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Migas - what is this dish?


BigboyDan
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migas: mee-GUS - noun; spanish for crumbs; similar to, hormigas: ants.

Migas are thought to have been popularized, if not invented, in Austin. There is a California version called Migas, but it seems to be different than which is normally found in the Capital City. I've never really seen Migas offered in restaurants outside the Austin-San Antonio area, usually priced dirt cheap and offered all day. Cisco's version has always been my favorite.

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Here's the simple recipe that I've cooked in Austin eateries for thirty years (feel free to list your favorite version or favorite restaurant's):

Saute a handfull of pico de gallo in one ounce of oil in a preheated frying pan over medium heat; after one minute, add three stirred eggs to pan and cook to scrambled; just as the egg are setting, add a half-a-handfull of pieces of crispy corn tortilla, and fold into eggs.

Place on heated plate and stripe eggs with three ounces of chile con queso.

Add sides of: refried beans, papitas (fried potatos), and one of bacon, chorizo, or sausage.

Eat with flour tortillas.

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This sounds like an excellent opportunity for questions about migas in the Q&A with Robb Walsh starting July 19. In his book, TexMex Cookbook, Robb mentions migas and offers a couple of recipes. But I will bet that he has more to offer. (After all, editors have to stop somewhere or all books would weigh 50 pounds. :laugh: )

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Yes, migas are a beloved Austin tradition. We had quite a lively and informative thread about where we go for our favorites (as well as several recipes). It's here: "Migas in Austin"

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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  • 2 months later...

Welcome to eGullet, Casemnor. Thanks for posting.

I am not sure about the origin of migas. In Robb Walsh's book, he doesn't tack down the history of migas precisely, but does say that there is a Spanish version using torn bread, a Mexican version using torn tortillas, and a Tex-Mex version using crumbled tortilla chips. He also quotes Robert Amaya of Austin's Taco Village as saying that it was called both migas and migajas when he was growing up in Corpus Christi, where it was made with torn tortillas.

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I was trying to decide what to have for breakfast this morning and settled on Spanish migas. This got me curious about migas and so I did some research. While this thread is fairly old, I didn’t find any other centralized source on migas on egullet.

As mentioned above Migas means crumbs in Spanish. As far as I’m aware there are three types of migas, or at least three types of this dish that use the name Migas – more on that later.

Migas are extremely popular in Spain. In fact there is a town in Spain, Torrox, which holds an annual Fiesta de Migas. Each region of Spain has a different version of the dish. The common thread is day old bread, torn into small pieces and sautéed in olive oil with onions and pimenton. Other additions sometimes include chorizo, Serrano ham, or bacon.

The Mexican version uses tortillas instead of bread. I’ve seen recipes that include Mexican chorizo, onions, beans, and chilies, tomato and eggs or some combination. Once in a while I see people refer to a tortilla soup as Sopa de Migas.

The Texas versions seem closer to the Mexican migas than the Spanish version. Tortilla chips are the most common starch component. The other main difference is the presence of an abundance of cheese which is typical of tex-mex cuisine. Otherwise, you can expect the presence of onions, beans, salsa, chilies, etc.

I’ve seen references to dishes in other cuisines which appear similar to migas. One regional Indian dish, for instance, uses leftover bread which is fried in oil with onions and a masala. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a similar dish in many other cultures as well. The common thread seems to be using a leftover starch (bread, tortillas, tortilla chips) and cooking with onions with a fat (olive oil, bacon grease, pork fat rendered from chorizo, etc.) and sometimes other ingredients.

This is probably a stretch and I’d be very surprised to hear of a direct connection to migas but I’ll point out that Chinese fried rice is really just a leftover starch fried in oil with onions and other ingredients.

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Yes, migas, as a recognisable dish is of spanish origion. My point in starting the thread was to offer the Austin version that has been eaten, as describe above, for at least 50 years.

Thanks for chiming in, Robb.

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A baked dish, Chilquilas.

Chee-lah-KEE-lays.

Chilaquiles are primarily a way to use up leftover, stale corn torillas. And every Mexican cook I've ever met has a favorite way to make them. Usually several. Usually slung together from yesterday's leftovers. They can include anything, really. Chicken, chorizo, eggs, onions, crema, sour cream, chicken broth, whatever. They're a popular breakfast dish. My friend Lita in Queretaro makes them in her microwave every morning in order to start her family off with a quick and hearty breakfast.

But basically, they are leftover corn tortillas (they're not as good with fresh tortillas as they tend to fall apart in the sauce) moistened (and therefore softened) with salsa, to which you add a little cheese for flavor, and anything else that sounds good to you at the moment.

They're very Mexican. And much more delicious than their humble and ancient origins might suggest.

Edit: And um, regarding the migas. Of course I could be wrong because I'm not a native Spanish speaker (and if I am wrong, someone please correct me because I don't want to go around mispronouncing such a simple word), but I think it's MEE-gus. Two-syllable word. No accent on the last syllable. And I'm not a food historian either, but I'd bet that migas were not invented in Austin. I'd bet that Mexicans have been scrambling eggs with tortilla strips since before there even was an Austin.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Wikipedia definition that includes both Spanish and New World versions. Here is the recipe they reference.

The traditional Mexican main-course dish chilaquiles is similar to migas in some respects.

Here is what they say about Chiliquiles although some friends of mine from Santa Fe will fight over the fact that they have the original version of this dish and it is New Mexican, not Texan according to them.

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...Chilaquiles...although some friends of mine from Santa Fe will fight over the fact that they have the original version of this dish and it is New Mexican, not Texan according to them.

I'd imagine that chilaquiles are only "New Mexican" or "Texan" insofar as Mexicans that lived in those areas prepared them.

I've gotten a few pm's from people that requested the recipe for the quicky "microwave chilaquiles" as prepared by my Mexican friend Lita. They're good for breakfast or a quick snack.

I'm repeating this recipe just as Lita gave it to me. It's gotten me into trouble here on eGullet before, because, although Lita OBVIOUSLY believes that using stale corn tortillas, which she fries for the chilaquiles, is the best thing, this dish is supposed to be a quicker and easier version. And when she doesn't have said stale corn tortillas, or feel like frying them, Fritos are what she uses. And she's got kids and doesn't want them frying tortillas, so they've all learned how to make chilaquiles themselves, in the microwave, using Fritos. I guess you can get all wrapped around the axle about 'authenticity' if you want; but as for me, since Lita is Mexican, born and reared and still there, and this is how she makes them when she's in a hurry, that's good enough.

The problem is that fresh tortillas (and regular tortilla chips that you can buy in a bag, for that matter) are not thick enough to stand up to the cooking in the sauce. You need something thick and hearty. If you have access to Rancho Gordo's wonderful tortillas, obviously, use them.

Lita's Quicky Microwave Chilaquiles:

Salsa verde (tomatilla sauce); torn tortilla chips (or Fritos in a pinch); queso manchego (or asadero, or ranchero, or fresco, or any other Mexican white cheese that you like); and sour cream.

In bottom of microwaveable dish, spread a little tomatilla sauce, then layer of tostadas, then more sauce, then sour cream, then "bastante queso." Repeat, until dish is full or ingredients are all used up, finishing with cheese. Microwave one minute, or till chilaquiles are heated through and cheese is melted. You'll probably have to experiment a time or two in order to get all of the proportions just right.

TOMATILLO SAUCE: (note -- there are lots of recipes around for tomatillo sauce, or "salsa verde" -- Rancho's recipe is particularly wonderful. But this one is quick and easy and very typical of what is commonly prepared in the average Mexican kitchen)

1 tsp or so cooking oil (just enough to cover botton of saucepan)

6 or so whole tomatillos, paper skins removed

jalapeños, or other chile peppers, to desired "pica"

chicken broth

Put tomatillos and chiles in saucepan. Add chicken broth to barely cover. Bring to boil and cook just till tomatillos are soft (not too long, don't want them "mushy"). Put tomatillos and peppers (do not discard cooking liquid) into blender or food processor along with:

2 small cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup chopped onion

"handful" cilantro

Blend in food processor very well. Add cooking water to reach desired "sauce" consistancy...you want it fairly liquid, but flavorful and not "watered-down" tasting, so use your own judgment.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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A baked dish, Chilquilas.

I would not describe it as a baked dish. It may get a quick trip to the broiler to melt the cheese, although I kind of doubt it. It's a hash made in a frying pan. The tortillas are the star.

I had migas all over New Mexico. But my memory was that the sauce was a rich, dried chile sauce (most likely from chile powder), not a fresh salsa, more simillar to Mexican chilaquiles.

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A baked dish, Chilquilas.

I would not describe it as a baked dish. It may get a quick trip to the broiler to melt the cheese, although I kind of doubt it. It's a hash made in a frying pan. The tortillas are the star.

I had migas all over New Mexico. But my memory was that the sauce was a rich, dried chile sauce (most likely from chile powder), not a fresh salsa, more simillar to Mexican chilaquiles.

Regarding the salsa, I think the main thing with the stale tortillas is to soften them some way, so whatever salsa is the most typical of that region is the one that would get used.

I used to live in New Mexico, and even the most-common table salsa there is the kind that is, just as you describe, made from reconstituted dried chiles.

Frankly, I never got used to it, and it's still my least-favorite. Although that is how I make my enchilada sauce. It is a deep and rich red sauce made from dried chiles and chile powder.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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But do you bake your chilaquiles? I still can't get past the mention that it's a baked dish.

Regarding the salsa, I think the main thing with the stale tortillas is to soften them some way, so whatever salsa is the most typical of that region is the one that would get used.

Chilaquiles in Mexico seemed to be a dried chile sauce and then topped with something fresh. But the recipe is as individual as each chef.

I used to live in New Mexico, and even the most-common table salsa there is the kind that is, just as you describe, made from reconstituted dried chiles.

Frankly, I never got used to it, and it's still my least-favorite.  Although that is how I make my enchilada sauce.  It is a deep and rich red sauce made from dried chiles and chile powder.

I like New Mexican and Southwestern cooking a lot but I think using chile powder over whole dried chiles is not as good. But it's somewhat easier.

Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

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But do you bake your chilaquiles? I still can't get past the mention that it's a baked dish.
Regarding the salsa, I think the main thing with the stale tortillas is to soften them some way, so whatever salsa is the most typical of that region is the one that would get used.

Chilaquiles in Mexico seemed to be a dried chile sauce and then topped with something fresh. But the recipe is as individual as each chef.

I used to live in New Mexico, and even the most-common table salsa there is the kind that is, just as you describe, made from reconstituted dried chiles.

Frankly, I never got used to it, and it's still my least-favorite.  Although that is how I make my enchilada sauce.  It is a deep and rich red sauce made from dried chiles and chile powder.

I like New Mexican and Southwestern cooking a lot but I think using chile powder over whole dried chiles is not as good. But it's somewhat easier.

Baking chilaquiles.... Although I'm just guessing at what the originators of chilaquiles did centuries ago, I suspect you're right, and that they started off as just a 'hash' made with some sort of moistener, like whatever salsa they had handy, or chicken broth, or whatever, and torn, stale tortillas left over, stirred in some sort of pan over an open flame. Some inventive cooks probably then tried to come up with variations on the theme, and that's when cooked meats, etc., got added. That might have been baked.

Today, I've seen "main dish" chilaquiles with added ingredients like chorizo or chicken, etc., that are baked. I know that cookbooks have those sorts of more involved recipes (partly I suspect because it seems unnecessary to say, "saute stale tortillas in salsa and add a little cheese and/or sour cream if you'd like and serve"), but in the average Mexican household, since this is basically a quick and easy dish, baking it completely defeats the purpose. Like my friend Lita in Queretaro for example. As I've said elsewhere, she makes chilaquiles for her family for breakfast. I'm sure she's not about to get up early every morning and make up some sort of complicated version that she has to stick into the oven for a half-hour. She either makes them in the skillet, or the microwave.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Interesting! I grew up eating migas at Vips in Monterrey (Mex) (over 20 years ago!) and never knew it was a gringo invented food!

:laugh:

Yes, I'll bet Mexicans born and raised in Mexico are often surprised to discover how many of their traditional dishes they've been eating since before recorded time are supposedly a "gringo-invented food"!

In fact, not only do I think migas were not invented in Austin, I think that putting torn strips of corn tortillas into seasoned, scrambled eggs is so ingrained into the Mexican culture that in many areas, there is no specific name for that dish. It's just "huevos revueltos" -- scrambled eggs. And obviously they're going to add tomatoes, onions, chiles, etc., to flavor them, like they do with so many dishes.

I've got a couple of Mexican family-style cookbooks that have recipes for plain ol' huevos revueltos and they suggest adding the tortillas. Along with the usual salsas, etc.

And if you think about it, and you go back several centuries or more, and you're a mama with a hungry family of eight, and the chickens only laid 4 eggs that morning and you've also got a bunch of stale tortillas, what would you do?

Call a Texan?

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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I'd imagine that chilaquiles are only "New Mexican" or "Texan" insofar as Mexicans that lived in those areas prepared them.

I completely agree with this statement. Dishes brought in from other areas and widely accepted seem to become related to that specific area. When in reality, it was imported by some of the original settlers to that place. And the same goes for migas.

This is apparently one of these homey dishes that every Mexican knows about but rarely makes it to menus because it's, well, leftovers.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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There are references to migas in an Anonymous Andalusian cookbook..

I wrote a little bit about it on my blog book of rai (I can't seem to link that post, so do a keyword search on the site for "March of Couscous").

the consumption of couscous (was banned after the Moors were expelled from Andalusia) but  a derivative dish called migas thrived long enough for the Spanish to take it to  Mexico. The Mexican dish called migas or migajas differs from the Spanish version, but is conceptually similar in that crumbs or tiny pieces of tortilla are used rather than bread as in Spanish versions. I'm still researching this, quite frankly I do not know much about it

Rachel Lauden offers some comments at the bottom of that article.

On a related note Spanish Colons who came to Algeria with the French also brought a version of migas to Algeria. There is a recipe in a Pied Noir cookbook from Oran.

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There are references to migas in an Anonymous Andalusian cookbook..

I wrote a little bit about it on my blog book of rai (I can't seem to link that post, so do a keyword search on the site for "March of Couscous").

the consumption of couscous (was banned after the Moors were expelled from Andalusia) but  a derivative dish called migas thrived long enough for the Spanish to take it to  Mexico. The Mexican dish called migas or migajas differs from the Spanish version, but is conceptually similar in that crumbs or tiny pieces of tortilla are used rather than bread as in Spanish versions. I'm still researching this, quite frankly I do not know much about it
Rachel Lauden offers some comments at the bottom of that article.

On a related note Spanish Colons who came to Algeria with the French also brought a version of migas to Algeria. There is a recipe in a Pied Noir cookbook from Oran.

Although this is all extremely interesting, I must confess I find the most fascinating bit to be the part about "the consumption of couscous was banned after the Moors were expelled from Andalusia...." Why would they have banned the consumption of couscous?

I do have a Mexican recipe for migas that calls for bits of leftover bolillos that you soak in water, and chorizo, that you scramble in with the eggs and the salsa fresca, etc.

The first time I had what we call 'migas' was thirty years ago in Tucson, AZ, in the kitchen of a neighbor. Her family had settled there generations ago, back when it still belonged to Mexico. She had invited me over one morning so that our toddlers could play together. As we watched the kids, she said, "Have you had breakfast?" When I replied that I had not, she took out a skillet, put a little lard into it, tore up some tortillas, fried them until barely crispy, set them aside on paper towels to drain, then chopped some tomatoes, onions, garlic and chiles and put that in the skillet, sauted briefly, beat up some eggs with a little cream and dumped that in on top of the vegetables. She stirred, scrambling them for a few minutes, then added the tortillas and kept scrambling until the eggs were set. She spooned them onto two plates and then crumbled a handful of Mexican white cheese over each.

As she placed the plate before me, I asked, "What is this?" She gave me one of those what-color-is-the-sky looks and said, "Scrambled eggs."

I said, "Well, I know you scrambled the eggs, but I've never made them this way...I mean, sure I've added tomatoes and onions and chiles and all, like with an omelette or something, but with the tortillas?"

She said, "Okay, then, 'scrambled eggs Mexican style.'"

She went on to tell me that that's how her mother and her mother's mother made them and that she didn't think they had a special name.

Although, she added, she never really had thought about it.

I will say, though, that nowhere have I seen migas as often on restaurant menus as in Austin, so the locals have certainly taken to the dish. I just think we're on a pretty slippery slope when we start trying to pin down the exact time and location of origination of a combination so obvious, available and ubiquitous as eggs, seasonings and that region's most popular leftover starch.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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A baked dish, Chilquilas.

For the record, I checked all my Diana Kennedy books and Bayless too and couldn't find a baked chilaquiles recipe. Kennedy's Guanajuato version (one of many)is heated through in the oven to melt the cheese. I found one reference to them baked and it was from a book by a Nortena, so that would make sense if chilaquiles are baked in the southwest.

I'm going to try the Austin version of migas, if time permits, tomorrow morning.

Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

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