Because I’ve had so much carne asada and pollo a la plancha and ensalada and have bypassed bread and cookies and, gasp, even wine.
Because I’ve been so good, forcing myself onto the damn treadmill, elliptical, bicycle (ouch on a poorly designed seat!) And still I ride and run, and walk.
Because I am one that adores food, builds altars for it (usually involving lots of sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon) and now my well has gone dry, turned off, chastised and set on zero, all in the name of losing a few pounds. Okay, maybe more than a few.
Because of all this and more it builds, that pining, destitute, fervent yearning.
It builds quietly while I diligently do my sit-ups.
It builds forcefully while I bake uber-fudge brownies for my kids (and don’t even sample the batter, I don’t!)
And there it is, on the brink of my sanity, I feel that urge, that desire that longing and I know it will burst because there is nowhere left for it to go and Saturday, oh glorious Saturday, Saturday comes along, the day I have allotted to put down my culinary flogging and eat!
I wake , this beautiful sunny Saturday, even the birds seem happier, their chirps welcome me and I rise with an extra oomph in my step, no longer worried by scales and their rising figures or pants and their tightening waistlines, no, no worries on this Saturday of that sort, for I plow my way into the kitchen on this glorious of all glorious days and announce, as loud and clear as a bell:
“Yo quiero chilaquiles!” (I want chilaquiles.)
And there it is. For when you are blessed with the angel of Saturday that is Angelica, my live-in Mexican cook, you make such pronouncements and they aren’t left for your dreams, they do become true. She makes them so.
So begins the slow simmer of a spicy tomatillo sauce, the gentle layering of fried crunchy totopos (think tortilla chips from heaven) and the quick drizzle of warm sauce topped with generous shredding of Oaxacan cheese (that piece of Nirvana I used to eat so freely, so gleefully, before numbers took a reign of my psyche) and just to top off the decadence, (why not, it is Saturday?) there’s the drizzle of the richest of all riches, la crema, the cream, that needs no further introduction, no glamorous title or fancy name, its mind-boggling flavor says it all- putting all others creams from all other cultures to shame, the Mexicans have it down- this crema is of the gods and today it belongs on my chilaquiles and in my belly.
Chilaquiles is a favorite breakfast food, usually served with fried eggs and/or shredded chicken, and always with a side of frijoles (beans) but today I want, I need this delicious and fat-loaded taste bomb straight up. A plateful of goodness comes my way and my smile melts across my still-not-thin-enough face. I forget all numbers, all calories, all counting, all exercising and live in the moment: a moment where totopos, salsa de tomatillo, and cheese blend into a crunch, tang, zip, fire, and ooze all smothered in the decadence of the richest cream. Caloric concerns fade away. Happiness, on this Saturday, reigns.
8 medium tomatillos (about 1 1/2 pounds total weight), husked and rinsed
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, stemmed
½ white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
salt, to taste
¼ chicken broth
1 cup shredded Oaxacan cheese (or fresh white cheese, such as mozzarella)
½ cup crema fresca, to drizzle on top
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
Crema fresca or sour cream for garnish
Totopos are the chips used in Mexico for chilaquiles and can be found in some Mexican specialty stores in the U.S. If you can’t find them, make your own with corn tortillas! See below:
Vegetable oil for frying
12 6-inch corn tortillas
Pour the vegetable oil into skillet. Cut the tortillas into 8 wedges like a pie.
Working in batches, fry the tortilla chips, turning them with a skimmer or slotted spoon so they don't stick together, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chips to a paper towel–lined baking pan or brown paper bag to drain and cool. (Let the oil return to the proper temperature between batches.)
To make the salsa verde:
Place the tomatillos, chile, onion, and garlic in a medium pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are soft and the tomatillos turn pale green, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Carefully transfer the boiled vegetables, along with the cooking water, to a blender. Puree for a few seconds to blend; be sure to hold down the lid with a kitchen towel for safety. Add the, oregano, salt, and broth. Continue to puree until smooth. Place sauce in a pan and simmer for ten minutes on low heat.
To finish the chilaquiles:
On a platter, layer chips, gently add salsa verde and sprinkle with cheese and garnish. Drizzle with crema fresca.