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December 18, 2009
pollo pibil

Last December, Daniel and I went to Yucatán. I was swept off my feet by the grandiose nature and history of the old Haciendas, but mostly by the uniqueness of the cuisine. It stands out from the rest of the country; with its aromatic, pungent, citrus flavors, charred and toasted ingredients and elements not found anywhere else.

Since at the Institute we established topics for the 2009 program in January and I left Yucatán as a December closing session, by the time class came around I was desperate to share these flavors. What a tortuous self imposed wait!

Of course Pollo Pibil had to be included, as it is one of the most loved dishes of the area. The rest of the menu was built around: Dzotobi-chay tamales, avocado soup, strained beans, a yellow rice, and old fashioned flan for dessert.

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Pollo Pibil

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December 18, 2009
Achiote 1-thumb-510x342-566

Achiote or Annatto seeds is a spice that grows heavily in the Yucatán area and is unique and native to this area. The seeds come from the Annatto tree, which grows beautiful pink flowers that produce a prickly pod which has dozens and dozens of these seeds inside.

The seeds have a beautiful brown, brick, reddish warm and appealing color. The Mayas used the seeds since Pre-Hispanic times to color their skin, garments, art and they also mixed them with their chocolate drink as a symbol of blood, given the color, in their rites. The seeds provide a strong, pungent and sort of permanent flavor to the dishes they are used in.



December 16, 2009
Achiote Paste-thumb-510x342-651

The achiote paste or recado rojo, is one of the main seasonings of the Yucatecan cuisine. Although it is mainly known for its use as the base of a marinade in the Pibil style dishes, it is used in many other ways.

This paste is made of achiote seeds, charred garlic, toasted herbs and spices such as oregano, cloves, cumin, black peppercorns, allspice, coriander seeds, salt and bitter orange or its substitute, which is a mix of citrus juices and/or vinegar.

Continue reading Achiote Paste or Recado Rojo


December 16, 2009
Banana.JPG

Incredibly long leaves from the banana tree, the banana leaves have a beautiful deep green color and a strong fragrant smell. They are often used in Mexican cooking to wrap and cook many kinds of foods including tamales, meats, fish and poultry. They are both malleable and strong. Cooking in them not only concentrates the flavors of the wrapped ingredients but it also infuses them with a grassy, intensely aromatic and fresh feel.

Banana leaves used to be hard to find in the US when I moved here more than a dozen years ago.

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Banana Leaves

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December 11, 2009
Salami de Chocolate

Come December, everyone seems to be thinking about end of the year traditional tasty treats. Though in my family we used to eat them all year round; chocolate salami came to mind, as it is such a funny, creative and addicting nibble. It works great to bring along to friends (it will make them laugh, you will see…), as well as to keep some at home for an anytime sweet bite, since they keep in the freezer for months.

Growing up, my sisters and I used to make batches in minutes. We also managed to eat so much of the chunky, crunchy, funky, gooey batter in the seconds it took to transfer the mix to the wrapping papers set on the table. We would get all messy as we helped my oldest sister give the dough their salami shapes. Then, it was so hard to wait, until the chocolate salamis were frozen and hard enough to slice.

My oldest sister, Karen, told me the recipe came from a Women Community-Cooperative cookbook called Tu y Yo Cocinando (You and I Cooking) which was popular in Mexico City around the 70′s. That book was one of those fabulous gems, where participants pitched in their tried and true favorite recipes.

Continue reading Salami de Chocolate (with Coffee Liqueur made with Tequila)


December 4, 2009
refried beans

In this post, I have invited Cristina Potters to be a guest and share one of her favorite recipes. Cristina is the author of Mexico Cooks!, a culinary and cultural website about all things Mexico. She is also known for giving outstanding tours. 

A Chicago native who arrived in Mexico in 1981, she was first a social worker in Tijuana.  Now, after 30 years, she is a permanent fixture in Morelia, Michoacan.  She learned the cuisines of the central highlands of Mexico from the Mayoras (Michoacan home cooks). Now, without further ado, here is Cristina…

I’d like to offer my personal recipes for frijoles refritos and frijoles de la olla. The following recipe for refried beans is not only simple and delicious; it converts people who turn up their noses at ordinary refried beans into folks who insist on another helping!

Continue reading Guest: Cristina Potters’ Refried Beans


November 27, 2009
coconut flan

I do love the change of seasons in the Eastern United States. The fall leaves change to different shades and make fluffy mountains where the boys jump a thousand times in a single day. I also like the smell of winter winds waiting around the corner as our home heating starts to warm up. And I have so much fun getting all of us coats and hats and gloves, something I never did growing up.

But I do miss my piece of beachside coconut flan. The one I used to have in Acapulco, many Decembers ago, growing up. My favorite was from Pipo’s, a restaurant in “la Costera”, an old neighborhood along the beach. It has a creamy and smooth layer on top that blends into a bottom layer of softened and nicely chewy coconut. I have tried a couple versions and the best one is also the simplest one.

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November 18, 2009
CAP_piloncillo.jpg

Piloncillo is the rawest form of sugar cane. The same thing as cane juice but in a solid form. It typically comes in a block, with the shape of a cone, square or round.

It can be substituted for brown sugar. However, the flavor of piloncillo is more rustic. Reminds me of foods eaten in small villages or pueblos, it is homey. It adds that extra “something”, be it depth, color, aroma, that is hard to define but amazing to taste.

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Piloncillo

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November 18, 2009
sweet potatoes with orange piloncillo syrup

Our friends Tamara and Sean are crazy foodies and fans of the richness and versatility of chilies. So after receiving the invitation to join them next week for their Thanksgiving feast, I started playing with options on what to bring; with chilies of course.

This is one of the things I came up with and can’t wait for them to try:  creamy and soft sweet potatoes bathed in a buttery orange-piloncillo syrup sprinkled, with toasted chile de arbol. How good are they? That fork in the picture I just shot accounts for my third consecutive serving today. How easy are they to make? Read below…

Continue reading Sweet potatoes with orange-piloncillo syrup and chile de árbol


November 17, 2009
Chile de Arbol-thumb-510x342-757

Chile de árbol is a very spicy, yet incredibly flavorful dried chile. It is small, but elongated and thin. It has a deep and shinny orange-red color and it is used in many, many ways. It is often crushed for very spicy table salsas, though it is also used to add flavor and a bit of heat if not opened when cooking, amongst others.

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Chile de árbol

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