California chili powder

A little background first. Chilaquiles is a tortilla casserole made with fried corn tortillas, a spicy tomato sauce, and some cheese. Comfort food. Plain and simple and when done right, perfection.

The first time I had chilaquiles I went to Rich's parents for dinner. We weren't married yet and I had only met his parents a couple of times. Now his parents are a trip, take one Mexican man who looks like a cross between Anthony Quinn and Morgan Freeman and a German- American women and you get 2 brownies and 3 whiteys. ( that's their description, not mine!) Translation: 5 kids. Two who are dark and three who are white. Rich falls into the white category. That's why when anybody sees us and sees our surname and then looks at our blond kids, they always look confused. So, I even think the first time I had chilaquiles it was Rich's birthday. I don't remember much except they were good and I asked for the recipe.

"I just use some California chili powder." Mom-in-law tells me.

Well, now I'm just confused, because I've asked for recipes before and I get: do this, add this, do some more of this. Am I stupid? What are the ingredients? What do I do? I think I am a pretty decent home cook but I am not Mexican and it's the first time I've had this dish. A little help here would be wonderful. Especially since my soon-to-be husband likes it so much.

"What else do you do?" I ask.

"That's about it."

I take that answer as that's about all the questioning she's going to put up with. Over the 13 years, Rich and I have been together I have hounded him about this recipe and he tells me the same thing, all I know is she uses California chili powder. I kinda feel like an old episode from Everybody loves Raymond. Mom-in-law learned the recipe from her mom-in-law. From what I understand taught my mom-in-law how to cook. So, why can't she hook me up? I asked her again this summer and even threw in a compliment .

"I had the chilaquiles at El Ranchito and Suzy's and their chilaquiles are not as good as yours. The flavor is too bright. How do you make yours?" I asked, thinking I might get the answer. A little flattery will do the trick.

"I use California chili powder."

Shit! She saw through my wily ways. I received the same answer again. She broke me, after 13 years. I will admit defeat. Kinda.

Awhile ago my husband and I went grocery shopping and down the Hispanic food aisle, there it was. Quite and unassuming, California chili powder. I put a package in the cart.

"What's that for?" Rich asked.

"Chilaquiles." I told him but while giving that look that only married couples can give. That don't fuck with me, I am on a mission look.

"Okay." he said. End of subject.

I've made chilaquiles now a couple times. Rich hasn't told his mom. He won't say whose are better either. Wise man, but it does feel like a dirty little secret between us. Ask me how to make chilaquiles. I will smile at you serenely and say cryptically...

" A little bit of California chili powder."


Unknown said...

There are many recipes I give out freely but there are a special few that I leave things out. I do it though because I gave out one of my best recipes to a friend. About 6 months later she invited me over to eat and she made the recipe. When I arrived she told me she had "tweeked" my recipe a bit.

What I ate was not my recipe and I was a little hurt that she changed an amazing dish to something a little wrong. 3 dishes I will not give out because of that. Maybe I'm selfish... middle child syndrome.