Saturday, July 9, 2011

Huevos Rancheros with Garlic Smashed Black Beans and Goat Cheese

Growing up, I ate Mexican food fairly often. My dad was raised in Texas and although my mom moved around a lot, she spent high school and college in Texas. When my dad was transferred to North Carolina in the mid 1980s, we discovered we discovered a lack of Mexican food. In city I grew up in, Mexican food options consisted of not much--and the only place even remotely close to the part of the city we lived in microwaved their entrees. Tex-Mex wouldn't even describe it--Taco Bell was a more authentic experience.

Fortunately, my parents had learned how to make Mexican food a decade earlier, when they lived in DC and had gone to Pizza Hut for the "Mexican Pizza" just because that was as close as they could get to the food they were used to finding everywhere. We made tamales, fish tacos, beef tacos, carne verde, and other dishes--including things like enchiladas and nachos that most restaurants would serve. We had Mexican or Tex-Mex at least once a week. Fridays, for years, were "taco night," at my house.

But huevos rancheros. That was a meal we had at least once a month, on a Saturday or Sunday, when my dad liked to make large breakfasts. Eggs and I don't always get along and so for years I'd get him to scramble mine, or just opt to eat refried beans and tortillas. I frequently opted for just beans and tortillas (and for that matter, still do).

The one restaurant we make sure we eat at when we visit family in San Antonio, Texas is The Original Donut Shop ("Hot Donuts" is what we call it), which has been in business for around 60 years. My dad ate there from time to time as a small child, and as my grandmother moved toward dying, the hot glazed donuts were one of the few things she would still eat voraciously. For years, The Original Donut Shop was only a donut shop (there are an unbelievable number of donut and kolache stores in Texas) but at some point it expanded into a cocina Mexicana as well and serves everything Mexican-breakfast from egg tacos to menudo (only on Saturdays) to, you guessed it, huevos rancheros. All meals are served with hand-patted flour tortillas (which I'll miss terribly now that I'm not eating gluten. Even thinking about it makes me a sad) that melt in your mouth.

There are dozens of ways of preparing huevos rancheros--but the way I enjoy them most involves poached eggs and no ranchero sauce (which I swear is just an invention of the Tex-Mex aisle in grocery stores, like "curry powder" to Indian food). This is the way my family made them (except when I requested scrambled eggs). We topped them with Paces Picante sauce, or with a homemade salsa, depending on what we had on hand. This is the way The Original Donut Shop in San Antonio makes them, except with fried egg and with bacon and browned potatoes on the side. This is the way my friend Anna made them when I was in Columbia, Missouri with Annie for True/False (a film festival) earlier this year.

Anna's variation interested me because unlike the versions I grew up eating, she smashed whole beans and simmered her eggs in store-bought enchilada sauce rather than a traditional water-poaching. We ate our huevos on top of stove-top crisped corn tortillas, smoothed with black beans, topped with and egg, and drowned in the enchilada simmer sauce. The meal presented beautifully and was filling--good for a day of wandering around Columbia and watching documentaries.

I resolved to make a variation of this for Friday breakfast the following week. Friday breakfast is an almost three-year tradition with my friend Rachael. Annie and Brenna joined this tradition about six months later. Friday breakfast forces us all to eat a real meal at breakfast once a week, gives us an opportunity to talk about our frustrations and success for the week, to discuss weekend plans, or boys. Rachael, Annie, and I are moving to separate cities soon and the thing I'll miss most about living where I do now may well be the tradition of breakfast with these three women.

Huevos Rancheros with Garlic Smashed Black Beans
Serves 4
2 teaspoons olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of your pan)
2 garlic scapes, chopped (or about 1 tablespoon minced garlic)
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons whole cumin

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
Taco spices
4 eggs

4 corn tortillas*
Soft goat cheese (optional)

In a small sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat and then add the garlic scapes or garlic, Saute 1 minute and then add the black beans. Heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbling. Smash the black beans with the back of a fork or spoon and add the cumin seeds and 3-4 ounces of water (or until desired consistency) and heat through.
Black Beans with Garlic Scapes

Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce, 8 ounces of water, and taco spices (to taste, I used about a teaspoon of a taco seasoning mix my dad makes) in another small saucepan, or a skillet big enough to hold four eggs. When just simmering, crack the eggs into simmer-sauce, being careful not to break the yolks. (If the yolks break, no worries--you just won't have a runny yolk, but it'll still taste fine.) Return to a simmer and then cover the pan and reduce the heat so the sauce continues to just simmer for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size egg you're using, until the white appears cooked.

Heat your corn tortillas and spread one quarter of the black beans on each tortilla.
Smashed Black Beans Spread on a Tortilla
Using a large spoon, carefully remove your poached eggs from the simmer sauce and place one on each tortilla, the cover in remaining simmer sauce.
Topped with Egg & Simmer Sauce

Top with goat cheese (in the picture below, I'm using a soft herbed goat cheese). Serve hot.

*If you're not trying to create a gluten-free meal, feel free to use small (6") flour tortillas instead.

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