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Jay Francis

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  1. There is a spectacular recipe on page 255 of Jim Peyton's "New Cooking From Old Mexico". I'm not going to print the recipe here, though. :>) cause Jim is a hero of mine whose cookbooks are some of the best on the planet, though he isn't super well known and I'd like to see some business go his way. Here's hoping you will check his books out on Amazon and hopefully buy one or two. I can vouch for "New Cooking" and "El Norte The Cuisine of Northern Mexico".
  2. Jay Francis

    Making Tamales

    So enjoyable to read your comments. What fun tamales making is. The first time, and we're going back to the 70's, that I made tamales without a clue, I just used liquid and masa, no fat component. They were hard solid chunks! Beating air into the mix sure helps. Still, I think there is a critical point of fat introduction to assure the float-a-bility of the masa, though. I was in Toluca a few years back, actually Metepec, and on a little street corner, I gues the Metepecans take their tamales seriously, they actually had a tamal shop, with all the provisions and these gorgeous stainless steel mixing machines. They had the husks, the fresh nixtamal masa, lard. You would order your preferred ratio, they'd drop everything into the big blender and out would come this perfect masa for tamales!
  3. Jay Francis

    Making Tamales

    Tamales 2007 I am just plain tired of wimpy tamales. The last tamales I bought were so bland. What ever happened to HOT tamales? (Actually, I know the answer to that, but, that's another show as Alton Brown would say) Well, I was picking up some sugar at one of the only places open on Christmas day and since this is where I buy my fresh lard, I bought 1 lb of lard from them. I brought it home, heated it and strained it. I had the pleasure of doing some recipe testing when Robb Walsh was writing his spectacular history of Mexican food in Texas. I followed the recipe that Robb and I had developed for The Tex-Mex Cookbook, a recipe that I am very proud of because it allows one to use Maseca and also to only make a batch of 2 dozen tamales. Thus, one may make tamales more often. So, the recipe calls for 1 ½ tsp of salt, 4 cups Maseca, 1 tsp of baking powder, 3 ½ cups of warm broth and 1 cup of lard. Then, I began to deviate. I eliminated the salt but you’ll see how the salt comes into the picture via a very non-traditional way. I decided, well this was spur of the moment after all and I was experimenting, not to put a meat filling in the tamales, but just to see how far I could go with a steamed masa. This is actually not as inauthentic as it sounds. In Oaxaca, “rajas” tamales are basically masa with some strips of Poblano chiles. Because I had not simmered pork in my crock pot for a broth and because I wanted to up the heat index on these, I put about 6 cups of water in a pot, de-stemmed and seeded three really good red anchos, added Tony Chachere Cajun seasoning to taste (in order to get the salt component in to the broth) to taste, with a commitment to make the broth saltier than seemed right, knowing that the masa would need to absorb this salt. I knew that, if you are making a chile puree with anchos and you increase the amount of water a tad more, when you process them in the blender with the liquid, you will have to do less straining ( you want to get rid of the gritty skin), though you will have to cook the sauce longer to evaporate more water ( chile purees are a two step process where the chiles are reconsituted with water and pureed and strained, then returned to a pot to simmer in oil (this takes out the raw taste of the chiles). While I was simmering the anchos, I pureed 6 chipotles in adobo from a can I had in the fridge. Yes, just happened to have them lying around. Why not? In my Kitchen Aid mixer (the new heavy duty one....I had actually burned up my old one last year making masa), I put the 4 cups of Maseca, turned the machine on to blend and dumped in the ancho puree. Note on the Kitchen-Aid, don't go above mid point: 4 or 5 in your mixer speed. Actually, I think Kitchen-Aid says not to go above 3 on a warning label they attach to each new machine. I had some left over kernel corn from a party, so I dropped a cup of corn into the Maseca. Then I turned off the mixer to just blend the corn and chipotle. Just for a little bit. I put the anchos with water to cover in my blender and carefully, using the pulse function began to puree the anchos in the broth. I tasted and adjusted the seasoning with more Tony Chachere. Note: No onions and no garlic in this recipe. Then, with the Kitchen Aid going, I added 3 ½ cups of the ancho broth to the Maseca. The consistency I was looking for was of a wet and thick batter. If you have ever seen the consistency of hummus, well, that is what I was going for. Additionally, I knew that even though the recipe calls for 1 cup of lard and that works well, that I was going to keep adding lard incrementally until I could get a ball of masa to float in water. The lard would add a flavor component to the tamales and a clogging effect to my arteries. Oh well, starting tomorrow I am back on The Fat Smash Diet by Dr. Ian Smith. Well, because of the moisture from the corn kernels, I realized I needed to add more Maseca. At the same time, I was adding the lard, beginning with the 1 cup measure. This was the tricky part. With my experience, I knew the consistency I was looking for and was adjusting the extra dry masa and the lard by intuition. I am kicking myself for not having thought of taking photographs. Darn! I ended up using about 12 ounces of the 1 lb of lard I bought, to get the masa to float. I then sprinkled 1 tsp of baking powder and continued beating air into the masa. By this time it was a light red color. I tasted it, and was surprised that even with the anchos, that were a little hotter than usual, and the chipotles, the masa still wasn’t hot hot hot. Tasty, though. So, I added a ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Growing up in Houston, I remember that the tamales of my youth had a black pepper component for their heat. At this point I had this terrific, light and fluffy, masa, red in color, embedded with corn. I had been soaking my corn husks in warm water. Because I am a fan of the tamales you find in Mexico, D.F. and further south, big ones, where one is a meal and where they are typically sold for breakfast with hot atole, I made big tamales. About 1 ½ inch diameter. I got 19 out of the batch. My steamer these days (over the years I have used couscousiers, tamaleras from Mexico) is my standard stock pot with a cloth at the bottom, water, and one of the larger size vegetable steamers that Williams Sonoma sells. I brought my water to a boil, reduced the heat to low medium, just enough so that the steam would continue and set the timer for an hour of steaming. My first taste impressions: The flavor of the anchos and chipotles comes through as a deliciously raw earthy taste. The corn kernels, well I think I would leave these out. The dough would definitely work for a meat filling (preferably pork). The baking powder helped make the end product light and fluffy. These are tamales that should be served same day, as they will harden up more. My holy grail is/are some tamales I had in the Querretaro market, that were like eating cake. Unbelievable and I hope someday to find that vendor and compensate him in order to learn his secrets (my suspicions are: the type of corn, the grind, and the amount of lard). I was very pleased with the outcome, although the level of heat was not painful to me but might be to others. If and when I do these again, the chipotles will be left out. When anchos, one is never certain. Sometimes they are hot and sometimes not. Additionally, when you buy them, sometimes they are black sometimes red. Red is my preference. The brand that Fiesta markets is Lupita’s Brand Dried Ancho Chile ( email: fecha@pdq.com). They are a local company and their bagged chiles are always soft and clean. Additionally, the tamales were greasier than I would normally like them to be (that was a lot of lard that I used). Corn husks: just be sure that you don’t scrimp here. Buy the more expensive ones that have been cleaned of the corn threads. Happy Cooking.
  4. Your best dining experiences will be at La Parroquia, which encompasses a city block, and Los Portales near the plaza, that is in the location of the old La Parroquia. Your best meals will be at the little comida corrida restaurants tucked into the Acuario aquarium museum. We had great meals there for not very much money, and chose different fonditas every day. Don't miss the museum in the home of Agustin Lara, one of the most famous performer's and composers, the Hoagy Carmichael of Mexico as it were. Also, Zarela Martinez mentions an area outside of the town on the beaches famous for its seafood. I haven't been there, but it shows up on her PBS specials on Veracruz.
  5. Kerry, I'm so embarassed to admit that I just got back to this old post of mine. Thanks very much for the information. I plan on coming back to Leche Quemada soon. I have been working on the magnificent marshmallow recipes in the homemade marshmallows thread and also working on some messy pastries, such as the Ebinger Cake, which is layers of dark chocolate cake, chocolate pudding and crumbled bits of the cake as a coating. I did the stawberry puree base marshmallows, and for a friend who loves everything rhinoceros, I used my rhinoceros cookie cutter to make rhino marshmallows.
  6. You can spend a lot of money, or not very much. I have been very pleased with my Borner brand V-Slicer. It doesn't have the infinite settings of a classic mandoline, but the V-shape of the blade works really great. I also recommend buying one of those knife protection gloves. I like to do my slicing by hand instead of with the safety device and the knife glove keeps me from having a catastrophic accidente.
  7. As others have noted, a Puebla - Veracruz vacation would be a lot of fun. Just ot put in my two cents, the recommendations made above are right on. And you'll find very good inexpensive eateries at El Acuario food courts in Veracruz. The water at Veracruz is not as spectacular as farther down toward the Yucatan, but, you could do the following itinerary. Fly into Mexico City and take the bus directly from the airport to Puebla. Several gastronomic days in Puebla, then on to Xalapa for several days with side trips to Coatepec and Xico, then either north to see the ruins of El Tajin or straight down to Veracruz. Then back to Mexico City via Cordoba and Orizaba. I would recommend grabbing the Frommer's Guide to Mexico and using it as your trip planner. We had excellent luck with the hotel recommendations. The only downside was, at the time we went there, Papantla, home of the vanilla industry and near to El Tajin, had a dreadful selection of hotels and eateries. I have travelled in Mexico for over 30 years and it was in Papantla that I was concerned about food preparation and sanitation. I remember that when we were last in Xalapa, we stayed at El Cafetal. We had a day trip to Naolinco and discovered a family there that made a terrific mole negro, and we brought back several kilos. We dined very well in Xico and hiked to the coffee area where Predator, Rambo and several other movies have been filmed. We saw a spectacular archeological museum in Xalapa and toured the ex-hacienda of General Santa Ana.
  8. If you are going to Oaxaca, I can recommend the Casa Lidia Bed and Breakfast. It is off the beaten path in a quiet neighborhood. When I was there in September, the cost for a single room was $35 and this included a spectacular breakfast everyday featuring a regional dish each morning.I like staying there because it is a pleasant and not inconvenient walk to the heart of the city and it is very quiet.
  9. It's really exciting to hear that you are going to tackle making your own masa. Although I have slaked corn in Mexico, I haven't ever tackled grinding corn into masa in my home. I default to the Maseca, masa para tamales, which is an excellent product. In a class I once had with Patricia Quintana, she recommended a 50/50 mix of regular Maseca and Maseca para tamales. I had the pleasure of doing some recipe testing for Robb Walsh's The Tex-Mex Cookbook. I am very proud of the tamal recipe he and I developed for the book using Maseca as our base. Here's hoping, if you default to Maseca, you will have great success with this recipe, too.
  10. Ah yes. Coffee. I am convinced, to the point of fanaticism, that the ONLY way to make a decent cup of coffee at home is with the Chemex (you can find good deals on Chemex units on Ebay). 1. The filter papers are superb (with a French press, you always get a bit of dusty grit) resulting in a clean perfect liquid. 2. You can control the water temperature since you bring your water to a boil separately. I prefer a water temperature of 160 F.
  11. Jay Francis


    My vote goes in for All Gold Ketchup. It is made in South Africa, has no preservatives or colorants and uses cane suger instead of that awful high fructose corn syrup. Has a bit of a white pepper tang to it that I really like.
  12. If you are on a budget, I can heartily recommend the bed and breakfast, Casa Lidia, which was running about $35 for a single and about $50 for a double when I was recently in Oaxaca. It is in a quiet little neighborhood that is not an inconvenient walk from the Santo Domingo church and the rest of the downtown area. Breakfasts are terrific and the people are really nice. Casa Lidia does not have any markings on the outside and when you arrive, you just knock on the door and someone will open it for you. This unmarked aspect gives a wonderful privacy.
  13. Has anyone ever tried grinding cacao beans into chocolate with one of these types of grinders?
  14. I have had an Alligator for going on two years and it works spectacularly. I have heard that the 'as seen on TV' ones don't have very good cutting blades. I would recommend to stick with the Alligator. There are some tricks to it though. You need to buy smaller onions (onions get pretty big here in Texas) about the size of a baseball (hardball). You have to totally commit to the downward cut, forceful and cup your hand over the top to keep the onions dice from flying around.
  15. Here are two uses I found for spreadsheets. I shop for my family and my mother-in-law. I get a list of veggies and fruits from her caretaker and go to our farmer's market. I created a spreadsheet showing all of the aisles of the farmer's market and which fruits and vegetables are located where. When the shopping lists come in, with no particular order, I transfer the needed items and quantities to my spreadsheet and then just roll through the market very quickly. My other spreadsheet was created to compare the ingredient for Mole Negro as they show up in 10 different cookbooks. Columns and rows list ingredients and quantities.
  16. The acidity in the yogurt will help the cornbread rise, but, it's a different critter than buttermilk or milk. Don't forget, yogurt is formed when lactobacillus devour the lactose milk sugars and produce lactic acid as a byproduct while they create a fine web of milk proteins. Apply heat and the whole thing falls apart. I would stick with a milk product. You don't need buttermilk, but whole milk will work fine.
  17. For a recent chapter in an upcoming book on cowboy cooking, it wasn't until we put a lump of dough, water and flour, outside on the back deck, lightly coverd, that we triumphed with a perfect sourdough starter. I live in Houston, where the temperature matches the optimum range mentioned above. I knew from past work that you can grow really good yogurt outside or in one's car here. And creating a sourdough starter outside instead of on top of the refrigerator or inside the refrigerator is just what the doctor ordered.
  18. Here's one that most people forget. Phoenicia. I was there last night and saw these large soft sesame bread rings, a diversity of flatbreads. There were spectacular looking pastries and desserts but I have never tried them and cannot guess if they use quality ingredients or not. But they looked great. Also, an exceptional selection of exotic cheeses. I took a chocolate genoise that is my specialty over to Raindrop Chocolates yesterday, for Don to try out and see if he gets favorable reports. If so, I will start selling it through him. I just call it "Jay's Cake" and it is made with 11 ounces of superior quality chocolate (in this case, cacao liquor that I just brought back from Oaxaca), 6 eggs, 1 ounce cake flour, 6 ounces of unsalted butter, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of Kentucky bourbon whiskey. If you go to Raindrop, just ask for "Jay's Cake".
  19. Susana is delightful as ever. Having just returned from Oaxaca, the Wednesday class with Susana was the absolute best ever. The menu was complex, and as usual, everything came together spectacularly, with all of the cooking teams turning out fantastic dishes. We had the opportunity to use some recently gathered wild mushrooms in a yellow mole. Now, here is a question for 'chocartist". Have you ever come across a home method, excluding a heated metate (I've done that) for grinding and converting cacao to a chocolate liquor in the home? My web research indicates a certain type of Champion juicer works but I was just curious. The Indian grocery stores sell electric devices with grinding stones but that is a costly investment. Susana told me that the most fun extended excursion is her Veracruz trip for Carnival (Mardi Gras). Sign me up! My wife and I are going to be on that one for sure, so there will be two "fun" people (I guarantee) for you to hang out with. I stayed, as always, at Casa Lidia, in the colonia Jalatlaco. A single including a terrific breakfast that features a different regional specialty each morning was $34 for a single. I love the quiet of the neighborhood and the easy walk to Santo Domingo. And I recommend it as the best bed and breakfast bargain in Oaxaca.
  20. You were right. The cherry gelato is wonderful. What a fantastic flavor rush on the tongue. I was running around today, picking up ingredients for a Fat Smash Diet Mediterranean soup recipe (broccoli, chick peas, tomatoes, carrots and chicken in a chicken/basil/oregano broth) and, knowing that there is a lady at the Farmer's Market who sells cacao beans, I bought about a cup's worth. I toasted them in a cast iron skillet , removed the outer husk of a few and ground them in one of my coffee grinders. The aroma, mmmm, no describing it. So I dropped in on Don to share the beans and let him get a whiff of freshly ground cacao. He let me sample a gelato that he is experimenting on. He flew in some blood oranges, reduced the juice and essential oils and added that to his chocolate gelato. One of the best things I have ever tasted. Truly amazing. I think this one is going to turn into his signature gelato. The question is then, should it be simply called what it is "Blood Orange and Chocolate Gelato" or, should it have it's own clever name a la Jen and Berries ice cream? If you go over tonight, you may be able to sweet talk him into letting you have a sample.
  21. Ditto, Chris, for Houston. If there is anything that I can help with for your shoot in Houston, please don't hesitate to call. If you're looking for fairly Houston specific restaurants (smaller scale versus the famous ones, the ones that always get listed in Zagat's) here are the ones that I always expose out of town visitor friends to: Williams Smokehouse for smoked ribs The Tampico for snapper a la plancha El Hidalguense for maguey smoked lamb shoulder Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen for stacked enchiladas The original Ninfa's on Navigation Himalaya for the best naan in town Caspian for Persian food Mai's Kitchen for fun Vietnamese food The food courts at Hong Kong City Mall for Banh Xeo and Pho Jasmine for the Vietnamese fish seven ways Raindrop Chocolate for gelato Santong snacks for dumplings and noodle soups Shri Balaji Bhavan for southern Indian specialties Lopez for Tex-Mex
  22. Well, I have only lost 10 pounds in 30 days. Rain Drop Chocolate is my reward to myself these days. I believe that the address is 810 Waugh. It is just before West Dallas at Waugh in a Mediterranean style strip center.
  23. I've been on a mission to try to find really good gelato in Houston. I wasn't impressed by either Paciugo or Piccomolo. However, I was very pleased with the chocolate gelato at Raindrop Chocolates on Waugh drive. It is the only one, outside of "Jay's Kitchen" that does it right for me. His chocolate truffles, I've tried coconut, raspberry, and malted milk, are very very fine.
  24. Tabouleh is one of those interesting preparations that divides families into those who put more parsley in and those who put more bulgur in. Here in Houston, most of the Lebanese default to more parsley and I've been to two places where (no kidding) you have to really scrutinize the salad to see the flecks of bulgur. Unlike some other approaches to diet, this one promotes whole grains at the expense of processed grains. So brown rice gets an okay but you're recommended to avoid white rice, pasta and bread for the first phases. Bulgur is not addressed, but you'd laugh if you were used to a bulgur dominant tabouleh and you saw the typical Houston tabouleh.
  25. The Fiskar's kitchen scissors are so good, that I use my 20% off coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond to buy extra sets to take as gifts to friends in Mexico. Definitely Fiskar's. I trim cilantro, cut through chicken bones, beef, trim the rosebushes, etc. etc.
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