Pati's Mexican Table
2 cups long- or extra-long-grain white rice or jasmine rice
1 pound ripe tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup roughly chopped white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or enough to make 4 cups total liquid including the strained tomato puree, see step 2 below
2 sprigs fresh parsley
3/4 cup peeled and diced carrots (optional)
1/2 cup shelled green peas, fresh or frozen (optional)
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen (optional)
1 whole jalapeño or serrano chile (optional)
6 to 8 head-on prawns
Half a lime (optional)
Place rice in a bowl, cover with hot water, and soak for about 5 minutes. Strain and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear; drain well. If you don’t have time to soak and drain the rice, you can skip this step…
In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes along with the onion, garlic and salt until thoroughly smooth. Pass through a strainer into a measuring cup and reserve. In another measuring cup, add enough chicken broth to make altogether 4 cups of liquid, but keep the 2 measuring cups separate.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or casserole, over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the drained rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice becomes milky white and feels heavy in the pan as you stir, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour in the strained tomato puree, mix gently and cook until the color of the puree darkens, thickens, and is mostly absorbed, about 3 to 4 more minutes. Stir in the pre-measured chicken broth and add the parsley, carrots, peas, corn and whole chile, if using.
Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat, add the prawns, squeeze the juice of half a lime all over if using, cover, and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, yet there is still some moisture in the pan. The rice should be cooked and tender; if not, but the liquid is totally absorbed, add a couple tablespoons of water, cover again, and continue to cook for a couple more minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the rice rest, covered, for at least 5 minutes before you fluff with a fork and serve.
© 2010-2014 MEXICAN TABLE, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
2 pounds flank steak, cut into 3- to 4-inch chunks
2 bay leaves
Half of a white onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
10 black peppercorns (optional)
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, or to taste
1/3 cup coarsely chopped white onion
1 cup cilantro leaves and top part of stems
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or more to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound baby red potatoes (if they are not so small, halved or quartered to be bite size)
Place meat in a soup pot or large, heavy pot along with the bay leaves, half an onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and black peppercorns. Cover with water up to 2 inches above top of the meat. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 50 minutes to an hour, until the meat is thoroughly cooked and soft. Strain, reserving 3 cups of the meat cooking liquid. Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, shred it into pieces.
Place the tomatillos, 1 garlic clove and chiles in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until the tomatillos have changed their color from bright green to pale green and are soft and thoroughly cooked but not coming apart, about 10 minutes. Drain and place in a blender or food processor, adding only one chile to begin. Add the onion, cilantro and salt to the blender and puree until smooth. Taste for heat, adding more chile until you have the desired amount of heat.
Heat the oil in a large casserole pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, pour the salsa into the pan, along with the potatoes and cook, partially covered, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 to 6 minutes. Toss in the shredded meat and pour in 2 cups of the meat cooking liquid. Stir and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely cooked through and soft and the stew has thickened considerably. Add more cooking liquid if the sauce is thickening too much.
Serve with a side of warm corn tortillas.
© 2010-2014 MEXICAN TABLE, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Pati travels to Mexico City to reconnect with her father and help him cook one of her favorite childhood meals: Huevos a la Mexicana. Back in her own kitchen, she’ll use that visit as inspiration to cook a few dishes that she remembers fondly from childhood, and then pass on the tradition by cooking dessert with her youngest son Juju.
FLUFFY PLANTAIN AND PECAN BREAD
Pan de plátano macho y nuez
Makes 1 10-inch loaf
1 1/2 sticks or 6 oz unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 pound ripe plantains, peeled, sliced, and roughly mashed (about 1 1/2 cups mashed)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of salt
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter sides and bottom of the loaf pan and lightly dust it with flour; set it aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Stir in the sugar and keep beating until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until well mixed.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Lower the speed on the mixer. Alternate between adding the plantains and the sifted dry ingredient mixture.
Add the vanilla and pecans and mix until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and gently place a piece of aluminum foil on top. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until the top of the bread looks golden brown and puffed-out. If you inset a toothpick, it should come out moist but not wet.
CACTUS PADDLE TOSTADAS
Tostadas de nopales
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
3 pounds fresh nopales, rinsed, cleaned and diced; or, if canned, rinsed thoroughly
1/2 pound ripe tomato, chopped
3 tablespoons white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped, optional
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped, seeding optional
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
Salt to taste
For the tostadas:
8 corn tostadas
1 cup refried beans
Garnishes of your choice: queso fresco, Mexican crema, Mexican avocado, salsa…
To Clean Fresh Cactus Paddles:
Rinse fresh cactus paddles under cold water, being careful not to prick your fingers with the small thorns on its surface. Using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife, peel away the darker bumps where thorns grow, as well as the thorns, trying not to peel off all the outer dark green skin. Lay the paddles flat on a chopping board, then trim around approximately 1/4 inch of the edges and 1/2 inch of the thick base. Once cleaned, rinse and dice into 1/2-to-1-inch squares, to your liking.
To Use Cactus From A Can, Bag or Jar:
After you have removed the diced cactus from the jar or can, rinse it under water and drain well.
To Cook the Cactus:
Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a thick, large-sized skillet (one that has a lid) over medium-high heat. Add the diced cactus, stir in the salt and stir for a minute or two. Place the lid on the skillet.
Reduce the heat to medium and let the cactus cook and sweat for about 20 minutes, until it has exuded a gelatinous liquid that will begin to dry out (NOTE: If using cactus from a can or jar, already cleaned and cooked, just cook for an additional five minutes).
Take the lid off the skillet, stir and make sure most of that gelatinous substance has dried up. If it hasn’t, let the cactus cook for a few more minutes until it does. Let the cactus cool slightly. In a mixing bowl, toss the cactus with the tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Like this, it can be eaten as a cactus paddle, nopal salad!
To Assemble the Tostadas:
Spread a layer of refried beans on each tostada. Spoon some the cooked cactus mixture on top, and add the garnishes of your choice. I add avocado slices, queso fresco, Mexican crema and salsa verde!
ZUCCHINI SOUP WITH TORTILLA CRISPS
Sopa de calabacita con totopos
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon corn or safflower oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup white onion, chopped
1 cup leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
1 jalapeño chile, sliced in half, seeding optional
3 pounds green zucchini, ends removed, diced
5 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups tortilla crisps or totopos, optional
1 cup oaxaca cheese, or mozarella, diced, optional
In a soup pot set over medium-low heat, add butter and oil. Once the butter bubbles, stir in the onion, leeks and jalapeño. Cook, stirring sporadically, until the onion has softened, its color has become translucent, and the edges are beginning to brown lightly, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium, incorporate the zucchini and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring here and there. Pour in the broth, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, until the zucchini is thoroughly cooked and the soup has seasoned. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.
Place it all in the blender in batches and purée until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and let it thoroughly heat over medium heat. Serve very hot. Either spoon some diced cheese and totopos into each soup bowl right before eating, or let your guests add as much as they fancy.
ADOBO FISH TACOS WITH GRILLED PINEAPPLE SALSA
Tacos de pescado adobado con salsa de piña
2 oz or 3 ancho chiles, rinsed, stemmed and seeded
1/2 cup white onion, coarsely-chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound of mild and firm fish fillets like snapper, striped bass, rock fish, snook or tilapia
4 pineapple slices
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, chopped, or to taste
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher or coarse sea salt, to taste
To make the Adobo Sauce:
Cover the chiles with boiling hot water and let them soak for 10 minutes. Pace the chiles along with 1/2 cup of soaking liquid, onion, garlic, oregano, vinegar, sugar and salt in the blender. Purée until smooth.
In a saucepan set over medium heat, heat the oil. Once hot, pour the sauce into the oil; cover the saucepan, leaving it slightly open, and let the sauce season and thicken for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring here and there. Remove from the heat.
To make the Fish:
Baste the fish fillets with the adobo sauce; you may refrigerate them and let them marinate for up to 24 hours.
In a large skillet coated with oil and set over medium-high heat, cook the fish for about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
To make the Salsa:
Heat a grill pan, a grill or a nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and lightly coat with safflower or corn oil. Cook the pineapple slices for about 4 minutes per side until they are slightly charred. Remove from the heat, once cool enough to handle cut into bite-size chunks. Place in a mixing bowl and toss with the cilantro, chile, lime juice, oil and salt to taste.
To assemble Tacos:
Place the warm tortillas, the pineapple salsa and the fish on the table, then assemble the tacos!
LIME-RUBBED CHICKEN TACOS WITH CORN GUACAMOLE
Tacos de pollo con guacamole con elote
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
Corn Guacamole Ingredients:
2 large ripe Mexican avocados, halved, pitted and diced
1 jalapeño chile, roasted, chopped, or to taste
2 garlic cloves, roasted with the skin on, peeled and minced
3/4 cup corn kernels, shaved from corn, or cooked from thawed
3/4 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or chopped
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
To assemble Tacos:
10-12 corn tortillas, homemade or store-bought
To make the Chicken:
Mix the lime juice with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper and rosemary in a bowl. Pour on top of the chicken, in a container. Cover and refrigerate anywhere from 1/2 hour up to 12 hours.
Heat a medium-sized sauté or grill pan over medium-high heat. Add corn or safflower oil; once it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken. Sauté until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan, place on chopping board to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice into diagonal strips about a 1/2-inch wide.
To make the Guacamole:
Place the jalapeño and garlic cloves in a small baking dish under the broiler, for 6 to 9 minutes, until completely cooked through, soft and skin is charred. Once cool enough to handle, peel garlic and mince along with chiles.
Place diced avocado in a mixing bowl. Add the charred and minced garlic and jalapeños, gently tossing everything together well. Incorporate the corn and tomatoes. Squeeze the lime juice on top and sprinkle the salt. Mix it all together.
To assemble Tacos:
In an already hot 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 them together with the guacamole and the chicken at the table and assemble your tacos!
BRICKLAYER-STYLE BEEF TACOS
Tacos al albañil
Serves 6 to 8
8 oz bacon, sliced
2 pounds beef sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 1″ pieces
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups white onion, slivered or sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño chile, sliced, seeding optional, or to taste
1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes
Flour or corn tortillas
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.
GLAZED SANTA CLARA COOKIES
Tortitas de Santa Clara
Makes about 24 3-inch round cookies
For the Dough:
1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour, plus more for rolling out dough
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup lukewarm water
For the Glaze:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 cups raw and hulled pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds
1/2 cup milk
To Blanch the Pumpkin Seeds:
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or baking soda
To Prepare the Cookies:
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to lowest setting and gently add the confectioners’ sugar and baking powder. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated.
Add the flour, one cup at a time, and then the egg yolks, one at a time; continue beating for a minute. Pour in the water and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and can form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Let it cool until it hardens enough to be manageable, at least 1/2 hour (can refrigerate up to a couple of days).
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place half the dough on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, sprinkle some flour over it and then place another piece of parchment paper on top. Use a rolling pin to gently roll out the dough, to about 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and cut out circles with a round, 3-inch cookie cutter. With a smaller cookie cutter, make a circular indention in the middle of each cookie, without cutting all the way through the dough (there should be about a 1/4-inch space between the indentation and the edge). Press the edges of each cookie with a fork, as if marking the edges of a pie. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and roll it out again, making as many cookies as possible.
Space the cookies at least 1/4-inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until they are fully cooked and the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool; repeat with the remaining cookies.
To Prepare the Base for the Glaze:
To make the candied pumpkin seed glaze white, as the nuns of the Santa Clara convent traditionally used to, prepare the pumpkin seeds this way:
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, add pumpkin seeds, simmer about 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Let it cool, stir in baking soda or powder and let it sit overnight. With your hands, rub the pumpkin seeds between your fingers and thumbs to try to release their skins. The skins will float in the water. Carefully pour off the water, cover again with clean water and drain again. With a slotted spatula, place the pumpkin seeds on a clean kitchen towel, rubbing them so that the remaining skins come entirely off. Place the seeds in a bowl, cover them with water, rinse and place them on a cloth towel or paper towels to dry.
To make the candied pumpkin seed glaze green, which is a lot less work, prepare the seeds this way:
Place hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds in the jar of a blender or food processor and grind completely.
To make the a white glaze that’s even easier, just:
Place already-blanched, slivered almonds in the jar of a blender or food processor and grind completely.
To Prepare the Glaze:
In a medium saucepan, place the sugar and 1/4 cup of water over medium low heat. Cook until the sugar has completely melted into the water, is no longer granulated and appears to be light syrup, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the ground pumpkin seeds or almonds and stir well, creating a thick paste. Let the mixture cook for another 3 to 4 minutes — it will thicken and become even more pasty. Turn off the heat, pour in the milk and stir well. It should be thick yet shiny and a bit more liquid.
Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool until it slightly thickens and can top the cookie without spilling all over. It will spread as it settles, but if it has cooled enough it will not be too runny. Yet, before it completely cools and hardens. If it does harden, just heat the mixture over low heat with a tablespoon of water until it becomes runny again.
To Assemble the Cookies:
Once the cookies have cooled, add about one tablespoon glaze to each cookie.