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To combat this dreary weather, the never-ending workday, and the anxiety of a long commute, we spend the day dreaming of what to eat for dinner -- because a hard day should be rewarded with nothing less than a soul-satisfying meal.
So step away from your computer screen and let dinner tonight whisk you away to a place where dreams of tortillas, roasted vegetables, and fried eggs reign. The combination of Chilaquiles Verdes and Escalivada is guaranteed to set you at ease.
2 bell peppers (preferably one red and one yellow)
1 medium eggplant
1 small onion
3 pounds tomatillos in the husk
1 large red onion cut in 1/2-inch slices
8 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 handful of cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1 heaping spoonful of crema or sour cream
1 quart chicken stock
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
12 corn tortillas
1 cup queso fresco in large crumbles, or shredded Monterey Jack
1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
We are assuming you have olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper. If not, be sure to add those to your list, too.
1. Roast the vegetables for the Escalivada: Preheat your oven to 350° F. Wash and dry the bell peppers, eggplant, and onion, rub them with olive oil, and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt. Wrap the vegetables in foil, place them on a baking sheet, and roast for 2 hours.
2. Assemble the Escalivada: Once the vegetables are roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool. Peel the skins off of the eggplant and the peppers. Slice your vegetables into 1/2- to 1-inch slices. Add a pinch of salt, drizzle generously with oil, and add a big splash of sherry vinegar -- start with a teaspoon or two, taste, and adjust to your liking.
3. Broil vegetables for the verde sauce: Lay tomatillos, onions, jalapeños, and garlic on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the baking sheet under the broiler, until the vegetables are wilted and blistered, about 10 minutes (time will vary based on the heat of your broiler). Remove the vegetables and let them cool until you are able to handle them.
4. Prepare the chicken: While the vegetables are still in the oven, bring the chicken stock to a gentle simmer in a Dutch oven. Add the chicken breasts and allow them to simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Move the chicken to a cutting board and use two forks to shred it. Return the chicken and any juices to the pot.
5. Finish the verde sauce: Remove the husks from the tomatillos, squeeze the garlic from the cloves, and remove the stem from the jalapeños. Throw the roasted vegetables into a blender, along with any juices that may have accumulated on the baking tray. Add the cilantro leaves, the juice of the lime, and the crema. Purée until the mixture is very smooth. Add the tomatillo purée to the chicken broth, taste for seasoning (note the sauce should be tangy, almost sour, so add another squeeze of lime if necessary), and bring to a simmer. Cover and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Add the tortillas: Cut the tortillas into quarters. If your tortillas are fresh, dry them out in the oven or toaster oven. If they're stale and dried out, add them right to the chicken pot. Stir the mixture and let simmer for another 10 minutes. The tortillas will cause the sauce to thicken.
7. Serve and enjoy: Uncover the pot and stir in the queso fresco or sprinkle with the Monterey Jack. Cover the pot again, allowing the cheese to melt. Uncover, sprinkle with Cotija and cilantro, and serve alongside the Escalivada.
Note: The Chilaquiles are just as good -- maybe better -- the next day. If you'd like, put a crispy fried egg on top of the Chilaquiles. Serve the Escalivada with bread, cheese, meat, or fish -- whatever you'd like, really.
First photo by James Ransom, second by Eric Moran