Living in Texas my whole life, it’s little surprise that I love Mexican food. However, because I live in Texas, I have Mexican food readily accessible, and it’s not often I really cook a lot of it at home. Not real, authentic Mexican food, anyway. I’ve had a Diana Kennedy cookbook in my collection for years, and rarely tried a recipe from the book. So there it sat, gathering dust, and not getting the love it deserved. I decided that it was time for a change…time to crack open that book!
One of the first recipes I marked with my “must make soon” sticky note was the Nopalitos con Huevos recipe. Why? A friend of mine the other day was talking about nopalitos. The conversation went something like this:
Friend: I’m excited about lunch, I have nopalitos!
Me: Nopalitos? What are those again?
Me: Oh, yeah. I think I’ve seen those before at the store. What do you do with them?
Friend: I’m eating them cooked with eggs. My grandma is making them.
(side comment – my friend’s grandma is an amazing cook. Every Christmas, she makes tamales, and I kid you not, they are the best tamales in the world. And she makes some darn tasty enchiladas too!)
Me: Interesting. I wonder what they taste like!
Friend: You should totally try to make them!
And so…here we are! Nopalitos, or nopales, are the pads of a Prickly Pear Cactus. Yes, cactus. (You have to wonder how, exactly, some guy came to decide to actually eat something that has spines on it. Must have been really hungry. But I suppose you could pose that same question about a lot of the foods we eat.) You can find either the whole pads or even prepared nopalitos (already cleaned and chopped), at Mexican/Latin grocery stores. I found mine at Fiesta, a Latin supermarket here in Texas. If you can only find the whole pads, you will have to peel and remove the spines (wear a thick glove!) and chop. Learn more about nopalitos and the cleaning process here: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/nopalitos.htm. Me, I bought them already prepared. I’m usually not a huge fan of convenience products, but bypassing the task of removing spines seemed worthwhile in this instance.
As for the other ingredients, Mexican chorizo is fresh (not cured), spiced sausage. It is usually made from pork. I wouldn’t suggest substituting Spanish chorizo in this recipe, as Spanish chorizo has an entirely different consistency. If you can’t find Mexican chorizo (which is also available at a Mexican/Latin grocery), you can use bacon or another breakfast sausage as a substitute, or omit it entirely. Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese that is dry, crumbly and pleasantly salty. This is also found at Mexican/Latin groceries, or you could substitute another cheese, such as feta, or even Monterey Jack. They will change the flavors a bit, but I imagine it will be just as delicious.
I’m sure there are many, many variations of this recipe. Mine is a variation of Diana Kennedy’s. I added chorizo, and used jalapenos instead of serranos.
6 oz Mexican chorizo (if you need this recipe to be gluten-free, check the label. You could substitute sausage if need be.)
12 oz nopalitos, cleaned and diced
1 large tomato, unpeeled, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 c white onion, finely chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large eggs
8 corn tortillas, warmed
4 oz cotija cheese, crumbled
¼ c cilantro, chopped
Heat a large saucepan to medium-high. Remove chorizo from casings, crumble, and brown. Remove chorizo from pan and set on paper towels to drain. Drain most of the oil from the pan. Add nopalitos, tomato, garlic, onion, and jalapenos to pan. Cover the pan and cook over medium flame, shaking the pan from time to time, for about 25 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and add chorizo. Break the eggs into the nopales and stir until set.
Spoon egg mixture into warmed tortillas, topping with cheese and cilantro.