In Scout’s How to Cook Vancouver series, we will be striving to combine our addiction to dining out with our passion for cooking by challenging ourselves to make Vancouver’s best restaurant dishes in our own homes.
I may have been born biased, but I’m just going to put it out there: Mexico has the market cornered when it comes to hangover foods. With so many edible options that all feature the curative trifecta of fried + spicy + hearty, Mexican food has long been my weapon of choice to deploy against some truly skull-shattering hangovers. My favourite way of ingesting said foods is chilaquiles (say it with me, chee-la-KEY-les), a dish that – like so many perfect recipes – arose out of a need to use up stale leftovers while stretching the use of more expensive proteins, and somehow found a way to make them more delicious in the process. In the case of chilaquiles, stale tortillas get cut up, fried until crispy, smothered in spicy sauce, and paired with leftover proteins ranging from shredded chicken to beans to cheese. For heartier breakfast options, fried eggs get popped on top along with the ultimate garnish trio of onion, cilantro, and avocado. Mexicans have the perfect word for hangover (“cruda”, which quite literally means raw which is quite literally how my brain and body feel being post-20s and hungover) and the perfect food to better it.
It used to be a hard thing to get yourself some chilaquiles in Vancouver, a city that for ages didn’t pick up on the fact that Mexican food is The Perfect Food at all times of day (I forgive you, you’re slowly figuring it out). Thank god that the folks at La Mezcaleria realized this city’s desperate need for Mexican brunch and brought forth a menu laden with all of the hangover-busting classics, from migas to enchiladas to my on-repeat order: chilaquiles verdes. Also, if you’re a hair of the dog type believer, consider yourself already well on your way to wellness because those chilaquiles pair so well with the dirty horchata situation that I had the last time my brunch needs were met there (coffee and alcohol in the same glass? I love efficiency). Spicy salsa verde + runny eggs + crispy tortillas + a cheeky morning drink to blast it all down with – yes to all of the above. Did I mention they’re vegetarian and gluten-free? This is hangover food for the (dietarily-restricted) people.
Ingredients Note: Chilaquiles are amazing for numerous reasons, but one of the best is the shortcuts and variations you can take to expedite the process as needed. The recipe below gives the long version for making the totopos (tortilla chips) and salsa verde, but you can also buy both pre-made to save on time (especially important in the event of hungover preparation). My personal preferences for store-bought options are El Comal brand of tortilla chips and La Costeña “Green Mexican Sauce” (don’t worry, no green Mexicans were harmed in the manufacturing process). Both are available at South China Seas along with the other Mexican ingredients listed in the recipe. I recommend picking up some chicken or vegetable broth if using store-bought salsa as you won’t have the reserved cooking water handy to thin out the salsa. If making salsa from scratch, source tomatillos from most large-scale grocery stores.
Serves 4 | Ingredients
½ large white onion, roughly chopped
2 serrano chiles, sliced lengthwise (partially or entirely seeded if you’re not into spice)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
6 tbsp chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 fat lime
16 small white corn tortillas, cut into quarters to resemble tortilla chips
Canola oil, for frying
Toppings and Assembly
½ cup crème fraiche
½ cup heavy (whipping) cream
4 large eggs
2 tbsp canola oil + more for frying eggs
Large white onion, sliced thinly into half-moons
1 heaping cup crumbled queso fresco cheese (can substitute with feta if desperate)
2 ripe avocadoes, sliced thinly
Cilantro leaves, to garnish
Lime wedges, to squeeze over
Hot sauce, to serve
If making salsa from scratch, peel the papery husks off the tomatillos and rinse their sticky skins under cold water. Halve tomatillos (or quarter if larger than a tennis ball), then place in a large pot and cover with water just to cover. Add in the onion, chiles, and garlic, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes until pea-green and soft. Drain the vegetables over a bowl (reserve the cooking water for later!) and transfer to a blender. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and a generous pinch of salt to the blender and puree until smooth. Taste and season as needed. Set aside.
If making totopos from scratch, pour canola oil into a medium skillet to ~½-inch depth. Heat over medium-high until the corner of a tortilla immediately sizzles vigourously when dipped into the oil. While the oil heats, line a large plate with paper towels (keep the towels handy for layering fried batches of chips). Working in batches, fill the skillet with a single layer of tortilla quarters and fry, tossing frequently with tongs, until golden. Transfer to the towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat, topping up oil and re-heating as needed, until all of the tortillas have been fried.
When ready to eat, mix together the crème fraiche and whipping cream until very smooth and pourable; refrigerate until ready to serve. Heat 2 tbsp canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (you can use the same skillet as the totopos were fried in, just dispose of the oil and give it a wipe down). Toss in most of the sliced onions – saving just enough to garnish each serving with – and quickly sauté until softened but not brown at all, ~3-5 minutes. Carefully pour the salsa verde over the onions (it will spatter – watch yourself!) and cook until simmering. Pour in the reserved cooking water, or broth if using pre-made salsa, until the salsa reaches a very thin, soupy consistency. Let the mixture come back up to a simmer, then turn off the heat and cover the salsa to stay warm. Fry up the eggs to your desired softness. To assemble, gather 4 large shallow bowls and place a generous spoonful of salsa in the bottom of each one. Place a handful of tortilla chips over the sauce and top with more sauce until the chips are absolutely drowning in salsa. Homemade totopos will drink up more salsa than store-bought ones so just keep that in mind when dividing up the sauce between bowls. Drizzle the crème fraiche mixture over the chips and pop a fried egg on top of each serving. Garnish with remaining onion slices, crumbled queso fresco, sliced avocado, and cilantro leaves. Chilaquiles are perfect when eaten in-between being too crunchy and too soft, so they can wait a moment while you dish up but don’t leave them sitting out for ages. Serve with lime wedges and hot sauce on the side. Die of sheer joy and satisfaction.
Make-ahead: Both the totopos and salsa can be made ahead of time (such as the day before), making brunch a breeze the morning of.