Immigrants from Lebanon, Syria and Israel have left a tasty influence on Mexican cuisine over the years; this show will look at how they came to such a far-flung (but fascinating) country and what kind of legacy they’ve contributed–other than Frida Kahlo and Salma Hayek, of course.
WHITE RICE WITH TOASTED ANGEL HAIR PASTA
Arroz Blanco con Fideos
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups white rice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 lb or about 1 cup angel hair pasta, broken into pieces
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
4 cups water or chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lime juice, optional
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Soak the white rice in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. In a cooking pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the angel hair and fry for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. It should be browned but not burnt.
Incorporate the drained rice, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice achieves a milky white color and it feels and sounds heavier when you move it.
Add the chopped onion and garlic, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour the water or broth over the rice, add the salt and lime juice, and once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with the lid, and cook for about 20 minutes.
The rice is ready when the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender and cooked. Turn off the heat and keep it covered for at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Orange and Almond Flan
Flan de Naranja y Almendra
1 cup sugar for caramel
1 1/2 cups peeled and slivered almonds
3/4 cup sugar for flan
1 3/4 cups orange juice
Grated zest of an orange
2 tbsp quince liquor, or Grand Marnier, optional
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.
In a pan, heat the cup of sugar over low heat until it achieves the consistency of caramel. It takes a while, but don’t leave it unattended and move the pan as it begins to melt. Once it looks like caramel and is melted, decide how dark and strong you want the caramel to be. The lighter the color of the caramel, the lighter flavor. But be careful because if it gets too dark it can taste bitter and can burn quickly. Take it off the heat and pour it into the bottom of a flan or round tube mold or into 10 individual custard cups. Do so quickly, since caramel hardens fast.
Place the almonds and remaining sugar into the blender or food processor and finely grind. Add the orange juice, orange zest and blend. Add in the eggs and quince liquor or Grand Marnier and puree until combined. Pour the flan mixture on top of the hardened caramel in the molds.
Place the molds in a hot water bath in a deep baking pan. Make sure the water comes up to about half the height of the molds and that the water is very hot. Slide the baking pan with the molds into the oven. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a flan comes out clean. When ready, take them out of the oven, out of the water bath and allow to cool.
If flans will not be eaten on the same day, they can be covered and refrigerated, for up to a week. Before unmolding, you can place the molds in a container with very hot water for 5 to 10 seconds, so that the sugar will melt a bit, and help the flan come out. You can also run the tip of the knife around the rim of the flan. Then turn the flans onto a plate, but wait a bit until most caramel pours on top of each flan.
CAFE DE OLLA
Cafe de Olla con Canela y Piloncillo
Heat the water in a pot set over medium heat (using a clay pot is the traditional way to prepare it and it gives it a very unique flavor, but it isn’t necessary). When the water comes to a boil, lower the heat and add the coffee, piloncillo, and a cinnamon stick.
Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring until the piloncillo dissolves. Remove from the heat, let it stand covered for 5 to 10 minutes and strain before serving. Alternatively, you may remove the cinnamon and use a French press to strain the coffee as well.
CHICKEN WITH TAMARIND, APRICOTS AND CHIPOTLE SAUCE
Pollo con Salsa de Tamarindo, Chabacano y Chipotle
4 chicken quarters, or 8 chicken pieces of your choice with skin and bones
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 cups water
1/2 lb, about 3/4 cup, dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp apricot preserve
3/4 cup tamarind concentrate, store bought or homemade (recipe follows)
2 tbsp sauce from chipotles in adobo, or more to taste
Thoroughly rinse chicken pieces with cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer, and slowly brown the chicken pieces for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn them over occasionally, so they will brown evenly on all sides. Pour water over the chicken, raise the heat to medium-high to bring to a simmer.
Incorporate apricots, apricot preserve, tamarind concentrate, chipotle sauce, salt, stir, and keep it at a medium simmer for 35 minutes until the sauce has thickened to a thick syrup consistency and can coat the back of a wooden spoon. You may need to reduce the heat.
Taste for salt and heat and adjust to your liking.
HOMEMADE TAMARIND CONCENTRATE
Concentrado de Tamarindo
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 lb dried tamarind pods with their shell
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Remove the outer pod from the tamarinds, discard, and place the pulp in a bowl. Cover them with 2 cups boiling water and let them sit anywhere from 2 to 24 hours.
With your hands, clean then tamarinds of the large seeds and strains/threads. Strain in a colander, pressing with your hands or a spoon to get as much pulp as possible.
Place the resulting tamarind juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the sugar, and let it simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. The juice should have thickened considerably, to a thick syrup consistency.
Squeeze in the fresh lime juice, let it simmer for a couple more minutes and let it cool. Refrigerate and store in a tight lid container. The concentrate will keep for months.