I hadn’t heard about Thanksgiving until I moved to Texas. Yet, I took my first shot at cooking the meal that cold fall of 1997 in the vast yellow plains of Dallas. Inspired by the glossy food magazines, cookbooks and TV shows, and wanting to immerse myself in the American experience, I baked, cooked and stirred while feeling homesick for my family’s home-cooking. It took years of living in the US for me to grasp the depth and warmth of the holiday and the menu, many failed turkeys and side dishes along the way.
It turns out, fifteen years later, the Thanksgiving feast has become such a relevant part of our lives that if we ever moved back to Mexico, I’d have to bring it back with us.
The connection wasn’t instantaneous. Slowly, some elements began to resonate within me. Take the bird: Turkey is an indigenous ingredient in Mexican cookery and a center piece for Christmas and the New Year. Both are holidays which also happen near the end of the year, during the coldest season, and have to do with gathering family and friends around a plentiful table. And being thankful. And hopeful.
Regardless of the many recommended takes on turkey I tried, it wasn’t until I came up with my own Mexican version (it’s in my new cookbook please get it!) that the Thanksgiving turkey felt like part of our home and our home grew deeper roots in the United States.
Now my Mexican turkey is part of the Thanksgiving menu, we eat every year with our same dear American friends, along with Debra’s butternut squash soup; Tamara’s fennel, pear and parmesan salad; Sean’s changing sides (as my turkey replaced his, he is finding his way on the sides territory – sorry Sean, but you’re the one who chose mine…); Viviana and Mario’s very berry sauce; and David’s chocolate pecan pie and home made ice creams.
This year, I have some sweet potato rounds with a punch to share.
Continue reading Sweet Potato Rounds with a Punch
WHITE RICE WITH TOASTED ANGEL HAIR PASTA
Arroz Blanco con Fideos
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups white rice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 lb or about 1 cup angel hair pasta, broken into pieces
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
4 cups water or chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lime juice, optional
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Soak the white rice in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. In a cooking pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the angel hair and fry for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. It should be browned but not burnt.
Incorporate the drained rice, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice achieves a milky white color and it feels and sounds heavier when you move it.
Add the chopped onion and garlic, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour the water or broth over the rice, add the salt and lime juice, and once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with the lid, and cook for about 20 minutes.
The rice is ready when the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender and cooked. Turn off the heat and keep it covered for at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Though I am no painter, this I know to be true:
Throw in the four primary colors onto a painting palette and mix randomly. Whatever combination you come up with, there will be a Mexican rice that catches the spirit of those tones.
Red rice, cooked in a rich base of tomato puree, onion and garlic, and sometimes chopped vegetables. Depending on the cook and the style, sometimes red rice may end up a bit on the orange side. Green rice, either based on Poblano chile, cilantro, parsley or a combination of those, giving a beautiful range of flavors along those grassy lines. Black rice, seasoned with cooking broth from beans in the pot. White rice, the classic yet flavorful Mexican take that can be an unpretentious yet comforting side to almost anything. And we are not even getting started.
What many people don’t know is that Mexico also has its versions of Yellow rice.
Continue reading Old World and New World: Yellow Rice
Right off the bat, you must understand: I heart chorizo. Especially the kind I grew up eating in Mexico. It comes in deep-burnt-reddish links of fresh, moist, exotically seasoned ground meat that, once fried, becomes crisp and filling bites with bold flavors and a thousand uses.My oldest son’s quick choice for breakfast is chorizo fried until it browns and crisps, with a side of white toast. Add some lightly beaten eggs as the chorizo is starting to brown and some ripe and creamy avocado slices on the side, and that’s my kind of rich-tasting brunch dish. Of course chorizo is delicious in sandwiches, in tacos and quesadillas, on top of enchiladas, in mashed potatoes, as a topping for heartier salads, in some of the tastiest bean dishes I have tried, in pastas with a ton of personality and on pizzas with pickled jalapeño peppers on top.
I am really trying to stop myself here…
Continue reading More Chorizo to Love
Not to be confused with the other kind of tortas, (tortes translates to tortas in Spanish…) Mexico’s favorite sandwich made with a crispy bread roll adapted from the baguette; tortes are a cross between a fluffy and moist bread, a savory pudding, and now that I think of it, also a souffle.
Although there are quite a few variations, tortes have a few things in common. For one thing, they are easy to prepare. Next, they are versatile since they can be a side to both dry or saucy entrees, they can become the main dish accompanied by a salad and they can travel solo in grand style. What’s more, and crucial around home, they help eager parents deceive picky eaters who don’t like vegetables that much.
Continue reading Zucchini torte for you and me (and turns out my mother too)
Zucchini torte for you and me (and turns out my mother too)
Ay, ay, ay! Patita, espérate mamacita! My nanny repeated, as she snatched the hot plantain tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, from my hands. Her hands were more resistant, she insisted, as they were older and had cooked so much. She would hold my chosen package with an open hand, so the camotero (sweet potato street cart man, who also sold plantains) could tear up the foil. As the steam flew up to the skies, he poured a more-than-any-child-could-wish-for amount of sweetened condensed milk… and so it fell, sweet ounce, by thick ounce, onto that moist, rich, filling and immensely satisfying treat. Sheer joy, that was.
I devoured it in what seemed a couple bites, just to lick the last but yummiest remains from the crumbled foil. There we were, standing on the street corner where my family lived, mischievously laughing: it was already getting dark, almost dinnertime, and no, no, no, I wasn’t supposed to be having any. Oh dear, how I miss that woman! Now every time I eat a plantain, I get a sparkle of that sheer joy.
Continue reading Three tasty ways to eat ripe plantains
Pickled Jalapeños are a very popular garnish, topping or side for plenty of Mexican foods like tortas, tacos, quesadillas, grilled meats, rice, beans, tostadas… just to name some. So much so, that in many Restaurants, they are placed in the center of the table along the side of salt, pepper and a breadbasket. Many people nibble on them right out of the bowl… They are popular in Mexican Pizzerias too!
You can make your own or buy them already bottled or canned at the stores. They are so intensely used, that there are plenty of brands that carry them as a regular product. Taste does vary considerably from one brand to another, so try a couple, and see which ones you like more.
Continue reading Pickling Jalapeños
I am not one to carry a bottle of hot sauce in my bag wherever I go. I do have an uncle that proudly does. Wherever he travels, his Tabasco sauce eagerly jumps out of his bag and splashes its somewhat flavorless heat on whatever food it happens to come across. Yep, fancy restaurants too.
Most Mexicans are picky chile eaters. Since we have so many varieties, and such varied and distinct ways to use and prepare them, we can exquisitely discriminate how and what we pair them with. We love their different flavors, textures, fragrances and personalities. It is like considering different kinds of fruits. So my uncle is more an exception than the rule.
All this to say, without any excuse, that although I am not a hot sauce bottle kind of woman, I am a pickled Jalapeño kind of gal.
Continue reading Pickled Jalapeño Kind of Gal