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Eggs with Dregs

There was a brief, glorious period in my life during which I thought I had invented a delicious breakfast dish that, it turns out, has long existed.

Migas translates from Spanish into “crumbs.” In Portuguese, the word is migalhas. In both countries, “crumbs” are typically made with day-old bread, and a varying mix of meat, veggies and seasonings. There’s also a Jewish version that combines old Matzoh with eggs.

The migas that I thought I had invented is a Tex-Mex dish made with leftover tortilla chips, or tortillas, and eggs, along with regional ingredients like salsa, cheese, beans and avocado.

When my inspiration hit, I was standing in my kitchen, holding a near-empty bag of corn chips, wondering what to do with them.

The chips were too small for dipping, but I still hated to waste them. Instead of tossing the tortilla crumbs to my deserving hens, I tossed them into a hot pan of bacon and grease. A few moments later, when the bacon was done to my liking, I tossed in some raw garlic, stirred it around, and then poured a couple of beaten hen eggs into the pan. After a couple of stirs, I turned off the heat, seasoned with salt and pepper, adorned with salsa, and christened my dish Eggs with Dregs.

By the time I first saw migas on a menu, in a Northern New Mexico restaurant, I had already experimented with the dish several times. I read the menu description of migas with a mixture of disappointment and excitement. The notoriety I had assumed was coming my way for creating Eggs with Dregs vanished before my eyes. But despite that disappointment, I couldn’t wait to taste what this New Mexican cook would do with “my recipe.” It wasn’t much different, although being in Northern New Mexico, there was red chile mixed in. And being in a restaurant, whole chips were used, not dregs.

My propensity to experiment with chips and eggs reared its head again on a recent car camping trip. This foray lead to another version of migas that, after a spirited Google search, I feel I can legitimately call my own. Instead of corn chips, this dish incorporates potato chips – preferably jalapeño cheddar flavor. As with migas, using crumbs is a good way to be thrifty, but whole chips are classier.

The idea for potato chip migas came while I was preparing a nice greasy breakfast in a cast iron skillet. As I contemplated the scrambled eggs that were to come, I noted, sadly, that it sure would be nice to have some potatoes sizzling in that bacon grease.

Not just potatoes, but cooked potatoes, already soft, cut into cubes or slices that were ready for the grease, in which a crunchy, pan-fried skin would be applied. Alas, I had no cooked potatoes, and was miles from any place that sold them.

What’s worse, arguably, is that I’d also forgotten my bottle of hot sauce.

It was only after I had added my lonely eggs to the bacon pan that my eyes fell upon a bag of Jalapeno Cheddar potato chips in the food basket. That’s when I knew that my little culinary equation would be balanced. I added some of these chips to the pan of eggs and bacon, gave it a stir, and potato chip migas was born. It was great, but after spending some time with the recipe, I now realize that I got lucky that first time. I had initially added those potato chips as an afterthought. It turns out that the last minute is the only acceptable time to add them.

Corn chip migas, by contrast, are more forgiving, primarily because soft corn chips, or corn tortillas, are as delicious, in a different way, as crunchy corn chips. But soggy potato chips are much less appealing. For potato chip migas to work, those chips must be perfectly crunchy. While corn chips can be added to the beginning, middle or end of your greasy breakfast, potato chips should only be added at the tail end of the scrambling process.

In a way, this makes it very easy. All one must remember to do is scramble some eggs, and toss in potato chips, or crumbs thereof, when the eggs are nearly done. The outcome depends entirely on the quality of chip, and your proficiency at scrambling eggs.

I follow the less-is-more school of egg scrambling. Less stirring and less cooking, that is. But I don’t skimp on the grease. Yeah, I like bacon grease, but olive oil is a great, if much different, alternative. If the bacon is too lean, sometimes I use both. Butter works too, but easily burns, and so it should be mixed with some other oil.

Heat the oil and/or bacon on medium-high heat. There should be enough oil to thoroughly coat the pan such that the eggs float on top when they are first added. We don’t want eggs touching bare pan, which can lead to the egg sticking and burning.

Before adding the eggs, you have the opportunity to add vegetables or spices, such as chopped garlic, garlic flower sections, asparagus, or other egg-friendly goodies. When these are properly done, pour in the beaten eggs.

Let the eggs set up briefly, then give it one quick stir. If using cheese, add it now. Then add the potato chips, stir again, briefly, and arrange the eggs in a pile, where they will stay warm, while any remaining gooiness is cooked firm.

Your potato chip migas are ready for consumption. I hope you enjoy it. And if anyone has already heard of this dish, please don’t tell me. Unless the recipe is really interesting.