What do Ina Garten, Mario Batali, Sofia Coppola, and Gwyneth Paltrow all have in common? They’ve all worked with Julia Turshen. In the culinary world, Turshen’s name has wide reach: She is a writer, podcast host, recipe developer, and has worked with some of the biggest names in the biz, including chefs Mario Batali and Jodi Williams, both of whose cookbooks she co-authored. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is not to immune to the Turshen touch, as she tapped Turshen to help pen her cookbook, It’s All Good. But for all the behind-the-scenes work she has been doing for the past several years, she is now getting her spot in the limelight as the author of the newly-released book, Small Victories: Recipes, Advice and Hundreds of Ideas for Home-Cooking Triumphs ($15; amazon.com).
With a foreward by Ina Garten, and a party hosted by Sofia Coppola (a longtime friend whom Turshen used to trade cooking classes in exchange for wine from her family’s winery) to celebrate the launch, it's obvious that Turshen has quite the A-list support crew. And once I got my hands on a bound copy, I realized that I couldn't wait to cook my way through it, so I did, starting with the Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomato Salsa (recipe below) for Sunday brunch.
I have to say that I’m a huge chilaquiles fan and will order it every time it’s offered on a brunch menu. Turshen’s version took me a little over half an hour to make. I didn’t have the time or energy to fry up all those tortillas, so like she advises in the intro, I threw in six handfuls of store-bought tortilla chips (most of which were stale) instead. This recipe was ridiculously easy and the next time I make it, which very well may be tonight, I’m going to quadruple the salsa recipe so that I can make this dish in a snap. Once that step is done, all you have to do is cook it with the tortilla chips for a few minutes, and you’ve got a standout meal in under 10 minutes.
Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomato Salsa
Chilaquiles are crispy corn tortillas that are softened and flavored with salsa and served warm, often for breakfast with fried eggs on top. A great example of transforming something that has seemingly gone bad (stale tortilla chips) into something totally memorable, the small victory here is all about figuring out the best way to turn something old into something entirely new. If you don’t want or have time to fry your own chips, simply substitute six large handfuls of store-bought tortilla chips. Note that the roasted tomato salsa is also a small victory unto itself. It’s my go-to salsa that I use for everything from a dip for chips to a taco topping.
1 lb [455 g] tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, roughly chopped (seeds and all—or seed it, or use less than a whole chile if you’re not into super-spicy food, or leave it out if you don’t like spice at all)
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
Canola oil for drizzling and frying
Packed 1/4 cup [10 g] fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for serving
5 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp sour cream
12 corn tortillas, cut into thick strips or wedges
1/4 cup [50 g] drained pickled red onions (recipe below)
1/4 cup [80 g] finely crumbled Cotija cheese (or crumbled feta cheese)
4 fried eggs (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the tomatoes, jalapeño, and onion on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables with 1 Tbsp canola oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Roast, stirring now and then, until the vegetables are softened and browned in spots, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender or a food processor and add the cilantro and 3 Tbsp of the lime juice. Puree until smooth. Season the salsa to taste with salt and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and the remaining 2 Tbsp lime juice. Season to taste with salt. Set aside. Skip to step 7 if you are using store-bought tortilla chips.
- In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm 1/2-inch [12 mm] canola oil. Once the oil is nice and hot (it should bubble vigorously if you dip the edge of a tortilla into it), add a large handful of tortilla strips, just enough to form a single layer, and cook, turning each one once, until crispy and golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chips to a paper towel–lined baking sheet and continue cooking the remaining tortilla chips, adding more oil to the pot as necessary. Season to taste with salt. The chips will crisp as they cool.
- Once you’ve crisped all of your tortillas, pour off and discard whatever oil remains in the pot (for easy and safe disposal, pour it into a bowl, let it cool, and then pour it into a bottle or jar, seal, and throw it away).
- Add the reserved salsa to the pot and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, add the tortilla chips, and cook, stirring now and then, until the chips have softened and absorbed some of the salsa, about 5 minutes. At first it will look like a lot of chips and not much salsa, but the tortillas will quickly absorb the sauce and become almost a bit wilted. You want the final chilaquiles to be soft but not soggy.
- Divide the chilaquiles evenly among four plates and drizzle each portion with one-fourth of the sour cream mixture. Scatter the pickled onions, Cotija, and cilantro over the chilaquiles and top each portion with a fried egg, if desired. For vegan friends, simply omit the sour cream and Cotija (and the eggs). Serve immediately.
To make CHILAQUILES WITH SALSA VERDE, substitute tomatillos (papery layers removed, cored, washed, and roughly chopped) for the tomatoes and proceed as directed, roasting the tomatillos with the onion and garlic.
USE THE ROASTED TOMATO MIXTURE AS A JUMPING OFF POINT for dinner. When you take it out of the oven, put thin fish fillets (such as flounder), peeled shrimp, or chicken tenders on top of the mixture and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Continue to roast until the fish (or shrimp or chicken) is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve with cooked rice and lime wedges for squeezing over.
The only thing that rivals chilaquiles in terms of a way to use leftover tortilla chips is DOUG’S FAMOUS TEX-MEX MEAT LOAF (Doug is my father). To make it, combine 1 lb [455 g] ground beef or ground turkey with 1 1/2 cups [125 g] crushed tortilla chips (crush them in a food processor or in a plastic bag with the help of a rolling pin), 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup [120 ml] store-bought salsa, and 1/2 cup [50 g] grated cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into a loaf on a parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 375°F [190°C] oven until the meat loaf is firm to the touch, about 45 minutes, depending on its dimensions. If you’d like, you can put some extra grated cheese or even a thin layer of ketchup on top of the meat loaf halfway through baking for extra umph. By the way, the only thing that’s better than a slice of this meat loaf is a sandwich made the day after with melted cheddar cheese on a toasted English muffin.
Pickled Red Onions
Makes about 1 pint jar
1 red onion, cut lengthwise in half and then into thin half-moons
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
In a pint jar, combine the onion, garlic, sugar, salt, vinegar, and water; screw on the lid tightly; and shake until the salt and sugar dissolve. Let sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature. Eat straight away, or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Substitute shaved carrots or thinly sliced radishes for the onions.
Use sliced turnips instead of the onions and add a coarsely grated small beet to turn them a stunning color.
Try adding spices to your pickles, like mustard, cumin, and/or coriander seeds.
For kimchi-like pickled onions (or any vegetable, especially daikon), add 1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) to the mix, along with two additional sliced garlic cloves and a splash of fish sauce.
Reprinted with permission from Small Victories by Julia Turshen, photographs by Gentl + Hyers, Chronicle Books (2016).