Chilaquiles (pronounced chee-la-KEE-las) are classic Mexican comfort food. A forerunner to nachos and kin to enchiladas, they make a nice breakfast served with eggs or a light supper served with refried beans. This recipe is adapted from Rick Bayless's book Mexico: One Plate At a Time and is basically what I describe in my novel The Solar Sea.
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and 1/2 cup liquid reserved
2 chipotles in adobo
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
8 ounces tortilla chips
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
Making the chilaquiles:
In a blender, combine the tomatoes with their reserved 1/2 cup of liquid and the chipotles. Blend until almost smooth.
In a very large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add two-thirds of the onion and cook over moderately high heat until browned around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomato puree and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and boil the sauce over moderately high heat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
Gently stir the tortilla chips into the sauce, making sure they are well coated. Top with the remaining onion, the shredded chicken and the Parmesan cheese. Dollop the sour cream over the chilaquiles, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.
About the Excerpt
The excerpt is from my young adult novel The Solar Sea. In the novel, a brilliant young man discovers particles that can travel through time orbiting Saturn's moon, Titan. To learn more about the particles, a solar sail spaceship is built and a crew of the best and brightest people assembled.
I have long been a fan of television shows like Star Trek. As a kid, I often wondered what the crew of the Enterprise did during the quiet times between adventures. In this scene from The Solar Sea, we see the crew of the solar sail Aristarchus during one such quiet time as the ship travels between Earth and Mars. It also shows the beginning of a romance that becomes important later in the novel.
Excerpt from The Solar Sea
There was only one cook aboard Aristarchus, a man named Angus MacDonald. The kitchen was well equipped with a number of automated appliances, so MacDonald actually could cook meals all on his own. However, during the sixth week of the flight, several crewmembers, including Captain Freeman, Dr. Garcia, Lisa Henry, and Vanda Berko decided during a card game to volunteer their services in the kitchen. Not only did it provide MacDonald some relief, it also provided the crew with some relief from his cooking. It wasn’t that MacDonald’s fare was poor. It was actually quite good, but his repertoire was a bit limited.
One day soon after, Neb O’Connell stepped into the galley and was greeted by the aroma of onions, garlic, and chiles. “It smells good,” he said.
Dr. Garcia, who was on duty in the kitchen, looked up from behind the counter. “Thanks. It’s an old recipe of my mother’s – chilaquiles.” He handed Neb a plate covered with tortilla chips smothered in a red chile sauce topped with chicken, onions, and sour cream.
“I thought you’d make us eat healthier food than this,” chided Neb, taking the plate.
“It’s not that bad.” The doctor shrugged.
“Don’t listen to him,” said Lisa Henry from a table in the corner. “The doc’s the least healthy cook of the lot. I’d take the soup if I were you. That tortilla pie thing about seared my tonsils.”
“You don’t have any tonsils, my dear,” said the doctor. “I know. I’ve looked down your throat myself.”
Lisa rolled her eyes. Neb took the plate and stepped over to her table. “May I join you?”
“Sure.” She shrugged but wore a cautious smile.
Neb sat down and took a tentative bite of the chilaquiles. After the first, he took several more. “That’s really good.”
Lisa looked at him, wide eyed. “How can you stand that stuff?”
“He obviously has good taste,” said the doctor.
“I’ve been living in New Mexico for the last few years. Red and green chiles are a staple of the diet. You get addicted,” said Neb, by way of explanation. “This is actually a little mild for my taste, but I didn’t even think we had any chile aboard the ship.”
“That’s ’cause MacDonald’s scared to use it,” said Dr. Garcia.
Lisa inclined her head. “Hey, maybe you should volunteer for the kitchen crew, then you and the doctor can take turns torturing the rest of us.”
“It would be torture,” said Neb. “I’ve been known to burn soup from a can.” He took several more bites of the chilaquiles, then washed it down with some iced tea. “But the thing is, I would like to find something to do in my off hours.”
Lisa smiled openly. “You could help me pick a movie to watch tonight.”
Neb sputtered for a moment, then came to his senses. “I’d like that.”
“No popcorn, though,” said the doctor. “You’ve used up your allotment of carbohydrates eating the chilaquiles.”