Huevos Rancheros With Tomato & Tomatillo Sauces

September 2, 2011

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.
~C.S. Lewis

That ever perplexing riddle: which came first, the chicken or the egg? British researchers claim to have resolved this mystery. Apparently, a protein found only in a chicken’s ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg. This same protein (ovocledidin-17) enhances the development of the hard shell, which is essential to protecting the delicate yolk and fluids while the chick grows inside the egg. The protein works by converting calcium carbonate into the calcite crystals that make up the egg shell. In a paper entitled Structural Control of Crystal Nuclei by an Eggshell Protein, a team of scientists from universities in Sheffield and Warwick claim to have answered this age-old question. While it had long been suspected that the egg came first, the chicken preceded the egg.

One of a slew of Mexican egg dishes, robust huevos rancheros (rancher’s eggs) are thought legendary in some parts. Fried eggs nestled on soft tortillas then drizzled with two sauces are an egg slut’s manna. The red and green sauces juxtaposed with the yellow yolks make for a deliciously hued plate.

HUEVOS RANCHEROS WITH TOMATO & TOMATILLO SAUCES

Tomato Sauce (Salsa de Jitomate)

3 medium to large tomatoes, parboiled, peeled, seeded, and cored
3 serrano or jalapeño chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/2 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 T vegetable oil
Pince of sea salt

Place the tomatoes in blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the chiles, onion and garlic to the mix. Stir to mix evenly, then process in bursts until roughly pureed.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high until just shimmering. Add the mixture from the blender and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes thicker, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the stove.

Tomatillo Sauce (Salsa Verde)

1 lb fresh tomatillos (10-12 medium), husked and rinsed
3 jalepeño chiles, stemmed and seeded
Sea salt

2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 sprigs of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1 T vegetable oil
Sea salt

Boil the tomatillos and chiles in salted water in a covered pot until tender and softened, about 10-15 minutes. Drain.

Transfer the tomatillo/chile mix, garlic, onion and cilantro into a blender or food processor fitted with a steel knife, and blend in pulses until it reaches a coarse purée.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high until simmering. Pour in the purée and cook, stirring constantly, until it becomes thicker, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, allow it to reach a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.

Eggs and Assembly

Salsa de Jitomate and Salsa Verde, warmed

4 medium corn tortillas
1/4 C+ vegetable oil
8 large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Queso fresco and/or queso anejo cheese, crumbled
Cilantro leaves, chopped

Frijoles refritos (refried beans)
Freshly sliced avocados

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high. When quite hot, saute the tortillas one at a time 2-3 seconds per side, just to soften them. Drain on paper towels, wrap in foil and keep warm in a low oven.

Heat a heavy, non-stick skillet coated well with vegetable oil to medium to medium low. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet and let them cook, slowly, sunnyside up. If necessary, cover the skillet to allow for more uniform cooking. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then transfer the eggs to a baking sheet, keeping them warm with the tortillas. Cook the remaining eggs in the same fashion.

Set a tortilla on each of 4 plates. Top with 2 fried eggs then carefully (even artfully) spoon the two sauces in even amounts over the tortillas and egg whites, leaving the yolks exposed. Garnish with crumbled cheese(s) and cilantro.

Serve with frijoles refritos (refried beans) and fresh avocado slices next door.

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