Pati's Mexican Table
SPINACH SALAD WITH JAMAICA VINAIGRETTE AND CARAMELIZED PECANS
Ensalada de Espinaca con Vinagreta de Jamaica y Nueces Garapiñadas
Serves 8 to 10
18 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed, drained and thickly sliced
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and stems removed
6-8 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves
Jamaica Vinaigrette (see below)
1 cup caramelized pecans, roughly chopped or whole pieces, to your liking (recipe follows)
3/4 cup dried jamaica flowers
3 garlic cloves
1 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp kosher or sea salt
2 tsp sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place the jamiaca flowers in a bowl along with the garlic, oils, vinegar, salt, sugar and pepper. Let them sit for a few minutes, for the flowers to soften up a bit. Then pour everything into a blender and puree. The flowers will not be pureed until smooth. The mix will have a textured consistency with chewy flower chunks: that’s what you want!
Let the mix stand for at least two hours. If it will not be used then, it can be kept in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.
Place the spinach and watercress in a large bowl. Pour some of the vinaigrette on top and toss. Top with the chopped caramelized pecans and sprinkle the scallions over the top. Drizzle some more vinaigrette on top. If you have leftover vinaigrette, you can eat it with a spoon!
1 cup shelled pecans
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tbsp butter or vegetable shortening, diced
1 tsp salt, or to taste (use regular salt, not kosher or sea salt)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the pecans on a baking tray, add the butter chunks and pour the maple syrup on top. Toss. Bake for 10 minutes, take them out of the oven and stir to make sure all the pecans are covered with the syrup. Place them back in the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, until they have browned and the syrup has thickened to the consistency of caramel.
Take them out of the oven, scoop the pecans out and place on a dry surface such as a kitchen counter or another baking tray. Try to separate the nuts from each other. Once completely cool, they can be stored in a closed container
STEAK TACOS WITH JAMAICA AND JALAPEÑO SYRUP
Tacos de Carne con Jarabe de Jamaica y Jalapeño
Makes 8 generous servings
1 lb flank steak
2 cups jamaica/hibiscus flower concentrate (see below)
2 bay leaves
3 whole cloves
A pinch black pepper, freshly ground
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Safflower or corn oil
Salt to taste
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, halved and seeded
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
16 corn tortillas
Pour the jamaica concentrate, bay leaves, whole cloves, black pepper and salt into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it reduces to half the original amount.
Let the marinade cool and pour over the flank steak in a baking dish or container. Cover and let it marinade anywhere from 1 to 24 hours.
Set grill pan, grill or saute pan over medium-high heat. Brush with a light coat of oil. Sprinkle meat with a bit more salt. Grill meat anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on how cooked you want it.
Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a saucepan set over medium heat and drop in the halved serrano or jalapeño chile. Let the sauce reduce for 15 minutes, or until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. The syrup will thicken considerably as it cools. Remove from heat and let cool.
When the meat is ready, slice it thin and if you want, cut it into chunks. Heat corn tortillas over a comal or skillet over medium heat, it will take about a minute per side. For each taco, add a couple tablespoons or slices of meat in the center of each tortillas, a slice of avocado, some crumbled queso fresco and drizzle some of the jamaica and syrup on top. Enjoy your tacos!
Makes about 5 cups
8 cups water
6 oz dried hibiscus flowers, about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar, or to taste
2 tbsp fresh lime juice, or to taste
In a saucepan, pour 8 cups of water and place over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, add the jamaica flowers, simmer at medium heat for 10 minutes and turn off the heat. Let it cool down and strain into a heat proof glass or plastic water jar. Add the sugar and lime juice, mix well, cover and refrigerate.
In Mexico, it’s not uncommon to find both food and water deliciously flavored with hibiscus flowers. Commonly known as Jamaica, it has an intensely herbal, fruity taste. This episode will show us some of the places you can buy it in the US, then share recipes that include:
FLOURLESS ALMOND AND PORTO CAKE
Pastel de Almendras con Porto
Serves 12 to 15
2 cups slivered almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Porto wine, optional or more to taste
1/4 cup apricot marmalade
1 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Whipped cream, optional
Fruit of your choice, optional (I love it with berries!)
Butter a round 9 to 10 inch spring-form pan, and cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the almond and sugar into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Crack the eggs on top of the mixture. Pulse until well combined. Stir in the vanilla extract and Porto wine, if you will use it. Drop in the butter chunks, and process until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the cake pan. Place on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The top will be nicely tanned, the cake will feel springy to the touch and a toothpick should come out clean if inserted in the cake.
Remove from the oven and let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Unmold the cake, invert onto a platter and remove the parchment paper. Invert the cake again onto another platter to have the top of the cake right side up.
In a small saucepan, mix the apricot glaze with the lime juice. Set over medium heat and simmer for a couple minutes, just until it dissolves.
With a brush, spread the apricot glaze on the outer circumference, about 1 to 2 inches in depth, on the top of the cake. Sprinkle the glazed area with the toasted almonds. You may serve the cake with whipped cream on the side, or on the top of the cake. Any fruit of your choice will be lovely too!
WHITE RICE AND POBLANO RAJAS CASSEROLE
Cazuela de Arroz con Rajas de Chile Poblano
4 cups cooked white rice
2 tbsp butter and a bit more to butter the baking dish
1 cup white onion, slivered
3 poblano chiles, about 3/4 lb, charred, skinned, stemmed, seeded, and sliced. Click here for more information on how to prepare them
1 1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup corn kernels, fresh, thawed from frozen or canned and drained
1 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1/2 cup Mexican style cream, or Latin, Salvadorean, creme fraiche or heavy cream
1/2 cup queso fresco, can substitute with farmers, basket or ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup Monterey jack, light cheddar or mozzarella, shredded
Place the butter in a saute pan set over medium heat. Once it melts, add the slivered onion and allow it to sweat for about 12 minutes, until translucent and soft. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the chile poblano rajas or strips, corn, salt and black pepper and cook for about 3 more minutes. Add the cream and queso fresco and continue cooking, stirring from time to time, until the sauce thickens a bit and seasons, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 8 x 11 or 9 x 9 baking dish. Layer the white rice in the baking dish and press it down gently with a spatula. Pour the poblano mixture on top. For the last layer, sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
Bake the casserole in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese has completely melted. Serve hot.
Aren’t convents supposed to be austere, dull places? In Mexico, everything’s a little more colorful–including the food of Catholic nuns. Delicious, labor-intensive mole is probably the most well known food to come out of the convents, but this show will explore some slightly easier, but just as tasty.
PICADILLO EMPANADAS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Empanadas de Picadillo de la Inmaculada Concepción
Makes about 15 medium empanadas
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese or fresh nata, about 185 g, at room temperature
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups picadillo (recipe below), or preferred filling
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sesame seeds
To make the dough, beat the cream cheese with the butter in a mixer at medium speed, until it is creamy. Gently add the flour and salt and continue mixing for a minute more. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate from 15 minutes up to 24 hours.
After refrigerating, sprinkle flour over the countertop and roll out half the dough until its about 1/4 inch thick. For medium sized empanadas, cut out rounds of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Continue until all of the dough is used.
Grease a baking sheet with butter. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the picadillo filling into the center of each round. Brush the edges of the round with the beaten egg. Fold a side of the circle over the filling across the other side. Press with your fingers as you close. Without breaking the dough, press with a fork over the edges to seal and make a design.
Place the empanadas on the baking sheet. When you fill the baking sheet, lightly brush their tops with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake the empanadas anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops have a golden tan and dough is cooked through. Serve hot.
PICADILLO FOR EMPANADAS
Makes about 4 cups
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lb pork shoulder or butt, or combination of pork, beef and veal, ground
3/4 tsp kosher, coarse or sea salt
1 lb ripe tomatoes, pureed, or about 2 cups tomato puree
2 cups chicken broth or water
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup Manzilla olives, chopped
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a couple of minutes, until it becomes translucent and soft. Incorporate chopped garlic and saute for about a minute until it becomes fragrant. Incorporate the meat and the salt and let it cook for about 8 minutes, until cooked and lightly browned.
Pour in tomato puree and let it season, stirring often, for 5 to 6 minutes, until it has deepened its color, thickened in consistency and lost the raw flavor. Pour in the chicken broth or water, cumin, cloves and cinnamon. Stir well and let it cook 15 minutes more.
Add the raisins, almond and olives, mix well and taste for seasoning. Cook for 5 more minutes. If needed, add more salt. The filling should be nice and moist.
Just remember, once it cools, it will dry a little more as it will
absorb the juices. Turn off the heat. You can make the filling up to two days ahead of time, let it cool, cover and refrigerate.
CHICKEN IN A TOMATILLO, CHIPOTLE AND BROWN SUGAR SAUCE
Pollo con Tomate Verde, Chipotle y Piloncillo
Serves 4 to 6
3 chicken leg quarters, or 3 drumsticks and 3 thighs, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup safflower or corn oil
2 cups white onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed, quartered
4 tbsp piloncillo, shredded, or substitute for brown sugar
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus more sauce if desired
2 cups chicken broth, or water
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
In a thick and tall heavy skillet or casserole dish, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken pieces. Brown on one side, for about 4 to 5 minutes and then flip and brown on the other side, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t try to flip too soon or the skin will stick to the skillet. Remove the chicken pieces and place in a bowl. You may remove the skin if you wish, I don’t.
Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring for about 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, for about 20 seconds. Make room in the pan and add the tomatillos. Let it cook all together, for about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the piloncillo, the chipotles and their sauce and stir well. Once it comes to a simmer incorporate the chicken pieces along with the chicken broth and cook for about 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be chunky and thick, and the chicken fully cooked.
SALSA VERDE WITH AVOCADO AND CHEESE
Salsa Verde con Aguacate y Queso Fresco
Makes about 2 cups
1 lb tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 garlic clove
1 or 2 chiles serranos (can adjust for desired spiciness level)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp white onion, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/2 lb queso fresco diced, or can use farmer’s cheese or mild feta instead
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and sliced or cut into chunks
Warm corn tortillas or tortilla chips
Place tomatillos in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatillos are soft and mushy, but not coming apart, about 10 minutes.
Place the tomatillos, garlic, chiles serranos (add one by one to taste for spiciness desired and adjust the heat as you go), cilantro, onion and salt in the blender. Blend until smooth. You may also mash it all up in a molcajete.
Serve in a bowl or molcajete, along with the queso fresco and avocado slices. Offer warm corn tortillas or tortilla chips on the side.
This salsa may be used to spoon on top of thousands of things; including tacos, quesadillas, eggs in the morning, or grilled meats.
Meet the tomatillo–this small, plump, green fruit was a favorite of the Aztecs and stars in any number of Mexican dishes today. Its tart flavor is worlds apart from the taste of tomatoes, but is just as juicy and unforgettable. This episode will show you where to find tomatillos, how to cook with them, and tips and tricks for creating amazing dishes.