Chewy, crispy edged corn tortillas and mild Spanish onion chunks smothered in Mom's hot, sweet, tangy enchilada sauce and topped with ooey, gooey melted cheeses. Old fashioned Mexican delicioso-ness in every mouthful.
When I was growing up in Calgary in the 1960s, Sunday was a real family day around our house, filled with luscious aromas spilling from Mom’s kitchen. It didn’t matter whether spring had sprung and the purple crocuses alongside the house were poking through the snow, or whether we gathered on the little brick patio out back, in the heat of summer, by the barbecue, to unwrap those little packages of foil which held the most succulent, buttery, crispy edged potatoes I’ve ever had. Meals were an occasion at our house. The eating was good.
Mom put on a spread. Dinner tables groaned with her family-famous oven barbecued spareribs and scalloped corn, or maybe roast beef and Yorkshire pudding draped with gravy I’ve yet to duplicate. Afterwards, apple pie with cheese. Apple pies that tasted like heaven. I still remember coming into the house from the blustery, snowy reaches of a Calgary winter to the warm, sweet aroma of juicy apples and cinnamon.
Mostly Mom made the ordinary, extraordinary.
Best of all, I think, would be those lazy Sunday afternoons. There was always music playing at our house, but on Sunday it was Mom’s favorite Mariachi music or 'Guantanamera', or The Lonely Bull (these tunes still overflow from the house of my Sunday afternoon memories). My married big sisters would appear with many small, noisy children in tow. Everyone smiled and laughed.
Everyone came for that sense of family and for Mom’s cooking. Mom would make us Chilaquiles. Her version of a recipe passed to her from a close friend in Mexico. A recipe that had been passed down generation to generation. A perfect cheese-topped mixture of home-made tortillas, fried crispy with mild onions, drenched in sauce that somehow reflected exotic locales and the essence of home in the same bite. A legacy.
Today the legacy continues in our own kitchens, where we can never make Mom’s Chilaquiles without cherishing memories of Sunday afternoons in Calgary long ago. Muchas gracias Mom!
This traditional Mexican recipe is great served in appetizer portions, or for a main dish, with Spanish rice and salad on the side.
MOM'S FAMOUS ENCHILADA SAUCE:
1 28-oz can tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1/3 cup vinegar
3-6 dried red chiles
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried coriander
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
1 onion, finely chopped
24 corn tortillas (okay, okay I admit it, sometimes when we just WAHNT Mom's chilaquiles I don't feel like waiting on the tortillas to crisp up, so I use a bag of great quality tortilla chips and they work beautifully!!)
¼ cup corn or vegetable oil
1 large Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
Fresh Lime Wedges
Put all sauce ingredients in food processor and buzz until smooth. Transfer mixture to saucepan, bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime pour corn oil into large electric or stovetop skillet; heat to medium-high. Tear each tortilla into 4-6 pieces; continue using all tortillas. Add tortillas pieces and chopped Spanish onion to heated oil in skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft and golden and tortilla pieces are starting to brown and crisp; 10-12 minutes. Tortilla pieces should be kind of crispy and kind of chewy. Season with salt and pepper.
Turn skillet down to medium low. Slowly pour heated enchilada sauce over tortilla-onion mixture in skillet. Top with cheeses and cover until cheeses are melted, about 5 to 10 minutes. Serve by scooping portions onto small plates with spatula. Chiliquiles are good as is, or serve with guacamole, sour cream, lime wedges and icy margaritas.