Southwest-Style Huevos Rancheros
Huevos Rancheros (a.k.a “ranch eggs”) is a classic Mexican breakfast dish craved on both sides of the border. Originally served to farm hands as a hearty meal before dawn, this dish consisted of fried eggs served on a lightly fried corn tortilla, slathered with a freshly-prepared, smoky, spicy tomato–chili sauce. As Huevos Rancheros emerged to become the rising star of the “lazy-morning-food-genre”, home-made, refried beans, avocado slices, guacamole or cheese were added to the mix. Perfect as a hearty breakfast or a light supper, Huevos Rancheros can be on the table in less than 15 minutes, and, it’s easy on the budget—healthy, fast food at its best!
While some renditions’ require frying the eggs in lard or oil, others dictate the eggs must be poached in a red or green chili sauce, which changes the color (and flavor) of the egg white. In this visually stunning, upscale and lighter version, the eggs are poached in a water and vinegar bath, which keeps the eggs’ color “white”—a contrast color that makes the red, smoked tomato and chili sauce really “pop” in the finished dish. If you want to add a bit of heat to the flavor profile of the poached egg, just add two, whole dried arbol chilies to the vinegar and water bath before poaching.
Moderately-hot, pale-yellow wax chilies (Hungarian or banana), or a yellow Santa Fe grande, are the chilies of choice for the Ranchero sauce since these relatively bland cultivars (no vegetal or fruity flavor notes) absorb the smoky flavor of the mesquite wood smoke like a sponge. Additionally, slow-cooking the garlic and onions on the grill caramelizes their sugars, and imparts a sweet, smoky base note to the sauce. As for the acid, the mildly-acidic, Meyer lemon (juice and zest) is the secret ingredient—it heightens the primary flavor of “smoke” without being too aggressive.
To save time and fuel, cook the salsa veggies the night before--using the residual heat of barbeque after the chicken or burgers come off the Weber grill. To get that intense, smoky flavor in the sauce this dish requires, the “trick” is using two pieces of food-grade, firewood pieces (rather than chips) of mesquite wood.
Southwest-Style Huevos Rancheros
1 Tablespoon Vinegar
2 Fresh Organic Eggs, Olive Oil for frying
2 Organic Tortillas de Nopal (Corn and green cactus tortilla. Can substitute with blue or yellow corn tortilla)
½ cup Refried Pinto Beans, heated
1 ripe Hass Avocado
2 Smoked, Roasted Garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons Shredded Mexican -Style cheese (can substitute with Cotija cheese)
1½ cups Mesquite Grilled Guero Chili Rancheros Sauce (see recipe below)
Mesquite-Grilled, Güero Chile Ranchero Sauce
Makes: 1 cup
5 small/medium Red Tomatoes
2 Yellow Wax (aka Güero) chili peppers
1 head of Garlic, skin left on
1 White Onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch thick slices
¼ teaspoon Kosher Flake Salt
4-6 grinds of Black Pepper
¼ cup Filtered Water
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Zest of ½ Meyer Lemon
Juice of ½ Meyer Lemon
Place veggies and garlic in a large bowl and pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over vegetables; then toss to film. Sprinkle kosher flake salt and freshly ground black pepper over lightly oiled veggies; then toss again.
Place 20 briquettes in a Weber Chimney, and several wax plugs on the bottom grate, then and light. Flame until the coals have a glowing, red ember and a white film of ash covers the outside of the coal. Pour the grey coals into grill grate and place 2 pieces of food-grade mesquite fireplace wood (3’x2-inch piece of wood) slightly overlapping over the hot coals. When wood starts to smoke, place veggies on top grate and cover, with vent holes closed to the half-open position.
Allow veggies and garlic to cook for at least 30 minutes, then turn with tongs and cover. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove veggies and garlic to a plate, and allow to cool. Place chilies, onions, tomatoes, salt, oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and black pepper in a food in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Put salsa in a bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours (best overnight) to allow the flavors to “marry”.
Fill a large saucepan or skillet with water and bring to a simmer. Add vinegar and crack eggs, one at a time, into the water. Simmer for 3 minutes, or to desired doneness. Remove eggs with a large, slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel, then set aside. Fill a 10-inch skillet with ¼ inch of olive oil, and fry tortilla’s until lightly crisp and tortilla turns a darker green color. Remove tortilla and drain; blot off any excess oil with a paper towel. While the eggs are cooking, peel the avocado and place in a bowl. Smash 2 cloves smoked garlic into avocado with a fork until a chunky paste is achieved. Season with sea salt and black pepper, and set aside.
Huevos Rancheros Assembly:
Place one fried tortilla on a plate; spread with ¼ cup refried beans and half of smoked garlic and avocado mixture. Top with a poached egg. Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of Smoked Güero Chili Sauce over each poached egg. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cheese. Serve immediately.
Notes from the Author:
The Smoked Güreo and Tomato Salsa does double duty as a refreshing sauce for grilled fish!