Cooking Chilaquiles in Class

I did my masters in Guanajuato, Mexico because I wanted to learn to make real Mexican food (moving over on the pay scale was just an added bonus!) Thankfully I got placed with a delightful family with a Señora who is an excellent cook. I spent 3 summers watching her cook, writing the recipe down for everything she fed me and soaking in everything I could.  (I also did a bit of homework and a lot of reading…but let’s get real here: priorities.)

Cooking with Loyda
Chile Rellenos with Loyda

One of my favorite traditions were Saturday morning breakfasts; Loyda would always make Chilaquiles I loved them and looked forward to them every week.

I love cooking for my little darlings, and I knew Loyda’s chilaquiles would be a hit. I took Loyda’s recipe and adapted it for use in the classroom. It’s an easy one to make in class and students love it! I make them for my Spanish 1s every year and I make two batches: Chilaquiles and Chilaquiles picantes. We do a little restaurant simulation at the end of our food unit.

1. First have students sign up to bring ingredients.Make a copy of the sign up sheet, ask your little darlings to bring in an ingredient and then update the info for your classes.  

2. Prep at home: Although my little darlings bring in most of the ingredients, there are a few things that I buy so I can prep them at home.

  • In boiling water, cook whole serrano chilis (I cook 3 per class I’m cooking for, so if I’m making chilaquiles for 2 classes, 6 serranos) and cloves of garlic (4-5  cloves of garlic per class).
  • Gather all the cooking equipment ( list below) and lug it to school.

3. Set up your classroom and organize your equipment. You’ll need:

  •  a cooking surface (I use a long table) set up by the window or door
  • A blender
  •  Electric Skillet Since I make 2 batches, I use 2 skillets, but for years I only made one batch and it was fine!)
  • Extension cord
  • Baby wipes (for hands)
  • Clorox wipes (for surfaces)
  • Can opener
  • Knife and cutting board (If you’re concerned about taking a knife to school slice up your onions at home)
  • Plastic or wood mixing and serving spoons
  • Aprons (I am a mess and I can’t cook without getting covered!)
  • Salt
  • Cooking oil
  • Hand towels

4. Start cooking! I ask a volunteer or two to help me while I narrate a la Food Network, in slow comprehensible Spanish.

First the sauce:  Put 1 large can of tomatoes (or 2 small cans), 2-3 cloves of garlic, and 1 Serrano Chili (cut off stem!) into the blender and blend until smooth. Add salt (I never measure, maybe 1/2 teaspoon or so!) and whirl again. Then taste it with a plastic spoon! Serranos are tricky, sometimes 1 chili is plenty spicy, sometimes it takes 2 or 3 to make it the right spice!) (If you’re making a spicy and non-spicy batch, I put just a 1/4 of 1 serrano in the non-spicy batch!) I add a bit of water to stretch it further.

Then the onions: Slice the onions thinly and sautee them in cooking oil over medium hear. (It will smell wonderful, but keep the door or window open because 3 weeks later you’ll still be smelling it and it  will smell more like stinky teenagers than home cooking). Add the sauce into the skillet an cook it for a few minutes. (At this point I turn off the skillet, and share pictures and stories about my life in Guanajuato)

Add the tostadas: Now in Mexico they use stale tortillas or totopo chips. I’ve found that Tostadas are an excellent substitute because I think regular corn chips are too salty and not crunchy enough.  Crunch them up and add them into the sauce. I generally use 1 and 1/2 bags of tosadas for one batch and mix them around until all the tostada pieces are evenly covered in sauce, but not swimming in sauce. Add more tostadas if it’s too wet, add more sauce (or a bit of water) if you need more coverage.

tostadas

And now for the cheese: Sprinkle shredded white cheese all over the chilaquiles, put the lid on and give it a few minutes to get nice and cheesy.  And serve!

Fine print: I mentioned that I adapted this recipe from Loyda’s. She would probably die to know I’m making chilaquiles with canned tomatoes and any white cheese that my students bring in…If you want to make yours closer to the original, when you’re cooking the serrano and garlic, cut an X in the bottom of a few ripe tomatoes and cook them in the water. (I asked Loyda one, “How long do you cook them?” “Until they’re done” was the answer….so, just go ahead and cook them until they’re done). Then in the last stage, use Queso Oaxaca or Queso Asadero for  maximum delicious meltyness.

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