A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 13, 2006

Chilaquiles is a Mexican dish of fried tortilla chips, cut in strips and topped with salsa or mole (or layered like a casserole). The dish (which is recorded from the 19th century) has become an important part of Tex-Mex cuisine.
Wikipedia: Chilaquiles
Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of fried tortilla chips, bathed in green or red salsa or mole. and broiled or grilled with a cheese topping. Sometimes chicken strips are mixed into the sauce, or the dish can be served with a fried egg on top or a strip of meat alongside.

They are most commonly eaten at breakfast time, served alongside with fried or scrambled eggs or a mexican style grilled beef.

Unlike nachos which are served as a crispy snack, chilaquiles are a main dish and are not served until the tortilla chips are thoroughly soaked and softened by the salsa. This makes them a popular recipe for stale chips or those with a bad taste as the other flavors mask the chips.
Gourmet Sleuth
Pronounced [chee-lah-KEE-lehs]. This dish is popular from the U.S. border all throughout Mexico and downward into Guatemala because it is a popular way to use stale corn tortillas. 

Depending on the dish the tortillas are cut in strips or broken into pieces and topped with a sauce or layered, casserole style. Chilaquiles are frequently eaten as a breakfast food.  One traditional variation mixes the tortillas strips with freshly scrambled eggs and roasted chiles.

Chilaquiles History
The name chilaquiles is derived from the word chil-a-quilitl which means “herbs or greens in chili broth” [In Nahuatl] or “a broken-up old, sombrero”.

As with most dishes there are regional versions.  In Sinaloa, Mexico the chilaquiles are prepared with a white sauce. 

Mexico City is known for using a spicy tomato sauce and always tops each serving with an ample sprig of epazote.

In Guadalajara cazuelas are kept simmering filled with chilaquiles that become thick in texture similar to polenta.

Recipes Dating Back To 1898

Recipes for chilaquiles have been found in a U.S. cookbook published in 1898.  The book was Encaracion Pinedo’s El Cocerina Espanol (The Spanish Cook).  She included three recipes one for Chilaquiles tapatios a la mexicana, Chliaquiles a la mexicana, and Chilaquiles con camarones secos.
Southern Living
Central Texas In the Fast Lane
Southern Living,  Mar 2004 by Sunee, Kim
I started in Austin, with an outstanding breakfast at Las Manilas Avenue Cafe, run by Cynthia and Lidia Ferez. The Perez sisters began by selling authentic Mexican tacos from a cart in 1979 (across from UT Austin) as well as delivering them all around town. Now they have their own building space in the heart of the city. Begin with a glass of fresh-squeezed watermelon or cantaloupe juice while trying to decide between the Chilaquiles Rojos or Chilaquiles Verdes (crispy corn tortilla strips with cheese and red or green sauce) or one of the daily specials.

Terry’s Guide to Mexico
by T. Philip Terry
Revised Edition
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company
Pg. 244d:
CHILAQUILES: a fricassee of meat and tortilla with tomato and a green (or red) chile sauce.
Cooking…South of the Rio Grande
by George Luther Nelson
San Antonio, TX: The Nolan Printing Company
Pg. 22:
It is delicious. Don’t fail to try it.
6 tablespoons fat
4 cups cold tortilla strips or squares
3 tablespoons Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground spices
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
Grated cheese
Heat fat and fry tortilla squares in it until they are toasted. Add spices and salt. In the hot water dissolve the chile powder and add to toasted tortillas blending well. Allow to simmer until tortillas are almost dry. Serve in a platter and sprinkle generously with grated American cheese. 
NOTE: If you do not serve this dish immediately and it becomes the least bit dry from “standing” simply pour a little more water into it.
12 November 1939, Los Angeles Times, “You’ll Like These Mexican Dishes” by Grace Turner, pg. J9:
1 dozen hard, dry tortillas
4 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (optional)
1 No. 2 can tomatoes, 2 1.2 cups
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1 teaspoon salt
6 thin slices American cheese
Break each tortilla into 4 or 5 small pieces; fry in fat until a golden brown. Remove from fat and fry onion and garlic in same fat until lightly brown; add tomatoes, chili sauce, salt and pepper and heat to boiling. Then add tortillas and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Put mixture in a greased baking dish, dot top with pieces of American cheese and bake in a hot oven (400 degrees F.) until cheese is melted. Serve hot. Yield: 6 portions.
20 September 1942, New York Times, pg. D11:
In chilaquiles the ubiquitous tortilla is broken into squares with chili sauce and cheese. 
13 November 1958, Los Angeles Times, pg. A6:
6 tortillas de maiz
2 large peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
Fat for deep frying
1 large brown onion, sliced thin
3 large, straight green chilis, burn off the skin and seed
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
3-ounce package cream cheese, sliced (optional)

METHOD: Tear tortillas into strips about 1 inch wide and fry in deep hot fat (360 deg.) but refrain from letting them brown or harden. Drain on paper toweling. Chop tomatoes, onion and chilis, adding salt and 1/4 cup water; fry in very shallow fat for about three minutes. Add the cream cheese and stir over low flame until melted. Mix in the fried tortillas and sprinkle with the grated Cheddar cheese or place in layers in casserole and heat in the oven. Serve piping hot. Yield: six servings.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Monday, November 13, 2006 • Permalink

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