If you’re fighting a war, how do you cook food on the run? What sort of meals can you make around ranches, porches, and rustic bonfires? What might Pancho Villa or Emiliano Zapata have eaten? This episode looks at the culinary legacy of the Mexican Revolution, with recipes that include:
Burritas de Chilorio
3 pounds boneless pork (butt, shoulder or loin with some fat on!) cut into 2″ chunks, or substitute for chicken
1 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
5 dried ancho chiles (about 55 grams), tops and seeds removed
1 1/2 cup of the chile soaking liquid (see below)
1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
2/3 cup cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
Flour tortillas, warmed, optional
Place rinsed meat chunks in an extended heavy pot. Barely cover with the orange juice and water, add a teaspoon of salt and set over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, bring the heat down to medium and let is simmer for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked off and the meat is thoroughly cooked, and has rendered most of its fat.
Meanwhile, remove the stems from the chiles, make a slit down their sides and remove their seeds and veins. Place them in a bowl, cover them with boiling hot water, and let them sit and rehydrate for about 15 minutes. Place the chiles and 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid in the blender along with the onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, cumin, black pepper, vinegar, and puree until smooth.
Once the meat is ready, place it in a bowl along with any remaining cooking broth. Once it is cool enough to handle, shred it with your hands or using two forks.
In the same pot, heat oil over medium heat. Pour in the chile sause and let it season and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Toss in the shredded meat along with any of its remaining cooking broth. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt and let it cook, stirring often, until the meat has absorbed most of the chile sauce, which will have thickened, seasoned and changed color to a much darker tone. It will take about 20 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if need be.
Serve with warmed flour tortillas on the side. If you wish, spoon chilorio on tortillas and roll them into burritas or burras. They are wonderful with refried beans and avocado or guacamole on the side as well.
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.
Plantain and Refried Bean Quesadillas
Quesadillas de Plátano Macho con Frijolitos Refritos
Makes 6 to 8, 5″ quesadillas.
Place the whole plantains in a large pot filled with boiling water. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are thoroughly cooked. Remove from the water and let cool. Peel the plantains, slice, and place in a food processor along with the sugar. Process until smooth. If the dough seems to soft and runny, you may add some all purpose flour to thicken it a bit. You may also let it sit in the refrigerator, covered, for a half an hour so it will harden too.
Make round balls of about 1 to 2″. Press in between plastic rounds in a tortilla press or roll with a roller until you get a flat disk of about ¼”. Place about a tablespoon of refried beans right in the center and fold like a turnover. Press down along the edges so they will be tightly sealed.
In a large deep skillet set over medium heat, heat enough oil to have about an inch high. About 3 to 4 minutes later, when it is hot but not smoking, insert the quesadillas a few at a time. The oil should be bubbling around the quesadillas as you do. Let them fry, about 2 minutes on each side until nicely tanned and lightly crisped. Don’t let them brown too much. Remove them and place on a paper towel to drain excess of oil.
Serve with your favorite salsa.
Growing up in Mexico City, my sisters and I used to prepare exotic meals, perfumes and potions for the inhabitants of our enchanted forest. That was our dog, the bluebird, snails, butterflies and ladybugs that happened to peek into our backyard and witness our extravagant mess. It also included any family friend who happened to stop by and become a willing victim. We sometimes offered cooking classes too.
My mother set us up in the backyard on a big blanket with random pots and pans, while she cooked laborious weekend meals. There was a fig tree, an apple tree, a peach tree, a couple of what we called Chinese orange trees and tons of azaleas and herbs that offered an immense array of witch-crafting material. But among our most prized ingredients were dried jamaica flowers, known here as hibiscus flowers, stored in a big jar in the kitchen.
Continue reading Jamaica flowers charm the kitchen
Some people get motion sickness when they travel. Some people get hungry. I am among the latter.
The minute I step on whatever will transport me from one place to another, my mind swims through related food memories… and I just have to eat. So since I know I will have a craving for something other than a moist, soggy, chewy and never-ever crunchy baguette from the Amtrak train, and after being so spoiled with the food from El Chepe Train, I am packing my own Torta.
Torta (according to me…): A satisfying and delicious, self contained, easy to transport, edible package filled with tasty ingredients that just love to schmooze together.
Continue reading I am packing my own Torta…