I grew up in a town where purchasing tamales from a random kid selling them out of the family car in the Walmart parking lot was a completely normal and legit means of acquiring them. Growing up, there were more Mexican restaurants than I could count, at least two full-size Hispanic grocery stores, multiple panaderías, a carnicería, and many other specialty stores. Suffice it to say, I grew up eating a lot of amazing Mexican food and it’s this type of food that I associate with home.
My favorite place to eat when back for a visit is at the taco wagon. There are actually several, but there is one that everyone knows about when a trip to the taco-wagon is mentioned. It is a slightly sketchy-looking truck that sells the exact same thing at the same price as what I began purchasing 10+ years ago in high school. It’s a place where there’s always a wait, and all the locals can be found, from the hispanics to the farmers to the visitors back in town for a couple days to the locals that never left.
Tacos are our ultimate fall-back food for busy days and we eat them in all sorts of variations. I won’t even attempt to make a taco that tries to compete with a taco-wagon taco, however, and all the thrown together versions we eat are hardly worthy of a recipe. So when The Recipe Redux challenged us to take a good look into the freezer, cupboards, and pantry and find an ingredient or two that had been forgotten for this month’s challenge, I took a good look at all the ingredients that needed to be used, naturally skipped over the fish sauce and wasabi, and gravitated right towards the makings for Mexican-food.
William bought me a giant bag of tortilla chips last summer when I was running a lot and craving salt. They’ve been hanging around the back of the pantry since then because I forgot about them when the weather turned last fall and I never got back to them. They’ve since turned slightly stale.
They were perfectly in need for being made into a dish I’ve been meaning to make for months, Chilaquiles. Oddly enough, I did not grow up eating Chilaquiles. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I had even heard of them. Basically, they are a way to use up stale corn tortillas and are cooked in a sauce with meats or vegetables, or scrambled with eggs. Most variations contain eggs, cheese, and/or chicken. I decided to forego all of those ingredients because I wanted a super tasty meal that can be made with only a few pantry staples, quickly.
This variation fits the bill because it contains several ingredients already on hand: frozen corn, diced tomatoes, tortilla chips, black beans, and a dried poblano pepper.
Black Bean + Corn Chilaquiles, serves 4-5
These can be made even easier by using canned black beans and enchilada sauce, but you will compromise flavor. I tend to make big batches of black beans using this simple recipe. I tossed the poblano pepper into the pot, adding even more rich undertones, and slow-cooked it for the better part of a day. It sounds slightly time-consuming but we eat them for multiple meals quite often because they’re super good!
1 medium onion, diced
1 bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped
2+ cups tortilla chips
2 cups cooked black beans
2 cups frozen corn
1 batch of spicy tomato sauce, below
cilantro, to serve
lime wedges, to serve
salsa, to serve
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a medium sauté pan, cook onion until slightly soft, about 5-8 minutes. Toss in the kale and cook just until it wilts. Remove from heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chips, beans, corn, sauce, and cooked onion and kale. Use your hands and mix gently so as not to break the chips too much.
- Turn the whole lot into a medium-sized baking dish.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the mixture is heated through and simmering.
- Remove from the oven and serve with cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa.
Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried coriander
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
- In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the tomatoes and spices.
- Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium-low. Simmer for about 45 minutes to thicken a bit and have flavors develop. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. At this point, the sauce can be pureed if you’d like a smooth sauce, but I opted to leave it slightly chunky.