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Cast Iron Chicken Chilaquiles

Why This Recipe Works

Chilaquiles is a Mexican comfort food favorite made from fried tortilla wedges tossed in a deeply flavored chile sauce. The crisp chips soften slightly in the sauce, giving the dish a unique crunchy-chewy texture. The finished dish is usually topped with a variety of fresh garnishes along with a fried egg and served for breakfast. We decided to swap the fried egg for shredded chicken for a hearty main course. We quickly discovered that using store-bought tortilla chips led to disappointing results; they either turned completely mushy or never softened properly, so we made our own. Baking the chips kept the dish from getting too greasy. We then made a simple sauce by toasting dried guajillo chiles in our cast-iron skillet and pureeing them in a blender with tomatoes, onion, two other kinds of chile peppers, garlic, cilantro, and salt. We poached the chicken directly in the sauce to infuse both with greater depth of flavor. Shredding the chicken and stirring in the homemade chips brought the dish together.

Ingredients

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16 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 8 wedges
¼ cup vegetable oil
Salt
5 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1/2-inch pieces (2/3 cup)
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
8 sprigs fresh cilantro plus 2 tablespoons minced
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 ½ cups chicken broth
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled (1 cup)
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 radishes, trimmed and sliced thin

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Instructions

Serves 4

New Mexican or Anaheim chiles can be substituted for the guajillo chiles. Serve with sour cream and lime wedges.

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread tortillas evenly in 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle each sheet with 2 tablespoons oil, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and toss until evenly coated. Bake, stirring occasionally, until tortillas are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.

2. Toast guajillos in 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 2 to 6 minutes. Transfer toasted guajillos to blender and process until finely ground, 60 to 90 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juice, 3/4 cup onion, poblano, jalapeño, garlic, cilantro sprigs, and 3/4 teaspoon salt to blender and process until very smooth, 60 to 90 seconds.

3. Pound thicker ends of chicken breasts as needed to create even thickness. Combine guajillo-tomato mixture and broth in now-empty skillet and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Nestle chicken into sauce. Reduce heat to gentle simmer, cover, and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.

4. Transfer chicken to carving board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces using 2 forks. Meanwhile, increase heat to medium and simmer sauce until thickened and measures 4 cups, about 6 minutes.

5. Stir shredded chicken into sauce and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in tortillas, cover, and let sit until tortillas have softened slightly, 2 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with queso fresco, avocado, radishes, remaining 1/4 cup onion, and minced cilantro. Serve immediately.