Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chili Killers

For something like 25 flippin' years, I have believed that Jack and Georgia invited me over that Sunday for Chili Killers. Jack was the chef and, oh my stars and garters, that was a wonderful brunch. I can no longer tell you exactly what was in it but Jack filled everyone's plate from a huge skillet full of chopped tomatoes and melted cheese and scrambled eggs and I don't know what all. Nor can I call up and ask, darn it. Both Jack and Georgia have gone on to dimensions that have neither phone service nor e-mail addresses.

I got to thinking about Chili Killers the other day, wistfully wishing I had written down Jack's recipe instead of foolishly believing I couldn't possibly forget the details of such fantastic food. Ah well. I have learned my mighty friend Google can alleviate much of the pain of dubious memory so I went online to sleuth my way to authentic Chili Killers. That's when I began to realize the term was either Jack's and Georgia's nickname for the dish or I had misheard the phrase. That would make the term a mondegreen on par with Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear.

I got my first clue with a Google link to Spryte's Place, where the title of the blog entry was "Chilaquiles (aka Chili Killers)". "Ahhhhh," I said to Self. "Self, I think we need to Google another term."

And we did. And we discovered chilaquiles is pronounced chee-lah-KEE-lays and there has to be at least twenty-seven squajillion variations. That is not surprising when you consider that the concept of chilaquiles was invented to use up leftover food -- especially leftover tortillas. Inevitably, it becomes a dish that lends itself to the artful blending of pretty much all those interesting bits and pieces you don't want to waste. I must have skimmed dozens and dozens of versions and I don't believe I have yet found any two alike.

You can check out how Spryte did it if you click the link above. Lots of good photos there. I took a different tack entirely. There's no recipe to give you. It was just a matter of using all the "bits and pieces" that I thought would (a) live in harmony with each other and (b) fit in my wok-style skillet.

First I drizzled in some of that nummy olive oil. Then I sauteed about half a chopped Vidalia sweet onion and a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, minced, and about half of a big jalapeno, also minced. Inspection warned me the green Bell pepper wasn't going to hold up much longer so I stripped and chopped that, too, and added half to the mix. (The other half -- also chopped -- went into the freezer.) Then I took half a dozen stale corn tortillas and sliced them into skinny matchstick strips and tossed 'em in with the veggies. Stirred everything around until all the strips were coated with oil. Dropped in a small can of stewed tomatoes and snipped the tomatoes into small chunks with the kitchen shears. Stirred everything together and let it simmer while I whisked a couple of eggs nice and frothy. Poured the eggs over the contents of the pan and let the liquid begin to set while I rinsed off the bowl and whisk. Then I gradually worked the egg into the rest of the mixture, continuing until all the egg was cooked. Plopped a huge pile of chilaquiles into a soup bowl, sprinkled everything with a generous helping of crumbled feta cheese and sat down to enjoy.

Oh my. Yes indeedy. Some chilaquiles recipes have you fry the tortilla pieces until they're crispy but I had a different goal. My matchstick pieces absorbed the tomato juices and sort of reverse engineered themselves into what I think of as reconstituted polenta. The end result was something very like a fluffy, moist cornbread stuffing.

Got three meals out of that batch, the last one being my brunch this morning. Every bite was nummy. I may find myself keeping a supply of stale corn tortillas just to see how many different "chili killer" combos I can invent. Every time I score a new version, I can put a notch in the handle of the fry pan. You GO, Killer. Heh!


kate et jim said...

I'm coming to live with you, Dee. Heck, you make a feast out of anything!

This sounds delicious! I clicked on Spryte's Place - very good recipe! Then of course I went and got to reading on Lady Mondegreen...

Bonnie said...

Man Dee when I looked at Spryte's cooked pork I thought I would join Chan in the haul with his upchuck. lol

Dee said...

I dunno, Kate. Maybe we should commute back and forth because YOU have the garden. (smile)

I had to double-check to see what you meant, Bonnie. I guess you're right. That pork didn't photograph well, did it. It sure looked good before she cooked it, though.

paul said...

Look up "migas".