No nibbling needed
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Forget the cornflakes.
The real breakfast of champions is chilaquiles.
While both foodstuffs are made with corn, the similarities end there.
The base of chilaquiles is a full nest of tortilla chips, softened in a simmering bath of red or green sauce, or even a mole poblano, the traditional Mexican dark red or brown sauce. This savory foundation is built upon and topped with fried eggs or meat, and drizzled with a combination of queso crema and queso fresco.
The chilaquile is a Mexican specialty, and makes for a hearty and filling breakfast for those with a hard day of work ahead, or those looking to put a hard night behind them.
At La Morada Mexican restaurant at Willis Avenue in Mott Haven, the chilaquiles can prepare you for virtually any task, whether you have a long day’s toil or merely a lesiurely Sunday to contend with, explained Marco Saavedra, son of the restaurant’s owners.
Moreover, much like an omelette, the dish lends itself to whatever degree of cuisine or grade of ingredients you wish to apply.
In other words, feel free to forage.
“Chilaquiles lends itself to whatever’s available,” he said. “It’s more of a working class meal.”
The simple dish is often made from yesterday’s tortillas, and whatever sauce and protein happens to be lying around.
Saavedra would know, as beyond those served at La Morada, chilaquiles often find themselves on the menu in his household.
But at La Morada, where chilaquiles are a specialty, one can order them with freshly grilled, juicy slices of chicken or bistec (steak) that are placed sizzling and snug on the bed of tortillas. The dish is accompanied by rice and refried beans.
And when you order your chilaquiles, make sure you’re hungry, or that you have a co-adventurer on this gastronomic endeavor.
The portions are generous, and you won’t want to stop eating.
The tortilla chips, usually a quick snap in the mouth, take on a softer crunch when they have been marinated in chili and tomatillo sauce.
You can down your chilaquile with a nice glass of agua de Jamaica, or hibiscus tea, made from the petals of the hibiscus flower. The tea is packed with vitamin C and other refreshing minerals.
While you eat, you can bask in the purple glow of the restaurant’s painted interior and gaze at the delicate brushstrokes of Saavedra’s paintings.
There are several to study.
Or you can grab a book.
Courtesy of Saavedra and his sisters, the restaurant has a well-stocked bookshelf whose contents are often rotated. The family also makes visits to the local library to make sure that the bookshelf is not void of a children’s selection.
If you’re looking for a couple of suggestions on the chilaquiles, Saavedra suggests you try them all, and to improvise ingredients as you go along.
The chefs at La Morada are happy to oblige.
Though he sticks to the basics.
His, he’s decided, are better simple, with eggs, “without too much on top.”
Your own choice awaits.
308 Willis Avenue
The Bronx, NY 10454