Are you as tired of hearing about the End-of-Times as I am? If one is to believe all the hullabaloo, we humans have slightly more than 3 years to live until catastrophe strikes.
The ancient Egyptians predicted a great disaster would come in the year 2012, crazy present-day Belgians, Canadians, and Americans are forming survival groups to prepare for total global meltdown in the same year. Even the folks at N.A.S.A. are all predicting a sharp increase in the number of sun flares and sunspots in 2012. Nostradamus, unsurprisingly, got in on the act, too. Of course, if one writes several hundred vague quatrains promising future doom and gloom, some of them are bound to hit on something gruesome.
Perhaps the biggest fuss of all is being made by the Chicken Littles (or Chickens Little, if Little is a family name) who point to the ancient Mayan calendar and claim that the sky is falling. Alarmists of several nations are pointing to the fact that the Mayan long count cycle will come to it's 5,125-year end on or about the 21st of December, 2012.
I am no expert on the Mayan calendar but, having studied their art and pulled out most of my hair spending several months trying to remember Mayan names and the meaning of lord-knows-how-many Mayan glyphs in college, I came to learn that there was no culture more dean-on in their observation of the stars and the passage of time. Their calendar was long the most accurate that anyone had devised, pre-dating our Gregorian calendar by several centuries. It's even believed they came up with the concept of the zero about 400 years before the mathematicians of India (though one must give the Sumerians their due for coming up with the zero first and blame others for promptly losing that knowledge.). In short, apart from the occasional thorn-spiked rope-through-the-tongue bloodletting business, the Mayans knew what the hell they were doing.
It's just that they never said the end of this 5,125-ish-year cycle meant the end of the world. I think they just meant it will be the end of a cycle and the beginning of the next. That's it. One would think desperate Republicans would be latching on to this as they start gearing up for the 2012 presidential race. It wouldn't be any more crazy then what the Doomsday survivalists are doing.
Where am I headed with this, you might ask? Well, all this End-of-Times crazy is driving me to drink, not that I need to be driven far. If I decide to buy into the brewing hysteria, I am liable to drown my sorrows in appropriately-themed Mexican cocktails.
If these kooks are correct and the end of the world is, in fact, nigh, I say drink up. Why worry about liver damage if the world is coming to an end? If they are wrong and the end isn't so nigh and I wake up to a clear sky and the sweet warbling of Franklin Street traffic on the 22nd of December, 2012, I am going to have one hell of a bad hangover. I'm going to need something to soak up three years-worth of margaritas.
I'm going to need chilaquiles-- the sure-fire, Mexican breakfast of hung-over champions. And I'm going to need a lot of it. I will be prepared. I will stock up like the survivalists on corn tortillas and red chili sauce. I will hoard cojita cheese.
If, for some reason, the Mayans were off by a day and the 22nd of December winds up being even more of a hell-on-earth than the Holiday season has already made that particular time of year, as long as I've had a heaping plate of chilaquiles, some fried eggs, and a few bites of beans, I'll feel fine. Really, I will.
And then, if my pen has not yet vaporized or been covered in volcanic ash, I will write a rather contrite letter of apology to those not-so-crazy Doomsdayers.
According to Chow.com, the word "chilaquiles" refers to a "broken-up old sombrero." This is, in my opinion, a direct and charming way of telling the reader that this dish is--though quite delicious in a functional, comforting sort of way-- not going to be very pretty. According to Urban Dictionary, "chilaquile" can be used as a substitute for nearly any noun, verb, or adjective. An extreme example of usage would be "Those chilaquiles were so chilaquilin' good that I nearly chilaquiled myself right there in the chilequile-ing restaurant." In other words, a less direct and even less charming way of telling the reader that something is-- though quite delicious in a functional, comforting sort of way-- not going to be very pretty.
This dish is very easy to make and very difficult to screw up. In other words, it's the perfect thing to make when one is hung over. Combined with eggs (scramble or, better yet, fried), and a dollop of Mexican crema, this dish will soothe and soak up anything the past 5,125 years or so has thrown at you.
Serves 2 to 4, depending upon the size of the hangover.
For the Chilaquiles:
12 corn tortillas. Stale ones are ideal, but if there is no such thing as a stale corn tortilla in your household or you would never admit to it, buy some fresh and leave them to sit out overnight.
Vegetable oil (preferably corn oil, which you can call maize oil, if that helps you in any way)
About 2 cups of some sort of Mexican cuisine-derived sauce. Elise Bauer over at Simply Recipes offers an excellent and, of course, simple salsa verde recipe for this particular dish; The Food Network, if you are into them at all, can provide you with a great red chili sauce. There is no one, correct sauce to use here. Experiment to find your favorite version*.
Popular toppings include:
Cojita cheese, or queso fresco
Crema Mexicana, or crème fraîche, if you want to re-visit the short-lived, ill-fated, French-backed Mexican Empire.
Finely diced red onion
A squeeze of lime
torn up bits of roasted chicken
Tiny Mexican flags
Unpopular toppings include:
Spanish, Austrian, French, or U.S. flags of any size
1. Cover the bottom a good-sized (read: large, preferably cast iron) skillet with about 1/8 inch of oil. When the oil is hot and a test piece of tortilla sizzles, add its brother and sister pieces to the pan-- making sure to coat all of them-- and fry until golden brown. Remove tortillas from the pan and drain on paper towels. Salt them generously. Wipe pan to remove any stray, brown pieces of tortilla.
2. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to the same pan and heat through. Pour in salsa and cook for a few minutes to thicken slightly, then add tortilla pieces. Make certain all the pieces are well-coated by turning them gently in the sauce. If you break a few, I dare say it shouldn't matter much, given the dish's likening to a broken-up old sombrero. Let the mixture cook until most of the sauce has been absorbed, which is not more than five minutes, but not less than two. Remove from heat.
4. Heap the now-ready chilaquiles onto a platter and garnish with any of the above garnishes you wish. Serve warm.
*In the true spirit of hangover food, I think it's perfectly acceptable to purchase pre-made sauce. There are several good, reputable brands. Seriously. Call me Sandra Lee if you want to, but unless you are the type (A) kind of personality who plans ahead for his/her hangovers, the fewer steps to breakfast, the better.