Eggs’ Magical Power
Any Mexican-published Mexican cookbook is likely to contain a sizable egg section; being a cheap. filling and nutritionally packed food (don’t even mention the high cholesterol thing, those nasty rumors were dismissed years ago), why shouldn’t the simple egg be considered the perfect food?
The history of the egg in Mexico is slightly more colorful than your average food: curanderos, healers, have been using them for centuries in limpias–cleansing treatments, drawing out spiritual and physical ills from a patient through vigorous and constant rubbing of their body with a raw egg. Picture a small and darkened room, a tiny, wrinkled woman with long, braided hair, not a witch doctor, but a healer, a fountain of information in the medicinal properties of plants, roots and barks. Fill the room with aromatic but stifling Copal tree incense, a sweet-smelling incense meant to provide a feeling of happiness and protection, the chanting of the curandera filling the room along with the smoke. Listen for the happy clucking of a chicken, completely unaware it’s freshly laid egg is about to draw the nightmares and night terrors out of a scared and wide-eyed child.
The capacity for the egg to produce life within it’s shell gives it the ability to collect positive and negative energy, turning a dirty shade of gray as it absorbs maladies. The final part of the cleansing is a reading of the egg by cracking it into a glass of water, bad smells, air bubbles, drops of blood, even phantom faces may all appear in the liquid. The subjects of the cleansing are said to experience a sense of lightness after the ritual, of relief and renewal.
It does all sound so magical doesn’t it? But I couldn’t say from experience. My own curiosity-driven search for a healer throughout primarily Mexican sections of Phoenix and the tiny shops of Guadalupe lead to nothing. An employee at the colorful Mexican imports shop on Avenida del Yaqui gave me perhaps the best answer out of anyone I asked, “all the real ones are dead,” he said, “all you have now are charlatans and cheaters.” He looked uncomfortable and continued sorting the brightly glazed talavera tiles before looking back at me and saying I was the second person to ask him for a curandera that day. I laughed slightly and asked him if he knew if it was a full moon that night.
Perhaps the magical power of the egg isn’t in what illness and discomfort it can take away from you, but in what it can give to you. Maybe it’s the goodness of a cheese omelette made by your non-egg-eating mother or soaking up runny yolk with a tortilla or a piece of bread. Now that is something truly magical.
This is perhaps one of the simplest of egg dishes from Mexico, traditionally eaten as a second breakfast at mid-morning, the first, and very early breakfast typically consisting of coffee and a small pastry.
For the Salsa Ranchera:
1 pound ripe tomatoes
½ small white onion
3-4 Serrano chiles
2 garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon Mexican oregano
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
For the eggs:
2 corn tortillas
Canola oil or olive-canola oil blend
Salt and pepper to taste
Set an ungreased cast iron or heavy bottom pan over medium high heat and lightly toast the tomatoes on all sides until the skin starts to brown. Alternatively, the tomatoes may be carefully broiled in the oven, taking care they do not turn black. Allow the tomatoes to cool enough to handle and peel them, removing the core. Process the tomatoes, onion, garlic, chiles and oregano in a blender, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Heat enough oil to completely cover the bottom of a heavy bottom pan big enough to hold two tortillas at a time without overlapping. Lightly fry the tortillas on both sides until very pale golden, but not completely stiff. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Lower the heat to medium, and fry the eggs in the same pan. If looking for a runny yolk in a sunny side up egg, it is helpful to cover the pan with a glass lid (preferably), allowing the thinner white to cook faster while the thicker yolk remains relatively uncooked. If turning the egg over, wait until the white has set before carefully flipping the egg.
Serve the eggs over the tortillas, generously drizzling the salsa ranchera on top. Serve with sliced avocados, queso fresco, or chorizo cooked with potatoes if desired.