Dalai Mama Dishes

by Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

Dalai Mama Dishes

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

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Posted April 06, 2009
Find more about dinner , eggs , migas , dalai mama
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It looks like a real dinner, right?

I'm getting kind of artsy in my old age, what with the eggs-in-a-bowl shot.

This is what Ben would have looked like had he helped me with the migas. Instead, it's what he looked like when he helped me with the mac and cheese.

This is intended less to be appetizing that to be illustrative.

I won't even mention how I nagged the children. "Eat! I'm running out of daylight for taking pictures."

Oh, I forgot to mention the lime wedge. A lime wedge always seems to give the kids a happy, interactive feeling about dinner.

You're trying to figure out dinner, I know, and we're getting to that in just a second, I swear. But first this foodless little detour through a lesson in classical rhetorical devices. Because I know you've been desperately curious about the term praeteritio: "What the heck does it mean?" you've doubtless wondered to yourself hundreds of times. And I'll tell you. It means mentioning by not mentioning. As in, if you happened to be Cicero, "I will not even mention the fact that you betrayed us in the Roman people by aiding Catiline." Or, if you happened to be me, "This being a recipe column, it would be abhorrent for me to mention how Ben spent most of the day vomiting as forcefully as Mount Vesuvius casting out its molten insides, had it done so neatly into a bucket and not all over the poor town of Pompeii."

Okay. Study your notes. Praeteritio. Quiz on Friday.

Onwards: Dinner, which, I should note, I photographed last week, and which is in no way implicated in the felling of The Ben. So, this being the season of both Easter and Passover, eggs leap to mind. And I don't mean those ones that have been hardboiled into sulfuric green-yolked submission, defaced with dye and stickers, and lost under the couch with the dust bunnies for a week before being packed optimistically back into their cartons and returned to the fridge. No. Throw those ones away, please, unless salmonella is calling out to you with its eggy siren song. I mean eggs as in cheap, nutritious source of protein that festively doubles as a sign of spring.

I won't even mention the number of times Michael and I stirred a beaten egg into a pot of 10-cent ramen noodles and called it dinner. (This was back when our kitchen counter was a large cardboard box with, ironically enough, the word Bounty printed all over it.) Or the number of times my father has announced happily over a soft-boiled egg, as if it's only just that moment striking him as a fresh thought, "You know, if I could only eat two things for the rest of my life. . . " ("It would be eggs and pasta, Grandpa, right?" Even the kids know this one.)

And I won't catalogue the various phases my own children have passed through in their development as egg eaters: the way Birdy crammed a scrambled egg into her lunching mouth every single day of her toddlerhood until she turned five, when she disliked eggs for exactly one month before returning to them; the way Ben once passionately loved and later shudderingly despised poached eggs, and now likes eggs every way but hardboiled. I understand. I shared this feeling about hard-boiled eggs until five or so years ago, when our friends gathered eggs from their chickens, simmered them just until the yolks were barely set and still soft in the middle, and then halved them over a large salad of young, vinaigrette-dressed lettuces. It was as profound a food conversion experience as I can remember having--the creamy, golden-yolked eggs so different from the stinky dark-ringed propane-smell ones I knew and loathed that they seemed to have been laid by different animals.

Anyways, here I'm offering you a recipe for a Tex-Mex dish called migas (pronounced mee-yas) that I have never actually eaten at a restaurant or cooked by anyone who knows anything about it, but that I saw a photograph of in a library book years ago and have been making in this certainly inauthentic version of ever since. It's mostly just a tortilla chip scramble, and the principle should be familiar, given that nearly every culture seems to have its own version of eggs and stale carbs: matzo brei; stratta; bread pudding; and, of course, French toast, which the French themselves call, tragically, pain perdu--lost bread. But migas is really as quick and inexpensive a dinner as you could hope to make, and the eggs and tortilla chips marry into a lovely dish that, as my kids are happy to tell you, smells just like popcorn. We usually eat it with sour cream and salsa (or enchilada sauce), a side of black beans (canned are fine), and a salad. And I won't even brag that there are never any leftovers.

Serves 4
Total time: 10 minutes

I use Green Mountain Gringo Tortilla Chips for this recipe, as well as for every other tortilla chip need, of which I have many; they always taste fresh and of corn, and we love them.

8 eggs
scant ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
2 teaspoons water
2 cups slightly crushed tortilla chips (about 4 ounces)
1 cup Monterey jack or cheddar, grated
1 tablespoon butter
Salsa or mild enchilada sauce
Sour cream and cilantro (optional)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs well with the salt and water, and stir in the tortilla chips: if you cook this right away, the chips will still be crisp, and if you let this sit a few minutes, the whole thing will be moister (both ways are good!). Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, then pour in the egg mixture and cook, stirring in from the edges with a spatula, until the eggs are scrambled and cooked. Sprinkle the cheese over the eggs, cover the pan, and turn off the heat--then let the migas sit for just a minute to melt the cheese. Serve with salsa or enchilada sauce and, if you like, a bloop of sour cream and a few leaves of cilantro.

Get a printable version of this recipe.

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About Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman is the author of the memoir, Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family, available online and in bookstores nationwide.

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