When I was in high school in Mexico City, Tecamacharlie’s was one of the most popular meeting spots. The name came from Tecamachalco, the neighborhood where it sits tucked away in a corner, and the chain of Restaurants it belongs to, Anderson’s Carlos & Charlies. There, my friends and I would meet some Friday afternoons after school, to have a late and long lunch or comida and embrace the weekend.
Even before school started those Friday mornings, there would be one thing in my mind: Tecamacharlie’s top notch Caldo de Camarón. A rich and thick soupy broth made with dried and salted shrimp, and seasoned with a base of Guajillo chile sauce.
A soup so flavorful and filling, it was served as a courtesy as soon as you finally sat down in that incredibly busy and loud place. The waiters brought it out of the kitchen still simmering, served in a little caballito, the little glass shots used to serve Tequila.
There were plump limes already quartered at the table, waiting to be squeezed into the soup before you drank it in one gulp. If you were lucky, the bottom of the shot had a shrimp, and maybe a couple pieces of potato and carrot. Then you could stick your fork or finger in there, to eat those little treasures that tasted like adventures at the sea port. Far away from the City.
Continue reading Where to Find Caldo de Camarón? Make Your Own…
The Guajillo chile is one of the most commonly used Mexican dried chiles, and it is now widely available in the United States. It is long and pointy, with a beautiful maroon color. Its skin is quite smooth and shinny on the outside, but it is hard and tougher and less pliable than others, like the Ancho.
It has a pleasant and deep flavor, with mild heat. It tends to be a crowd pleaser.
Continue reading Guajillo Chile
Dried shrimp are used not only for the Caldo de Camarón, or Shrimp Soup or Broth. They are also used to make shrimp patties that are then bathed in different mole sauces. Also to prepare tamales, rice, bean and potato dishes. Even some salsas that used them ground as a seasoning and thickening base.
Dried shrimp come in different sizes, from the miniature ones smaller than 1/2″ to much larger ones bigger than 3″. Because they are lightly cooked, then salted and left to dry in the sun, they concentrate their flavor intensely and deeply. They are also quite salty.
Continue reading Dried Shrimp: Camarón Seco
When I think about my mother, I think about her fava bean soup (fine, and a couple other things too…). That’s how strong an impact that soup has had on me.
But not many people are wild about favas, habas in Spanish. Different from pasta or potatoes, Favas haven’t gone mainstream.
Okay. I can see why.
First, the fact that they come in many forms can be confusing (fresh in their pod, fresh out of the pod, dried with their skin on, or dried and peeled). Also, the ways to cook them in their different forms haven’t been widely publicized. On top of that, favas have a strong flavor that can be overpowering, and to some, hard to bear.
Now, bear with me here. If you know what form of favas to get for which kind of dish, the confusion is almost gone. With the right recipe, the confusion evaporates further and their overpowering flavor is tamed. Thus… beloved cooks, favas become what they must:
filling, rich, wholesome and deliciously intense.
Continue reading Fava Bean Soup: Time to go Mainstream!
They go hand in hand, Autumn and Pumpkins.
In the US, I see them scary faced on Halloween, and then, sweetly dressed as pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Yet to me, one of their best impersonations is as Calabaza en Tacha: Pumpkin cooked in a Piloncillo Syrup.
Craving Tacha, I paired two things: The pumpkin I saved from my boys’ Halloween makeover and my new orange flamed French Oven.
It was a matter of time. The French Oven needed a sweet Mexican ride to become baptized in my kitchen.
Continue reading You have a Pumpkin? Turn it into Tacha!
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
This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had.
The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.
It’s become the trump card I pull out for guests that love unusual and authentic flavors from Mexico. The best part of it is, the hardest part about making it, is waiting for the brisket to cook on its own.
I first tried a version of it in Santa Fé de la Laguna, Michoacán. A popular dish in that region, it goes by the name of Carne Enchilada. A young and knowledgeable Purépecha cook, Berenice Flores, showed me how to make it at her home. When my whole family sat down to eat it, we kept asking her for more corn tortillas to wipe the sauce clean off the plates.
Continue reading Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce
Right after savagely taking a bite into a fresh ear of corn, right in front of the cashier at the Farmers Market, I felt compelled to explain that its raw, sweet, flavor reminds me of the Corn and Cream ice cream from the Chiandoni heladería in Mexico City. A staple from my childhood days.
With a bit of nostalgia washing over me and in the mood of snapping that last piece of summer from this year, I brought back a full basket of corn. I would make one last batch of summer flavored ice cream, just as the stores begin to sell Halloween decorations, shockingly early, if you ask me.
Continue reading Outrageous But Necessary: Corn and Cream Ice Cream
Outrageous But Necessary: Corn and Cream Ice Cream