Recipe: Breakfast Tata
Twice a month, Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, tentatively titled “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015. When she learned that this week’s recipe was to land in an issue featuring egg sandwiches, she knew exactly the recipe she wanted to share: her family’s egg sandwich.
There’s a link between the Berkshires and Santa Fe. I didn’t know it when I first went out there. I was nearly twenty, sick of working on Railroad Street in Great Barrington, ready to go. I always say that the Berkshires are a good place to be a kid and a good place to be a grown up, but the worst place to be in between. When I drove my little car over the New Mexico border, I knew I had gotten out for good. I was a long way from home.
It only took a few months for me to have my first Berkshire run-in. It was someone I knew just a bit, but enough to stop a few paces past our crossing point on the sidewalk, to turn around and say, “Don’t I…?” I was surprised, and I felt a little found out, like my secret hiding place had been uncovered. Over the four years I lived there, it happened so frequently that the shock of it wore off, and although the other participant in the run-in would exclaim on the smallness of the world, isn’t this wild, and all of that, I’d nod and smile and peek at my watch and beg having to run off to work or class. It didn’t take me long to learn that the two places are connected in a way no one can quite explain. It might be the beauty, the culture, the gentle rolling artistic draw of both the landscapes. Or maybe it’s something deeper, some light and dark versions of the same home.
When I lived in Santa Fe, I dreamed of the Berkshires. Especially in August, when the fires would push in from two sides and the ground would harden and crack, I’d wake up in the dry, early morning with my head still in the lush and shaded green of my parent’s house in Monterey. It’s been years since I’ve been back to New Mexico, but now that I’m settled back in the Berkshires, Santa Fe is usually where I go in my dreams. I’ll wake up and report on the feeling of the air blowing through the arroyo, the smell of chiles roasting at the farmers’ market. And my husband, Joey, listens to all the details and responds with his own. It’s in his blood too, and for all we love and feel at home here, it’s clear that Santa Fe doesn’t let go so easily.
The first Fall after we moved here from Santa Fe, Joey was working at the Berkshire Coop Market. At the time, there was a company that sold big jars of organic green chile sauce. We’d spend most of our grocery budget on cases of it, and that chile sauce found its way into every meal. It was a year of beginnings and firsts—we had a wedding, a baby, our first full year together. Neither of us knew much about cooking, but we found dishes we both loved that we could cook together. Joey’s breakfast specialty became a breakfast quesadilla of sorts, scrambled egg with cheese and (if we were feeling lush) bacon or chorizo, all tucked into a tortilla with a slather of green chile and cheese to hold it together. When our first daughter was old enough to ask for it, she gave it the title that stuck: Breakfast Tata.
Of course, if there really is a link between the Berkshires and Santa Fe, the path between them is smothered in green chile. That mystical chile (not chili!) only grows in New Mexico, and we go to great lengths to bring them here. Our original chile source petered out long ago, and now we order them directly in cases from Hatch in August when we remember. The last few years we’ve gone in on a case with friends, and we all get together and roast them on the grill before sliding them into freezer bags that keep us in chile through the winter. But in a pinch, those cans in the supermarket do the trick. They’re cheap and small and mixed with chiles from other places, but if we close our eyes and think about the smell of pinon filling the cold New Mexico winter air, we can infuse those sad little cans of chile with just enough memory, love, and heat to make them taste like the real thing.
Optional: 3-4 ounces chorizo or bacon
Butter, for the pan
6 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
3 ounces cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, grated
4 8-10-inch flour tortillas
½ cup chopped, roasted green chiles
1. If you’re including meat, heat a large skillet. For chorizo, squeeze the sausage out of its casing and fry, breaking up the sausage, until slightly brown. For bacon, chop the meat into small pieces, and fry until crispy. Remove from the skillet, set aside, and gently wipe out the pan.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, salt and water in a bowl. Heat the pan that scrambles eggs in your kitchen, add a touch of butter, and pour the eggs into the pan. Sprinkle the meat and two-thirds of the cheese over the eggs. Let the eggs cook on medium-high heat without agitation until they start to solidify, then scramble them into large pieces. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
3. In a large skillet (ready to go if you used it for meat), melt enough butter on low to medium heat to cover the surface of the pan. You are going to be cooking two tatas at a time. Put one tortilla in the pan and shuffle it around so that it is coated with butter. Spread a quarter of the scrambled eggs on one half of the tortilla, then fold the other half over. Put the second tortilla in the pan, shuffle, fill it with eggs and fold it over. One at a time, lift up the top layer, spread a quarter of the remaining grated cheese over the egg, spoon a bit of green chile in there with the cheese, and put the top layer down again. After two minutes or so, flip both tatas. Let them cook for a few minutes more before transferring to their plates. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Cut in half and serve hot, with additional chile if needed.