Pick It Up, Pack It In

chilaquiles chicken legs

Last month, I re-joined thousands upon thousands of Chicagoans aboard the Chicago Public Transportation system. I’d been driving to work for the past year or so while in culinary school – it was much easier to throw my knife kit, cooking uniform, and gym bag into the trunk rather than lug it all over the city on my shoulder. In doing so, I also enjoyed a short 30 minute commute from my neighborhood to my desk and vice versa and was able to run errands as needed without worrying about what I could and couldn’t carry in my hands.

Sure, I didn’t really have to stop driving once school was finished, but I chose to. I figured, why not cut my travel costs nearly in half and why not reduce my carbon footprint?  Turns out my new, economical, green commute is fairly similar time-wise although it takes slightly longer to get home than it does to get to work (isn’t that always the case??) AND I get to read my book or daydream – things that don’t necessarily work well with driving. 

chilaquiles ingredients

You may ask – what’s the downside? Well, I’ll tell you one – and there really is just one. Groceries. You see, Tuesday is currently my grocery store day for weeknight meals. I hop off the North/Clybourn red line and head on over to the block-sized Whole Foods to grab my supplies for the next few days. On Tuesday morning, I shove a reusable bag (another effort to “do my part”, so to speak) into my purse along with my shopping list, and off to work I go.

For you non-Chicagoans, I should add a snippet: You have never experienced “rush hour” until you’ve been to Chicago (unless you’re in the DC area….which is another traffic nightmare) and experienced our rush hour. We cram ourselves onto the trains and buses, even freeways and look exactly like a can of sardines. Or on the train, many cans of sardines in a single-file line, cans of sardines that just happen to run on a train track.

hominy, tomatoes, tortilla mixture

Hence the 1 bag – not only is it all I’d like to lug home on the bus, but it really is about all that can fit. But this 1 little bag has its limitations as well – like when 1 bag isn’t quite enough. Like when you need a huge can of diced tomatoes and a huge can of hominy (why doesn’t Whole Foods sell small cans of hominy??). Oh, and 4 whole chicken legs. And tortilla chips. It adds up quickly in terms of space – and this is just one dish.

And believe you me – with the huge green push these days coupled with my already-present compulsion to re-use every plastic, paper, and cloth bag I can find (remember how I hate wasting? that carries through to things inedible too…. it’s bad… really bad, kids), I absolutely cringe at the thought of having to use their hefty paper bags if my 1 bag isn’t enough. Cringe to the point of trying to carry it all instead, but then remembering my clumsiness and ultimately facing the facts – using 1 paper bag is better than wasting a handful of good food by dropping it. Not to mention the embarrassment that is coupled with said dropping.

spice-rubbed chicken legs

Plus, I’m willing to think that Mother Earth will forgive me for this one. Heck, I forgave me, even as I shoved my new paper bag beside all the cloth ones I’d left behind🙂.

What’s wrong with a little forgiveness every once and a while?

chilaquiles chicken legs

Chilaquiles-Style Roasted Chicken Legs
Adapted from Food & Wine magazine; serves 4

This chilaquiles recipe is a great spin on a fantastic Mexican dish. While fresh or store-bought tortillas work just fine, slighly stale chips are even better – think of chilaquiles next time you find that bag of stale chips in your cupboard. The ease in assembly makes this a perfect weeknight meal with the right amount of leftovers. Quick, easy, and super tasty.

printable recipe

2 garlic cloves, smashes
kosher salt
1 1/2 t g cumin
1 1/2 t chile powder
2 T evoo
1 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 c canned hominy, drained
1/4 c sliced pickled jalapenos
6 c lightly crushed thick corn tortilla chips (~6 c; “green bag” Whole Foods)
4 whole chicken legs (drumstick & thigh)
chopped cilantro & sour cream (optional), for serving


  1. preheat oven to 450 F. mash garlic cloves to paste with a pinch of salt. transfer paste to small bowl and stir in cumin and chile powder and 1 T olive oil.
  2. in 9×13 glass baking dish, toss tomatoes, hominy, jalapenos, and half of the spice mix and remaining 1 T olive oil. Gently mix in tortilla chips
  3. on clean separate cutting board, cut halfway through joint between thigh and drumstick on the underside of each chicken leg. score the top 3-4 times (see picture above), cutting to the bone. rub remaining spice mixture over and into the chicken and arrange skin side up atop mixture in baking dish. roast in center of oven for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  4. leave chicken in dish in oven and turn on the broiler. broil for ~3 minutes to crisp chicken skin. transfer chicken to plate and continue broiling mixture for another 3 minutes, until tortilla chips are lightly browned. return chicken to baking dish, sprinkle with cilantro and serve with sour cream

4 thoughts on “Pick It Up, Pack It In

  1. Love this post! Chilaquiles are on my list of stuff to blog about as well – I just love them, and I do always seem to have half-a bag of green bag chips or tostadas lingering about.

    And yeah, the 1 bag of groceries thing gets me ALL the time on the train. But I also use public transit to help me rein in my grocery-splurging habit…can’t get in as much trouble when I can only buy what I can carry. But I always have 2 Baggu reusable bags on my person at all times, just so I can pick up a few things anytime I need to.

  2. Oh how I can feel your pain with the 1 reusable bag at Whole Foods and absolutely refusing to take an extra bag. By the time I get home, my fingers are purple and have a lack of blood supply – but gosh darnnit I only used my one bag. And so with you on the hominy too – 26 oz cans are too big.

    Great recipe and love the green bag chips!

  3. @Jenn – I agree – using public transit surely helps to reign in the spending… I need to start doing that on the weekends too but I can’t seem to bring myself to do it🙂

    @ Em – what is that deal with the hominy??? I knew you’d appreciate the green bag chips !!

  4. Ok so seeing your hominy made me hungry for it – I just went out and bought a can and made chicken pozole. Go figure – I’m going to scoop it up with green bag chips! Oh the power of suggestion. I’ll give you a nod in my post.

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