Chicken Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

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I wish I could give you all a bite of this before you saw it. This is one of those meals where taste trumps appearance.  In fact, besides the bits of cilantro on top, it is probably hard to tell what's in there.  So, let's dive on in and dish.

Thrown together to use up ingredients, like leftover meats and day-old tortillas, chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican peasant dish.  Unlike some meals where the meat reigns supreme, it is the tortillas that are the star of the show.  They are cut into strips and fried until crisp. The original recipe called for shredded, cooked turkey and it is tasty (and a great way to use up leftover holiday birds), but I always have leftover chicken on hand.  Both the tortillas and chicken are tossed with a roasted tomatillo salsa into which I add some poblano peppers and lime juice to kick up the flavor . A generous portion of cheese is thrown into the mix and then it is baked until golden brown.  Each bite is a symphony of texture ranging from soft and chewy on the bottom, crisp and crunchy on the top, and gooey cheesy all in between.  

Served with a dollop of Mexican crema or sour cream, crumbled queso fresco, a garnish of chopped cilantro and a spoonful of the remaining salsa-- this is dish I hope you all get to know and love.  Although best made the day it is served, it can be made a day ahead.  Cool completely, cover and refrigerate; reheat when ready to serve. We enjoy it with Quick Stewed Black Beans and Pickled Red Onions on the side.

Chicken Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
serves 8

1 3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (16-ounce) package of corn tortillas (I use white corn), cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
4 cups (about 12 ounces) shredded cooked chicken
6 ounces Chihuahua cheese, grated (Monterey Jack can be substituted)
2 3/4 cups Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (recipe follows)

Mexican crema or sour cream
Queso fresco
Chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375º F.

In a large heavy pan, heat oil to 350º F.  Fry a handful of tortilla strips at a time until golden brown and crisp; stirring lightly with metal tongs to keep from sticking together, about 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel lined rack.  Continue with remaining strips.  Carefully pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the hot skillet. Add the onion to the remaining oil and sauté until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the cumin and oregano and sauté another minute.  Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to 2/3 cup, about 10 minutes.  Add the chicken and 2 3/4 cups of the salsa and bring the mixture to a boil.

Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  Add the cheese and tortilla strips and toss to combine.  Transfer the mixture to a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Bake uncovered until the top is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  

Serve with crema, crumbled queso fresco, chopped cilantro, and remaining salsa.  Enjoy!

Roasted Tomatillo and Poblano Salsa
makes about 5-6 cups

*The salsa can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, covered

2 medium white onions, skin left on and halved
2 large poblano peppers
10 tomatillos (about 2 pounds), husked and washed
1-2 jalapeños (optional)
4 large garlic cloves, whole with skin left on
1 cup chopped cilantro or to taste
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt to taste

Preheat the broiler and position an oven rack in the highest position.  Place the halved onions cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet along with the poblano, tomatillos, jalapeños, and garlic.  Broil the vegetables, rotating as necessary until the skins have blistered and are slightly charred on all sides.  Keep a close eye on them as the onions and garlic will cook faster than the peppers and tomatillos.  Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow them to cool until they can easily be handled.  Remove the skin from the onion, trim the top and root end and roughly chop.  Peel the garlic and chop.  Rub the skins off the peppers, discard the stems and seeds and roughly chop.  Place the onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatillos in a food processor and pulse until blended, but still chunky.  Add the cilantro and lime juice and pulse until almost smooth.  Season generously with salt to taste.  

Source: Adapted from Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl


  1. Now this is something I am going to definitely make! Looks fab. Putting it on Pinterest!

  2. I lived in Mexico for a year and chilaquiles were my favorite thing in the whole world. I would love to try this healthier version--thanks for sharing!


  3. This looks awesome! I LOVE chilaquiles, and this version looks super delicious! :)

  4. The chilaquiles looks so good, I usually just fry y chicken never done anything fancy with it but surely this looks good, i'll try and make it. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I am always on the look out for good "leftovers" recipes and this sounds like magic! I have never heard of it before but that flavourings sound awesome and cooking the tortillas until crispy when you add them is making my mouth water.

  6. I love chilaquiles and I have only had them with eggs so I can't wait to try a new version of them. Thanks!

    The Dinner Belle for Kimberlybelle.com

  7. Was checking out your mexican rice post from today and saw this as a link and was puzzled as to how I ever missed this recipe!!!! Then I checked out the date you posted it.....guess I was a little busy that day :P Can't wait to try this one!

  8. I just made this. It was very good! Thank you!


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