Isabelle the chicken on the prowl

I ate eggs for dinner three times last week, the only meals I cooked all week. Let it be a testimony: backyard chickens provide a bounty, and pregnant women (at least this one) are less inventive in the kitchen.

A coworker recently noted how I’ve been quiet on the subject of chickens. I can assure you the chickens have not returned the favor. Every morning around 7:20 a.m. the girls start yelling for their breakfast. On weekdays, this works in my favor; if I ignore my real alarm clock for too long, Eugenie and Isabelle let me know that I have precisely 35 minutes to catch my train—and fetch their scratch. But on weekends, my enthusiasm for my backup alarm clock dwindles.

fresh eggs

salsa ingredients

They have been a handful lately. Should you acquire birds of your own, think twice before feeding them from the patio table. One misplaced tortilla chip was all it took to bring out the opportunistic glint in Isabelle’s eye. Soon we had in our possession a pair of marauding hot dog thieves that terrorized a would-be picnic and our friends’ children. Books claim that you can train chickens to stay out of certain garden beds or dinner tables, but, to date, that has not been our experience. Think instead: Small brains, persistent habits.

Isabelle is the more dangerous predator—she snatched a napkin right from my dad’s fingers—but Eugenie is far and away the noisiest. An important tradeoff between chicken breeds is that bantams tend to be quieter, but can fly over fences and into your dinner salad, if you let them. Full-size birds are often too heavy for flight, but more likely to perseverate. Loudly.

There have been mornings when I’ve considered divorcing our chickens, even dropping them off at the infamous Rooster Gulch in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but, as with any pets, they become part of the family.

And then there are those eggs…

For a hearty brunch or Mexican-style breakfast for dinner, I highly recommend this dish. Once you make the salsas, a zippy process that only takes about 20-30 minutes, it’s a breeze to whip up seconds or subsequent meals. Simply soften a corn tortilla in oil and fry an egg.

The red salsa (salsa asada) packs some heat while the green salsa (salsa verde) has a piquant tomatillo taste and a subtle sweetness. Both salsas are rich and smoky thanks to the technique of dry roasting the ingredients in a skillet before blending them.

huevos rancheros divorciados

Huevos Rancheros Divorced-Style (Huevos Rancheros Divorciados)

Recipe courtesy Marcela Valladolid

Salsa Asada:

4 plum tomatoes, cored

1 large shallot, peeled

1 serrano chile, stemmed

1/4 cup chicken broth

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salsa Verde:

5 tomatillos, husked and rinsed

1 Anaheim chile, halved

1/2 small white onion

1 clove garlic, unpeeled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Huevos Rancheros:

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

2 (6-inch) corn tortillas

4 large eggs


For the salsa asada: Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, shallots, and serranos to the dry skillet and char on all sides, turning occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the charred ingredients to a blender, add the broth and process until smooth. Return the salsa to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the salsa turns a bright red color, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

For the salsa verde: Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatillos, chile, onion, and garlic to the dry skillet and char on all sides, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. Peel the garlic. Transfer the charred ingredients to a blender and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

For the huevos rancheros: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the tortillas, 1 at a time, and cook until crisp-tender, 30 seconds per side. Remove the tortillas to a piece of aluminum foil and wrap tightly to keep warm.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the same skillet and fry the eggs until just set, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.

Unwrap the tortillas and arrange them flat on 2 serving plates (1 tortilla per plate). Top each tortilla with 2 fried eggs and spoon about 1/3 cup warm salsa asada over 1 egg and another 1/3 cup salsa verde over the other egg.

Serve immediately, and under a watchful eye.

beggar chicken