Eating Well in Honduras

My hotel said it was a “bed and breakfast” in their brochure.  Perhaps it was because my hosts didn’t speak all that much English.  They actually offered a “bed and coffee”.  There was no food involved.  None.  Nada.  Zippo.  Zilch.  Since my room didn’t have a desk, sometimes I took my laptop to their kitchen table.  It was the hub of their home.  I felt included with this family while at the table, except when they ate.  The table could be full of people eating, but I was never offered a bite.  That wasn’t what I paid for.  So, instead of looking hungry, or even slightly interested, I made no eye contact during those times.

Well, I had to find a recipe, so I asked my host what his favorite dish was.  There was no hesitation.  Humberto loved chilaquiles.  I had no idea what that was, but I was determined to eat it with my Honduran hosts.  So, I gave them shopping money and the entire family celebrated Humberto’s favorite dish - with me.  We even had banana flavored pop!  Now, I’m no expert on Mexican food, but I think that chilaquiles are kind of a glorified burritos.  And, they were glorioso!

Humberto Carrano y Gilma Díaz
Copán Ruinas, Honduras
...... 3 lbs. chicken ...... pepper to taste
  2 lbs. tomatoes   1 chicken bouillon cube
  1 bell pepper   1 ball soft cheese (quesillo) 8 ounces
  2 lbs. red onions   1 can whole jalepeños
  3 cloves garlic   1 head lettuce
  1 stick margarine   10 flour tortillas
  2 cups sweet salsa   Grated cheese fresh or feta
......   ......  

First of all, the recipe was given to me in Spanish.  Not all words were clearly understood.  It sounds to me like the amount of chicken, tomatoes, onions and lettuce could be cut down - a lot!  This is a meal for five or six people.  I guess it really all depends on how hungry the people are at your dinner table.

However much chicken you decide to prepare, your first step is to boil it up for 20 minutes.   
Now, grab a sharp knife and get in a dicing mood.  A lot of stuff needs to be chopped up finely.  That includes the chicken, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic and jalepeño peppers.  I suggest you try to keep things separated in bowls.  The chopped up jalepeños stay as sliced until you are ready to eat.  Other things happen to everything else.

Grill up your chicken with the onion and garlic bits as well as the margarine, a cup of the sweet salsa, pepper to taste and a chicken bouillon cube.  It should be over medium heat for twenty-five minutes and smell absolutely wonderful.  And, pat yourself on the back if you know how to spell “bouillon”.  I have to look it up every time.

When everything is cooked, reach for the flour tortillas and put one on your plate.  I was specifically instructed not to use corn tortillas.  The tortilla size of choice for chilaquiles is the huge kind that covers an entire plate.  (My favorite kind!)  Now, you place the desired amount of chicken on your plate as well as the amount of jalepeño fire that works for you. \

The third thing you put on is diced quesillo.  I’d never seen quesillo before, diced or otherwise.  After an internet research, I found out why.  It isn’t produced in the United States.  It is a sweet, soft, unripened cow’s milk cheese.  First of all, I didn’t even know cheese could ripen or unripen.  Anyway, it’s similar to queso fresco (fresh cheese) but you can also use feta or ricotta.  When you have your three ingredients in the amount the suits your appetite, roll it up.

Next comes my favorite part of the recipe.  I was totally unprepared to pop that roll of tortilla deliciousness into the microwave for three to four minutes.  I was shocked that they even had a microwave in rural Honduras.  But, this is my kind of cooking.  I’m sure, if you are a purist, you can figure out on your own how long to cook things in an oven.  You want to be sure the mystery cheese is good and melted.

When that is done, there is no real examining the melted quesillo.  The roll remains just that, rolled up.  But, before eating it, top it with some lettuce, a little more of that sweet salsa and some grated cheese.  Yep, that’s right.  More cheese!

You’ve waited long enough.  It’s time to enjoy.  And, if you eat two of them, you might also need to enjoy a siesta.  I don’t really know if people in Honduras take siestas.  I didn’t notice that tradition.  But, if you consider your two chilaquiles a couple of glorified burritos, it’s okay to take a nap.

Copyright 2015 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.