Buenas! Wake Up Your Breakfast Menu
Whether Mexican heavy or Spanish light, the accent is on authenticity
While Americans are discovering a newfound passion for breakfast, Latin cultures have been way ahead of the curve. As a result, Mexican- and Spanish-inspired dishes to wake up menu are plentiful and delicious, going well beyond huevos rancheros (but we’re still loving those too!).
The biggest cultural difference in terms of the morning repast: “In Mexico, breakfast is the number one meal of the day,” asserts Sofia Sada Cervantes, instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio.
A native of Monterrey, Mexico, Cervantes says tradition calls for long brunches featuring hearty dishes that are satisfying at any time of day, and light dinners eaten late, around 9:30 p.m.
Also standard are blends of chile peppers (hot poblano and habanero), spices and sauces. At the other end of the taste spectrum are sweet Mexican pastries such as conchas (circular sweet rolls with a sugary topping), fruit-filled empanadas (turnovers) and orejas (flaky puff pastries). What you won’t find are waffles, says Cervantes, despite the many versions of Mexican-inspired waffles popping up on American menus.
But there are an abundance of authentically Mexican-inspired dishes now trending in the States, particularly the centuries-old chilaquiles, a peasant dish invented to use leftovers. Lightly fried corn tortillas at the base with salsa verde, chilaquiles often contain beans, eggs and shredded chicken. Molletes are also having a moment, made from bolillos (Mexican baguettes) sliced lengthwise, filled with black beans and pico de gallo, and topped with cheese. As for eggs, drown them in salsa for a delight called huevos ahogados.
By contrast, Spanish breakfasts lean toward the lighter side, according to Marcos Campos, the gifted native of Valencia, Spain, who at age 25, serves as executive chef at three high-profile Chicago restaurants.
“No one wants to feel like they need to take a nap after having a heavy breakfast,” he says. “There’s really no better option than Spanish breakfast dishes, which are made in a healthier way.”
The success of his Spanish tortilla is testament to that, one of the most popular dishes at Beatnik since its 2017 opening in Chicago, and a staple on the menu at Black Bull in trendy Wicker Park. Inspired by a trip to Galicia, Spain, where he enjoyed an “incredible explosion of umami” sparked by a small bite treat of tortilla with Tetilla cheese and fresh-caught uni (sea urchin), he daily recreates the experience for Chicago’s food sophisticates.