A couple of weeks ago it was another thirty-something birthday for me, and Matt offered to make me whatever I wanted for dinner. I thought about it for a while, and realized it would have to be something either Mexican or Tex-Mex, those being my all-time favorite types of cuisine. And since Matt is amazing at cooking eggs, Huevos Rancheros became an easy decision.
I don’t know if it’s entirely true, but I heard one time that the way many chefs and restaurateurs test the chefs/cooks applying for jobs is to make them cook an egg. They reason that an egg is very difficult to cook perfectly, so if he/she can flawlessly execute an egg, then they can probably cook whatever else is needed. I once joked to Matt that he could easily secure a job at a fancy, fine dining restaurant based on that test. Sure, he would go in, serve up a delicious and perfect egg, any style, and be hired on the spot. Then the head chef or owner would discover he wasn’t the least bit qualified and didn’t know what he was doing at all. But, man, he can cook eggs.
Huevos Rancheros is a very popular Mexican breakfast dish, with as many variations on a theme as there are home cooks in the country. I’ve seen recipes with fried eggs, poached eggs, and scrambled eggs; there is a somewhat spirited debate about whether or not beans should be included in the finished product; and some people go with two sauces (green and red) whereas others only use red salsa. Some versions are cheesier than others, some include avocado in some form, and some do not; and some include bacon or chorizo, whereas others are meat-free.
But the agreed-upon basics include: a fried tortilla, ranchero sauce, which is a tomato-based chile “restaurant style” salsa (meaning not a pico de gallo), and eggs. I prefer mine with beans, so I always include them regardless of recipe instructions. And for my birthday, I opted for a fried egg, though the dish is also quite delicious with other egg preparations. The egg was absolutely perfect, and the dish was as amazing as it always is. I was once again reminded that I could happily eat some version of this dish once a week and never tire of it. Happy birthday to me, indeed. Thank you, sweetie!
Source: adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine, February/March 2006
6 plum tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
8 slices bacon
Vegetable or canola oil
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, with some of their juices
8 (6 inch) corn tortillas
2 tbs unsalted butter
4-8 large eggs, depending upon how many eggs per serving you want
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)
Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Char the tomatoes, turning several times with tongs, until their skin blisters and starts to peel. Transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, peel their skins off. If you don’t get every little piece of skin off, it’s definitely okay.
Place the tomatoes, one-third of the garlic, half the onion, and the jalapeno in a blender or food processor. Pulse about 6 times, until thoroughly chopped but not pureed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Wipe out the cast-iron skillet and return to the pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until it’s crisped and has rendered its fat. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and set aside. Tent with foil to keep it warm.
Wipe out the skillet and add a drizzle of vegetable oil if needed, then add the remaining onion and garlic. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
Raise the heat and add half the beans to the skillet. Mash with a potato masher, then add the rest of the beans and keep mashing. Cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, tent with foil, and set aside.
Fill a large skillet with an inch of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat until it ripples. Fry the tortillas, in batches as is necessary, turning once with tongs, until crisped and golden brown. Remove to paper towel lined plates.
In a large, nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium to medium-high heat, then crack in the eggs. Fry until the whites are set (just opaque), about 2-3 minutes.
Assemble the Huevos Rancheros: on each dinner plate, spread two scant tablespoons of sour cream in two separate places on the plates. Place a fried tortilla over each. The sour cream anchors the tortilla on the plate. Spread each tortilla with beans, then top with 2 slices of bacon, then 1-2 eggs, then sprinkle with cheese and top with ranchero sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.
As written this will serve 4-8 people, depending on whether people want 1 or 2 tortillas.