“Let’s do lunch at Carnivale for your birthday Aunt Nieta.” I remember taking Imani to the movies as a kid, now she’s taking me to lunch. When she asked, my first thought was “that’s cute, let me make sure I have money to pay.” See I’m thinking she’s still that cute chocolate drop kid, how can she take ME anywhere? For the first time I saw a mature, independent, college educated woman. What’s even more important is she has a JOB, that pays her money, to FEED me.
If you’ve ever been to Carnivale in Chicago, you’ll think you’re part on an LSD trip and part on an episode of the fictitious show in my mind “Pimp my Restaurant.” From the entrance to the kitchen, the décor is so breathtaking and rich, it sets you up for the amazing food. With the rainbow of colors, whimsical aura, and Latin music playing, I was about to set up shop. I got reeaal comfortable like a relative who has overstayed their welcome.
Since it was my birthday, instead of ordering my usual, Ropa Vieja, I ordered brunch Chilaquiles (CHēləˈkēlās) which are topped with eggs. As a native Chicagoan, Mexican restaurants worth their salt better have Chilaquiles on the menu. Chilaquiles are an inexpensive, traditional Mexican dish that’s usually fried corn tortillas cut in quarters and green or red salsa or mole is poured over the crisp tortilla chips.
I have never bothered to try them because it didn’t sound impressive to me: chips, sauce, eggs, cheese, and veggies. So…… nachos w/ eggs essentially? That doesn’t sound sexy; but oh, sexy it is. Carnivale’s version is crisp chips, slathered in spicy and tangy red sauce, then layered with seasoned pulled chicken, Oaxaca cheese, and crema, this is in my top 10 best things I’ve ever eaten. This was so good, I had to recreate it for my subscribers.
So what do you do on Seis de Mayo with those leftover chips from the Bison Nachos and Roasted Tomato Salsa? Make Chilaquiles! Using crispy baked chips, cotija cheese, and plain Greek yogurt slashes calories and fat in this traditional dish in half. What really takes this dish over the top are the golden, rich eggs I bought from a friend who owns chicken coops. IF you don’t have an egg pusher like I do, organic cage free eggs work too. Less processed the better. Things came full circle on my birthday that year. I was finally comfortable in my own skin, and instead of introducing Imani to new experiences, she gave me the opportunity to experience something new.
Clean Cheater’s Brunch Chilaquiles
1- 28oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and 1/2 cup liquid reserved
2-3 chipotles in adobo finely diced
1 tsp. cumin
1tsp. chili powder
1 tbs. honey or agave
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
1 small onion diced
2 tsp.minced garlic
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pk. of Tortillas
1 cup cotija cheese
1-14oz. can black beans, drained
3 sunny side up eggs
Plain Greek Yogurt
Juice of ½ lime
1/3c. Extra Virgin olive Oil
- Pre-heat oven to 350.
- Cut tortillas in quarters
- Mix ½ lime juice & evoo
- Brush each side of tortilla quarter and place in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 min.
- Remove from oven, let cool.
- Using a blender or food processor, blend the tomatoes, chipotles, spices, and honey until t smooth.
- In a large skillet, (I prefer cast iron), heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomato mixture and simmer, stirring until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and boil the sauce over high heat until just thickened slightly, about 2-4 minutes.
- Pre-heat the broiler. Stir the tortilla chips into the sauce, making sure they are coated. Top with shredded cotija and black beans. Place under the boiler to melt the cheese.
- Cook 3 eggs sunny side up. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Remove chilaquiles from oven and top with eggs avocado, green onions, cilantro and cotijia cheese. Dollop with Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.