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Pimiento and Cheese Chilaquiles
 Reprinted with permission from The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South by Sandra A. Gutierrez (The University of North Carolina Press, 2011)

Yield: 4-6 servings

vegetable oil for frying
12 corn tortillas, each cut into 8 wedges
salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pimiento Sauce 
1 1/2 cups shredded queso fresco (or Monterey Jack)
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 Haas avocados
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems)

Line 2 baking sheets with metal cooling racks. In a large skillet with high sides, heat 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil to 360 degrees (or use a deep fryer according to the manufacturer’s instructions). Working in batches, carefully add tortillas, stirring constantly; fry them for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crispy and a light golden color (they darken as they cool, so don’t let them get too dark). Using a slotted spoon, transfer chips to the prepared cooling racks; immediately sprinkle with salt. (This step can be completed several hours ahead or the day before assembling the final dish.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the Pimiento Sauce and remove from heat. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish. Place 1/2 of the fried chips over the sauce. Spread 1/2 of the remaining sauce over the chips; spread 1/2 of the cheese over the sauce. Repeat layering, ending with cheese; press down tortillas with a wooden spoon (don’t worry if some break). Drop sour cream by dollops all over the top of the casserole; cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil. Halve, pit and peel avocados and slice them thinly. Place slices decoratively over the top of the casserole; sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Note: The casserole can be assembled ahead of time (without the avocados and cilantro); bake it just before serving and then garnish with avocados and cilantro.

Pimiento Sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups roughly chopped yellow onion
1 cup peeled, seeded and roughly chopped plum tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 7-ounce jars diced pimientos, drained (juices reserved)
1 teaspoon aji panca paste or hot sauce (such as Tabasco®)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Pimiento Sauce
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they begin to soften; add tomatoes and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add pimientos, aji panca paste, water, reserved juices from the pimientos, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return it to the saucepan and keep warm until ready to serve.