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.
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.
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!
Last December, Daniel and I went to Yucatán. I was swept off my feet by the grandiose nature and history of the old Haciendas, but mostly by the uniqueness of the cuisine. It stands out from the rest of the country; with its aromatic, pungent, citrus flavors, charred and toasted ingredients and elements not found anywhere else.
Since at the Institute we established topics for the 2009 program in January and I left Yucatán as a December closing session, by the time class came around I was desperate to share these flavors. What a tortuous self imposed wait!
Of course Pollo Pibil had to be included, as it is one of the most loved dishes of the area. The rest of the menu was built around: Dzotobi-chay tamales, avocado soup, strained beans, a yellow rice, and old fashioned flan for dessert.
Continue reading Pollo Pibil
Ay, ay, ay! Patita, espérate mamacita! My nanny repeated, as she snatched the hot plantain tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, from my hands. Her hands were more resistant, she insisted, as they were older and had cooked so much. She would hold my chosen package with an open hand, so the camotero (sweet potato street cart man, who also sold plantains) could tear up the foil. As the steam flew up to the skies, he poured a more-than-any-child-could-wish-for amount of La Lechera sweetened condensed milk… and so it fell, sweet ounce, by thick ounce, onto that moist, rich, filling and immensely satisfying treat. Sheer joy, that was.
I devoured it in what seemed a couple bites, just to lick the last but yummiest remains from the crumbled foil. There we were, standing on the street corner where my family lived, mischievously laughing: it was already getting dark, almost dinnertime, and no, no, no, I wasn’t supposed to be having any. Oh dear, how I miss that woman! Now every time I eat a plantain, I get a sparkle of that sheer joy.
Continue reading Three tasty ways to eat ripe plantains
Pickled Jalapeños are a very popular garnish, topping or side for plenty of Mexican foods like tortas, tacos, quesadillas, grilled meats, rice, beans, tostadas… just to name some. So much so, that in many Restaurants, they are placed in the center of the table along the side of salt, pepper and a breadbasket. Many people nibble on them right out of the bowl… They are popular in Mexican Pizzerias too!
You can make your own or buy them already bottled or canned at the stores. They are so intensely used, that there are plenty of brands that carry them as a regular product. Taste does vary considerably from one brand to another, so try a couple, and see which ones you like more.
Continue reading Pickling Jalapeños
I am not one to carry a bottle of hot sauce in my bag wherever I go. I do have an uncle that proudly does. Wherever he travels, his Tabasco sauce eagerly jumps out of his bag and splashes its somewhat flavorless heat on whatever food it happens to come across. Yep, fancy restaurants too.
Most Mexicans are picky chile eaters. Since we have so many varieties, and such varied and distinct ways to use and prepare them, we can exquisitely discriminate how and what we pair them with. We love their different flavors, textures, fragrances and personalities. It is like considering different kinds of fruits. So my uncle is more an exception than the rule.
All this to say, without any excuse, that although I am not a hot sauce bottle kind of woman, I am a pickled Jalapeño kind of gal.
Continue reading Pickled Jalapeño Kind of Gal
I wish each day had ten more hours so I could tell you about so many dishes already.
This is how behind I feel in all I want to share: Six weeks ago our family came back from the Copper Canyon in Mexico. I took notes, pictures, short videos, interviewed cooks, planted myself in their kitchens until forcefully uprooted by my husband, and ate like a mad woman from any interesting sounding dish, which was practically everything (partly with the purpose to come and tell you all about it…).
Then we came home, and life got in the way… I took longer to launch this site because I wanted to add more sections. By the time it was ready, so many weeks had gone by, I was eager to share more recent food excursions from my kitchen.
Yesterday, these red tomatoes reminded me of my delayed purpose. They looked perfectly ripe to become the base for that Mexican Style Rice we ate at the Chepe train (formally known as the Chihuahua al Pacífico). It was unbelievable. Not only how good it tasted, but where and how it is made, every day.
Continue reading Unforgettable Rice from El Chepe
One way to add a nice rustic feel to a dish is to char, or roast, a few of the ingredients. Charring concentrates and deepens the flavor of an ingredient and brings out a subtle sweetness.
It is one of the signature cooking techniques in Mexico where, traditionally, ingredients like chiles, onion, garlic, spices, herbs, tomatillos and tomatoes are charred on comales or directly over the flame. If you don’t have a comal, or don’t want to cook directly over the burner, you can just as easily char ingredients on a grill or in a skillet.
OR, the way I find to be the easiest and fastest: in a pan under the broiler in your oven. Put the ingredients on a large sheet pan leaving plenty of space between them so they roast, not steam, and broil until they are nicely browned on one side. Carefully flip and repeat on the other side.
You want the outside to darken until almost black, and the inside cooked and transformed, but not burnt.
Below are the specific techniques for a couple of the ingredients most often charred in Mexican recipes: tomatoes and garlic.
Continue reading Charring ingredients