You know you've made it big in the blogosphere when you have friends are actually offended-offended!-that you haven't yet had them over for a blog dinner. Cynics would say they're just in it for the free meal, but I believe that they want me and my tiny little blog to succeed (whatever that means).
So when my pal Matt (who was thisclose to becoming my art director, his plans foiled by the Big Agency beauracracy) wanted to come over and bring a lady friend (nay, DEMANDED that he come over as soon as possible), I was happy to put the plans in motion.
As a matter of course, I ask all my blog dinner guests if they have any food allergies or special dietary needs. And it turned out that Britte (the lady friend) is a vegetarian, which gave me a great reason to do a vegetarian post. Matt specifically requested that include guacamole in the meal if at all possible, and I was also recently inspired by a delicious brunch of Chilaquiles, a dish that I had never experienced prior to moving to Chicago, but is completely amazing.
It's fair to say I strayed significantly from the original recipe, but I went with the basic idea: layered tortillas with classic Mexican flavors.
FEARLESS FACTOR: 4. Not very fearless, as lasagna and Mexican are two of my most attempted dish categories. My only concern was that the lasagna would be soggy and have too much sauce/filling.
So, without further ado, my Layered Mexican Casserole with Fried Eggs and Guacamole.
7-8 flour tortillas (or you could use corn tortillas, which I would have preferred, but couldn't find that day)
1 can green enchilada sauce
1 jar or can red enchilada sauce
1 small can diced green chiles
1 can refried vegetarian black beans
1 red bell pepper
1/2 large red onion
1 T. olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Eggs (2 per person or however many you want)
1 T. butter
2-3 oz. crumbled queso fresco
2 whole ripe avocados
1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
1/4 red onion, finely minced
2-3 T. chopped cilantro
1/2 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
juice of 1 lime
(you're technically supposed to use 1-2 cloves of fresh minced garlic, but I forgot, and it was still good)
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375. In a 9 X 13" glass casserole dish, begin to layer the flour tortillas. I did this by tearing the tortillas into half-moons (placing 4 half-moons for each layer), alternating with keeping the tortillas whole (2 whole tortillas per layer). Sounds confusing, but the pictures will clear it up. Bottom line, it really doesn't matter how you do it. Chilaquiles are supposed to be rustic and imperfect. On top of the first layer, spread a few spoonfuls of the refried black beans. Top with about 1/2 c. red enchilada sauce and the entire can of green chiles.
In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium high. Cut the bell pepper and onion into small pieces and saute them until they're lightly caramelized and tender. Place another layer of tortillas in the dish, and spread the onion/pepper mixture evenly over the top. Pour about 1/2 c. green enchilada sauce on top.
Add another layer of tortillas, and spread more refried beans on top. Top with more red enchilada sauce, and the crumbled queso fresco. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is mostly melted and the edges are bubbly.
Melt the butter (one small chunk at a time) in a pan over medium heat. Break the eggs into the pan, cooking them "to order," i.e., cooking them for each person then serving them immediately. I fried them on both sides, so that the edges were a little brown but the yolk was still runny. Of course you could scramble them, poach them, or cook them any way you like.
Halve the avocados and scoop out the green part, discarding the skin and pit. Add the minced jalapeno, onion, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and cilantro. Mash with a fork until desired consistency (I like it a little chunky). Squeeze in the lime juice and stir (this adds flavor as well as prevents the avocado from turing brown).
I served this with Spanish rice from a box, so if you want to do that, cook the rice according to the package and put a scoop on each plate. Cut the casserole into 8 pieces, and place a piece on each place. Top with the fried eggs, some salsa, a spoonful of the guac, and a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with some cilantro if you want.
THE JUDGES' VERDICTS:
MATT: I thought it was really good. Except that I feel like I had to scoop my fork around to get one bite that contained everything. [I edited this quote for length, but it relied on Matt's elaborately illustrative fork-bulldozing around his plate. Point well made. As Jess says, "If it ain't mixed, it ain't fixed."]
BRITTE: I thought it was great. But I think could be even better if you added a crunchy element. [I agree...any thoughts on what I could add? My first thought was tortilla chips but my second was jicama.]
ROSS: I will answer this question as Padma Lakshmi. [He begins to speak in Padma's signature sedated drawl.] I thought it had a greeaat balaaance of flaaaavor. I loooove the Mexicaaaan influuuuence.
PHOTO NOTE: Ross came in from surfing as I was halfway through cooking. I posted this to prove to skeptics that Great Lake surfing is real.
JESS: I'm sick and tired of you telling me how to eat my food. [I told her to stop mixing her dish, which I thoughtfully and artfully arranged on her plate, into a mushy trashpile.] But other than that it was great. I loved it. If it ain't mixed it ain't fixed. It's...MIX-ican!
MY VOTE ON MY DISH: I give it a 9. I think that people would definitely pay $10 for this at a brunch restaurant. I'm proud of myself. And I'm shocked that I didn't ruin the guac.
Thanks for reading! More soon...