Tag Archives: Mexican Weekend

A ‘Seductive’ Coconut Bread Pudding

Mexican_darkblueLogo_POST_170x177Not too long ago, we made a pan of this coconut bread pudding in the test kitchen above our Clark Street restaurants.

The reviews were across-the-board spectacular. In fact, we spotted a few taste testers having a private moment of bliss (if you know what I mean) as they took bite after bite.

The secret to a good bread pudding — what really makes it tender, not leaden — isn’t really a secret at all. Just use the right bread (cakey bread like brioche is great) and add some richness (here it’s butter plus the natural fattiness of tropical coconut milk).

Toast the bread, as I’ve described below, and the result is utterly seductive.

Don’t forget: Snap pics of your finished dish and tag them #MoreBayless on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for a chance to win an autographed copy of my new cookbook, “More Mexican Everyday.” Details here. It’s the final round! The deadline to submit is midnight on Tuesday, April 28. 

Budín de Pan y Coco
Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 14 ounces bread (I like brioche or challah, but cakey white sandwich bread works well, too), crusts trimmed off if you wish, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably Mexican or dark rum or Xtabentún
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 114-ounce can coconut milk (regular, not "lite")
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar
  • Confectioners' sugar, for serving
  • Optional garnishes
  • 1/4cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1cup chopped papaya
  • 1cup crema

Instructions

Turn on the oven to 400 degrees. Scoop the butter into a large, microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave at 50% power for 1 minute. Scoop the bread into the bowl and stir slowly until it is evenly coated. Spread the bread on a rimmed baking sheet, slide it into the oven and toast, stirring every 5 minutes, until it is richly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove the bread and turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Butter an 8-inch-square baking dish and scoop the bread into it.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and salt. In a small (1- to 2-quart) saucepan, heat the coconut milk and the granulated sugar over medium-low, stirring until the mixture is just warm (not close to boiling) and the sugar is dissolved. Pour the warm coconut milk into the eggs in a slow stream, whisking constantly, until well combined. Pour the custard over the bread. Let the bread soak up the custard for 15 minutes, gently stirring the mixture every few minutes. Slide the baking dish into the oven and bake until the bread pudding is barely set at the center, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, cut into pieces, place them on small plates and you're ready to delight a few friends.

Variations: Garnish the finished bread pudding with about 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil and 1 cup chopped papaya. Serve with crema. 

A weekend mole that doesn’t take all weekend

Mole Amarillo

Mole Amarillo

 

Moles are not everyday sauces. Truthfully, they’re not even every week sauces. In Mexico, moles are usually reserved for big parties and other special occasions, because, well, people have to work, you know? Capitalism doesn’t run on people sitting around and toasting chiles all day.

And yet for every rule, there is an exception, and that’s exactly what this recipe is. Rick’s Brothy Oaxacan Yellow Mole (a.k.a mole amarillo) is full of beautiful chile flavor and raises chicken (and even a plate of vegetables) to dinner party-status, yet it takes only 40 minutes to make—and 30 of those minutes are essentially unattended. Which gives you lots of time to do the weekend activity that’s second only to cooking: eating.

Mole Amarillo

Yellow mole is often served with chicken, chayote, potatoes and green beans.  It is also delicious with grilled fish and mussels.

From Season 9, Mexico—One Plate At A Time

Makes one quart of mole

 

Servings: 1Quart
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Ingredients

  • 1ounce (4 medium)dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into several pieces
  • 1/2of a 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire roasted), drained
  • 1/2small white onion, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 1/4teaspoon cumin (preferably freshly ground)
  • 1/4teaspoon allspice (preferably freshly ground)
  • 1/4teaspoon cinnamon (preferably freshly ground Mexican canela)
  • 1teaspoondried Mexican oregano
  • 1quart chicken broth
  • 2tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 2tablespoonsmasa harina (or 1 ½ tablespoons fresh masa)
  • 2freshhoja santa leaves, torn into pieces OR ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro

Instructions

In a blender jar, combine the torn guajillo chiles, tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices, oregano and 1 cup of the chicken broth. Blend as smooth as possible. (A food processor will work though it won’t completely puree the chile.)

In a very large (6- to 8-quart) saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high. Set a medium-mesh strainer over the top and pour in the chile mixture. Press the mixture through the strainer into the hot oil and stir until it’s noticeably thicker yet still light orange in color, about 5 minutes.

Scoop the masa harina (or fresh masa) into a blender and add the hoja santa (or cilantro) leaves. Add 1 cup of the broth and blend thoroughly. Pour the mixture through the sieve set over the pan into the cooked chile mixture. Whisk until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Add the remaining 2 cups of broth and simmer for about a half hour. Taste and season with salt, usually about ½ teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of the broth, and serve with your choice of meat, seafood or vegetables.

Al Pastor, Always and Forever

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So, this isn’t going to be true tacos al pastor.

For the absolute best version, you’d need at least 20 pounds of thin-sliced marinated pork, a charcoal-fired contraption like the ones used for roasting Greek gyros and a long knife to slice off slivers of the succulent roasty meat into waiting fresh corn tortillas.

Assuming you don’t have any of that, I’m going to offer up my backyard-grill version of Central Mexico’s most iconic taco, which food historians say came to Mexico after a great number of Middle Eastern immigrants brought vertical spit cooking.

Quick tip: The longer you marinate the meat, the more its texture will resemble cured ham; marinate for an hour or so for fresh-pork texture, overnight for cured texture. The marinade itself will hold for a week or more, covered and refrigerated.

And if you can’t find achiote paste locally, you might want to consider buying a pouch of Frontera Al Pastor marinade to do the work for you.

Tacos al Pastor
Recipe from Season 7, Mexico—One Plate at a Time
Servings: 20tacos, enough to serve 4 to 5 as a main course
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Ingredients

  • A 3 1/2ounce packageachiote paste
  • 3canned chipotle chile en adobo, plus 4 tablespoons of the canning sauce
  • 1/4cup vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more for the onion and pineapple
  • 1 1/2pounds thin-sliced pork shoulder (1/4-inch-thick slices are ideal—the kind Mexican butchers sell for making tacos al pastor)
  • 1medium red onion, sliced 1/4- inch thick
  • Salt
  • 1/4of a medium pineapple, sliced 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 20 warm corn tortillas
  • About 1 1/2cups raw tomatillo salsa

Instructions

In a blender, combine the achiote paste, chiles, canning sauce, oil and 3/4 cup water. Blend until smooth. Use 1/3 of the marinade to smear over both sides of each piece of meat (refrigerate the rest of the marinade to use on other meat or fish). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until covered with gray ash but still very hot; bank the coals to one side and set the grill grate in place. Or, heat one side of a gas grill to high. Brush both sides of the onions slices with oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay in a single layer on the hot side of the grill. When richly browned, usually just about a minute, flip and brown the other side; move to the cool side of the grill to finish softening to grilled-onion sweetness. Oil and grill the pineapple in the same way. Finally, in batches, grill the meat: it’ll take about a minute per side as well. As the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it up (between 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces). Scoop into a skillet and set over the grill to keep the meat warm. Chop the onion and pineapple into small pieces as well, add them to the skillet and toss everything together. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Serve with the tortillas and salsa for your guests to make soft tacos.

Get Grilling: Grilled Salmon with Toasted Peanut Salsa

As we head into late spring, keep your eyes peeled for the wild salmon that’s beginning to show up in fish markets.

180x135HOMEWhy? Because there’s magic to be made.

When it hits the smoky grill, fresh wild salmon reveals and releases its stunning flavor and buttery texture. Topped with a rich gilding of red-chile peanut deliciousness, it becomes the perfect weeknight dish — incredibly delicious, minimal fuss.

Oh, and it looks as great as it tastes.

Don’t forget: Snap pics of your finished dish and tag them #MoreBayless on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for a chance to win an autographed copy of my new cookbook, “More Mexican Everyday.” Details here.

Salmón a la Parilla con Salsa de Cacahuate Tostado
Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 3 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 3dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
  • 2canned chipotles en adobe, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • Salt
  • 4 5-to-6-ounce boneless, skinless salmon fillets (preferably from wild-caught salmon)
  • A little olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 green (or fresh spring “knob”) onions OR 2 fresh ramps

Instructions

On one side of a large (10-inch) dry skillet, roast the garlic over medium, turning regularly, until soft and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.  On the other side, toast the chiles:  Use a metal spatula to press the guajillo chile pieces flat against the hot surface of the pan.  When they release their aroma and change color slightly (maybe even give off a faint whisp of smoke), about 10 seconds, flip them over and press down again to toast the other side.  Scoop into a bowl and cover with ¾ cup very hot tap water.  Rehydrate the chiles for 10 to 15 minutes.

Peel the garlic and scoop into the blender, along with the guajillo chiles (including their soaking liquid), the chipotles and the peanuts. Add a little more water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.  Taste and season with salt, usually about ½ teaspoon.

Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until covered with white ash but still very hot.  Smear the salmon fillets and green onions (or ramps) with a little oil and sprinkle with salt.  Then, on the coolest place on your grill grate, grill the onion, turning regularly, until soft, about 15 minutes.  Lay the salmon fillets on the hottest part of the grill grate, what would have been their skin-side down.  When the grill grates have deeply seared marks into the salmon and the salmon has begun to release itself from the grates, about 3 minutes depending on the heat of your fire, flip them and cook to your desired degree of doneness—usually about 6 minutes total cooking time for a 1-inch-thick fillet.  Transfer to warm dinner plates.

Chop the green onion (or ramp) into small pieces.  Spoon some salsa over each fillet, sprinkle with chopped onion (or ramps) and serve right away.

Is the Queso Fundido Burger the Best Burger Ever? We Think So

POST_170x177Now, it’s not like I’m the world’s biggest burger fanatic.  So when I decide that I just have to scratch that burger itch, I want to make it count.

Seems like everywhere I turn, restaurants are loading up their burgers with crazy ingredients in some sort of (dare I say “misguided”) attempt at thrilling the palate.

Fried chicken breast in place of buns? Pulled pork as a condiment?

Not sure I’m into all that.

If I’m going to honestly build a better burger, I’m going to honor the flavors of the juicy ground beef, while underscoring them with a few ingredients that make sense.  At least to me.

Which is how I got to queso fundido. The gooey cheese is, of course, a no brainer.  The chorizo sausage, mixed with the ground chuck before it hits the grill, adds unique richness and spice.  And the rajas —roasted poblano chiles and sautéed onion— they’re like icing on the cake.

Burgers anyone?

Hamburguesa de Queso Fundido
Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 2mediumfresh poblano chiles
  • 8ouncesfresh Mexican chorizo sausage, removed from its casing if there is one
  • 1tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1medium onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2pounds ground chuck (chuck offers a beefy flavor and richness I like for special occasions when these burgers are appropriate; you can choose a leaner cut if that makes sense for you)
  • 1 to 2canned chipotle chiles en adobo, finely minced, seeded if you wish
  • 8thick slices Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted

Instructions

Roast the poblanos over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, 10 minutes for the broiler. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let cool. Rub off the blackened skin and pull out the stems and seed pods. Cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Set a large (10-inch) skillet over medium.  Add the chorizo and cook, breaking up large chunks, until the chorizo is beginning to brown and is cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Scrape on to a plate lined with paper towels and let cool.  Return the skillet to medium heat, measure in the oil and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently until it begins to brown, 7 or 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and poblano and cook for 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Scrape the rajas into a bowl and cover to keep warm.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, the cooled chorizo, the chipotles and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Mix thoroughly but lightly (to keep from turning out an overly compact texture). Divide into 4 portions, lightly pressing them into patties the size of your buns.

Heat a gas grill to medium-high on one side, medium on the other; or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash (and still quite hot), then bank the coals to one side.

Lay the hamburger patties on the hottest side of the grill and cook until the grill grates have seared beautiful marks on one side, about 2 minutes if your grill is quite hot, then flip and cook until the hamburger is a little less done than you like (usually a couple of minutes longer for rare to medium rare). Move the burgers to the cooler side of the grill. Lay one piece of cheese on top of each burger, top with a portion of the warm rajas and then another piece of cheese. Close the lid and continue cooking until the cheese has melted, about 1 minute. Remove from the grill and place on a toasted bun. Serve immediately.

Let’s Talk About Avocado Mayo, Bacon and Heirloom Tomatoes on Grilled Tostadas

LightBLUE180x135LogoSadly, finding a good Oaxacan tlayuda — that smoky, rustic treat of crispy tortilla topped with salsa, brothy bean mash and chorizo (or pork cecina or beef tasajo) — isn’t an easy an option for most of us here in the U.S.

We simply don’t have the crop of Mexican corn to create the unique size and texture for the leathery tortillas.

What we do have, however, are these grilled tostadas to get us just a little closer to that Oaxacan flavor. And I think you’re going to love them.

First, you’ll grill the corn tortillas to get them crispy, then you’ll brush them with a little fat, finish the crossing and top them with seasonal ingredients. The recipe below calls for classic summertime ingredients — it’s basically mimicking a BLT — but the sky really is the limit with grilled tostadas.

For example, I always like to start with something creamy (like this avocado mayo) or guacamole or mashed beans, then add a vegetable cut into small pieces along with meat or shrimp, and maybe a splash of salsa and final sprinkle of fresh cheese.

Tlayudas Oaxaquenas con Tocino, Mayonesa de Aguacate y Tomates Silvestres
From Season 9, Mexico—One Plate At A Time
Servings: 12tostadas
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Ingredients

  • About 1 dozen corn tortillas, preferably ones from a local tortilleria
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1cup cooking oil (canola, rice bran or safflower would work best) or vegetable oil
  • 1/2avocado flesh scooped from the skin
  • Fresh hot green chile to taste (roughly 3 or 4 fresh serranos or 2 to 3 jalapenos), finely chopped
  • About 1/4cup (loosely packed) finely chopped cilantro, thick lower stems cut off, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • Salt
  • About10 thick slices (10 ounces ) bacon, sliced crosswise in ½-inch pieces
  • Agenerous pound mixed heirloom tomatoes (different colors and sizes will make your finished dish more interesting), cut into ¼-inch pieces

Instructions

Lay the tortillas in a single layer, cover with a dish towel or napkin and let them dry for about a half hour (depending on their moistness) until they are leathery—this will enable them to crisp thoroughly on the grill.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the egg yolks and lime juice and pulse until blended. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil (the yolks and oil should emulsify and become creamy). Turn the machine off, add the avocado, green chile and cilantro. Let the processor run for another 20 seconds to ensure the additional ingredients are incorporated. You may have to stop the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides.  Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.  Scrape the mayonnaise into a bowl and set aside.

In a large (10-inch) skillet set over medium heat, cook the bacon,  stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel. Strain the fat into a small bowl—you need ¼ cup bacon fat (if you’re lacking, add vegetable oil to bring it to that quantity).

When the tortillas are ready, turn on a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until medium hot and covered with grey ash. When you’re ready to serve, lay several tortillas on the grill and turn every 20 seconds or so until they're golden brown and crasker-crisp; this will take 5 to 10  minutes depending on the heat of your fire. Brush the top of each tortilla generously with the bacon fat or oil and let the tortillas crisp a little longer, then remove them to a serving platter. Spread on some spicy avocado mayo and top with a portion of the tomatoes. Sprinkle each tostada with about a tablespoon of bacon, garnish with cilantro leaves and immediately serve to your guests while you make the next round.

Picnic-Perfect Napa Cabbage Salad Tacos

Mexican_lightblueLogo_POST_170x177-copyTypically, I like to populate our Mexican Weekend feature with recipes requiring just a little extra effort, like, say, grill-roasted ancho pork shoulder, seared scallops in tomatillo-olive sauce or red chile short rib soup.

But we’re throwing that formula out the window this weekend.

This weekend, it’s all about simplicity.

We’ll find it in this unexpected, wonderfully delicious Napa cabbage salad.

It starts with thinly sliced cabbage and chicken (a good rotisserie bird does the job), then veers into a creamy, tangy territory with the addition of mayonnaise and briny jalapeños, carrots and onions in escabeche.

Think of it like the best chicken salad you’ve ever had, with the added bonus of making it into tacos.

I envision this dish as the perfect addition to a picnic or lazy weekend gathering, but I’m curious to know: where will you serve it?

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium head Napa cabbage (12 to 14 ounces)
  • 2 cups coarsley shredded, boned, skinned rotisserie chicken or leftover cooked chicken
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 12-ounce can pickled whole jalapeños en escabeche
  • 3 to 4tablespoons loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • Salt
  • 16 corn tortillas

Instructions

Thinly slice the cabbage (you can do this with a knife, food processor or mandolin) and place in a large mixing bowl.  Add chicken and mayonnaise.  Remove 3 to 4 jalapeňos from the can, slice into rings, and add to bowl.  Remove the onions and carrots from the can and chop into ¼ inch pieces (you'll have about 1/4 cup). Add to cabbage mixture along with 3 tablespoons of the canning liquid. Add the cilantro, stir everything together, taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.

Wrap tortillas in damp paper towel and place in an unsealed ziplock bag.  Microwave at 100% for 1 minute, then let sit 1 minute before serving.

Immediately spoon about 1/3 cup of the cabbage mixture into warm tortillas and serve.

Cook's notes: This dish can also be made with Brussels sprouts. Here's the recipe for that version. 

So buttery it’s scary: Rick’s Pan de Muerto

These are the days of Halloween and Day of the Dead, and both of those things mean one thing: It’s time to make Pan de Muerto.

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Our pan de muerto (a.k.a. Day of the Dead bread) is rich with butter and eggs, sprinkled lightly with sugar and made into individual rolls decorated with decadent crossbones. It’s addictive whether eaten on its own with some champurrado, or turned into a full-fledged dessert (they’re on the menu at both Frontera and Topolo right now). If you have some leftover, you can soak the day-old pan in a simple custard and fry it in butter for French toast.

But who are we kidding? You’re not going to have leftovers. In fact, you better make a double batch. Because the only truly scary thing about Day of the Dead bread is running out.

Pan de Muerto

The dough for this classic-looking preparation is a little richer than most of the buttery egg breads that are created in Oaxaca.  It’s based on a simple brioche recipe from Alice Medrich in Pure Desserts.  

From Season 9, Mexico—One Plate at a Time

Servings: 12buns
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Ingredients

  • 3cups (16 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 2sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, each cut into 8 pieces
  • 1package active dry yeast
  • 1/3cup sugar, divided use
  • 5large eggs, divided use
  • 1tablespoonMexican crema, sour cream or crème fraiche
  • 1 1/4teaspoons Salt
  • Coarse “sanding” sugar for sprinkling

Instructions

Place the flour in a shallow baking dish, cover, and chill in the freezer for about half an hour. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cold butter until it is creamy and smooth. Scrape the butter onto a plate and refrigerate; wash and dry the mixing bowl and paddle.

In the bowl, combine the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in ¼ cup warm water until just dissolved. Let stand a few minutes until foamy. (If the yeast doesn’t start foaming right away, it’s not fresh; start again with fresh yeast.) To the yeast mixture, add the remaining sugar, 4 of the eggs, crema, salt and chilled flour. Mix with the paddle on low speed until the ingredients are blended. Replace the paddle with the dough hook, and knead the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes until very elastic and smooth.

Now, add the creamed butter in 4 additions, beating in each addition until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (it can stay refrigerated for a full day or so).

Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and press with your hands to deflate. Cut off a piece of dough that looks like about 1/5 of the total and set it aside. Divide the remaining dough into 12 even pieces. Cupping your hand over a piece of dough on an un-floured section of your work surface (you want the dough to have some traction on the surface), roll the dough in a circle while exerting slight pressure with the palm of your hand. Rolling the dough around about 10 times—if you’re exerting the right amount of pressure—should create a tight, spherical ball when you release your hand. As each of the twelve pieces is rolled, place them on a silicon mat or parchment-lined baking sheet, evenly spaced apart.

Divide the dough you set aside into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 4 inches long. Cut them in half, then roll each half into 3-inch rope, pressing more firmly in the middle to make it thinner there. Brush each of the 12 dough balls with a little water to make them tacky, then drape two ropes in an X shape over the top to create the “crossbones” look. Cover the decorated breads with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until about double in size—between 1 and 2 hours, depending on the temperature. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the remaining egg until it’s fluid, then carefully brush it over the entire surface of each bread. Sprinkle with sugar and bake until richly golden and lightly springy, about 15 minutes .

Sunday is for Sopa Azteca

tortilla soup 2
There are thick, pureed soups, soups that are like winter blanket—you just want to wrap yourself in them when it starts snowing outside.Mexican Weekend_Logo_POST_170x177

And then there’s tortilla soupsopa Azteca, if you want to be authentic about it. A beautiful broth enriched with chiles, poured over chicken, topped with crunchy tortilla strips and finished with crema. It’s not a winter blanket soup—it’s more like a light jacket. And that makes it perfect for the first weekend—your first Mexican Weekend, if you will—in October.

Tortilla Soup
Recipe from Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

Like guacamole, tortilla soup has a place, I feel, in practically every collection of Mexican recipes.  It’s a filling, flavorful meal that can be made with little effort, but one that sings with an unmistakable Mexican harmony. Earthy dark pasilla chile. The softening crunch of toasty corn tortillas. Soul-satisfying broth.  And creamy-rich avocado and cheese.

A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile:  Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacan, it’s ancho chile. In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forewarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy). Though for these everyday recipes I’ve relied heavily on the easier-to-use powdered dried chile, finding powdered pasilla (negro) can be harder than finding the whole pod. Should powdered chile be at your finger tips (be it powdered pasilla (negro), ancho or beyond), add about 1 tablespoon to the pan about halfway through the cooking of the onion.

In Mexico, it’s more common to crush toasted chile pods over the soup than to add it to the base. You can follow that lead, or do both as we do in our restaurants.

Servings: 4to 6 people
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Ingredients

  • 1largedried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded
  • 115-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 2tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1medium white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2quarts chicken broth
  • 1largeepazote sprig, if you have one
  • 2cup shredded, cooked rotisserie chicken
  • 1large ripeavocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
  • A generous 4cups (about 6 ounces) roughly broken tortilla chips
  • 1/2cupMexican crema, sour cream or creme fraîche for garnish
  • 1large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving

Instructions

Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chile.)

Heat the oil in a medium (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and epazote, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).

Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema. Pass the lime separately.

 

Sweet, spicy autumn, in cocktail form

We drink classic margaritas full of puckery-sweet limonada all year round. But we’d be lying if we said it didn’t taste best outside on a warm day, in the sun, preferably near some water.

Not the Apple-Habanero Margarita from Rick’s latest book. This margarita is infused with autumn in three different ways: an apple-habanero Mexican_yellowLogo_POST_170x177puree; a dose of apple brandy; and a peppery cinnamon salt that goes around the rim of the glass.

This is a richer margarita, a cocktail that offers a roasty sweetness followed by the pleasant bite of chile. It’s not the type of drink you sip on the beach; it’s a drink you sip near the fire. Which, of course, makes it perfect for this Mexican Weekend.

Habanero chiles, though foremost thought of in terms of their heat, are one of the most delicious chiles on earth—fruity, citrusy, wonderfully floral. And they pair perfectly with apples. So when you’re at the fall farmer’s market, buy your favorite apples and a few habaneros (thankfully, both are in abundance at the same moment) for this special cocktail—special for anyone who loves spicy. For me, ½ of an habanero is the right amount. I typically roast a whole habanero with the apples, then roughly chop it and add it to the pureed apples a little at a time, until the flavor and heat at perfect. I encourage you to do the same. Combining apple brandy and roasted apple puree gives this drink a rich, roasty oaky flavor with hints of oakiness. A resonant reposado tequila fits in beautifully, offering an age-induced smoothess while preserving the tequila’s agave flavor. To make Peppery Cinnamon Salt, mix 3 parts coarse (kosher) salt with 2 parts ground cinnamon (preferably fresh-ground Mexican canela) and 1 part fresh-ground black pepper.
Servings: 1cocktail
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Ingredients

  • Peppery Cinnamon Salt (see Bartender’s notes above) or coarse (kosher) salt
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 1/2ounces 100% blue agave reposado tequila
  • 1/4ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2ounce apple brandy (Calvados is the most famous one)
  • 1 1/2ounces Apple-Habanero Puree (see recipe below)
  • 6 to 10 small ice cubes (about ¾ cup)

Instructions

Spread the Peppery Cinnamon Salt on a small plate.  Moisten the rim of a 6-ounce martini glass with the lime wedge, and upend the glass onto the salt to crust the rim. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the tequila, lime juice, Calvados, Apple-Habanero Puree, apple brandy and ice. Cover and shake vigorously until frothy and cold; tiny ice crystals will appear in the drink after about 15 seconds of shaking. Strain into the salt-crusted glass and serve immediately.

Apple-Habanero Puree

2 large apples, peeled, quartered and cored (you need about 12 ounces/3 ½ cups of    cleaned apple quarters)
¼ cup sugar
¼ to ½ fresh habanero chile, stemmed
¼ cup agave syrup (light organic syrup gives the best flavor) or simple syrup

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Spread the apples onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with the sugar, tossing them to coat evenly.  Add the habanero to the baking sheet, and slide into the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the apple pieces. Roast for another 20 minutes, until lightly browned and completely soft.

In a food processor or blender, process the roasted apples with the agave syrup (or Rich Simple Syrup) and ½ cup water until completely smooth. Chop the habanero (seeds and all), then add a portion to the apple puree—start with a quarter to make it a little spicy, half for the full experience. Process to blend thoroughly, taste and add more habanero if you were too timid at first. Pulse to blend.  Pour into a storage container (strain the mixture if you think there may be unblended bits), cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use, up to 5 days.

Yield: 1 ½ cups

 

The Pork Carnitas Recipe You’ll Treasure Forever

purple_170x177When it comes to carnitas, let’s assume you don’t have the time or energy to heat a huge cauldron of pork lard and cook a cut-up pig.

Instead, you might head to a restaurant that’s known for carnitas and buy some to bring home.

But this near-effortless version of the classic Mexican preparation allows you to make your own — good news for those of us who don’t have a great carnitas restaurant nearby.

Cooking pork submerged in its own fat—what chefs have classically called confit—produces a lusciously tender and juicy result that you’d never achieve by roasting or simmering.

In the traditional Mexican kitchen, carnitas are typically cooked first at a high temperature to promote browning, then simmered low and slow until they are richly tender. Here, we’re doing the reverse, cooking the pork slowly in its own fat in a slow cooker (it requires much less fat and much less tending), then browning it when it’s time to serve.

Quick note: carnitas demand a big stack of warm tortillas for making tacos. And what’s a carnitas taco without some guacamole to spoon on it, plus a little salsa and a smear of beans.

It’s a big dish, to be sure, but a simple salad on the table really completes the meal.

Cena Completa de Carnitas de Puerco
Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2cups freshly rendered pork lard (you can buy good-quality lard from a local butcher or Mexican market; I don't recommend the hydrogenated lard that's sold in bricks)
  • 3serranos (or 2 jalapeños) stemmed, seeded if you wish
  • 10 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 4 1/2cups cooked beans (and kind you like), drained, cooking liquid reserved (this is the quantity you'll get from three 15-ounce cans)
  • 115-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2cup chopped cilantro (divided use)
  • 3 or 4limes (divided use)
  • 3ripe avocados, pitted, flesh scooped from the skins
  • 2dozen corn tortillas

Instructions

Cut the pork into 2 ½- to 3-inch pieces and sprinkle generously on all sides with salt. Scoop the lard into a 6-quart slow cooker and turn on high.  When the lard is melted, fit in the pork in a single layer (there should be few gaps between the pieces and they should be barely covered with the fat).  Cover and cook until thoroughly tender, about 3 hours.  Turn off, uncover and let cool while you prepare the accompaniments.

In a very large (12-inch) non-stick or seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat, roast the chiles and unpeeled garlic, turning regularly until they are softened and blackened in spots, about 10 minutes for the chiles, 15 minutes for the garlic.  Cool, then slip the garlic from its skins and put into a food processor. Pulse the garlic until it’s finely chopped.

Set the skillet over medium heat and spoon in a few tablespoons of the pork fat from the carnitas.  Add the beans and 1/3 of the chopped garlic.  Mash with an old-fashioned potato masher or back of a large spoon until as smooth as you like—I like mine to retain a little texture—adding bean cooking liquid (or water) a few tablespoons at a time until the beans have a slightly soupy consistency.  Scrape the beans into a serving bowl, cover with a piece of foil and keep warm in a very low oven.

Divide what remains of the garlic between 2 medium serving bowls.  Without cleaning the processor, pulse the chiles until finely chopped.  Divide between the two bowls.

Again, without washing the processor, pulse the drained tomatoes until they resemble salsa texture.  Scrape into one of the bowls with the chile and garlic. Stir half of the cilantro into the tomato salsa bowl and season with a tablespoon or two of fresh lime juice. Thin the salsa with a little water if it needs it, then taste and season with salt, usually about a ½ teaspoon.

Scoop the avocados into the other bowl and mash with the potato masher or back of a spoon until smooth or chunky—whatever your favorite guacamole texture.  Stir in the remaining cilantro and squeeze in a little fresh lime juice—1 tablespoon is usually enough to brighten the flavors.  Taste and season with salt, usually about a ½ teaspoon.

Cut the remaining limes into wedges and scoop into a serving bowl.

Remove the pork to a cutting board, leaving behind as much fat as possible.  (You can refrigerate the lard to use for another round of carnitas, to season beans or fry potatoes or the like.) Shred the carnitas into very large, coarse pieces.  Set the cleaned bean-cooking skillet over medium heat. When the pan is very hot, spoon in enough carnitas-cooking fat to film the bottom generously.  Scoop in the pork, spreading it out evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes, until it is richly browned and releases itself from the bottom of the pan.  Gently turn the pieces to brown the other side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt (coarse salt is welcome here, if you have it). Serve on a warm platter with the beans, salsa, guacamole, lime wedges and warm tortillas.

Wild mushrooms, wildly flavorful

This is a farmers market weekend, because in many cities it will be the last market of the season (or, in some cases, the last weekend before the market moves indoors). The thing to look for at the market: Mushrooms. Wild ones. Pick up as many—and as many varieties—as you can, keeping in mind that they shrink when you cook them.Mexican_PinkLogo_POST_170x177

You’ll want these
mushrooms to put on pizzas, blend into soup, roast and scatter on top of a salad and, most impressively, tie up in these parchment bundles with bacon and plenty of roasted garlic mojo. Make these mixiotes when you have a few people to cook for—the rapturous expression on their faces when they open the bundle and catch the woodsy, garlicky aroma is second only to the expression they’ll have when they taste it.

 

 

Mixiotes of Woodland Mushrooms with Mojo de Ajo

Recipe from Season 7, Mexico—One Plate at a Time
Servings: 8as a tapa or soft taco filling
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Ingredients

  • 12ounces mushrooms (I love a mixture of cultivated shiitakes and oysters with a handful of wild mushrooms—porcini, chanterelle, hedgehog—thrown in), sliced 1/2-inch thick (you’ll have about 6 cups of slices)
  • 2large (or 4 small)hoja santa leaves OR 32 epazote leaves
  • 2 medium-thick slices of bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/3cupslow cooked garlic mojo (stirred before measuring)
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 1 or 2 limes, cut into wedges

Instructions

  • Soak the parchment. Cut four 12-inch squares of parchment paper, loosely roll them together submerge them in a large bowl of tap water and weight with a light plate to keep them submerged. Soak 30 minutes.
  • Form and bake the packages. Turn on the oven to 325 degrees. Lay the soaked parchment pieces out on your work surface. If using the hoja santa, place 1/2 leaf (or a whole leaf if you’re using small ones) in the center of each parchment square. In a large bowl, mix the sliced mushrooms, bacon and garlic mojo (throw in the epazote leaves that’s what you’re using). Sprinkle with the salt, stir to coat everything evenly, then scoop a portion into the center of each parchment piece. Gather up the corners of each one to form a pouch. Pinch the parchment together just above the mushrooms and tie securely with a piece of string or raffia. Slide onto a baking sheet, then slide the sheet into the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling vigorously in the packages.
  • Serve. Open the packages in front of your guests so they can enjoy the explosion of aroma into the room. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on plus fresh tortillas for making soft tacos or toasted baguette for making montaditos.