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Posts posted by esperanza

  1. Greetings, it's been 50 years at least since I posted here.  Amazed that my password still lets me in.

    One note: when I am at the tianguis (street market) in my Mexico City neighborhood, I choose poblano chiles very carefully.  It's easiest to roast them if they are flat (i.e., not deeply grooved) all around.  It's hard and too fiddly to get off the skin charred in those grooves.

    When I make chiles rellenos, I roast the chiles (poblanos, in this context) on a cast iron comal--not in a skillet.  I do it that way because (a) you can do five or six at once; (b) you don't have to watch them like a hawk; © the black charred bits still have all the flavor of flame-roasting.  I do 'sweat' them for about 10 minutes in a tightly closed plastic bag, and then take off as much of the blackened skin as will come off.   As Rancho_Gordo says, leaving some of those blackened bits is not a problem; they give the finished product excellent flavor.  Be careful about leaving your chiles in the plastic bag till they are cool; take the skins off while they are still hot to the touch.  Once they're cool, it's too difficult; the skin sticks tight in spite of the roasting.

    As to the placenta and the seeds: I use my hand to wipe out as many of the loose seeds as possible--the loose ones that are on the inside chile walls.  Then I hold the slit open with one hand and pull as many seeds as possible off the placenta with the other hand.  As another poster said, if your chile is too fragile to withstand this, you have roasted it too long.  It's never perfect, though, and sometimes there are seeds left.  You can also stick a small knife into the placenta, right where the seeds start, and slice the seed bunch off.

    As for 'battering'--the coating for chiles rellenos isn't really a batter.  It's just very stiffly beaten egg whites with the beaten yolks folded into them.  I dust the chiles with flour and dip them into the egg mixture.  The egg mixture should be thick enough to stick to the flour-coated chile without sliding off.  Normally I do this part at the counter next to the frying pan on the stove, so I can just lay the chile into the hot oil.  When it's golden brown on one side, I hold the stem and slide a spatula under the chile to turn it over.  If the stem end isn't getting brown, I spoon hot oil over it until it turns golden.

    Slightly off topic: what are you using to fill your chiles?

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  2. Chris, I'm a little confused by your gordita reference. The tortilla on the comal in your photo doesn't look anything like a gordita--to me, it looks just like a normal tortilla.

    And I have a question: what are the dark yellow flecks in your masa and in that tortilla? The flecks look like pieces of very coarsely ground corn. I've never seen that kind of fleck in any tortillas in Mexico, or even in the USA.

    The soaking time for nixtamaliz-ation seems very short. Maybe a longer soak would make grinding easier? You shouldn't have to use the molcajete, if that's what that is in the photo. Most folks use a metate y mano and forego the mechanized grinder, or use the grinder and forego the metate y mano.

  3. Por favor; corn tortillas are not made with lard, as mentioned in the OP.

    "Enchiladas benefit from corny, lardy homemade tortillas but also can mask mediocre ones to good effect, and they are an excellent way to showcase a perfect salsa"

    Aha, good point. Absolutely true: corn tortillas are made from nixtamal-ized corn and water and nothing else.

  4. Is this cook-off about true Mexican enchiladas, or Tex-Mex enchiladas? Both are wonderful, but there are huge differences.

    Enchilada sauce here in central Mexico is not made with chile chipotle. Nor are enchiladas placeras made with beef. I think you have misquoted Diana Kennedy, who lives in central Mexico. And enchiladas in this part of Mexico are rarely filled and rolled; the tortilla is filled and folded in half.

    If this cook-off is trying to approximate enchiladas made in Mexico, it will be difficult if you are buying packaged tortillas from a supermarket. Fresh tortillas made at a tortillería or at home are the way to go. Supermarket tortillas are too much like cardboard to soften properly.

    Jaymes is absolutely right: enchiladas (at least in central Mexico) are always made with corn tortillas. They're passed through a bath of very hot oil, just long enough to make them flexible, and then are passed through salsa, making, as Jaymes said, the enchilada (tortilla bathed in salsa, or enchile-ed).

    In central Mexico, enchiladas are not baked after being lightly fried and bathed in salsa. They're filled, folded, and plated for serving. A little additional salsa might be ladled over them and they're topped with a sprinkle of crumbled queso fresco or crumbled queso Cotija, some thinly sliced rings of white onion, and that's it. In nearly 30 years in Mexico, I've never seen enchiladas put in a baking dish, covered with cheese, and stuck in the oven.

    There are any number of kinds of enchiladas made in Mexico. One of my favorites is enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas), made with fresh green salsa, shredded chicken, minced onion, and crumbled queso Cotija.

    If you'd care to read an article about making real-deal enchiladas placeras, click here: http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico_cook...enchiladas.html

    Jaymes, I suspect the article will bring back heavenly memories of Pátzcuaro. C'mon down and we'll go eat.

  5. @Theabroma

    I am not a food writer nor a food historian however I do not think today Mexicans are influenced by class choices but rather what people can afford at one time or another yes accept that! This applies to anyone anywhere in the world.

    "...I do not think today Mexicans are influenced by class choices but rather what people can afford at one time or another..."

    With all due respect, I strongly disagree with the above statement. Let me quote Earl Shorris, author of The Life and Times of Mexico (W.W. Norton, 2004).

    "Nothing so distinguishes the European from the American worlds in Mexico as corn and bread. They are the primary symbols, native and imported, Mesoamerican and Christian, poor and rich, dark and light, ancient and modern, ignorant and intelligent. The conflict between corn and bread affects Mexican religion, regionalism, corruption, language, diet, personality, and politics. It is at the heart of Mexico. And it is learned early, even now. When I was a boy, the mothers of my schoolmates told their children to eat only tortillas made of wheat or bread baked in an oven; corn was for Indians, they said. As I remember their faces now, my classmates were all mestizo. Their mothers, especially the mothers of the girls, wanted them to be white, to live and think and look like people of pure Spanish ancestry, like criollos. It was a matter of class as well as culture. Wheat and white were the signs." (p. 79)

  6. This article claims that there has been a "great Mexican tortilla crisis" due in large part to an increased price of corn secondary to the use of corn as a biofuel.

    Has there in fact been such a "crisis" in Mexico? If so what are the perceived causes? Has the promotion of corn based ethanol in gasoline been a factor?

    Here in Mexico, we're not seeing a shortage of tortillas, but the price of tortillas has skyrocketed in the last two years, and particularly since January 2008. In the not-too-far-distant past, tortillas usually cost six pesos per kilo.

    In Morelia, the price of tortillas at the tortillería near me is currently at 10 pesos the kilo. A family of five people might eat two kilos a day, especially if the consumption of tortillas is filling out an otherwise meager diet. Twenty pesos (about $1.60USD) for two kilos (4.4 lbs, for you who are metric-challenged) doesn't seem like much money, but many Mexican families don't bring in much more income than that per day.

    I know one corn grower who didn't plant a crop this year because the price of raising the corn versus the price he'd receive for freshly harvested corn wouldn't bring enough to make it worth while. What did he raise instead? Marigolds, the traditional flower for the Day of the Dead.

    So: why is this happening? The article you posted is accurate: Mexico can't raise enough corn now to meet its own food needs (we import a huge amount of corn) and there is currently enormous pressure for Mexico's farmers to raise the yellow corn necessary for biofuel rather than the white corn necessary for food. In addition, Mexico has not succumbed to the move toward transgenic corn--until recently. There is a lot of fear now that transgenic corn will make Mexico's traditional corn crop obsolete, and that transgenic corn will take its place. These fears are well-founded, as the government here is pushing for the use of transgenic corn.

    I don't know about a tortilla crisis, but I can certainly vouch for an economic crisis. There's an old saying: when the United States gets a cold, Mexico sneezes. We're sneezing, folks.

  7. Yes, this is unfortunately the case.  It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle

    Maseca rules the roost. 


    I find that so disheartening... I had intended to seek out real fresh masa here in Oklahoma, but from what I hear there is basically no such thing anymore. Tortillas made from masa harina are better than nothing, but I hear that tamales are much better made with fresh masa.

    I agree with you, it is disheartening. Here in Morelia, Michoacán, there are two or three tortillerías where actual nixtamal-ized corn is still used and masa is still ground (albeit by machine, not on a metate), but most everybody uses Maseca.

    You're so right about masa para tamales. The Maseca dried stuff makes a poor substitute for real masa.

    Time marches on, though. As I often say, not all change is progress.

  8. You might be surprised to know that here in Mexico, Maseca isn't as much a kitchen staple as you would think.

    Most urban housewives who need a little masa (or a lot, for that matter) head out to the neighborhood tortillería and buy the quantity they need, whether it's for making tortillas and tamales, for sopes, or for thickening atole--in addition to the other gazillion ways to use masa.

    Of course, there are still many rural amas de casa (housewives) who grind their own masa on a time-worn metate.

    I was under the impression that in recent years, even this "fresh" masa from the tortillerías was actually frequently made from reconstituted masa harina. rancho_gordo posted a link to this article some time ago, and I think that Diana Kennedy has mentioned something along these lines in her books. Do you know if this is the case?

    Yes, this is unfortunately the case. It's very unusual to find a tortillería here in Mexico where the masa is made from freshly nixtamal-ized cacahautzintle.

    Maseca rules the roost.


  9. You might be surprised to know that here in Mexico, Maseca isn't as much a kitchen staple as you would think.

    Most urban housewives who need a little masa (or a lot, for that matter) head out to the neighborhood tortillería and buy the quantity they need, whether it's for making tortillas and tamales, for sopes, or for thickening atole--in addition to the other gazillion ways to use masa.

    Of course, there are still many rural amas de casa (housewives) who grind their own masa on a time-worn metate.

  10. Made ropa veja with flank steak and it was deliciously but so tough that my wife joked the ropa obviously means rope. Given that flank steak ain't known for being tender, is this pretty much it? I assume skirt steak would be similar.

    I just reviewed his recipe, which is, as it should be, very much Cuban-style.

    Once you cook the whole flank steak or skirt steak (either works just fine) according to his instructions, cut it across the grain in 2 or 3" sections and shred the sections lengthwise. Then continue with the recipe as it's written. It won't be tough.

    In Spanish, this is shredding method is called carne deshebrada.

    The translation of ropa vieja is 'old clothes'.

  11. I agree completely with Rachel's explanation of 'popular'. If you read The Life and Times of Mexico, by Earl Shorris, you'll appreciate his comments about a Mexico divided between the corn culture and the wheat culture, or la tortilla y el pan, which is exactly what Rachel was talking about in her post: class division along culinary lines.

    You bet that this is a sensitive topic, very sensitive here in Mexico and perhaps more sensitive in a country like the USA, which likes to pretend to be a classless society. However, turn over the rock of purported equality and in both countries we find the squirmy underbelly of what's real. Popular is not the romantic idea of "the people's" cooking, but the harsh reality of "el populacho" that's the truth here.

    It's actually courageous of Conaculta to publish this series. Many of the ideas, recipes, and traditions included in these volumes are seriously disrespected by Mexicans of socioeconomic classes considered to be more refined than others. This lack of respect is the primary reason why it's all but impossible to find traditional Mexican food in restaurants both here in Mexico and in the USA. Eurocentrism was rampant here in Mexico for many long years. Now globalization and cultural imperialism are taking their toll on Mexico's cuisines. Fortunately there are influential people in Mexico's upper echelon food world who have finally awakened to the country's corn-based culinary heritage and who are fighting to rescue it.

    Please read Mexico Cooks!, concentrating especially on the December postings re the Muestra de Gastronomía de Morelia, to learn more about this particularly compelling topic.

    The author of the Diccionario Enciclopédico De Gastronomía Mexicana is Ricardo Muñoz Zurita. Later this month I'll be in the DF for several days and hope to have a chat with him about plans for a new edition of this monumental work. I'll post back here with any news.

  12. I just ordered one through http://www.libroslatinos.com.  The order seemed to go through fine.  Now to see if they send the book!


    How wonderful that you found a copy of this incredible book. When I was at the FIL (International Book Fair) in Guadalajara in November, the publisher was out of copies. Let's hope the new edition comes out soon, and let's hope that there's also an English translation for those who need that.

    God willing I will see Ricardo Muñoz in a couple of weeks and will talk with him about the new edition. Watch for news here...

    In the meantime, you might like to have a look at Mexico Cooks! The current article is about Alicia Gironella and Giorgio de'Angeli, the extraordinary old guard of Mexico's cuisines.

  13. Chayote is wonderful precisely because it picks up the flavor of whatever you want to combine it with. Herbs, spices, other vegetables ( tomatoes, peppers are very good with it).

    Problem is people peel it before cooking. DON'T.

    Put in boiling water UNPEELED, that way they don't become water logged through absorption. When still firm ( about 10 minutes ) take OUT of water and cool. Then peel, remove center seed ( not a good tatse), they should still be firm and can be used in salads, stews ( makes a wonderful addition to ratatouille) or as a stuffing(chop fine) with ground beef/lamb for other vegetables ( Caribe/Jamaica ). The wonder of the chayote/merliton.

    Remove the seed? In most places here in Mexico, the seed is considered to be a delicacy! You can remove the big soft white delicious seed if you like, but pass it over to my plate, please.

    Link: http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com

  14. There's another kind of Mexican oregano that I've never seen for sale anywhere, not even here in Mexico. I have a pot of it in my patio.

    It's called orégano orejona--big-eared orégano. The leaves are about 2 inches long or more and about an inch across at the widest point. It's also known as orégano oaxacaqueño. The flavor is even stronger than that of the usual Mexican oregano. One leaf can overpower a dish.

    Mexico Cooks!

  15. Just curious if anyone has any updates on how things have shaken out in Oaxaca?  I'll be down there in 2 weeks, and will of course report back, but if anyone else has been there recently, I'd like to hear your thoughts.


    Today's Mexican newspapers are reporting that the Oaxacan teachers have gone back to the streets--on strike again.

    In addition, this: http://cml.vientos.info/node/7750. This conference is scheduled from Feb 23 through Mar 25.

    If I hear more tomorrow, I'll post back here.

  16. You will probably have tamales left over--para recalentar (to reheat).

    On bended knee, I beg you to reheat them the way I was taught: in the husks, on a hot griddle or comal, until the husks are dark brown or nearly black.

    Peel the husks off. The tamales will be slightly crisp along the edges, but still pliable, soft, and steamy. It's an unparalleled eating experience.

    Re-steamed or heated in the microwave simply doesn't do it.

    Wish I had one right now--or two.

    Feliz Navidad, and happy eating.

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