Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taco Tuesday

Every now and then I wish the boyfriend would quit art and become my personal taquero. Then, I remember that he's way too talented and that he can't cook. Instead, this recipe for "Tacos Al Pastor" is my solution for those days when I regret not having answered the cat calls from the taco cart guy.

Al Pastor is a pineapple-chile marinated pork that is usually slow-cooked on a spit (sort of like shawarma). This recipe is a version for those of us who don't have one of them fancy spits or a taquero boyfriend.

Tacos Al Pastor
Serves 6-8


1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup guajillo chile powder
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 chipotle chiles and 1 to 2 teaspoons adobo from canned chipotle chiles in adobo
8 1/4-inch slices of boneless pork chops
1 cup of white onions, chopped
1 tsp paprika (smokey)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Corn tortillas
Avocado, sliced
Lime wedges


Place chopped onion and pineapple in blender. Add orange juice, vinegar, chile powder, garlic cloves, salt, oregano, cumin, chipotles, and puree marinade until smooth. Place pork in large resealable plastic bag. Add marinade and seal bag, releasing excess air. Turn to coat. Let marinade in fridge for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Grill pork (do not clean off excess marinade) until slightly charred and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer pork to cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes. Chop into small cubes.

Clean off skillet and place over medium-low heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and add ½ of the chopped onion. Cook until transparent and add the pork. Sprinkle paprika over pork and sautee for 5 minutes. This is the part when I like to taste the pork and see if it needs any seasoning. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
Meanwhile, add the remaining chopped onion and cilantro in a medium bowl, toss to combine.

Warm and grease a griddle with a bit of oil. Warm tortillas until slightly golden, about 20 seconds per side. In Mexico, they grease the griddle with lard, so if you're feeling adventurous, do that. It's so worth it.
Serve with onion-cilantro mixture, salsa, avocado, and lime wedges.

Give lots of taco-flavored kisses to your loved ones!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Thanksgiving may be a US holiday, but Mexicans get to celebrate it too. We'll just call it even 'cause of the whole Cinco de Mayo thing.

Here's a recipe for those of you who want to add a little spice to your Thanksgiving. It's super quick and easy and everyone will love it.

Queso Fundido


1 package of Mexican chorizo*
2 cups of shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup of diced white onions
1 tbs of chopped cilantro for garnish
1 tbs of oil
Salt & pepper

*Do not use Spanish chorizo. Mexican chorizo is loose, and uncooked. You can purchase it in sausage casing or it comes loose by the pound.


Heat oil on a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until transparent. Remove from pan and set aside.

Remove oil from the pan and wipe clean with a paper towel. Place pan back on burner and add the chorizo (if it’s in casing, remove from casing). Cook chorizo for about 5-8 minutes or until it turns a deep color. Lower heat and drain any excess oil.

Sprinkle all the shredded cheese over the chorizo and cover the pan with a lid until the cheese completely melts.

Move the chorizo-cheese mixture onto a plate or if you can/want, you can serve it on the skillet. Just remember to be careful because it will be hot. Sprinkle with grilled onions and garnish with cilantro.

I like to serve this dish with chips, warm tortillas, toasted bread, or pitas.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Got it From My Momma

Last Christmas, I flew to Illinois to meet my gringo boyfriend’s family for the first time. He wanted me to impress them by cooking a traditional Mexican dish. He told me that his favorite was enchiladas, so that’s what I should make for them. There are a few variations of enchiladas throughout Mexico. The ones that I grew up with aren’t covered with a tomato-chile sauce, but rather, the tortilla is dipped into a guajillo pepper sauce to soak up the flavor and color. To impress my potential future in-laws, I made sure I put my best foot forward. I packed my trusty sack of dried guajillo peppers that my mom sent me from Mexico, and was ready to win them over!

This is a variation of the recipe that I used to cook my way into their hearts, for those who prefer sauce-covered enchiladas. I've also included the recipe I grew up with.

Chicken Enchiladas
Serves 4-6


Variation 1: guajillo enchilada sauce (recipe to follow)
Variation 2: tomato-chile sauce (recipe to follow)
16 corn tortillas
Chicken filling (recipe to follow)
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
Vegetable oil
Crema Mexican (crème fraîche) or sour cream

Toppers: chopped cilantro, avocado, pico de gallo


Heat about a cup of vegetable oil in a skillet. Dip the cold tortillas, one by one, in the oil until slightly golden yet remaining soft. This step is really important because it will help keep the tortillas soft and not dry out.

Variation 1: Dip each fried tortilla, one by one, in guajillo sauce for a few seconds. Flip over making sure each side is covered in sauce.

Variation 2: Skip dipping the tortillas in the sauce and go straight to filling them up.

Place the tortilla on a plate and add a little bit of the chicken filling, then roll them up and place them on a plate. Make sure that each tortilla is rolled up tightly and that you stack them close together on the plate.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet (add more oil as needed). Place about 2-3 of the filled tortillas on the skillet and brown on each side (about a minute each side). I find that sticking to about three at a time and keeping them close to each other prevents them from coming apart.

Variation 1: Place 2-3 enchiladas on a plate. Sprinkle with queso fresco and about a tablespoon of crema Mexicana. Garnish with the toppers of your choice.

Variation 2: Place 2-3 enchiladas on a plate and pour the tomato-chile sauce over them. Sprinkle with queso fresco and about a tablespoon of crema Mexicana. Garnish with the toppers of your choice.

I like to serve enchiladas with a side of rice and refried beans. If you want to go the extra mile, make those beans “frijoles charros.” Stick around for that recipe!

Chicken Filling

3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 large onion, cut into thin slices (kind of like little parentheses)
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup of chicken broth
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin


Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender.

Add the jalapeño and tomatoes. Cook until all ingredients have been cooked through.

Add the chicken and season with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Stir until everything is all mixed in.

Add about half of the chicken broth and cook for about two minutes. Make sure that the mixture is moist. If it’s a bit dried out, add more broth.

Guajillo Sauce


3 cups of dried guajillo peppers (seeded and deveined)
1 large garlic clove
1 chicken bullion cube


Place peppers in a blender and fill with hot water. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes. Pour out about 2/3 of the water and save for later.

Once peppers are tender, add the remaining ingredients. Cover and puree until you have a smooth mixture.

Place a fine strainer over a large bowl and strain through. Add salt to taste. The sauce should not be too runny or too thick. If it’s too thick, add 1 table spoon at a time of that water you saved earlier until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Tomato-chile Sauce


3 medium size fresh and ripe tomatoes, stewed and peeled
¼ oinion
1 garlic clove
1 or 2 canned chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce)
1 tbs oil
Salt and oregano


In a blender, add tomato, onion, garlic, canned chipotles, and about ½ cup of water. Blend until slightly smooth. If you prefer a more rustic sauce, don’t blend too much.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat on a skillet. Fry the mix, when it starts boiling add salt and oregano.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


(not to be confused with "holla!")

I know, everyone’s mom’s food is the best, but I’m one tough cookie when it comes to judging Mexican cuisine, and I’m confident in saying that my mom could totally beat up your mom… in the kitchen, with some oregano… and peppers, and maybe throw in some tomatoes. I could keep going, but it’ll get way too messy. I don’t know much about genetics and if something like being a good cook can be inherited. Although, I am pretty certain that somewhere in my DNA, there’s a chromosome that has a little red pepper next to it, because I can cook the hell out some Mexican food.

When I was 15 years old, my parents opened their first Mexican restaurant. After soccer practice, I’d take my sweaty, grass-stained self to the restaurant and hang around with my mom because she was the coolest person I knew. I don’t think the feeling was mutual. In an attempt to entertain myself, I started to help her around the kitchen (Please note that I took sanitary precautions and made sure that I wasn’t in my gross soccer clothes). I started to pick up on some of her recipes, and soon enough she allowed me to cook some orders. After seeing that I was able to do what none of the other employees could, duplicate her recipes, my mom let me take over the cooking and would allow herself to take a break. I don’t cook in a restaurant anymore. Now, I cook for my friends and loved ones; it’s one of the things I enjoy doing the most.

I’m a strong believer in keeping Mexican cuisine authentic. However, I wanted to make my mom’s recipes my own, by either giving them a twist or enhancing them with spices she may have not been familiar with, while never compromising authentic Mexican flavors. Mexican food can either be extremely easy to make or can be a labor of love. You sometimes have to work with few ingredients and figure out a way to bring out the best in them. Sometimes you’re given a laundry list of spices and it’s up to you to make them work together perfectly. It takes time and practice to cook Mexican food the way it should be.

I take a lot of pride in my cooking, and I want to be able to share it with people. One day I hope to open a restaurant of my own. That dream seems a bit far for me right now. In the meantime, I’m happy sharing my recipes, cooking tips, and when I don’t feel like cooking my own Mexican food and I venture out into NYC, I’ll share my reviews on the restaurants I love and mouth-off about the ones I hate.

It’s about to get real official up in here. My name is Maria Palafox and I live in Brooklyn, NY. I was born in Mexico, but raised in the US. I speak Spanish fluently and can dance the hell out of some “corridos” (google it).