Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Huevos Motuleños: Breakfast of Champions

I rarely go out for breakfast, mainly because I'm too lazy to make myself presentable enough for public consumption early in the morning. Then again, I'm not that much of a breakfast person anyway unless I'm on vacation-- a cup of coffee and some cereal or heavily buttered toast, maybe some fruit, and I'm good to go.

But once in a while I get the itch for something more substantial, and this morning I woke up craving Huevos Motuleños, a magnificent breakfast dish I first experienced years ago at the Museum Cafe in Cozumel, Mexico (Museo de la Isla de Cozumel). Gotta have me some, and since I don't know of a restaurant nearby that serves this dish I'll have to make it myself. You might want to try it yourself some time, so I'll give you the recipe below.

Huevos Motuleños is traditionally made with eggs on tortillas with black beans, ham, canned peas* (see note below), plantains, salsa picante and cheese, but there are innumerable regional and personal variations that include other ingredients such as chorizo, shredded pork, machaca, onions, avocado/guacamole, and so on.

It isn't difficult, but it is a little time consuming. Try it out on your family, and once you've got it down invite your friends for brunch some Sunday to impress the heck out of them.

As the story goes, Huevos Motuleños was created by the proprietors of one of the Yucatan region’s first Lebanese restaurants, “La Sin Rival” in Motul. The restaurant was owned by the Lebanese immigrant Jorge Siqueff Febles and was frequently the scene of political power meals headed by Motul native Felipe Carrillo Puerto – governor of Yucatán in the early 1920s. The governor was known for his taste for meals with a large variety of side dishes. On one particular occasion, there were so many guests in the governor's company that Siqueff quickly realized that the restaurant did not have enough tableware. Instead of serving the side dishes individually, he simply put all of them atop a couple of fried eggs – and Huevos Motuleños was born. Restaurante Siqueff still continues the tradition in Mérida (since 1959) on Calle 60 between Calle 35 and Calle 37.

Some like it hot. I'm not one of them, so in this recipe I'll include the original tomato salsa I learned from the Museum chef, plus a mild salsa ranchero and a salsa that will burn your lips clean off. It's up to you. Either way, this big breakfast is drowse-inducing, enough to make you want to take a little siesta after you've finished. So if you operate heavy equipment or have an important meeting early in the day, be forewarned. ;-)

*NOTE: About those peas. :-) If you want the authentic deal, try to find green pigeon peas (Ganules Verdes), sold under the Fiesta and Goya brands in most Mexican supermercados. They are very different from the canned "sweet" peas you are used to, really more bean or lentil-like. It does make a difference to the taste.

Here is the basic recipe. Feel free to riff by changing it to suit your own tastes.

HUEVOS MOTULENOS

Ingredients:
  • 12 eggs, poached or fried (sunny side up is traditional)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups cooked black beans, mashed or whole (or you can use a can or two of refried beans)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Chihuahua cheese (you can substitute Monterey Jack or any dry aged cheese such as Romano, Parmesan or Sardo; your call)
  • 1/3 pound ham, cut into small cubes
  • 1 can peas (see note above) or 2/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed and cooked
  • 1 plantain (or banana), sliced diagonally into 1/4 inch slices and slightly mashed down
  • Tomato sauce(below)
Tomato Sauce
  • 7 large tomatoes, roasted until blistered
  • 2 serrano or jalapeno chiles (or to taste)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Half a medium white onion, chopped
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS:

First prepare the Tomato Sauce: Blend tomatoes, chiles, and garlic in a blender until fairly liquid. In a heavy, 12-inch deep-sided skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and saute onion until wilted and transparent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully add the tomato mixture (it will splatter!). Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Keep warm.

Next, in a heavy, 10-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering hot (but not smoking). Using tongs to hold the edges, fry each tortilla for about 10 seconds peer side until brown at the edges but still soft and pliable. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Put plantain slices in the pan and fry until golden. Add more oil if necessary. Drain on paper towels and keep warm.

Heat the ham cubes (or other meat of your choice). In separate pans (or the microwave), heat beans and peas.

Now it's time to assemble the plates:

On each of 6 plates, spread a little of the tomato sauce and place a tortilla on top of the sauce. Spread each tortilla with about 1/3 cup of beans. Place 2 cooked eggs on top of the beans; lightly place another tortilla on top of the eggs. Spoon a generous serving of the Tomato Sauce (or the salsa of your choice) over each tortilla and sprinkle with ham cubes, peas and shredded cheese. You may also choose to top it off with a dollop of sour cream if you so desire. Place fried plantain slices on the sides of the plates, garnish the dish with cilantro and rush the plates to your starving family/guests. Serves 6.

Now for the salsas I promised. First up, a traditional Salsa Yucateca with habanero peppers, the hottest pepper on the planet:

Salsa Yucateca
  • 2 charred habanero chiles, mashed
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves charred garlic, mashed
  • salt
Mix all ingredients together in small dish until well blended. That's all there is to it.

MILD SALSA RANCHERO (the kind sissies like me prefer; hat tip to Ed in Los Cabos for the recipe)
  • 1 poblano chile, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped (don't dice it too fine)
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped or cut in half and thinly sliced (whichever you prefer)
  • 8 Roma/plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or to taste), minced
  • Some cilantro, chopped, for both color and taste (or thinly sliced green onions if you hate cilantro)
Saute the chiles over medium heat in a little vegetable oil until soft but not brown. When the chiles are about half done, add the onions and saute a bit more. When the onions are transparent (not brown!), add the garlic and the tomatoes. Add water to cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or so. Add salt to taste. Add cilantro or green onions just prior to serving. Note that this salsa should be a little lumpy, not smooth and liquid.

And there you have it. Huevos Motuleños, breakfast of champions and well worth the effort of making them. On the other hand, if you know of a restaurant in Rocky Point that serves this dish, let me know. I might be inclined to comb my hair and change out of my pajamas to get some.