Recipe: Huevos Rancheros de Costa Rica

I think it’s fair to promote myself from novice to apprentice home chef. I’ve absorbed enough of the basic principles of cooking to be able to play around in the kitchen and put something together without relying on a step-by-step recipe. One recipe I’ve recently come up with is this Latin-fusion breakfast.

Huevos rancheros, or ranch-style eggs, is really a Mexican dish. Essentially, eggs with some salsa and other toppings (refried beans and guacamole, melted cheese possibly). The particular version that inspired my own dish is here. However, I knew even as I was skimming it that I would be doing a very different spin on things.

The one local dish I really like in Costa Rica is the bean and rice dish, pinto de gallo. I’ve been eating a lot of it and have not gotten sick of it. I prefer black beans, V prefers red, but it’s also completely fine to mix them together in absolutely any proportion if you don’t have enough of either kind.

I knew I wanted to use pinto de gallo as my base for the huevos rancheros, and that’s why I call this dish Huevos Rancheros de Costa Rica.

Ingredients (see the end of the post for approximate amounts):

  • onion
  • garlic
  • pepper (green, red, or whatever you like)
  • beans (black, red, or both)
  • cumin
  • black pepper
  • other spices to taste (we usually throw some “complete seasoning” in there)
  • rice
  • corn tortillas
  • eggs
  • salsa (as spicy as you like it)

1) Here’s a good rule of thumb: unless you’re baking, 99% of recipes start with frying some onions (and probably garlic). And so it is here. Throw some chopped onions in a saucepan with a little oil (your choice what kind) on high heat. Include some minced garlic at the same time (crush the garlic before mincing it to release more of its flavour). After a minute or so, add the peppers.

2) Once they’re decently seared (a couple more minutes) add some beans with their water/juice and turn the heat down to medium.

[A note on the beans: you can take them from a can and they’re good to go — those are cooked black/red beans. However, if you buy them raw in a package they’re cheaper. All you have to do to get them like the ones in the can is boil them on medium-high for two or three hours until soft (check every 20 minutes or so to replace the water that has evaporated away). Do this the previous day and keep in a container in your fridge to use for all your Latin cooking. If you’re in a rush or don’t want that many beans, buy a can.]

3) Around this same time, you can get the rice started, since it has to be cooked before you add it to the pan.

4) You can also pre-heat the oven to around 400 F, and throw in some corn tortillas (as many as the number of people being served) to bake when it’s hot enough. They’ll only need about five minutes, depending on how crispy you want them.

5) Add spices to taste as the beans start to reduce/become less watery. There are many variations on pinto de gallo depending on what you’re using it for. The one I’ve described here is a nicely savoury, not overly spicy take on it that is good for making burritos. When pinto de gallo is the main dish (rather than a component in something else), I’ve been making a Cuban-inspired version with vinegar and chipotle peppers. I’ll give the recipe for that another time.

6) Before the rice is done, start making preparation for your eggs. I think soft-boiled works really well, but you can prepare your eggs literally any way you want. When soft-boiling, I found half an egg per tortilla (per person) was plenty.

7) Cook, tasting regular and adjusting spices, until much of the water from the beans is gone ( you don’t want it overly dry, however, just no loose liquid). Add the rice when it’s ready and mix it in well. You probably want a little less rice than you have beans, but there’s quite a bit of margin for error. Stir it in, keep checking for taste. When you’re satisfied, you can turn off the heat.

8 ) Put it all together. Spoon and spread some pinto de gallo on each baked corn tortilla, then put the egg on top. I shelled my soft-boiled egg, cut it in eighths, and put four pieces each on the two pinto de gallo-covered tortillas. A little yolk ran out over them and provided a nice flavour.

Lastly, top with some salsa, as spicy as you like it. I used chunky medium salsa, but then added some drops of chili sauce for additional heat. Eat and enjoy, no utensils necessary.

Notes: There’s no butter and only a dash of oil in this recipe (for the onions, garlic, and peppers). You could cut even this out by using a spritz of low-fat cooking spray. If you’re watching cholestorol, you could use egg-beaters or just egg whites, and poach or scramble them (again with cooking spray rather than butter or oil).

On the other hand, you could make this (reasonably) healthy and very filling recipe a little more fattening by frying the corn tortillas in oil instead of baking them, frying the egg instead of boiling or poaching it, add some slices of avocado or worse, guacamole. You could also melt some cheese on top.

I think you’ll find that this is very hearty and filling as is, however.

I didn’t give any specific numbers in the ingredients list because I measure everything out by eye. But here are some approximate quantities:

For eight servings, use one good-sized pepper, one whole onion (medium to large), maybe three or four cloves of garlic, four to eight eggs (if you want to give everyone their own fried egg, for example, but half an egg each should be plenty), maybe a cup or a little less of cooked beans, less still of the cooked rice (maybe half a cup to three quarters, depending on how ricey you like it), at least one tablepoon each of cumin and allspice, and half a tablespoon black pepper (to start, add more of everything as necessary based on tasting). Eight corn tortillas, about half a jar (about 250 mL) of salsa.

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