Diner’s dictionary Defining unfamiliar menu terms

Jason Vaughn of Apartment A made this beef taco with ranchero sauce.

Ranchero sauce

When Los Angeles Times columnist Lee Shippey in 1933 happened upon anti-Prohibition author Irvin Cobb and Black Sox shortstop Buck Weaver in conversation, he eavesdropped attentively.

“Buck was asking Irv how to cook huevos rancheros,” Shippey told his readers, describing the dish as “eggs, tomato sauce and chili.”

Since migrating north from rural Mexico, ranchero sauce has become a favorite tomato-based condiment. As Southwestern food authorities Cheryl and Bill Jamison reassured readers of “The Border Cookbook,” its use isn’t limited to the breakfast table: The sauce is equally good spooned over chicken or fish.

A kind of cooked salsa, ranchero always features tomatoes, onions and chile peppers. The seasoning varies by cook, but garlic, cumin and cilantro are common additions. Unlike enchilada sauce or chili gravy, ranchero sauce isn’t thickened with flour.

Apartment A (For Goodness Steak Taco, $3.69)

Bottled and jarred ranchero sauce is widely available. Even Taco Bell has branded a supermarket version of the sauce.

Huevos rancheros is a brunch staple in Charleston, but the sauce is also served at suppertime at restaurants, including Los Arcos and Santi’s, where it tops off chicken dishes. At Taco Mamacita on Sullivan’s Island, it’s part of a beef brisket taco.

Hanna Raskin