Every few months, my family gets together with a Latin group of friends and their families for a pot luck.
This winter it was our turn. As tradition goes, the host brings the main dishes to the table and the others bring the rest. I eagerly announced my plans to share Mexican casseroles, also called cazuelas, budines or pasteles. The Mexicans couldn’t hide their joy- “Pati! De veras? Budin Azteca? Cazuela de Tamal?!”- and quickly thought of other “very” Mexican sides to pair with them. The Argentines and Costa Ricans tried to understand what “Mexican casserole” meant and whether it was supposed to be any good. The Americans in the group (though they consider themselves Latin) were clearly not excited about it.
No doubt about it, casseroles have had their ups and downs in culinary history. Their weakest stand seems to have been in the United States, after being fashioned into “two-step-many-can” versions in the 1930 and ’40s. But think of all the bright stars in the casserole universe: French cocottes enveloped in mother sauces; British potpies encrusting fillings as wet as British weather; irresistible Italian lasagnas layered with pasta; Peruvian causas with seasoned meat encased in mashed potatos; Greek spanakopitas with an extra-savory cheese-spinach mix covered with phyllo dough; Middle Eastern moussakas stacked with layers of eggplant; and the not-so-well-known, yet gloriously tasty Mexican cazuelas…
Continue reading Make It, Freeze It, Take It: The Mexican Casserole
Make It, Freeze It, Take It: The Mexican Casserole
Barbacoa is one of those iconic Mexican foods.
Juicy, tender meat that falls off the bone, infused with a rustic, smoky flavor and a jungle like fragrance. It uses a cooking technique that began in ancient times, long before the Spanish arrived, and it lives on to this day across Mexico in places that specialize in making it. Of course, there are accessible homestyle versions too.
Abroad, so many people have heard of barbacoa and want to have a taste of the real thing. The people I’ve talked to that have tried it are dying to repeat the experience. In Mexico it has never ever gone out of fashion, and it is especially rooted in the central part of the country, where I grew up.
True, that barbacoa sounds much like barbeque. Though it is from a type of barbacoa that Americans got the idea to cook barbeque, it’s not the Mexican kind, but the Native American found here in the US, which used to be outdoors and above the ground. In Mexico we call ours barbacoa too (thanks to the Spanish!), but the Mexican way is completely different: the meat is wrapped tightly in banana leaves, cooked for many (so very many!) hours in an underground pit with an initial heating base of burning wood, walls of brick and smoldering rocks that are sealed with a kind of clay, and finally steamed and cooked overnight.
If you haven’t tried it, this is your chance to make it! And no, you don’t need an underground pit, there are ways to go about it and you can cook it away while you are tucked away in your bed…
Continue reading Lamb Barbacoa in Adobo
Continue reading Buñuelos: High Maintenance, But So Worth It!
You can do fabulous things with pumpkins aside from spooky faces and pumpkin pie… Just ask any Mexican. We have a way with pumpkins.
Native to Mexico, pumpkins have been devoured there for centuries, in their entirety. The seeds are addicting as snacks, used as a hefty base for salsas, soups and sauces and more recently sprinkled on top of many dishes. The pumpkin meat is used for soups and stews, and along with the entire rind cooked in a piloncillo syrup, becoming a traditional favorite known as Tacha.
Yet there is something else you can make with those fall pumpkins: Mole!
An easy to make, silky textured and exquisite tasting mole sauce, that can bathe anything you can think of. From chicken to meat, fish, seafood and veggies; it all goes beautifully swaddled in it. I like it mostly with chicken or turkey, which is how I am most used to eating thick and rich Mole sauces….
So that you can try it too, here it goes.
Continue reading Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole
Red pozole, or Pozole Rojo, Jalisco style, has been my favorite pozole of all time. It is bold and gorgeous in every possible way. I am so attached to it, we even served it at our wedding.
For decades now, I’ve refused to replace it with another… And then, I tried a unique green version, Pozole Verde, Guerrero style. It has not surpassed my Pozole Rojo, but it is attempting to tie with it at my table. And that is a lot to say.
Treasured all around Mexico, pozole has many variations, mainly green, red and white. Each distinct and beautiful, and coincidentally, represent the colors of the Mexican flag. Since September is the month of Mexican independence and The Day of El Grito is just around the corner, there is no excuse not to find an excuse to celebrate! And in my mental Mexican dictionary, pozole equals celebration.
Continue reading Pozole: Try It Green!
The Mexican way to wildly dress simply cooked corn drives me wild:
Crunchy sweet corn on a stick, brushed with butter and mayo, coated in tangy and salty crumbled queso fresco, sprinkled with chile powder, typically chile piquín, coarse salt and a liberal squeeze of lime juice…
It doesn’t matter if I am hungry. The mere site of a street food corn stand makes me stop dead in my tracks and zoom over for one. Like a wild woman. I need one. Well, the truth is one is not enough, ever.
In Mexico you find corn stands all over, in little towns and big cities. Locals know what day of the week and at what times they show up. If you are not from there, it takes a while to figure it out.
Continue reading Go Wild, Munch On Your Crazy Corn!
It takes three ingredients, plus any extra topping that you fancy, 8 minutes in the toaster or oven and you get one of the most comforting foods I have eaten since I can remember: Molletes.
One of the most popular Mexican anytime antojitos or cravings, that can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch, a hearty afternoon snack or dinner. It used to be a standard option for breakfast or dinner at my house growing up in Mexico City, just as quesadillas were. But I also used to crave Molletes from my school cafeteria.
So yes, even if I had some at home in the morning, I would have more for lunch at school…
Continue reading Molletes with Pico: No Way not to Fall in Love
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
When I was in high school in Mexico City, Tecamacharlie’s was one of the most popular meeting spots. The name came from Tecamachalco, the neighborhood where it sits tucked away in a corner, and the chain of Restaurants it belongs to, Anderson’s Carlos & Charlies. There, my friends and I would meet some Friday afternoons after school, to have a late and long lunch or comida and embrace the weekend.
Even before school started those Friday mornings, there would be one thing in my mind: Tecamacharlie’s top notch Caldo de Camarón. A rich and thick soupy broth made with dried and salted shrimp, and seasoned with a base of Guajillo chile sauce.
A soup so flavorful and filling, it was served as a courtesy as soon as you finally sat down in that incredibly busy and loud place. The waiters brought it out of the kitchen still simmering, served in a little caballito, the little glass shots used to serve Tequila.
There were plump limes already quartered at the table, waiting to be squeezed into the soup before you drank it in one gulp. If you were lucky, the bottom of the shot had a shrimp, and maybe a couple pieces of potato and carrot. Then you could stick your fork or finger in there, to eat those little treasures that tasted like adventures at the sea port. Far away from the City.
Continue reading Where to Find Caldo de Camarón? Make Your Own…