Wednesday, August 4, 2010

0 Recipe #159: Huevos Rancheros

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"It takes real huevos to put that many jalapeños in our huevos rancheros without any advance warning." ;)
"If you don't like my huevos rancheros recipe, I might have to kick you in the huevos." ;) 

OK, someone please stop me from making any more cheeky jokes about huevos. Er, perhaps "cheeky" is not an entirely appropriate choice of words to describe it. ;) Let me rephrase. Haha. If you're completely clueless about the above not-so-subtle references, then forget I ever mentioned it. Perhaps it's better to stay in the dark on that one. ;) Anyhow, now that you've probably completely lost your appetite for breakfast, I will now stop making unseemly jokes so you can temporarily regain it. :)

Huevos rancheros (or "ranch style" eggs) are considered to be one of the quintessential Mexican breakfasts. It was thusly named because it was often served for brunch on rural farms, or ranchos. :) The popularity of this dish now extends well beyond its country of origin.

After you eat this meal, you'll probably be set for the entire day. :) And, not only is it very filling and satisfying to eat, it's also got all your nutritional essentials too: protein, carbs, fiber, etc. It's breakfast, lunch, & dinner all rolled into one. :)

As promised earlier, here's the recipe for huevos rancheros. They are typically eaten for breakfast or brunch, although we had them for dinner tonight. :) Without further delay, I give you...

Huevos Rancheros

Ranchero (Tomato-Chili) Sauce Ingredients:
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. yellow (or red) onion, finely diced
1 tsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 1 large clove)
1 Tbsp. jalapeño pepper, stemmed, ribbed, seeded (if you prefer less heat), & minced (about 1/2 jalapeño)
1/2 heaping c. vine-ripened tomatoes, finely diced (about 1 small tomato)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3/8 tsp.dried oregano leaves, finely minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 pinch (1/16 tsp.) ground cayenne pepper
1 pinch (1/16 tsp.) ground black pepper
1 pinch (1/16 tsp.) salt
1/2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely minced
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

Ingredients for Sautéing the Tortillas:
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil (1/2 tsp. for each tortilla)
4 small (i.e., 5 1/2" in diameter), low-fat, soft corn tortillas
1/4 c. (or 2 oz.) Pepper Jack, shredded & tightly packed (1 Tbsp. cheese per tortilla)
4 large eggs (1 per tortilla)

hot, refried beans (also called frijoles refritos)
a few slices of avocado, or some guacamole
1/4 c. plain, nonfat Greek yoghurt (or low-fat sour cream) (1 Tbsp. per tortilla)
baked, lightly-salted tortilla strips (made in oven while the tortillas are cooking)

Directions: Heat 1 tsp. olive oil on low heat in a medium-sized nonstick sauce pot. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeño and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Do not let ingredients brown. Next add tomatoes, tomato paste, and all dry spices (oregano, cumin, cayenne, black pepper, and salt). Cook for another few minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, transfer to a small serving bowl, mix in cilantro and lime juice, and set aside. Sauce can be made a day in advance and refrigerated overnight, until serving time. (Just reheat before serving.)

Using a heat-proof (i.e., silicone) pastry brush, brush both sides of a tortilla with ¼ tsp. olive oil, evenly distributing it in a thin layer, and then place into a large (12-13”) nonstick sauté pan on high heat, flipping the tortilla over every 10 seconds or so, several times, to create pockets of air bubbles in the tortilla. Turn heat down to medium-high heat and then re-add the tortilla, cooking on one side until golden brown, about 30 seconds. (While tortilla is cooking, bubbles should start to form. This is normal.) Transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel (to soak up any excess oil). Lift up the tortilla using a spatula and place it back into the pan, browned side up. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. cheese on top, and turn heat down to low. The residual heat in the pan should melt the cheese and brown the tortilla. Cook tortilla just until the cheese starts to melt, about 2 minutes. Then, crack an egg into the pan, beside the tortilla and continue to cook. If desired, flip egg and make it over-easy. (If you're going to make the egg sunny side up, then cover pan with a lid, which helps to quickly steam the egg, so it's not undercooked. You can also poach the egg if you prefer.) Then lift egg up with a spatula and place on top of the tortilla. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate. Top with ranchero sauce, and, if desired, a few slices of avocado (or guacamole), a dollop of sour cream, and some baked corn tortilla strips. Repeat process with remaining tortillas. Serve immediately.

Tip: To speed up the cooking process, use 2 pans, one for each set of tortillas. They'll also be considerably warmer if cooked in this way. You can also enclose each completed serving in foil or place in the oven to keep warm.

If you are serving this recipe for two, I'd recommend making this dish in batches of 2. Eat the first batch, and then return to the kitchen to make the remaining, second batch. 

Yield: Makes 4 servings. (Serves 2-4).

Chef's Notes: Sautéing the tortillas with less oil means that you save an extra step, since there's no need to spend time wiping them off with a paper towel. This way, there's just enough oil to add flavor and still make them nice and crispy. If you'd like to reduce the amount of oil in this recipe even further, the tortillas can also be baked in the oven (at 350°F for about 20-25 minutes) instead. Or, alternatively, tortillas can be placed between two paper towels and microwaved for about 15 seconds (to soften them), before they are topped with a fried egg, ranchero sauce, & all the rest of the trimmings.

Also, some people like to crack the egg on top of the tortilla (i.e., on top of the melted cheese) while it's cooking and then, when the egg white is about half way set, flip the whole thing over to cook the egg over-easy. I've found this to be a very tricky and messy endeavor (i.e., the cracked egg often slides right off the tortilla and then when the tortilla is flipped, the melted cheese tends to stick to the bottom of the pan, etc.). This is exactly why I like to cook the egg separately, i.e., beside the tortilla, & then transfer it on top. The transferred egg will still stick to the cheese, so really, what's the difference? Answer: Less mess. That's the difference. :)

Variations: Traditional cheese selections for huevos rancheros include queso fresco, queso añejo, or queso blanco. (For an extensive guide to Mexican cheeses, please see this link.) If unavailable, the closest commercial substitutes would be mild feta cheese, Parmesan cheese, or Monterey Jack, respectively. Alternative choices include sharp cheddar, mozarella, or farmer's cheese. (I listed Pepper Jack in the above recipe instead of the more traditionally used cheeses because it's more commonly available here in the States.) Or, if you like, you can also use a blend of cheeses.

Red (&/or green) bell peppers, a mix of orange, yellow, and red tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes (i.e., the kind that's not packed in oil), scallions, chives, basil, &/or black olives would also make good additions to this dish.

If preferred, salsa verde could also be substituted for the ranchero sauce.

Some people also like to add a dash of cinnamon to this dish. I didn't add it to the recipe, but of course, you're welcome to try it if you like.

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