Michael's brother Keith used to live in Denver, and we used to visit him and eat a lot: mostly at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant, where the food was outrageous and the cook treated Keith like a beloved and very small child--but also at the homes of his wonderful friends, where we managed to get ourselves regularly invited. (We were even guests at a wedding once, given that it happened to happen while we were visiting one time. Michael and Sylvia, we love you guys!) This dish is from one of those occasions--some or other brunch--and, if I recall correctly, we left with both this recipe and one for a boozy cheesecake (thank you, Mary Connoly).
There are simply not enough words for "simple" and "perfect" to describe this do-ahead one-dish meal--the very best thing to bake and serve the crowd that is crowding hungrily around your kitchen looking for breakfast on, say, a holiday morning. Because you assemble it the night before, all you have to do the next day is pop it in the oven. When it emerges, the whole thing will be appealingly brown and bubbly and oozy, and tortillas will have gotten thick and soft in a way that makes the whole thing kind of like quiche only, somehow, better. I have, as I know you know, cooked very many different meals for very many different people, and this is the single recipe that has been most often requested of me--and not in that vague, unfollowed-up-on oh my God, how did you make that? delirium of the moment--but in the way where there's a follow-up email the next day reminding you that you promised to send that recipe for the amazing egg thing.
It is also, and I know I say this all the time, endlessly adaptable: you can simply omit the chiles, or swap in something else: we have made it with sautéed mushrooms and onions (although, in a food-aversion Venn diagram, the circle of chile-haters may overlap almost entirely with the circle of mushroom-haters), with spinach (sauté it, and then wring it out so it doesn't make the casserole watery), or sausage, which should be cooked first and drained; anything you could put in a quiche, you could put in this. But, it's not the most wholesome kid on the block, and it's not the pound of cheese that gets me--if your arteries are not jammed with fatty rush-hour traffic, then cheese is a perfectly wholesome thing to eat--it's the white-flour tortillas. But it just doesn't come out that good with whole-wheat ones. So I think of it as a holiday treat. My friend Maddie just made something similar for a party, only she made it with bread and called it a strata, which I like for its geologic sobriety--like it was unearthed in some or other layer of an archaeological dig, in all its cheesy glory. Hallelujah.
Chile Tortilla Eggbake
Active time: 10 minutes; total time, 10 minutes + overnight + 45 minutes
I'm sure this would be even better if you roasted your own chiles, etc. But hey--it's an easy, delicious casserole, so feel free not to make more work for yourself. A crisp salad makes a perfect accompaniment, or a fruit salad. Or my go-to side dish these days, which is putting out a bowl of clementines. Seriously, that's what we have with dinner. (My laziness encroaches.) About the numbers: as long as your breastfeeding mamas are balanced out by kids who don't like this, you will be fine. Otherwise, it will serve fewer (or more, if nobody in your house is breastfeeding, but you still have a hater or two). Or, as Ben put it, "It will serve an infinite number of people who don't like it." But I challenge you to round up very many people who don't like it.
6 flour tortillas, soft-taco size (fewer if the tortillas are larger; I wish I could say that whole-wheat work, but they really kind of don't)
3-4 small cans of chopped green chiles (I use 3) drained and rinsed in a sieve
1 pound grated cheese (I use half jack and half cheddar, but all of either would be fine. And we have made it with less cheese than this, I admit, but it wasn't quite as good. Still, if you need to cheat on that full pound, you can.)
5 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk (2% or whole, but not skim)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
Cover the bottom of the dish with tortillas (at first I wrote, "Cover your bottom with tortillas," which made me laugh all over again just retyping it here), overlapping as little as possible. You will use 2 tortillas per layer: I tear them in half, and by the time I get all the flat sides pressed up against the edges of the baking dish (mine is rectangular), it's pretty much all set. Now sprinkle the tortillas with 1/2 of the chiles and 1/3 of the cheese, then add another layer of tortillas and top it with the rest of the chiles and another 1/3 of the cheese. Add the final layer of tortillas, sprinkle it with the remaining cheese, and then whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt in a bowl, and pour this over the whole casserole.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, heat the oven to 350 and get the casserole out of the fridge. Now, the recipe card I have says "Let come to room temperature," which, oops, I never remember to do. I'm sure this would make for evener baking, but, if you should forget this crucial step, rest assured you're not alone. Bake for 30 minutes, if you remembered to let it warm up a little first--and more like 45, if you put it in cold. When done it will be gloriously browned around the edges, and it will jiggle not at all or just the tiniest bit in the center when you, um, jiggle it.
Let it sit 5 or so minutes before cutting it. If you cut into it, and it's very obviously not cooked through (e.g. raw egg), then pop it back into the oven for 10 more minutes, no biggie. (I only mention this because it happened to us once.) But what is normal is for there to be a little bit of clearish liquid that separates out as you slice it: this is from the chiles and is fine.