Make the chips or measure out the store bought chips. For the sauce. If using drained canned tomatoes, place them in a blender jar. If using fresh tomatoes, spread the onto a baking sheet and place them 4 inches below a very hot broiler. When they are darkly roasted (they'll be blackened in spots), about 6 minutes, flip them over and roast the other side-5 to 6 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatoes that are soft and cooked through. Cool. Working over your baking sheet, pull off and discard the blackened skins, and for round tomatoes, cut out the hard cores where the stems were attached. Transfer to a blender, along with all the juices on the baking sheet. If using canned chipotles, add them to the blender, seeds and all, If using dried chipotles, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes, turning frequently until very aromatic. Place in a small bowl, cover with hot tap water and let rehydrate 30 minutes. Drain and add to the blender. Blend the tomatoes and chiles to a puree, but one that still retains a little texture. You should have 2 1/4 cups puree. Over medium heat, set a medium-large wide pot (like a 4-quart Dutch oven of Mexican cazuela) or a deep, large (12-inch) saute pan-you'll need a lid for whatever vessel you choose. Measure the oil, add half of the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until richly golden, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute, then raise the heat to medium-high. Add the tomato puree and stir nearly constantly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens somewhat. Stir in the broth or water and season with salt. The sauce needs to be seasoned highly with salt, but watch out if your chips or broth is already salted. Cover the pot if not continuing with step 2 right away. You should have 4 1/2 cups broth mixture. To cook and serve the chilaquiles. Set out the crema, chicken and cheese. Put the pot over medium high heat until the broth mixture boils. Stir in the epazote (if you're using cilantro, set it aside to add later) and the tortilla chips, coating all the chips well. Let return to a rolling boil, cover tightly and turn off the heat. Let stand 5 minutes (no longer). Immediately uncover and very carefully stir to coat the chips evenly with the sauce and to check that the chips have softened nicely-they should be a little chewy, not mushy. (If they are too chewy, stir in a little more broth, cover and set over medium heat for 3 or 4 more minutes). Sprinkle with the cilantro, if that is the herb you're using. Either spoon onto warm individual plates in the kitchen or serve directly from the vessel it was made in. Whichever you choose, drizzle the chilaquiles with the crema (or one of its stand-ins), strew with the remaining sliced onion and the optional shredded chicken, and dust generously with the finely crumbled cheese.;
Recipe courtesy of Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill, Chicago, IL
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