...pozole, molletes and more. Whatever the question, Mexican food is the answer.
I’m back after a mini winter break (thank you, paid subscribers, for your support!) I was able to tackle a lot of things while I was away: everyone’s teeth and eyes were checked, I repotted all my plants, painted some walls, had several invigorating coffee dates with friends and editors, hosted play dates, took long hikes, started reading Harry Potter with Mátyás (a first for our family), took Greta to get her ear’s pierced and saw her off to her first junior high dance, just last night (parents of young kids: DO NOT BLINK)!
We also ate a lot of tacos, rice and bean bowls, pozole, tortilla soup, and chilaquiles last week.
Friends, whatever the question, Mexican food is the answer.
I had nearly forgotten about my deep love for Mexican food during our European tour, because, frankly, you can’t get much of it across the pond (not the good stuff, anyway). But we just booked a trip to Mexico with my parents for early spring, our first time back since pre-pandemic, and the lure of it has been creeping into our kitchen ever since.
Last week alone I chanced upon not just one but two new (or new-to-me) taco spots in our area, one of them where you can get tall, steamy stacks of freshly made tortillas for $6 and barbacoa by the pound, along with fried tortilla chips that put even the best grocery store versions to shame.
The truth is though, even if you don’t have access to freshly pressed tortillas and flavor-drenched braised meat, you need little more than a bag of stale tortillas, plus some eggs, avocado, and fresh white onions to make two of my favorite Mexican meals: chilaquiles and molletes.
Below, I’m sharing a few building blocks for these kinds of meals—easy make-at-home central American food that’s not tacos. Also on deck, my deeply nourishing Pozole Verde, pictured above, which takes a minute to make but will reward you with a week of the most satisfying, big-flavor soup I know.
And don’t forget, even a plate of scrambled eggs with creamy avocado and smoky tobacco can feel slightly Mexican-leaning when you need a fix (serve with fresh tortillas, instead of toast).
You got this.
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CHILAQUILES v. MOLLETES
Chilaquiles are a genius technique for using up stale (or going-stale) corn tortillas or tortilla chips: heavy on the fried tortillas, topped with fried egg, cheese, avocado, and pickled onions. Think of them like a breakfast nacho, but way more beautiful. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a giant plate of these on a slow Saturday morning, with coffee and Tobasco.
Another super satisfying egg dish is Molletes: an open-faced egg sandwich with melted cheese, refried beans and pico de Gallo—usually on toasted soft rolls, though you could also use this treatment atop halved and steamed or baked sweet potatoes, for dinner. Here’s a visual reference, and a no-recipe recipe for both dishes, below.
HOW TO MAKE CHILAQUILES*
In a cast-iron skillet, add a little olive or canola oil. Add a small can of crushed tomato plus 1 clove of garlic (minced or pressed), or your favorite jarred salsa and let it sizzle. Add a handful or two of tortilla chips and cook, stirring to coat and soften the chips, about 5 minutes. Serve them on a platter or individual plates topped with 1 to 2 fried eggs per person, a few tablespoons of cotija cheese, 1 to 2 firm-ripe avocados (sliced), sour cream or crema or yogurt, pickled onions, cilantro, and wedges of lime on the side.
HOW TO MAKE MOLLETES
Toast two small sweet or plain halved white rolls. Top with a few tablespoons of refried beans and spread evenly. Sprinkle with handful of shredded Mexican white cheese (such as Queso Fresco or Queso Oaxaca, or a shredded Mexican cheese blend); broil on low to melt. Top each with one or two fried eggs (depending on the size), sliced firm-ripe avocado, pickled onions, and pico de gallo. Serve warm.
*Scale your ingredients up or down depending on the number of people you want to serve.
HOW TO FRY TORTILLAS
To get crispy, restaurant-style fried tortillas to use as chips, for chilaquiles, or to scatter into warm tortilla or pozole soup: Slice a small stack (about 4) of soft corn tortillas into thin strips or wedges. Heat ½ inch canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it is sizzling hot (test it with a tiny droplet of water), add tortillas, working in batches of a few at a time. Cook, turning once with tongs, until golden and brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain, and sprinkle with salt. Continue frying in batches until all the chips are crispy brown.
GOOD-WITH-EVERYTHING PICKLED ONIONS
Pickled onions are quick, easy, and an absolute revelation atop pulled pork or fish soft tacos, sandwiches, tortilla soup, pozole, grain bowls, on a charcuterie spread, and with anything grilled. You’ll find them essential players on both the chilaquiles and the molletes, mentioned above. Make these; you won’t regret it.
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, halved
½ cup (120 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Combine the onion, garlic, vinegar, ½ cup (120 ml) water, the sugar, and salt in a pint jar, shake, and set aside at room temperature for 20 minutes. If you plan to use within a day, stir in the oil and parsley. Or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks; stir in the oil and parsley before serving.
PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES // SERVES 8 (makes 1 pint/480 g)
PICKLED WHITE ONIONS AND JALAPEÑO: To switch things up, use white onions, and add 1 jalapeño, sliced lengthwise, or a single small, dried red chile to the mix.
MORE MEXICAN (And MEXICAN-ISH) MEALS THAT AREN’T TACOS
Cheese Grits with Saucy Black Beans, Avocado and Radish
You're making me so hungry right now and inspiring me to make posole!
Love this. Very excited to make all these recipes