I woke up with a soft humid breeze and the smell of sweet jasmine coming through my window. The Spanish moss swaying on the big oak trees reminded me I wasn’t in Texas anymore. I found myself on Avery Island, home of the McIlhenny family and their famous Tabasco Pepper Sauce. It was a beautiful and majestic place that inspired a heavenly plate of Duck Guajillo Chilaquiles upon my return home.
avery island, louisiana
With its simple ingredients, one would never guess that Tabasco is as unique and complex as the land it originates from. The recipe hasn’t changed since the original recipe was hand written by Edmund McIlhenny in 1868. It all starts with peppers that originate from the first seeds planted on the island all of those years ago. Those peppers are then mashed with salt from the salt mines that lie beneath this mystical island and then placed in oak barrels to age for 3 years. Just like aging a good whisky, the pepper mash takes on the notes of the oak barrels during this process.
Once the mash is ready to go into production, it is inspected by Tony Simmons, McIlhenny CEO and fifth-generation McIlhenny family member. Not only does he visually inspect every barrel, but he also tastes the mash to make sure it is up to par. I too got to taste the mash and I will say, although it is beautifully flavored, it packs an intense heat. I can only assume being able to handle this much heat is genetically engineered in his family’s genes!
When approved, the mash is blended with vinegar for an undisclosed number of days, strained of its seeds and pulp, bottled, and labeled for 180 countries and in 22 languages — all on Avery Island.
I was impressed not only by the abundant beauty of this enchanting place but by the continued preservation of Avery Island and Tabasco itself. Hopefully, I can return one day but until then, I’ll just have to relive the moments there with a little spicy flavor at home. We’ll be exploring a lot of the flavors in the Tabasco family as I’ll be bringing you recipes all year with these enticing Tabasco Pepper Sauces. I’m going to start off with Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce — a rich blend of tangy mild heat and savory garlic that has become one of my favorite flavors to use to add depth to sauces. One such sauce is an insanely delicious guajillo-garlic sauce for my favorite, Duck Chilaquiles.
duck guajillo chilaquiles
Whenever I eat chilaquiles I do a little dance. It’s incredibly embarrassing to those around me, but my love for chilaquiles surpasses my need to be sane. I also have the same admiration for duck. Put the two together and you better stand aside! So unsurprisingly, Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce recently found its way into a blender with a few guajillo peppers that had been soaking in hot water to rehydrate and a killer sauce was born.
From there it was a simple building of flavors and textures with corn tortilla chips and shredded duck confit made from duck legs the night before.
And to finish it off…
Eggs fried in duck fat, thinly sliced red onion, cilantro, and crumbled queso fresco.
Indulgent and simply irresistible, these Duck Guajillo Chilaquiles are a beautiful combination of tender duck and crunchy corn tortilla chips blanketed with a savory bright sauce of tomatoes, mild chilies, and tangy Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce. It’s actually quite simple to make and can certainly impress a brunch crowd.
Indulgent and simply irresistible, these Duck Guajillo Chilaquiles are a beautiful combination of tender duck and crunchy corn tortilla chips blanketed with a savory bright sauce of tomatoes, mild chilies, and tangy Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce.
- 3 duck legs
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup water
- 8 dried guajillo chilies*, stems removed and seeded
- 1 - 14.5 ounce jar diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons Tabasco Brand Garlic Pepper Sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 8 ounces thick homemade-style tortilla chips**
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
- Thinly sliced red onion
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Season the duck legs with salt and lay skin side down in a roasting pan. Add garlic and water and cover tightly. Braise for 2 1/2 hours then flip the duck legs over, cover, and continue to cook for another 2 hours. Remove the garlic and set aside. Remove the legs to a foil-lined baking sheet or, if making in advance, cover and refrigerate until needed. Using a fat separator (or by skimming the fat off with a spoon) separate the fat from the cooking liquid. This is a flavorful fat that you will use cooking the chilaquiles and eggs.
- While the duck is cooking, make the sauce. Place the peppers in a bowl of hot tap water to rehydrate until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Place the peppers in a blender or food processor with tomatoes, Tabasco Brand Garlic Pepper Sauce, cumin, and the garlic cloves that were cooked with the duck. (This will give you two flavors of garlic, the bright garlic from the Tabasco and the sweet garlic slow cooked in the duck fat). Blend until a very smooth puree forms.
- Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the puree and bring to a rapid simmer. Simmer until the puree has thickened onto a paste, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and place the duck legs in the oven. Cook until the skin is golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the meat from the bones and slice.
- Once the sauce is finished, remove 1 cup of the sauce. Arrange a third of the chips in the sauce in the pan. Place half of the duck on top and pour 1/3 cup of sauce over the duck. Top with another layer of chips, the remaining duck, and 1/3 cup of sauce. Finish off with another layer of chips and the remaining sauce. Cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes for the chips to absorb the sauce but not become soggy.
- While the chilaquiles rest, heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat over medium heat in a skillet. Fry the eggs until the whites have set, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Top the chilaquiles with the eggs, queso fresco, red onion, and fresh cilantro leaves. Serve.
by Meredith Steele
- * Guajillo Chiles are large dried chilies that can be found at most markets and grocery stores.
- ** I made my own tortilla chips by slicing stale corn tortillas and frying them on high in a pan with grapeseed oil 1/4 inch deep until golden brown.
- To make in advance: This recipe is perfect for a brunch crowd and can be made in advance for entertaining. You can braise the duck legs and make the sauce up to two days in advance.
Disclaimer: Although my trip expenses to Avery Island and this post were sponsored by McIlhenny Co. all opinions are my own.