Pati's Mexican Table
HAM AND CHEESE TORTA SANDWICHES
Tortas de jamón y queso
2 Mexican bolillo or telera rolls, or small baguettes
1/2 cup refried beans
1/2 ripe avocado, scooped and sliced
4 slices Mexican queso fresco, Oaxaca or Mozzarella
4 to 6 slices turkey, ham or cooked chicken
1 tomato, sliced and seeded
A couple of thin slices of onion, optional
Pickled jalapeño peppers to taste, optional
Salt to taste, optional
2 tablespoons Mexican-style cream, optional
Slice the rolls in half lengthwise. If they’re not fresh, toast them slightly for a few minutes. On one side, spread a tablespoon of refried beans; on the other, mash 1/4 of an avocado with a fork.
Top the bottom half of the bread with a few slices of cheese, 2 or 3 slices of turkey or cold cuts of your choice, it may also be shredded chicken or meat, and a couple of slices of tomato.
Drizzle a tablespoon of Mexican-style cream and crown your package with as many pickled jalapeños as you wish. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top.
Place the top half of the roll on the sandwich and slice the torta horizontally. Eat it or wrap it up so that it can travel along with you.
BLISSFUL CORN TORTE
Torte de elote
1/2 pound unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
8 eggs, separated
4 cups corn kernels
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
Place rack in the middle of oven and heat to 360 degrees. Butter a 9×12-inch pan.
Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Slowly add 8 egg yolks, one by one, until incorporated. Add the cream, rice flour and baking powder.
In a blender, process the milk with the corn kernels, then, incorporate it into the mix above. Place the mixture in a big mixing bowl.
Separately, beat the egg whites with salt until stiff peaks are formed. Add 1/5 of the egg whites to the butter/corn mix and blend carefully. Slowly blend the rest of the egg whites until everything is mixed, it is ok if the mixture looks streaky, don’t over work it or it will lose volume. Pour onto baking dish.
Bake until torte is springy to the touch and lightly browned, 45 to 50 minutes. Once it cools a little, cut into squares. It can be served either warm or cold; it can be covered and kept at room temperature for an entire day, or covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
SNAPPER IN A POBLANO CHILE SAUCE
Pescado con salsa de chile poblano
6-6 oz mild-flavored fish filets, like red snapper, sea bass, grouper, tilapia or mahi-mahi
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime (2-3 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 cup Mexican cream, or Latin style, crème fraiche or heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 poblano chiles
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
1 cup shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Muenster, Mozzarella)
Rinse the fish filets under a thin stream of cold water, drain and pat dry. Place in a container, drizzle with the lime juice, garlic, salt and black pepper. Let it marinate anywhere from 15 minutes up to two hours in the refrigerator.
Slice the poblanos in half, removing the stem, seeds and veins. Roughly chop and place in the blender along with the milk, purée until smooth.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour to make a roux. It should be nice and foamy. Cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chile purée, Mexican cream and nutmeg and cook on low heat until it thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the bottom of baking dish and place the marinated fish there, without extra marinade. Cover generously with the poblano sauce. If using cheese, sprinkle it on top.
Bake just until the fish is cooked and flakes with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets.
Jump into a Lucha Libre ring and experience the kind of fighting spirit that fuels a great love of Mexican food. These classic recipes provoke heated discussions in Mexico, but are perfectly tasty regardless of which twist on ingredients you prefer.
Plantanos Macho al Horno
Serves 2 to 4
2 ripe plantains
Salt or sugar to taste
Preheat the grill to medium heat or the oven to 400 degrees.
Cut a few small slits into the sides of the unpeeled, ripe plantains with a knife, since the plantains will expand as they cook. Individually wrap each plantain in aluminum foil and place them on the grill or in the oven. Let them cook for about 45 to 50 minutes, until they are soft and cooked through.
You know they are ready when they feel extremely soft to the touch and the sugar of the plantain has begun to caramelize. Open the aluminum foil, make a slit in the plantains, sprinkle with salt and sugar and eat them up!
PORK TENDERLOIN IN A SWEET CITRUS SAUCE
Lomo de Cerdo con Salsa Dulce de Citricos
Serves 8 to 10
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup shredded piloncillo, or brown sugar
5 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
5 bay leaves
3 whole banana leaves
5 lbs pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tbsp safflower or corn oil
To make the marinade: mix together the orange and lime juice, vinegar, piloncillo, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaves in a bowl.
Begin to layer the banana leaves in a large baking dish, one by one. Place the first one vertically so it covers the whole dish, leaving the sides hanging over the dish on both ends. Layer the second leaf horizontally so it covers half or so of the dish, with the sides hanging over the dish on both ends. Layer the third one horizontally the the bottom of the baking dish is fully covered with leaves, with extra hanging over the sides to wrap up the meat.
If you can’t find banana leaves, you can use tin foil.
Place the meat in the middle of the leaf bundle. Pour the marinade on the top and cover the meat with each of the banana leaf layers on all sides. Let it marinate anywhere from 2 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and unwrap the pork from the banana leaves.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat, until it is hot but not smoking. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper, place it in the pan, and sear for about 1 to 2 minutes on all sides.
Place it back in the banana leaves and bundle it back up. Place the wrapped pork into the oven and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven, carefully open up and unfold the banana leaves, tucking them on the sides until you expose most of the meat. Remove the meat from the dish to rest on a cutting board. Pour all the marinade into a sauce pan and set over medium high heat, for about 10 to 15 minutes, to reduce up to 1/3 of its volume.
Meanwhile, slice the meat at about 1/2″ thickness or to your liking. Place the slices on a platter, drizzle some of the sauce on top and serve.
Mexicans have been wrapping and cooking food in leaves for a long time, and this episode will look at the reasons why. It will also share three scrumptious dishes you can make in your own kitchen with the wrapping method and with three different kids of wrappers! We’ll also look at some shortcuts and tips for cooking wrapped foods in your own kitchen, as opposed to the traditional method of digging a pit or steaming them in an enormous pot.
BLACKBERRY AND PECAN TAMALES
Tamales de Zarzamora y Nuez
Makes about 20 tamales
25 dried corn husks
1 cup vegetable shortening or good quality lard
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp baking powder
1 lb instant corn masa mixfor tamales, or about 3 1/4 cups, such as Maseca
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
12 oz blackberries, rinsed
To make masa for tamales:
Place the vegetable shortening or lard with 1 tablespoon of cold water in a mixer and beat, until very light and spongy, about 1 minute. Add the baking powder and salt, and then take turns adding the instant corn masa mix and the water. Continue beating until the dough is homogeneous and fluffy.
Mix in the sugar and cinnamon and continue beating until everything is well mixed. You may also do it by hand.
You know the tamal masa is ready if:
1. When you lift a big spoon with masa, drop it into the dough it falls “de golpe” or heavy.
2. It has the consistency of a medium thick cake batter.
3. If you place 1/2 teaspoon of masa in a cup of cold water and it floats.
To prepare the steamer:
Place water in the pan of a steamer and bring it to a simmer. Line the steamer with one or two layers of corn husks. Use the dough to form about 20 corn husk wrapped tamales.
To make tamales:
Soak the dried corn husks in hot water for a couple of minutes, until they are pliable and drain. Lay out a corn husk with the tapered ends facing towards you. Spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the masa into a 2 to 3 inch square, the layer should be about 1/4 inch, leaving a boarder of at least 1/2 inch on the sides. Place 1 to 2 blackberries in the middle of the masa filling and sprinkle about a teaspoon of the pecans on top.
Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together, causing the masa to surround the berries and pecans and fold them to one side, rolling them in the same direction around the tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk with the tapering end, from the bottom up. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open.
Prepare the tamales and then place them vertically in a container. When you have them all ready, place them as vertically as you can in the prepared steamer, with the open end on top. If there is space left in the steamer, tuck in more corn husks so the tamales will not dance around. Cover with more corn husks and steam, covered for 50 minutes to an hour over medium heat. You know the tamales are ready when the tamales come easily free from the husks.
Finished tamales will stay warm for about 1 to 2 hours in the steamer. They can be made ahead several days before and stored in the refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in the steamer. For refrigerated tamales it will take about 15 minutes, and for frozen tamales about 45 minutes.