Thursday, December 22, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
There is an episode of American Dad! where Stan Smith hires a family of Mexican illegal immigrants to manufacture teddy bears out of his basement. In the episode, INS is onto him, so he has to sneak them out in his van in order to get his shipment of bears out on time. Before he leaves, Francine warns him, "If you stop for more than five minutes, they'll have a barbecue." You guys, it's true. It's so true. We love to barbecue. I distinctly remember stopping on the side of the 405 freeway in L.A. to barbecue. If there's grass and enough room to set up some chairs, then you bet we're gonna fire up the grill. We are a resourceful people.
Typically, at our barbecues, we serve "carne asada." It's either flank or skirt steak, marinated or spice rubbed, and cooked on a grill. If you don't have a bbq-happy Mexican family or access to an outdoor grill, fear not! I present to you a stove-top recipe for carne asada!
2 lbs skirt or flank steak
2 garlic cloves
1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
2 oranges, juiced
2 lemons (1 juiced)
1 tbs worcestershire sauce
4 sprigs of Cilantro
Salt & pepper
Place garlic, onion, orange juice, lemon juice, and worcestershire sauce in a blender and liquefy. Place steak in a glass baking dish and season both sides, generously, with salt and pepper. Place cilantro sprigs over the meat. Pour the onion-orange mixture over the meat. Cover and let marinade for at least 3 hours.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Remove meat from marinade (do not clean off) and place on skillet. Brown on both sides for about 3 minutes per side. Only turn once! The more you move it, the more the juices run. After you turn it the first time, squeeze a bit of lemon and sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish cooking. Remove from skillet and let rest for about 5 minutes.
You may or may not be Mexican, but now that you have five minutes, you can have a barbecue! Serve the carne asada with a side of rice and beans or chop it up into small pieces for tacos or quesadillas.
For tacos, I like to sauteé the chopped meat a bit in some oil (or lard for you crazy people) and provide some toppings for delicious taco making. Topping suggestions: Diced onions & chopped cilantro, salsa, grilled spring onions or scallions, guacamole, radishes.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Put a little salsa in your step with this recipe for a tangy green salsa.
The star of this post is the tomatillo. The tomatillo is similar in appearance to a green tomato, but it's flavor is very different. It is a tart fruit with a slight sweetness that you'll often find in most green salsas. When you buy them fresh, they come in a husk that needs to be removed prior to cooking. The easiest way to do this is by soaking them in water for a few minutes and then peeling off the husk.
The tomatillo can be roasted, boiled, toasted, or fried. For this recipe, I like to roast them for a smokey flavor that I think goes well with its tartness.
1 lb tomatillos
2 serrano peppers (or jalapeños, they are less spicy)
1 small white onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup cilantro
1 tsp lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to broil
Place the first three ingredients on a baking sheet and coat with a bit of olive oil. Note: If you want to reduce the heat of the salsa, remove the seeds from the peppers. Place under the broiler for about 8 minutes or unil the skins of the tomatillos and peppers have charred. Feel free to remove the peppers and/or onions if they are ready before the tomatillos.
Put everything in a blender and puree. Season to taste.
Try replacing peppers with any of the following for a variation on this recipe: 2-3chipotle peppers, 1 roasted poblano, or 10-12 chiles de arbol (tree chiles).
Great salsa for tacos or chip dipping!
Friday, December 9, 2011
Chill a what? It's pronounced chill-ah-key-less. Or you can always call them fancy nachos, like the gringo boyfriend does.
Chilaquiles are generally served for breakfast or brunch. However, they hold up on their own as a main dish for dinner. Or any time, really. Like most dishes in Mexico, chilaquiles can vary depending on the region. Some people will cook them in a sauce until the tortillas are very soft, on the other end of the spectrum, you'll have regions that prefer the tortillas to remain crisp. The recipe my mom taught me is kind of in the middle, slightly soft, while keeping a light crisp. You will also find that you'll have a variety of sauces to choose from. For this recipe, I use a red sauce, very similar to enchilada sauce.
Feel free to add chicken, beef, chorizo, egg, or your favorite toppings!
1 dz corn tortillas, cut into 6 triangles
1 cup of onions, thinly sliced
2 cups of red sauce (recipe to follow)
1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
Queso fresco, crumbled
Crema Mexicana (creme fraiche)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
Heat 1-2 cups of oil (about an inch deep) over medium heat (350-375° F for you fancy people). Slowly add the tortillas in batches and fry until golden. Remove and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and sauteé until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the fried tortillas and gently stir so that you don't break them making sure that the onions are mixed in well. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt. Sauteé everything for about 2 minutes. Add the red sauce and gently fold into the tortillas until everything is coated. Sprinkle monterey jack cheese over tortillas, cover for two minutes or until cheese has melted.
Serve in a bowl or plate, sprinkle with queso fresco, top with avocado, cilantro, and drizzle with cream.
3 cups of dried guajillo peppers (seeded and deveined)
1 large garlic clove
1 chicken bullion cube
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp cumin
1 tbs oregano
Salt and pepper
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. 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.Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the pepper mixture to pan, constantly stirring, until oil is well incorporated and sauce has darkened in color. Watch out for splatter! Add oregano (crumble with your fingers) and cumin. Continue stirring for about two minutes. Add heavy cream and simmer for five minutes. Lower heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Scarf it down like a champ! *plays Eye of the Tiger*
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Do you like chocolate? Of course you do, you're not crazy. Here's a recipe for a delicious cup of hot chocolate, Mexican style. You'll need to find Mexican chocolate bars like the one pictured above. The most popular brands are "Abuelita" and "Ibarra." My favorite is Abuelita because it has a picture of a cute grandma on the box.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
2 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup mexican Chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick of cinnamon
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add milk and chocolate and stir. Continue to stir until most of the chocolate has melted.
Pour the mixture into a blender. Close the lid making sure that there is a bit of an opening to let out any pressure that builds up from the steam. Blend until it gets foamy and you no longer see small pieces of chocolate (about 45 seconds).
Pour into mugs and grate a bit of fresh cinnamon over the top.
You like living on the edge? Try adding a pinch of cayenne pepper into the mix. Adds a nice kick!
Cuddle up and enjoy!
(Note: I did not take these photographs, and I don't have info for credits)
Monday, December 5, 2011
86 South Portland Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
I constantly complain about there not being any good Mexican restaurants in New York City. I'm not the only one to say that, I've heard this from many people. You would never expect that such a popular cuisine, in one of the food capitals of the world, would be so disappointing. Ok, I have to admit that I'm a fan of the hyperbole and often find myself making statements that more than likely are exaggerations; "There's no good Mexican in NY" is one of these statements. The truth is that I've found a few gems that can hold up to the best restaurants in California; Pequeña in Fort Greene, Brooklyn is one these places.
I've been living in Brooklyn for three years. I recently moved to the mean streets of Bushwick (but seriously, these are the mean streets. No cute hipsters around here trying to prove something or other). Previously, I lived in Fort Greene. The thing I miss most about no longer living there are the great restaurants, especially my beloved Pequeña.
Pequeña means "tiny" and tiny it is. There are about six small crowded tables that seat two people each and an outside area that seats about 10 more people. The decor is a hodge podge of Mexican items. There are decorative plates on the walls and it's dimly lit by sconces and multi-colored lights. My favorite part are the Alebrijes hanging from the ceiling. Alebrijes are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. My dad has been making his own for about 20 years now. When I see them outside of my home or Mexico, they bring back fond memories of my dad standing at his work table, creating beautiful monstrosities.
What it lacks in size, it makes up in flavor. My favorite item on the menu is the Pork Enchiladas with Red Sauce. The pork is always really tender, savory, and juicy. The red sauce is a tomato-based chili sauce that is perfectly seasoned and just mild enough to not overwhelm the rest of the dish. They are garnished with melted oaxaca cheese, salty "queso fresco" and fresh cilantro. If you make your order a "Main," they serve it with black beans and rice. For some odd reason, in NY, most Mexican restaurants serve black instead of pinto beans, which are the customary bean to use. My hypothesis (adjusts glasses) is that since there is a larger Caribbean population here, people are not as used to pinto, so restaurants use the more familiar black beans. I move on to the rice. Oh, the rice. I'm pretty sure it comes from a box. This seems to be a common problem in this city, and I don't understand why. So, either I'm just jumping to conclusions, or there is one shared recipe amongst Latin American restaurants here because I've had that exact same rice at so many places. My other observation, that has led me to this conclusion, is that the rice doesn't "blossom" like homemade rice should. Now that I've gone on for probably too long about their rice, the good news is that it's the only issue I have with their food. Go with a big appetite because their menu is full of delicious Mexican dishes, some traditional and some with a bit of a twist.
Pequeña's comfy atmosphere and extremely flavorful dishes make sitting elbow-to-elbow with a stranger worth it. A few things to note are that they only accept cash and also, if you're in the mood for margaritas, you'll be paying a lot for not very much booze. Not to worry, there are plenty of bars in the neighborhood to guzzle down some No No juice.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Do you feel like your food is always under-seasoned even though you followed the recipe?
Here's a tip:
Season as indicated in the recipe. Then, half way through the process, taste your food (a big spoonfull so that all of your tastebuds cop a feel). If you feel it's under seasoned, add a tiny bit more. Finally, once everything is cooked, taste again and make any necessary adjustments.
If you think you've gone overboard with the salt, adding a bit of brown sugar, vinegar, or cream can help. Just make sure to add these ingredients a little at a time.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
(Yes, that title is an ATHF reference)
I've never had so much difficulty figuring out a recipe as much as I did with Mexican rice. It became the one thing I was super afraid of making. The first time I attempted to make it was back in high school with my friend Veronica. My grandfather was visiting from Mexico, so we decided to make him dinner. We were going to make him enchiladas suizas with rice. I remembered all the ingredients my mom used, but we added all of them at the wrong time. We put the bullion cube in while we were toasting the rice and then the tomatoes at the end. It was quite the mess, but my "Pallen" (that's what we call my grandpa) was a good sport and ate it all up, burned bits and all.
There is definitely a right way to make Mexican rice and a wrong way, but you should never eat the stuff that comes out of a box. You deserve better. So, here's my recipe for delicious rice that you can serve alongside all your dishes.
2 cups of uncooked white long grain rice
3 large tomatoes
1 large onion, quartered
large garlic cloves
4-5 cups of chicken stock
1-2 chicken bullion cubes
1 pinch of cumin
4 tbs oil
In a blender, combine the tomatoes, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 of the onion, and puree until smooth. Add chicken stock to the mixture until the mixture creates 4 cups of liquid.
Meanwhile, dice the remaining onion.
Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add 1 garlic clove and saute for 2 minutes. Add the rice, the diced onion and saute until rice begins to toast and turn golden. Remove the garlic clove. Add the tomato-stock mixture to the pot and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add a 1/2 cup of chicken stock. You are adding a total of 4 1/2 cups of liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the bullion cube, cumin, and pepper to taste. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. After about 5 minutes, open the lid (watch out for steam!) and stir, gently. If at this point, not much liquid is left, add the remaining stock. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated and rice is cooked through.
Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
Feel free to add some veggies to the rice after you add the liquid. My mom used to add peas or corn. I hated both, but I was a brat.