A taco is a beautiful thing.
One of the most satisfying, versatile, exciting, and downright honest foods I can think of.
Plus, there is no need or mood a taco can’t tackle.
You are hungry and have but one peso in your pocket? Eat a Taco de Nada. You pass a tortillería on your way home? A Taco de Sal will hold you off until you get there. A deep hangover ails you? Go for Tacos de Barbacoa with Salsa Borracha. Did you say you have a broken heart? A pair of fully stocked Tacos al Pastor will be your most effective rebound. You are home with a cold? Soft chicken tacos dipped in fresh crema will make you all better, no doubt about that. Need to feed your teen kid and his buddies before they head out? Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos dressed with shredded lettuce, crumbled queso fresco and Salsa Verde will make them happy and fill them up. It’s lunchtime and you are on the road? If you are in Mexico (or somewhere with a large Mexican community), you will find someone with a huge basket selling Tacos Sudados to go. Planning a backyard party? Tacos de Carnitas will kick it off, without you even saying a word.
Continue reading Bricklayer Tacos
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.
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 WITH TOASTED ANGEL HAIR PASTA
Arroz Blanco con Fideos
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups white rice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 lb or about 1 cup angel hair pasta, broken into pieces
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
4 cups water or chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lime juice, optional
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Soak the white rice in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. In a cooking pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the angel hair and fry for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. It should be browned but not burnt.
Incorporate the drained rice, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice achieves a milky white color and it feels and sounds heavier when you move it.
Add the chopped onion and garlic, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour the water or broth over the rice, add the salt and lime juice, and once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with the lid, and cook for about 20 minutes.
The rice is ready when the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender and cooked. Turn off the heat and keep it covered for at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
RABO DE MESTIZA: POACHED EGGS IN A TOMATO AND POBLANO RAJAS SAUCE
Huevos Rabo de Mestiza: con Salsa de Jitomate y Rajas de Poblano
Serves 6 to 8
The sauce can be made ahead of time and the dish cooked right before you want to eat it.
2 lbs Roma tomatoes
1 garlic clove
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp corn or safflower oil
1/2 cup white onion, slivered or thinly sliced
3/4 lb poblano chiles, or about 3, charred, sweated, skinned, stemmed, seeded, cut into about 2″ slices (may soak in hot water with 2 tbsp brown sugar or piloncillo to tame heat)
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, more or less to taste
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled, my substitute for farmers or a mild feta
Corn tortillas or toast, optional
Place the tomatoes along with the garlic and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, simmer until thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes. Place tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves in the blender and puree until smooth.
In a large, heavy bottomed pan set over medium heat, pour in the oil. Once hot, cook the onion, stirring now and then, until soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the poblano rajas and let them cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce, sprinkle the marjoram, salt and pepper, and let it season and thicken for about 10 to 12 minutes. You can make this sauce ahead of time and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
When ready to make the eggs, reheat the sauce, then lower the heat to medium-low and add the eggs one by one. It is easier if you crack the eggs into a small bowl or cup and slide them into the sauce. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top of each egg and cover the pan with its lid. Let the eggs poach until cooked. I like the yolks, still runny, which takes like 4 to 5 minutes.
Serve on plates and sprinkle crumbled cheese on top. Have warm corn tortillas or toast on the side.
PICADILLO EMPANADAS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Empanadas de Picadillo de la Inmaculada Concepción
Makes about 15 medium empanadas
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese or fresh nata, about 185 g, at room temperature
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups picadillo (recipe below), or preferred filling
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sesame seeds
To make the dough, beat the cream cheese with the butter in a mixer at medium speed, until it is creamy. Gently add the flour and salt and continue mixing for a minute more. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate from 15 minutes up to 24 hours.
After refrigerating, sprinkle flour over the countertop and roll out half the dough until its about 1/4 inch thick. For medium sized empanadas, cut out rounds of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Continue until all of the dough is used.
Grease a baking sheet with butter. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the picadillo filling into the center of each round. Brush the edges of the round with the beaten egg. Fold a side of the circle over the filling across the other side. Press with your fingers as you close. Without breaking the dough, press with a fork over the edges to seal and make a design.
Place the empanadas on the baking sheet. When you fill the baking sheet, lightly brush their tops with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake the empanadas anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops have a golden tan and dough is cooked through. Serve hot.
PICADILLO FOR EMPANADAS
Makes about 4 cups
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lb pork shoulder or butt, or combination of pork, beef and veal, ground
3/4 tsp kosher, coarse or sea salt
1 lb ripe tomatoes, pureed, or about 2 cups tomato puree
2 cups chicken broth or water
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup Manzilla olives, chopped
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a couple of minutes, until it becomes translucent and soft. Incorporate chopped garlic and saute for about a minute until it becomes fragrant. Incorporate the meat and the salt and let it cook for about 8 minutes, until cooked and lightly browned.
Pour in tomato puree and let it season, stirring often, for 5 to 6 minutes, until it has deepened its color, thickened in consistency and lost the raw flavor. Pour in the chicken broth or water, cumin, cloves and cinnamon. Stir well and let it cook 15 minutes more.
Add the raisins, almond and olives, mix well and taste for seasoning. Cook for 5 more minutes. If needed, add more salt. The filling should be nice and moist.
Just remember, once it cools, it will dry a little more as it will
absorb the juices. Turn off the heat. You can make the filling up to two days ahead of time, let it cool, cover and refrigerate.
WHITE RICE AND POBLANO RAJAS CASSEROLE
Cazuela de Arroz con Rajas de Chile Poblano
4 cups cooked white rice
2 tbsp butter and a bit more to butter the baking dish
1 cup white onion, slivered
3 poblano chiles, about 3/4 lb, charred, skinned, stemmed, seeded, and sliced. Click here for more information on how to prepare them
1 1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup corn kernels, fresh, thawed from frozen or canned and drained
1 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1/2 cup Mexican style cream, or Latin, Salvadorean, creme fraiche or heavy cream
1/2 cup queso fresco, can substitute with farmers, basket or ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup Monterey jack, light cheddar or mozzarella, shredded
Place the butter in a saute pan set over medium heat. Once it melts, add the slivered onion and allow it to sweat for about 12 minutes, until translucent and soft. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the chile poblano rajas or strips, corn, salt and black pepper and cook for about 3 more minutes. Add the cream and queso fresco and continue cooking, stirring from time to time, until the sauce thickens a bit and seasons, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 8 x 11 or 9 x 9 baking dish. Layer the white rice in the baking dish and press it down gently with a spatula. Pour the poblano mixture on top. For the last layer, sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
Bake the casserole in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese has completely melted. Serve hot.
There are countless versions of Pico de Gallo salsas. Their trademark is having ingredients that are fresh rather than cooked, and diced and chopped rather than pureed. This is the most common and well-known version.
It is also incredibly colorful!
Continue reading Pico de Gallo Salsa
COWBOY CHARRO BEANS
Frijoles Charros con Tocino y Chorizo
6 oz sliced uncooked bacon, chopped
8 oz fresh, uncooked Mexican chorizo, casings removed, chopped
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper (seeded if desired), finely chopped, more or less to taste
1/2 lb roma tomatoes, about 2 to 3 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, plus more as needed
5 cups cooked pinto beans and their cooking liquid (or substitute with black or Peruvian beans)
Cook the bacon in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is lightly browned and starting to crisp. Add the chopped chorizo; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to brown and crisp. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it into smaller pieces.
Add the chopped onion and jalapeño; mix well and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes, letting them soften a bit. Add the tomatoes and mix well; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until the tomatoes soften and appear mushy.
Add the cooked beans and their cooking liquid; mix well and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the beans are moist but not soupy. Add a bit more water if needed. Taste, and add more salt to your taste. Serve hot.
Guacamole en Trozos
2 ripe Mexican avocados, halved, pitted and pulp cut into chunks or roughly mashed
3 tbsp white onion, finely chopped
1 chile serrano or jalapeño, or to taste, minced (seeding is optional)
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tsp salt, more or less to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve!