Main Courses

Sardine Empanadas

What to do with a couple cans of sardines? Do what the people from landlocked Aguascalientes do: make the tastiest empanadas.

Over the past dozen years, I have been amazed by so many things, as I’ve ventured into a deep exploration of Mexico’s cuisine to share it with the world – or whoever will listen. Its richness, its diversity, its depth, its accessibility, its generosity… One thing that has also stood out, everywhere, is the resourcefulness of its people.

You know the saying, if all you have are lemons, make lemonade. That exponentially applies to the Mexican spirit.

Take the state of Nuevo Leon that is so rich in oranges. You will find everything from orange cake, orange cookies, orange drinks, orange chicken, orange candy, to amazing orange preserves.

Aguascalientes is a place deeply inland, with no water outside its borders and no water within its borders – no lakes, no rivers. Bien tierra adentro, as we say. Historically, the only fish and seafood that has been available there, for the most part, is that which can be preserved: salted, dried, pickled, or canned. Hence, these sardine empanadas, a dish that truly embellishes the sardines.

I was intrigued when I stumbled upon this recipe as a specialty of the region. It jumped out at me like a jack-in-the-box screaming: test me please! See, I inherited a deep taste for sardines. A funny ingredient to dig, I know. Pretty basic and not much glamour about them…

Oh, but it’s the lightly salty, oily, peculiar rich taste and kind of pasty consistency to them that I grew to appreciate from two men I love. My father, whose favorite torta – and he is a heck of a torta maker – has sardines, avocado, onion and pickled jalapeños. And my grandfather, my father’s father, who was an angel that happened to land on earth – ok, fine, he was a Polish man fleeing persecution, who found refuge in Mexico when he was merely a teen – loved eating sardines on saltine crackers smeared with butter.

Pati with her Grandpa
With my grandfather, like 25 years ago…

Turns out, you really only need basic ingredients to make these empanadas. And they end up gorgeous, inside and out.

Here is a bird’s eye view of the empanadas.

sardine empanadas

You know why they have such deep and shimmering golden brown color on the top? Because in Aguascalientes, they brush the empanadas with only the egg yolks. No worries, you won’t waste the egg whites. You can use them to help seal the inner seam of the empanada.

As far as the filling: Sardines are combined with mushrooms that are seasoned and browned over softened onions and mixed with mushy cooked tomatoes, olives and pickled jalapeños. The sardine flavor is nuanced by the combination, yet not hidden. It is embellished in a way.

The mushrooms are a non-competing companion that makes the filling more substantial and adds a nice soft bite. The puff pastry becomes the perfect wrapping to envelop the savory, lightly spicy, teasingly rich mixture.

Ok, here is an inside photo, so you can see the chunky and moist filling too.

sardine empanadas

You can make them for lunch or dinner and eat them with a green salad on the side. You can also make them mini and have them as appetizers. You can eat them hot, right out of the oven. Or you can eat them at room temperature. And you know I am going to say this: they are actually also delicious cold.

The best thing is, if you have leftovers, everyone will have a delicious to-go lunch for school or work.

Sardine Empanadas
Print Recipe
4.15 from 7 votes

Sardine Empanadas

Sardine Empanadas from Pati's Mexican Table, Season 7, Episode 7 "La Paz: The Heart of Baja Sur"
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Empanadas, fish, pati’s mexican table, sardines
Servings: 20 Empanadas
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 pound frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 2 cups white button mushrooms cleaned and diced 8 ounces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ripe Roma tomatoes chopped about 1/2 pound
  • 1/2 cup manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos chopped
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapeños chopped
  • 2 cans (3-4 ounces) of sardines in oil broken into chunks
  • 2 eggs separated
  • All-purpose flour for rolling out puff pastry

Instructions

  • Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and let it thaw on your countertop.
  • Heat the oil in a medium casserole or a sauté pan set over medium heat. Once hot, cook the onion for 3 to 4 minutes until it softens. Incorporate the mushrooms, sprinkle in the salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, until the juices come out and they begin to dry out, and the mushrooms start browning a bit. Add the tomatoes and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until they start breaking down and becoming mushy and soft. Add the olives and jalapeños, mix well, and cook for another minute.
  • Remove from the heat, add the sardines, combine well and set aside.
  • Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks in two small bowls. Use a fork or a whisk to beat them separately.
  • Place the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Lightly sprinkle flour on the countertop and rub some on the rolling pin. Roll out the puff pastry to thinner than 1/4-inch and use a 4-to-5-inch round mold to cut circles. Add a generous tablespoon of the sardine filling in the middle of each round. Brush a bit of the beaten egg white around the edges each round. Fold each one into a half moon shape and press the sides.
  • Using a fork, press the side of the empanada to help seal and decorate it. Brush the egg yolk on top of the empanadas and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Place the empanadas in the oven. Bake anywhere from 20 to 22 minutes, until the tops of the empanadas have puffed and are a shiny golden brown.

Notes

Empanadas de Sardina 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales

Just when you think you completely understand something, life proves you wrong. Does that happen to you? It happens to me all the time, especially when it comes to food.

A cuisine as rich and diverse as Mexico’s needs for us to make an effort to preserve what has been passed on. But, you also have to keep an open mind to new ideas that may in turn become classics.

In that sense, I find the kitchen to be one of the most humbling places because food is always growing and evolving and taking you along, if you let it. You get to constantly learn, apply what you learn, share it, and then start all over again.

Take tamales for example. I have made countless kinds from all regions of Mexico and from different historical times. I have wrapped them in dried and fresh corn husks, banana leaves, hoja santa leaves…practically any and every edible leaf I know of in Mexico. I have learned to make them with raw masa, with masa colada, with rice flour masa, with normal wheat flour masa and even with no masa! I have done savory and sweet, with fillings that range from picadillo to marzipan and beyond. You name it, I have probably tried it.

I thought I had the tamales from the city of Oaxaca nailed down. Then, a few months ago, as we were filming Season 6 of Pati’s Mexican Table there, I was amazed to try a new tamal at Criollo, Chef Luis Arellano’s new restaurant. Its masa was made with pumpkin and filled with sweet refried beans laced with piloncillo. The only way to describe it is brilliant!

Back in my kitchen, I was inspired by the possibility of not only flavoring the masa, but enriching it with a starchy vegetable to lend taste, consistency and color. I came up with this sweet potato tamal filled with savory refried beans.

When the time came to test and play around with it, I was reminded of how important it is to appreciate the lessons that have stood the test of time. In the case of tamales: to review our technique for steaming, for assembling, for achieving a good masa. So we can still call our new creation something worthy of the name TAMAL.

Given the addition of the starchy sweet potatoes, I ended up having to test the idea quite a few times to achieve a very fluffy, yet tasty masa.

In the end, I am very happy with this one! The masa is puffy and moist, and its barely sweet flavor contrasts nicely with the savory, earthy taste of the refried beans. I also took the liberty of drizzling them with crema and topping with salty queso fresco.

And, because my friends from FUD USA and I want to hear what your favorite tamales are, and mostly, we want you to be able to make them for the holidays, we’re giving away 5 tamaleras and each with a copy of my cookbook. Are you in? Go right here to enter.

Pati Jinich sweet potato black bean tamales
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales

I thought I had the tamales from the city of Oaxaca nailed down. Then, a few months ago, as we were filming Season 6 of Pati’s Mexican Table there, I was amazed to try a new tamal at Criollo, Chef Luis Arellano’s new restaurant. Its masa was made with pumpkin and filled with sweet refried beans laced with piloncillo. The only way to describe it is brilliant! Back in my kitchen, I was inspired by the possibility of not only flavoring the masa, but enriching it with a starchy vegetable to lend taste, consistency and color. I came up with this sweet potato tamal filled with savory refried beans.
Prep Time1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Total Time2 hrs 25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: black beans, pati's mexican table, queso fresco, sweet potato, Tamales
Servings: 12 tamales
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups corn masa flour or masa harina (such as Maseca)
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 24 dried corn husks
  • 2 cups refried beans
  • 1 cup Mexican crema
  • 1 cup queso fresco crumbled

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wrap the sweet potatoes in aluminum foil. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until completely cooked and soft. Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, cut open and scoop out the cooked pulp into a bowl. Set aside to cool.

To make the tamal masa:

  • Place the lard or vegetable shortening and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a mixer, and beat over medium speed until very light, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low, add baking powder and sugar, and take turns adding the corn masa flour and the broth. Raise speed back to medium and continue beating another 6 to 7 minutes, until the dough is homogeneous. In batches, add the cooled sweet potato pulp and continue beating for another 5 to 6 minutes, until the masa looks fluffed up.

To assemble the tamales:

  • Soak the dried corn husks in hot water for a couple minutes, or until they are pliable, and drain. Lay out a corn husk with the tapering end towards you. Spread about 1/3 cup masa into about a 2” to 3” square, the layer should be about 1/4” thick, leaving a border of at least 1/2” on the sides. Place about 2 teaspoons of refried beans in the middle of the masa square.
  • Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together (you will see how the masa starts to swaddle the filling) and fold them to one side, rolling them in same direction around tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk with the tapering end, from the bottom up. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open. Gently squeeze from the bottom to the top to even the filling out without pressing to hard. As you assemble all the tamales, place them as upright as you can in a container.

To prepare the tamalera or steamer:

  • Place water in the bottom pan of a steamer, so that water is under the steamer basket or rack, and bring it to a simmer. Line the steamer with one or two layers of soaked corn husks.

To cook the tamales:

  • When you have all tamales ready, place them as vertically as you can, into the prepared steamer with the open end on top. If there is space left in the steamer, tuck in some corn husks, so the tamales won’t dance around. Cover with more corn husks, and steam covered with a lid for 55 minutes to an hour. You know the tamales are ready when they come easily free from the husks. They will still be moist, and as they are released from the husks – you will see the moisture, like when you remove good moist muffins from their paper baking cups.
  • Finished tamales will stay warm for about 2 hours in the steamer. They can be made ahead several days before and stored in refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in a steamer. For refrigerated tamales, it will take about 20 minutes and about 45 minutes for frozen tamales.
  • You can serve with a spoonful of Mexican crema and crumbled queso fresco on top.

Notes

Tamales de Camote con Frijol

Coloradito Chicken and a New Season

Oaxaca is a place I have been to countless times, but always leave wanting to go back.  No wonder I was eager to bring the crew, so they could experience all that I kept telling them about. And mostly, so they could help me capture it to bring to you.

My series director, Dan, must have been dizzy from me telling him how things are “different” in Oaxaca so many times. There is something in the air, and there is something in the way the light hits Oaxaca. It makes everything you think is familiar gain a completely different dimension. Maybe that is why Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s main cradles of art.

The blue in the sky seems a deeper shade of blue. The green in the plants, mountains and herbs looks more intense and has more saturated hues of green. When you wake up in the morning and open a window, the air smells fresher and feels more crisp. The sun shines brighter. And the word “diverse” has never had a better match.

Oaxaca is one of the – or the – most ethnically and culturally diverse places in all of Mexico. It has eight defined and distinctively different regions and 18 ethnic communities – each with their own culture, cuisine, language and pre-Hispanic forms of self governance and organization for life and society.

To put it simply, as my dad would say, Oaxaca is another world.

One of the common sayings related to Oaxaca is “the land of 7 moles.” But, the irony is that there are many more moles than that. There are dozens and dozens of them. Each mole has so many different versions, depending on the cook, the family or the town.

Here, I am sharing a Coloradito Mole with Chicken. I tested it many times at home to get the exact taste I experienced in the city of Oaxaca. So many times that Sami, my middle son, would joke “coloradito, mami, coloradito?” every time he walked in the kitchen and saw a large pot simmering.

Silky, delightfully sweet, savory, tangy, and with a light spice, it is a small window into the beautiful complex layers that Oaxaca has all around.

Try it at home and join me for the new season that is about to premiere! Check your local listings here.

pati jinich coloradito chicken
Print Recipe
3.84 from 6 votes

Coloradito Chicken

Here I am sharing a Coloradito Mole with Chicken. I tested it many times at home to get the exact taste I experienced in the city of Oaxaca. Silky, delightfully sweet, savory, tangy, and with a light spice, it is a small window into the beautiful complex layers that Oaxaca has all around.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Ancho, chayote, chicken, Chiles, Coloradito, green beans, Guajillo, Mole, Oaxaca, Pollo, Tomato
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe plantain
  • 6 ancho chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 5 guajillo chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 1 pound (or 3 to 4) ripe Roma tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • 1 1/2-inch thick slice of white onion
  • 1 1-inch-long stick ceylon cinnamon or canela (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ceylon cinnamon)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt divided
  • 1 3-pound chicken cut into 8 serving pieces (wings removed for later use and breasts cut in half)
  • Vegetable oil for cooking the chicken
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 3-ounce bar of Mexican chocolate broken into pieces
  • 1 pound chayote squash peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
  • 1 pound green beans trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Tortillas or rice to serve

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Place the plantain in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil and make a couple of 1/2-inch slits on its skin. Bake until completely cooked through, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, when cool enough to handle, peel and slice. Set aside.
  • Heat a comal, griddle or skillet over medium heat. Once hot, toast the ancho and guajillo chiles for about 30 to 45 seconds per side, until fragrant and lightly toasted. Place chiles in a saucepan along with the whole tomatoes, cover with water and set over medium-high heat. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the chiles are rehydrated and plumped up, and the tomatoes are cooked and mushy.
  • On the same comal, griddle or skillet, char the unpeeled garlic cloves and the onion slice, until completely charred and softened, about 8 to 10 minutes, flipping a couple of times in between. Set aside to cool. Peel the garlic when cool enough to handle.
  • On a small skillet set over medium heat, toast the cinnamon stick for a minute or two until fragrant, flipping once. Next, toast the cloves and peppercorns for a minute, moving them around the entire time. Toast the almonds for a couple of minutes, until lightly browned, as well as sesame seeds. Lastly, toast the oregano for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • As each ingredient is finished being toasted, place it in the jar of the blender: the cinnamon, garlic, onion, cloves, peppercorns, almonds, sesame seeds, and oregano. Add the rehydrated chiles, cooked tomatoes and 1 cup of their cooking broth, and the plantain to the blender, as well. Incorporate the raisins, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt, and puree at least for a couple minutes until completely smooth. If your blender is on the smaller side, puree it in batches.
  • Set a large casserole over medium-high heat and heat enough oil to have about 1/8-inch of depth. Season the chicken with the remaining teaspoon of salt. Once the oil is hot, brown the chicken pieces in batches, making sure to not crowd the casserole. Cook until they have created a crust on the skin and are easy to flip, about 3 minutes per side. Place the finished pieces in a large bowl.
  • Once you are done browning the chicken, reduce the heat to medium-low. Carefully, and using the casserole’s lid as a shield (there will be splatters), pour the mole sauce into the oil. Stir and cover with the lid, leaving it slightly open, and cook for about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally (still protecting yourself with the lid), until the sauce is very thick and seasoned. Add the chicken broth, chocolate pieces, and the browned chicken pieces, and cook for another 20 minutes. Add the chayote squash and green beans, give it a good stir, and cook until vegetables are cooked yet tender, another 10 minutes.
  • Serve with tortillas and/or rice.

Notes

Mole Coloradito con Pollo

Bacon Cheese Dogs with Avocado Relish

By now it is common knowledge that Mexico and Mexicans love to taco anything and everything. So much so that a few years ago, when the hashtag #TacoTuesday became a thing, I would laugh when people asked me if I was doing taco night on Tuesdays at home.

“We practically taco every night,” I’d respond. It is a fact: I always have a comal handy to warm corn tortillas just in case we get the urge to tuck anything into them. But what many people may not know is how much we love our hot dogs.

Ok, yes, hot dogs are originally yours, America. But we have found a way to make them our very own, too, and we’d love for you to add them to your repertoire, if you are so inclined.

Take it as a compliment. We love hot dogs so much that they have also become part of our street food. This isn’t something new. Not even from a decade ago. Hot dogs have existed in Mexico for at least a century. So right next to a taco stand, you are likely to run into a hot dog stand. I have told you the story of the Galán hot dog my sisters and I used to eat that drew me to tears last time we were filming in Mexico.

Yet, there are so many more ways to Mex up your hot dogs. At home, our latest favorite is one we call Bacon Cheese Dogs with Avocado Relish. It has a FUD hot link – you won’t believe how packed with flavor it is – wrapped in bacon. It is then browned until super crisp. Then sliced in half, stuffed with queso Oaxaca, put back in the pan with all that flavorful bacon fat, cheese side down, until the cheese completely melts and the corners crisp up. That hot link sits on a layer of horseradish mayo in a toasted bun and is garnished with a quick avocado relish: diced tart tomatillos, soft buttery avocado, grassy cilantro and the irresistible bite of pickled jalapeños.

Plating Bacon Cheese Hot Dogs with Avocado Pickle

Print Recipe
4.34 from 6 votes

Bacon Cheese Dogs with Avocado Relish

Bacon Cheese Dogs with Avocado Relish recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 6, Episode 12 "Cheesy"
Course: Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, bacon, cheese, Hot Dog, Mexican, Oaxaca, Pickled Jalapeños, queso, relish
Servings: 2 hot dogs
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the avocado relish:

  • 1 large (about 3 ounces) tomatillo husked, rinsed, cut into small dice
  • 4 scallions white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and upper parts of stems chopped
  • 3 pickled whole jalapeños chopped, plus 2 sliced for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon brine from pickled jalapeños
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 1 ripe avocado halved, pitted, cut into small dice
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish or more to taste

For the hot dogs:

Instructions

To make the avocado relish:

  • In a medium bowl, add the tomatillo, scallions, cilantro, chopped pickled jalapeños, pickled jalapeño brine, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Mix well. Incorporate the avocado and toss gently with a spoon to combine. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the prepared horseradish. Set aside.
  • On a cutting board, roll one slice of bacon around each sausage link. Place the tip of the hot dog over one end of the bacon slice, then roll the sausage around on the diagonal so that the bacon wraps around it and covers it entirely.

To make the hot dogs:

  • Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add the bacon-wrapped hot dogs and cook, turning every couple minutes, until crisped and browned on all sides. Remove from the heat. When cool enough to handle, cut a slit lengthwise down the middle of each, without cutting completely through.
  • Raise heat to medium-high. Add two piles of about 1 cup shredded cheese onto the skillet and top each with a hotdog, slit-side down. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese has completely melted and browned creating a cheese crust.
  • Meanwhile, open the buns but try not to separate the tops from the bottoms. Lightly toast the buns in the toaster or griddle. Spread a generous tablespoon of the horseradish mayonnaise onto each bun.
  • When bacon cheese hot links are ready, using a spatula, flip onto the bun, cheese side up. Top with a generous amount of the avocado relish, garnish with the pickled jalapeño slices and serve.

Notes

Hot dogs con Tocino, Queso y Aderezo de Aguacate

Pomegranate Short Rib Tacos

This meal makes for a beast of a taco. Well, quite a few beastly tacos.

Melt in your mouth chunks of short ribs, braised in wine and pomegranate and topped with a scoop of a one of a kind guacamole, get tucked into warm corn tortillas. The guacamole has a mashed ripe avocado base seasoned with fresh ginger, jalapeño, shallots and a dash of lime juice, then tossed with salty chunks of queso fresco and sweet and juicy pomegranate seeds. You can garnish the final thing with chopped fresh mint.

This can practically be your whole meal! It makes me really happy to make it on cold winter nights, when we want something filling, satisfying, luscious, packed with flavor, and fun.

I cooked up this recipe in an attempt to use pomegranate seeds in a different way than I was used to and out of a bit of frustration. See, in Mexico, pomegranate is the crown jewel of Chiles en Nogada. The signature dish of Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations in September. If you are a Mexican and you see a pomegranate, I bet the first thing you think of is that dish, which bears all the colors of the Mexican flag. The pomegranates must be there.

Funny how things are. I love making Chiles en Nogada here in the states. Yet, pomegranate season in Mexico is July to October and here in Washington, DC, I have struggle to find pomegranates in September. In DC, pomegranate is at its peak way past September, not until very into the early winter months. So, I feel a little ridiculous making Chiles en Nogada which most absolutely, definitely, without a doubt, NEED to be made in September.

But I absolutely adore pomegranates. Everything about them. Their shape. Their hard skin. How challenging it can be to get the seeds out. How your fingers and nails remain red long after you have eaten them. Mostly, their sharp and sparkly tart and sweet flavor. Hence… I came up with this recipe to expand my pomegranate horizons during the time that I can easily find them. It turns out, I expanded my taco, my guacamole and dinner horizons as well.

Here you go, if you are a meat eater, this taco is a must. If you are not, make the guacamole and eat it with chips.

pomegranate short ribs
Print Recipe
4.5 from 4 votes

Pomegranate Short Ribs and Queso Fresco Guacamole Tacos

This meal makes for a beast of a taco. Well, quite a few beastly tacos. Melt in your mouth chunks of short ribs, braised in wine and pomegranate and topped with a scoop of a one of a kind guacamole, get tucked into warm corn tortillas. The guacamole has a mashed ripe avocado base seasoned with fresh ginger, jalapeño, shallots and a dash of lime juice, then tossed with salty chunks of queso fresco and sweet and juicy pomegranate seeds. You can garnish the final thing with chopped fresh mint.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: beef, corn tortillas, ginger, jalapeno, lime, mint, onion, pati's mexican table, pomegranate, red wine, rosemary, short ribs, tacos
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds country-style boneless beef short ribs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt divided, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons canola or safflower oil divided
  • 1 cup white onion finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary crushed
  • 1 tablespoon shallot finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger finely chopped
  • 1 whole jalapeño or to taste, finely chopped, stemmed and seeded optional
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large ripe avocados halved, pitted, meat scooped out and diced
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco crumbled or diced, divided
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds divided
  • corn tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint coarsely chopped, to garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Season the short ribs with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons oil in an ovenproof casserole over medium heat. Once hot, add the meat and cook until browned on each side, about 7 to 8 minutes per side. If necessary, do it in batches. Remove the meat from the casserole and place in a bowl.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the casserole and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until completely softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant and lightly browned. Pour in the pomegranate juice and wine, stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the browned bits.
  • Return the meat to the casserole, add the crushed rosemary, and let it come to a simmer. Once it does, cover the casserole with its lid and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is completely tender.
  • Remove the lid from the casserole, and leave in the oven for another 1/2 hour, or until the meat comes falls apart when pulled with a fork, and the liquid has thickened considerably. Remove from the oven. Using a couple forks, shred the meat finely into small bite size chunks and let it sit in the sauce.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the shallots, ginger and jalapeño with the lime juice, olive oil and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Incorporate the avocado and gently mash with a fork until well combined. Add half of the cheese and pomegranate seeds and toss well. Reserve.
  • Heat the corn tortillas on a comal, griddle or skillet set over medium heat, until completely heated through and pliable.
  • Assemble tacos with the guacamole and the braised ribs, garnish with the remaining cheese and chopped mint.

Notes

Tacos de Costillitas a la Granada y Guacamole con Queso Fresco

Thanksgiving Turkey

Right after we got married, we moved from Mexico City to Dallas, Texas. It was in the middle of the very hot summer, oh how I remember that.

I had always been a great eater… but not a great cook. The youngest of four daughters, I had always been labeled the intellectual one, while each one of my older sisters jumped into the cooking and lifestyle field in one way or another.

Back then, I was focusing all my efforts on finishing my political science thesis to become an academic. But not knowing anyone, with my husband traveling all the time, and sort of locking myself in the duplex we lived in to write most of the time, I became insanely nostalgic for my family and the foods that we ate back home. So I jumped in the kitchen, and started to chat with anyone and everyone who seemed open to share recipes with me, in an attempt to recreate the soups, the stews, the dishes, and the nurturing flavors that I knew would help me feel at home.

Then came October. Like a sudden rain fall, I started seeing luscious Thanksgiving menu images everywhere: in stores, at the mall, on TV, on glossy books and cooking magazines in grocery stores. “A festive turkey meal in October,” I wondered. In Mexico, turkey is eaten for Christmas! “Oh boy,” I thought, “here they really do plan ahead of time.”

I had never heard of Thanksgiving before. Yet intrigued by the photos and recipes I was seeing, I made a full Thanksgiving meal for my husband and I. That was the very first one. Since then, we have sat down for a Thanksgiving meal every single year. Fast forward 19 years, and by now, I can tell you that Thanksgiving has become my favorite American holiday.

It is not only because of the food, but because of how friends and family come together around the table. How everyone seems to contribute in what is almost a communal effort. How the holiday is so timeless, with classic dishes that need to remain classics. But there is also an open window for flavors and ingredients that can enrich the meal.

Now, so many years later, I get the meaning of Thanksgiving more than ever. Here is my humble offer for your table: a turkey recipe packed with the sazón of some of my favorite flavor combinations and the tastiest Chorizo, Apple and Cornbread Stuffing.

Oh, by the way, for Season 5 of Pati’s Mexican Table, we made a Thanksgiving episode. I really do hope you catch it! Here is a clip.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AkJm803ACM[/embedyt]

You can also find out when the episode is playing in your location, by entering your zip code here.

Mexican Overloaded Double-Baked Potatoes

So, we are about to start another school year. This time around may be one of the most bittersweet for me, yet.

The sweet side: Season 5 of Pati’s Mexican Table premieres nationwide this September (here’s a sneak peek)!

I can’t believe we have gone from a first season, born out of the sheer passion to share everything from my native country with my new home country, to a fifth season that comes right on the heels of two unexpected Emmy nominations and two James Beard nominations.

Super sweet because, I’m guessing that like during past seasons, the boys and I will jump on the couch in front of our TV to watch every new Season 5 episode right after our late Saturday morning breakfast. (The time and day you get the episodes depends on where you are.)

Super duper sweet because the boys have always watched the episodes with me despite knowing them by heart. They know the episodes names, have eaten the recipes (many times, countless times) and when possible they have tagged along with me to Mexico.

Since this season’s theme is the Maya World, they were able to experience some of the magic of the Yucatán Peninsula: From diving into cenotes, to exploring ancient ruins, to eating the most traditional and the most modern foods from the region.

pati-mexican-table-season-five-yucatan

Now, about the bitter: This is the last season Alan will have been a part of while living at home. This is his last year in high school (can you believe it?!?). So I have been worrying about passing on to him as many skills as I can, so he can cook for himself at college.

The truth is I even wondered what it would be like if we moved back to Mexico, where kids tend to stay at home until they finish college, or even until they get married (yeah, that was me, after our wedding my husband and I went back to my mom’s house to pick up the bags I had packed that morning).

Anyway. I may have already gotten his head spinning trying to explain how to buy every single piece of produce in the market each time we are there. So it was only natural that we ended up with an episode called “Alan Goes to College,” where I tried to show him how easy it is to make some of his favorite things, including these insanely good double-baked potatoes.

It is truly ridiculous how good those potatoes are, with crispy bacon and FUD Mexican crema and melty Oaxaca cheese. You can make them a whole meal on any school night, too!

Pati Jinich with her son before his prom

That’s for the sweet and the bitter in my bittersweet start of this school year. But to end on a more sweet than bitter note…

I recently asked Alan, “when you are off to college, do you think you will want to be part of the next season, if I am lucky enough and work hard enough to continue?” I knew I could get a “nah, ma, it will be complicated,” so I pretended not to be beyond delighted to hear his “of course, ma” with that look of his that really says, “you are the silliest mom ever.”

(P.S. I hope you will go ahead and try these crazy good double-baked potatoes, as a taste of what’s to come in Season 5. If you’re a fan of spicing it up, like me, feel free to add in a couple La Morena chipotle chiles.)

Overloaded Double Baked Potato
Print Recipe
4.5 from 6 votes

Mexican Overloaded Double-Baked Potatoes

This is Alan’s last year in high school. So it is only natural that we ended up with an episode in the new season of Pati’s Mexican Table called “Alan Goes to College,” where I try to show him how easy it is to make some of his favorite things including these Mexican overloaded double-baked potatoes…It is truly ridiculous how good they are, and you can make them a whole meal on any school night.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bacon, baked potato, chipotles in adobo, mexican crema, Oaxaca cheese, pati's mexican table
Servings: 2 potatoes
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 large russet potatoes washed and scrubbed
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 thick slices of bacon coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup Mexican crema
  • 3 tablespoons sauce from chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce minced, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt plus some to season the potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Oaxaca cheese grated

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Using a fork, pierce potatoes all around, about 6 to 8 times. Rub potatoes with olive oil, season with salt, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour until tender on the inside and crisp on the outside.
  • In a medium skillet set over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp and lightly browned. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, mix the crema with the sauce from chipoltles in adobo and minced chiles, if using (I do!). Set aside.
  • Remove the potatoes from the oven. Using a knife, cut each one open lengthwise and carefully push the ends together, causing the center to open. Scoop out a couple spoonfuls of the cooked potato meat from each and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and mix well.
  • Inside the scooped potatoes, layer a spoonful of the chipotle crema mixture, a spoonful of grated cheese and a spoonful of the seasoned potato meat. Repeat with the crema, cheese and potato meat. End with a bit of crema and cheese.
  • Raise the oven temperature to 500 degrees, or turn on the broiler. Place the stuffed potatoes back on the baking sheet. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes until the cheese has completely melted and has started to crisp. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with bacon and serve immediately.

Mexican Dreamboat Hot Dogs

The first time (there’s been two…) my PBS TV series director saw me cry, it was over a Mexican hot dog.

We were filming for Season 3 in Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacán. We had heard from many locals that the best Mexican-style hot dogs in the city were the ones at Richard’s.

You shouldn’t be surprised about Mexican-style hot dogs in the Mexican culinary repertoire. We love our hot dogs! In every city or town in Mexico, no matter how small or big, a few feet away from the top-selling taco stand, you are likely to find a top-selling hot dog stand. And once you try one, I bet that’s how you will want to prepare them in the future.

So anyway, we headed to Richard’s to meet him, film how he makes his hot dogs and try them. When we travel, I can’t help but share the food I love with my production team. I ask the sound guy, Dave, to take a bite, hoping he understands why I moan so much… I ask the camera guy, James, to take a bite too, so he can see why I keep on insisting that things are this or that good… The same goes for the director, Dan, the producer, Allie, and, well, pretty much everyone on board. If I taste something magnificent, I really want to share it with my team, mostly because I want them to experience it along with me. But this time it was different.

We got to Richard’s, he was super friendly, and he made an insane hot dog. Different from usual, I was not sharing a single bite with anyone and was very quiet. Not my normal self for sure. To the point that the director started asking, “Hey Pati, are you ok…?” And “why aren’t you showing it to camera,” and “…do you want to give James or Dave a bite?” I was zoned out. I was just shaking my head and eating the hot dog, so very slowly.

See, Mexican hot dogs and I go a long way back, as most Mexicans I guess. But in my case, rewind like 30 years ago. I was a girl, and my oldest sister started driving my sisters and me to school. Enjoying our newly found freedom, we started stopping at El Galán hot dog stand on our way back home. Though our intention was to have just one, it ended up being at least two or three. And, con todo, with all the trimmings.

El Galán translates to dreamboat or a hunk, which he was not, but his hot dogs were to die for. He would drizzle some oil on his hot plancha, or griddle, and throw on some chopped white onions, pickled jalapeños, and tomatoes. Then, as they sizzled, he’d squirt on some yellow mustard and ketchup with a secret sweet ingredient (we later found out it was orange soda!) and mix everything up. Onto that delicious mess, he threw a slice of American cheese and, once it melted, he piled everything onto a soft bun and topped it with a steaming turkey hot dog wrapped in crisp bacon. If you wanted your hot dog extra especial, a couple more crispy bacon slices would also show up at the party.

Then we would head home. Once there, we weren’t that hungry anymore. Once my dad figured out our shenanigans, he took out a $100 MN pesos bill, gave it to my oldest sister and announced that since we weren’t eating my mom’s planned home made meals, we were to eat at El Galán every day for that month. We were delighted to hear that, though we really tried not to show it… Now, I know what it feels like to be a parent that takes a disciplining measure that does nothing but fail, and then doesn’t know how to take it back.

In any case, we soon stopped going every day and left that hot dog rendez vous for Fridays, not to make my mom sad. It was a truly special time in our lives. And I am telling you those hot dogs were INSANE.

Then life happened. Then our parents divorced. Then we grew up.

Fast forward 30 years and I am eating Richard’s hot dog in Morelia. After a few minutes later, I snapped out of it, and we started filming again. I showed my hot dog to camera and ate some and shared most.  As we wrapped the day up, I asked Richard for an extra hot dog. I walked to the van, sat in the back, closed the door, and ate it by myself. A few minutes later, the director opened the door to find me weeping. When I saw his concerned look, I just said, “it is nothing really, it was just the hot dog.”

Here is the recipe as good as I remember it, minus the orange soda which I find to be really not necessary. Do try it at home!

p.s. Oh… pictured to the left of the dreamboat hot dog is a hot dog del mercado or market style hot dog, which is also phenomenal, and it is included in my new cookbook Mexican Today.

Mexican Dreamboat Hot Dog with bacon and cheddar by Pati Jinich
Print Recipe
4.25 from 4 votes

Mexican Dreamboat Hot Dogs

You shouldn’t be surprised about Mexican-style hot dogs in the Mexican culinary repertoire. We love our hot dogs! In every city or town in Mexico, no matter how small or big, a few feet away from the top-selling taco stand, you are likely to find a top-selling hot dog stand. And once you try one, I bet that’s how you will want to prepare them in the future.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: bacon, cheddar, cheese, Hot Dog, Pickled Jalapeños, Turkey Hot Dog
Servings: 6 to 8 hot dogs
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 slices bacon
  • 6 to 8 turkey hot dogs
  • 2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
  • 1 white onion chopped
  • 1 tomato seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeños or to taste
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 6 to 8 hot dog buns
  • 6 to 8 thick slices cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • On a cutting board, roll one slice of bacon around each hot dog. Place the tip of the hot dog over one end of the bacon slice, then roll the sausage around and around on the diagonal so that the bacon wraps around it and covers it entirely. If you get to the end of the hot dog and there is still some bacon left, roll back in the other direction until the whole strip of bacon is rolled around the hot dog.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon-wrapped hot dogs and cook, turning every 2 to 3 minutes, until crisped and browned on all sides. Remove from the heat.
  • To make the salsa especial, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medi-um heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is tender and the edges are beginning to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato and cook for another minute or so, until the tomato has softened a bit. Stir in the jalapeños, ketchup, and mustard and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  • Preheat the oven or a toaster oven to 350°F.
  • Open the buns but try not to separate the tops from the bottoms. Top the bottom or both halves (to taste) with cheese (break up the cheese if desired) and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the buns are lightly toasted.
  • Place a bacon-wrapped hot dog on the bottom half of each bun and top with a generous amount of salsa especial. Cover with the top halves and serve right away.

Notes

Hot Dogs del Galán

To Die For Ceviche

My present career began with ceviche.

After years as an academic, with two degrees and many policy research papers under my belt, with a husband, two kids and one on the way, I resigned from a prestigious think tank to walk a completely uncharted path.

I had been professionally frustrated for over a year and just continued to get involved in more projects in the office thinking I just had to work harder.

What triggered my career change was this: I had been asked to write a research paper comparing the democratic transitions of Mexico and Peru. Yet something was really off with me. Instead of doing my research on the political processes and crisis resolution tactics, I felt myself pulled to research the differences between Mexican and Peruvian ceviche.

Both countries boast to have the best ceviches, and both countries insist that they came up with the dish. I wondered about the true origins of ceviche in both countries. It has been recorded that the people of both countries had been eating raw fish since pre-Hispanic times…

But who got citrus first? How did their people come to use citrus to “cook” the fish, since citrus is native to neither country? What about chiles? Why is the spelling “ceviche” in one country and “cebiche” in the other, and what is the meaning and origin of the word? Why do Mexicans marinate their fish for a while, whereas Peruvians serve the citrus-dressed fish right away?

All I wanted to do was research, write about, and cook Mexican food – the food I missed so much. I knew it was time to pursue my passion in a more serious way.

My dad was perplexed about this change of direction. “After so many years of study, Pati, you are going into a kitchen to rinse pots and pans?”

Now I give him a hard time and respond, “…and to make the best ever ceviches.”

I have made many a ceviche over the course of the more than a decade since I switched careers. And I’ve liked each and every one.

But this one is truly special. And it is my very favorite one.

Red Snapper Ceviche with Mango, Avocado and Tomatillo
Print Recipe
4.25 from 4 votes

To Die For Ceviche

I have made many a ceviche over the course of the more than a decade since I switched careers. And I’ve liked each and every one. But this one is truly special. And it is my very favorite one.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, cacao nibs, Ceviche, flounder, grouper, jalapeno, mango, pati's mexican table, red snapper, rock fish, sole, tomatillos, tortilla chips, trout
Servings: 2 to 4 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 pound red snapper filet (or another mild flavored fish like grouper, trout, flounder, sole or rock fish), cut in small (about 1/2 inch) dice
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno chile stemmed and coarsely chopped, or to taste, seeding optional
  • 1/2 cup celery sliced
  • 1/2 cup red onion halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and upper part of stems, chopped
  • 1 cup (about 1 large) ripe mango diced
  • 1 cup (about 1 large) ripe avocado diced
  • 1/3 cup (about 2) tomatillos husked and scrubbed, and diced
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs optional
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt or to taste
  • Tortilla chips or tostadas

Instructions

  • Combine the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, jalapeño, celery, 1/4 cup of the sliced red onion, 1/4 cup of the chopped cilantro, and the salt in a blender and puree until completely smooth.
  • Place the fish in a bowl, add the pureed mixture, and toss well. Cover and let marinate for 20 to 25 minutes outside the refrigerator before serving, stirring from time to time. If marinating for more than 25 minutes, cover and refrigerate.
  • When ready to serve, add the rest of the onion and cilantro, the mango, avocado, tomatillo and cacao nibs if using. Toss well, taste for salt and add more as needed. Serve with tortilla chips (totopos) or tostadas.

Notes

Ceviche Que Te Mueres

Shrimp, Mango, and Avocado Rolls in Mexican Today!

This recipe and its accompanying photo make me so very happy, and I think that they will make you so very happy, too. Here’s why in case you are in need of a list of reasons to make such a beautiful looking and yummy thing.

  1. These shrimp rolls are gorgeous! And if I may say, this is a gorgeous photo too, isn’t it? It is bright and bold and colorful, and it has so much life and texture. Of course, I did not take the photo. Credit goes to Ellen Silverman, who I was lucky to work with on my upcoming cookbook Mexican Today which is out April 12th, that is: in a matter of hours!
  2. These rolls are so delicious it is almost ridiculous! Wait until you bite into one! Tender shrimp gets quickly seared in the rendered fat from bacon, until browned outside yet still plump and juicy inside. Then, that crisp and meaty bacon is broken into pieces and mixed with diced smooth avocados and tangy mangoes in a super tasty vinaigrette. Grab a soft bun or a hard roll, open it up, add the shrimp, generously spoon on some of that bacon, avocado, mango mix and you are set for one after another bite of bold flavors. Plus, brunch, lunch or dinner is ready in 15 minutes.
  3. These rolls help break misconceptions about what Mexican food is. They showcase the evolution of Mexican cuisine north and south of the border and the beautiful place where we stand today. Mexican cuisine has such strong pillars to stand on that it welcomes playful uses of its ingredients.
  4. I am taking these rolls on book tour! I will be making these rolls, and many other new recipes from my new book, and giving you all a taste in some of the 20+ cities I am headed to for the tour!  I hope you will be able to come meet me at some of these events! There are still some cities and events in the works, so please check back to see what cities have been added.

Mexican Today is a book three years in the making that I am so proud to share with you. It is a book that I am dying for you to see, to read and to cook from. I was so excited about it as I was working on it that I over delivered the number of recipes to my editor! I cannot wait to hear what you think of the tacos, enchiladas, tortas, soups, stews, salads, casseroles, sides, desserts and drinks. There are many traditional recipes and many new takes that are part of this new collection, which is fun and super accessible too.

Every single one of the recipes is a favorite at home, and I can’t wait for them to be part of yours. Please do tag #MexicanToday on social media, so I can connect with you and see what you are whipping up in your kitchen either from my book or from your own Mexican cooking inspiration.

Warmest, always,

Pati

shrimp mango and avocado rolls
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Shrimp, Mango, and Avocado Rolls

Tender shrimp gets quickly seared in the rendered fat from bacon, until browned outside yet still plump and juicy inside. Then, that crisp and meaty bacon is broken into pieces and mixed with diced smooth avocados and tangy mangoes in a super tasty vinaigrette. Grab a soft bun or a hard roll, open it up, add the shrimp, generously spoon on some of that bacon, avocado, mango mix and you are set for one after another bite of bold flavors.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, bacon, mango, Roll, Sandwich, Shrimp, Torta
Servings: 6 rolls
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 12 bacon slices
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 large ripe Mexican avocados halved, pitted, flesh scooped out and diced
  • 2 ripe Champagne or Kent mangoes peeled, sliced off the pits, and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or thawed frozen medium shrimp shells and tails removed
  • 6 hot dog buns or soft rolls

Instructions

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until browned and crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate, leaving the fat in the skillet, and set aside.
  • Return the pan with the fat to medium heat, add the shallot and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant, tender, and just beginning to brown. Scrape the garlic and shallot into a medium heatproof bowl, along with the fat. Don’t wash the pan; just set it aside.
  • To prepare the vinaigrette: Add the vinegar, honey, mustard, ½ tea-spoon salt, and pepper to taste to the bowl with the garlic and shallot. Whisk or mix with a fork until well emulsified. Add the avocados and mangoes, gently toss together, and set aside.
  • Heat the oil and butter over high heat in the skillet you used for the bacon until the oil is hot but not smoking and the butter has begun to foam. Add the shrimp, without crowding the pan (cook them in two batches if necessary). Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, and cook, flipping them over once, until seared and browned, no more than 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Open the buns or rolls, trying not to separate the tops from the bot-toms, and arrange a layer of cooked shrimp on the bottom of each one. Top the shrimp with the avocado and mango mix and crown each with a couple of slices of bacon. Close the sandwiches and serve.

Notes

Rollos de Camarones al Ajillo, Mango, y Aguacate

Huitlacoche, Corn & Squash Blossom Crepes with Poblano Sauce

Funny that one of the most classic Mexico City dishes is a crepe dish. It is such a favorite for Chilango (a.k.a. people who live in Mexico City) weddings that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, one out of every two weddings I’ve been to has served this dish. It is considered special, delicate and celebratory.

Though it might sound strange at first, when you turn back the pages of Mexico’s history, you find that the love affair between Mexican kitchens and French cuisine goes way back.

Here’s how the story – the shortest version ever – goes: Napoleon III had wild world expansion ambitions. He sent Maximilian and Carlota to install a European monarchy in Mexico with the support of the Mexican conservative faction. They even built a grand castle for their residence: The Castillo de Chapultepec.

Chapultepec Castle
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The experiment lasted from 1864 to 1867 with rather tragic results. “Emperor” Maximilian was captured and executed by the liberals, and his wife Carlota set off on a road that led nowhere but to her losing her mind.

maximilian and carlota
Source: Wikimedia Commons

There was, however, no tragedy for Mexico’s culinary legacy. A large part of the entourage that Maximilian and Carlota brought from Europe included chefs, cooks, cheese-mongers, bakers and butchers. Many of them didn’t go back to Europe. Some opened up shop, while others trained locals in their trade.

So it is no surprise that what we know as the French baguette came to be adapted in Mexico as the telera or bolillo, which is Mexico’s daily bread. Crepes have also received signature Mexican tones. When they have a sweet rendition, their most popular take bathes them in a silky cajeta sauce. Crepas con Cajeta adorn dessert sections of menus in a large number of traditional Mexican restaurants.

Now, when crepes are taken on a savory ride, the results are just as extraordinary. The most famous is the one I am sharing here. Crepes filled with ingredients considered to be deeply Mexican and true delicacies: huitlacoche and squash blossoms. That’s just the beginning, the filled crepes are then covered with an exuberant poblano chile sauce made richer by yet another French technique: roux, to thicken the sauce.

pati and her husband daniel at their wedding

When my husband and I got married, we served Red Pozole at the end of the night – it’s either pozole or chilaquiles that are usually served to close the party. But for the main wedding meal, we served these crepes – like they do at 50% of Mexico City weddings, I guess, if my calculations are right. At least in my time…

You know how many people say they didn’t even think about eating during their weddings? That was definitely not my case: I cleaned my plate.

Though I love the dish, I had never made it at home. The idea of them being only for celebrations, for special occasions, and well, my wedding dish, sort of stopped me. But, it was about time I made them. We loved eating them so much at home I had to put the recipe up on my blog in the hopes that you will give it a go.

I have learned, as the years go by, that one should celebrate any day. Every single day is worthy of a celebration.

huitlacoche, corn and squash blossom crepes

huitlacoche corn and squash blossom crepes
Print Recipe
4 from 2 votes

Huitlacoche, Corn & Squash Blossom Crepes with Poblano Sauce

Funny that one of the most classic Mexico City dishes is a crepe dish. It is such a favorite for Chilango (a.k.a. people who live in Mexico City) weddings that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, one out of every two weddings I’ve been to has served this dish. It is considered special, delicate and celebratory. Though it might sound strange at first, when you turn back the pages of Mexico’s history, you find that the love affair between Mexican kitchens and French cuisine goes way back.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Corn, Crepes, huitlacoche, mexican crema, pati's mexican table, Poblano, queso fresco, squash blossom
Servings: 8 to 10 crepes
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 4 poblano chiles roasted or charred sweated, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Mexican cream Latin-style cream, crème fraîche or heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped or pressed
  • 3 cups fresh huitlacoche shaved off the cob, thawed from frozen, or 2 7-ounce cans
  • 6 cups rinsed drained and coarsely chopped squash blossoms, or 1 1-pound jar squash blossoms, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn kernels shaved from cob, or thawed from frozen

To assemble:

  • 1 batch of homemade crepes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese for garnish

Instructions

To make the sauce:

  • Coarsely chop the prepared poblano chiles. Place them in the blender along with the milk and purée until completely smooth.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Once bubbly, add the flour to make a roux: stir it often until the paste smells toasty, its color turns a pale golden brown, and it appears to be a bit foamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Pour the chile purée over the roux paste, reduce heat to medium low and stir well, so that it is fully combined and has no lumps. Stir in the Mexican cream, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and nutmeg. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, until it thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.

To prepare the filling:

  • Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add remaining tablespoon of butter along with the oil. Once it is melted and bubbly, add the onion. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes until completely wilted and the edges are barely beginning to brown. Add the garlic, stir and cook for another minute. Stir in the huitlacoche, the squash blossoms and the corn and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let it all cook, stirring often, until it is completely heated through and the squash blossoms have wilted entirely, about 3 minutes.

To assemble the crepes:

  • Heat the crepes one by one over an already hot non-stick skillet set over medium-low heat, about 10 seconds per side. Place on a plate, add 3 tablespoons of filling and roll as if it were a chubby taco. Place seam side down on a platter. Continue with all remaining crepes. Pour the heated poblano sauce all over the top and sprinkle with the queso fresco. Serve while hot.
  • NOTE: You can also place the filled crepes in a buttered baking dish, cover with the sauce, and instead of queso fresco use grated melty cheese to cover. Place in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes and serve.

Notes

Crepas de Huitlacoche, Elote y Flor de Calabaza con Salsa Poblana

Mole de Olla

I don’t think twice about eating a hot stew in the summertime. And, as far as I know, millions of Mexicans feel the same way.

You will see Pozole served in fondas in the middle of June, hot Caldo de Camarón as one of the most popular items on beach restaurant menus, and the famed Mole de Olla being ladled, sizzling hot from the pot, in markets all over the country at peak midday heat.

I’ve read that having something hot in the summer will actually cool you off. It turns out chiles are thought to have the same effect.  All these Mexican stews, quoted above, have rich broths that are usually flavored with one or more kinds of chiles.

I find these kinds of one-pot meals to be the epitome of how practical and creative human beings can be: economical, filling, and so tasty, they have all you need for a meal in a bowl. All cultures have their ways of making stews. In Mexico, Mole de Olla is a dearly loved one, and it is a dish that, unfortunately, hasn’t become popular abroad… yet.

Mole de Olla has little to do with the mole sauce so many people outside of Mexico equate with Mole Poblano. That delicious, super thick sauce made of dried chiles, seeds, nuts, spices, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chocolate, and numerous other ingredients ground together. Mole de Olla, however, (translates as Mole in a pot) is a revered stew.

As with many of the Mexican stews, the first step for a Mole de Olla is making a broth with the meat, along with some onion, garlic, and herbs. I particularly like to add fresh mint to mine. The meat is cooked until it is practically coming apart, and the broth is as flavorful as can be. The simmered herbs and veggies are removed, as by then they will be extremely mushy and most of their flavor transferred to the broth.

The second step is to take that rich-tasting broth to a higher dimension of flavor. A seasoning sauce is made with ancho and pasilla chiles, toasted sesame seeds, and tomatoes. Usually, xoconostles (a very tart and sour fruit of the cactus plant) are used, but since they are quite hard to find in the US, I substitute for tomatillos, which are tart, not as sour as xoconostles, but hey, they do the trick. The meat broth then simmers a second time as it marries with the seasoning sauce, adding so much depth of flavor: a gentle but addicting heat, a lovely acidity, and a whisper of nuttiness.

As a third step, fresh veggies are added. Corn, zucchini, chayote squash, green beans…but this time, the veggies are cooked just until tender and crisp and also full of flavor.

mole de olla

Mole de Olla is a humble dish. A stew made with a piece of meat and fresh veggies that are available year round. Yet, it turns out to be a full blown delicious meal. As anything Mexican, once it is set on the table and everyone gets a share of succulent meat, a lot of deep-tasting broth, and a share of all the veggies, extra garnishes are set on the table to dress it up and enhance the dish even more. You get a chance to squeeze in fresh lime juice to brighten up the stew, and you also get to spoon on crunchy and pungent white onion and cilantro.

This stew is a joy to eat. People eat it almost in a ceremonial fashion. Each person with a set style of their own. Some people eat the corn first, some people leave it for last. Some people first finish the broth and then go for the meat and veggies, or tuck them into tacos.

I eat a bit of everything as I move along. But one thing is definite: once I start, I don’t stop for a second, not even to look around. I sip a little broth, take a spoon with some veggies, some meat, more broth, and with my hands I take some bites of the corn… until there is almost absolutely nothing left in the bowl. At this point, I raise the bowl to finish the last sips of broth.

Then I wish for another go, just to repeat the experience. Though I always realize I am full, content, and feel so at home.

P.S. Fall is around the corner, and guess what, Mole de Olla is also fabulous for cold nights. So don’t store this recipe for the summer, keep it out, all year round.

mole de olla

Print Recipe
4.25 from 4 votes

Beef and Veggie Mole Stew

I find these kinds of one-pot meals to be the epitome of how practical and creative human beings can be: economical, filling, and so tasty, they have all you need for a meal in a bowl. All cultures have their ways of making stews. In Mexico, Mole de Olla is a dearly loved one, and it is a dish that, unfortunately, hasn’t become popular abroad… yet. Mole de Olla has little to do with the mole sauce so many people outside of Mexico equate with Mole Poblano. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Ancho, beef, chayote, Corn, green beans, lime, mint, onion, pasilla, pati's mexican table, stew, tomatillos, Tomatoes, Zucchini
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beef stew meat or beef shank meat cut into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch chunks and bones added to the pot
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 large sprig of fresh mint or between 10 and 12 leaves
  • 3 dried ancho chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 3 dried pasilla chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 1 pound (about 4) ripe tomatoes preferably Roma
  • 1/4 pound (about 1 or 2 depending on size) tomatillos
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds lightly toasted
  • 2 chayote squashes peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
  • 1 large zucchini cubed (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 pound green beans trimmed and cut into about 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 3 ears of fresh corn husked and cut into thirds
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped white onion for garnish
  • 3/4 cup Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
  • 3-4 limes quartered, for garnish

Instructions

  • In a large heavy-bottomed casserole or pot, place the meat, half onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, mint and a tablespoon of salt. Cover with 10 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface, and reduce the heat to low or medium-low heat, cover and simmer for an hour.
  • Meanwhile, place the ancho and pasilla chiles in a medium bowl, cover with boiling water and let them rehydrate for 10 to 15 minutes. Place the tomatoes and tomatillos in baking dish under the broiler, until they are completely charred and mushy, about 10 minutes. In a small skillet set over medium heat, place the sesame seeds and toast, stirring constantly, anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes until they start to become golden brown, but not completely dark brown.
  • In the jar of a blender, place the soaked chiles, along with 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid, the broiled tomatoes and tomatillos, and the toasted sesame seeds, and puree until completely smooth.
  • Remove the lid from the large casserole, remove the cooked onion, mint and garlic cloves (if some remains, it is totally fine) and pour the chile mixture in with the meat. Stir, cover again and cook for another half hour.
  • Remove the lid, raise heat to medium heat, add the cubed chayote squash and the corn, and cook partially covered for 15 minutes. Add the green beans and zucchini, and cook partially covered for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if need be.
  • Serve in bowls, making sure that each bowl has a serving of meat, corn, chayote, green beans and zucchini. Place white onion, cilantro and halved limes at the table, for people to add as last seasonings and garnishes.
  • Note: Traditionally, this recipe uses xoconostles, which are hard to find in the US. Instead, I use tomatillos, which have a similar tart flavor.

Notes

Mole de Olla

Big Brunch Enchiladas

An intrinsically Mexican dish, enchiladas are not one but a multitude of possibilities that can dress up a corn tortilla. Simply the sound of the word enchilada makes any Mexican’s mouth water in less than a millisecond and is cause for celebration.

One of the dearest antojos or antojitos (translate to whims or little whims), enchiladas are corn tortillas that may be heated up or lightly fried, either folded or rolled, with or without a variety of fillings, always bathed in a salsa or sauce, and garnished with a a few from a long list of possible toppings. From crumbled queso fresco and a drizzle of crema, to raw or pickled onion, chiles or other vegetables, Mexican avocado, chorizo, shredded lettuces and cabbage, just to name some.

Considering the variations of fillings, salsas, and toppings, enchiladas not only embody different regional cuisine’s identities, but also the whims of different cooks…

Here is my latest one; I call it the Big Brunch Enchilada.


Before filling the corn tortillas with soft scrambled eggs, seasoned with sautéed scallions, I opted to quickly fry the tortillas. As we Mexicans say, pasamos las tortillas por aceite caliente: we dip the tortillas in very hot oil for a couple seconds to make them malleable and even more resilient to withhold the sauce and garnishes. If the oil is very hot, the tortilla will not absorb the oil, but will be transformed. You can opt to not fry and instead heat the tortillas on a hot comal, skillet, or griddle, for a minute per side until thoroughly hot and barely crisp.

However, please: for the love of anyone or anything you love the most, don’t use flour tortillas to make enchiladas.

Just, please, don’t? I am begging here.

Flour tortillas are sweeter than corn tortillas, they are less resilient to withhold sauce, fillings, and garnishes and become a mushy mess of the worst sorts if given the enchilada treatment.

Please, please, please, proudly stick to corn tortillas.

big brunch enchiladas
As for the salsa or sauce, the most well known enchiladas are verdes soaked in a salsa verde, enchiladas rojas soaked in a red salsa, and enchiladas de mole. All, of course, with their multiple variations.

For my Big Brunch ones, I am bathing them with a rich, thick and earthy black bean sauce, common in the Mexican Gulf Coast. I tend to have trouble deciding whether to eat my black beans with chipotles in adobo sauce or pickled jalapeños. Truth is, if I use one, I usually end up adding the other one too and mixing them up. So here, I am adding and combining both. The homemade black beans, or store bought ones if you don’t have time to cook them, are seasoned with the smoky, sweet and spicy adobo sauce from chipotles in adobo, as well as the vinegary pickling sauce from the pickled jalapeños. I couldn’t be happier with the result.

Forget about a light garnish, add tons of meaty and crisp bites of Mexican chorizo.

big brunch enchiladas
Fresh, tart and slightly salty crumbled queso fresco.

big brunch enchiladas

Bright fresh scallions (I love scallions…) that contrast with the cooked scallions scrambled with the eggs.

big brunch enchiladas
To finish off, punchy chopped pickled jalapeños go on top.

big brunch enchiladas
I liked these enchiladas so much, I couldn’t even decide on an ending photo for the blog post. So I am showing you the view from the top and from the side.

big brunch enchiladas
These enchiladas ended up being not an antojito but an antojote, a huge antojo of mine. Made to be eaten for a big brunch, they passed the critical approval of all my boys to the point that they were fighting for each piece on this plate. This is the one time when I don’t complain about them fighting.

Since this is a sign of success in my kitchen, the recipe is now yours!

I hope you give it a try for your Cinco de Mayo fiesta, your Mother or Father’s day brunch, or anytime you may want to indulge. As complex as they may sound, they are super easy and fast to make. Here’s how.

big brunch enchiladas
Print Recipe
4.6 from 5 votes

Enchiladas with Chipotle Black Bean Sauce, Chorizo and Queso Fresco

An intrinsically Mexican dish, enchiladas are not one but a multitude of possibilities that can dress up a corn tortilla. Simply the sound of the word enchilada makes any Mexican’s mouth water in less than a millisecond and is cause for celebration. One of the dearest antojos or antojitos (translate to whims or little whims), enchiladas are corn tortillas that may be heated up or lightly fried, either folded or rolled, with or without a variety of fillings, always bathed in a salsa or sauce, and garnished with a a few from a long list of possible toppings. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Antojos, Breakfast
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, black beans, chipotles in adobo, Chorizo, corn tortillas, Eggs, Enchilada, pati's mexican table, Pickled Jalapeños, queso fresco
Servings: 12 enchiladas
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked beans and 1cup of their cooking broth or 2 drained cans black beans plus 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vinegary sauce from pickled jalapeños in vinegar or escabeche
  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo casings removed, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more oil if frying the tortillas
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions plus extra for garnish
  • 9 large eggs beaten with a fork or whisk until foamy
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco cotija, farmer’s cheese, or goat cheese
  • 6 to 8 pickled jalapeños seeded and chopped, for garnish
  • Ripe Mexican avocado slices optional

Instructions

  • Place the cooked black beans and cooking broth (or water if using canned) in a blender, along with the sauce from the chipotles in adobo and the vinegary sauce from the pickled jalapeños, and puree until smooth. Place in a medium saucepan, heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very hot. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and keep warm. The puree should have the consistency of heavy cream.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once it is hot, add the chopped chorizo and cook, crumbling as it cooks with a wooden spoon or spatula into small bite sized pieces, until it has browned and crisped, about 5 to 6 minutes. Scrape into a bowl, cover and set aside.
  • Pre-heat a comal or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  • Heat the oil in a medium 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the scallions and cook until soft and translucent and the edges begin to brown lightly, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, pour in the beaten eggs, sprinkle with the salt, and cook, stirring often and gently, until desired doneness. I like to stop the cooking when the eggs are still soft and tender, not dry, which takes about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Heat the corn tortillas, a pair at a time, in the pre-heated comal or skillet, about 1 minute per side, until completely heated through and even slightly toasted. Alternatively, you can heat enough oil to have 1/2" in a medium skillet set over medium heat, once very hot but not smoking, quickly pass each tortilla through the oil (4 to 5 seconds) and place on a plate or drying rack covered with paper towels. You know the oil is ready if when you dip a tortilla, the oil bubbles actively all around the edges and the tortillas begin to puff up after a few seconds.
  • One by one, place on a plate and spoon about 2 generous tablespoons of the scrambled eggs onto the center of tortilla. Roll it into a soft taco and place in a platter, seam side down.
  • When all the tortillas are stuffed and rolled on the platter, pour the bean puree on top. Cover with the cooked chorizo, crumbled queso and extra scallions. Add as many chopped pickled jalapeños as you like. Decorate with ripe avocado slices if you want to take those enchiladas way over the top.

Notes

Enchiladas de Huevo con Salsa de Frijol con Chipotle, Chorizo y Queso Fresco

My Favorite Tamal of All Time: Chicken in Green Salsa

Tamales are it. If you’ve eaten one, you know it.

Simple. When ready and steaming hot, unwrap the edible bundle and eat swiftly, no fork, no knife, bite by bite.  So good.

Yet as simple as it may sound to write a post about tamales, I could dedicate an entire series of cookbooks to their endless possibilities, and in the end, not have covered them all.

Ancestral, iconic, yet humble, is each single tamal. And the tamal universe, immense, imagine: tamal refers to anything wrapped and cooked in a husk or leave. Usually made with masa, typically corn masa, either mixed with or swaddling ingredients, or both! As you move through Mexico, and increasingly outside, you find them in different shapes (round, square, flat, puffed up, even triangular like Michoacán corundas); with different wraps (corn husks, either fresh or dried, banana leaves and even fresh edible leafy greens like chaya in Chiapas); with an infinity of ingredients, from savory, like chicken, meat, seafood, vegetables, beans, all sort of grains, salsas and cheese…to sweet ingredients, like fresh and dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, cajeta

The consistency and texture vary greatly, too, from thin and dense like tamales found in Oaxaca; to sticky and gelatinous from Yucatán; to spongy and cakey like the ones from northern and central Mexico, where I grew up.

Tamales are so big in our kitchens that entire meals are devoted to them: the famous Tamaladas! Festive get-togethers we all get very excited about, where all you eat are different kinds of tamales, from beginning to end. Trust me, where there is a variety of tamales, you want to eat them all.

Aside from Tamaladas, tamales are present in all sorts of celebrations and holidays including Quinceañeras, Posadas, Christmas Eve and New Years parties: they have been fiesta food since pre-Hispanic times, when they were considered gifts from the Gods.

But tamales are also everyday food, for an entire country, an entire culture. Accessible to everyone and anyone who can get to the corner stand and has 10 pesos (less than a dollar) in their pocket for a quick breakfast, a filling lunch or an easy merienda (light dinner).

See photo below…. I was with my school friends eating tamales at the tamal stand on the street right outside our middle school. I used to day dream about those tamales; they were so alluring we used to sneak out of school to eat them…

Pati eating tamales with her school friends

Tamales are as fascinating and varied as the stars above. So to land this philosophical rambling about tamales somewhere practical and edible, for you, I will focus on my favorite tamal of all time. The Tamal de Pollo con Salsa Verde.

The easiest way to make tamales is to prepare your filling(s) first. In fact you can make it a day or two in advance. For the ones I feature here, make your cooked salsa verde, pictured in the molcajete below. Combine it with cooked shredded chicken to make a wet mix. No, you don’t want it dry! The tamal masa will soak up some of that salsa. After the tamales cook for almost an hour, you want to bite into a tamal that has a saucy, moist filling.

salsa verde

Then get your hands on dried corn husks, pictured below. You can get them in the Latin aisles of your supermarket, at many a Latin or international store, or online. No excuse. Soak those husks in warm water, so they will become malleable and pliable. You don’t want them to crack as you use them to wrap the dough and roll the tamal. You will also need to place some of the leaves in the tamalera or steamer.

Get the tamalera ready. Pour water and drop a coin in there. That’s a passed down trick from endless generations. It works as an alarm for when the tamales may be running out of water, so you won’t need to open up the pot and let all that precious steam come out: if the water is running out, the coin will start jumping up and down and make loud clinking noises.

dried corn husks

Then you work to make your masa. Or let the mixer help you out! I have the complete recipe below, but let me just highlight a few things…

In Mexico, you can go into the tortillería and buy fresh masa, made from scratch. And wouldn’t it be heavenly if there were tortillerías in all towns and cities in the US, so we could all indulge? But the truth is many, if not most, people in Mexican kitchens make their own masa at home from the instant corn masa flour, and you can get fabulous results.

Traditionally, tamal masa is made with lard. If top quality and fresh, it adds a delicious taste and texture and doesn’t have as much cholesterol as people think. If you ask me, I think it is a matter of moderation. Yet, many people prefer vegetable shortening and you can use it too. Now, vegetable shortening has, as of late, been questioned even more than lard.

If you don’t want to use either, I have a wonderful solution: use vegetable oil, substitute exact amounts, but to maintain depth of flavor and dimension, season the oil by heating it over medium heat and cooking a slice of onion and a couple garlic cloves in it for 15 minutes. Then remove the onion and garlic before using. Great trick for vegetarians as well. In fact, before the Spanish arrived to Mexico, and there was no pork, oils extracted from fruits, vegetables and seeds, were used to moisten and season tamales, so feel free to play around with oils you like!

The most important thing about the masa, aside from being well seasoned, is that it needs to be as fluffy as fluffy can get. It has to be so airy that, if you take a cup of cold water and drop half a teaspoon of the masa in it, it floats!  You can only achieve this by beating it for a long time at a good speed. That’s why I recommend a mixer in the recipe below, but of course, you are welcome to get a good work out from the masa mixing by hand or with a sturdy spatula.

Then, follow my detailed instructions below on how to fill and wrap the tamales, place them in the tamalera and hold your horses for 50 minutes until they are ready.

Hopefully, you make more than what you need. I can think of few foods that have as much warmth, sustenance and meaning than tamales. They are food that is meant to be shared. So I suggest you try a Tamalada gathering! Tamaladas don’t only happen on February 2nd (when according to tradition you must host a Tamalada and invite EVERYBODY, if you got the baby hidden in the Rosca de Reyes eaten on January 6th), they can happen anytime (but I am writing this post before February 2nd, just in case!).

Make many fillings ahead of time. Make your masa. Invite friends over and have a tamal-making party before the Tamalada. Everyone will have gifts to open and eat, as that is what tamales are, indeed. And the best gift of them all will be any leftover tamales that a lucky guest gets to take along. Or be a bit greedy, keep them at home.

Note: I’ve been asked for a quick casserole version in a few emails… All you need to do, is spread half the masa in the recipe below in a large baking dish, then add a layer of the chicken in salsa verde, top with remaining half masa dough. Cover well with aluminum foil, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and if you want, drizzle with some Mexican crema and crumbled queso fresco. Serve in squares.

Print Recipe
4.5 from 4 votes

Chicken in Salsa Verde Tamales

Tamales are it. If you’ve eaten one, you know it. Simple. When ready and steaming hot, unwrap the edible bundle and eat swiftly, no fork, no knife, bite by bite.  So good. Yet as simple as it may sound to write a post about tamales, I could dedicate an entire series of cookbooks to their endless possibilities, and in the end, not have covered them all.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken, masa, pati's mexican table, salsa verde, Tamales, tomatillos
Servings: 18 tamales
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the tamales:

  • 25 dried corn husks soaking in warm water
  • 3/4 cup lard, vegetable shortening or seasoned vegetable oil (to make seasoned oil, heat oil over medium heat and cook a slice of onion and 3 to 4 garlic cloves for 15 minutes, strain before using)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound (about 3 1/4 cups) instant corn masa for tortillas or tamales
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock add more if needed

For the filling:

  • 1 recipe for cooked salsa verde
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken

Instructions

To make the filling:

  • Make the salsa verde, combine it with the shredded chicken, and set aside or refrigerate, if made ahead of time.

To make masa for the tamales:

  • Place lard, vegetable shortening or seasoned oil in a mixer and beat, until very light, about 1 minute. Add salt and 1 teaspoon cold water, and continue beating until it is white and spongy, a couple more minutes. Add baking powder, and then take turns adding the instant corn masa and the chicken stock. Continue beating until dough is homogeneous and as fluffy as can get.
  • You know the tamal masa is ready if, when you drop 1/2 teaspoon of the masa in a cup of cold water, it floats.

To prepare the tamalera or steamer:

  • Place hot water in the bottom pan of a steamer (only enough so the water is just under the basket with the tamales and not touching them) and bring it to a simmer. Line the steamer basket with one or two layers of soaked corn husks. Use dough to form about 18 cornhusk wrapped tamales.

To make the tamales:

  • Soak dried corn husks in hot water for a couple minutes, or until they are pliable, and drain. Lay out a corn husk with the tapering end towards you. Spread about 3 tablespoons of masa into about a 2- to 3-inch square, the layer should be about 1/4-inch thick, leaving a border of at least 1/2-inch on the sides. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle of the masa square.
  • Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together (you will see how the masa starts to swaddle the filling) and fold the folded sides to one side, rolling them on same direction around tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk with the tapering end, from the bottom up. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open.
  • Prepare all the tamales and place them as vertically as you can in a container. When you have them all ready, place them again, as vertically as you can on the prepared steamer, with the open end on top. If there is space left in the steamer, tuck in some corn husks, so the tamales won’t dance around. Cover with more corn husks, and steam covered for 50 minutes to an hour. You know the tamales are ready when they come easily free from the husks. They will still be moist, and as they are released from the husks, you will see the moistness, like when you remove good moist muffins from their paper baking cups.
  • Finished tamales will stay warm for about 1 to 2 hours in the steamer. They can be made ahead several days before and stored in refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in a steamer. For refrigerated tamales, it will take about 15 minutes, and for frozen tamales about 45 minutes.

Notes

Tamales de Pollo con Salsa Verde

Bricklayer Tacos

A taco is a beautiful thing.

One of the most satisfying, versatile, exciting, and downright honest foods I can think of.

Plus, there is no need or mood a taco can’t tackle.

You are hungry and have but one peso in your pocket? Eat a Taco de Nada. You pass a tortillería on your way home? A Taco de Sal will hold you off until you get there. A deep hangover ails you? Go for Tacos de Barbacoa with Salsa Borracha. Did you say you have a broken heart? A pair of fully stocked Tacos al Pastor will be your most effective rebound. You are home with a cold? Soft chicken tacos dipped in fresh crema will make you all better, no doubt about that. Need to feed your teen kid and his buddies before they head out? Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos dressed with shredded lettuce, crumbled queso fresco and Salsa Verde will make them happy and fill them up. It’s lunchtime and you are on the road? If you are in Mexico (or somewhere with a large Mexican community), you will find someone with a huge basket selling Tacos Sudados to go. Planning a backyard party? Tacos de Carnitas will kick it off, without you even saying a word.

I could write an endless post on all sorts of tacos and all they can do for you… But, if you want to feed your family a generous, satiating, and super tasty weeknight meal, make them bricklayer tacos. Step by step instructions follow below. But as I cook, let me quickly reflect on The Taco.

bacon for bricklayer tacos
Start with a large casserole or skillet and fry some bacon. Until crisp.

Whenever I teach Mexican cooking, I never fail to say that the food of a country resembles its people. The taco, the most emblematic of Mexican foods, fully embodies Mexico and its people. Through the gazillion different kinds of tacos that have existed, we can explore the evolution of Mexico and the identity of Mexicans. The stories told by each taco, linked to one another, holds us Mexicans (and Mexican food lovers) together.  I am getting a tad too philosophical about tacos, I know… but just think about the possibilities.

meat cooking in the bacon
You don’t need to add any other fat. You will add tender pieces of tenderloin or sirloin straight into the bacon fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let the meat brown without fully cooking.

There is no exact date on when the taco came to be. It existed before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, in pre-Hispanic times, for sure. There is anthropological evidence that it was thousands, not hundreds of years, before the Spanish conquest that people in Mexico were eating tacos (even if they weren’t called that). Indigenous people had domesticated corn and found a way to make it fully nutritious by way of the nixtamalization process (where corn is shucked, dried, cooked in slaked lime or ashes, hulled and ground) and turned into a malleable dough to be used in a thousand different ways, including tamales, drinks, all sorts of patties and that flat bread we call tortilla.

adding onion and jalapenos to the bricklayer taco filling
Add onion and jalapeños.

Now, how long since has the tortilla been used as an edible plate, or torn into pieces to scoop up food as an edible spoon, or held in hand to wrap a filling to munch on? I am guessing more years than you probably are. The filling could have been cactus paddle or iguana, who knows.

adding garlic to the bricklayer taco filling
Add garlic and cook for less than a minute, until garlic is fragrant.

The first documented tacos appeared in the “Truthful History of the Conquest of New Spain” (1520), by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a conquistador. He reported a taco feast, enjoyed by Hernán Cortes and many of his commanders, where many kinds of fillings were eaten wrapped in tortillas. Friar Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish ethnographer, also wrote about many different kinds of tortillas based on corn (different colors including yellow, blue and white; small and large; thin and thick) during the time of the conquest, in his “General History of the Things in new Spain.” It wasn’t until the Spanish arrived that the flour tortilla came to be, as they are the ones who introduced wheat.

charred tomatoes
Add chopped roasted tomatoes. This is how they need to look, charred, juicy and mushy.

According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, Mexican silver miners invented the taco, but he is most likely referring to the word… The word taco also refers to any small piece of material that can fit into a hole or gap, such as the pieces of paper wrapped around gun powder that were used to extract precious metals from ore, in that same shape. Workers in Mexican silver mines in the 18th century called their meals Tacos Mineros. Though there may be a link to the shape of the other kind of “tacos,” we know for a fact that edible tacos have existed for thousands of years before those…

chopped charred tomatoes
Did I say chop up the tomatoes?

So yes, indeed, there are Tacos Mineros, but there are also tacos for and of absolutely EVERYTHING else, including the Tacos de Albañíl, or Bricklayer-style Tacos, that I am here showing you how to make. They’ve been baptized as such, for they are quick to prepare, very filling and need nothing else to be added on the side or on top.

They can also be prepared on site in a comal and  can use any kind of available meat, as long as it is cut in small bite size pieces. Tacos de albañíl sellers an also be  found near construction sites. Just walk around Mexico City, or come over on a weeknight: It is also one of my family’s favorite fast meals. And you get to pick what kind of tortilla you want, flour or corn.

adding charred tomatoes to the bricklayer taco filling
Add to the mix and cook for a few more minutes.

Soft taco, crispy taco, hard shell taco (wish I didn’t have to say Taco Bell taco but we can’t ignore they have in a way helped to spread the word), puffy taco… I hope you add these Bricklayer-style Tacos to your collection of taco recipes.

finished bricklayer taco filling
You are done. Set it on the table.

Wait, you don’t have a taco recipe collection? Make this your first one!

bricklayer tacos
Warm up your choice of tortillas, corn or flour. And let everyone have a go!
bricklayer tacos
Print Recipe
4.2 from 5 votes

Bricklayer Tacos

I could write an endless post on all sorts of tacos and all they can do for you… But, if you want to feed your family a generous, satiating, and super tasty weeknight meal, make them bricklayer tacos. Step by step instructions follow below. But as I cook, let me quickly reflect on The Taco.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bacon, beef, corn tortillas, flour tortillas, garlic, jalapeno, onion, Recipe, Taco, Tomatoes
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bacon sliced
  • 2 pounds beef sirloin or tenderloin cut into 1-inch pieces
  • To taste kosher or sea salt
  • To taste freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups white onion slivered or sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 jalapeno chile sliced, seeding optional, or to taste
  • 1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes
  • Flour or corn tortillas

Instructions

  • Place tomatoes in a baking dish and under the broiler for 6 to 9 minutes, until charred, mushy and juices have begun to run. Once cool, roughly chop, but don’t discard the juices.
  • Heat the skillet, add the bacon and cook until it is crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and season with salt and pepper and sear for about 2 minutes per side.
  • Add in the onion and jalapeño and let them soften for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and before it browns, in less than a minute, add the chopped tomatoes. Stir here and there and let it all season for about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • In a skillet or comal, set over medium-low heat, heat the tortillas. It will take about 1 minute per side. Place the tortillas in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or cloth napkin.
  • Serve along with the tenderloin tips; guests can fill the tortillas with the amount of filling they desire.

Notes

Tacos al Albañil

Do You Want it Red or White? Mexican Style Gefilte Fish

My paternal grandmother, Bobe, used to make two kinds of gefilte fish every Friday: white or traditional and red or a la Veracruzana. The moment you sat down, she made you choose, “which do you want mamele, white or red?”

Invariably, after you chose, she’d ask, “you don’t like the way I make the other one?”

She’d barge in, make room on your plate and serve you the kind you hadn’t picked, right next to the one you had chosen. She’d wait for you to taste it and tell her how good the one you hadn’t chosen was. Then, she would eat right off your plate.

Having come from tiny shtetls in the polish countryside, both her and my grandfather arrived in Mexico so very young. Mexico gave them an opportunity to start a life away from pogroms.

They worked hard and made a simple but good life for themselves. Though they were humble, and without much savings, every Friday they had a bountiful table full of food for their three grown children and their families – all together there were ten granddaughters. Nope. Not a single grandson!

Mexico also brought so many flavors to Bobe’s traditional foods. At the table there was petchah (chicken foot jelly!) that could be garnished with a salsa verde cruda, gribenes (chicken cracklings) tucked into warm corn tortillas and a heaping spoonful of fresh guacamole, the crispiest potato kugel, a stew that always had falling apart meat and a soupy prune or carrot tzimes. To finish, it was her prized chocolate babka spiked with Mexican canela.

Yet, nothing beat her Mexican-style gefilte fish, aka the red one.

The red is different from the white in so many ways. The white, or traditional, is made by combining ground fish filets, white onion, carrots, eggs and matzo meal and shaping them into patties that are poached in a stock made with the head, tail, and bones of the fish. It is refrigerated, covered with this same fish stock, which turns gelatinous as it cools (a delicacy if you have the acquired taste!). It is served cold. The red has the same fish mixture, but it is poached in a thick and spiced up tomato sauce enriched with capers, green olives and mild pickled peppers. It is served hot. Everyone in my family is wild about it.

The red sauce is called Veracruzana because it comes from the state of Veracruz, which geographically seems to embrace the Gulf of Mexico. The Veracruzana sauce is traditionally served over large fish, and its flavors showcase the intermarriage of Spanish and Mexican ingredients that took place throughout the years of Spanish colonization. It was through the port of Veracruz that most European immigrants came into Mexico, like my Bobe.

One hell of a cook she was, with her treasured jar of shmaltz in the refrigerator ready to be scooped out and used on almost anything. She was as generous in her cooking as she was in life. After my parents divorced, when I was an early teen, she would put money in my backpack or my jacket, without me noticing, every time I visited. She knew I didn’t want to take it, as she didn’t have any extra to give out.

I never had the chance to serve Veracruzana, the red gefilte fish, from my kitchen to my Bobe. She passed away, just a couple months ago, and oh man, I wish I had. She would have been so proud. She would have probably asked me, “why, mamele, you didn’t like the white?”

My gefilte fish will always be for you, Bobe. And just so you know, I always make the red and the white. I miss you so bad.

Mexican Style Gefilte Fish
Print Recipe
3.6 from 5 votes

Mexican Style Gefilte Fish

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish, Mexican
Keyword: capers, carrots, fish, flounder, Jewish Mexican, ketchup, matzo, olives, pepperoncini, Recipe, red snapper
Servings: 20 patties
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the fish patties:

  • 1 pound red snapper fillets no skin or bones
  • 1 pound flounder fillets no skin or bones
  • 1/2 white onion quartered, about 1/2 pound
  • 2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped, about 1/4 pound
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or to taste

For the red sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups fish broth or water
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper or to taste
  • 1 cup manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos
  • 8 pepperoncini peppers in vinegar brine or more to taste, chiles güeros en escabeche
  • 2 tablespoons capers

Instructions

To prepare the fish patty mixture:

  • Rinse the red snapper and flounder fillets under a thin stream of cool water. Slice into smaller pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse for 5-10 seconds until fish is finely chopped but hasn’t turned into a paste. Turn fish mixture into a large mixing bowl. Then place the onion, carrots, eggs, matzo meal, salt and white pepper into same bowl of the food processor. Process until smooth and turn into the fish mixture. Combine thoroughly.

To prepare the red sauce:

  • Heat the oil in a large cooking pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, and let it cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring, until soft and translucent. Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot, stir, and let the mix season and thicken for about 6 minutes. Incorporate 3 cups water, 2 tablespoons ketchup, salt and white pepper. Give it a good stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bring sauce to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer while you roll the gefilte fish patties.
  • Place a small bowl with lukewarm water to the side of the simmering tomato broth. Start making the patties. I like to make them about 3” long, 2” wide and 1” high, in oval shapes. Wet your hands as necessary, so the fish mixture will not stick to your hands. As you make them, gently slide each patty into the simmering broth. Make sure it is simmering and raise the heat to medium if necessary to keep a steady simmer.
  • Once you finish making the patties, cover the pot and bring the heat to low. Cook them covered for 25 minutes. Take off the lid, incorporate the manzanilla olives, pepperoncini peppers and capers. Give it a gentle stir and simmer uncovered for 20 more minutes, so the gefilte fish will be thoroughly cooked and the broth will have seasoned and thickened nicely.
  • Serve hot with slices of challah and pickles.

Notes

Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana

Sean’s Cheesy Chipotle Pork Sliders with Avocado Spread

It was my friend Tamara´s birthday party. Her husband, Sean, an American who speaks and acts like a Mexico City native (says a Mexico City native), made the dinner for the 40+ guests. The guests were drinking, eating and laughing until their stomachs were hurting, usual for their home. Sean came up to me when he saw me walk in, gave me a plate, placed two of these sliders on and said, “You are going to like these.”

I ate one. YUM.
I said, “There’s chipotle in them!”
I ate two. OMG.
I said, “I can take that platter”, and ate the remaining four. Of course, he was grilling some more.

No, I didn’t even try his Asian tuna sliders. No, I didn’t try his regular cheeseburger sliders. No, of course, I didn’t try his vegetarian sliders. All I wanted were these Chipotle Pork Sliders. I was hooked.

After I had my fill, I told Sean I had to post his recipe on my blog, as I was sure you all would love them just like I did. He obliged, and I tested his recipe many times giving it a few tweaks (hey, you know, I can’t help myself). I added a bit of onion, garlic and oregano to the meat mix and more chipotle (come on Sean, you talk like a Mexican!). I took some of the mayo out of the avocado spread and added the refreshing chives.

It’s what happens when you share recipes: they’re not yours anymore. They’re under the domain of the recipients who can do whatever they want with them. You killed yourself to make the best-ever sandwich and you hate mustard? Well, the next person printing your recipe may think all the sandwich needs is a little, or a lot of, mustard. I know this to be true, for I’ve heard from many of you wonderful personal touches and spins on my recipes through the comments on this blog. That’s the beauty of passing down recipes!

If you don’t go head over heels over these sliders, tweak them, and go ahead, make them your very own. The underlying notes for these sliders, for me, are: meat, especially pork, and chipotle are heavenly together; the melted cheese adds a rich welcome layer (all of my boys thought so too), and the avocado spread brings in a creaminess and freshness to everything inside that soft bun, it brightens it up (one of my beastly beasts skipped the avocado part, see? oh well..).

Sean uses brioche buns, which have a light sweetness and a soft and fluffy bite. If you find them, great! If you don’t, any mini hamburger buns work just fine. And then again, you may decide to turn these sliders into jumbo size burgers.

Want to go crazy? Top with crumbles of chorizo!

Sean's Cheesy Chipotle Chorizo Sliders

Sean's Cheesy Chipotle Sliders
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Sean’s Cheesy Chipotle Pork Sliders with Avocado Spread

If you don’t go head over heels over these sliders, tweak them, and go ahead, make them your very own. The underlying notes for these sliders, for me, are: meat, especially pork, and chipotle are heavenly together; the melted cheese adds a rich welcome layer (all of my boys thought so too), and the avocado spread brings in a creaminess and freshness to everything inside that soft bun, it brightens it up (one of my beastly beasts skipped the avocado part, see? oh well..).
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time7 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, burger, chipotles in adobo, lime, mayonnaise, Monterrey Jack cheese, Muenster cheese, pati's mexican table, pork
Servings: 16 sliders
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped or pressed in garlic press
  • 3 tablespoons sauce from chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce seeded and finely chopped, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil to grease the grill
  • 1 large Mexican avocado halved, pit removed
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • 8 slices Monterey Jack or Muenster cheese
  • 16 mini brioche or mini hamburger buns

Instructions

  • Prepare your grill or grill pan over medium heat. While it heats, in a large mixing bowl mix the pork with the onion, garlic, adobo sauce, chipotle chile in adobo sauce, oregano, salt and pepper until well combined. With your hands (I find it helpful if hands are wet), make 16 round patties, about 3/4-inch thick, and place them on a baking sheet or platter.
  • In a medium-mixing bowl, place the avocado pulp and mash with a fork until smooth. Combine with the mayonnaise, lime juice, chives and salt, blend well. Set aside.
  • Once the grill or grill pan is hot, brush generously with olive oil. Place the patties on the grill and flip after 3 to 4 minutes. If adding cheese, place a thin slice of cheese on the already grilled side of the patties. Cook for another 4 minutes.
  • A couple minutes before the patties are ready, place the opened hamburger buns on the upper part of the grill (or after you remove the patties, will be fine too!), and let them warm up.
  • Slather a generous tablespoon or so of the avocado spread on the bottom bun, place a patty on top, and put on the top part of the bun. Eat them while hot!

Notes

Hamburguesitas de Cerdo con Chipotle, Queso y Crema de Aguacate

Make It, Freeze It, Take It: The Mexican Casserole

Every few months, my family gets together with a Latin group of friends and their families for a pot luck.

This winter it was our turn. As tradition goes, the host brings the main dishes to the table and the others bring the rest. I eagerly announced my plans to share Mexican casseroles, also called cazuelas, budines or pasteles. The Mexicans couldn’t hide their joy- “Pati! De veras? Budin Azteca? Cazuela de Tamal?!”- and quickly thought of other “very” Mexican sides to pair with them. The Argentines and Costa Ricans tried to understand what “Mexican casserole” meant and whether it was supposed to be any good. The Americans in the group (though they consider themselves Latin) were clearly not excited about it.

No doubt about it, casseroles have had their ups and downs in culinary history. Their weakest stand seems to have been in the United States, after being fashioned into “two-step-many-can” versions in the 1930 and ’40s. But think of all the bright stars in the casserole universe: French cocottes enveloped in mother sauces; British potpies encrusting fillings as wet as British weather; irresistible Italian lasagnas layered with pasta; Peruvian causas with seasoned meat encased in mashed potatos; Greek spanakopitas with an extra-savory cheese-spinach mix covered with phyllo dough; Middle Eastern moussakas stacked with layers of eggplant; and the not-so-well-known, yet gloriously tasty Mexican cazuelas…

All of those casseroles are assembled, baked and served in the same vessel, which makes them convenient, practical and savvy. They are cooked tightly covered without a hurry, giving their fillings time to become succulent with fully blended flavors. Then their messy beauty unravels on your plate. One has to wonder: Why don’t we see more of them around, when we all crave flexible meals that can be made in advance?

In the Old World, casseroles’ prestige may have peaked in the early Renaissance.They were served at royal feasts, with artful decorations fit for competitions and complex fillings; some even had live birds fly out of them with an exhilarating song as the first piece was cut. Such a high-pitched recipe is found in the first British cookbook published during the mid-16th century. It also was recorded as part of one of the most extravagant banquets ever: the wedding of Marie de Medici and Henry IV of France, held in 1600 in Florence. This theatrical dish might have inspired the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” in which “four and twenty blackbirds” are baked in a pie.

Fast-forward to 2009: British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal felt obliged to replicate it in his Medieval episode of “Heston’s Feasts” in England.

Surprisingly, I recently found the nursery rhyme’s muse of a pie in the anonymous 1831 Mexican cookbook “El Cocinero Mexicano.” I am always amazed at how ingredients and recipes hop around the globe. But this I found to be absurdly funny: As if Mexican cooks needed any more outrageous ideas of what to do with casseroles.

Centuries before Old World cooks were trying to impress guests with interactive creations, Mexicans were baking casseroles in underground pits and cooking them over rustic fires. The fillings might not have been able to take flight, but they did contain wild turkey, boar and/ or iguana.

The first version of a Mexican casserole seems to have been the muk-bil (literally, “to put in the ground”). Made by the Mayans on the Yucatan Peninsula since pre-Hispanic times, it is the King Kong of tamales. Truly gigantic. The corn dough wraps around a filling of turkey (after the Spanish arrived, chicken and pork were used as well) rubbed with a pungent paste seasoned with achiote (annatto) seeds, spices and tomatoes. It resembles the flavors of cochinita pibil, a robust Yucatan dish.

So prized was this tamal in ancient times that it was designated meal for major festivities, and it still is. You can bet there will be a lot of muk-bils made this year with all the talk of 2012 marking the end of the Mayan calendar. So it is the right time to head down there if you want a true taste.

This tamal is traditionally wrapped in fragrant banana leaves and baked underground, which gives it a smoky flavor.

Other tamal casseroles throughout Mexico have regional spins, ingredients and salsas. Just across the border in neighboring American states, tamal pie recipes appeared in cookbooks at least a hundred years ago. They called for cornmeal rather than fresh corn masa; the former leads to a much grainier and less fluffy result. That was probably because making masa from scratch involves the ancient nixtamalization process, which takes days (drying, soaking, cooking and grinding) to treat corn so that its nutritious content is fully exploited. It makes a masa so soft that it is practically airy. Today, outstanding instant masa flour that has already gone through that process is widely available, so it’s a snap to put together a real tamal casserole at home.

Here my go-to version: The masa dough is set in two thick layers that hold a rich and baroque filling, typical of the Mexican colonial era, when nuns used to combine Spanish and Mexican ingredients in their convent kitchens. The filling has a sauce made with my preferred pairing of dried chili peppers: sweet, almost chocolaty and prune-flavored ancho and mild, bright-tasting guajillo. It’s seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano, cloves, cinnamon and a pinch of cumin, then made hearty with juicy ground meat that is sprinkled with crunchy almonds, chewy raisins and salty manzanilla olives.

Just like a tamal casserole is a giant version of a tamal, a tortilla casserole is like a hefty stack of open-face tacos with layers of sauce and cheese. It’s a homespun version of tacos, one of the most sought-after street foods in my native country: Taco elements are layered in a cazuela, or earthenware pot. That takes away the hassle of making individual portions and allows for endless filling possibilites, just as with tacos and tamales.

The most popular casserole of them all has an imperial name: Aztec. It is traditionally made with corn tortillas, as they are much more resilient than flour tortillas. Think of a lasagna gone way down south, soaked in a spiced-up tomato sauce with handfuls of exuberant, fruity, addictive roasted poblano peppers and crunchy, sweet corn. Chicken is sometimes added to the mix, which is then bathed with Mexican crema and melty cheese. When I was growing up, and Aztec casserole was a must for successful potlucks.

Some versions use salsa verde or mole sauce instead of a tomato sauce, as well as other kinds of meats and vegetables. Good-quality corn tortillas can be found at the market, so there’s no need to make your own.

The rice casserole is the most modern of the three I’ve offered here. Brought over from Europe by the Spanish, rice has grown deep roots in Mexican cooking. The dish I have been obsessively repeating came about because I wanted to use the bounty of fresh mushrooms found in stores this time of year. Although I don’t have the wild varieties that crop up in Mexico’s rainy season, I have experimented with an accessible mix of mushroom textures and flavors, fresh herbs, epazote, cilantro, parsley, that salty crema and tangy cheese. This stew goes on top of the rice with a topping of grated dry and aged cheese. As the casserole bakes, the rice absorbs the flavored cream, the mushrooms meld with the sauce and the cheese morphs into a perfectly browned crust.

I’m wondering whether Mexican renditions can lend a bit of prestige to the state of casseroles in the United States. They certainly receive a royal welcome from my potluck friends, who heap seconds on their plates.

Article written for and published by The Washington Post. Photo taken by Deb Lindsey Photography www.deblindsey.com.

Meaty Tamal Casserole
Print Recipe
4.6 from 5 votes

Meaty Tamal Casserole

My go-to version of a tamal casserole: The masa dough is set in two thick layers that hold a rich and baroque filling, typical of the Mexican colonial era, when nuns used to combine Spanish and Mexican ingredients in their convent kitchens. The filling has a sauce made with my preferred pairing of dried chili peppers: sweet, almost chocolaty and prune-flavored ancho and mild, bright-tasting guajillo. It’s seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano, cloves, cinnamon and a pinch of cumin, then made hearty with juicy ground meat that is sprinkled with crunchy almonds, chewy raisins and salty manzanilla olives.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr 45 mins
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho chiles, Casserole, Cazuela, guajillo chiles, masa, meat, tamal, Tamales, veal
Servings: 10 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening or lard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) corn masa flour for tortillas or tamales such as Maseca brand
  • 4 1/2 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth may substitute water

For the filling:

  • 8 dried guajillo chiles stemmed, halved and seeded
  • 8 dried ancho chiles stemmed, halved and seeded
  • 2 cups hot water or as needed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for the baking dish
  • 1 medium white onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground meat such as veal, turkey, beef, pork or a combination
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth may substitute water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup pimento-stuffed manzanilla olives chopped

Instructions

For the dough:

  • Place the vegetable shortening or lard in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until it is light and airy. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the salt and baking powder; on low speed, gradually add the corn masa flour and the broth in alternating additions, making sure each time that the addition is well incorporated. Beat for about 10 minutes to form a masa dough that is homogeneous and fluffy. Let the dough sit at room temperature while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • Heat a comal (tortilla griddle) or skillet over medium heat. Add the guajillo and ancho peppers; toast them for about 15 seconds per side, until they become more pliable, lightly toasted and fragrant and their inner skin turns opaque. Transfer to a medium saucepan and cover with at least 2 cups of hot water. Cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the peppers have rehydrated, plumped up and softened.
  • Transfer the peppers and 2 cups of the liquid to a blender and add the oregano, cloves, cinnamon and cumin. Remove the center knob from the blender lid and cover the opening with a dish towel to contain splash-ups. Puree to form a smooth sauce. The yield is 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups.
  • Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the onions are cooked through and beginning to brown at the edges. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, less than a minute, then add the ground meat, salt and black pepper. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and using a spoon to break up the meat, until it has lightly browned. Add the sauce, the broth, raisins, almonds and olives, stirring to combine; reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook uncovered for 5 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Use a little vegetable oil to grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or the equivalent.
  • Spoon half of the prepared masa dough into the dish, forming a bit of a lip on the sides and gently leveling it out; don’t press hard. Spoon all of the meat filling on top. Cover evenly with the remaining dough. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until the masa is completely cooked and the top appears to be firm. Remove from the oven and let it sit, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Notes

Cazuela de Tamal
Chicken and Tortilla Aztec Casserole
Print Recipe
3.67 from 3 votes

Chicken and Tortilla Aztec Casserole

The most popular Mexican casserole of them all has an imperial name: Aztec. It is traditionally made with corn tortillas, as they are much more resilient than flour tortillas. Think of a lasagna gone way down south, soaked in a spiced-up tomato sauce with handfuls of exuberant, fruity, addictive roasted poblano peppers and crunchy, sweet corn. Chicken is sometimes added to the mix, which is then bathed with Mexican crema and melty cheese. When I was growing up, and Aztec casserole was a must for successful potlucks.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Aztec, Azteca, Casserole, Cazuela, chicken, chile, Corn, corn tortillas, Mexican lasagna, Poblano
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium white onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes cored and pureed, or whole canned tomatoes, drained and pureed (to make about 5 cups tomato puree)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt

For the tortillas:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil or more as needed, for frying the tortillas
  • 8 to 10 (9 ounces total) corn tortillas

For assembly:

  • 4 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 4 cups fresh corn may substitute frozen (see NOTES)
  • 1 pound poblano chiles roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into rajas (see NOTES)
  • 1 cup Mexican cream (crema) Latin-style cream, creme fraiche or heavy cream
  • 12 ounces (about 3 cups) grated Oaxaca, mozzarella, Monterey Jack or mild white cheddar cheese

Instructions

For the sauce:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomato puree, oregano, bay leaf and salt and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and darkens in color. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf.

For the tortillas:

  • Cover a large plate or baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Pour the oil into a medium 10-inch skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch (about 1 cup). Heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, about 2 to 3 minutes. Working with one tortilla at a time, use a pair of tongs to pass the tortilla through the oil for 10 to 15 seconds per side; this will make the it pliable and resistant to the sauce. The tortilla will first appear to be softening and then will become barely crisp, and its color will darken. Drain on the paper towels.

To assemble:

  • Spread one-third of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or the equivalent. Cover with half of the cooked chicken, half of the corn, half of the poblanos and one-third of the cream and cheese. Top with half of the tortillas, tearing them into large pieces if needed to make an even layer without much overlap. Repeat, adding one-third of the tomato sauce; the remaining half of the cooked chicken, corn and poblanos; and one-third of the cream and cheese. Top with a layer of the remaining tortillas, the remaining one-third of the sauce and the remaining cream and cheese.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover the casserole dish with a lid or with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the lid or foil and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is bubbly and the cheese has melted. Serve hot.

NOTES:

  • To create rajas, or strips, char or roast the chiles, either by placing them under the broiler or directly on a grill or hot skillet. Roast for 6 to 9 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes, until they are charred and blistered but not burned. Immediately place in a plastic bag; close the bag tightly and cover with a kitchen towel; this will facilitate skinning. One by one, remove each chili from the bag, peel off the skin and lightly rinse the chili with water. Cut out the stem and cut each pepper in half. Remove and discard the seeds, then cut the peppers into strips 1/2-inch wide and an inch long.
  • Frozen corn will make the dish watery if it is not precooked to remove moisture. First, defrost the corn completely. Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter; when it has melted, add the corn and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Notes

Cazuela Azteca
Meaty Tamal Casserole
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Mushroom and Rice Casserole

Although I don’t have the wild varieties of mushrooms that crop up in Mexico’s rainy season, I have experimented with an accessible mix of mushroom textures and flavors, fresh herbs, epazote, cilantro, parsley, that salty crema and tangy cheese. This stew goes on top of the rice with a topping of grated dry and aged cheese. As the casserole bakes, the rice absorbs the flavored cream, the mushrooms meld with the sauce and the cheese morphs into a perfectly browned crust.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: arroz, Casserole, Cazuela, cheese, cheesy, Hongos, Mushroom, queso, rice
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter plus more for the baking dish
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium white onions chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or put through a garlic press
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper finely chopped (seeding optional if you want less heat; may add more to taste)
  • 2 pounds mixed mushrooms (such as white button, baby bella, portobello and shitake), cleaned, dry part of stem removed, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and thin part of stems
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves and thin part of stems
  • 1 cup Mexican cream or Latin-style cream, or heavy cream
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) farmers cheese or queso fresco crumbled
  • 6 cups cooked Mahatma® Rice white rice
  • 1 cup freshly grated queso anejo Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Romano

Instructions

  • Heat the butter and oil in a large, deep 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat; cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent and the edges begin to brown. Add the garlic and jalapeño or serrano pepper; cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add all of the sliced mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and gently combine with the onions. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the mushrooms have exuded their juices and the flavors have melded. Uncover and cook for 7 to 8 minutes or until the juices have evaporated.
  • Add the cilantro and parsley, stirring to combine. Add the cream and the crumbled queso fresco or farmer cheese; stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined and the cheese has melted. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, adjusting the heat to keep the mixture barely bubbling at the edges. It should still be very saucy. Turn off the heat.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Use a little butter to grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or the equivalent.
  • Spoon the cooked rice into the baking dish and level it out without pressing down hard. Pour the mushroom-cilantro mixture on top and gently spread to level it. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and gently browned.
  • Serve hot.

Notes

Cazuela de Arroz con Hongos

Lamb Barbacoa in Adobo

Barbacoa is one of those iconic Mexican foods.

Juicy, tender meat that falls off the bone, infused with a rustic, smoky flavor and a jungle like fragrance. It uses a cooking technique that began in ancient times, long before the Spanish arrived, and it lives on to this day across Mexico in places that specialize in making it. Of course, there are accessible homestyle versions too.

Abroad, so many people have heard of barbacoa and want to have a taste of the real thing. The people I’ve talked to that have tried it are dying to repeat the experience. In Mexico it has never ever gone out of fashion, and it is especially rooted in the central part of the country, where I grew up.

True, that barbacoa sounds much like barbeque. Though it is from a type of barbacoa that Americans got the idea to cook barbeque, it’s not the Mexican kind, but the Native American found here in the US, which used to be outdoors and above the ground. In Mexico we call ours barbacoa too (thanks to the Spanish!), but the Mexican way is completely different: the meat is wrapped tightly in banana leaves, cooked for many (so very many!) hours in an underground pit with an initial heating base of burning wood, walls of brick and smoldering rocks that are sealed with a kind of clay, and finally steamed and cooked overnight.

If you haven’t tried it, this is your chance to make it! And no, you don’t need an underground pit, there are ways to go about it and you can cook it away while you are tucked away in your bed…

barbacoa 1

The most common meat to use for barbacoa is lamb, goat or mutton, which fits the rustic nature of the barbacoa so well, as these meats are so gamey. I go for a meaty lamb leg or shoulder, bone in. But there is also barbacoa of other milder meats, even chicken.

There are variations for what the thick marinade of the meat should be. I like to make a version I’ve tweaked over the years based off two takes: one is the basic rub that has been used for decades in a restaurant in Mexico City called El Caballo Bayo -where my dad used to go for take out to make barbacoa tacos some Sundays- and the other contains more spices, vegetables and grains from a recipe that my mother makes, which was passed down from her nana.

You can make the marinade, which looks more like a paste… ahead of time too. Aside from the guajillo and ancho chiles, it has tomato, garlic and onion.

barbacoa 2

Then it has oregano, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and a good dose of salt and ground pepper.

The chiles are first quickly toasted and rehydrated in simmering in water.

barbacoa 3

You can of course do whatever you want with the water that the chiles were simmering in, but if you want my opinion: DON’T ever throw it ALL away, EVER! That liquid has a ton of flavor and color, and you really want it in your dish. You really do.

Just look at the depth of color.

barbacoa 4

Pour it in the blender along with the rest of the ingredients.

barbacoa 5

After blending, the mixture should be nice and smooth. After seasoning it in a pan, just letting it simmer down, it should develop a deeper, richer color.

Rub this all over the meat and marinate anywhere from a couple hours to a day. The more your marinade it the better.

barbacoa 6

If you want to really give it the rustic kick, place the wet meat on banana leaves, which will help keep it moist and juicy and add a grassy, fresh, aroma and flavor to the meat. The steam bath in the leaves gives it a jungle-y warm flavor; as if you were really cooking the meat in an earth pit.

Then place that bundle on the roasting rack of a roasting pan. If you aren’t able to find banana leaves, you can just wrap the top of the roasting pan before it goes in the oven.

barbacoa 7

Before wrapping up the meat in the banana leaves, place some fresh or dried avocado leaves on top of the meat. They will add extra depth and a flavor similar to anise (but don’t eat them later!). Again, if you can’t find them, don’t worry, you can skip them.

barbacoa 8

On the bottom of the roasting pan, add all the vegetables: carrots, potatoes and garbanzo beans.

Place the wrapped meat on the rack over the vegetables and as the meat cooks, some of the juices will run out of the bottom of the banana leaves, creating a rich broth for the vegetables to cook in. Those vegetables, after absorbing all that flavor and cooking so long, bring about a lot of depth and sweetness, at the same time.

barbacoa 9

Then wrap up the top of the roasting pan in foil really tight. Remember this is to make up for not cooking it in an underground closed pit. And place it in the oven.

putting barbacoa in the oven

Once done, remove the meat from the oven, give it a little time to cool down and unwrap the foil and banana leaves. Be careful, because the steam that comes out will be burning hot.

lamb barbacoa

While I love American barbecue in the summer, Mexican barbacoa is a perfect dish for the winter months. Cooking the meat in the oven for hours will fill your home with amazing smells and warmth; not to mention a bounty of incredibly flavorful food.

All you do is shred the meat in big chunks, have the vegetables on the side, invite some friends over and start making some tacos, there is a lot to share here. Dig in!

p.s. It’s even better with some salsa verde on the side.

Note: I researched, tested, tasted, edited and submitted this recipe to The Washington Post for an article published on February 24, 2010.

Print Recipe
4 from 3 votes

Lamb Barbacoa in Adobo

Barbacoa is one of those iconic Mexican foods. Juicy, tender meat that falls off the bone, infused with a rustic, smoky flavor and a jungle like fragrance. It uses a cooking technique that began in ancient times, long before the Spanish arrived, and it lives on to this day across Mexico in places that specialize in making it. Of course, there are accessible homestyle versions too.
Prep Time3 hrs
Cook Time8 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho chiles, apple cider vinegar, avocado leaves, banana leaves, beer, carrots, corn tortillas, garbanzo beans, guajillo chiles, lamb, onion, pati's mexican table, Tomatoes
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the marinade:

  • 10 dried guajillo chile peppers stemmed and seeded
  • 10 dried ancho chile peppers stemmed and seeded
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium Roma tomato cut into quarters
  • 1/2 medium white onion coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 whole cloves stems removed
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil

For the vegetable base:

  • 2 medium white onions coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots peeled and cut crosswise into chunks
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes peeler and cut into large cubes
  • 8 ounces dried garbanzo beans soaked overnight in 3 cups of very hot water, then drained
  • 12 ounces light colored beer such as Corona, 1 bottle
  • 3 cups water
  • A few bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

For the meat:

  • 8 pounds bone-in leg or shoulder of lamb or both
  • 1 pound Banana leaves
  • 5 to 6 fresh or dried avocado leaves optional

For assembly:

  • Lime wedges for serving
  • Warmed corn tortillas

Instructions

To make the marinade:

  • Heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat. Add the dried chile peppers and toast them for no more than 20 seconds per side, taking care not to burn them.
  • Transfer them to a medium saucepan and add the water, place over medium heat and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the peppers have softened and rehydrated.
  • Transfer the peppers to a blender. Add 2 cups of their cooking liguid (discard the remaining liquid), the vinegar, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, cloves (stems removed) and salt; puree until smooth.
  • Wipe out the medium saucepan and add the oil. Place over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the pureed marinade, being careful to avoid any splatters. Partially cover, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the color darkens and the mixture thickens to a pastelike consistency.
  • Rinse the lamb and pat dry with paper towels. Place in in a large, nonreactive dish. Use the marinade to cover it completely, rubbing the mixture into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

To make the vegetable base:

  • Just before the lamb is finished marinating, prepare the vegetable base. Have a large roasting pan at hand with a rack that fits inside, preferable with some space underneath. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you place it in the over.
  • Combine the onions, carrots, potatoes, and soaked and drained garbanzo beans in a large raosting pan. Pour the beer and water over the top. Add the bay leaves and season with salt to taste; toss to combine. Place the roasting rack over the mixture.

To make the meat:

  • Preheat the over to 325 degrees.
  • Unfold the banana leaves and arrange a few layers of them on the roasting rack, leaving a generous amound of overlap on the pan long sides for wrapping the meat (alternatively, you may use a few long pieces of aluminum foil). Place the meat on top of the leaves and use all of the marinade to cover it. PLace the avocado leaves, if using, on top of the meat, then fold the leaves over to cover the meat. If using the foil, poke a few small holes near the bottom edges to allow the meats juices to fall into the vegetable base below during cooking. The juices will natually fall through the spaces between the banana leaves.
  • Cover the banana leaf package or foil package tightly with a layer of foil. Slow-roast for 8 to 10 hours; until the meat comes off the bone easily and the vegetables should be well seasoned and tender. Transfer to the stovetop (off of the heat), and let everything rest for 15 to 20 minutes before opening the package. Discard the avocado leaves, if using.

To assemble:

  • Serve with lime wedges, warmed corn tortilla and a salsa you like.

Notes

Barbacoa

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole

You can do fabulous things with pumpkins aside from spooky faces and pumpkin pie… Just ask any Mexican. We have a way with pumpkins.

Native to Mexico, pumpkins have been devoured there for centuries, in their entirety. The seeds are addicting as snacks, used as a hefty base for salsas, soups and sauces and more recently sprinkled on top of many dishes. The pumpkin meat is used for soups and stews, and along with the entire rind cooked in a piloncillo syrup, becoming a traditional favorite known as Tacha.

Yet there is something else you can make with those fall pumpkins: Mole!

An easy to make, silky textured and exquisite tasting mole sauce, that can bathe anything you can think of. From chicken to meat, fish, seafood and veggies; it all goes beautifully swaddled in it. I like it mostly with chicken or turkey, which is how I am most used to eating thick and rich Mole sauces….

So that you can try it too, here it goes.

As simple as it is to make, it uses two ancient and crucial techniques of Mexican cooking that enhance the flavors of the ingredients and bring a ton of personality to a dish: charring and toasting.

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 1

First the onion and garlic take a quick turn under the broiler to be charred. Their sharp, crisp and pungent flavors become transformed…

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 2

…as if their alter ego came out to show depth and sweetness. While at the same time becoming a bit rustic.

Then the ancho chiles, almonds, cinnamon, allspice and whole cloves take a turn either in a skillet or comal, to lightly toast.

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 3

Toasting them intensifies and deepens their flavor, it releases new aromas and adds a kind of warmth to the dish.

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 4

As the chiles have been dried for a long time, aside from giving them a light toast, you need to rehydrate them and plump them back to life. And it takes just 10 minutes of soaking them in a hot bath.

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 5

Then you also use that water from the chile bath, as it has some of the intense flavors and colors of the chiles, as well as the chiles to make the Mole Sauce.

Then everything in the blender goes!

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 6

If you used True or Ceylon cinnamon, puree it along with the rest of the ingredients. As it is light and thin, it crumbles and purees easily. It is gentle and kind to the blades of the blender. If you only found the hard Cassia kind, use it to simmer in the mole sauce further on.

Then you add it all along with the pumpkin puree in a big pot. You can use already made pumpkin puree from the store…

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 7

Or make your own pumpkin puree with those extra pumpkins that are sitting on your front porch… Making the puree is pretty simple: Quarter the pumpkin, remove the seeds and fibers, roast in the oven at 400 ºF until soft and process the pumpkin meat in a blender of food processor until smooth.

After you simmer the pumpkin puree along with the ancho chile puree (that has the charred and toasted ingredients), it will look like this. Incredibly rich, just like its flavor.

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 8

You can make the Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole ahead of time, and just heat it when you are ready to serve it.

Topping it with toasted pumpkin seeds makes the dish all the more fabulous.  You can taste it already, right?

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole 9

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole main
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole

An easy to make, silky textured and exquisite tasting mole sauce, that can bathe anything you can think of. From chicken to meat, fish, seafood and veggies; it all goes beautifully swaddled in it. I like it mostly with chicken or turkey, which is how I am most used to eating thick and rich Mole sauces….So that you can try it too, here it goes.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: almonds, ancho chiles, brown sugar, ceylon, chicken, cinnamon, cloves, Mole, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, Recipe
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1/2 white onion peeled, charred or broiled
  • 6 garlic cloves charred or broiled, peeled
  • 3 ancho chiles stemmed, seeded and opened
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 stick true or ceylon cinnamon about 1 inch (or substitute for 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • 8 whole allspice berries or 1/8 teaspoon ground
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree about 1 3/4 cup
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds lightly toasted

Instructions

  • Place the onion and garlic in a baking sheet under the broiler. Char for 9 to 10 minutes, flipping once in between. Once they are soft and charred, remove from the heat. When the garlic is cool, peel.
  • In an already hot skillet or comal set over medium-low heat, toast the ancho chiles for about 15 to 20 seconds per side, until they brown and crisp without burning. Place toasted ancho chiles in a bowl covered with boiling water. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes until they are plumped up and rehydrated.
  • In the same skillet or comal, toast the cloves and all spice until aromatic, about a minute. Remove from the heat. Toast the almonds and cinnamon, stirring often, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Place the onion, garlic, chiles, 1/2 cup of chile soaking liquid, almonds, cloves, cinnamon and allspice in the blender and puree until smooth.
  • In a soup pot or casserole, heat the oil and pour the pureed mixture over medium heat. Add the salt and sugar. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to help prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The color will darken considerably.
  • Add the pumpkin puree and chicken broth to the sauce. Stir well until the pumpkin puree has dissolved, it will have a silky consistency. Continue to cook for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Use the mole sauce to pour over grilled, broiled or boiled chicken, meat or fish. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds for some added flavor and crunch.

Notes

Mole de Chile Ancho y Calabaza

Pozole: Try It Green!

Red pozole, or Pozole Rojo, Jalisco style, has been my favorite pozole of all time. It is bold and gorgeous in every possible way. I am so attached to it, we even served it at our wedding.

For decades now, I’ve refused to replace it with another… And then, I tried a unique green version, Pozole Verde, Guerrero style. It has not surpassed my Pozole Rojo, but it is attempting to tie with it at my table. And that is a lot to say.

Treasured all around Mexico, pozole has many variations, mainly green, red and white. Each distinct and beautiful, and coincidentally, represent the colors of the Mexican flag. Since September is the month of Mexican independence and The Day of El Grito is just around the corner, there is no excuse not to find an excuse to celebrate! And in my mental Mexican dictionary, pozole equals celebration.

Pozole has been made for centuries, and according to Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish missionary, Moctezuma -greatest Aztec Emperor of all times-, would honor the God of the Sun by eating and serving it. I don’t know though, what color it was!

What makes a pozole red or green is the seasoning sauce added to the stew. If there is no sauce, it is a white pozole. Though there are many kinds of green pozole, they all use green ingredients, and this one has: tomatillosepazote (or cilantro if you can’t find it), pumpkin seeds and jalapeños.

greeningre.jpg
Making that green seasoning sauce is simple. Tomatillos, garlic and chile simmer in water until the color of the tomatillos changes from bright, happy and loud to a mellow green. The texture goes from firm, to very mushy, but not coming apart.

The toasted pumpkin seeds are ground, they are pureed with that cooked tomatillo mix and white onion. The pumpkin seeds give the sauce a nutty, velvety base. Then the sauce is taken a step further and simmered until it is seasoned, thickened and its flavors have concentrated. It must be powerful, as it will dilute in the pozole. See? The spoon on the left has the green sauce before it is seasoned.

sauce.jpg

 What is common about any pozole is not only the many garnishes that dress it at the end, but also the very large corn known here as hominy, and in Mexico as maí­z cacahuacintle, also known as maí­z mote and giant corn. It gives pozole its signature mealy bite.

Cooking hominy is simple, but takes a while, so it is available already cooked in cans or refrigerated bags if you do not feel like preparing it. This is how it looks when you buy it at the stores before cooking.

hominyingredients.jpg

But I love to cook it at home. It is as simple as throwing it in a pot, covering it in water and waiting for it to “bloom”.  Literally, when it opens up at the top, you know it’s ready.

cookedhominy.jpg
Just like when cooking beans, add salt after they are cooked, or they will toughen up.Then in a big pot, combine the cooked hominy, the shredded chicken that was simmered in a simple broth (complete recipe below) as much green pozole sauce as you want, and a leafy stem of epazote, which will have anywhere from 5 to 10 leaves. If you don’t find epazote, add like 5 sprigs of cilantro. I personally add all the sauce. Then, you want to let all the ingredients cook together for about 20 minutes.

Once it is ready: dress it up! Radishes, lettuce, white onion, ground dried chile, oregano and quartered limes to squeeze juice on top, are placed at the table for you to choose. Tostadas to be munched on the side. And, in particular for the green pozole, Mexican avocado and chicharrones (crispy pork rind), are often too, which gives it an extra crunch. If you find some, add it on!
Whatever you choose, do squeeze fresh lime juice onto it.
Pozole is so popular in Mexico that there are pozolerí­as, restaurants that only serve pozole. That would be like a restaurant in the US that only served chicken noodle soup! How is that possible? Take a bite into this one-stop meal. You’ll see.
soup2.jpg
P.S. Pozole tastes even better reheated. Great excuse for making the soup ahead of time. Also, watch out for this recipe: It serves a hungry party of 12.

green pozole or pozole verde
Print Recipe
4.6 from 5 votes

Green Pozole

Red pozole, or Pozole Rojo, Jalisco style, has been my favorite pozole of all time. It is bold and gorgeous in every possible way. I am so attached to it, we even served it at our wedding. For decades now, I’ve refused to replace it with another… And then, I tried a unique green version, Pozole Verde, Guerrero style. It has not surpassed my Pozole Rojo, but it is attempting to tie with it at my table. And that is a lot to say.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken, chile, cilantro, epazote, hominy, jalapeno, lime, piquí­n chiles, pumpkin seeds, radish, Recipe, soup, tomatillos, tortilla chips
Servings: 12 to 15 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the white pozole:

  • 1 pound dried hominy rinsed, the same as giant white corn or maiz mote pelado
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 whole chickens or about 6 pounds, cut up in serving pieces, rinsed (combine with pork butt or shoulder if desired)
  • 1 onion
  • Couple fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or course sea salt or to taste

For the green pozole sauce:

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds lightly toasted
  • 1 pound tomatillos husks removed, rinsed
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños stemmed
  • 1 fresh large leafy stem of epazote or 5 sprigs cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup onion coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the garnishes:

  • 5 to 6 limes cut in half
  • 10 radishes rinsed, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce rinsed, drained and thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons onion finely chopped
  • 1 Mexican avocado halved, pitted, meat scooped out and dried
  • Piquí­n chile or a Mexican mix of dried chiles, ground
  • dried oregano crumbled
  • Tostadas or totopos

Instructions

  • Place the hominy in a large soup pot with cold water at least 3 inches on top. Take off the dried skin layers from the head of garlic and add it into the pot. Do not add salt, because the hominy will toughen. Bring to a boil, then gently simmer over low medium heat uncovered for 3 hours or until hominy is tender and has begun to "bloom" or open up. Alternatively, you can buy precooked hominy and continue from this point.
  • In the meantime, place chicken in a large soup pot and cover with at least 1 inch of water above. Add white onion, cilantro and a tablespoon of salt and bring to boil. Simmer uncovered until chicken is cooked and tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and the bones, and shred the meat into bite size pieces.
  • Meanwhile, make the green pozole sauce. Place tomatillos, garlic and chile in a medium 3-quart saucepan. Cover with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer; cook until the tomatillos have changed color from a bright to a dull green and are soft but not breaking apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the cooked vegetables and set aside.
  • In a blender, add toasted pumpkin seeds and chop until finely ground. Then add the cooked tomatillos, jalapeños and garlic, onion, salt and reserved liquid. Puree until smooth. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat until hot. Add the tomatillo sauce from the blender. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 to 18 minutes, stirring occasionally, so it will thicken, season and deepen its color.
  • When the hominy is ready, incorporate the shredded chicken and its cooking broth. Add the green pozole sauce and the epazote or cilantro. Let it cook for 30 minutes more. Check for seasoning - at this point I always add more salt - and serve.
  • You may present the Pozole in a big soup pot and place the garnishes in smaller bowls on the side. Each person can serve Pozole in their individual soup bowls, and then add as many garnishes to their soup as they would like. I do, however, recommend that some fresh lime juice be squeezed into it! Tostadas or totopos are eaten on the side.

Notes

Pozole Verde

Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce

This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had.

The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.

It’s become the trump card I pull out for guests that love unusual and authentic flavors from Mexico. The best part of it is, the hardest part about making it, is waiting for the brisket to cook on its own.

I first tried a version of it in Santa Fé de la Laguna, Michoacán. A popular dish in that region, it goes by the name of Carne Enchilada. A young and knowledgeable Purépecha cook, Berenice Flores, showed me how to make it at her home. When my whole family sat down to eat it, we kept asking her for more corn tortillas to wipe the sauce clean off the plates.

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In Michoacán its typically made with pork, but when I got back home to DC, I couldn’t resist trying it with brisket. As well as adding a layer of seasoned onion to the sauce.

When Cecilia Ramos, Executive Director for Mexico and the Dominican Republic at the IADB, invited me to cook an authentic Mexican menu for the monthly Board of Directors, the first thing that popped into my mind was this dish.

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The sauce has a base of two exemplary Mexican ingredients that are now widely available in the US.

First, Pasilla or Black chiles, which are the dried Chilaca chiles, by far the most common chiles grown and used in Michoacán. Their flavor is earthy, a bit bitter and slightly spicy.

If you don’t find Pasillas, you can substitute with New Mexico chiles.

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Secondly, the Tomatillos, with their singular tasty tartness. The combination of the Pasillas and the Tomatillos is so good, its even hard to describe.

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Aside from having a lot of fun planning the menu, cooking at the kitchens of the IADB under the expert guidance of Chef Craig Psulgi was quite a ride.

Forget about the facility: It’s any cook’s dream. What’s more, the cooking team he directs is a group of international hard working people with the friendliest of dispositions.

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They are used to making all sorts of Latin American meals, focusing on different national cuisines to satiate the cravings of the multicultural staff from the IADB. Thus making a unique Mexican menu at the IADB is one big challenge.

In the end, what I really wanted, was to make the Mexican patrons there feel back at home.

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Though I had thought of a full menu, I didn’t consider the appetizer for the pre-lunch hour. Since they had some beautiful shrimp, we came up with a tasty appetizer: quickly sauteed shrimp on top of a brioche toast, smothered with an easy Mexican avocado cream, topped with a spicy red bell pepper sauce.

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For the salad, we had watercress and spinach with a Jamaica vinaigrette.

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We offered a choice between Pasilla and Tomatillo brisket and an Acapulco style fish. Both with a side of a comfy Mexican rice and a pickled chayote side
(sorry about the photo with the fluorescent lighting of the professional kitchen…)

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Yes there is always one or another kind of drama in the kitchen.

We almost dropped the entire tray with all of the brisket on the floor.

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Chef Psulgi caught it just on time.

And with that extra adrenaline rush, plating away we went.

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Always have to put a finishing touch in there…

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The waiters, I must say, were quite patient and helpful.

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And right before the luncheon started, I was invited to step out to describe what it was that they were all about to eat, that was on their menus…

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And…

I’m happy to say that everyone seemed to love the brisket. Yes. Even the ones who opted for fish, because I insisted they try the brisket too…

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For dessert we offered black and white Tres Leches Cake
Because it was a soothing end, for the feast of flavors that came beforehand…

Print Recipe
4.67 from 3 votes

Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce

This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had. The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time4 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Jewish, Mexican
Keyword: beef, chile, garlic, Jewish Mexican, pasilla, pati's mexican table, piloncillo, Recipe, tomatillos
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds trimmed brisket of beef rinsed and cut into about 2-inch chunks (leave some fat on!)
  • 5 garlic cloves peeled
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt divided (plus more to taste)
  • 1 pound tomatillos husks removed and rinsed
  • 3 ounces black or pasilla chiles (may sub for New Mexico chiles) stems and seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons corn or safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups meat cooking liquid
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • Chopped white onion and cilantro leaves optional garnish

Instructions

  • Place meat chunks in a large cooking pot along with 5 garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt. Cover with water, bring to a boil, cover partially and simmer over medium heat for 3 hours, or until meat is very soft. Drain and reserve 2 cups of its cooking liquid.
  • Meanwhile, char or roast the tomatillos on a baking sheet under the broiler, or directly on the comal or dry skillet or grill over medium heat, for about 10 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times. Tomatillos are ready when their skin is blistered and lightly charred, and their flesh is soft, mushy and juicy.
  • Toast chiles on a hot comal or dry skillet over-medium heat for 5 to 10 seconds per side. Chiles will release their aroma and become more pliable, and their inner skin will become a bit opaque. Don't let them burn.
  • Place toasted chiles and roasted or charred tomatillos in a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water and 2 cups of reserved meat cooking liquid (if you don't have 2 cups, add more water). Let this mixture soak for at least a half-hour and up to 4 hours. Pour the mixture into the blender or food processor, puree until smooth and reserve.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of corn or safflower oil to the same pot in which meat was cooked, and heat over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add cooked meat chunks and brown them, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the chopped onion, and stir as you continue to brown the meat for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Incorporate pureed chile mixture, a teaspoon of salt and the piloncillo or brown sugar. Stir and simmer over medium heat for about 10 more minutes. The meat should be completely tender, yet still in chunks. The sauce should be think enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, but not pasty. Taste for salt and add more if need be. To serve, you can garnish with some raw chopped onion and cilantro leaves.
  • If there is any meat left over, you can cool, store and refrigerate it in a closed contained and then reheat, covered over a low simmer.

Notes

Carne Enchilada

Deliciously Sweet: Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce

It seems that many people find chicken boring.

I happen to find it fascinating.

Not only because chicken is friendly enough to let you take it wherever your imagination can go and because it can be the juiciest and crispiest meal, but also, because of that story my mother told me when I was growing up.

When my mom was about 10 years old, my grandmother who came to Mexico from Austria in her early twenties having survived years of war, turbulence and the loss of most of her family, taught my mom a serious lesson: you can survive most hardships in life if you know how to cook, she had said, and mostly, if you know how to cook chicken from scratch.

Cooking from scratch really meant from scratch. No nonsense. So my mom learned how to kill, pluck and cook chicken a thousand ways.

I have that dissonant image of them plucking those birds, because if you had met my grandmother, you would have probably thought, like me, that she was one elegant and classy lady. Here’s an old photo I found (do excuse my 80’s bangs and shoulder pads…)

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Ok, now that I was going through old albums, I found this other one. And I think that my mom happens to be a classy lady too… (aside from the bangs and shoulder pads, I am wearing one of those Wang Chung vests, remember?)

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My Lali, as we called my grandmother, was an extraordinary cook. I could write down pages and pages listing the dishes she made that I loved. My favorite ones always had a sweet spin to them. The roasted duck with the plum sauce, the chicken paprika with sweet pimientos, the stuffed cabbage with that heart warming sauce…

If I could have my Lali over for Rosh Hashanah next week, I would treat her with the Chicken with Tamarind and Apricots I learned to make from Flora Cohen right before I got married. A cookbook writer and teacher from Syrian ancestry, who like my grandmother, was an immigrant who made Mexico her home bringing along exotic flavors from her birthplace. Flora was known to turn ignorant brides, who did not know how to boil an egg, into competent cooks who could bring bliss to the tummies of their new husbands (hey, at least my husband didn’t starve in those first years…)

And just like many of my Lali’s dishes, from Austria, Flora’s Syrian meals took a joy ride with Mexico’s native ingredients.

People wonder about the existence of Jewish Mexican cuisine. This dish is but one example. After I was asked to teach a class on Jewish Mexican cooking, I realized it could have been an ongoing series. Just a small window into the fascinating twists and turns that foods take on as they travel through the world in unimaginable kinds of luggage and intermingle with their new homes…

But for now, I leave you with this chicken, which can become a staple in your home. That’s how good it is.

After you rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces, sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper…

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Don’t remove the skin! PLEASE!! It WILL turn crispy and it will also help the chicken be extra moist and flavorful.

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Heat the oil in a large and deep skillet over low heat. Place the chicken skin side down. You don’t want the chicken pieces to be cramped on top of each other, if they are, use two skillets.

The chicken is going to brown for an hour. I know this sounds like a lot of time, but you can make the rest of your dinner during that time, like your rice, pasta or salad.  Browning the chicken like this, flipping it once or twice in between, makes the skin crisp and the fat underneath the skin melt. Slowly, deliciously. It makes the chicken so juicy and soft, it practically comes off the bone!

After about an hour the chicken looks like this.

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It is already flavorful as it has basted in its own juices… Now lets take it a step further.

Pour the water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a simmer.

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Pour the tamarind concentrate. You can easily make the concentrate at home, or buy it in most Latin or International stores. If you don’t find concentrate, but find tamarind paste, dilute 2 tablespoons of the paste and 1 tablespoon of sugar in 3/4 cup warm water. The tamarind brings a rich and tangy flavor to the dish…

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Add a couple generous tablespoons of apricot jam.

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Spoon the Chipotles in Adobo sauce, or if you want it more piquant, drop in a couple whole Chiles in there too… Their smoky and sweet flavors complement the rest of the ingredients.

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Stir in the chopped dried apricots. I found some Turkish ones at the store, with a deeper brown color. They were so meaty…

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Stir it all and bring it to a steady medium simmer, for about 35 minutes more. The sauce will have thickened and become outrageously sticky (sticky in a really good way). I love the chunks of apricot in there.

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A Sephardic dish with a Mexican influence. Perfect for holidays, this chicken dish is a crowd pleaser. A bit spicy, a bit sweet, a bit tangy, crisp and moist… It can be one of those safe cards to play, just like that passed down brisket recipe…

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Now, I didn’t have to kill and pluck a chicken, but I think my Lali would be pleased. I learned my lesson well, and I am trying to learn to cook chicken, in more than a thousand
tasty ways.

Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Chicken with Tamarind, Apricots and Chipotle Sauce

If I could have my Lali over for Rosh Hashanah next week, I would treat her with the Chicken with Tamarind and Apricots I learned to make from Flora Cohen right before I got married. A cookbook writer and teacher from Syrian ancestry, who like my grandmother, was an immigrant who made Mexico her home bringing along exotic flavors from her birthplace. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 hr 35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: apricot, chicken, chile, chipotles in adobo, Recipe, Tamarind
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken cut into pieces, plus two more pieces of your choice, with skin and bones
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup safflower or corn oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 pound dried apricots about 3/4 cup, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 3/4 cup tamarind concentrate can be store bought or homemade (recipe follows), or substitute with 2 tablespoons tamarind paste mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar and 3/4water
  • 2 tablespoons Chipotles in adobo sauce or more to taste, add chiles if you please

Instructions

  • Thoroughly rinse chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • In a deep extended skillet, heat oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add chicken pieces in one layer, bring heat to medium-low, and slowly brown the chicken pieces for one hour. Turn them over every once in a while, so they will brown evenly on all sides.
  • Pour water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring it to a simmer. Incorporate the apricots, apricot preserve, tamarind concentrate, chipotle sauce and salt and stir, and keep it at a medium simmer for 35 to 40 minutes more. You may need to bring down the heat to medium.
  • The sauce should have thickened considerably as to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Taste for salt and heat and add more salt or chipotle sauce to your liking.

Notes

Pollo con Salsa de Tamarindo, Chabacano y Chipotle

Chicken Tinga for Today (Show) and Everyday!

What to cook for the Today Show?

With so many options being juggled in my head, I was growing restless as the date got closer.

As I started exchanging emails with one of the producers, I began to throw ideas: what about different kinds of Salsas, variations of that irresistible cold and wet Tres Leches cake, funky versions of Guacamole, or a sample of fresh Ceviches…?

Or, wait. How about something easy, tasty and flashy like Tequila, Cream and Chipotle Shrimp? It’s so much fun to prepare, I told the producer. You ignite the pan, the flames come up right after the shrimp begin to brown, and then they wind down right before you pour the cream. Your guests feel special and impressed…

I had to agree that we were better off staying away from igniting anything on the set.

Oh, I got it! A chicken dish. Everyone wants a good chicken dish in their recipe box. And one of the tastiest ways to eat chicken in Mexican kitchens, no doubt about it, is Chicken Tinga.

Although it comes from the state of Puebla, it is so popular, that it is eaten throughout the country. So of course there are countless variations.

I have a favorite version. One that I have tweaked through the years until I found a balance of flavors that needs no more tweaking, if you ask me…

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A great thing about the Tinga, is that you only need a handful of ingredients. Some are familiar to everyone, like tomatoes, onion and garlic. The other needed Mexican
ingredients are readily available throughout the US these days, and people should become familiar with them, as they are absolutely blissful.

Such is the case of the Tomatillos, pictured above next to their cousins, the tomatoes… and the Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce.

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Pump up the sweetness of the tomatoes, the tart notes of the Tomatillos and the rich smoky, depth of the Chipotles with some Marjoram, Oregano and Thyme, Salt and Pepper….

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Add some already cooked and shredded chicken, and you have a winner.

Catchy and irresistible, starting with the name, the Tinga is easy to prepare, packed with flavor, and once you make it, can be refashioned in a thousand ways. Plus it stores in the refrigerator well, and it’s one of those dishes that add on flavor as its reheated.

After talking with Bianca, the food stylist in charge at the Today Show, we decided to cook the Tinga, and show the viewers a couple choices of how to play with it: Tostadas and what can be called Tinga’Dillas.

Here is Bianca on the set, right before the segment. She rocks, friends.

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This is Bianca’s hand, making a beauty out of the deliciously messy Tostada…

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Here, that’s a zoom out.

OK. It is so crazy in that set, but oh so fun, fun, fun crazy… And the whole food styling team is amazing.

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That is the front of the set. Allison (there in the corner of the photo below) and I chose some colorful pots and pans to do the demo.

And you see that clock under the screen? It says 9:39. Segment was going to be shot at 9:46. Yes, I got dizzy and nauseated, and hyper and sleepy all at the same time…

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So aside from the Chicken Tinga demo, there were the Tinga’Dillas paired with Guacamole and Grilled Corn…

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And the Tostadas, set on that rustic piece of stone. We were going to do the Fresh Cheese and Mexican Cream, last minute…. to take it over the top. Why not?

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The 4 minutes flew by.

When all was said and done, we ate the Tostadas and the Tinga ‘Dillas. And after that, we hugged. I hugged them so tight, out of thankfulness, everyone there was so generous and warm.

From the lovely woman Roma, who fixed my hair (Thank the Heavens, I never know what to do with it and always pull it up), to the hilarious Gilberto, who did my make up (Thank the Seas,  because I can hardly curl my eye lashes properly), to the professional Food styling team with Bianca and Allison and the rest, to the generous and kind producers Vivian and Alicia…

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… and the gorgeous and warm hosts Natalie Morales and Ann Curry (who are even prettier in person, I swear!).

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Oh Boy. What a team! If you want to watch the segment click here.

The Tostadas and Tinga’Dillas are perfect for casual entertaining. They can be messy, but its a delicious kind of messy. And after all, its the middle of the summer. If you get too messy, just turn on the hose.

chicken tinga or tinga de pollo
Print Recipe
4.75 from 4 votes

Chicken Tinga

One of the tastiest ways to eat chicken in Mexican kitchens, no doubt about it, is Chicken Tinga. Although it comes from the state of Puebla, it is so popular, that it is eaten throughout the country. So of course there are countless variations. I have a favorite version. One that I have tweaked through the years until I found a balance of flavors that needs no more tweaking, if you ask me…
Prep Time1 hr 10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Course: Antojos, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken, chipotles in adobo, Pollo, Puebla, quesadillas, Recipe, tacos, tinga, tortas, tostadas
Servings: 4 servings (makes about 5 cups)
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 1/2 white onion about 1/4 pound, slivered
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 8 roma tomatoes or about 2 pounds, rinsed
  • 2 tomatillos or about 1/4 pound, husks removed, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons sauce from chipotle chiles in adobo can add whole chiles if more heat is desired
  • 5 cups cooked shredded chicken

Instructions

  • Place the rinsed tomatoes and tomatillos in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat. Once it comes to a simmer, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes and tomatillos are soft, thoroughly cooked, and smooshy but not coming apart. Remove them with a slotted spoon. Place in the jar of a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Heat the oil in a large and deep pan over medium heat. Once it is hot but not smoking, stir in the onion and cook until soft and translucent, for about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant and lightly browned, about 1 minute.
  • Pour the tomato/tomatillo sauce on top and sprinkle the oregano, marjoram, thyme, salt and black pepper. Spoon in the chipotle Chiles in Adobo sauce. If you want it spicy, you may drop a whole Chipotle Chile in Adobo in there as well. Let the sauce simmer, stirring now and then until it seasons and deepens its red color, about 10 to 12 minutes. You may want to partially cover the pan as the sauce may want to jump out over your burners.
  • Toss in the chicken and combine with the sauce. Let it cook, stirring casually, until the chicken has absorbed almost all of the juices and the mix is moist but not juicy.

Notes

Tinga de Pollo
chicken tinga or tinga de pollo
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Chicken Tinga Tostadas

Catchy and irresistible, starting with the name, Chicken Tinga is easy to prepare, packed with flavor, and once you make it, can be refashioned in a thousand ways, such as on tostadas.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Antojos, Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken, Pollo, Recipe, tinga, tostadas
Servings: 12 tostadas
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 12 corn tostadas such as Guerrero or Mission
  • 1 1/2 cups refried beans warmed up (can be home made or store bought)
  • 3 cups chicken tinga recipe above
  • 1 cup iceberg or romaine lettuce thinly sliced
  • 1 ripe Mexican avocado pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco Cotija or farmers cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Mexican or Latin style cream
  • Salsa of your choice such as salsa verde, optional

Instructions

  • Place the tostadas on a large platter.
  • Layer a couple of tablespoons of refried beans on the tostada. Spread a couple tablespoons of chicken tinga on top and garnish with about 1 or 2 tablespoons lettuce, 1 or 2 slices of ripe avocado, 1 or 2 tablespoons of crumbled queso fresco and Mexican cream.
  • Serve the salsa on the side for people to drizzle as much as they want.

Notes

Tostadas de Tinga de Pollo
chicken tinga or tinga de pollo
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Tinga Dillas

Catchy and irresistible, starting with the name, Chicken Tinga is easy to prepare, packed with flavor, and once you make it, can be refashioned in a thousand ways, such as a filling for quesadillas.
Prep Time0 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Antojos, Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Antojo, chicken, Pollo, Quesadilla, Recipe, tinga, tortilla
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 8 large flour tortillas
  • 4 slices Monterey jack cheese muenster cheese, or Mexican manchego
  • 2 cups chicken tinga recipe above
  • 2 cups guacamole home made or store bought, on the side

Instructions

  • Heat a non-stick skillet or comal over medium-low heat. You may also use the grill. Once hot, after 3 or 4 minutes, layer 2 flour tortillas, the cheese slices and the Chicken Tinga. Place 2 flour tortillas on top of the open ones, and let them cook until the tortilla on the bottom has begun to harden a bit. Flip to the other side with the help of a cooking spatula and let the quesdillas continue to warm up, until the cheese has completely melted and the tortillas have hardened on both sides.
  • Repeat with the rest.
  • Serve with guacamole for your guests to spoon on top.

Notes

Quesadillas de Tinga

Tequila, Mexican Cream and Chipotle Shrimp

Shrimp tend to be perceived as a treat. That fancy item on a menu.

Think about what happens at a shrimp station on a Sunday buffet. It gets crowded. Even if you didn’t feel like eating shrimp, if there’s a shrimp station, chances are you will eat them. Your mom, your dad, your husband or friends will look at your shrimp-less plate and push some shrimp onto your plate.

Growing up in Mexico City, family Sunday lunches with the dozens and dozens members of our immediate family included giant shrimp from the Mercado de la Viga.  There was so much anticipation as to when they would majestically appear on that huge platter carried by my grandmother. Before they got to the table, people started sneaking away some. So my grandmother decided to set a pre-lunch agreement on the number of shrimp per head, to avoid childish grown up wording snaps like “YOU always get the extra shrimp” or sudden door slams.

So when I was asked to develop a Mexican menu for the 2010 RAMMYS Awards I just had to include shrimp. I paired them with some signature Mexican ingredients: smoky and hot Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, tangy and salty Mexican Cream and the iconic Tequila Reposado.

And so, they were served to the 1600 attendees.

Tequila Shrimp 1
But before that day, the cooking staff under the expert guidance of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel Executive Chef Horst Lummert, had to test the recipe.

That day of testing and tasting was incredibly fun. Here we were, as we watched how the tequila drunken shrimp were ignited…

Tequila Shrimp 2
And here we were, watching a crowded shrimp station serve hundreds of plates.

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And here is how you can get a taste of those shrimp, right at home. Along with some igniting which is such a thrill.

First of all. Get some good shrimp. Though it is always  better to use fresh ingredients, truth is, it is hard to get fresh shrimp. Although sold thawed, they tend to traveled frozen. A wonderful thing about shrimp though, different from fresh fish, is that shrimp freeze well and can survive the thawing process in great shape, keeping their crispness and flavor.

Here is a suggestion: If you are using them today, buy them thawed, but ask your fishmonger how long they have been sitting there. It should be 1 or 2 days tops. They shouldn’t seem limp or sad and should have a light saltwater smell. Get them with the shrimp and tail on.

If you are using them tomorrow or further on, buy them frozen. Then you are on top of how long they have been thawed.To thaw, have them in the refrigerator a day before using and rinse them under cold running water.

Don’t thaw them at room temperature or in a microwave, or you will end up with shrimp ready for a Halloween party.

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Once thawed, peel and season them with Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Tequila Shrimp 3

Heat a large pan over medium high heat, once your butter is sizzling, toss in some fresh minced garlic. Let it become fragrant, 10 seconds or so… and add the shrimp.

Cook the shrimp just 1 or 2 minutes per side, so they will be soft, crispy and sweet instead of chewy, rubbery and boring.

Then pour your Tequila. This is what I have at home… The Gran Centenario. Different from the Blanco or White tequila, the Reposado is darker in color because it is aged in wooden barrels. It has a bolder flavor. But feel free to use whatever you have handy. You can also use Mezcal.

Tequila Shrimp 4
Now: Watch it. Once you add the Tequila, slightly tilt the pan to the flames of your burners as you lightly step back. It will ignite fast and furiously, but only for less than half a minute. Igniting the Tequila gets rid of the alcohol presence and retains the bold flavors from the Tequila.

Continue to cook the shrimp until the flames disappear and add the Mexican cream

 

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…and the Chipotle Chile in Adobo sauce. If you feel like it, drop in a Chile too.

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Stir it and turn off the heat.

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Plate the shrimp covered in the sauce, just like that, while they are hot, hot, hot! And toss some fresh chopped chives…

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… right on top. The chives not only add a fresh flavor and color, but add a vibrant contrast to the creamy sauce.

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Here is a close up of for you…

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Crispy and sweet, smoky and tangy, and oh so bold with the presence of the Tequila. Plus they are, sooooooo much fun to prepare! Go on and impress someone…

Print Recipe
4.67 from 3 votes

Tequila, Mexican Cream and Chipotle Shrimp

So when I was asked to develop a Mexican menu for the 2010 RAMMYS Awards I just had to include shrimp. I paired them with some signature Mexican ingredients: smoky and hot Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, tangy and salty Mexican Cream and the iconic Tequila Reposado. And so, they were served to the 1600 attendees.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time6 mins
Course: Antojos, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chipotles in adobo, mexican crema, pati's mexican table, Recipe, seafood, Shrimp, tequila
Servings: 12 appetizer portions
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp in shell thawed, peeled and deveined (about 25 shrimp)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove finely minced
  • 1/4 cup Tequila Reposado
  • 1/4 cup Mexican style cream such as Rio Grande
  • 1 teaspoon Chipotles in adobo sauce or add more to taste
  • 1 bunch chives chopped

Instructions

  • Peel and devein the shrimp. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large and heavy saute pan set over medium-high heat, let the butter melt. Once it starts to sizzle, add the garlic. Stir and cook for 10 to 15 seconds, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Incorporate the shrimp, making sure that the pan is not over crowded, and let them brown on one side and then the other, just for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Don't let them over cook, they should brown on the outside, but barely cooked through.
  • Add the tequila, and slightly tilt the pan over the flame to ignite the tequila. Let it cook until the flames disappear. Stir in the cream and the chipotle sauce and turn off the heat. Serve immediately sprinkled with the chives on top.

Notes

Camarones al Tequila

Chef Solis’s Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli

I was invited to design a Cinco de Mayo menu for Ceiba Restaurant along with their Chef de Cuisine, Alfredo Solis. The invitation included teaching a class covering that menu. As always, I was eager to teach whatever I know. But as always, I learn much more as I go. This time, I also learned, that you never know what foods you are going to like the best.

Solis and I were thrilled with the class menu. He was going to feature a tasty Shrimp Ceviche and some succulent Shredded Beef Tacos. I was going for a Red Snapper with a simple yet stylish Almond and Chipotle sauce, with a side of the ever exuberant Poblano Green Rice and a fresh Radish Salsita. I was also covering dessert: a textured and sweet coconut flan paired with fresh mangoes. And whipped cream. With a hint of Rum.

The whole experience was fun, from beginning to end. From meeting Solis for the first time -who shared his to die for mussels in a spicy tomato broth with chorizo, along with fascinating bits and pieces of his life story as he went from being a dishwasher to Chef de Cusine-  to designing the menu, to tasting and testing it a week before class for a full dinner run, to prepping for class and lunch the day of. Day which, with the excuse of needing sweetened condensed milk for the coconut flan, I kept splashing some in their good coffee and sipping it all along.

And there we were, laughing it out, as we set up the demo stations, before we even started the class…

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And there we were, ready and steady, a couple minutes before the guests were seated…

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But when all was said and done and the guests were gone -hopefully happy and with a full belly- I looked at Solis and said what my friends know me for: what are WE eating now?

Solis responded: Anything you want to try from our menu!

Having eyed the already shaped crab cakes in the refrigerator that morning, I asked him what was in their mix.  Just with the word Habaneros, I knew I was going for those.

So yes, I loved the menu we designed. And yes, I think it was a fun and yummy class. But I can tell you, those crab cakes are a pair of Rock Stars.

If you are not near DC or can’t go to Ceiba anytime soon, Solis graciously shared the recipe for you to sample at home. I just did as I posted those for you.

To make them, here we go: Lump crab meat, chopped Habanero -yes with seeds for me please-, cilantro, just a bit of bread crumbs and mayonnaise to bind the meat together, as well as the egg I am cracking there…

Crabcake 1-thumb-510x342-1041
Then I am adding the juice of that shinny and juicy lime, some salt and fresh ground pepper.

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That’s all that goes into the crab cakes.  Shape them up and you can keep them in the refrigerator for a couple of days, covered, until you are ready to cook them up.

When ready, prepare Solis’s tangy and light Jalapeño aioli, to drizzle over them.  Just place the ingredients into a blender or food processor: mayonnaise, lime juice, Jalapeños, cilantro, salt and pepper…

Crabcake Crabcake 10-thumb-510x342-1059
And there you go, Mexican style crab cakes fit for Emperor Montezuma. I bet you he would have liked them.

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Just as I did…

Print Recipe
4 from 4 votes

Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli

Having eyed the already shaped crab cakes in the refrigerator that morning, I asked him what was in their mix.  Just with the word Habaneros, I knew I was going for those. So yes, I loved the menu we designed. And yes, I think it was a fun and yummy class. But I can tell you, those crab cakes are a pair of Rock Stars. If you are not near DC or can’t go to Ceiba anytime soon, Solis graciously shared the recipe for you to sample at home. I just did as I posted those for you.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time6 mins
Course: Antojos, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: aioli, cilantro, crab, habanero, jalapeno, lime, mayonnaise, pati's mexican table
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the crab cakes:

  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1 habanero chile seeded (optional), chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro chopped
  • 3 teaspoons bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt more or less to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper more or less to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the jalapeño aioli:

  • 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles seeded if desired
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt more or less to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper ground

Instructions

  • Combine the crab meat, habanero chile, cilantro, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, egg and lime juice in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Form 4 to 6 crab cakes, depending on how chubby and big you want them. You can prepare them in advance and keep them refrigerated for up to 2 days.
  • Heat a large skillets set over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter into 1 tablespoon of oil. Once it starts to sizzle, add as many crab cakes as will fit without being crowded. Cook anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  • To prepare the aioli, place all the ingredients in the blender and process until smooth. Drizzle over the crab cakes and if you want, sprinkle the top with freshly chopped cilantro.

Notes

Croquetas de Cangrejo con Aioli de Jalapeño, Adapted from Ceiba's Chef Alfredo Solis

Chilorio for Cinco de Mayo!

Memories from growing up in Mexico City revolve around one celebration or another and mostly center on the foods that just had to be there.  If there was no holiday, anniversary, birthday or special occasion for a formal celebration, then we celebrated the food itself.  Just say the magic words and a get together would spring right up.

Nana made tamales? Fiesta!

Mami made mole? Well, what are you waiting for?

Papi brought real quesadillas potosinas? It is Sunday brunch everyone…

However, as much as I can remember, we didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo. As kids we reviewed it in passing at school, unless you lived in the state of Puebla.  The place, where on a Cinco de Mayo in 1862, a small Mexican militia won an unexpected victory against the large French army.  It was a short-lived victory, as the French won right back.

But fast-forward almost a couple centuries later: the French and Spaniards are gone, Mexicans proudly celebrate Independence Day every September 16th, and for a reason no Mexican can explain, Cinco de Mayo has become the most celebrated, joyous and colorful holiday for Mexicans living abroad.  It even surpasses the noise we make for Independence Day.

But of course! Any cause is worthy of celebration, especially if it has become the most grandiose occasion to rejoice on Mexican-ness throughout the world.  Thus, at home, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo every year, since we moved to the US more than a dozen years ago.

Pati Jinich with her 3 sons
My food of choice tends to be Chilorio, originally a cowboy dish from the state of Sinaloa, in the North of Mexico.  Chilorio has transcended international boundaries and retained its bold personality.  It is so tasty and popular, that it is even sold in cans inside and outside of Mexico.  But the canned version can’t compare to the home made one, which is very simple to prepare.

Made by cooking meat in orange juice until tender and then finished off in a non-spicy ancho chile sauce, it screams out Fiesta in every single bite.  Not only because of the richness of its colors and flavors, but because of how fun it is to assemble.

Just serve it at the table with a side of warm flour tortillas and your guests can roll their own burritas or burras, however skinny or chubby them want them to be.  You can also serve refried beans and Mexican avocado slices or guacamole that can be eaten inside or on the side of the burritas.  At home we tend to go for eating the beans and guacamole on the side, but it’s up to you!

Say the word Chilorio and I can hear my monsters start to shout out: “Mami made Chilorio, come on over!”

And I say: Roll ’em up boys…

chilorio burritas recipe
Print Recipe
4.8 from 5 votes

Chilorio

My food of choice tends to be Chilorio, originally a cowboy dish from the state of Sinaloa, in the North of Mexico.  Chilorio has transcended international boundaries and retained its bold personality.  It is so tasty and popular, that it is even sold in cans inside and outside of Mexico.  But the canned version can’t compare to the home made one, which is very simple to prepare.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho chiles, garlic, onion, orange juice, pati's mexican table, pork, Recipe, tortilla, vinegar
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless pork butt, shoulder or loin (with some fat on!) cut into 2" chunks, or substitute with chicken
  • 1 1/4 cup orange juice preferably freshly squeezed
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 5 (about 55 grams) dried ancho chiles tops and seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 cup of the chile soaking liquid see below
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped white onion
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or more to taste
  • 2/3 cup cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • Flour tortillas warmed, optional

Instructions

  • Place rinsed meat chunks in an extended heavy pot. Barely cover with the orange juice and water, add a teaspoon of salt and set over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, bring the heat down to medium and let is simmer for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked off and the meat is thoroughly cooked and has rendered most of its fat.
  • Meanwhile, remove the stems from the chiles, make a slit down their sides and remove their seeds and veins. Place them in a bowl, cover them with boiling hot water, and let them sit and rehydrate for about 15 minutes. Place the chiles and 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid in the blender along with the onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, cumin, black pepper, vinegar, and puree until smooth.
  • Once the meat is ready, place it in a bowl along with any remaining cooking broth. Once it is cool enough to handle, shred it with your hands or with two forks.
  • In the same pot, heat oil over medium heat. Pour in the chile sauce and let it season and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Toss in the shredded meat along with any of its remaining cooking broth. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and let it cook, stirring often, until the meat has absorbed most of the chile sauce, which will have thickened, seasoned and changed to a darker color. It will take about 20 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if need be.
  • Serve with warmed flour tortillas on the side. If you wish, spoon chilorio on tortillas and roll them into burritas or burras. They are wonderful with refried beans and Mexican avocado or guacamole on the side as well.

Mole Poblano: Yes You Can!

The showcase of last week’s class was one of Mexico’s most famous and delicious moles, the Poblano, which originated in the kitchen of the Convent of Santa Rosa, in Puebla. After seeing how much guests enjoyed it, I can’t wait to share it with you.

I know, the word Mole sounds exciting to eat yet intimidating to prepare. As the root of the word describes, from the náhuatl mulli, Mole is a thick sauce or paste made by grinding ingredients together in a molcajete or communal mill. A food processor works as well. This sauce can be thinned out with broth or water when ready to use.

The Poblano with its long ingredients list and its laborious process, is not the best way to introduce Moles. There are some simple Moles with no more than 4 or 5 ingredients that are easier to prepare and just as tasty.

But here I am! I adore the Poblano and I know you will too…

I tested many ways to find the easiest route to make it without compromising its authenticity and flavor. As long as you prep your ingredients and have them in place before you start throwing them in the pot -what the French call Mise en Place and Mexicans Estate Listo!-, it’s a manageable task that takes about an hour. Trust me. Here we go.

As I list the ingredients, we’ll go through some Mole basics…

Four chiles are typically used: The reddish Ancho (6 o’clock) with bittersweet and fruity flavors; the black Mulato (12 o’clock) with much sweeter, chocolaty and fuller tones; the raisin colored Pasilla (3 o’clock) with a deep, strong and bitter bite; and the tobacco looking Chipotle (9 o’clock) smoky, rich and spicy.

Mole Poblano 1

To be worthy of the name Mole, its not enough to be a sauce. You need chiles in there, but adding a Jalapeño doesn’t make it a Mole. Some chiles work together and some don’t. Some work for certain kinds of moles and some don’t. This group of four, is like the Fantastic Four.

The Mole Poblano has the deep clean flavors from the white onion, a judicious use of the pungent garlic, the refreshing punch from the tomato and the tartness of the tomatillo.

Mole Poblano 2

Moles show a deep intermarriage between the native Mexican cuisine and that brought from Spain. Three centuries of Colonial life deeply influenced our food. That’s the case of the onion, garlic and many of the nuts, fruits and spices added below.

Native peanuts and pumpkin seeds which are present as a thickener and flavoring element in many Mexican dishes, add some Mediterranean almonds, a bunch of sweet raisins…

Mole Poblano 3

Chile seeds tend to be discarded in many Mexican dishes, but not in this Baroque concoction from the late 1600s. Seeds do store most of the heat from chiles but also a ton of their flavor.

They are beautiful too, especially in my grandmother’s bowl which photographs so nicely…

Mole Poblano 4

Other seeds and spices included take a ride through Mexico’s history: Sesame seeds brought by African slaves; anise seeds, cloves, cinnamon and black peppercorns from the Orient routes; allspice from the Caribbean; coriander, thyme and marjoram from the Mediterranean…

Mole Poblano 5

To thicken the Mole and to add an earthy base with a small town flavor, corn tortillas are used. As well as Mexican style bread -bolillos or teleras which are the Mexican adaptation of the French baguette from the times of Maximilian.

Mole Poblano 6

To top the balancing act of this dish, and also because it was created by Sor Andrea de la Asunción, a nun with an incredible sweet tooth, Mexican chocolate is added. Made with toasted cacao, cinnamon, sugar and typically ground almonds, it is sweeter and grainier than regular bittersweet chocolate.

Not that much chocolate is added though, so the idea that the Mole Poblano is a chocolate sauce is a bit exaggerated…

Mole Pobalno 7

Now that we ran through the ingredients, let’s cook it. As we do, you will see that another Mole quality is that ingredients are transformed, and their qualities brought out, before they are pureed together. That helps achieve such a smooth layering of complex flavors.

First add lard, vegetable shortening or oil in your pot. Once hot, saute the chiles until crunchy and browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. They will look something like this…

Mole Poblano 8

In that same pot add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, for about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Mole Poblano 9

Make some room and toss in the almonds, peanuts, raisins and pumpkin seeds, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes more…

Some versions of this mole ask that ingredients be charred, broiled, toasted, sauteed, ground one by one, even with different pots and pans. But you can use the same pot as long as it is heavy, large and extended and as long as you give the ingredients enough time before adding the next batch…

So, make some room again to throw in those beautiful reserved chile seeds… AND…

Mole Poblano 10
…sesame seeds,stemmed cloves, anise seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, ground allspice, thyme and marjoram. Let it all cook for 4 to 5 minutes.

Make some room again, and add the already charred or broiled tomatoes and tomatillos, the sliced tortillas and bread…

Mole Poblano 11

As you add each additional batch of ingredients, give them time to season and brown together. Don’t let any of them burn though…

Go ahead and add the chiles that you already browned, and mix it all up.

Mole Poblano 12

Pour in some rich tasting chicken broth. 

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Once it starts to simmer, drop in the chocolate pieces and stir until they dissolve.

Look at the gorgeous looking mess that we have here below!!!

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Let it all simmer for about 15 minutes. You have quite a diverse group of ingredients in there, so they need a bit of time to get acquainted with each other…

Mole Poblano 15

Turn off the heat and let the mixture stand, so it can make sense of what it will become.

Then, puree in a food processor or blender. Or why not, if you feel like it, take out that molcajete.

Finally, thank Sor Andrea for what you are about to see!!! The tastiest, yummiest…

Mole Poblano 16

Let’s just say: one of my favorite Moles.

Of the many things you can make with this mole such as enchiladas, enmoladas, empanadas, eggs, nopales or potatoes.. there’s of course the traditional: poured over simply boiled chicken or turkey and covered with lightly toasted sesame seeds.

Mole Poblano 17

You can see why I took longer to post this time: I was too busy adding ingredients to the basics section of my blog, just for this recipe!

mole poblano
Print Recipe
4.43 from 7 votes

Mole Poblano

The showcase of last week’s class was one of Mexico’s most famous and delicious moles, the Poblano, which originated in the kitchen of the Convent of Santa Rosa, in Puebla. After seeing how much guests enjoyed it, I can’t wait to share it with you. I know, the word Mole sounds exciting to eat yet intimidating to prepare.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: almonds, ancho chiles, bread, ceylon, Chipotle, cinnamon, corn tortillas, mexican chocolate, Mole, mulato chiles, pasilla, Peanuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, tomatillos
Servings: 24 to 25 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup lard vegetable shortening or vegetable oil
  • 3 ounces chiles anchos about 6 or 7, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 ounces chiles pasillas about 12 or 13, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 ounces chiles mulatos about 6, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/3 ounces dried chipotle chiles about 4, stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 white onion about 1/2 pound, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons raw almonds with skin
  • 3 tablespoons raw shelled peanuts
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup reserved chile seeds
  • 5 whole cloves stemmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 stick true or ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 pound roma tomatoes about 2 , charred or roaste
  • 1/3 pound tomatillos about 2, husked, rinsed, charred/roasted
  • 2 corn tortillas sliced into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 bolillo telera or baguette, about 2 ounces, thickly sliced (if it is a couple days old, better)
  • 6 ounces Mexican style chocolate or bittersweet chocolate
  • 5 cups chicken broth plus 4 more to dilute later on
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds toasted, to sprinkle at the end

Instructions

  • In a large extended casserole dish set over medium high heat, add 1/2 cup lard, oil, or vegetable shortening. Once hot, about 2 minutes later, add the chiles in 2 or 3 batches and saute, stirring often, and being careful not to let them completely burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a mixing bowl as you move along.
  • In the same oil, add chopped onion and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until they soften and release their aroma. Stir in the almonds, peanuts, raisins and pumpkin seeds, and let them cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the sesame seeds, reserved chile seeds, stemmed cloves, anise seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, ground allspice, thyme and marjoram. Stir frequently and let it all cook for 3 to 4 more minutes, stirring often. Make room again, and add the tortilla and bread pieces along with the tomatoes and tomatillos. Let it all cook for a couple minutes.
  • Incorporate the already sauteed chiles and pour in the chicken broth. Stir and once it comes to a simmer, add the chocolate pieces and the salt. Mix well, and let it simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let the mix rest for 1/2 hour, so the chiles can completely soften.
  • In batches, puree the mixture in the blender or food processor until smooth. You can store this mole, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a month, or freeze it for up to a year.
  • When ready to eat, dilute a cup of mole with 1/2 cup chicken broth in a saucepan and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve over cooked chicken or turkey and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds on top.

Notes

Adapted from Sor Andrea de la Asunción from the Santa Rosa Convent

More Chorizo to Love

Right off the bat, you must understand: I heart chorizo. Especially the kind I grew up eating in Mexico. It comes in deep-burnt-reddish links of fresh, moist, exotically seasoned ground meat that, once fried, becomes crisp and filling bites with bold flavors and a thousand uses. My oldest son’s quick choice for breakfast is chorizo fried until it browns and crisps, with a side of white toast.  Add some lightly beaten eggs as the chorizo is starting to brown and some ripe and creamy avocado slices on the side, and that’s my kind of rich-tasting brunch dish. Of course chorizo is delicious in sandwiches, in tacos and quesadillas, on top of enchiladas, in mashed potatoes, as a topping for heartier salads, in some of the tastiest bean dishes I have tried, in pastas with a ton of personality and on pizzas with pickled jalapeño peppers on top.

I am really trying to stop myself here…

When I moved to the United States, more than a dozen years ago, I was thrilled to find chorizo in international grocery stores. Lately, I have been intrigued and surprised to see that my Mexican chorizo is now accompanied by many other kinds in the refrigerated sections of bigger, more mainstream stores: Argentine, Colombian, Guatemala, Salvadoran and Honduran chorizos have arrived. Like the Mexican kind, some of those varieties are being made with chicken, turkey or beef in addition to pork. There is even kosher chorizo, made with beef, at Koshermart in Rockville and vegan chorizo at Trader Joe’s (which I haven’t felt the urge to try). Many come in spicy, spicier, spiciest and hotter than hot.

Through Sunday afternoon asados, or grilling parties, at friends’ houses and trips to Argentina, I had become familiar with the garlicky chorizo Argentinians are so proud of. But I was clueless about the other kinds. So I shocked my regular grocer by buying a variety of links, then cooked them at home to sample the differences, filling my kitchen with chorizo-tinged smoke. Later, on a cold and rainy day in November, I set out to explore the chorizo universe, including local manufacturers, in this part of the Americas.

It was clear from the start that Latin chorizos share a common difference from Spanish ones. Most Latin chorizos are made with heavily spiced, freshly ground meat, and the must be cooked. Spanish chorizos typically are dried and smoked cured links of chopped meat, seasoned mainly with garlic and paprika; they tend to be ready-to-eat and have a salami-like soft and chewy bite.

Although Spaniards introduced the pid and the techniques of making chorizo to most of Latin America, through the centuries chorizos were adapted with local flavors and ingredients. (The Spaniards, for their part, borrowed paprika from those new lads and made it one of their signature chorizo seasonings.) Interestingly, the version that took root in Latin soil was raw and uncured, which is the least-common kind in Spain.

Latin chorizos differ greatly from one another in flavor. Mexican is the spiciest of the lot. It also has the most complex layering of flavors, and I won’t deny that it’s my favorite. Mexican chorizos can have variations as well, but they generally contain dried chili peppers such as ancho, pasilla, guajillo and/or chipotle; a mix of spices that might include oregano, cumin, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, cinnamon, coriander seed, allspice, paprika, achiote and cloves; most times garlic and sometimes onion; and always vinegar, which makes the meat flake or crumble as it browns and gives it a welcome hint of acidity.

If you like really spicy sausage, Chorizo Cabal of Fairfax produces a Mexican one called Perrón, which translates from Mexican-Spanish slang as brave or aggressive. It’s clear as soon as you see the label: A fierce dog looks ready to give you the bite of your life.

For a chorizo that isn’t spicy but has a colorful pungency, the way to go is Salvadoran. That happens to be the favorite of Clifford Logan Jr., vice president of the Logan Sausage Co. in Alexandria. His company sold 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of its Latin-style fresh chorizos in the Washington area last month. Logan is so passionate about chorizos that when asked to describe them, he seemed to be poetically describing bottles of wine: “The Salvadoran,” he began, with a deep romantic sigh and a sudden distant gaze, “has a robust flavor and a subtle finish.”

It seems that around Washington, Mexican and Salvadoran chorizos have been wrestling for bragging rights for a long time. Chorizo Cabal sells more Salvadoran chorizo than Mexican (except in grilling season, when the Argentine chorizo is most popular); Logan Sausage sells twice as much Mexican chorizo as Salvadoran. But the choice has as much to do with flavor and recipes as with the local immigrant population and the popularity of each cuisine. Companies often start to produce chorizos based on where the owner or employees come from; immigrants nostalgic for the flavors of home find a way to replicate their native recipes.

The companies’ Mexican, Honduran and Salvadoran chorizos are made with vinegar, yet the Honduran kind is much more sedate. The Guatemalan, Logan says, is somewhere in between the Salvadoran and Honduran, flavor-wise. Betty Guerrero, who runs Chorizo Cabal, agrees, and revealed to me that a bit of spearmint is added to Cabal’s Guatemalan spice mix. Colombian chorizo is plain and quite salty. The Argentine kind has white wine and a heavy dose of garlic in its mix, as well as oregano, nutmeg and a bit of cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes. It seems to me that Argentine-style chorizo really lets the flavor of the meat shine through. (See “Use this for that,” above.)

Of course, different brands and regions have different variations, which some purists question, especially when borders are crossed. Guerrero says, “My mother tells me that this is not the way chorizo is made in Mexico, that I am changing the ingredients, that I am changing its ways.” But Guerrero, an experienced chorizo maker, says her company sells about 50,000 pounds of chorizo per month.

One thing I have noticed is that chorizos made in the United States have less fat than those I knew and ate in Latin America. Logan and Guerrero confirmed that, saying their chorizos are made with no more than 20 percent fat. Typically, Mexican chorizo contains at least 30 percent fat. Whole Foods Market makes its own chorizo with no more than 15 percent fat, according to company spokeswoman Katie Hunsberger.

Another thing purists might question is why parts of the chorizo-making process are simplified here. For example, chorizo shops in Mexico soak and puree whole dried chili peppers and add fresh garlic and onion. Chorizo makers here, including Cabal and Logan, generally use custom-made prepared spice mixes that come with already-ground chili peppers and dehydrated garlic.

According to these producers, the mixes not only are convenient but also help ensure quality: “Dried garlic imparts flavor and doesn’t turn black as quickly as fresh garlic does,” Clifford Logan says. They also promote consistency. Hunsberger says that Whole Foods works with Barron’s spices to create a spice mix for its house brand.

No wonder chorizo makers are hesitant to share ingredient information. Their recipes are treated as highly classified state secrets that outsourced spice companies are legally forbidden to share. Dealing with such sacred formulas also may explain why many chorizo companies have longstanding and loyal employees.

Or maybe they just heart chorizo, like me.

Article written for and published by The Washington Post click here. 

Cowboy Charro Beans
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Cowboy Charro Beans

Cowboy Charro Beans recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 2 “Foods of the Mexican Revolution”
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bacon, beans, black beans, Chorizo, jalapeno, pati’s mexican table, Peruvian beans, pinto beans, Tomatoes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 6 oz sliced uncooked bacon chopped
  • 8 oz fresh uncooked Mexican chorizo casings removed, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper finely chopped more or less to taste, seeded if desired
  • 1/2 lb roma tomatoes about 2 to 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher or sea salt plus more as needed
  • 5 cups cooked pinto beans and their cooking liquid or substitute with black or Peruvian beans

Instructions

  • Cook the bacon in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is lightly browned and starting to crisp. Add the chopped chorizo; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to brown and crisp. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it into smaller pieces.
  • Add the chopped onion and jalapeño; mix well and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes, letting them soften a bit. Add the tomatoes and mix well; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, s