Over the last year I have become more than a little obsessive with huevos rancheros, the fried eggs on tortilla splashed with a spicy sauce breakfast dish. The results of my journey has been both confusion but also an education in variations on a theme. You must know that before living on the West Coast I had never known the egg at breakfast outside of a frying pan, benedict or a quiche. Eggs a la mexicano is a spectacularly terrific start to a lazy Sunday. This post is focused on a few of the egg specialty dishes that I’ve come across.
Literally "ranch eggs" huevos rancheros (ranch eggs) are prepared so many ways that legions of lovers of this dish adamantly state that traditionally speaking, the eggs should be fried (no poaching!). This may be so, but the confusion may come in that restaurants need to create a sense of special-ness with breakfast– poaching does that. I would also add that the tortilla should be corn and it needs to be lightly toasted to stand up to the essential runny egg yolk. The best, I’ve had are from Primavera, at the Saturday SF Farmers’ Market. In my book they do very little wrong in their cocina.
I’ve also enjoyed Huevos al Albañil or bricklayer’s eggs that are popular in Central Mexico. The central ingredient is a green tomatillo and serrano chile sauce that is added to the pan with the cooked scrambled eggs. Rather pretty and really a bit of harmony on the plate is huevos divorciados (divorced eggs)where two sunny-side up eggs are "separated" by a red and green sauce over a fried corn tortilla.
And then there’s Huevos Motuleños: two sunny-side up eggs served over a fried corn tortilla and beans covered with red sauce, fried ham, green peas and cheese. Originating in the Yucatán town of Motul, there are variations that are made with black beans, plantains, and salsa picante. This dish is an uptown sophisticated type of breakfast. I first had it a few years ago at Casa Carter during our Oaxacan reunion weekend. Homemade eggy, spicy goodness. I have thought often about that dish for the past two years.
While in Chicago in late August I brunched at Salpicón! where the Mexico City-born chef Priscilla Satkoff offers amazingly tasty and traditional dishes (pictured above this recipe). In September while in Boulder visiting the Carters once again, I put my plea out for this breakfast. The variation served here is from Chef Rick Bayless. The Carters prepare an American variation on pork in the form of bacon instead of ham —no complaints here!
And then there’s migas and chilaquiles….but that’s for another day!
Cazuela de Huevos Rancheros (good for a brunch of 4)
Adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen
This dish is time consuming, but you can shortcut with store-bought tostadas, and by using canned and doctored black beans. You should not shortcut the sauce–it’s an essential component to this dish. Also the plantains can be done ahead, refrigerated over night and warmed before serving.
Tomato Habenero Sauce
2 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes
1/4 to 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 fresh habanero chiles, halved
Salt, a generous 3/4 tspn
2 very ripe plantains
1 1/2 to 2 cups coarsely mashed, seasoned black beans
6 oz. good ham cut into matchstick sized pieces
1 1/3 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup/2 oz crumbled Mexican queso fresco (or a French feta)
6 crisp store-bought tostadas
Instructions for Tomato-Habanero Sauce:
Make a day ahead: Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet 4" below a very hot broiler until blistered and blackened on one side, about 6 minutes. Flip and roast on the other side. Cool then peel the tomatoes while catching all the juices over a bowl. In a food processor coarsely puree the tomatoes and juices.
In a 2-3 qt. saucepan heat 1 tblspn of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, fry, stirring regularly, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and Chile halves and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring often, until the sauce is beginning to thicken but is still juicy looking. Season with salt; remove the chile halves. Store in fridge.
The next day:
Peel the plantains, cut into diagonal slices about 1/2" thick. Heat 2-3 tblspns of the vegetable oil in a 10-12" well-seasoned or non-stick skillet that has a lid, over medium heat. Lay the plantain slices in a single layer for 3-4 minutes per side until richly browned. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and hold in a warm oven.
In a small pan warm the beans over low heat. Mix together the ham strips and the peas in another small pan or dish, and warm over low heat. Crumble the cheese into a small bowl and set aside. Set the pan of tomato sauce over low heat.
Finally, fry the eggs in 1-2 tblspns of vegetable oil. You will want the egg yolks to be runny. Spread some of the beans over each tostada, slide an egg on top, drizzle the tomato sauce over and around the eggs letting it run off the tostada and on to the plate. Sprinkle each plate with the ham, peas and cheese, decorate with plantain slices.