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Holiday favorites: Breakfast

Chilaquiles and sauces: Soon to appear in the Recipe Finder; for now, see the recipe at the end of this post. (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

Once the presents have been opened or the movie tickets have been ordered online, a great breakfast is at the top of the list on Christmas Day. As a matter of fact, any time between now and Jan. 4 would be just fine for whipping up a strata or scones or waffles or other breakfast dishes we really like, culled from our archives.

About a year ago, staff writer Jane Black wrote about what dishes might work best on a modern smorgasbord. I tested the potato dish laced with a certain something (marinated sprats) called Jansson's Temptation and right about now I'm wondering why I didn't make it more often in 2009. (Ah, checking the nutritionals, seeing the amount of cream...I remember.) You'd have to keep tins of the fillets -- Abba brand -- on hand. Luckily, I'm set.

The Cottage Pancakes. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Local cookbook author Lisa Yockelson continues to augment the Food section's supply of great pancake and waffle recipes: Her Cornmeal and Dried Cranberry Pancakes and Waffles of Many Flours and Meals would be perfect for Christmas Day or New Year's Day. To lend an air of B&B for your out-of-town guests, you could make these Cottage Pancakes from ingredients you have on hand. The shredded apple folded into the batter keeps them moist.

A strata is an eggy/bready-cheesy pudding that can be assembled and refrigerated overnight, to keep things easy in the morning. If this Baked Apple, Smoked Turkey and Cheddar Strata looks good but you're just out of turkey, substitute cooked and crumbled chorizo or other sausage or chunks of ham.

Bacon Cheddar Corn Bread. (Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)

A great breakfast or brunch improves with bacon; line a baking sheet with foil, place a flat rack on top and then put as many slices as you can fit on the rack, sprinkled with brown sugar and black pepper. Bake at 375 degrees until crisped and caramelized. Then again, we're keen on this Bacon Cheddar Corn Bread right out of the oven. That might go nicely with Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs or a Spanish egg tortilla.

Other faves: Mexican Fruit "Gazpacho" Salad, Blueberry Yogurt Coffee Cake, David Hagedorn's Hash Browns and Eggs Cocotte or another version, Shrimp and Eggs en Cocotte, which earned a surprising "healthy" rating.

And I hope to include in my New Year's Day a Vampiro -- not that I'm expecting to be in need of a hangover cure, as Spirits columnist Jason Wilson learned firsthand last summer. But because it's 100 times better than any bloody mary I've ever had.

And I've save the longest for last....

Intrigued by the chilaquiles pictured up top? They seem seasonally appropriate, colorwise, and a sure-fire crowd-pleaser if you'd rather not go the eggs-bacon route. We ran some good-looking Mexican recipes from Slow Cook Ed Bruske in 2005, but for some reason, they're not in the database. We are resolved to get more greatest hits in the system for you in 2010. For now, here are the recipes as they ran in print.

-- Bonnie Benwick

6 servings

Tortilla chips, sauce, crema and cheese are compulsory components of chilaquiles. But there are certain liberties that individual cooks take; a fried or poached egg can be placed atop the assembled chilaquiles; or cooked, shredded chicken or fried chorizo may be tossed with the chips.

The crema should be thin enough to drizzle over the finished chilaquiles. If it is too thick, add buttermilk or cream as needed.

Tortilla Chips for Chilaquiles (recipe follows)
Refritos (also known as refried beans), canned or homemade (recipe follows)
Red or Green Sauce for Chilaquiles (recipe follows)
1/2 small white onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup crema*
1 1/2 cups crumbled queso fresco or queso anejo* (sometimes called queso seco)
Coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
Shredded Napa cabbage, for garnish
Sliced tomato, for garnish
Sliced avocado, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the tortilla chips in a casserole dish or 9-inch square baking dish, cover loosely with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

Heat the refritos, stirring frequently, in a saucepan over low heat. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, heat the sauce just until steaming. Add the warmed tortilla chips and toss until coated with sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 1 minute. Stir in the onion and remove from the heat.

Spoon the sauced chips onto individual plates. Drizzle some crema over each serving, then sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Spoon the refritos on the side and garnish each plate with cabbage, tomato and avocado. Serve immediately.

*NOTES: Crema is a Hispanic version of sour cream. You can find small cans of it on the Spanish food section at larger grocery stores and a variety of plastic containers of crema at Latin American markets. You may substitute sour cream that has been thinned down a little with cream.

Queso fresco, also called queso blanco, is a crumbly, salty, white cheese common in Mexican cooking. It is available in most Latin American markets.

Per serving (approximate, including chips, beans, sauce crema and cheese): 606 calories, 18 gm protein, 65 gm carbohydrates, 32 gm fat, 58 mg cholesterol, 15 gm saturated fat, 1,022 mg sodium, 12 g dietary fiber

Tortilla Chips for Chilaquiles
6 servings

The chips can be made several days ahead of time and stored in resealable plastic bags.

Use three 5-inch corn (not wheat!) tortillas per person
About 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil, plus additional as needed

To fry the tortillas: Stack the tortillas and slice them into strips about 11/4 inch wide. Spread the strips on 1 or 2 baking sheets and leave out on the kitchen counter overnight (or, to speed the process, place in a 200-degree oven until the pieces stiffen and curl, about 1 hour).

In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the lard or oil until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, place some of the dried tortilla strips in the oil, being careful not to crowd the skillet. Using tongs, turn the strips and stir them frequently until the pieces are just golden, 3 to 4 minutes. May need to reduce the heat slightly. Transfer to paper towels or a brown paper bag to drain. Repeat with the remaining strips, adding more lard or oil between batches as necessary.

To bake the tortillas: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly brush both sides of the tortillas with vegetable oil. Stack the tortillas and slice them into strips about 11/4 inches wide. Spread the strips on 1 or 2 baking sheets lined with foil and bake, turning the chips at least once, until they are just golden, 15 to 20 minutes total.

Per serving (approximate): 197 calories, 4 gm protein, 35 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 121 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber

Refritos (Well-Fried Beans)
6 servings

Americans usually translate refritos as refried beans. But according to Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy, the beans aren't fried a second time. They are "well fried," or cooked almost until dry.

You can buy refritos already made in a can. But you can do better by purchasing canned pinto beans, or rehydrating dried beans, and frying them yourself.

3 tablespoons lard (may substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons bacon drippings)
1/2 small white onion, chopped fine
1 medium clove garlic, minced
Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained

In a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, heat the lard, onion and garlic until the onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Add 1/3 of the beans and, using a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, mash them well. Add the remaining beans in a similar fashion, working in 2 additions. When all of the beans are mashed, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, for 2 or 3 minutes more, until the beans reach the desired consistency.

Per serving (using lard): 183 calories, 7 gm protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 7 gm fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 417 mg sodium, 7 g dietary fiber

Red Sauce for Chilaquiles
6 servings

This authentic but simple sauce has several layers of flavor and just the right amount of heat.

2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 small white onion, roughly chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo (canned), seeds removed if desired, peppers finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons dried epazote* or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon lard or oil, the onion and garlic until the onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chipotle chili pepper, stock, epazote or oregano, cumin and bay leaf and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer gently for 1 hour. Remove from the heat. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Set the sauce aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.

Pour the sauce into a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

In a clean skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon lard or oil. Add the pureed sauce and simmer vigorously until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Remove from the heat. Serve warm. (May cover and refrigerate for several days.)

*NOTE: Epazote is a pungent herb similar to cilantro in flavor. It is available dried in the produce section of larger Giant Food stores and in Latin American markets as well as some specialty stores. It is also available online from several purveyors, including Penzeys Spices ( and CMC Company (

Per serving: 76 calories, 2 gm protein, 8 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 134 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Green Sauce for Chilaquiles
6 servings

This fresh-tasting sauce takes a slight tartness from tomatillos.

1 3/4 pounds fresh tomatillos, husks removed, cleaned
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 serrano chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons dried epazote (or substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the tomatillos on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast until the tomatillos are softened, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon lard or oil. Add the onion, garlic and chili peppers until onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Spoon into a food processor with the cooked tomatillos and cilantro and pulse until a coarse puree forms.

Clean the skillet, return to medium-high heat and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon lard or oil. Add the pureed sauce and epazote and cook vigorously until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Remove from heat. Serve warm. (May cover and refrigerate for up to several days.)

Per serving: 52 calories, 1 gm protein, 3 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 48 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

By The Food Section  |  December 24, 2009; 5:30 PM ET
 | Tags: Christmas, breakfast, holiday favorites, recipes  
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The word chilaquiles may have achieved a metaphorical meaning in U.S. Spanglish similar to the Yiddish trope using tzimmes, the Jewish casserole dish, to mean ”big deal” or “big production.”


Posted by: MikeLicht | December 26, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

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