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Chilaquiles & migas: define

Robert Lauriston May 11, 2007 11:52 AM

[The Chowhound Team split this "what is" discussion from its original location on the San Francisco board. To see where to find great chilaquiles in the Bay Area, please join this conversation: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/400528


As I know chilaquiles, they're strips of stale tortillas, pan-fried to order, served with red or green sauce.

Many of the dishes described here sound more like some variation on nachos.

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  1. Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston May 11, 2007 01:14 PM

    I don't think they sound like nachos -- nachos are chips with stuff on top of them. Chilaquiles are as you described, but there are variants where eggs are scrambled with the tortillas while they're cooking, and other variants where the chilaquiles have something else on top or mixed in. But they're still tortilla strips fried and sauced, not chips with stuff on top.

    I love chilaquiles, but I've never had good nachos -- the ones made with real cheese, the cheese never has the right consistency -- the cheese hardens and clumps all the chips together and/or doesn't adhere to the chips -- and the ones made with bright orange cheese sauce have the right consistency, but it's, well, bright orange cheese sauce.

    1. sabrinasmom RE: Robert Lauriston May 11, 2007 01:17 PM

      Not the best source for information but I looked up chilaquiles and migas on wikipedia.

      Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of fried or dried tortilla chips, bathed in green or red salsa or mole, and broiled or grilled with a cheese topping. Sometimes chicken strips are mixed into the sauce, or the dish can be served with a fried egg on top or a strip of meat alongside.

      They are most commonly eaten at breakfast time, served alongside with fried or scrambled eggs or a Mexican style grilled beef. Moreover, chilaquiles are often lauded as a cure for la cruda--the common hangover.

      Unlike nachos, which are served as a crispy snack, chilaquiles are a main dish and are not served until the tortilla chips are thoroughly soaked and softened by the salsa. This makes them a popular recipe for stale chips, or those with a bad taste, as the other flavors mask that of the chips'.

      In Texas, migas (also known as migajas) is a traditional breakfast dish in Tex-Mex cuisine. Originally eaten during Lent, this meatless dish consists of egg scrambled and sauteed together in butter or oil with torn strips of corn tortillas, diced onions, sliced chile peppers, diced fresh tomatoes, and cheese, plus various spices and condiments (e.g. salsa, pico de gallo). Migas are typically served with refried beans, and corn or flour tortillas are used to enfold all of the ingredients into delicious migas tacos. The traditional Mexican main-course dish chilaquiles is similar to migas in some respects.

      A friend brought a dish that she called chilaquiles to a Potluck brunch - it consisted of scrambled egs with onion, tomato, peppers, cheese & crispy tortilla strips. This dish sounds more like migas.

      That's why I love this board so much! Hounds are so passionate about their chow! Thanks all!

      26 Replies
      1. re: sabrinasmom
        Windy RE: sabrinasmom May 11, 2007 02:07 PM

        The best chilaquiles are not cooked stovetop but in an oven after the tortillas are fried. I prefer mine with green salsa and chicken and a little cream, but haven't found them that way in the Bay Area, only in Mexico City.

        Pastores has the best chilaquiles I've tried in San Francisco. I get them with carne asada but without eggs and with the green salsa on the side.

        1. re: Windy
          Melanie Wong RE: Windy May 11, 2007 09:50 PM

          Someone told me she had the baked version at a staff meal at the CIA in St. Helena . . . best she'd ever had.

          1. re: Windy
            sabrinasmom RE: Windy May 11, 2007 11:36 PM

            Yes - I have had it prepared that way as well - it was lika a frittata

            1. re: Windy
              laylag RE: Windy May 14, 2007 03:18 PM

              That's exactly how I like my chilaquiles too Windy but it's hard to get them here in the states. I always had them that way in Mexico City and even had some of the best at a restaurant in the DF airport, go figure. I don't ever get ones exactly like in the U.S. but I keep trying.

            2. re: sabrinasmom
              Robert Lauriston RE: sabrinasmom May 12, 2007 09:24 AM

              That Wikipedia article is wrong about chilequiles being made with tortilla chips.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                Leadbelly RE: Robert Lauriston May 12, 2007 01:02 PM

                No, it is not wrong. Chilaquiles are often made with torilla chips--it is a similar effect to using stale tortillas which are then fried in oil before adding your sauce (and eggs, if that is how you like them). Of course, they have to be the thick, traditional style chips, and it is really a shortcut that you are more likely to see someone using at home rather than in a restaurant.

                1. re: Leadbelly
                  Windy RE: Leadbelly May 12, 2007 01:41 PM

                  Yes, but only because Mexican restaurants have stale tortillas lying around. I make mine the same way, but it does seem silly, like buying fresh baguettes and then toasting them to make bread pudding.

                  1. re: Windy
                    Robert Lauriston RE: Windy May 13, 2007 10:21 AM

                    Chilaquiles is one of many traditional recipes that evolved to make stale tortillas tastier. It's not particularly associated with restaurants.

                    You could of course substitute tortilla chips for the traditional strips of stale tortillas, but the Wikipedia article discusses only the modern substitution, not the original version.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      Eat_Nopal RE: Robert Lauriston May 15, 2007 03:23 PM

                      Completely agree with Robert... use of Tortilla Chips is a short used north of the border, and completely affects the end result. The best analogy is Chips are to Overcooked Pasta as Pan Fried Stale Tortillas are to Pasta Al Dente.

                      To be clear... good Chilaquiles have a similar texture to good Pasta... with the added bonus of a very nutty taste in some spots that comes from the uneven pan frying (as opposed to deep frying which results in a more uniform goldenish color & flavor)

                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                  Earl Grey RE: Robert Lauriston May 12, 2007 09:43 PM

                  Well, they need to be real chips, not Doritos or Fritos. Some chips are literally fried, stale tortillas and I've made great chilaquiles with them.
                  But I agree with Robert about not wanting nachos. The corn and the chile sauce should be the main attraction.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    paulj RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2007 12:39 PM

                    Maybe it's a matter of sematics. What do we (or the wiki author) mean by 'tortilla chips'? Are they exclusively ones that were fried at a factory, and bought by the bag full, or can the term also cover tortillas that have been cut up and fried at the restaurant or home? For chilequiles, do the tortillas have to be fried immediately before use in the dish, or could be they be left overs from some earlier preparation?

                    I have a partial bag of stale unsalted chips in the pantry. Can use them to make a chilequiles type of dish? Am I justified in calling it by that name? Or should I just toss them out, so as to preserve the sanctity of the recipe?


                    1. re: paulj
                      Robert Lauriston RE: paulj May 13, 2007 12:51 PM

                      Traditional chilaquiles are plain, stale tortillas, torn or cut into strips, pan-fried, and served with sauce (and, optionally, other things).

                      You can make an inferior version using tortilla chips but the flavor and texture will be different. It's similar to making tamales out of masa harina rather than fresh masa.

                      If the chips are stale enough that the oil has gone rancid, it'll be a very inferior version.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        paulj RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2007 01:40 PM

                        Kennedy quotes the Diccionario de Aztequisimos as:
                        'chilaquil: broken-up old sombrero'
                        'There are as many recipes for them as there are cooks who find themselves with supper to provide out of old tortillas, leftover sauces, and meats.' [p 89]

                        Maybe they save the better old sombreros for when they are making supper for special guests, and use the inferior one when they are too hungover to care. :-)


                        1. re: paulj
                          Robert Lauriston RE: paulj May 13, 2007 01:53 PM

                          The poor people who invented chilaquiles to use up stale tortillas wouldn't generally have totopos (tortilla chips) on hand.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            paulj RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2007 03:52 PM

                            Curiously, the spanish version of Wiki actually does talk of using totopos.

                            'A diferencia de las enchiladas, los chilaquiles se elaboran con totopos, es decir, fragmentos de tortilla (usualmente de forma triangular) fritos hasta obtener una textura crujiente'

                            i.e. chilaquiles are different from enchiladas in that the tortillas are fried till they are crisp. There is a link to 'totopos', which traces them back to pre-Spanish days (toasted, not fried).


                            1. re: paulj
                              Robert Lauriston RE: paulj May 13, 2007 04:04 PM

                              "Unlike enchiladas ..." is a bizarre way to lead off a definition of chilaquiles. It's not like they're similar in most other ways.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2007 04:26 PM

                                If you've had flat, stacked type of enchiladas, you might see more similarities.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong May 13, 2007 07:23 PM

                                  Never seen them. Where do they make those?

                                  es.wikipedia describes enchiladas as rolled like tacos or folded in half, so I don't think stacked is what the authors had in mind.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    paulj RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2007 08:12 PM

                                    under Antojitos
                                    specifies totopos (crisp fried) for chilaquiles, where as for enchiladas the tortillas are 'softened' in oil and dipped in sauce. This seems to be the preferred sequence when rolling them around a filling. However there is another style, where they dipped in the sauce, then fried, and finally folded (no filling) and served.

                                    I've also seen recipes for dipping and stacking the tortillas with filling and baking. But the names seem to be more variables. Kennedy's Tortilla book as a chapter on these casseroles.

                                    A web search on 'stacked enchiladas' turns up mostly New Mexico recipes, with some allusion to it also being an Sonora style. Some places also call these enchiladas chatas.

                                    1. re: paulj
                                      Melanie Wong RE: paulj May 13, 2007 08:38 PM

                                      Yes, Sonoran style.

                                      1. re: paulj
                                        Snackish RE: paulj May 14, 2007 07:10 AM

                                        Yes, I love those little fillingless enchiladas (or enmoladas, enfrijoladas, entomatadas) where it is all about the tortillas and sauce and nothing else. I have never seen them in the US except at home.

                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        Rubee RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2007 08:27 PM

                                        I've had them in Juarez (and El Paso, TX ) - I've been told that they're a Sonoran specialty.


                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                              Snackish RE: Robert Lauriston May 14, 2007 07:08 AM

                              La Super Rica has a version with freshly deep-fried strips of tortilla that didn't taste inferior at all. It was La Super Yum.

                              I have had chilaquiles in restaurants where it was made with their house chips, which are usually pretty fresh, and they were good.

                              At home, I use old corn tortillas, (though flour has stood in when desperation set in), fry them with a modest amount of oil, then start tossing in my usual kitchen sink of ingredients. Eggs, Sliced peppers, onions, green onions, olives on occasion because I am crazy that way, and whatever sauce I have on hand. Red or green. Doesn't matter to me. And a little cheese. Not too much.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Candy RE: Robert Lauriston May 13, 2007 02:36 PM

                            Chailquilaes is slang for an old broken up sombrero so the tortillas can be just about any shape at all.

                            1. re: Candy
                              Robert Lauriston RE: Candy May 13, 2007 02:51 PM

                              Theoretically, though in Mexico I've always seen strips.

                              But shape doesn't really matter. The key thing is to use plain, stale tortillas. You won't get the right texture if you start with already-fried chips..

                          3. re: sabrinasmom
                            paulj RE: sabrinasmom May 13, 2007 08:54 AM

                            In Spain migas are made with bread crumbs. In fact 'migas' means crumbs.

                            It seems that in part, the difference between chilaquiles and migas is in regional choice of names. But also, chilquiles are more likely to be moistened with stock or salsa, with the eggs served on top or along side, while with migas, the strips may actually be softened with the eggs as they are scrambled.

                            A few weeks ago, there were several threads about matzo-brie, which sounds a lot like migas made with matzo.

                            Diana Kennedy, The Tortilla Book, has one chapter for baked tortilla Casseroles, and another for stove top chilaquiles. Alternative names for the baked version are budines (puddings), sopas secas (dry soups), taquitos al horno, and chilaquiles. If the tortillas are cut into strips, these baked versions overlap with stacked versions of enchiladas.


                          4. e
                            Earl Grey RE: Robert Lauriston May 11, 2007 09:55 PM

                            I think the concept is to use up whatever is leftover, along with old tortillas.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Earl Grey
                              Windy RE: Earl Grey May 11, 2007 10:49 PM

                              Yes, they're not hard to make either, although like lasagna, better suited to a crowd at a family dinner than easily served in a single restaurant portion. Hence the fry pan approach.

                              Like bread pudding they should be both soggy and crispy.

                            2. paulj RE: Robert Lauriston May 14, 2007 09:58 AM

                              Here's another debate on migas

                              It starts with a recipe for the Texas style eggs-and-tortillas. Then someone claims that this is totally wrong, that migas is a bread soup. Others point out that there is a northern style, and a rather different version around Mexico DF, one that is more like a Spanish gaspacho (the version with bread, not the cold vegitable puree version).

                              Most Texas migas recipes use soft tortillas - either soaked in the eggs or lightly fried. This is in contrast to most chilaquiles recipes that start with crisp fried tortillas. Some migas recipes use chips, but they are added toward the end so they retain most of their crispness.

                              Even with chilaquiles there are different tastes when it comes to the texture of the tortillas. For some the ideal is a careful balance between softness and crispness. But I've also read of versions where the tortillas cook down to a polenta consistency (Guadalajara style: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/recipe_c...



                              4 Replies
                              1. re: paulj
                                Robert Lauriston RE: paulj May 14, 2007 10:50 AM

                                I've spent a lot of time in Guadalajara, and never seen that. Chilaquiles are always fried to order.

                                There is an American dish called chilaquile casserole.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  paulj RE: Robert Lauriston May 14, 2007 06:08 PM

                                  The Guadalajara cazuelas may be street food, in the spirit of the San Antonio chili queens and Oaxaca moles.

                                  1. re: paulj
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: paulj May 15, 2007 12:59 PM

                                    On the street in GDL I've always seen them made to order.

                                    I checked with a friend there, he says that at home, for a crowd, people will make a big batch in a cazuela. If guests are late or the cook gets distracted they might sit around on the stove or in the oven long enough to get mushy and polenta-like, but that's not intentional. You might find that same sort of bad chilaquiles at a hotel steam-table breakfast buffet.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    Candy RE: Robert Lauriston May 15, 2007 03:06 PM

                                    Diana Kennedy has several chilaquile recipes. I use her 1978 book, The Tortilla Book where she has 5 different chilaquile recipes from all over Mexico. She says "The much-respected Diccirnario de Aztequisimos gives a complicated derivation from Nahuatal words and finishes up with chilaquil: broken up old sombrero. As complicated and delightful as the name sounds, it is simply a way of using up old tortillas. There are as many recipes as there are cooks who find themselves with stale tortillas and leftover sauces and meats"

                                    She suggests that the stale tortillas be stacked and cut into 6 wedges before frying. Then cooked a short time in a chili sauce. Often lavishly garnished and sometimes one wonders whether the garnish is more important than the chilaquiles them selves.

                                2. o
                                  Oh Robin RE: Robert Lauriston May 15, 2007 04:06 PM

                                  I have migas whenever I visit my godmother in Corpus Christi, Texas. There it's basically scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and chopped green chiles, with freshly fried broken tortilla chips mixed in just before serving. DELICIOUS!

                                  1. l
                                    LaurenTX2CA RE: Robert Lauriston May 15, 2007 05:51 PM

                                    Not sure about chilaquiles but migas are a Tex-Mex breakfast staple. I have not been able to source any good migas breakfasts in the bay area yet. But here is my recipe for migas that I make about once a month or so at home:

                                    Fry bacon. Save about 2 tbs drippings in pan.

                                    Grab oldest bag of tortilla chips and reach to the very bottom to get the little pieces that are not good for picking up dips. Crumble about a handful or two over the hot bacon grease.

                                    Fry little chips until golden brown. Then add chopped onion (~1 cup) and chopped pepper, wait a couple of minutes, then add chopped tomato (~1-2 cups). Pepper means some combo of bell, poblano, anaheim, serrano, or jalapeno peppers (adjust amount to desired heat level, I use one pepper). A can of rotel may be subbed for both tomatoes and peppers if you find yourself craving migas without fresh veggies, it won't suck. Fry until onion is getting translucent and the tomato isn't wet anymore.

                                    Then add scrambled eggs-ness, usually just three or four eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and a dash of hot sauce beaten with a wisk. Move it around as per scrambled eggs.

                                    Top the whole thing off with maybe half a cup of grated cheese, either cheddar or monty jack work well. Cover until melted. Serve with the bacon, hot corn tortillas, coffee, juice, and leftover refried beans if you have it. I usually make little tacos out of everything on my plate, but some people just eat them straight.

                                    Migas are good...mmm...migas.

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