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August 29, 2014
mole de olla

I don’t think twice about eating a hot stew in the summertime. And, as far as I know, millions of Mexicans feel the same way.

You will see Pozole served in fondas in the middle of June, hot Caldo de Camarón as one of the most popular items on beach restaurant menus, and the famed Mole de Olla being ladled, sizzling hot from the pot, in markets all over the country at peak midday heat.

I’ve read that having something hot in the summer will actually cool you off. It turns out chiles are thought to have the same effect.  All these Mexican stews, quoted above, have rich broths that are usually flavored with one or more kinds of chiles.

Continue reading Mole de Olla

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Mole de Olla

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Red Pozole with Traditional Garnishes

Red Pozole with Traditional Garnishes
Pozole Rojo

Serves: 12

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Ingredients

For the pozole:

1 pound dried hominy or 3 29-ounce cans hominy, drained and rinsed

1 head garlic, papery outer layers removed, but not entirely peeled (if using dried hominy)

2 whole chickens (about 3 pounds each), rinsed and cut into serving pieces, or a combination of 3 pounds chicken and 3 pounds pork shoulder or butt

1 white onion, peeled

5 fresh cilantro sprigs

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt, plus more to taste


For the chile puree:

2 ancho chiles (about 1 ounce) rinsed, stemmed and seeded

3 guajillo chiles (about 1 ounce) rinsed, stemmed and seeded

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped white onion

3 garlic cloves

Pinch of ground cumin

2 whole cloves

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or more to taste

3 tablespoons vegetable oil


Garnishes:

5-6 limes, halved

10 radishes, rinsed, halved and thinly sliced

1 head of romaine lettuce, rinsed, drained and thinly sliced

1/2 cup chopped white onion

Dried ground chile, such as piquín, ancho, chipotle or a Mexican mix

Dried oregano

Crispy tostadas or tortilla chips, store-bought or homemade

Refried beans, store-bought or homemade (optional)

To Prepare

To make the pozole: If using dried hominy, place it in a large soup pot. Add water to the pot to cover the hominy by at least 3-inches. Add the head of garlic. Don’t add salt now or the hominy will toughen. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, for 4 to 5 hours, until hominy is tender and has begun to “bloom” or open up. Occasionally skim the foam from the top as the hominy cooks and make sure it doesn’t dry as it cooks, adding more hot water if need be. If using canned or pre-cooked hominy, start with step below.

Meanwhile, place the chicken (and pork, if using), in a large soup pot. Add water to cover the top layer of chicken by at least 2 inches. Add the onion, cilantro and the tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through and tender, about 35 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking broth. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.

In the soup pot, combine the cooked hominy and its broth (discard the garlic head), or the canned hominy and 2 cups water, with the shredded chicken and its broth. Taste for salt, add more if need be, and simmer all together for 10 minutes more.

To make the chile puree: Place the chiles in a 3-quart saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chiles have softened and rehydrated. Place the chiles, along with 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid, the onion, garlic, cumin, cloves and salt in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. If using a food processor, be sure to wrap a towel around the joint between the lid and the base to catch any escaping liquid. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing gently on the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.

Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in the 3-quart saucepan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the chile puree, bring to a boil and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally and allowing it to thicken.

Add the red chile sauce to simmering pozole, let it cook for an additional 25 minutes, adjust the seasoning, and serve in soup bowls. Arrange the garnishes in smaller bowls on the table and let your guests customize their pozole. Or, if making ahead, let the pozole cool then cover and refrigerate, and reheat when you are ready to serve.

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October 10, 2013
Flour tortillas

There are so many ways that you can have and enjoy tortillas de harina at home. You can make them the traditional way, the fast-track-modern way (if you have an electric tortilla maker such as the REVEL…), or buy them ready made at the store. Different from corn tortillas, which rule Mexico’s south and are made with a base of nixtamalized corn, flour tortillas rule Mexico’s north and are wheat flour based. The latter also have an element of fat (either lard, vegetable shortening or oil) and are milder, sweeter and softer.

Sometimes both kinds of tortillas, flour and corn, work interchangeably for a dish, say cheese quesadillas or chicken tacos, and may depend on the preference of the eater. However, beware, there are other times when either the flour or corn tortilla should be the prime choice. Take Chilorio, it needs to be tucked in a flour tortilla. Yet any kind of enchiladas, enfrijoladas, or casserole must, REALLY MUST, be made with corn tortillas because they withhold the sauce much better than wheat flour ones, and sweetness may be uncalled for.

Continue reading Homemade Wheat Flour Tortillas


December 12, 2012
santa-clara-cookies

You know what happens when you eat a Santa Clara Cookie?

When you first bite into it, you go through a soft layer with grainy texture that tastes like a moist version of marzipan. But as your teeth sink in they hit the hard crust of a buttery cookie that breaks into the crunchiest of chunks in your mouth. It makes for such tasty contrast that you have to take more bites to understand their beauty. Since one cookie doesn’t explain it, you will reach for another one…

There you go! Another sweet concoction from the nuns of the Santa Clara convent in Puebla whose recipe has been passed down for over a dozen generations. Together with the nuns from Santa Rosa Convent (where Mole Poblano is believed to have been invented) and Santa Monica Convent (where many say Chiles en Nogada come from) they are much to blame for the baroque foods, which mixed European and Mexican ingredients with much passion and devotion, that shaped the cuisine of this city – and has made it an epicenter of gastronomy in Mexico.

Yet it was the nuns from Santa Clara who were most famous for their sweets. You can read what the plaque says outside of the standing convent which shut its doors long ago but left behind a strong legacy and a trail of sweets.

Continue reading Santa Clara Cookies


December 21, 2011
bunuelos
When I was about 10 years old, my parents developed a habit of traveling during the December holidays without my sisters and I. Don’t ask me why they thought it was a good idea.
It was an awful, terrible, horrible idea.

The sweet highlight was that our babysitter Sari, whom we call Nana Tochito and who came from the mountainous regions of Oaxaca, prepared a full blown Christmas style meal to spoil and help us celebrate the holidays. No, we didn’t have the tree like our friends in school. But, thanks to my Nana we couldn’t care less. We exchanged gifts, ate lots of gelt, had the traditional big roasted turkey, drank ponche, and what we loved the most, ate buñuelos.

Mostly found around Christmas and New Year’s, buñuelos speak of nothing but celebration. And truly, what one has to celebrate is being lucky enough to find buñuelos at markets, fairs and street stands or having the time, patience and a reliable recipe to make them at home.

Buñuelos may be one of the most high maintenance treats one can make: but to cut to the chase, they are completely worth it.

Now with that said, you can skip to the end where I give you my most reliable recipe or read a bit more about why I – and everyone in Mexico- love them so, including their demanding and time consuming nature…

Continue reading Buñuelos: High Maintenance, But So Worth It!


November 19, 2011

Sliced bread brushed with melted butter, toasted until golden, layered with handfuls of nuts and dried fruits, drenched in Piloncillo syrup, topped with crumbled salty cheese and baked until it all comes together…. Once out of the oven, it tastes like a cross between French Toast and Bread Pudding. Crisp-on-the-top and moist-in-the-center, every spoonful a delightful mess.

That is Mexico’s most well known version of Capirotada. Being a lover of delicious Mexican style food messes, I am one big fan of it. But some newcomers to the dish are taken aback by the salty cheese on top. What -you may ask like many do- is the need for the cheese on top? Well, that salty tease makes the thick feel and sweet taste of the dish come out in bold strokes in your mouth.

It reminds me of how my father loves to slice sweet bananas over his savory lentil soup; or how my family goes crazy over piling ates (fruit pastes) with Manchego cheese, as so many Mexicans do; or how I used to love eating a handful of chocolate covered raisins right after a handful salty pop corn, and then repeat it again and again at the movies growing up, as long as the movie lasted. Capirotada has that same wild mix.

Once you finish your piece, I bet you will beg for a bit more of that addicting combination. That’s probably why I have received so many requests for a recipe.

Continue reading Going Nuts and Bananas for Capirotada


September 9, 2011

Red pozole, or Pozole Rojo, Jalisco style, has been my favorite pozole of all time. It is bold and gorgeous in every possible way. I am so attached to it, we even served it at our wedding.

For decades now, I’ve refused to replace it with another… And then, I tried a unique green version, Pozole Verde, Guerrero style. It has not surpassed my Pozole Rojo, but it is attempting to tie with it at my table. And that is a lot to say.

Treasured all around Mexico, pozole has many variations, mainly green, red and white. Each distinct and beautiful, and coincidentally, represent the colors of the Mexican flag. Since September is the month of Mexican independence and The Day of El Grito is just around the corner, there is no excuse not to find an excuse to celebrate! And in my mental Mexican dictionary, pozole equals celebration.

Continue reading Pozole: Try It Green!


April 11, 2011

There are countless versions of Pico de Gallo salsas.  Their trademark is having ingredients that are fresh rather than cooked, and diced and chopped rather than pureed.  This is the most common and well-known version.

It is also incredibly colorful!

Continue reading Pico de Gallo Salsa


October 15, 2010
Tomato and Bean Soup 2-thumb-510x343-1509

It is partly because of a soup like this, that I want to write a cookbook.

A soup that makes me feel all warm inside when I spoon it into my mouth.

A soup that has the earthiness and simplicity that grounds me.

A soup that, aside from having a comforting base, has layers of surprising life and color and crunch.

A soup that makes me want to eat nothing else for an entire week.

A soup that speaks of centennial traditions and is passed down through generations recipes.

A soup that is a pleasure to think about, to write about, to talk about, to prepare and to savor.

It is mostly because I want to share a soup like this with you, dear friends, that I am jumping to write this cookbook.

So with great news to share: I will be working with the delightful Rux Martin, editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to make this cookbook come to life.

In this book, I will write about -and tell you how to make- all of those foods that make me want to scream out of joy, along with the stories that revolve around them.

Continue reading On a Soup and a Book


August 12, 2010

With a soft, crumbly and almost sweet dough that embraces a moist, tasty and meaty filling, it is hard not to eat one after the other. These Empanadas do have a curious name though. Especially when you consider their addicting nature.

I didn’t choose their name. No.The nuns from the Mexican Convent of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception are to blame.It all began with Beatriz da Silva, the Portuguese woman who founded the order in Toledo, Spain.

Known to be shockingly beautiful, although destined to be the companion to Queen Isabel from Spain, she was locked up because of the Queen’s jealousy and alleged admiration from the King. Legend goes, that when Beatriz managed to flee, she was more beautiful and had a new found strength she used to establish a new Conceptionist order.The three Conceptionist nuns who arrived in Mexico City around the 1540′s, were also known to be strong. If not as pretty.

Aside from trying to evangelize the population, they combined Spanish and Mexican ingredients in their kitchens, as most Spanish nuns, with an intense passion and a ton of imagination. As most Spanish nuns, as well, their cooking instincts were led by an insatiable sweet tooth. That may explain the sweet elements both in the dough and the filling of these Empanadas, that were served time and again to entertain guests in this convent.And now you know, where the name comes from…

Continue reading Empanadas of the “Immaculate Conception”

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