6 fresh ears of corn, husked and rinsed
Unsalted butter, to taste
Mayonnaise, to taste
1 cup crumbled queso cotija or queso fresco, or to taste
1 lime, or to taste
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Dried ground chile like piquín or a mix like Tajín
To cook the corn, you can grill it or boil it. To grill, brush the ears of corn with a bit of oil. Place them over a grill or grill pan, set over medium heat, and let the corn cook and char slightly, turning every 3 minutes until all the corn is done, anywhere from 9 to 12 minutes total. Remove from the heat. You can also cook the corn it in boiling water until soft and cooked, less than ten minutes.
Once cooked, stick the corn on corn holders or a wooden stick. Choose your toppings! Traditionally in Mexico, we: spread butter, then a layer of mayonnaise, coat thoroughly with crumbled cheese, sprinkle with salt and ground chile and finally, drizzle with freshly-squeezed lime juice.
Flautas de pollo
16 corn tortillas
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup Mexican cream
1 cup salsa of your choice
1 head romaine lettuce, sliced
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
In a deep skillet, preheat 1 inch deep of oil to 350 degrees, set over medium heat. Or you can also test if the oil is ready for frying the flautas, by dipping a flauta or tortilla to see if the oil actively bubbles around it.
Place a comal or a dry skillet over medium heat until hot, then heat the tortillas on the comal for about 30 seconds per side; this will prevent them from breaking when rolling them into flautas.
Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of shredded chicken on each tortilla and roll them tightly. They should be thin, not chubby rolls. You can insert wooden toothpicks through 2 to 3 flautas at a time, so they will fry evenly and hold their shape.
Once the oil is hot, gently dip the flautas in it. Fry them until they have crisped and turned golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip them over so they will brown evenly, for another minute. Remove the flautas from the oil and put them on a plate or tray lined with paper towels.
Alternatively, you may want to toast the flautas on a comal or bake in the oven lightly brushed with oil at 375, for 15 to 20 minutes.
Arrange them on a serving platter and garnish with lettuce, cheese, Mexican cream and salsa, or let your guests tailor to their taste.
MEATBALLS IN CHIPOTLE SAUCE
Albóndigas al chipotle
Serves 8 to 10
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons white onion, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, or to taste
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, optional
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth
2 to 3 fresh cilantro sprigs, or to taste
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat with the eggs, minced garlic, breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly with your hands or a spatula.
Place tomatoes in a saucepan and cover with water; simmer over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until cooked through and mushy.
In a blender, add the cooked tomatoes along with 1/4 cup of their cooking liquid, 2 garlic cloves, white onion, the sauce from the chipotle chiles in adobo and, if desired, one whole seeded chipotle chile. Purée until smooth.
Pour the oil into a large soup pot and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, pour in the puréed tomato mix. It will sizzle and jump, that is ok! Let it simmer, with the lid ajar, anywhere from 6 to 8 minutes, or until it has changed its color to a deeper red, thickened in consistency and lost its raw flavor. Add the chicken broth and salt to taste and reduce heat to medium low.
Place a small mixing bowl with water to the side of the soup pot with the simmering tomato broth. Wet your hands and start to make the meatballs, one by one. They should be anywhere from 1 to 2″. Gently place the meatballs in the simmering tomato broth.
Once you have shaped all the meatballs, add the cilantro sprigs to the pot, then simmer over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve hot with a side of avocado slices avocado, some warm corn tortillas and, if desired, frijoles de olla or white rice and plantains.
CHAYOTE SQUASH AND PICKLED ONION SALAD
Ensalada de chayote y cebolla morada
2 pounds chayote squash
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
Place unpeeled chayotes in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and cover the pan, then reduce heat to low; simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until the chayotes are cooked through. A knife will cleanly go through them, but they won’t be completely soft or mushy.
Drain, and once cool, peel the chayotes. Cut them in half, then slice into sticks.
Combine the remaining ingredients, except for the onions, and whisk into a vinaigrette. Add the onions, mix well and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. It can also be made ahead a day before and left in the refrigerator.
Toss the chayote sticks with the vinaigrette and onions. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
DRESSED-UP CHICKEN MILANESA
Milanesa de pollo bien vestida
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely crumbled queso fresco, cotija, ricotta salata, or romano
1 tablespoon dried ground chile piquín or a mix like Tajín, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
To flatten the chicken breasts, in between two layers of parchment or plastic paper, flatten the chicken breasts with a meat pallet or a skillet.
On a plate, beat 2 eggs together with the milk. On another plate, combine the breadcrumbs with the cheese, ground chile and salt.
Dip both sides of each flattened chicken breast in the egg mixture, then gently coat both sides with the breadcrumb mixture so that the entire piece is covered. Set the coated breasts aside on a chopping board or platter.
Heat enough oil, in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat, for it to be ¼ inch deep. After about 3 to 4 minutes, when the oil is hot but not smoking, place as many chicken breasts as will fit in a single layer without crowding the pan. If the edges of the chicken breasts aren’t bubbling in the oil, raise the heat closer to medium-high.
Cook for about 3 minutes on one side until golden brown. Gently flip and repeat on the other side. When the second side has crisped, remove it from the pan and set it on a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining milanesas.
Simple, easy, home-style cuisine that you’d find in just about any Mexican home, recreated for the American kitchen. This meal was my favorite “everyday” meal growing up in Mexico, and one I regularly make for my own family today. I am proud to share the steps so that you can enjoy it too.
We started by gathering a few chiles from my backyard garden. And Kelly, from Capital Decor, made some gorgeous chile arrangements to spice up my kitchen.
Then, I make Rabo de Mestiza with Holly. Rabo de Mestiza is a dish where eggs are poached in a tomato and poblano sauce. It’s perfect for an Independence Day brunch because the white eggs, green chiles and red tomato sauce represent the colors in Mexico’s flag.
WHITE RICE AND FRIED PLANTAINS
Arroz blanco con plátanos fritos
Serves 8 to 10
2 cups long-grain white rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying plantains
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, prepared or homemade
1 celery stalk, cut in half
1 fresh parsley sprig
1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced
1 serrano chile
Sour cream, to garnish, optional
To prepare the rice:
Place the rice in a large bowl and cover with very hot water; let it soak anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring softly for 2 to 3 minutes. Incorporate the onion and stir, from time to time, until the rice begins to change to a milky-white color and feels and sounds heavier, as if it were grains of sand; about 3 to 4 more minutes.Pour in the chicken stock, along with the celery, parsley, lime juice, salt and whole chile.
When it comes to a rolling boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook until the rice is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. If the rice grains don’t seem soft and cooked through, add a bit more chicken broth or water and let it cook for another 5 more minutes or so.
Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork when ready to serve. Place the cooked plantains (below) on top. Place sour cream on the side for people to add to their rice and plantains if they like.
To prepare the plantains:
Note: The skin of the plantain should be almost entirely black when it is mature and ready to use in this recipe.
Peel the plantains and slice them diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices.
In a sauté pan, over medium heat, add about 1/4-inch of oil. Heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the plantain slices and fry until browned but not blackened, about 2 minutes per side, the oil should be bubbling around their edges of the plantain slices as they cook.
Remove the plantains from the oil and drain them on a plate covered with paper towels.
JUJU’S BIRTHDAY CAKE
Pastel de chocolate de Juju
For the cake:
1 cup water
2/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter or vegetable shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
For the Frosting:
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup sprinkles, optional
To prepare the cake:
Grease a 9×13-inch cake pan with butter. Cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, over medium heat, pour the water, stir in the cocoa and add the butter. Let it heat for a few minutes, stirring now and then, until it all dissolves. Remove the pot from the heat.
In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In another, beat the eggs and combine them with the sour cream.
In turns, add a quarter of the flour mix and then a quarter of the sour cream mix at a time into the pot with the cocoa mixture; stir with a spatula, mixing all of the ingredients as you move along. Pour onto the greased cake pan and place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out barely moist but not wet.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool a bit while you prepare the frosting.
To prepare the frosting:
In a saucepan, over medium heat, pour in the milk and the vanilla. Stir in the cocoa and add the butter. Heat and stir until everything is all dissolved and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Thoroughly mix with a spatula and set aside.
Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the cake. Turn the cake onto a platter and gently remove the parchment paper. Pour the still-warm frosting over the cake and gently spread it out with a spatula. If you wish, you may add sprinkles of your choice before the frosting hardens (NOTE: The cake is soft and moist the first couple days, then hardens like a brownie afterwards if left uncovered– perfect for packing in school lunches).