Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat August 31, 2013

Huevos Rancheros And A Time Machine

Click the play button above to hear the radio version of this post.

The movie “Back to the Future” loops through my head more and more as I grow older. The notion of time moving in a ‘ever new’ way and only going forward is simply unreal or so it seems.

There are times and especially settings when it strikes me that life is more of a ‘paint over’ from previous events. The past and future collide in these moments and miss the intermediary avenue of a span of years. It isn’t just deja vu all over again. Or is it? Ask Yogi Berra. His gentle, whacky wit is a comfort throughout time’s ‘jumps.’

So far my story might not be making you hungry but we will get there. It’s only a matter of yes, time.

We were driving to Key West to celebrate my birthday with friends and family. When we got out of the bustling city of Miami and near the rural rhythms of Homestead, we pulled off U.S. 1 and took Palm Avenue toward a little Mexican place we have come to enjoy.  We gazed out, overlooking the vast fields of the crops that make life so flavorful.

The clock suddenly shifted backwards, the moment I turned the car West. The radio disc jockey Casey Kasem was on the air and doing his well-crafted, nostalgia-rich program. It was 1976 again and ‘The Manhattans’ were singing, “Kiss and Say Goodbye.” The present kissed us goodbye too.

I parked the car and we entered the nearly empty restaurant. I was not concerned by the lack of customers. I knew that it was when most of their loyal clientele were at Sunday morning church services. I didn’t need to look at the menu.

It was ‘Huevos Rancheros’ I’d be finding some spirituality with soon! The years rolled back about five more when our waitress set down the plates. I ‘time-traveled’ back to the place in Kansas I first had Huevos Rancheros in. I was working as a concrete laborer then. I had yet to find my way to ‘the kitchen life.’ The majority of men who did that dusty, hot, bone-numbing work with me were from Mexico and had migrated up to a place near the cattle industry that provided us with a paycheck.

We were building “pit silos.” The labor involved spraying concrete out of hoses exactly like firemen use to spray water. Water is heavy. But doesn’t weigh as much as concrete! I got hungry and I took a cue from the older, more experienced men from south of the Rio Grande and laid down a foundation of Huevos Rancheros with them just after sunrise---before the work whistle blew.

We often think of ‘salsas’ as being the trump card of Mexican cooking but genius arises when it comes to cooked sauces by the chefs and home chefs of Mexico. Salsas and guacamole are at the starting gates and very important. But advanced adventures in flavor are found in adobos and moles! And what about the saucy stew that includes chiles, cloves, cinnamon, mixed meats and plantains called ‘Mancha Manteles’ or “tablecloth stainers?!” What a beautiful name!

Our Homestead breakfast ended and we got back in the car happily satisfied and about ready to drive the 150 miles over the gorgeous stretch of highways and bridges to Mile Marker Zero! I wheeled into the gas station just as we hit U.S. 1. Lordy! We must have hit the future again!

There was television playing from screens right on the gas pumps!

Glad I had the Huevos Rancheros in me to keep it real.

RECIPE

This dish, also known as “Rancher’s Eggs,” is of Mexican origin. It is simple and straightforward. One can add more spice or less as desired. They are typically served with re-fried beans and often guacamole and/or rice. They always have tortillas of some kind and eggs as you like them. “Huevos Divorciados” is another fun egg dish with the benefit of having two different sauces. “Huevos “Motuleños” are a dish out of the Yucatán reminiscent of Huevos Rancheros but made with the eggs and tortillas and served with black beans, cheese, plantains and Salsa Picante. Here I am making an simple and adaptive sauce that we like very much called “Salsa Colorada”.

Serves 4

For the Salsa Colorada:

Yield: 2 Cups

1 red bell pepper, roasted and peeled, stem and seeds discarded

2 jalapeños

2 tomatoes concasse

4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly

4 Tablespoons toasted unsalted almonds

1 hard cooked egg yolk

1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil

4 Tablespoons Spanish sherry wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Put all of the above in a blender or food processor and roughly puree. Reserve until needed.

For the Dish:

8 eggs

8 corn tortillas

oil for frying the eggs

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

1 jalapeño chile, stem and (if you prefer) seeds removed and cut into thin rings

Directions:

Warm the Salsa Colorada.

Fry the corn tortillas in the oil first. Remove to paper toweling and keep warm.

Now fry the eggs.

Place the tortillas on 4 warm plates and put the eggs on top.

Spoon the Salsa Colorada on as desired.

Top with the jalapeño slices.

Serve as desired with other accompaniements.

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