I have been busy lately. I know everyone says that, but I have been busier than I have been in years. After years in graduate school, my reprieve on a real job is finally at an end. Although full time work comes with compensatory financial and psychological benefits (it’s depressing to be unemployed, broke and overeducated), a distinct disadvantage is that I no longer can spend my days pottering around and planning my meals. No, these days, it’s all work, and I’m somehow expected to squeeze meal planning in between the hours between work and falling asleep exhausted.
This means that I don’t have the luxury of cooking every single night. When I cook, I’m looking for dishes that give you the best bang for the buck. It’s not only about freezing leftovers in individual proportions (like I’m that organized). It’s about finding dishes that, with minimal effort, can be endlessly reinvented for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Yes, I could make chili in six gallon quantities and be set for the next month, but I want to feel like I’m eating something new, different, and exciting every day.
Which is why I always look forward to these Huevos Rancheros, a dish that can be composed almost entirely from leftover odds and ends of the Mexican food I’ve consumed during the week. The dish reinvents those beans I boiled this week as a side for tacos. And don’t let those few tablespoonfuls of homemade salsa go to waste, use the leftovers to top your eggs. I used to feel guilty that I never would get around to frying those stale tortillas, but here, they appear as a base for the eggs.
The best part is that these eggs might possibly be the most satisfying brunch dish ever. What is it about this combination of textures and flavors that makes it so much more luxurious than the sum of its peasant-food parts? Perhaps it’s the combination of the unctuousness of soft fried eggs with the homeyness of beans, set off with a spicy salsa and a shower of chopped cilantro. This combination is great by itself, but with a perfectly ripe sliced avocado on the side? You would never guess that you’re eating leftovers.
The recipe is long, but each component can be recycled into another dish. I usually make at least a couple of beans and freeze half for a busy weeknight when I don’t even have the energy for take-out
Makes 1 portion; double, triple or quadruple as needed
butter or oil for frying
2-3 tablespoons tomato-habanero salsa (recipe follows) or other homemade salsa
1 tablespoon feta cheese or queso fresco, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 large spoonful seasoned beans (recipe follows)
½ avocado, sliced and seasoned with lime juice, salt, and pepper
1. Over medium heat, heat butter in a non-stick frying pan, until butter foams, then quiets again. Break egg into pan, turn heat to low, then gently cook until white is barely set but yellow is still bright.
2. Heat tortilla over gas flame. When warm and pliable, top tortilla with egg, followed by salsa, cheese, and cilantro.
3. Serve with beans and avocado on the side.
Mexican Pot Beans
1 pound dried black, pinto, or kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 branches of cilantro
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 jalapeno pepper, halved
1. Drain beans, replace water, and bring to a boil with other ingredients.
2. Lower to simmer. Cook until tender.
3. When beans are completely tender, salt generously to taste
1 pound tomatoes (use canned tomatoes in winter)
1 habanero chile, halved
½ yellow onion, finely sliced
peanut oil for sautéing
1. Roast tomatoes under broiler until charred and blackened. Peel. (Skip this step if using canned tomatoes.)
2. Chop tomatoes. Heat oil in saucepan, add onion and sauté until golden brown.
3. Add chopped tomatoes and chile. Simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Salt to taste.
Source: Mexican Kitchen, Rick Bayless