rising from the rank

This week we once again bring you an ingredient switch. But this time, it is not predicated on a lack of finding the ingredient. Oh no, I found epazote. I even added (and quickly removed) a few leaves of it to my dish. Let’s just say, if lemongrass is my new perfume, then epazote is what I am going to use to ward off my enemies. This stuff is frankly foul. My sister Erica, who has a knack for characterizing scents, declared that epazote smelled like “cheap industrial bathroom cleaner.” I had to agree. So, in the interest of saving Kate the physical and olfactory trouble of acquiring and using epazote, and of saving you all from reading about malodorous creations, we adopted a new ingredient. Still sticking with a Mexican theme, this week we’re taking on the poblano pepper.

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On Saturday, my then-quest for epazote took me to one of my favorite South Florida gems, the Homestead Farmer’s Market. This open air market caters to a largely Mexican and Central American community and carries a plethora of Latin ingredients: dried chiles, homemade queso fresco, warm freshly made tortillas, tomatillos, and poblanos to name a few. I came home with three overflowing bags of goods, and more importantly, with inspiration and guidance from conversing with women at the market to try my hand at a classic Mexican dish.

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Chilaquiles. It seems that there are a million versions and techniques of making this conglomeration of fried tortillas, warm salsa, drippy eggs, and cheese, but I used my limited experience with eating chilaquiles at restaurants and my desires to try my hand at making a poblano and tomatillo salsa to guide the way. I broiled a big, bright green poblano pepper with a bunch of plump tomatillos and a jalapeno to impart them with a smoky flavor. Once blistered and blackened, I whirred them up with key lime juice, onions, and cilantro to make a quick and fresh salsa that had a healthy dose of heat.

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We had the good fortune of being able to buy warm, freshly made corn tortillas from a stand at the market. I cut them into wedges and gave them a light fry and sprinkling of kosher salt to make a warm and crunchy bed for the salsa and eggs. If you’re in the market for an addictive appetizer rather than a brunch-y creation, then I’d suggest you stop here and dive into a bowl of fresh chips and poblano tomatillo salsa. But we found the self control to press on with the chilaquiles, soaking the chips in the warm salsa, and topping the saucy mixture with fried eggs.

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For my family, the most fun part of making and eating chilaquiles was getting to adorn them with all sorts of accompaniments: queso fresco, avocado, cilantro, lime, onion, crema, and—what deserves a future post in itself—pulled ancho chile spiced lamb that Erica had seemingly effortlessly stewed. We ate this as breakfast-for-dinner, and I’m already looking forward to making this for a brunch in the near future, perhaps experimenting with new techniques, flavors, and toppings. Rest assured, epazote will not be one of them.

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Chilaquiles with Poblano Tomatillo Salsa

Poblano Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb tomatillos, peeled and rinsed

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded

1 poblano pepper, seeded

½ medium onion, chopped

½ cup cilantro

1 lime, juiced (or juice of 3-4 key limes)

1 tsp salt

Set broiler to high. Cut tomatillos, jalapeno, and poblano in half and place on a large baking sheet. Broil until mostly blackened, about 4 minutes on each side. Place roasted tomatillos and peppers in a blender with onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Puree until blended.

Tortilla Chips

8 corn tortillas

Vegetable oil

Salt

In a large skillet, heat ½ inch oil to 350. Cut tortillas into sixths. Once oil is hot, fry tortillas, about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown. Drain onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still hot.

To assemble: 

Heat salsa in a saucepan until hot. Divide tortilla chips into four bowls. Divide hot salsa evenly over chips and allow it to sit while you cook the eggs. Cook the eggs to your liking (we liked ours with a runny yolk). Place cooked eggs over chips and salsa. Serve immediately with a panoply of toppings! Recommended: queso fresco, crema, lime, cilantro, onion, avocado.

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