Chilaquiles tampiquenos verdes

That’s really “tampiqueños” but WordPress chokes on titles with special characters.

This is a straight-up recipe from Diana Kennedy’s Essential Cuisines of Mexico. Unlike her tamales recipe which I posted about a couple years back, this one requires no interpretation from the experts. Just make sure you leave your tortillas out a day or so, cut into 6 triangular pieces each, to get properly stale before commencing.

The green in the sauce comes a combination of tomatillos (tomates verdes) and grilled poblano chiles, which are quite mild. The former need to be simmered for a bit to soften them; the latter you need to grill over a flame (an open gas burner works fine) until thoroughly blistered and blackened on all sides. Both go into the food processor with fresh cilantro and epazote (I used dried epazote because that’s all I could find) plus white onion and salt.

Then – in a manner surprisingly similar to Thai chile pastes, you fry the sauce in vegetable oil (I’m guessing originally in lard, but I could be wrong – apparently the pre-Hispanic recipes fried the salsa dry), and add some chicken broth.

Next you fry the tortilla triangles until “they just begin to stiffen but not brown” (harder to judge than you might think), bring the sauce to a boil, and stir in the tortilla pieces. You need to find just that right consistency between too crisp and too soggy. As Nils pointed out to me, it’s a peculiarly Mexican thing.

Finally an enormous amount of fresh cold items are put on top: roughly chopped cilantro, thinly sliced large radishes, hardboiled eggs, roughly chopped white onion and hand-crumbled queso fresco. It’s the contrast between the just-sauced tortilla chips, redolent with the tart smokiness of the sauce, and the crisp fresh ingredients on top, that makes the dish. It’s essential to get the balance right. You serve the dish immediately.