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.
Tamarind, also called Indian date, is the pod of a tropical tree that is said to have originated in Asia and North Africa. It was brought to Mexico sometime in the 1500′s in the galleons that came from Asia, manged by the Spaniards, that landed in the gorgeous beaches of Acapulco. Now somewhat touristy…
Tamarind tastes a bit sour, acidic and sweet at the same time. Its flavor has a lot of depth and an earthy feel to it too. Through the years it grew strong roots in Mexican land, where the large trees are loved for their heavy shade, and the pods for their multiple uses in Mexico’s kitchens. From candies and snacks, to drinks and desserts, as well as moles, sauces of different kinds.
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Continue reading Empanadas of the “Immaculate Conception”
I am crazy for Tepache. Gently sweet, with an innocent hint of home brewed alcohol, a deep freshness and a gorgeous amber color.
Tepache: A home made fermented drink that comes from the state of Jalisco – also breeding ground of other Mexican symbols like Tequila, Charros and Mariachis. Tepache has a base of fresh pineapple, true cinnamon, piloncillo and water and has been drank in Mexico since Pre-Colonial times.
I have made it many times throughout my life.
First, when Daniel and I moved to Texas, to celebrate our finding piloncillo at a U.S. grocery store. Later, when we moved to DC, to soothe the heat of that first long summer and to make our new home, feel like home. A couple years ago, I brewed liters to share with a large crowd for a class I taught on foods from Jalisco.
Then, I forgot about it. Until this summer, when we moved, the heat started pumping up and I unpacked my old clay pot from Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. A pot that is perfect for brewing Tepache, which is so simple to make. That is, if you can keep an eye on it.
Continue reading Crazy for Tepache
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…
Continue reading Chicken Tinga for Today (Show) and Everyday!
Each time I go back to Mexico City, even before the plane lands, I know there are some formal plans that can never, ever, be messed around with. They are all with my father and they all involve eating in the same places. Each single time.
One of the places is El Bajío. If you know my father, you know he doesn’t let me order. You also know that he knows the Restaurant manager, waiters, bar servers and valet parking attendants by name. And they all know him too.
Continue reading Bossed Around at El Bajío: Plantain Quesadillas
Oaxaca cheese is a mild tasting, gently salty, stringy white cheese with a deliciously chewy, full and filling bite. It is made in the same way as Mozzarella cheese. In fact, they taste very similar! Once the curds are formed, they are heated in water, stirred, and heated in water again. Throughout the process, as they are heated and stirred, they are made into very long threads that are pulled once and then again, until the desired consistency is achieved. Then the long threads are wrapped into balls.
In Mexico, and recently in some places abroad as well, you can find freshly made Oaxaca cheese, as it is usually found in small town and open air markets. You can also find commercially processed Oaxaca cheese in grocery stores, but the flavor and consistency changes considerably from the fresh ones.
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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.
Continue reading Tequila, Mexican Cream and Chipotle Shrimp
Squash blossoms are considered a true delicacy in Mexican cuisine. Available in rainy months, they fly out of the markets as soon as they are set on the floor mats and stands.
No wonder they are such a hot selling ingredient: They are gorgeous looking, with orange and green Fall colors, a velvety texture, a meaty and crunchy bite and a delicate and exuberant flavor.
Since they are also commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, aside from finding them in the US in Latin markets, one can find them at Italian grocery stores. But one can also find them during the summer season in some grocery stores and Farmer’s markets.
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The last time I was at the Mexico City Chapultepec Fair was 20 years ago, with my high school friends. Going back last weekend with my own growing monsters, confirmed that it is not an ordinary Fair experience, ever, regardless of one’s age.
Yes, you find the balloons, with a mix of Mexican and American characters, right at the main entrance.
Continue reading Quesadillas at the Mexico City Fair