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
Continue reading Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup
Oaxaca-style Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas
Quesadillas de Hongos con Queso Estilo Oaxaca
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup white onion, chopped
1 chile serrano, or jalapeño, finely chopped (seeding optional)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb fresh mushrooms, white or baby bello, or any that you prefer, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh epazote leaves, chopped, optional
2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 cup Oaxaca cheese, shredded (also good with mozzarella, muenster or monterey jack)
Corn tortillas, store bought or homemade
Salsa of your choice
Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan, set over medium-high heat. When butter starts to sizzle, add white onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the serrano chile and chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, for about a minute.
Incorporate the thinly sliced mushrooms and cook them for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Their juices will begin to come out and after a couple minutes they will begin to dry out. When they do, mix in the epazote leaves if using, and salt, stir and cook for another minute. The mushroom mix should be moist, not wet or too dry, which will be perfect for filling the quesadillas.
Heat the tortillas on a hot comal or dry skillet over medium heat for about 20 seconds. Place a tablespoon or two of the mushroom mix and a tablespoon or two of the shredded cheese (depending on how chubby you want them!) on the center of each tortilla. Fold it as if it were a turnover and press down. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until cheese is completely melted and tortillas have begun to crisp a bit on the outside.
Serve with a side of a salsa of your choice.
Quesadillas–the perfect marriage of heaven and earth, where the basic, simple tortilla meets the ecstasy of cheese. If you can find the right cheese, that is… So, where do you find great Mexican cheeses in the US? If you can’t find Oaxaca Cheese or Manchego, what can you use instead? What about Monterey Jack or Cheddar as a substitute?
In this episode I interview the fabulous Joe Yonan (who just came out with an equally fabulous cookbook!), who gives us a lot of cheesy advise.
Would it shock you to know that you don’t technically need to stuff cheese inside for it to qualify as an authentic Mexican quesadilla?
While most of us in DC have stacked our winter clothes up in the attic or inside a trunk, the truth is, it’s still a bit chilly. So today I made this mushroom soup, yet again. I should be tired of it already, since I just cooked 100 portions of it for last Friday’s cooking class at the Institute and I had tested it for weeks… But here I go.. It is just too good!
It is not your typical soup at all. It has the woody and earthy feel of the mushrooms, but their flavor is somehow enhanced by the chile de árbol. It may sound strange, since one would think that chiles mask the flavor of ingredients. But depending on how you use them, they can pronounce rather than overpower other flavors.
Continue reading A comfy soup for the still chilly nights