BRICKLAYER-STYLE BEEF TACOS
Tacos al albañil
Serves 6 to 8
8 oz bacon, sliced
2 pounds beef sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 1″ pieces
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups white onion, slivered or sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño chile, sliced, seeding optional, or to taste
1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes
Flour or corn tortillas
Place tomatoes in a baking dish and under the broiler for 6 to 9 minutes, until charred, mushy and juices have begun to run. Once cool, roughly chop, but don’t discard the juices.
Heat the skillet, add the bacon and cook until it is crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and season with salt and pepper and sear for about 2 minutes per side.
Add in the onion and jalapeño and let them soften for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and before it browns, in less than a minute, add the chopped tomatoes. Stir here and there and let it all season for about 4 to 5 minutes.
In a skillet or comal, set over medium-low heat, heat the tortillas. It will take about 1 minute per side. Place the tortillas in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or cloth napkin.
Serve along with the tenderloin tips; guests can fill the tortillas with the amount of filling they desire.
GLAZED SANTA CLARA COOKIES
Tortitas de Santa Clara
Makes about 24 3-inch round cookies
For the Dough:
1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour, plus more for rolling out dough
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup lukewarm water
For the Glaze:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 cups raw and hulled pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds
1/2 cup milk
To Blanch the Pumpkin Seeds:
1/2 teaspoon baking powder or baking soda
To Prepare the Cookies:
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to lowest setting and gently add the confectioners’ sugar and baking powder. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated.
Add the flour, one cup at a time, and then the egg yolks, one at a time; continue beating for a minute. Pour in the water and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and can form a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Let it cool until it hardens enough to be manageable, at least 1/2 hour (can refrigerate up to a couple of days).
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place half the dough on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, sprinkle some flour over it and then place another piece of parchment paper on top. Use a rolling pin to gently roll out the dough, to about 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and cut out circles with a round, 3-inch cookie cutter. With a smaller cookie cutter, make a circular indention in the middle of each cookie, without cutting all the way through the dough (there should be about a 1/4-inch space between the indentation and the edge). Press the edges of each cookie with a fork, as if marking the edges of a pie. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and roll it out again, making as many cookies as possible.
Space the cookies at least 1/4-inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until they are fully cooked and the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool; repeat with the remaining cookies.
To Prepare the Base for the Glaze:
To make the candied pumpkin seed glaze white, as the nuns of the Santa Clara convent traditionally used to, prepare the pumpkin seeds this way:
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, add pumpkin seeds, simmer about 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Let it cool, stir in baking soda or powder and let it sit overnight. With your hands, rub the pumpkin seeds between your fingers and thumbs to try to release their skins. The skins will float in the water. Carefully pour off the water, cover again with clean water and drain again. With a slotted spatula, place the pumpkin seeds on a clean kitchen towel, rubbing them so that the remaining skins come entirely off. Place the seeds in a bowl, cover them with water, rinse and place them on a cloth towel or paper towels to dry.
To make the candied pumpkin seed glaze green, which is a lot less work, prepare the seeds this way:
Place hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds in the jar of a blender or food processor and grind completely.
To make the a white glaze that’s even easier, just:
Place already-blanched, slivered almonds in the jar of a blender or food processor and grind completely.
To Prepare the Glaze:
In a medium saucepan, place the sugar and 1/4 cup of water over medium low heat. Cook until the sugar has completely melted into the water, is no longer granulated and appears to be light syrup, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the ground pumpkin seeds or almonds and stir well, creating a thick paste. Let the mixture cook for another 3 to 4 minutes — it will thicken and become even more pasty. Turn off the heat, pour in the milk and stir well. It should be thick yet shiny and a bit more liquid.
Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool until it slightly thickens and can top the cookie without spilling all over. It will spread as it settles, but if it has cooled enough it will not be too runny. Yet, before it completely cools and hardens. If it does harden, just heat the mixture over low heat with a tablespoon of water until it becomes runny again.
To Assemble the Cookies:
Once the cookies have cooled, add about one tablespoon glaze to each cookie.
Tinga de pollo
Makes about 5 cups (serves 4-6)
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
1/2 white onion, slivered
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 Roma tomatoes, or 2 lbs, rinsed
2 tomatillos, or 1/4 lb, husked and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, or more to taste
2 tablespoons sauce from chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 whole chipotle chile in adobo sauce, optional
5 cups cooked shredded chicken
To Serve (quantities as desired):
Corn tostadas, store bought or home made
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Queso fresco or cotija, crumbled
Mexican avocado slices
Place tomatoes and tomatillos in a medium saucepan, cover with water. Bring it to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes and tomatillos are soft, thoroughly cooked and mushy but not falling apart.
Remove tomatoes and tomatillos with a slotted spoon, and place them in the jar of a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
Heat the oil in a large and deep pan over medium heat; once it is hot but not smoking, stir in the onion and cook until soft and translucent, for about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until the onion and garlic mixture becomes fragrant and lightly browned, about 1 minute.
Pour the tomato/tomatillo sauce on top and add the oregano, marjoram, thyme, salt, black pepper and the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (if you want more heat add an entire chipotle chile in adobo sauce). Let it simmer, stirring now and then, until it seasons and deepens to a deep red color, about 10 to 12 minutes. You may want to partially cover the pan as the sauce will want to jump out onto your burners.
Add the shredded chicken and combine it with the sauce. Let it cook, occasionally stirring, until the chicken has absorbed almost all of the juices and the mixture is moist but not juicy.
To assemble the Tostadas: Spread refried beans on a tostada, add the chicken tinga mixture, top with shredded lettuce, avocado slices, crumbled cheese and, if you want some, cream too. You may also serve with salsa verde on the side.
CREAMY POBLANO SOUP
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups white onion, chopped
5 to 6 poblano peppers, roasted, sweated, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or thawed
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
Queso Fresco, crumbled, optional
Place a large soup pot over medium heat; add oil and butter. Once the butter melts and begins to sizzle, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has completely softened, and the edges have begun to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the poblano chiles, stir and let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Make some room in the middle of the pot, and add the corn, sprinkle the salt and pepper and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour in the chicken broth, let it come to a simmer and cook for 5 more minutes, so that the flavors have had the chance to really blend.
Reduce the heat to low, wait for about a minute, and gently pour in the milk. Heat the soup through, for about 6 to 8 minutes, and serve. If you make it ahead of time, and want to reheat it, do so over low-medium heat.
Makes 12 servings
To Prepare the Molds or Ramekins:
Enough butter to coat 12 molds
1 cup cajeta or La Lechera dulce de leche
For the Cake:
4 oz or 1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the Flan:
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1 14-oz can La Lechera sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Garnish:
1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of each ramekin or mold until evenly spread. Pour the cajeta into the buttered molds, distributing evenly between all 12.
To Make the Cake Base:
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy. Then, beat in the egg. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
At medium-low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk into the butter/sugar mixture. Then, beat in the remaining halves. Make sure you scrape the side of the bowl so all of the ingredients mix evenly. Put the mixer on medium-high speed and beat for an additional minute.
To Make the Flan:
Place the eggs, vanilla, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk in a blender and puree until smooth.
To Prepare the Entire Dish:
Pour the cake batter into each ramekin or mold. Then, pour the flan mixture on top, it will look messy, but don’t worry, that’s how it’s supposed to be! Place the ramekins in a large pan or baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish up to halfway the height of the molds. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and seal.
Place the in the oven and bake for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until the surface of each cake feels solid, looks baked and a wooden toothpick comes out moist but not wet.
Remove from the oven. Be careful when you open the aluminum foil as the steam will be very hot. Once cool enough to handle, remove the ramekins out of the water bath. Once cool, cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before eating.
When ready to serve, run the tip of a knife around the ramekin and place it cake-side down onto a plate. Lift the mold up. Drizzle with any cajeta from the mold and decorate with chopped pecans.
EVERYDAY GREEN SALAD
Ensalada de todos los días
1 head butter lettuce or red leaf lettuce
1/3 cup white distilled vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar, or to taste
4 carrots, or 3/4 lb, peeled, thinly sliced
1 large cucumber, or 3/4 lb, peeled, seeded, sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, or 3/4 lb, quartered, seeded, sliced
1 large ripe Mexican avocado, halved, pitted, sliced
In a plastic container that has a lid, add the vinegar, vegetable and olive oils, Dijon mustard, garlic, onion, salt, black pepper and sugar. Cover the container with a lid and shake for 10 seconds until the vinaigrette is well emulsified. Alternatively, you can also whisk with a fork in a bowl.
Place the lettuce, carrots, cucumber and tomato in a large salad bowl. Pour a generous amount of the vinaigrette on top and toss. The salad should be coated with the vinaigrette but not swimming in it.
Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more vinaigrette on top of and serve.
CHICKEN À LA TRASH
Pollo a la basura
6 skinless and boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound poblano chiles (3 to 4), charred, sweated, peeled, seeded, cut into strips
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, about 4 cups, peeled, cubed, and cooked in salted water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, divided, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2/3 cup prunes, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup raw and hulled pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste, and black pepper.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick, 12-inch skillet or casserole over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, brown the chicken pieces for about 2 minutes on one side. Flip to the other side and stir in the onion; cook until the onions are completely softened and beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring the onions often. Add the garlic; and cook for another minute.
Add the poblano chiles and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and give the entire mixture another good stir. Add the prunes. Pour in the water, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) into the mixture, cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes more, stirring once or twice in between.
Meanwhile, toast the seeds. Place a small, sauté pan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, stirring often and taking care not to burn them, until you hear popping sounds and they begin to brown lightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the seeds from the heat and place in a small bowl.
Once the chicken is ready, add the pumpkin and sunflower seeds, gently mix. Taste for seasoning and serve.