles and place in the bowl of a blender or food processor along with tomatoes, 3/4 of the diced onion, the serrano chiles, and about 1 cup of the chopped cilantro. Add salt and chicken broth and blend until smooth.
- Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat until 350°F, about 10 minutes. Fry tortillas in 5 batches until they are crisp and have stopped furiously bubbling, about 1 minute per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
- Carefully strain oil into a heatproof container. Wipe out the pan and return it to the stove over medium-high heat. Take 1/4 cup of the used oil and add it to the skillet (discard the remaining oil). When it is shimmering, carefully pour in blended chile mixture (it will bubble furiously) and fry it, stirring often, until it is fragrant and no longer raw-tasting, about 7 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium low and stir in lime juice. Taste and, if necessary, adjust seasoning with salt. Add fried tortillas, stirring gently until they are softened and well-coated with sauce.
- Transfer chilaquiles to a serving platter and top with shredded chicken (if using), cheese, a drizzle of crème fraîche, radishes, and remaining diced onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges on the side.