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Posts Tagged ‘mexican’

Chile Rellenos, or stuffed peppers, originated in Central Mexico.  The common peppers found in the Federal district of Puebla were named after the capitol city, Puebla (akin to New York, NY), as Poblano chiles.  These peppers are used to make chile rellenos.  Two types of filling can be used: minced meat with spices and vegetables, or cheese.  During Lent, the meat is omitted.  Grandma likes to stuff her Poblano peppers with ground beef, carrot, potato, onion, tomato, garlic, and cumin.  We forgot the onion in this batch, but it didn’t seem to matter in the end.

Earlier in the morning, Grandpa prepared the chiles by rubbing them with oil and warming them in a covered pan.  The point is to remove the skins and leave the chiles whole, stem and all. The seeds should be removed as they can be bitter and spicy.

I helped grate the Chihuahua cheese.  This cheese is similar to a white Cheddar or a Monterrey Jack.  When the stuffed chile is cooked it slowly melts and stays inside the pepper.  I feared it would run out into the pan and we would have empty shells.  The best way to describe it is thick.

Eggs are beaten in stages.  First the whites with some cream of tartar and salt.  Beat until stiff then add the yolks and beat until stiff again.  Use 1 egg per chile plus 1 or 2 more to be sure you have enough batter to cover every chile.

The mise en place is ready.  A plate of seasoned flour.  The egg batter. The stuffed chiles.  We are warming a pan with canola oil, about a 1/4 cup, to fry the stuffed and battered chiles.  Half the peppers are meat & veggie, the other half are Chihuahua cheese.

Here we go!  Dust a stuffed pepper with the seasoned flour.  Dunk this in the egg batter and gently scoop the foamy eggs over the pepper, be careful to keep the “seam” side up, this will reduce the chance of the filling ending up in the eggs or the oil in the pan.

A flat, straight-sided pan is not the ideal shape for this process.  Grandma was looking for a concave pan, like a small wok, to make the flipping and turning part easier.  We had to work with the pans I had in the kitchen.  It doesn’t take long to fry each facet of the chile relleno.  Transfer the finished chile to paper to drain.  Repeat with the remaining peppers.

I tried my own chile relleno, sans batter and frying.

I roasted two pobalno peppers in the oven (350ºF for about 20 minutes, turning half way), then peeled off the skins.  The filling was ground beef, onion, garlic, carrot, potato, cumin, and tomato sauce.  Monterrey Jack cheese was used with the meat filling, then returned to the oven to melt the cheese.

A combination of both flavours Grandma made.  Dare I say the merger was even tastier than the original separate stuffings?  Yes.  Yes, it was.

Peppers are good vessels for all sorts of stuffings.  Use leftover rice, beans, breadcrumbs, or other vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and taste buds.

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A cumulative effort (mostly cooked by Hubby) resulted in a delicious traditional Mexican favorite: Guisado Tacos.

Traditional guisado does not include carrots but they were an unexpected twist that worked to balance out the spicy tomatillo salsa served on the side.

Guisado is a meat and potato dish, often flavoured with cumin, garlic and onion.  Hot chili peppers usually pep up this dish but we tend to leave them out because of the kids.  Beef cuts were braised with potato and carrot pieces.  I shredded some colby jack cheese and warmed the corn tortillas.

Together we built a quick and easy dinner.  It’s great to have a partner in the kitchen.   Now if i could only get the kids to do the dishes for me.

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I think Hubby is missing home lately so I’ve been treating him to Mexican sorts of food.  How much of it is actual Mexican versus  Tex-mex?  I don’t really know.  Everything I create in the kitchen has my pinch of this, dash of that, or spin in a Canadian direction.  It’s all good.

This is one of those dishes where you can throw in extra ingredients if you have them.  Kinda like pizza where you mix and match toppings.  I had some red bell pepper and corn in the freezer, so that’s what I used.  Peas, green onions and the like would work equally as well. 

Start with some diced onion, about 1/2 cup, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan with a lid.  As soon as the onion starts to turn brown, add shredded leftover chicken (1 cup), rice (1.5 cups), tomato sauce (about 1/4 cup), and water.  Add a cup of water at a time and stir, we’re not trying to make risotto here.  You should end up adding a bit more than 3 cups all together.  Cover and reduce the heat.  After 10 minutes add the veggies, in my case red bell pepper and corn.  Stir just a little and cover again.   Give the veggies a few minutes to steam. 

Arroz con pollo (Rice with Chicken) can be served as a side dish or eaten as a meal on its own.  Make some steak fajita, fresh guacamole, and warm up tortillas – you’ve got a perfect Mexican meal which should cure any homesickness.

Feel better dear 🙂

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I don’t know why I’ve become engrossed in Mexican and central American food lately.  Do I really need a reason?  We have a new taqueria within the new Mexican market close to home, now we don’t have to go into the city to find these specialized markets.  We recently checked out the new store and ate lunch there.  This might have provided the seed to my ever-growing interest in learning all things Mexican.

I’ve made tamales a few times now and I think I’ve got the hang of it.  I needed to start broadening my culinary horizons and venture into unknown territory.  Horchata, or rice water, was something of a mystery to me.  What better place to start my quest.  With a short search, I found the recipe to try out.  This is half of the original:

  • 1 cup long grain rice (I used Jasmine)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Cover the rice in a bowl with the water.  Leave in the fridge for 24-48 hours.  Blend the rice with some water in batches until smooth (or as smooth as possible, it might still be sandy)  Add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to one of the batches of rice water.  Blend together in a serving container and keep chilled.  Serve over ice.

Some use horchata in place of milk if they are lactose intolerant.  Other recipes are made with nuts, using the same concept, however my allergies prevent me from attempting those variations.  Add more sugar if you like, but try it as-is first.  Add leftover coffee with ice to a glass of horchata for a twist.

Hubby said I did something different, but it was definitely horchata.

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Nites Out: Juarez Bakery

Before heading to the grocery store, we stopped for a quick dinner at Juarez in Round Rock, TX.  “Bakery” does not exude images of dinner platters, chips and salsa, I know.  The bakery bit is really just a bonus on top of all the other wonderful Mexican offerings.  We normally come for brunch on Sundays, when the line is out the door – everyone hungrily waiting their turn to order barbacoa, huevos, and chorizo.

Thankfully, hubby invited the family to dinner today.  I, of course, scrunched my nose when he said we’re going to Juarez and it was 6:14 PM.  Although it wouldn’t be the first time we had breakfast for dinner.  The kids love their tacos, so at least they would be satisfied and not fussing in the grocery cart afterwords.

I haven’t been many places in the US but in Texas there is this standard large oval dinner plate that most restaurants use.  The amount of food they give you is at least twice of what you should actually eat by yourself.  When I first moved here, I was always taking most of my food home because there was no way I could finish an entire plate.  Now that we have little ones to feed, a single platter is plenty to share.

We shared Monterrey Chicken.  It was a huge platter with rice, re-fried beans, lettuce, tomato (albeit very little tomato due to the frost and shortages – I could not believe the price of the cheap Roma’s were 2.88/lb!  They are usually less than a dollar per pound.) and grilled chicken breast with mushrooms and melted cheese.  With a few extra tortillas, everyone piled on what they liked and made personal burritos.  It was perfect.

@Juarez Bakery

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Over the last few years, I’ve grown accustom to the spicy side of life.  Now that we have two little tots in the mix, I’ve had to regress to the levels of heat once found in my parent’s kitchen: black pepper.  Well, it might not be that severe, but there is a consideration involved for my offspring until they reach jalapeño age.

Last night we were busy and got home just in time for dinner, if dinner was actually cooked.  We needed a quick supper, hubby started dicing some left over roasted chicken.  He wanted a casserole. 

This casserole is one of those throw-it-in-if-you-have-it sorts.  It can be done with ground beef, ground turkey, or my favorite: roasted chicken.  If you are, like many, one who buys that whole rotisserie chicken at the market, then has much of it left over, this dish is for you.  Now that I think about it, this might qualify as gluten-free as well, so long as you check each ingredients’ label.

And for my friend bokkie, the calorie total for the entire casserole is 1025, if you split it 4 ways which will be a good amount for each, it’s 257 calories 🙂

  • 3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (roughly 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn (leftover bbq corn de-cobbed would be awesome)
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatillo (or salsa)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced or shredded chicken breast, skin removed
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 diced jalapeño (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 corn tortillas, torn into manageable pieces

You can make this casserole fairly quickly, without fussing with it.  Grab a casserole (I used my oval dish) and make a single layer of the tortillas.  Then dribble the tomatillo or salsa, followed by half of the chicken and spices.  Scatter half of the canned tomatoes and corn on top of the chicken. 

I love cheese, so I put some of the cheese next.

Start the layers over again.  Tortillas, sauce, chicken, spices, tomatoes, corn.  If there are any little pieces of tortilla left, tear them up quite small and throw them on top.  Then sprinkle with cheese.  Cover and bake in a 400° F (200° C) oven for 40 minutes.  Remove the cover and broil for maybe 10-12 seconds, just to brown the cheese.

On its own, this is a warm and welcomed supper.  You could serve this with a crisp salad of romaine and tomatoes.  We ate this alone, apart from the cilantro garnish.

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Any time is perfect for a batch of Pozolé!

With a little planning you can make part of this  soup while you are at work, then finish it off once you arrive home. The cabbage topping can be made the night before and stored in the refrigerator, the lime juice will keep everybody fresh. If you don’t have time to make totopos, you can certainly use your favorite corn tortilla chips.

I make Pozolé during the holidays for guests and especially on cool days here in Texas. Traditionally in my husband’s family, this dish is made with pork.  I have used whole cut up chicken, turkey drum sticks, and even left-over turkey from Thanksgiving to prepare it.  It’s just fabulous any which way you make it.  If you see cans of hominy on sale, stock up!  The only special ingredient here is the achioté, you’re best bet is to look at Fiesta (in Texas) or Google for the nearest latino/mexican market in your city.  If I could find one in Edmonton (Alberta), I’m sure you’ll find one in your area! 

 

Pozolé

  • Large pot or crock pot – the bigger the better!
  • Pork roast of some kind (shoulder or rump), fat trimmed.
  • Canned hominy (sorta like chick peas or garbanzo) – twice as much as the pork!
  • Achiote, six 1″ cubes (it comes as a brick in a box)
  • Vinegar – 1/4 cup
  • 3-5 Garlic cloves, whole,
  • 1 whole white onion, peeled and halved
  • Bouquet garni: 6 green cardamom pods, tbsp coriander seeds, tbsp black peppercorns, cilantro stems, smashed garlic cloves, 1-3 whole Serrano peppers (adjust to size and heat of the peppers, and to taste). Tie up in a sachet of cheesecloth or coffee filters.
  • 1 small green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 white onion (or shallots if you like the fancy stuff), fine slices
  • 2-3 limes, juiced
  • Optional horse radishes, sliced
  • Optional avocado, sliced or diced for garnish – alternative is guacamole 🙂
  • Optional cilantro, chopped roughly for garnish
  • Really good option is totopos (tortilla chips made by frying fresh corn tortillas – yum yum!)

This takes a while to make, you could let the crock pot do much of the work for you. Cover the pork roast with water and add a bit of salt, bouquet garni, whole onion and the garlic. Simmer the meat until mildly cooked, this was 4 hours on high in my crock pot. Remove the meat to cutting a board. Degrease the surface of the cooking liquid with a flat spoon, you can strain the liquids to get all the little bits out and the garlic and onion to end up with a “cleaner” soup.  Reserve the strained liquid and bouquet garni, add these back to the pot.

Chop up the achiote then grind up in a blender with a cup of warm water. You may need to add another cup of water after pouring out the first bit of spiced liquid, because it tends to clump up in the bottom, grind/blend some more until it’s all dissolved. Add blender contents to de-greased liquid in your pot. Turn on heat to medium-high if you turned it off to blend the achiote. Add the vinegar and salt to taste.

It’s best to wash the hominy, as with any canned beans. Add hominy (maïze treated with a lye solution) to the pot. The pork can be torn with a fork into large chucks, while removing visible fat too. Add chucks of meat to the pot. You may want to adjust the salt to taste. Stir gently to be sure the achiote is well distributed. Turn down the heat a bit. Let it simmer away for as long as you can stand it, about 30mins to 1 hour.

In the meantime you can prepare the toppings:  Toss in a bowl the shredded cabbage, onion, lime juice, and radishes. The more lime juice the better! You may need more if they are small or do not carry too much juice. Option to add the cilantro here. Slice the avocado right before serving.

To serve:  Ladle soup into a bowl, take a balance of hominy, broth and meat. Top with the cabbage mixture, I like to add a lot of it for the contrast in temperature and flavor. Avocado can go on last, or be eaten on the side with totopos…

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Tamales prepared for steamingThe tamale is something I became familiar with after moving south (there were no real Mexican resturants in my little home town). When I was dating my husband, he took me down to the border. It was during this time that I found the tamale. The typical tamale is not the healthiest snack on the planet, but darn it tastes good! I searched out how to make these (and try to cut out some calories) and tested out my recipe on my unsuspecting husband and his parents. My father-in-law said I could make a lot of money selling the tamales because people love them around here. I’m not about to quit my day job to run off and make tamales, I haven’t mastered them yet.   

Here is how I’m making tamales…    

This is a process and you need a filling, masa (the dough), and corn husks.  I have my poblano-oaxaca-chicken filling and masa recipes here.       

You can put just about anything in a tamale.  The tamale is really a carrying case for the filling, the star of the tasty byte.  My sister-in-law puts cabage and jalepenos in hers, so put what ever you like.  This is just the way that I’ve honed them at this point.    

The Filling

2 lbs cooked, shredded chicken or pork (remove all the visible fat and skin)    

1 medium onion, diced    

4 cloves of garlic, minced fine    

2 tbsp tomato paste    

2-3 tbsp cascabel chile flesh (* see note)    

1 tsp dried oregano    

2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine    

2 tsp cumin powder    

1/2 tsp salt    

1/4 tsp cayenne powder (you can add more or less depending on your taste)    

1 tbsp paprika    

1 cup shredded jack cheese    

Oaxaca queso (This can be expensive so keep the block handy and slice off pieces of cheese as you go)    

2 or 3 poblano peppers (a jar of roasted red peppers could be used instead, but they won’t have any heat to them)    

Method 

  1. Soak the cascabel chilies. The chilies come dried, either in a package or bulk bin if your grocery carries Hispanic/Mexican foods.  Look for dried chilies that have a raisin-like appearance and feel.  If they are so dry that they are brittle, there probably won’t be much flesh inside.  So go for plump chilies!  Bring a small pot of water to boil and thrown in the chilies.  I like to weigh them down with a plate or bowl, this might speed up this step for you.  Once the chilies look refreshed, take them out of the water and scrape the flesh out of them.  You can remove the seeds.
  2. Roast the poblano pepper.  This can be accomplished directly on a gas burner, or (for those stuck with electric stoves) broil on the top rack of your oven.  Keep an eye on this puppy and turn it as the skin turns black.  Remove the peppers from the heat and place in a kitchen towel.  Remove the skin and seeds.  Now, you can either dice it and mix it in with the rest of the filling, or slice it into strips (about 1/3″).  I like the strip method better because you get a bigger poblano byte in your tamale.
  3. Sauté the onionIn a medium sized skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Warm the pan over medium then add the onion and spices (salt, cayenne, cumin, oregano, paprika).  Cook down the onion until it starts to get translucent, add the garlic (don’t let it burn!)
  4. Add the chicken or pork to the pan.  This is just to soften the meat.  Add the cilantro, tomato paste, and chili flesh.  Add a splash of water or chicken stock.  Let everyone mingle in the pan, turn the heat down.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool slightly.

   

The Masa

I tend to double this recipe when making my tamales.  IMHO: It’s better to have left over masa than left over chicken.  Although, you could put this mixture on some tortilla chips with some shredded cheese, nuke it and call it a day.    

 2 cups masa flour (no substitutions here, at least don’t use APF)    

1 tsp baking soda    

1/2 tsp salt    

2 cups warm chicken broth (Hint: if you poached the chicken/pork you can degrease the cooking liquid and use it here)    

2/3 cup shortening (lighter than lard!)    

Black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper – a bit of each to your taste    

Method

  1. Add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl.  Mix the dry stuff so that the baking soda is evenly distributed. 
  2. Pour in the warm broth.  Gently stir the chicken broth into the dry ingredients, just to moisten it.
  3. Add the shortening.  Whip it together in the mixer (I use the paddle attachment, a hand-held mixer will do the same).
  4. Cover.  Keep the masa covered with a clean damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap.  If you are assembling the tamales right away, do not put the masa in the fridge.

     

Build Your Tamales

At this point, you will be joining the filling and the masa in a neat package of corn husk.    

First, prepare the corn husks for the job.  Take a good number of husks (20-30) and place them in a large bowl or container.  Pour boiling water over them and push them down to release any pockets of air.  I would weigh them down with a plate to keep the husks submerged.  Leave them soak until they are pliable, about 20 minutes.  If you soak too many, don’t worry, just dry them out and use them next time.    

Next, smear a good tablespoon of the masa on to a corn husk, which has been dried off after its trip through the water bath.  The aim is to create an envelope of masa that is stuck to the inside of the husk.    

Now place a strip of poblano pepper and a spoonful of chicken mix.  I like to add a strip of Oaxaca cheese instead of shredding it into the chicken.    

Roll up the husk, be certain that the masa on all edges will touch together and seal.  Secure both ends of the tamale.  You can fold the bottom of the husk up and tie it with a strand of husk or kitchen twine.      

I don’t have a fancy tamale cooker (if there is such a thing) so I assembled an experimental steamer out of what I had in the kitchen.    

  

Steamer for the tamales

 

The steamer’s purpose is to allow the tamales to cook above the water (nobody likes soggy tamales).  I’ve been told that another secret way to cook them involves a large pot and a stone – never figured this one out.  Alternatively, if you own a veggie steamer, that should work.  I like my little invention because the tamales stand up straight in the basket and the cheese doesn’t ooze out all over (most of the time!).    

Steam for 45 minutes.    

The best way to serve them is to make them the night before and crisp the tamales in a cast iron pan (comal).  Remove from the husk and enjoy!    

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