On The Range is a weekly exploration of the history and lore of Texas menu items.
Eggs, tortilla strips, onions, chiles, and cheese. Or bread, oil & vinegar, spinach, alfalfa, and....licorice flavoring??
Believe it or not, these are some of the raw ingredients of two classic versions of that breakfast staple, migas.
You are, no doubt, familiar with the Tex-Mex incarnation of the dish, which is yet another rendition of eggs and is quite similar in composition to chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. Yet in Europe, migas are quite different.
As Teresa Barranechea writes in her book The Cuisines of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking:
"Migas (literally 'bread crumbs')---of which I have wonderful memories from my stay years ago on an estate in Valencia de Alcantara, near the Portuguese border---is a humble yet delicious dish of bread, oil, vinegar, and garlic served originally for breakfast but increasingly for lunch. Some cooks add a shot of anise liqueur halfway through the cooking to cheer up the morning hours."
In other words, you might say the spirits are willing when the flesh is weak...but let's not say it.
Contrast the Spanish/Portugese version with the typical Tex-Mex recipe. In her New York Times article "Missing Migas," author Laura Anderson speaks of her Lone Star upbringing when discussing the huevos dish:
"As someone born and bred in Austin, Tex., I can wax lyrical about a different kind of migas: eggs scrambled with oil-crisped corn tortilla strips, jalapenos, diced onions, and chopped tomatoes, smothered in cheese and served with refried beans, warm tortillas, and home fries. These migas are ubiquitous on brunch menus in my hometown....You couldn't consider Texas migas healthy by any stretch of the imagination. They're the kind of thing that tastes best when you're nursing a serious hangover; a plate of migas will leave you with a cholesterol-laden fullness that makes it difficult to contemplate eating anything else for the rest of the day."
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Until lunchtime, of course. But oh well....
Not surprisingly, subtle variations abound, depending on the chef. In The Tex-Mex Cookbook, Robb Walsh gives a recipe for Miga's Especiales con Hongos (mushrooms), as served by the Perez sisters at Las Manitas restaurant in Austin, noting that its one of their most popular breakfast items. Matt Martinez's version in his book Mex Tex is more traditional, and strongly suggests that it be prepared with four tablespoons of lard or bacon drippings, but "you can substitute butter or vegetable oil if you must."
No, you mustn't.
Migas prepared at Aparicio's Restaurant and Tequila Bar in East Plano are prepared similar to the traditional Tex-Mex way, with two eggs, corn tortilla strips, and sometimes chorizo. Better yet, they are served with very large flour tortillas that taste homemade, not to mention refried beans and home fries with bacon pieces. Aparicio's migas are available anytime the restaurant is open between 6:30 AM and 9 PM and are quite substantial, even without shots of anise liqueur or tequila.