Saturday, September 24, 2005

Chile Tortilla Eggbake

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
Serves 8
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.


  1. Please know that this recipe made me the Queen of Christmas Morning. Thank you & bless you, &c., &c. xox

  2. Anonymous1:34 AM

    My hubby has to eat gluten free. Have you ever tried this recipe using white or yellow corn tortillas instead of the flour ones? If so, did it turn out fine? Thanks.

    1. wondering the same thing, 11 years later. Don't worry. I will try it and report back.

    2. I tried this with corn tortillas. Turned out great.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. After all this time, and all the zillions of people who have pinned this recipe, many from an early pin that I did, how can I be only the third commenter???
    I just want to say that I love this recipe in so many ways and have made it numerous times. Often, at brunch for the two of us, I make a half-recipe using 3 eggs and a little more than a cup of milk, round in a wide glass quiche dish (no tortilla-tearing necessary!), which makes an especially appealing casserole. I always use fresh or frozen chilies or jalapenos because we grow some. And because we don't like blistering-hot spicy things, we get to choose how much, and how hot, the peppers are which we use, and whether or not to include the seeds. I cut the peppers, red or green or both, crosswise into very thin slices and distribute them around sparingly or generously depending on their heat. So pretty! But do not omit peppers - their flavor is essential to the success of the dish in my opinion.
    I like to use mostly white cheeses in this (including whole-milk mozzarella), and have used many combinations, All have been delicious.
    Anyway, at long last, let me thank you for bringing this yummy thing into my life. It is a treasure and I will keep on making it for a very long time.

  5. I've been making this recipe ever since you first published it, but have somehow never printed it out, nor have I commented on how amazing it is! We have it for breakfast on New Year's Day every year, and I make it every time I have to contribute food for a teacher breakfast or for sick friends, new moms, etc. I love your recipes and I love everything else you do!!

  6. Neglected to mention this was on our table Christmas morn and it was so good. Thanks for the recipe!!

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  8. This breakfast was a hit. My son added a lot of cheese to the top, so it had that strand of cheese that dangles from your mouth to the fork.

  9. We've made this several times now. Such a big hit and so ridiculously easy! Question: do you have strong feelings re: block v pre-grated? We've always used pre-grated but, after your Cheese Nachos specs, I'm now wondering! Also, when you say "jack", do you use Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack?

  10. Shelley10:34 AM

    My sister and niece are also gluten free...has anyone made this with corn tortillas?? Christmas is usually at my house and I am looking for a new breakfast dish to try for her. Thanks!

  11. Also wondering if you've done this with corn tortillas yet, being gluten free and all. Sounds so yummy!

  12. Similar to my 'poblano' cassarole. What I do is get Poblano or Anaheim peppers, stick them under the broiler til the skin kinda turns black and bubbly. Take them out and preferably put in brown paper bag (who has those anymore - parchment paper works the same). Leave while browning some ground beef and onions.

    Kinda skin the peppers, then make a layer of peppers, ground beef, cheese a couple of times. Then pour egg mixture over and bake. I do add a bit of garlic, cumin and other spices. Comes out wonderful.


  13. Anonymous7:19 PM

    We had this for breakfast this morning. It is amazing. My husband added crumbled bacon, before cooking. So yummy, no salt or pepper needed.❤️❤️❤️

  14. Anonymous4:21 PM

    This is a great recipe! I did add more green chilies to each layer, we live in New Mexico, the Chile Capital of the southwest! Thanks for sharing your recipe🤠❤️