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Archive for the ‘Mexican’ Category

Ayocotes are big, flat-ish beans (I’ve sometimes called them beans on steroids) that were popular in pre-Hispanic México and during the colonial time, but somehow got out of fashion. You can still find them, though, and luckily for those in the US, Rancho Gordo sells quite a variety of them. To make the ones here, I combined their instructions on the bag, Sara Kate Gillingham‘s idea of adding beer (that I got off an Instagram of hers) and my aunt’s recipe in Puebla, México. Here I’m using the same ones my aunt used for the recipe she gave me, scarlet runner beans.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb Scarlet Runner Beans
  • 1/2 head of garlic, each clove peeled, left whole
  • 1 box of baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 10-15 cilantro sprigs
  • 1 pasilla chile
  • 1tbsp dried epazote
  • 2 bottles Red Stripe beer
  • 10 c water

Prep

At least 6 hours before (or better yet, the night before) soak the beans in cold water. I recommend checking them for stones or little pieces of dirt that sometimes get into the bags of beans. As a child it was my favorite part of helping my dad cook beans: the game of find the pebble in the bag. But I digress.

In a large pot, add the soaked beans, including the soaking water (you’re throwing out flavor otherwise) and add the 10 cups of water. Turn stove to high heat and, when the water is warm but not boiling, add the garlic, cilantro, pasilla, mushrooms, epazote and beer. Bring to a boil. The liquid will foam. Remove it with a spoon (beans are famous for causing gas. According to my aunt, removing this foam is what makes the beans less gass-y).

Lower the heat to low and cook, covered, for about 2 hours or until  the beans are soft. I like my beans on the less-saucy side, so I discarded a lot of the liquid after they were cooked (normally I would save it for a tortilla soup, but not this week). Once you have the desired quantity of liquid, season with salt and pepper to taste.

These beans work wonderfully as a side-dish or added to a quinoa salad. If you try them, let me know what you think!

photo 1 (2)

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* Doña Mari’s Black Mole

Whenever someone asks me what my favorite Mexican dish is, I have a hard time giving an answer. I can, however, name my absolute favorite mole: the mole negro (black mole) de Oaxaca, a mole so complicated I’ve yet to make it. Sadly, the last few times I’ve had it, it has not been very popular with my stomach. Something about it just does not sit right with me. Because I have come to the sad realization that I may not be able to eat it again,  today’s post is not on how to make mole negro de Oaxaca (you can go here to find a recipe I trust), but about a little corner eatery in Mexico City where yesterday I ate the best mole negro I have had.

About 6 blocks off the General Anaya metro station in Mexico City (line 2, for ye curious) sits a small corner eatery called El rincón oaxaqueño (The Oaxacan corner). It sits 14 people max (three four-tops and a douce). Behind the counter, Doña Mari, the owner, her daughter and an assistant, serve all kids of Oaxacan delicacies. On one side, another lady makes quesadillas with freshly-made tortillas and Albino, the waiter, juggles the rest. The big titles in the menu are the tlayudas, the big, flat tortillas and their toppings, cecina (a salty thin steak) and, of course, mole negro.

Like any good fonda (food stand/boarding house) owner, Doña Mari treats her loyal customers like family. My cousin Lorena dines there frequently, so as soon as we sat down, Doña Mari came to greet us and to inquire who I was. Once it was established that I was the favorite cousin, forget it, I was in. Also in full care-taker mode, Doña Mari would not take “no” for an answer when told her I wasn’t planning on having soup before my main meal. How? Why don’t you want any? It’s lunch time! You should have a little! Of course I ended up saying yes. After my chicken and vegetables soup (which I accompanied with some of those freshly made tortillas) came my mole negro, in the form of enchiladas. Three tortillas, quickly dipped in oil, wrapping shredded chicken and topped with a sea of mole negro, cream and onion slivers. With a side of white rice.

I cannot begin to tell you what that mole was. A creamy consistency that came not from the heavy cream topping but from the layer upon layer of ingredients blended together. You could taste the smokiness and kick (without it being overbearing) of the roasted peppers, the hint of chocolate and the spices, the sweetness of the banana. Lorena, who had ordered a plate of chilaquiles, asked to have “a bit” of the mole. She ended up stealing much more.

Doña Mari checked on us twice, and we talked about kids (we were sitting with my niece) and about the difficulty of having a shop in this economy, of the hectic days and of the slow ones, such as yesterday, where the rain kept people away.

Places like Doña Mari’s are exactly the places where I love to eat most. Yes, fancy restaurants are great and molecular gastronomy has its beauty, but mom and pop restaurants, where someone is cooking like their grandma was cooking ages ago, and where the tortilla is made fresh in front of you, are my most beloved treasures. The mole negro de Oaxaca seems to not return my deep love, so I may not be able to eat it again (or perhaps not in a full-fledged dish). Yet, if this mole negro was the last one for me, I am happy that it was the best I’ve ever had and that it was in a place that was as humble and warm as a good home.

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As I’ve stated in other posts, it’s very hard for me to pick only ONE favorite Mexican dish. Today’s entry, however, is comfortably settled in the top five and could very well vie for the second spot (nothing will ever make Chilaquiles fall from no. 1).

Chicharrón (fried pork rind) is eaten in my house as a pre-lunch snack or in a chile sauce. While,as far as I know you can make any chile sauce you want, the most common flavor is salsa verde. Yet, for me, the version with chile morita (a small, smoked red jalapeño, similar to the chipotle) is the winner. The recipe below belongs to Chayo, who has been cooking for my family for 29 years and who learned from my grandma. She spoils me when I come visit, and on Friday was kind enough to make this dish for me and teach me so I can replicate it when I’m far away.

CHICHARRÓN EN SALSA DE CHILE MORITA

Yield: 4-6 persons.

Cooking time: One hour total, 30 mins. of active time.

Ingredients:

  • Five medium tomatoes

  • Two garlic cloves
  • About 1/4 of an onion, plus a few extra slices
  • 1/4 kg (about 1/2 lb) pork rinds, broken up in small pieces
  • 3-5 morita chiles
  • About a cup of warm water (for softening the chiles)
  • 1/2 a cube of chicken bullion
  • Another two cups of water
  • Salt
  • Oil

  • 20110731-092446.jpg

    Prep:

    On a comal, if you have it, or a skillet (on the surface as-is, do not add any oil or anything), roast the tomatoes until they are charred and black on most of their surface (they will soften as they cook). Roast also the garlic cloves, the onion quarter and the chiles (three if you are shy about the heat, more of you’re not). The chiles will roast fast, remove them quickly, as they will burn and become bitter. Place then in the cup of warm water to soften. Let them soak for about 5 minutes. In a blender, combine the peppers, soaking liquid, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Blend well.

    Warm about one tablespoon oil in a pot. Add the extra slices of onion and the blended chile/tomato mix. Add the chicken bullion, two cups of water and salt to taste. Lower the temperature to medium and let the sauce cook for about 10-15 mins until it thickens a bit (if it gets to covering a spoon well, it’s dried too much and you’ll need to add more water). Add the pork rind, mix and continue cooking for another 15 mins. Add more water if it gets to be too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning before you serve.

    Serve with warm tortillas and black beans if you like.

    20110731-092528.jpg

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    Here’s a recipe in honor of my favorite vegetable (although technically it’s a fruit, but since it’s green…), the soft, buttery and ever-so-delicious Avocado.

    Oh, and to those who tell you it’s a “fatty” meal and “too many calories”… Well, yes, it has calories, but the fats are good for you.

    MOUSSE DE AGUACATE

    Yield: 6 servings as a side-dish, 10-12 as a dip/appetizer with toasted bread or chips

    Ingredients

    • 3/4 c cold chicken broth (or veggie, if you lean that way)
    • 1 c sour cream
    • 2 large, ripe avocados
    • about 8 cilantro sprigs
    • 2 tablespoons lime juice
    • 1 small shallot
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Prep:

    • Mash the avocados with a fork in a medium-sized bowl.
    • Chop the shallot in small cubes. Also chop the cilantro leaves. Discard the stems.
    • Mix the avocados, sour cream, shallots, cilantro and lime juice. Blend well.
    • In a small pot, mix the broth and the gelatin to dissolve the latter. Cook under medium heat until all the gelatin has dissolved. Do not let it  boil.
    • Slowly add the gelatin mix to the avocado mix and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    • Check for flavor consistency. You may want to add more lime (but not too much! remember there’s sour cream in there and you don’t want it to curdle!)
    • Pour avocado mix in a lightly oiled mousse pan and refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours.
    • To serve, invert mold onto a plate and softly pat on it to release the mousse. To help in this process, you may want to place the mold on a shallow pan with some warm water (filled side up). Leave the mold in the warm water for about 3-4 minutes and then invert. This should help release the mousse.
    • Or, if your mold is not helping and you’re not into the shape of the mousse, spoon it out. 🙂

    The finished product (sorry the photo is not that great, I used my phone to take it)

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    Mole de Morelos

    Every day the Mexico kitchen at the Folklife Festival had about seven demonstrations. On a couple of days, the schedule featured three different mole recipes, and I would hear passers-by wonder why there were three demos on one item. Wasn’t it all the same? That’s when I would invite them to stay and watch the demo, and I’d tell them that there are at least 34 types of moles that I know of, and that they are as varied as the regions in which they are cooked.

    Molli, or mulli, from which our modern-day word “mole” comes from, is a nahuatl word meaning “a sauce or stew. A sauce made with nuts and spices” (my translation from the Spanish edition of the Diccionario de la Lengua Nahuatl, Siglo XXI Editores, 1977) and it has been in the Mexican culinary repertoire since before the conquest.  Bernardino de Sahagún, the Spanish missionary and chronicler details in his Historia General de las Cosas de la Nueva España, that after a wedding ceremony the couple would feast on tamales and mulli, which they would feed to each other. To this day, mole is a meal of celebration. Birthdays, baptisms, weddings and the like are a reason to eat mole. It was traditionally served with turkey, a bird indigenous to the region, but it is most commonly eaten with chicken nowadays and as a topping for tamales.

    The public who came to the Mexico Program demos at the Folklife Festival discovered that there are several colors of moles: green, red and black, for example. That different chiles are used, depending on the region, that mole is not a vegetarian dish, as all the recipes eventually called for chicken stock (when asked for substitutions the participants adamantly said no, you need chicken stock, it adds to the flavor). Attendees came to find out that mole is a laborious endeavor, one that involves several hours of work, from toasting the ingredients, to milling them, to making them into the sauce. Finally, they also discovered that while chocolate is present in most recipes, it is not the main ingredient, and depending on the region, different types of chocolate are used.

    However, it wasn’t just the public that discovered the different types of moles we were cooking in the demo kitchen. The Festival participants themselves were discovering and tasting each other’s moles, prompting the different groups to criticize and analyze each other’s recipes. Too often someone would come in, taste a mole that had just been made, and deem it “too bitter” and in need of more chocolate. Others would shake their heads at the fact that the chocolate used for a certain recipe was bitter, and not sweetened with sugar and cinnamon. Others would just glance at a cazuela (the traditional clay pot used to make moles and beans) and discard the mole as “probably not good, as it doesn’t have the right color”. Yet they would eventually taste it and be genuinely intrigued by the differences. And while not all of them walked out of the kitchen thinking that this mole was -if not just as good- all right compared to their mole, it was at least an experience of discovery, in which people of one region of México learned about another’s cooking traditions.

    One of the first mole recipes to be presented was one from Morelos, and it came courtesy of Alma Reyes and Karem Rodríguez, from Atlatlahucan, Morelos, México.

    INGREDIENTS

    Yield: 10 servings

    • 500 gr toasted sesame seeds (or if fresh, you will need to toast them)
    • 250gr Chile ancho
    • 250 gr Chile pasilla
    • 250gr de peanuts, unsalted
    • 500gr plantain
    • 250 gr walnuts
    • 125 gr almonds
    • 125 gr raisins
    • 10 cloves
    • 10 peppercorns
    • 10 anise seeds
    • 10 gr cinnamon
    • 6 slices of toasted bread
    • 1 1/2 corn tortilla
    • 1 square of dark chocolate (about 1 oz)
    • 2 whole chickens, which you will cook in water to make broth
    • one onion, divided in half
    • two heads garlic
    • about 6 cups of the broth in which you cooked the chicken (this quantity varies, as you need to taste as you go to make sure your mole is not too strong)
    • Oil
    • Salt

    PREPARATION

    • On a skillet, or if you have it, a comal, roast the sesame seeds until they are lightly browned. Don’t let them burn. Remove from skillet and let them cool.
    • Under moderate flame, heat up the oil in a skillet or low pan and, starting with the chiles fry them until each lightly browned. Remove from heat and allow it to cool. Repeat this procedure with each ingredient through the tortilla. Do not fry the ingredients together.
    • While the mole ingredients cool, cook the chicken with half the onion, garlic and salt to make a broth.  Once cooked, remove the chicken and allow to cool slightly.
    • Once the mole ingredients are cool, using a metate (stone grind), or a hand mill, grind all the ingredients until they form a moist powder (the texture may also be that of a paste).  If you have neither one, a blender can be used, though it’s not recommended.
    • Bring a heavy pot to heat and add two spoons oil. Under medium heat,  add the mole powder and mix well with the oil. Add the chicken broth and stir until mixed well. You  may need to add more broth to the mixture so it does not taste too strong. Bring mole to boil and reduce heat. Add the chocolate. Allow mole to boil softly until it becomes thick and you can see a layer of oil forming on top of it. Mole can be fidgety, boil fast and burn fast also. Monitor the boil so it is soft.
    • Take the second half of the onion, slice it julienne and fry it in a bit of oil. Once it’s golden and soft, add the chicken pieces so they brown golden and they pick up the flavor of the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes
    • Once the mole gets to the desired thickness and the chicken is fried, they are ready to be served.
    • Serve the chicken pieces with the mole sauce on top and decorate them with sesame seeds.
    • Accompany with tamales, rice, tortillas or bread.

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    They say that love begins when you first look at the object of your desire. Thus was it with me and this meal. Upon flipping through June’s issue of Bon Appétit Magazine, I came upon the picture of Grilled Leg of Lamb with Ancho Chile Marinade. To die for. Of course I decided to make it. But, since we know that lamb (though I love it), is not always that good for my IBS stomach, I decided to substitute it with beef. I also made a couple of tweaks, like not  using chile ancho powder, but rather  dried ancho chiles that I had at home. The link above goes to the original recipe. Below, find my version and serving suggestion (which follows my Mexican heart, as I feel this dish is a blend of the two cuisines).

    FLANK STEAK WITH CHILE ANCHO MARINADE

    Serves 3-4, depending on how hungry you are.

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 4 teaspoons dried oregano leaves, divided
    • 1 to 1 and a half dried chiles anchos, stem removed, sliced lengthwise and soaked in warm water for about 1 hour
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 2 green onions, divided
    • 1 tablespoon (packed) dark brown sugar
    • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    • 1.25 lb flank beef steak
    • 9-12 corn tortillas
    • dried parsley, for garnish

    Prep

    • Combine wine, oil, garlic, 3 teaspoons oregano, ancho chile strips and the water it soaked on, lemon juice, 1 green onion, sugar, salt, and pepper in blender or food processor. Blend mixture until smooth. Transfer marinade to glass dish or Tupperware, add steak and coat well. Refrigerate.
    • If you have a barbeque grill, I would assume you follow the directions on the original recipe. Since I don’t have a grill (apartment life, what can I say), I cooked it on the stove, pan frying it like a regular carne asada (you could also use a cast-iron grill on the stove). Cook the meat for about 4-5 minutes total over high heat, and this rendered a medium-well done steak.
    • Let the meat stand for about 8 minutes. Slice it, and top with the remainder green onion and parsley. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.

    Notes/Serving suggestions:

    I ate the steak with warm corn tortillas (after all, chile ancho for me immediately brings thoughts of Mexico, and with it, warm tortillas in a meal). I did follow Bon Appétit’s idea of serving it with tzatziki, and though I felt it kind of drowned the marinade flavor  (I think it’s because the steak flavor is not as strong as lamb’s and thus it does not hold up as well to the tzatziki) I loved it. It came out delish and made my friends on Facebook be jealous when I said I was eating it. 🙂

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    I don’t know that I can necessarily pick my “favorite” Mexican meal (I claim a separation by mealtimes, so there is no one winner) but chilaquiles are certainly high on the list and specially for Sunday brunches. I like their versatility (veggie? with chicken? with green sauce? red sauce?) and the fact that they make me feel at home. I guess you could call them one of my comfort foods and I’ve been wanting to post this recipe for weeks. Last Saturday, after cooking them for a friend, I decided it was their time to shine on the blog, but with all that’s been going on, it’s taken me a week to post this.

    While I usually make mine in a chipotle sauce (I’m a sucker for the smokiness, what can I say), this recipe uses the classic salsa verde.

    CHILAQUILES VERDES

    Yield: 4-5 servings

    Ingredients

    for the salsa:

    • 1/2 lb tomatillos (green tomatoes)
    • 4 chiles de árbol (I use dried because those are the ones I can find here)
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • 1/2 garlic clove
    • about 6 cilantro sprigs, chopped
    • 1 c chicken stock (substitute for vegetable if you are making veggie version of chilaquiles)
    • salt
    • 1/2 tbsp oil

    for the chilaquiles:

    • 8 tortillas, sliced in strips or cut up in triangles and dried* (see note below)
    • 1/3 c oil
    • 1 c chicken breast, shredded (usually cooked to make the broth used in this dish)
    • 1/2 c chicken broth
    • 1/4 c Mexican cream (or, sour cream, thinned a bit so it’s more liquid)
    • 1 1/2 c salsa verde
    • 1/4 c queso fresco
    • 2 thin slices of onions, broken into rings

    Prep

    Salsa:

    • Cook the tomatillos in boiling water for 10-15 mins until they change color (you will see them turn pale green) and are tender. Drain and peel them.
    • In a blender, combine tomatillos, peppers, garlic, cilantro and onions. Don’t add water. Blend until smooth, but don’t overdo it (retain a little texture).
    • Heat up the oil in a medium-sized pot and add the tomatillo blend. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until it becomes darker. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium. Let sauce simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

    Chilaquiles

    • Heat up the oil in a large pan. To know when your oil is ready,  drop a small wedge of onion to it and if it sizzles, you’re in business.
    • Fry the tortilla triangles in batches, until they are lightly golden (remember that they will continue to cook with the heat of the oil once you remove them, so you don’t want them to be too brown) and set them on paper towels to absorb the oil.
    • Once you’ve fried all the tortillas, discard any leftover oil. Lower the heat to medium, return the tortillas to the pan, add the chicken, broth and salsa. Mix well until all tortilla chips are coated, and cook for about 4 minutes, until tortillas are soft, but not mushy.
    • Serve immediately, garnished with the cream, queso fresco and onion rings as toppings (in the picture below I used chopped onion, as I had some leftover). I usually accompany brunch chilaquiles with black beans and some guacamole.

    NOTES

    * The night before you plan to make these, lay out the tortillas so they dry up. Frying up a fresh tortilla doesn’t work, as it will absorb the oil and not be crunchy. In a pinch, if you don’t have dry tortillas, slice fresh ones and stick them in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes to dry them.

    * The key with this dish is keeping the simmering time short, otherwise the tortillas will get mushy and the dish will lose its texture.

    *  You may do the long-haul work before hand. Make the salsa, shred the chicken and fry the tortillas ahead of time, so you can go straight to mixing right before meal time.

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