Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chilaquiles, kinda

Are these sweet or what?  Look, friends, perfectly round little homemade corn tortillas!  Here at The Airy Way, where corn tortilla experiments have an unbroken history of failure, I never thought I'd see the day.  And I learned the technique from, of all places, the Food Network Canada TV show Chuck's Day Off.

It's simple, actually.  All you do is slice open a sturdy plastic bag, like a large Ziploc bag, slip a slightly flattened ball of dough between the layers, and press down with a heavy pot.  That's it.  No rolling pin, no dusting with anything.  Then just carefully peel back the top layer of plastic, then the bottom layer, cook the tortillas on a hot, dry cast iron pan for 20 seconds on each side, and you're done!

Here they are again.  Check and admire the perfect roundness:

So round and thin!  It seems a shame to chop them up, but I had to.  It was my day off, and I had some time on my hands, and a tiny little bit of Vegan Brunch omelet mix that I wanted to use in something--not enough for a meal, but just right for this.

Chilaquiles are essentially broken up fried corn tortillas fried some more with eggs and cheese and salsa, a big, delicious, protein-y, cheesy, greasy mess which I imagine would be great for hangovers.  Not having a hangover, and wanting to do something a little lower-fat and more elaborate, I made a casserole inspired by the one in The Greens Cookbook.  This is a cookbook I've had pretty much since the day it was first published, and which frankly is just starting to come into its own in my kitchen.  Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is undoubtedly my most-used cookbook, all stained and deformed by use, dust jacket missing and all that, but Greens has been hard for me to get into, with its many and over-complicated recipes for heavy crumbles, tarts, pizzas, and other more or less home-style dishes just sort of made inaccessible with odd ingredients and involved techniques and a pretentious tone totally absent from VCfE.

But sometimes that's what you want.  Here's the Black bean chili, recipe here.  I'd been cooking beans all day, and had both freshly-cooked black beans and their liquid, which I used here.  So, having that step already done, start by making your own chili powder:

Roast cumin, oregano, paprika and cayenne in a little cast-iron pan.  Here they are, roasted but not yet ground.  Let cool, grind to a powder, voila.  Actually, this was dang fragrant and I would do it again in the future, especially now that I'm regularly making my own spice mixes for Indian, Middle Eastern, and Jamaican dishes.  It just gets to be something fun you do, which honestly just takes a minute or two, rather than a stressful extra step.  You could also, as the blogger who posted the chili recipe does, simply fry the spices in the oil with the onions.  I often do this, but still, there's something to be said, flavour-wise, for roasting them first.

Fry onions, and add the ground spices, and more medium-hot peppers:

Mine looks dry because I am using minimal oil, less than the recipe calls for.  You'll be getting hungry at this hurry up and finish:

This is very good chili, and I ended up eating the part I didn't use for the chilaquiles just plain the next day and it was wonderful.  In fact, I'd say it's very close to equal in deliciousness, in my opinion, with my other favorite chili recipe, the Chili sin carne al mole from Vegan with a Vengeance (picture, not recipe, here).

As I say, I was doodling around in the kitchen all afternoon anyway, so I put together a casserole.  Start with a little red sauce (I did make the one in The Greens Cookbook but any tomato sauce or salsa would be just fine; in fact, I suspect salsa would be better) in the bottom of your casserole.  If you're beginning to perceive that this recipe would be most useful and convenient if you had some leftover chili, a little salsa in a jar that needed using up, some stale tortillas, you would be right:

You can fry your tortillas, but I baked mine until they were golden and crispy:

Layer of tortilla strips over the red sauce:

A layer of chili:

A layer of omelet mix with a bit of (in this case, frozen) grated vegan cheese:


Do the layers again, and finish with a topping of pine nut crema (courtesy Viva Vegan):

Bake at 350F until bubbly and golden:

Ooh!  This worked out well for an amazingly low-fat (in comparison with the original, anyway) casserole!

Served with a great big mound of steamed vegetables topped with the Green aji sauce from Viva Vegan.  Seriously, all the salsas and sauces in Viva Vegan are outstanding.  This is essentially a creamy, lettuce-based salsa, which sounds odd but looks and tastes fantastic.

Want a closeup of that casserole?  I can't resist:

Have a great weekend!


  1. Man that looks awesome! First off, those corn tortillas are lovely - I've never managed to get mine so perfectly round, they're always a little deformed. I've rolled the dough between two sheets of saran wrap before, but a big ziplock bag makes way more sense because it's a stiffer plastic. And that's a good-looking casserole - did the tortillas stay crisp or did they soften? Viva Vegan is great, I've yet to try something I didn't love from it!

    1. Allysia, that was exactly my problem too, in addition to the fact that I couldn't get them off the counter, Saran wrap, rolling pin, my hands, whatever. So try this method. If I can succeed with it, anyone can. In the casserole, the tortillas turn all soft and noodle-y--this would be the case with fried noodles as well. For crunchy tortilla deliciousness, you'd want a taco salad-type thing, which you could make with pretty much the same ingredients...

  2. Oh man, Mexican lasagna. I want to make this. I have to chuckle though, as I recall a comment you once left on my blog that said something like, "why would anyone want to use less oil." Anyway, did you use masa harina or regular cornmeal for the tortillas? I think I'll try Viva Vegan for a recipe since I think I've only made wheat tortillas. Seriously, your blog makes me hungrier than any other, and more willing to toast herbs and spices! I wish we were neighbors.

    1. Oh, Andrea, I recall that comment, too, and now...well, although I've gained back a little of the weight I lost (a healthy amount, my family says, and I hope), I have managed to change the way I eat, probably permanently. As long as I'm not starving, I find a little oil is almost as good as a lot, for taste, and of course for health it's much better. And I've been having a lot of fun with flavourful little fatfree sauces. The tortillas are made with masa harina, just that and water according to the directions on the masa harina bag. I wish we were neighbors too!

  3. Those tortillas are gorgeous!! And as for the rest...where can I start? It's all so vibrant and you can almost "see" how flavorful it is. Your casserole looks like a yummy masterpiece, perfectly layered with textures, tastes, and richness.

  4. Thanks, Rose, it was pretty good, and what really surprised me was how good it looked. That pine nut crema is genius and I'm always forgetting how it just takes seconds to whip up in the Magic Bullet. Vegetables just *are* gorgeous, as your own pictures show so beautifully.

  5. They (your torts) and the final product look great!

  6. What a clever idea - I've never got around to making tortillas as it just looked like too much effort for not enough reward. Looks like I was wrong on both counts!

  7. I need to watch Chuck's Day Off more often, I never would have thought to flatten tortillas by using a pot! So simple.
    I had no idea pine nut cream could look like that when baked, your casserole looks amazing!