Sweet Potato Chilaquiles with Griddled Salsa Roja

2 small onions
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or fruit vinegar
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
Vegetable oil for frying
12 Corn Tortillas
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
8 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening or vegetable oil
1 sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and finely diced
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup Griddled Tomato-Chipotle Salsa

Slice one onion into very thin strips. Combine with the vinegar in a bowl and set aside. Chop the other onion coarsely and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk the sour cream and milk together.

In a large skillet, pour enough vegetable oil to come 1/4 inch up the sides. Heat the oil over medium heat until lightly smoking. Fry the tortillas, 1 or 2 at a time (or as many as will fit in the pan), just until crisp, about 1 minute. (You may need to add a little more oil for the last few tortillas.) Drain on paper towels.

Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the tomatillos and cook until tender, about 6 minutes; drain, reserving the stock. Place the tomatillos, jalapeños, chopped onion, garlic, and cilantro in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable shortening until lightly smoking. Pour in the tomatillo mixture and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, until thick and dark. Add the reserved stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes; the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Add the sweet potato to a saucepan of boiling salted water and blanch for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain and refresh in ice water to stop the cooking process.

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with 3 tortillas; they will overlap slightly. Pour one quarter of the tomatillo sauce on top, and pour one quarter of the sour cream-milk mixture on top of the sauce. Top with one quarter of the cheese, and place a third of the poblanos and sweet potatoes over the cheese. Repeat this process with the remaining tortillas, sauce, sour cream mixture, and cheese: the top layer will not have poblanos or sweet potato.

Cover the baking pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and top with the drained marinated onions. Serve with the salsa.

Historical note : Chilaquiles, the ever-popular Mexican casserole, was created to use up stale tortillas. Made with a good sauce, the tortillas come back to life, take on all the flavors, and provide a wonderful textural contrast. Although chilaquiles are usually prepared casserole style, I have seen them made to order with scrambled eggs and chorizo. I particularly enjoy chilaquiles as a brunch item served with margaritas, chilled Mexican beer, or a hearty sangria.

Serves: 8 to 10

Source: "Southwestern Vegetarian", September 2000, Stephan Pyles, Clarkson N. Potter

Prepared by: Margo for the October 2003 meeting