In one of my first posts on this blog, I recreated a simple, baked chilaquiles casserole while noting that my favorite chilaquiles were from a restaurant in Pittsburg, CA, called The New Mecca Cafe. I am on the other side of the country, but anytime we go back to California to visit family, we always make it a point to stop in for an order (or maybe two) of their bean dip and at least one of us orders the chilaquiles. I don’t think I could ever describe how good they are, but epic is a word that immediately comes to mind.
Since posting that recipe, I have gotten a couple of comments and a slew of emails asking me to post a recipe for a similar version of the Mecca’s chilaquiles. After a comment from my cousin who had actually called the Mecca and found out their secret is pork broth, I got to work. I had been experimenting with many different recipes – trying everything to get that Mecca flavor, and then, after a quick call to my dad, it finally happened. I would describe the “sauce” as a chile pork-broth. It’s supposed to be very loose, soupy-even (I don’t know if that’s a turn-off but it’s the only way to describe them), and after it’s heated up in a pan with some old chips, it’s so good. It’s not a full-on copy of the Mecca’s, but I like to think it’s pretty close – and delicious, to boot. If you can get your hands on some chilaquile chips (lucky you!) or if you want to fry your own stale tortillas, you most definitely can/should. I used the thickest corn tortilla chip I could find since I didn’t have access to a thick corn tortilla that I could fry and I still think they turned out awesome. Since you have to cook the pork to make the broth, you’ll have lots of pulled-pork leftover that you can use in sandwiches, burritos, or you could even add some to the chilaquiles if you wanted – but rest assured, I’ll be back with a recipe or two with the leftover shredded pork.
- 2-4 lb pork shoulder, cut into a couple of large chunks
- Salt and pepper
- 2-3 Tbsp oil, for frying
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 Tbsp chile powder
- 2 Tbsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 bay leaf
- About 6 cups of water, enough to cover the pork
- Tortilla chips (I used a thick chip, but you can also fry your own with stale tortillas)
- Queso Chihuahua cheese, can also substitute Monterey jack
- Cilantro, limes, crema, optional, for serving
- Take the pork shoulder and liberally season with salt and pepper on all sides. In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once it's hot, place the pork in and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the pork from the dutch oven and place on a plate. Turn the heat down to medium, and quickly cook the onions until soft, about 3-4 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot to get all of the brown bits up for flavor. Once the onions have softened, add in the garlic and cook for another minute or two, being careful not to burn the garlic (you may have to turn down the heat to low). Once fragrant, place the pork, along with any juices, back in the dutch oven. Add the chile powder, paprika, cayenne, and bay leaf, then fill with about 6 cups of water; you want to just barely cover the pork. Bring to a simmer, then cook on low, covered, for about 2-3 hours, or until the pork is tender. I checked in on the pork every 30 minutes or so just to stir and make sure that the sauce wasn't boiling hard.
- When the pork is tender, remove from the sauce and reserve for later. Strain the leftover sauce through a sieve to catch the bay leaf, onions, garlic, and any other bits. Place back into the dutch oven and keep warm until ready to make the chilaquiles.
- For one serving, place a ladle or two of the chilaquile sauce in a medium frying pan over low heat and cook slightly to thicken up a bit. You may need to turn the heat higher, but turn back down to low before adding chips. Take a couple of handfuls of tortilla chips and lightly crush them - you still want big pieces - and add them to the sauce. Slowly cook for 4-5 minutes or until the chips have softened. Transfer to an oven-proof dish and sprinkle with grated queso Chihuahua cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for just a few minutes until the cheese has melted. You can increase the amounts of sauce and cheese and divide between a few oven-proof bowls if serving two or more. Serve immediately, and if desired, add cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, and crema (although it may not be entirely Mecca-authentic :) ).