The Chefs Center of California is in the business of supporting small businesses. This includes sometimes indirectly supporting independent film and TV. This author and the Chefs Center General Manager, Larry Bressler, were even given imdb credit for their support of Eat With Me, the foodie feature love story that showcases the talents of a Chefs Center artisan, Bling Bling Dumplings. Many TV shows and webisodes have been shot at or have used the Chefs Center as a support site. Through Chef Post, we will be offering tips and support to those who make some shoots worth the 3AM call time: the caterers. “On the Set” will be our monthly offering to anyone who feeds the cast and crew or aspires to do so.
My first film catering gig was for a low budget creature feature. It was shot on an exotic game ranch about 14 miles north of Del Rio, Texas. The ranch was owned by a Texas zillionaire who thought it would be fun to have his Hollywood friends gallivant amongst his gazelles and impalas for a few weeks. And what a Fellini-esque sight it was…
There was lots of gunplay. I am not describing the movie. I am describing the shoot. During down times, cast and crew shot skeet and .50 cal sniper rifles in between taking pulls off Costco sized bottles of Patron.
While our host was generous with his ammo and his two story tall amphibious vehicle known as the “critter gitter”, there was a limit to his bankroll when it came to how much he was willing to pour into this straight-to-oblivion flick. Needless to say, it was a low budget movie and a low budget menu. I enjoy this challenge. French chefs measure their peers on what they can do with offal. What fabulous thing can you make with this organ that many people would just as soon toss in the trash or feed to the dogs? This smacks of the same challenge faced by a caterer when the Production Manager of a film sheepishly writes down the food budget and slides it, face down, across the desk.
One recipe that was an easy call on this shoot was Migas. Migas are not only very cost effective, they are a traditional hangover food. And if there was one thing this cast and crew needed, it was something to help them deal with their, ahem, revelry. Migas are also gluten free!
These are not the Spanish Migas which are equally delicious and have restorative powers. The ones from Spain use old bread sautéed crunchy, Spanish chorizo and eggs.
The Tex Mex Migas I feed the flock with are not too far removed and certainly have the same elements and textures. And there is a very distinct similarity between these Migas and chiliquiles. I feel the difference is that Migas will always have eggs as chiliquiles can vary. I first had these in Austin at Cisco’s on east 6th street. I feel fortunate to have known Cisco’s when Rudy Cisneros was still looming in the background, chomping on a cigar. Cisco’s has been slinging Migas since 1948 and is one of those great evolution-immune culinary landmarks that has had the same five or six things on the menu for 60 years. Linoleum floors, wood paneling and framed photos of every major Austin figure from the canonized UT football coach Darryl K. Royal, to the man who shot Charles Whitman, Houston McCoy.
BASIC MIGAS FOR TWENTY
On a flat top, sautee’ three chopped onions.
Add approximately 20 corn tortillas cut into strips.
Watch the tortillas and get them to that nice, soft crunch zone that you might find in a well-made flauta: soft but with a satisfying crunch. You will need to periodically add oil and adjust the heat.
Whisk 34 eggs with approximately three cups of milk.
Pour egg mixture over tortillas and onions. Fold everything together.
Cook the eggs soft. Remove from heat. Put into hotel pan or serving dish. Top with grated cheese and finely chopped green onion.
You probably didn’t get to the end of the recipe before realizing there are many variations.
In college, Migas used to be what I did with the useless scraps at the bottom of the chip bag. Instead of toasting tortillas, you can add chips to the cooking eggs. In this scenario, about 1.5 bags of chips would replace the 20 tortillas.
Add as much stuff as you can afford
This is a budget catering recipe, but if you have it, any kind of breakfast meat works in this mixture, especially good chorizo. Green chilis, jalapenos (seeded), and many other varieties of pepper work nicely. I recommend a julienne for bell peppers of any color. Cook these with the onions. Watch the moisture level and be sure it does not affect the tortillas or chips. If you feel more confident cooking the veggies separately from the chips, do so.
Alternative Cooking methods
The Chefs Center has a flat top and everything else one might need to cater for a production budget of $500K to $10M. But if you do not have a flat top or if you do not like the fast and furious undertaking of cooking runny eggs on a flat top, Migas can be made in the oven. Cook the tortillas a little crispier, throw them in a hotel pan and pour the egg mixture over it. Cook at 375 for approximately 35 minutes. You can choose to serve in pieces or scramble the mixture. There will obviously be a membrane of toasted egg on top that will easily fold in if you choose the scrambling route.
First of all, if this is your only offering, you won’t have enough and the crew won’t be very happy with you. Always provide fruit, some sort of baked good, granola, etc.
Refried beans and warm tortillas are my preferred sides to Migas, along with a thin, Spanish style salsa served warm.
If you have a decent budget, a side or garnish of sliced avocado will really set it off.
All of this is inexpensive, but the welcoming smell of the warm corn tortillas and the filling nature of this dish make it a hit with hard working cast and crew. It is a versatile dish that works stripped down or as complex as your budget will allow.