Pati's Mexican Table
Fun, kid-friendly and (mostly!) finger-food that you’d find at a children’s party in Mexico, adapted for American parties at home. A special guest shows up to make dessert!
CHAYOTE SQUASH AND PICKLED ONION SALAD
Ensalada de chayote y cebolla morada
2 pounds chayote squash
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
Place unpeeled chayotes in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and cover the pan, then reduce heat to low; simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until the chayotes are cooked through. A knife will cleanly go through them, but they won’t be completely soft or mushy.
Drain, and once cool, peel the chayotes. Cut them in half, then slice into sticks.
Combine the remaining ingredients, except for the onions, and whisk into a vinaigrette. Add the onions, mix well and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. It can also be made ahead a day before and left in the refrigerator.
Toss the chayote sticks with the vinaigrette and onions. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
DRESSED-UP CHICKEN MILANESA
Milanesa de pollo bien vestida
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely crumbled queso fresco, cotija, ricotta salata, or romano
1 tablespoon dried ground chile piquín or a mix like Tajín, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
To flatten the chicken breasts, in between two layers of parchment or plastic paper, flatten the chicken breasts with a meat pallet or a skillet.
On a plate, beat 2 eggs together with the milk. On another plate, combine the breadcrumbs with the cheese, ground chile and salt.
Dip both sides of each flattened chicken breast in the egg mixture, then gently coat both sides with the breadcrumb mixture so that the entire piece is covered. Set the coated breasts aside on a chopping board or platter.
Heat enough oil, in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat, for it to be ¼ inch deep. After about 3 to 4 minutes, when the oil is hot but not smoking, place as many chicken breasts as will fit in a single layer without crowding the pan. If the edges of the chicken breasts aren’t bubbling in the oil, raise the heat closer to medium-high.
Cook for about 3 minutes on one side until golden brown. Gently flip and repeat on the other side. When the second side has crisped, remove it from the pan and set it on a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining milanesas.
CHUNKY CHIPOTLE MASHED POTATOES
Puré de papa con chipotle
3 pounds red potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 chile from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoon chipotles in adobo sauce, optional
1/2 cup milk
Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Rinse and quarter the potatoes. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes over medium- high heat, or until thoroughly cooked and soft. Drain.
In a large, heavy skillet set over medium heat, add the chunks of butter. Once it melts and begins to bubble, stir in the scallions and cook for a couple of minutes until they soften. Add the chopped chipotle chile and combine well. Add the cooked potatoes along with the milk.
Using a potato masher or a wooden spoon, mash the potatoes roughly as you mix them with the chipotle and scallion mixture. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Simple, easy, home-style cuisine that you’d find in just about any Mexican home, recreated for the American kitchen. This meal was my favorite “everyday” meal growing up in Mexico, and one I regularly make for my own family today. I am proud to share the steps so that you can enjoy it too.
WHITE RICE AND FRIED PLANTAINS
Arroz blanco con plátanos fritos
Serves 8 to 10
2 cups long-grain white rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying plantains
1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, prepared or homemade
1 celery stalk, cut in half
1 fresh parsley sprig
1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced
1 serrano chile
Sour cream, to garnish, optional
To prepare the rice:
Place the rice in a large bowl and cover with very hot water; let it soak anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring softly for 2 to 3 minutes. Incorporate the onion and stir, from time to time, until the rice begins to change to a milky-white color and feels and sounds heavier, as if it were grains of sand; about 3 to 4 more minutes.Pour in the chicken stock, along with the celery, parsley, lime juice, salt and whole chile.
When it comes to a rolling boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook until the rice is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. If the rice grains don’t seem soft and cooked through, add a bit more chicken broth or water and let it cook for another 5 more minutes or so.
Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork when ready to serve. Place the cooked plantains (below) on top. Place sour cream on the side for people to add to their rice and plantains if they like.
To prepare the plantains:
Note: The skin of the plantain should be almost entirely black when it is mature and ready to use in this recipe.
Peel the plantains and slice them diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices.
In a sauté pan, over medium heat, add about 1/4-inch of oil. Heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the plantain slices and fry until browned but not blackened, about 2 minutes per side, the oil should be bubbling around their edges of the plantain slices as they cook.
Remove the plantains from the oil and drain them on a plate covered with paper towels.
Pastel de chocolate de Juju
For the cake:
1 cup water
2/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
For the Frosting:
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup sprinkles, optional
To prepare the cake: Grease a 9x13-inch cake pan with butter. Cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, over medium heat, pour the water, stir in the cocoa and add the butter. Let it heat for a few minutes, stirring now and then, until it all dissolves. Remove the pot from the heat.
In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In another, beat the eggs and combine them with the sour cream.
In turns, add a quarter of the flour mix and then a quarter of the sour cream mix at a time into the pot with the cocoa mixture; stir with a spatula, mixing all of the ingredients as you move along. Pour onto the greased cake pan and place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out barely moist but not wet.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool a bit while you prepare the frosting.
To prepare the frosting: In a saucepan, over medium heat, pour in the milk and the vanilla. Stir in the cocoa and add the butter. Heat and stir until everything is all dissolved and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioners' sugar. Thoroughly mix with a spatula and set aside.
To assemble: Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the cake. Turn the cake onto a platter and gently remove the parchment paper. Pour the still-warm frosting over the cake and gently spread it out with a spatula. If you wish, you may add sprinkles of your choice before the frosting hardens (NOTE: The cake is soft and moist the first couple days, then hardens like a brownie afterwards if left uncovered-- perfect for packing in school lunches).
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STREET-STYLE CUT-UP FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Frutas y verduras de carrito
1 to 2 large mangoes
4 large carrots
Dried ground chile such as piquín
3 limes, or more to taste
Peel and slice the fruits and vegetables, you may do this ahead of time and store covered in the refrigerator. Sprinkle salt and chile to taste. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top. Mix and enjoy.
ENCHILADAS IN RED TOMATO SAUCE
Enchiladas en Salsa Roja
For the sauce:
1 poundripe tomatoes
1 garlic clove, skin on
1 1/4″-thick slicewhite onion (about 1 ounce)
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, or to taste
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
For the enchiladas:
Oil for frying the tortillas, optional
12 corn tortillas
1/2 cup Mexican cream
1/2 cup queso fresco or cotija, crumbled
1/3 cup white onion,chopped
Ripe Mexican avocado, halved, scooped and sliced
Place the tomatoes, garlic, onions, and chile on a medium baking dish, roasting pan or ovenproof skillet. Place them under a hot broiler and char the ingredients for about 9 to 10 minutes, turning them halfway through as the pieces brown thoroughly. The tomatoes’ skin should be charred, wrinkled, and the juices begin to run. The chile and onions should be softened and nicely charred; the papery husk of the garlic should be burned and the clove softened inside.
Remove the skin from the garlic clove and discard. Place the garlic in the blender along with the tomatoes, onion, and chile (start with half chile first, adding the other half or more if you feel you want more heat later), and the salt. Purée until smooth, set aside.
In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, add enough oil to reach 1/2-inch deep; let it heat for about 3 minutes. Gently glide each tortilla through the oil, one by one, for about 15 seconds on each side, so that they soften and become resilient. You should be able to fold them without breaking them. Transfer the tortillas to a paper towel-covered plate. Alternately, you can lightly toast them on an already hot comal or skillet set over medium heat, for about 20 seconds per side.
Glide the tortillas through the salsa. Fold and then cover, generously, with more of the red sauce. Sprinkle with the crumbled cheese, the cream, and the chopped onion.
MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (or double the butter)
1/2 cup pecans, ground or finely chopped
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large cookie sheet.
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the pecans until they are finely chopped. Add the powdered sugar, flour and salt, and pulse again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary.
Drop in the butter and shortening chunks, and pulse a couple of times. Add the egg and pulse again, just until the mixture starts to come together. Roll the dough into 1- to 1 1/2″ balls with your hands.
Place the balls on the baking sheet, spacing them 1″ apart; give them a light pat on the top. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes. You may need to bake two batches.
Generously, really super generously, dust extra confectioners’ sugar over the top of the cookies.