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…
Continue reading Mole Poblano: Yes You Can!
The Mulato chile has similar looks to the Ancho chile but instead of a reddish black skin it has a dark black skin. You can tell the difference much better against the light! The Mulato chile also has a sweeter, fuller and more chocolaty flavor than the Ancho. No doubt they are different as they come from different chiles.
The Ancho chile comes from the dried regular Poblano chile. The Mulato chile comes from a variation of the Chile Poblano that has slightly different genes with a darker color and fuller flavor. It is hard to find the latter Poblano chile variation, as the growers prefer to dry them since they can sell them at a higher price at the markets.
Continue reading Mulato Chile
The Chipotle chile is the Jalapeño chile, that has been ripened, dried and smoked. Its name comes from the náhuatl Chilli or Chile, and Poctli or smoke.
The process of drying and smoking Jalapeños has existed for centuries, even before the Spaniards arrived. It was considered a way to preserve chiles for long periods of time and also bring out their interesting qualities.
There are different kinds of Chipotle chiles, all of which are spicy, smoky and rich.
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This cake is a treat. What’s more, being flourless, it is perfect for both gluten free eaters and the coming Passover week.
As a fan of marzipan this cake feels like a fluffy, smooth, tasty piece of marzipan that has turned into a cake to become a bigger, lighter and longer lasting version of itself. It can be served as a dessert, with some whipped cream on top. If you are lucky to have some leftover, it makes for a decadent breakfast with a side of berries and some hot coffee or tea.
The recipe comes from the Mexican convent of San Jerónimo, where Mexico’s most famous nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was settled. It dates to the late 1600’s. Spanish nuns who came to help establish the different convents, had an indomitable sweet tooth, which paired with Mexico’s exotic ingredients, made for some of the country’s dearest and sweetest desserts. Centuries later, these desserts are staples in Mexico’s kitchens.
Continue reading Flourless Almond and Porto Cake
Chayote, also called chayote squash (it is from the squash family), choko, vegetable pear, mirliton and christophene, is a beautiful pear like shaped vegetable. Ironically, it has a texture similar to a pear that isn’t ripe, but less grainy. Yet the chayotes isn’t wholly sweet, it just has a sweet hint, barely a whisper, really. Its flavor is more neutral, like a cross between a pear and a cucumber… and zucchini. Well, you just have to give them a try.
Crispy, watery, very low-fat, with a clean and wholesome feel, chayote can be used many ways. Most typically in soups, as a warm vegetable side, a cold salad or very popularly stuffed either with a sweet or savory spin. They are most times cooked and best al dente, unless eaten stuffed.
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Cilantro is also known by many names like culantro, coriander and even Chinese parsley. Although it didn’t originate in Mexico, it has grown such strong roots in its cuisine, to the point that its hard to think about Mexican cooking without it.
It has delicate, paper thin leaves and tender stems. Its deep green color tends to be shinny too.
It is used for countless foods including being a key ingredients of many salsas, guacamoles and pico de gallo. It is used to flavor beans, rice, salads, stews amongst some dishes. It is even placed frequently on the table in a bowl, just as an optional garnish for tacos, antojos and soups. In the last couple decades it has even become quite popular for smoothies and juices.
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Though I am no painter, this I know to be true:
Throw in four primary colors onto a painting palette and mix randomly. Whatever combination you come up with, there will be a Mexican rice that catches the spirit of those tones.
Red rice, cooked in a rich base of tomato puree, onion and garlic, and sometimes chopped vegetables. Depending on the cook and the style, sometimes red rice may end up a bit on the orange side. Green rice, either based on Poblano chile, cilantro, parsley or a combination of those, giving a beautiful range of flavors along those grassy lines. Black rice, seasoned with cooking broth from beans in the pot. White rice, the classic yet flavorful Mexican take that can be an unpretentious yet comforting side to almost anything. And we are not even getting started.
What many people don’t know is that Mexico also has its versions of Yellow rice.
Continue reading Old World and New World: Yellow Rice
Saffron native to Asia, was brought to Mexico by the Spaniards, who in turn learned how to use it from the Arabs. Once in Mexico, it took strong roots especially in the Yucatan Peninsula and the South East regions.
However, since it is very expensive, there are seasonings that have been developed trying to approximate its flavor. Also, achiote seeds have been used instead, given how cheap they are, and how similar to saffron their strong taste and deep infusing color is.
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Story goes, that for centuries, a woman could find a mate in many Mexican regions if she was able to make a good and considerable amount of foam when making hot chocolate. Otherwise, suitors would not turn their heads to her direction regardless of any other virtue. What’s more, it was the mother of the groom to be, who judged how good the foam was.
Thankfully, my mother in law (who loves to dip Conchas into hot chocolate) didn’t abide by that tradition or I wouldn’t have gotten married. When I met my husband, the best I could whip up were some decent scrambled eggs and an extremely sweet limeade. Forget about a worthy, frothy, delicate, silky foam to top a rich tasting chocolate.
But it turns out that producing an admirable chocolate foam may be a sign of things to come: it may show how hardworking, dedicated, focused, energetic and skilled a person can be. Not only do you have to break a sweat, but also develop an effective technique and then there is also the matter of style…
Continue reading Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days: Mexican Hot Chocolate
Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk’s Cake, is one of the most, if not the most popular and sold cake throughout Mexico. It is also amongst the most requested recipes I have been asked for after Pickled Jalapeños and Piggie cookies. So dear readers, I am sorry it has taken this long but here it goes! I promise to get to the other requests, which I love getting on your emails, as soon as possible.
Tres Leches is a sweet, practically wet, homey cake. Its base is a vanilla sponge cake, completely soaked in a sauce traditionally made with three kinds of milk: La Lechera sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and regular milk. Some versions substitute regular milk with heavy cream. The cake will sometimes have a topping like fresh whipped cream, which I seriously consider of utmost necessity. Sometimes the topping turns out to be meringue or even chocolate ganache.
Growing up in Mexico City, there was a bakery called La Gran Via, which sold such delicious Tres Leches that even though it was far from home, we used to drive many Sundays to get one. These days La Gran Via has become a large chain store of bakeries… it has been years since I have eaten one of their cakes. This recipe, is as close as I get to my nostalgic memories.
Continue reading Tres Leches Cake