A few weeks ago, my husband Jack and I were watching one of the food channels on TV and the featured chef was making a dish called chilaquiles.
Living in New England, this was not a dish that either of us has seen served at any of our local Mexican restaurants, and until we watched that television show – we actually never heard of it! But it looked fantastic – so of course, we had to try creating our own version at home! That was the inspiration behind today’s recipe for Pulled Chicken Chilaquiles!
Although you can see in our photos some triangle tortilla chips poking out between the delicious melted cheese, pulled chicken and other toppings – don’t mistake these pulled chicken chilaquiles for nachos! In this recipe, corn tortillas are fried until crisp – then layered with a zesty tomato sauce (almost like a salsa), cooked pulled chicken, and shredded jack cheese in a low, flat pan. (A paella pan was actually perfect for this dish!)
Then the pan is put into the oven just long enough for the jack cheese to melt. Once it comes out of the oven, we sprinkled our pulled chicken chilaquiles with crumbled queso fresco, diced fresh red onion, chopped fresh cilantro, and – if you like – hot sauce for a spicy finish, or sour cream or a nice crema for a cooler finish! (You can see our recipe for crema in the notes at that bottom of the recipe.)
With all of the wonderful sauces and cheeses in this dish, the tortillas in the finished pulled chicken chilaquiles are part crispy-part chewy texture. In fact – you want to avoid putting too much sauce on the tortilla chips or cooking them too long – otherwise the dish will get too soft of a texture.
- 2 pounds cooked Mexican Pulled Chicken (make a half batch of our recipe here)
- 24 6-inch yellow corn tortillas
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup onion diced
- 1 large or two medium fresh jalapeno stemmed, seeded and minced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomato with juice
- 3 tablespoons agave nectar (OK to substitute honey but cut to 2 tablespoons)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dry coriander
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 cups jack cheese, shredded
- 1 cup queso fresco (or Farmer’s cheese), crumbled
- ¼ cup diced red onion for garnish
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- Hot sauce for garnish (or for a cooler topping, sour cream or a nice crema of your choice - see notes below for our simple crema recipe)
- The night before, cut the 24 corn tortilla rounds into eight pie sized wedges. Lay out on racks and let sit uncovered overnight to get stale (they will curl up). The next day once stale, heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a heavy bottomed pan such as a cast iron skillet. In small batches cook chips just for 15-30 seconds until they brown and then remove with a strainer to waiting paper towels to drain. They will brown very quickly so watch these closely. Set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil and cook onions and peppers over medium heat for about four minutes or until slightly tender. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil then simmer for five minutes. Keep covered and warm on a low burner.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Heat pulled chicken to hot in a covered sauce pan and keep covered and warm.
- Have all other ingredients ready and oven heated.
- In a large flat pan (we used a paella pan but any oven proof low wide pan will work including a 14 inch oven proof skillet), add cooked corn chips, cover with reserved sauce, cover with reserved pulled chicken and top with shredded jack cheese.
- Bake for only five minutes. Pull from oven and top immediately with queso fresco, onions, cilantro and hot sauce or crema of your choice and serve.
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