It is almost time for Cinco.
If you are a Mexican living in the US and you want to get attention, if you want to make some noise, if you feel that you have something good to share or say: Cinco de Mayo is your day!
My first cooking demo: Foods from Puebla during Cinco.
The first time I got invited to cook on TV: Chicken Tinga for Cinco.
My first radio interview: Do Mexicans celebrate Cinco?
The biggest sales day for my first cookbook: Cinco.
The day I was honored to be invited as guest chef to cook at the White House: You guessed it, Cinco!
Continue reading Coco-Lime Margarita: Let’s Toast to Cinco (and a New Cookbook…)!
Some Latin foods don’t need translating anymore. That is the case of churros. Crisp and golden on the outside, soft and almost moist in the center, and covered in a gritty mix of sugar and cinnamon. They have to be some of the most, if not the most, irresistible fritters.
Mexicans don’t get the credit for inventing them though. That battle is still disputed between the Portuguese and the Spanish. But we do owe the Spanish for helping churros find their way to our Mexican kitchens, where we have found a way to make them our very own. More than five centuries later, so rooted they have become, it is hard to find a town, small or large, that doesn’t sell them.
You can find churros being sold by street vendors in little paper bags, in baskets, or in stands that have a heating light to keep them warm – people tend to underestimate how chilly Mexican nights can get. But there are also churrerías, places that only sell churros and different kinds of hot chocolate to accompany them.
Continue reading Churros Don’t Need Translating Anymore
Just four ingredients that you may already have at home make for one of the tastiest treats in the Mexican pan dulce repertoire: campechanas.
Not all panaderías in Mexico have campechanas though. And not all the panaderías that do carry them have fabulous campechanas. In fact, I have found that campechanas sold on the streets tend to be the very best ones.
Campechanas are one of the things I look for the moment I touch Valle de Bravo, a small town about a 2-hour drive from Mexico City. I grew up vacationing there with my family, and I still go as often as I can. It is a town whose campechanas are of the finest sort. Very puffy and dry with the perfectly crisp caramelized top, they are sold in thin plastic bags by the dozen in so many street corners.
It is practically impossible to keep them whole once you hold one up, or even as you try to take one out of the bag. The moment you take a bite, forget about it: it has crumbled all over the place into pieces that make for delirious bites. Once you have one, you can’t stop until there are no more.
Continue reading Campechanas
My mom is the best cook I know.
She used to make the most incredible ponche, or warm fruit punch, every New Year’s. Just once a year.
My sisters and I used to pace up and down the kitchen as she peeled, diced and threw the ingredients, many of which were only available at this time of year in the markets, into a gigantic pot. To tame our impatience she would peel for us a few pieces of fresh sugar cane and cut it into smaller sticks, so we could chew and suck its sweetly tangy juice, ever so slowly, as we waited for the ponche to be served.
Continue reading Ponche: Or My Mom’s New Year’s Warm Fruit Punch
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
Not for nothing is there a saying that goes “as American as apple pie.” Pie in the US is American comfort food of the first order.
Pie in Mexico is pay.
Pay : a sweet taste of el sueño Americano, a bite of the ideal life en los Estados Unidos. Just like a milkshake, just like a Hollywood blockbuster, just like being able to wear a pair of laid-back Levi’s jeans.
In the 80s, when I was a tween like my son Sami is today, my school friends and I would go for a thick and tall slice of pay, right after watching an American blockbuster film. Which wasn’t often. Back then, you had to wait anywhere from a few months to a year for any of these movies to make their way down to Mexico, if they ever did.
Continue reading A Piece of Mexican Lime Pie
An intrinsically Mexican dish, enchiladas are not one but a multitude of possibilities that can dress up a corn tortilla. Simply the sound of the word enchilada makes any Mexican’s mouth water in less than a millisecond and is cause for celebration.
One of the dearest antojos or antojitos (translate to whims or little whims), enchiladas are corn tortillas that may be heated up or lightly fried, either folded or rolled, with or without a variety of fillings, always bathed in a salsa or sauce, and garnished with a a few from a long list of possible toppings. From crumbled queso fresco and a drizzle of crema, to raw or pickled onion, chiles or other vegetables, Mexican avocado, chorizo, shredded lettuces and cabbage, just to name some.
Considering the variations of fillings, salsas, and toppings, enchiladas not only embody different regional cuisine’s identities, but also the whims of different cooks…
Here is my latest one; I call it the Big Brunch Enchilada.
Continue reading Big Brunch Enchiladas
If you are going to try a new potato salad, it has to be this one.
It’s rich. It’s filling. Yet at the same time, it’s light and bright. How can this happen? You may wonder…
Soft tender potatoes are combined with an exuberant poblano chile rajas, or strips, and lightly caramelized red onion mix. It’s not a creamy salad, but one that has an unexpected vinegary kick, laced with olive and sesame oils.
In my kitchen, it’s a well documented fact that poblano chiles love the company of allspice. And it is no secret that potatoes love to be showered with tarragon. Mix it all up, and I want to eat the entire serves-six-people bowl.
Continue reading Potato and Poblano Rajas Salad
It’s ironic. The farthest away from Mexico I’ve been, the closest I’ve felt to my home country and the more I’ve gotten to know it.
Namely, there are 2,419 miles between my home in the DC area and the home I was born and raised in, in Mexico City (I’ve seen it in Google maps a thousand times with my boys), it’s a 44-hour drive if you go non-stop and a 5-hour flight with no connections.
Distance matters. It weighs, in tons of pounds of nostalgia that can be soothed in the kitchen. Distance has made my time in Mexico intense and adventurous, and the foods I am able to replicate in my American kitchen that much more precious.
Continue reading Yucatán Style French Toast: Ultra Decadent
I grew up in Mexico City with La Lechera sweetened condensed milk in my family’s pantry. It is an ingredient that is part of my upbringing, it speaks of home to me.
We had it not only for breakfast, dessert, milkshakes, smoothies, snacks and after school treats (drizzled over fresh fruit or spread over Maria cookies). We also poured it on top of baked plantains and sweet potatoes (in my view, it’s all they need to take them to the stratosphere), which in my memory remains one of the sweetest things. It was part of our everyday lives.
My mom and dad worked full time during the week, but my sisters and I always had a flan, pound cake or gelatina to look forward to. Every day of the week.
Continue reading La Lechera Sweetened Condensed Milk