Chilaquiles are a classic Mexican dish made with fried tortillas, coated in red or green salsa, layered with cheese and/or refried beans and topped with a variety of garnishes like crema, diced red onions and cilantro.

There’s nothing about chilaquiles (pronounced chee-lah-KEE-less) I don’t like. They’re saucy, cheesy and crunchy, with just the right amount of heat. A generous amount of fresh toppings create a nice contrast to the intensely flavorful sauce and fried tortillas.

They make a satisfying dish for breakfast, typically made to order and often topped with a fried egg. But they can be eaten any time of day, especially with the addition of a protein, like shredded chicken or cooked chorizo.

A Mexican comfort food, chilaquiles were most likely invented as a tasty way to use stale corn tortillas and leftover salsa. The flavor and texture of the dish are so unique, though, that they are worth taking the time to make, whether or not you have leftovers on hand.

Of course, as we all know, finding that time on a weeknight can be difficult, so I’ve created a version with a few shortcuts that delivers all the flavor without the fuss of frying tortillas or slow-simmering a salsa.

Traditional chilaquiles are often made with a dried-chile-based sauce. The dried chiles are toasted and soaked before being puréed and simmered along with many other ingredients. The result is a deeply flavorful coating for the fried tortillas.

To achieve the same depth of flavor, I purée whole canned tomatoes with one or two (depending on how hot you like it) chipotle chiles in adobo. The sauce mixture is then simmered with sautéed onions, garlic and chicken broth, just long enough to reduce it slightly and let the flavors marry together. The canned chipotles bring a delicious smokiness to a sauce that’s quick to make but tastes like it took a lot longer.

Tortilla chips, (I look for a thicker chip, which won’t turn too mushy in the cooking process) which take the place of the fried tortillas, are tossed in the sauce.

Rather than making each serving individually, I’ve turned these chilaquiles into an easy casserole by layering the salsa-coated chips in a baking dish with shredded cooked chicken, canned black beans and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

The casserole is baked just long enough to heat through and melt the cheese, before being showered with a luxurious amount of toppings that give this dish a fiesta-like feeling. And whenever I can get a little fiesta on a Wednesday night, I call it a win.

 

Smoky Chicken and Black Bean Chilaquiles Casserole

Serves 6.

Note: Hearty and cheesy with a touch of heat and just enough crunch to make it interesting, this easy casserole makes a memorable weeknight meal. Or, top each serving with a fried egg for a flavorful weekend brunch. From Meredith Deeds.

• 1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained

• 1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

• 1 c. chicken stock or low-sodium broth

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 8 oz. tortilla chips (look for thick tortilla chips)

• 2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided

• 2 c. shredded cooked chicken

• 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

• 1/3 c. sour cream or Mexican crema

• 1/2 c. chopped avocado

• 1/4 c. cilantro leaves

• 1/4 c. chopped red onion

• Lime wedges

Directions

In a blender, purée the tomatoes and chiles until smooth.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onion and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato mixture, broth and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Just before assembling the casserole, add the chips to the skillet with sauce and toss to coat.

Spread 1/3 of the chip mixture in an even layer across the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish. Top with 3/4 cup of cheese, half of the chicken and half of the beans. Repeat layering process one more time, using another 1/3 of the chips, 3/4 cup of sauce, 3/4 cup cheese and remaining half of chicken and beans. Top with the remaining 1/3 chip mixture and 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake until cheese is melted and casserole is heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, cilantro and red onion. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

 

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at meredithdeeds@gmail.com. Follow her on Instagram ­at @meredithdeeds.