(Photo by Brian Samuels)

When one of our Big Traveling Potluck speakers tasted my Chilaquiles Casserole,  I got word she said it was the best thing she had eaten in a long time. And she clarified. This was not just the best breakfast, but the best thing, she had eaten in a long time.

The compliment was important, because Sharon and I had seriously debated Saturday morning’s Mexican-themed breakfast. The obvious morning casserole–strata–was out, because it was already on the menu for Sunday morning.

Fried eggs were out too. At last year’s Big Traveling Potluck I had oven-fried four dozen for our breakfast pizzas. I pulled it off, but not without stressing out the entire team. Sharon lobbied for scrambled eggs as part of a build-your-own breakfast taco bar, but I nixed that. I still have PTSD from the scrambled eggs that turned green at one of my catering jobs nearly thirty years ago. Someday I’d face that challenge again, but not this year.

We needed a Mexican-themed eggless breakfast casserole, preferably gluten-free and vegetarian. I suggested chilaquiles in casserole form. Sharon was skeptical, but  I gave it a try, layering tortilla chips, followed by salsa, and all of the remaining layers–black beans, corn, chiles, cheese, and scallions. The casserole had potential, but it was dry. Time was running out.  The Big Traveling Potluck was getting close, and I didn’t have time to try the recipe again until I got to California just days before the event.

Friday morning I got up extra early and made the Chilaquiles Casserole again, this time doubling the salsa and creating two layers of chips and sauce. As everyone started to rise, they caught a whiff of something wonderfully savory coming from the kitchen. This time the Chilaquiles Casserole was right.

The next morning we debuted it. Even though we made more casserole than we needed, every bite was eaten…  which was almost as satisfying as our speaker’s compliment.

Chilaquiles Casserole
Serves 12

For the salsa in this recipe I used 2 16-ounce containers of Sabra chunky Pico De Gallo.
Serve this casserole with guacamole, Greek yogurt, sliced olives, and additional salsa.

1 quart salsa
1 bag (11 ounces) tortilla chips
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup thawed frozen corn,
3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions,
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles, diced
1 block (7 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees
Bring salsa and 1 cup of water to simmer in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook to blend flavors and reduce to the original 1-quart amount, 8 to 10 minutes.

Layer remaining ingredients evenly in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish in the following order: two layers each:1/2 of the chips and 1/2 pico de gallo sauce, followed by 1/2 cup of the scallions and all of the beans, corn, chiles, and cheese. Sprinkle with remaining scallions; bake until warmed through and golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.