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
GRANDMA LALI’S FLOATING ISLANDS
Las Islas Flotantes de Vainilla de mi Abuela Lali
For the Floating Islands
12 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
For the Caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
For the Vanilla Sauce
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 inch piece vanilla bean
10 strawberries optional for garnish, sliced, or any other fruit of your choice
To make the caramel:
Place sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the sugar melts, moving the pan so it will not burn, until it has a caramel consistency. Turn off the heat and pour the caramel quickly into individual flan or custard molds as you tilt them, so the caramel covers the bottom of each mold. The caramel will quickly cool and set.
To make the floating islands:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place egg whites in a mixer with the salt and cream of tarter and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Add in the extracts and the sugar and mix until combined. Then top each of the molds with the egg white mixture.
Place molds in a large baking pan. Pour about an inch of boiling water into the pan to create a water bath. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. The top of the islands will look browned and crispy. Turn the oven off, open the door oven slightly and let the islands cool inside of the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven.
To make the vanilla sauce:
In a saucepan, lightly beat the egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of all purpose flour.
In another saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean (make a slit on its side and free the seeds into the milk). Let it heat until very hot but not boiling. Slowly, in a very thin stream, add the hot milk into the yolk mixture, emulsifying with a whisk until it is all incorporated. Place over low heat and stir until the sauce almost reaches a boil, and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Turn the heat off and keep on whisking slowly, for about a minute or so. The sauce can be served hot, warm or cold. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month once cooled.
Once the molds have cooled to room temperature, you can unmold them. Use a knife to go around the edge of the molds and carefully turn them onto a plate. Drizzle the caramel from the bottom of the molds on top of the islands. Add a couple tablespoons of the vanilla sauce on top. You may garnish with strawberries or any other fruit of your liking.
Islands can be refrigerated in their molds, covered, for up to 5 days.
Now that Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, friends are asking me what we will be eating to celebrate…and what I am craving most are Enchiladas Verdes. The perfect yummy family food that stays messy on the casserole.
Even though most native Mexicans know that Cinco de Mayo isn’t a big celebration in Mexico (as a matter of fact, it is mostly celebrated in Puebla), we embrace it outside of Mexico with all our hearts without really knowing why. I guess it is a great excuse to celebrate what we love and miss about Mexico- like the tomatillo. A native Mexican ingredient that is the corner stone of so many dishes.
Continue reading Enchiladas Verdes: in a Tomatillo Sauce
Shortly after posting one of my first Basic Ingredients posts, on Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, Cath Kelly from Australia commented: “I’ve been desperately looking for a recipe to make Chipotles in Adobo. We smoke our own Jalapeños which turn out beautiful, and this is the next step in my cooking process. Please hurry up and cook them up for us!”
Australia… An exotic place for someone to wonder how to make this addicting and versatile Mexican chile pickle. What’s more, as much as Chipotles in Adobo are a basic staple in Mexican cooking, most Mexicans buy them ready-made in cans in stores and of extraordinary quality.
Think mustard, do you buy it or make your own?
Then again, time has proved there are more people into making things from scratch than what I thought: The most visited Post on my site, by far, is the one to make Pickled Jalapeños. Another chile pickle devoured by Mexicans from morning ’til night, from north to south, also usually bought ready-made in cans.
Well, Cath, it has taken me a while. I am sorry. It has not been because I didn’t have your request in mind. On the contrary, I’ve been testing and tweaking my recipe here and there, for over a year (!) so that when you make it, it can be better than what you get in the stores.
Continue reading You Asked for It: Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce
This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had.
The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.
It’s become the trump card I pull out for guests that love unusual and authentic flavors from Mexico. The best part of it is, the hardest part about making it, is waiting for the brisket to cook on its own.
I first tried a version of it in Santa Fé de la Laguna, Michoacán. A popular dish in that region, it goes by the name of Carne Enchilada. A young and knowledgeable Purépecha cook, Berenice Flores, showed me how to make it at her home. When my whole family sat down to eat it, we kept asking her for more corn tortillas to wipe the sauce clean off the plates.
Continue reading Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce
It seems that many people find chicken boring.
I happen to find it fascinating.
Not only because chicken is friendly enough to let you take it wherever your imagination can go and because it can be the juiciest and crispiest meal, but also, because of that story my mother told me when I was growing up.
When my mom was about 10 years old, my grandmother who came to Mexico from Austria in her early twenties having survived years of war, turbulence and the loss of most of her family, taught my mom a serious lesson: you can survive most hardships in life if you know how to cook, she had said, and mostly, if you know how to cook chicken from scratch.
Cooking from scratch really meant from scratch. No nonsense. So my mom learned how to kill, pluck and cook chicken a thousand ways.
The showcase of last week’s class was one of Mexico’s most famous and delicious moles, the Poblano, which originated in the kitchen of the Convent of Santa Rosa, in Puebla. After seeing how much guests enjoyed it, I can’t wait to share it with you.
I know, the word Mole sounds exciting to eat yet intimidating to prepare. As the root of the word describes, from the náhuatl mulli, Mole is a thick sauce or paste made by grinding ingredients together in a molcajete or communal mill. A food processor works as well. This sauce can be thinned out with broth or water when ready to use.
The Poblano with its long ingredients list and its laborious process, is not the best way to introduce Moles. There are some simple Moles with no more than 4 or 5 ingredients that are easier to prepare and just as tasty.
But here I am! I adore the Poblano and I know you will too…
Continue reading Mole Poblano: Yes You Can!
I have been humbled, time and again, by how one never stops learning from other cooks in the kitchen. That has especially been the case with my cooking team at the Mexican Cultural Institute. We are all from different parts of Mexico, with our peculiar twists and spins, influences and very strong opinions, which we love to scream out loud when trying to make what we serve at each event be the best it can possibly be.Though we get a bit stressed when cooking for kitchen outsiders, we really let loose when making lunch for ourselves. We take turns and last week Julio, a former Mexican taquería cook, made his albóndigas. I had been dying to try them since not only he, but his aunt Maricruz, had been raving about them for over two years. “De veras, de veritas Pati” (Maricruz said, which means really, REALLY) “he makes the most delicious albóndigas of them all.”
Continue reading Dreaming of Julio’s Albóndigas with Chipotle and Mint
Dreaming of Julio’s Albóndigas with Chipotle and Mint
During the years I’ve been teaching at the Mexican Cultural Institute I’ve been hesitant to demonstrate and serve Chiles en Nogada. There are many reasons…
First, one of my goals has been to open a window into the world of Mexican cooking in an accessible way. I’ve introduced basic ingredients and dishes along with bits of their history, fun facts, cooking methods and new spins, so people can become familiar with this cuisine and feel empowered to play with its basics in their own kitchens.
No sense in teaching how to make something incredibly complex with tons of new ingredients, which can be quite overwhelming, right?
Continue reading OK… Chiles in Nogada, at last!
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