Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles Straight from a Chef’s Home Kitchen

In December, Juan Sánchez, who was then a chef at Made Nice, Eleven Madison Park’s casual sister restaurant, started an Instagram account: @citlali_cocina. After five years in New York, Sánchez had noticed that the city’s Mexican food was mostly confined to the styles of a few regions, including Puebla, in central Mexico, and Oaxaca, in the south. Citlali Cocina would be a small way to highlight the cuisine of his home town, Guadalajara, and a place to collect ideas for the restaurant that he hoped to open someday.

Sánchez gets his corn tortillas from the Bronx and cuts them into postage-stamp-size squares before frying them. His salsa is made with tomatillos and two kinds of chilis.Photograph by Caroline Tompkins for The New Yorker

The first photo he posted was a glamour shot of a quesadilla, a pale corn tortilla topped with thick, melty strands of quesillo, a stretchy cheese, and a leaf of epazote, an aromatic herb, sprinkled with tequesquite, a mineral salt used since the pre-Hispanic era. A video followed: glistening chunks of birria de res, beef marinated in chilis, spices, and herbs, covered in banana leaves, and cooked for four hours.

On Christmas Eve, there appeared a tantalizing image of a bowl piled with a poached egg, coarsely crumbled white cheese, and wispy greens, under which peeked the corners of tortilla chips coated in red salsa. Beside it was a mug containing a dark, glossy beverage. “There’s nothing like waking up to a warm hug of chilaquiles and café de olla,” the caption read. How could Sánchez have known that he was describing his future business model?

Sánchez, who was furloughed from his job as a chef in March, hopes to own his own restaurant someday but, in the meantime, has turned his Greenpoint apartment