Chilaquiles and shakshouka, combined? Okay, you might call me crazy but I will happily live with the term. When something is as good as this mix, I really don’t mind being succumbed to the inquisition of whoever might find themselves offended by this combo.
Think about it, what is there not to love? The wonderful crispness of fresh totopos, or tortilla chips. The fact that they serve as perfect little spoons so you don’t even need to use cutlery. And all the melted cheese, yummm. On the other hand, there’s the magic of eggs poached in veggie sauce that only shakshouka can bring. Although I am a fan of eggs any style (and like to consider myself a pro at preparing them, especially omelettes) if I have to choose a favorite, it’s definitely poached. If you have a fresh, free range beautiful egg, there is no better way to enjoy its flavour than by gently poaching it.
Do you see the brilliance of it yet? Crispiness, meet runny egg yolks mixed with tomato sauce.
Chilaquiles is such a typical Mexican dish that you can find it almost everywhere you go. As with any traditional and widespread favorite, there are as many versions as there are regions, families and kitchens. Should the totopos be crunchy or cooked in the sauce until mushy and almost polenta-like? Serve them with or without an egg? What about pulled chicken meat and/or cheese? This can easily become a very heated discussion so let’s say that the best chilaquiles are the ones you like best. I myself like the totopos fresh and crunchy underneath whatever you choose to throw on top. Usually, it’s red or green salsa, beans, pulled chicken and/or an egg.
Shakshouka, originating halfway around the world (somewhere in the Middle East, depending on who you ask) is equally as flexible. Since its name, according to some legends, means “to shake it up”, it lends itself beautifully to improvisation of whatever is in season, in region or in your fridge. The staple of it is tomatoes, which provide the beautiful sauce for the poaching of the eggs. Add to it anything from peppers, green beans, potatoes or even artichoke hearts or zucchini and you have a recipe for success.
If you’re anything like me, your mouth is super watery by now (even though I had a huge portion just this morning) so here’s the recipe:
Totopos (tortilla chips):
The BEST totopos are homemade ones, naturally. If you don’t have any homemade tortillas, you can use store-bought. If you don’t even have tortillas, you can also always use store-bought tortilla chips, but try to make sure they’re not too salty (or too flavored in any other way as it will mess with the subtle flavors of the shakshouka).
To make fresh totopos you’ll need:
A few day-old tortillas, cut in quarters (for small tortillas) or six (for bigger ones)
In a pan, heat up the vegetable oil. You won’t need much, a cup will be more than enough as the tortillas are super thin. The only tricky thing in this super straightforward process is to be careful with the heat of the oil. It shouldn’t overheat (if it becomes smokey you’ve overdone it already) but should be hot enough. The best way to test is to place a small piece of the tortilla and see if it sizzles.
Also, as you’re working with a small amount of oil, when you put the tortilla inside, the temperature will lower. The best way to control this is to work with a gas stove where you can easily regulate the temperature. So heat up the oil, place the tortilla triangles in a single layer into the pan and bring up the heat just a little bit. Let the chips sizzle for no more than two minutes, until they are golden and crispy. Keep an eye on them the entire time and lower the heat by the end of the two minutes, as the tipping point is very delicate. You don’t want to burn them, which can happen easily.
Once fried, transfer the chips to a plate lined with kitchen towels to soak in the excess oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt (don’t overdo the salt). Set the chips aside.
For the shakshouka:
Olive oil (one tsp)
One large tomato, peeled and diced
One green pepper, diced
Additional any other vegetable you’d like to add to the mix (I opted for some porcini mushrooms leftover from yesterday’s lunch)
Salt (one pinch – remember, your totopos are already salted!)
Chili pepper (either ground or any fresh chilies, such as jalapeno – you’re marrying it to Mexico after all)
4 eggs (or however many you’d like, this was a big brunch for two)
Heat up the oil and add the diced onion, let it simmer until it softens up and becomes translucent (a few minutes). In the meantime, peel and dice the tomato, peppers and the mushrooms. A great trick for peeling tomatoes is to make a few incisions along the sides of the skin (just skin deep) and then submerge them in boiling water for half a minute. The heat of the water will make the skin peel off almost by itself.
Add the peeled tomatoes to the onion and add salt, which will make the tomatoes release its juice (hello science!). Add the pepper, mushrooms and chili pepper, reduce heat, cover and simmer for a few minutes. No more than 5 minutes though, cause you’ll want your veggies to release liquid and create a wonderful sauce but still keep a bit of their crispiness and not turn completely soggy.
Make four indentations in the veggies and pour the eggs in. Cover again and let simmer for a few minutes. You’ll want the egg whites to cook and the yolk to stay runny. And don’t worry if one of the yolks breaks a little, just like it did to me here – you’ll make a mess of it all as soon as you start eating anyway 😉
While the eggs are cooking, lay the plates with totopos and add whatever cheese you have at hand or like, that will melt nicely once covered with the hot veggies. When the eggs are cooked, use a spatula to carefully transfer one by one on top of the totopos and cheese, add remaining veggies and dig in!
For a true Mexican/Middle Eastern flavor, feel free to sprinkle with lime juice and cilantro. Enjoy!