A couple weeks ago, right as I was setting up for one of my classes, “A Culinary Compass of Mexico,” at the Mexican Cultural Institute, Alberto Roblest came over and asked me a great question.
“Pati, do you cook traditional Mexican recipes OR do you create your own?”
Alberto is doing a project with the support of The Office on Latino Affairs. It is called Hola Cultura and explores the contributions of Latinos to DC life and culture, from art to language to sports to cooking.
I think he meant for me to respond with an either or. He really did. Come on Pati, “traditional” OR “new,” he insisted. But I kept answering “BOTH!” As I kept trying to explain why, I realized so wholeheartedly that both traditional and new not only describe my cooking style but also one of the many wonders of Mexican cuisine.
Continue reading Apple, Radish, Watercress Salad with Pistachio and Chile de Arbol
There are countless versions of Pico de Gallo salsas. Their trademark is having ingredients that are fresh rather than cooked, and diced and chopped rather than pureed. This is the most common and well-known version.
It is also incredibly colorful!
Continue reading Pico de Gallo Salsa
I grew up eating chorizo in Mexico, and I love it. It comes in deep-burnt-reddish links of fresh, moist, exotically seasoned ground meat, that once, fried, becomes crisp and filling bites with bold flavors and a thousand uses.
When I moved to the United States, more than a dozen years ago, I was thrilled to find chorizo in international grocery stores. Lately, I have been intrigued and surprised to see that my Mexican chorizo is now accompanied by many other kinds in the refrigerated sections of bigger, more mainstream stores (continue for more information and photos).
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Guacamole en Trozos
2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and pulp cut into chunks or roughly mashed
3 tbsp white onion, finely chopped
1 chile serrano or jalapeño, or to taste, minced (seeding is optional)
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tsp salt, more or less to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve!
This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had.
The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.
It’s become the trump card I pull out for guests that love unusual and authentic flavors from Mexico. The best part of it is, the hardest part about making it, is waiting for the brisket to cook on its own.
I first tried a version of it in Santa Fé de la Laguna, Michoacán. A popular dish in that region, it goes by the name of Carne Enchilada. A young and knowledgeable Purépecha cook, Berenice Flores, showed me how to make it at her home. When my whole family sat down to eat it, we kept asking her for more corn tortillas to wipe the sauce clean off the plates.
Continue reading Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce
The Poblano chile is a star in Mexican kitchens. It is used in a wide range of ways and in a wide range of dishes. Some well known examples are Chiles en Nogada, rajas, pickled, and stuffed with meat or cheese and bathed in a tomato sauce. But there are hundreds of other ways…
Aside from being absolutely gorgeous – chubby, curvy, large, sensuous and with a beautiful dark green color with a bit of a shine to it- it has a striking flavor -rich, exuberant and fruity. It tends to be a bit capricious as well: it ranges from the very mild to the very hot. However, there are ways to tame its heat (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Poblano Chile or Pepper
The Mulato chile has similar looks to the Ancho chile but instead of a reddish black skin it has a dark black skin. You can tell the difference much better against the light! The Mulato chile also has a sweeter, fuller and more chocolaty flavor than the Ancho. No doubt they are different as they come from different chiles.
The Ancho chile comes from the dried regular Poblano chile. The Mulato chile comes from a variation of the Chile Poblano that has slightly different genes with a darker color and fuller flavor. It is hard to find the latter Poblano chile variation, as the growers prefer to dry them since they can sell them at a higher price at the markets (continue for photo).
Continue reading Mulato Chile
This salsa does hurt.
But just a little.
Yet it goes oh-so-well with the Pollo Pibil, which together with red pickled onions makes for a delicious Yucatecan meal. A bowl of this Habanero salsa is standard on just about every table in Yucatán. Around there, people drizzle some spoonfuls, or drops, on just about everything.
I recently found this salsa is heavenly combined with Louisiana style Bar-b-que and some baked beans (!). While it can make people very unhappy if not given a warning of how spicy it is, for the Yucatan class we had in December, the 20 batches made were gone before the middle of the meal. We did give our guests a warning… While my cooking team kept saying I was making too much, we made some bets, and much to my surprise, I won. I have learned now, that the American and international palate is much more open, than say a decade ago, for spicy foods.
Continue reading Do You Dare? Habanero Salsa!
Habanero chiles are one happy looking bunch. They have colorful colors that go from green to the yellow, and then orange to red as they mature. They are small, cute, shinny and have waxy skin. But as much as their looks are inviting, they are the spiciest chiles in Mexican cuisine. They are incredibly fierce. With a rating of 300,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale for measuring hotness of a chili pepper, you can get an idea of how hot they are: Jalapeños go around 10,000 to 15,000 (click for more information and photo).
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Banana peppers are called chiles güeros in many regions of Mexico. Güero, translates to blond, name given because of their pale, yellowish color. There are different varieties or banana peppers, but they are pale and light in looks, have waxy skin, and a similar flavor to Jalapeños. Their heat level can range from mild to hot (continue for more information and photo).
Continue reading Banana Pepper or Chiles Güeros