Ranchera. Say it. Try flipping the “r”. I still have trouble making that sound, even after living in a Spanish-speaking country for two years and developing an accent that could almost pass for a native. The Rs always gave me away. When I first moved to Colombia I couldn’t speak any Spanish except for the numbers I’d learned from Sesame Street, and to further complicate matters I’d recently finished a semester studying Japanese. Add that to my high school German and all the languages I used to sing in at college, and my early Spanish was a mess. I’d try talking with locals at the shops, asking for certain things, and instead of Spanish a mix of English/German/Japanese/Spanish would flow forth. I got some very confused looks those first couple months.
Even if I can’t quite say it like a native speaker, I still love ranchera sauce. It’s the classic sauce for eggs in Mexico, but there’s no one right way to make it. This version, which was inspired by a recipe from Chef Roberto Santibañez, is my favorite because the fresh tomatoes are roasted and then cooked with onions, garlic, chiles, and a stick of cinnamon. Sublime, I say. Chef Santibañez broils the tomatoes whole and removes the skins after roasting, whereas I halve the tomatoes before roasting on high heat and leave the skins on in the sauce because they add a bit of smokiness, which I like. My sauce is a little bit thicker, but not too much. If you use a Mexican cinnamon stick as Santibañez recommends, make sure to wrap it in cheesecloth because it tends to fall apart. Other kinds of cinnamon sticks remain intact while cooking.
After I made the sauce, Hockey Guy got in the kitchen with me and helped cook the eggs for Sunday brunch. He even plated up the dish for the photos, not bad for an 8-year-old food stylist. The sauce is easy to make, just have the older kids help with halving the tomatoes and be sure an adult is around to supervise all the cutting and blending.
Many traditional recipes for huevos rancheros have you briefly fry the tortillas in oil to soften them, but instead I dunk the tortillas in the hot sauce. Less mess and one less pan to clean.
To serve, dunk each tortilla into the sauce just long enough to soften it, about 30 seconds or so, then stack two on a plate. Pour on more sauce, add a fried egg, then top with a little more sauce and eat with your favorite Mexican rice, beans, and some avocado.
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[Updated April 2014.]
- 3 pounds (1.36 k) ripe plum tomatoes
- 2 serrano or jalapeno chiles, seeded and sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Mexican cinnamon stick wrapped in cheesecloth (or other cinnamon stick)
- SERVE WITH
- corn tortillas (see below)
- Mexican rice
- fried eggs
- avocado slices
- Preheat the oven to 475° F/250° C. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and juices. Arrange them cut side down on the baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake until the skins are evenly black all over, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Discard the skins and transfer the tomatoes and the juices to the blender. Blend with the chiles and garlic until smooth.
- While the tomatoes roast, heat the canola oil in the saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook while stirring until the onion is soft and translucent, and 4 minutes. Add the tomato puree, cover, and bring to a boil. Stir in the salt and cinnamon stick, reduce heat, and cook uncovered at a simmer. Cook until the sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes. If sauce thickens too much, like a paste, reduce the heat slightly and add water a tablespoon or two at a time.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste.
- TORTILLAS: Dunk each tortilla in the sauce for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to warm and soften, then lay each tortilla on a plate.
- SERVE: Spread some sauce on the tortilla, then lay a fried egg on top and pour some more sauce on the egg. Serve with Mexican rice, beans, and sliced avocado.
- Sauce will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
3-quart saucepan with lid
Wear protective gloves while working with hot chilies. Keep chilies and gloves away from your face.
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