Cooking with EL CHAVO!

How to make Huevos Rancheros!
(And how to make Vegan Huevos Rancheros as well!)

It seems a bit wrong that I should share my version of this dish with you all, considering that I've spent many weekend mornings critiquing/praising the variety of  examples available in Los Angeles. It almost seems smug, as if I assume this the best way to make them. I don't think I'm that pretentious. If you've read any of my previous cooking classes, I've always said that you need to alter things to your liking, to vary the ingredients so they reflect what your palette wants. Well, this is me telling you what I like, how I know Huevos Rancheros, how I prefer them. As you can plainly see, they are very basic. And that's just how I like it!

There's tons of recipes out there that throw in all kinds of stuff into this dish, but I'm just going to focus on the basic elements that I think are crucial. If you want to make an abomination, head over to youtube for an endless list of items you can use to be "creative". But really, less is more. What I do have to offer over other HR recipes is that I'm not going to tell you to open up a jar of salsa, we are going to make a fresh salsa ranchera that will be easy to make yet have a complexity of flavors you rarely experience even at restaurants. As you can see above, I've gathered my ingredients which this time around includes 1/4 white onion, 3 ripe roma tomatoes, 2 cloves garlic, 2 dry chile guajillos, 1 dry chile morita, and 2 fresh jalapeños. I was going to use 2 serranos instead but the ones I had in the fridge had turned black and had taken on that rotteny smell I know so well. You open the bag, and you just know they've turned. I usually buy quite a bit of them as I use them regularly and they are so cheap: my last receipt has a bag of maybe 30-35 of them listed at just 38¢! I can afford to let a few go bad. So we change up our ingredient list on the fly, we work with what we have.

Ok, let's get started! First we start boiling a pot of water cuz we will need that soon. Then we lightly toast the de-stemmed, de-seeded, de-veined dry chiles on a comal to bring out some of the great aromas and oils that they hold. If you wanted to you could just char all the fresh items as well on the comal (don't burn the dry chiles though) and make your salsa like that, I've done that before and it makes for a good variation. For now, lets stick to the basics. After you toast the chiles (around 10-15 seconds on each side) you will throw them into the water...

...and once it has a good boil going you can turn the heat off and let them soak/soften for around 20 minutes. Go throw out the trash or iron your clothes, its not some time sensitive affair. Just give the lil' chiles the space to get ready for you!

Once you've done your waiting, turn the heat back on and bring to a boil again. Throw in the rest of the ingredients, onion, garlic, jalapeños, and tomatoes. You'll cook these for around ten minutes, basically until the tomatoes start losing their skin.

If you have tongs you can try removing the skin straight from the boiling pot. I guess you could just leave the skins on but its best to try to get rid of them, otherwise the lil' bits make for an annoying texture in the salsa, not unlike a hair in your food. At least I think so. But maybe you like hair in your food, what do I know?

Since the dry chiles are the toughest, I like to blend them up a bit first.

Add some of the liquid to aid in the blending and to thin out your salsa. Maybe about a cup. Yeah, that seems like a number. After the first blend, add the other ingredients to the blender and give it a whirl. Oh yeah, add your salt as well!

Blend it up! Nice and smooth.

Now we strain this sauce through a fine mesh strainer. Yes, its important.

See? Look at all the gunk yer not going to have to spit out! The good stuff is in the bowl below.

Now we heat up a pan and add a bit of corn oil to it. I may have added too much cuz I was trying to take a pic, but no big deal. We are going to "fry" our salsa which is a very important part of the process: this is how it all melds together into a delicious uniform sauce.

Once the oil is hot, just pour the good stuff in. Bring it to a boil and then cook it down to a consistency you want. I had added too much water so I will cook this a bit longer than usual, just gonna simmer it until it gets a bit thicker. Give it a taste. Does it need salt? Maybe a dash of black pepper? Might a sprinkle of nutritional yeast boost the savoriness? You ask and answer those questions. And pretty much your salsa ranchera is ready. If you've come this far you've already done more than the average chump to get you to a decent plate of HR's. Some folks like to add rajas of onions, chiles, and other stuff but I like it just like this. Oh, and you can make your sauce with all kinds of chiles, like arbol, California, ancho, whatever. Experiment to see what you like.

While we simmer down our sauce, lets get started on our fried tortillas. Don't be a jerk and try to get by using a tostada, you need to make your own fried tortilla. And if you're just going to "warm up" a tortilla, then you can go to hell as well. YOU NEED TO FRY YOUR TORTILLA! Are we clear?

Good! I'm glad we came to an understanding. You do know how to fry a tortilla right? No? Well, you just get some oil all nice and hot and throw in a good quality tortilla, like those from El Dorado, "a product to remember". Fry on each side until crispy, but not too crispy. Maybe two minutes total? Use your judgement.

Place them on a towel to drain off the excess oil. Or don't.

Now we get to the other basic, the glory that is the huevo. Yes, we will fry this little thing, in the same pan we fried the tortillas. The runny yolk will contribute lots of rich flavors to our eating experience. It's such a unique flavor I'm surprised someone hasn't come up with a vegan version yet. But I'm okay with eating these presents from our chicken friends. This egg was a gift from a human friend, she knows someone that raises chickens.

You've probably heard it before, but here goes again: use the best and freshest eggs you can find. The quality of these eggs is obvious, a thick hard shell and a full bright yolk. I can't wait to have a place where my landlord will let me have chickens, cuz I'd setup a little coop right away. I grew up having chickens as pets, no cats or dogs for me, and I really cared about my chickens. The fact that they gave my family some eggs to eat was almost an afterthought. It sure beats the "presents" dogs leave for you on the lawn! Can there be a stronger argument for having chickens instead of dogs? Ha ha! I think not.

Use a spoon to splash hot oil on the top of the egg to aid in the cooking. A bit of crispy, burnt egg whites is good, just don't overcook the yolk.

Having said my piece about eggs, I understand that some people don't want to eat them. I can live with that. I think the best subsitute is a tofu scramble, no doubt vegans already have their favorite way of doing that. I like my tofu scrambles too! Here I just got a piece of tofu, crumbled it up, added some of the sauce, some salt and pepper, a bit of nutritional yeast, and added it to some sauteing onions. Most of the flavor is in the salsa ranchera anyways so you don't have to get too crazy about your tofu scramble.

One tortilla per huevo please.

Or one scoop of tofu per tortilla, as the case may be! ;)

My plate of Huevos Rancheros, with the salsa roja, a bit of cilantro and some chunks of queso panela that I had in the fridge. In a few seconds I will have picked up the tortilla, folded it in half, and taken a big bite of my HR's. It's a messy mess with no forks involved. I will spare you the images. You eat however your dainty upbringing dictates.

The tofu HR (or is that a TR?) came out surprisingly good as well! Tofu is a hearty food, its texture and density is comparable to a scrambled egg. And once the blandness has been coated in a decent salsa, it almost doesn't matter if there's an egg or not. Almost.

The aftermath. Damn, that was good!


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