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  1. Is Maya the consensus or are there other contenders?
  2. Well, here goes. I found this recipe in Adela Fernández' bilingual La Tradicional Cocina Mexicana published in 1985. It produces a spectacular result. And thank you for posing the question because this will be my house gift for the next umpteen years. AF is an interesting person. Her father dominated Mexican cinema during its glory period in the 30s, 40s and 50s. She grew up in a well-to-do household in Mexico City with lots and lots of servants. But like others in that group, the best known in the US being Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo, they decided to celebrate the mixed heritage of Mexico. They put on self-consciously indigenous dinners, wore indigenous costumes, and generally broke with the class structure (well, sort of). Ludja, it's a more complicated version of Zarela's recipe. And she is one of my absolute favorite people writing in English on Mexican food. So here's AF with my voice over. It's a Mexico- City type recipe. There is no one Pan de Muerto. I lb flour 1/2 oz yeast 4 oz sugar 4 oz lard 3 whole eggs 7 egg yolks Pinch of salt 2 tablespoons orange blossom water 3 tablespoons strong anise tea 1 tablespoon grated orange rind So, OK, this is the modern world. I set my bread machine to the dough cycle and put in 3 whole eggs and 7 egg yolks. Ludja, do you agree that this looks like a richer version of Zarela's recipe? Voiceover. This has to be a convent recipe. They always had egg yolks to spare because the white was used to glue silver and gold leaf on the altars. Not quite indigenous. And never in my life have I made a bread where all the liquid was egg. Then I make the anise tea. I put three tablespoons of anise seeds in three tablepoons of water and zap them in the microwave. Should have known. The dry seeds soak up all the water. Add more and zap again. The kitchen smells wonderful. Add all the ingredients to the bread machine (strained anise tea, and lucky I have some terrific fresh white lard because I was going to make pastry) and orange blossom water (the modern pantry). Turn on and let it rip. Turns out that this is really liquid, about like gravy. Can't imagine that firming up over the cycle. Add about a quarter again as much flour and start over. A great smooth, yellow dough. Take it out, nip off perhaps one eighth and divide the rest in two. Shape into flattened rounds and put on a greased baking sheet. Make two knobs to put on top with part of the extra dough and use the rest for tear drops and femurs arranged in a cross pattern. Glue them on with---yes you guessed, egg yolk. Leave to rise. AF says for 10-12 hours. Maybe she was in one of these dark, windowless Mexican kitchens. In my bright kitchen it would have hit the roof and flattened long before ten hours were up. So after a couple of hours I bake it. Here AF's instructions are to the point. Use a 250 degree oven. I did and given the high egg count anything else would have burned. I take out the bread after half an hour. Meanwhile following her instructions I have mixed 1 tablespoon of flour with 2/3 a cup of water and cooked it into a creamy mixture. This I brush over the bread. I'm not sure but I think this annointed of cooked breads with a flour and water paste is very Mexican. Lots of the "frostings" in mexico are colored flour and water pastes. In any case this is thinner and dries instantly. Then this must be brushed with, you'll never guess, beaten egg, and then sprinkled with sugar. AF does not say but I return it to the oven for a few second because the egg is still a little liquid. It's a quite spectacular light feathery bread. It will go stale instantly I am sure. And I can no longer taste separately the But it's disappearing at an amazing rate as everyone in the household cuts slices. Mexican are sure I ordered it from a bakery. I'm dancing with triumph though the credit should go to AF, Rachel P. S. And here, for comparison, are the proportions offered by Canaipa (Cámara Nacional de la Industria del Pan): I kilo flour, 12 grams salt, 20 grams sugar, 150 grams margarine, 159 grams lard or butter, 10 eggs, 100 ml of milk, 30 gms of yeast, flavorings of sugar, cinnamon or vanilla.
  3. I see Oyamel is set to open in October in Crystal City along with Jaleo. Does anyone know anything about the menu (other than small plate Mexican)? Is Steve Klc developing the desserts, and if so, can he tell us what we can look forward to?
  4. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed how that smoked jalapeno is being misspelled everywhere you go? From highend restaurants to any Mom and Pop stop that wants do a chicken wrap with a spicy sauce. Can we all take time to say, CHIH - POHT-lay? Chipotle. There is no T after the L. Its written right on the can of chilies en adobo. I'm not a purfict speller Ither, but dis one is realie obvius. s
  5. What makes these things so damn good...is it the many cerveza's consumed prior....but man are they good..anyone know how they are made and what makes em special...let hear it from all of you whom have cruised a border town, eaten one and lived to tell about it!
  6. My sister has about a 20 foot bed of Hoja santa that is reaching the eaves of the house. We had a mild winter last year and it never froze back. I am looking for some inspiration on using it. Check it out here. We have used this in a rough chiffonade to make a bed for baked chicken thighs and as a pan liner/wrapper for a tamale pie type thing that I got out of one of my Zarela Martinez books. Zarela has a charming story about the plant... It seems that the Virgin Mary, being very poor, had very few diapers for the Baby Jesus. There was this big leafy bush growing in her yard and she would spread the washed diapers on the big leaves to dry. God blessed the bush and to thank it for helping the Virgin Mary in her time of need, he named it Hoja santa.
  7. Whenever I'm in Mexico I hunt down this snack made from popped amaranth seeds and I assume either honey or piloncillo water. I have a recipe in one of my cookbooks but I have a lot of trouble popping the amaranth. I love the taste, texture and the fact that it's loaded with protein. I have a few pounds of unpopped amaranth seeds and wonder if anyone has made this at home? Any techniques? I'm going to try a wok today and see how that goes.
  8. If Tex-Mex is simply a Texan interpretation of Mexican cuisine, rooted perhaps in the special ranch culture of the early days of the state, what seperates Tex-Mex from generic Americanized Mexican cuisine? Tex-Mex as a cuisine seems to have potential to be considered to still be evolving and growing, but as the ranch and cowboy culture which drove its early days is no longer around, is new Tex-Mex anything other than Americanized Mexican that happens to be from Texas? Do state or even national borders matter at this point? Would the same dish be treated differently if instead of originating in Mexico, it instead came out of Texas, or even Wisconsin? Along the same lines as this question: if Tex-Mex is a valid cuisine and is simply a Texan spin on Mexican, wouldn't all Americanized Mexican be just as valid?
  9. I have seen the terms "real" or "authentic" Mexican food thrown around like so much culinary confetti on this thread. Folks in the East, especially the former USSR, are absolutely enamored with American Food. They find it at McDonalds®. Would you agree that there is no such thing as "authentic" Mexican cuisine, short of committing a home invasion down South?
  10. I know that Taco Bell is not Mexican food, I believe that most "Mexican" restaurants in the United States do not serve "real" Mexican food. I'd like to think that most of the general population knows this as well. What's your take on this? Taco Bell- good or bad? Does it even fit into the realm of Mexican food? What about other popular restaurants in America that serve "Mexican" food?
  11. In the Art of by D.K., she speaks about the Mole Amarillo. "Either pork, chicken, or beef can be used, the only difference being the final flavouring herbs: hoja santa, cilantro or pitiona respectively." Would I be committing some grave error if I was to use chicken with hoja santa? Next questions is, I'm cooking a dinner this Saturday for six people and the weather is supposed to be in the upper 30degrees (Celsius). I'm starting to think a mole would be too heavy. Do you think perhaps a picadillo of pork or chicken stuffed in anchos would be better? Shelora
  12. Thanks for all the great insights already. I haven't eaten extensively in Texas but do love TexMex, Mexican and New Mexican food... (This is my disclaimer if these are silly questions... ) 1. In Texas is there a distinction in restaurants between those serving TexMex and those serving primarily regional Mexican dishes (dishes not seen in TexMex restaurants or else made differently) ? 2. To follow up on that idea, I wondered whether the influence of larger numbers of Mexican immigrants, availability of ingredients, (or other factors) has resulted in a change, either increasing or decreasing, of restaurants serving TexMex "versus" dishes that hew more closely to regional Mexican cooking. In brief, is there a "market" that drives the existence in Texas of both types of restaurants side-by-side and what is the dynamic? Thanks in advance!
  13. I'm always fascinated with the history of Mexican food. It seems really difficult to find many sources, especially in English, for the history of a) Mexican-American food, and b) regional Mexican food post-conquest. Do you have any recs (besides your own, of course)?
  14. Any suggestions for great tacos in Philadelphia? Near the airport, or just off 76 a plus, but not necessary. I'm thinking about real ethnic stuff (cabeza, lengua, etc), not American fast food versions.
  15. So Rick Bayless (wait, is his name taboo?) says that if you grill up some cactus leaves, the grilling will "play... down cactus's habit of exuding a gooey, okra-like liquid. When paddles are grillled whole, you never see that liquid. And, if they're cooked thoroughly, the cactus paddles will show scarcely any stickiness when they're cut into squares." So tonight, I grilled them, and I sure thought they were good and cooked through. But they were definitely slimey as all hell. Not that that was a problem, really--I'm intrigued by the texture, and don't much care. I'm just wondering if I missed something. Is there some prep thing I should have done to make them less slimey?
  16. My dear FIL and his lovely lady will be going to Yuma, AZ next week to show some vintage pickups at a show down there. Since they are driving, I got an enthusiastic "Sure, you bet," to bringing me back some Mexican goodies to use cooking. I'm limiting my choice to 5 things. They'll be going across at San Luis, a big town. Please list what you'd like, so I can get ideas. Remember it has to enter into AZ, so no fresh stuff that'll go in the barrels. No alcohol, got plenty up here. Edit to say, yeesh, barr eels.
  17. Ask your questions about Mexican Table Salsas on this thread.
  18. Mexican Table Salsas by Nicholas A. Zukin with Sharon A. Peters Introduction When asked to reflect on salsa, the average American will imagine a somewhat fresh and fiery tomato-based sauce they dip their chips into between beers, something akin to the offerings of Pace or Old El Paso. Hopefully their mind avoids the dark places, those plastic packets of goo weighting the bottom of Taco Bell bags. Jarred salsa can be found on the shelves of every supermarket in America and has become ubiquitous in the country's refrigerators, surpassing ketchup in sales. Yet the variety is limited and provides only a shadow in both flavor and freshness of the palate pleasing options in Mexico. Salsa vs. Table Salsa "Salsa" simply means sauce in Spanish. Tabasco and enchilada sauces are salsas. Moles are salsas. (In fact, the word mole is a Spanish version of the Nahuatl molli, or sauce.) Even a béchamel is a salsa -- a salsa francesa. However, what Americans refer to when they use the word "salsa" are table salsas, condiments spooned over tacos and dipped with chips. These salsas adorn the tables of Mexican restaurants like salt, pepper, and ketchup in American diners. They are always there waiting and are eaten with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, on eggs, fish, meat, and starches. Each region of Mexico has its unique salsas and so does each fonda, taqueria, and tía. Class Objective To illustrate the ease of making great tasting table salsas using traditional Mexican techniques and ingredients and provide templates that can be used to create new, unique salsas. A typical taqueria salsa bar, Salvador's in Woodburn, Oregon. Ingredients The majority of table salsas are made with at most five ingredients: a fruit/base ingredient, an aromatic or herb, a chile, an acid, and salt. Traditionally, tomatoes or tomatillos are used for the fruit, onions, garlic, or cilantro are used for the aromatic, and the chile, dried, smoked, or fresh, gives the salsa its unique character. The acid (usually lime or vinegar) and salt round out and intensify the flavors. Fruits Mexicans primarily use plum (roma) tomatoes. They're an excellent choice due to their low proportion of seeds, firm, deep-red flesh, and wide availability. However, do not tie yourself to a specific tomato. The best tomato will always be the one that is the freshest and most flavorful. Canned tomatoes can be a good alternative in cooked and fried salsas, especially in winter when they will often be much tastier than the "fresh" option. Tomatillos, or tomates verdes, are not green tomatoes. They're a member of the gooseberry genus (Physalis). They have a tart and seedy interior and can be used either raw or cooked, though most often cooked. Choose darker green tomatillos with tight husks. Remove the husk and any residual stickiness under hot water before using. Tomatillos are actually the most typically used fruit in Mexican salsas. The common tomato we most often see in Mexican-American salsas is a native of South America, whereas the tomatillo is a native of Mexico and grows better there. (See photos of tomatillos, along with other memebers of the Nightshade family, Solanaceae, including tomatoes and chayote, a Mexican squash, here.) Avocados, aguacate in Spanish, have been eaten and cultivated in Mexico for over 7,000 years. There are several varieties available in Mexico, but in the United States we primarily have access to two types: the pebbly, dark-skinned Hass (or California) avocado and the large and smooth, lighter-green West Indian (or Florida) avocado. The Hass is a hybrid of the Mexican and Guatemalan avocado and much closer to native Mexican version in flavor and texture. (The Fuerte, Californian in origin, is similar in size to the Hass and makes a good substitute. Its peel is a lighter green color and smoother than the Hass.) You might be tempted to use West Indian avocados because they can be much larger and less expensive, but it's not worth it. The flavor is quite muted in the Caribbean variety and the texture is wrong, lacking sufficient fats. (See photos here.) Hass avocados are ripe when moderate thumb pressure leaves an indentation in the skin. Feel confident buying hard avocados for later use as, unlike most fruit, they will ripen once they are picked. Avoid wrinkly or mushy avocados. Be warned: once an avocado's meat is exposed to air it discolors very quickly and even acids will not delay this process much. They also bruise quite easily. Aromatics The most common herb found in salsas is cilantro, or coriander leaf. It can be found in nearly every kind of salsa, though it's best in the brighter, fresh and fruity ones. Some people find its flavor unbearable, describing it as "soapy" or "chemically". However, for those that like it, it's indispensable in tacos and salsas. Cilantro doesn't fair well in the refrigerator (much worse than the similar looking flat-leaf parsley) and the best method of storage is on the counter, stalks submerged in water, changed on a daily basis. It's an annual and, like basil and many other herbs, can be grown indoors. In Mexico, cilantro is sold with roots attached and some farmer's market vendors do the same. (See photo and more information here.) Onions and garlic are found in every kind of salsa. Onions are usually used raw, while garlic is usually cooked, roasted in its skin. The white onion, which has little sweetness, is almost exclusively used in Mexico except in the south where red onions gain favor. Chiles Chiles are the heart of salsas in Mexico. You can have a "salsa" without chiles, but you cannot have a Mexican table salsa without them. Often confusingly referred to as peppers but actually part of the same family of fruits as tomatoes and tomatillos, chiles vary greatly in heat, sweetness, and flavor. The red-ripened bell pepper can be intensely sweet and has no piquancy. The jalapeño can be much brighter and its fire attacks the lips and front of the mouth. The serrano is more peppery and focuses its heat in the back of the throat. The poblano has an earthy fruitiness and a moderate bite. The habenero, while being among the hottest natural chiles, is also quite fruity. Each of these chiles can be dried or sometimes even smoked which intensifies and deeps their flavors adding layers of sophistication. Unfortunately, nearly all assume a new name in this transformation confusing matters somewhat. For example, a ripened, smoked jalapeño is called a chipotle and a dried poblano becomes an ancho. To make things worse, these names sometimes change from region to region within Mexico. You should be able to find fresh jalapeños, serranos, poblanos (often mis-labeled as pasillas), and habaneros (or their near twin, the Scotch bonnet) in many large supermarkets or Latin grocers. Look for un-wrinkled specimens with a firm flesh. Dried anchos, chipotles (if not dried, then in the can), and chile de arbols should also be widely available. (See photos of fresh and some dried chiles here or here.) The seeds and flesh of a chile contain just 10% of its fire. The majority of the capsaicin (the alkaloid that gives chiles their piquancy) resides within the ribs and placental tissue to which the seeds are attached. If a dish with chiles is too hot, try removing these first so that none of the flavor that the chiles impart is lost. Using just the outer flesh of a chile can greatly reduce its spiciness which may be preferable for those without asbestos-coated mouths. A few final warnings: Capsaicin (also the active ingredient in pepper spray) does not wash off with soap and water. If you scratch your eye after handling chiles it can be quite painful for several hours. It may be worthwhile to use latex gloves. You can use lemon juice or acidulated water to remove the capsaicin. Also, a bleach solution of four ounces bleach to one quart water will eliminate the burn. However, even Mexicans often use a plastic produce bag on their hand while digging through chiles at the market. When tasting fiery salsas, keep a glass of sugared water on hand to cool the tongue. Be careful not to burn dried chiles. The fumes are quite harsh. Aztecs used the smoke of burning chiles to punish their children and torture enemies. Acids and Salt Many salsas contain an acid to brighten their flavor, usually lime juice or vinegar. The Key Lime is traditionally used by Mexicans although its larger cousin, more common in American grocery stores, is also quite typical in Mexican markets. White and apple cider vinegars work well enough in table salsas, especially those with a heavy dried chile component. The milder rice wine also works quite effectively. However, you should also consider pineapple vinegar if you can find it or are willing to make it yourself. Diana Kennedy provides a recipe in her book From My Mexican Kitchen (p 270) which is paraphrased below: Peelings of one medium pineapple 4 tbsp brown sugar 1 1/2 quarts water Mix ingredients in 3 quart container. Cover and leave in warm place. Strain after six weeks when it's foamy and has flies or when maggots form. When a gelatinous layer forms after about two months, separate it from the vinegar and it's ready. If it remains sweet after a month, throw it out and try again. A quick note on salt: use it. Salsas are a blend of ingredients and salt helps extract the flavors to create a unified whole. It can also bring out subtleties that otherwise would be overshadowed by the heat of the chiles. Produce at a small Mexican tienda, Salvador's in Woodburn, Oregon. Tools Most salsas require some measure of pureeing. Traditionally this is done in a Mexican mortar called a molcajete (the pestle is called a tejolote.) However, most contemporary cooks, even in Mexico, take the easy route and use a blender. Blenders A blender works well for most salsas and can quickly and easily process large batches. An under-appreciated appliance for salsa-making is an immersion, or stick, blender. It allows finer control over the texture of salsas and makes smaller batches easier to produce. You won't be able to effectively puree dried chiles with one, however. Don't feel like you're being inauthentic by using a blender. Most Mexicans use blenders for their salsas. Walking through the market-streets of Mexico City, for example, you'll even see used blenders and blender parts for sale. Molcajetes Western marble mortars or Thai granite mortars are not good substitutes for the basalt molcajetes. Molcajetes have a rough, somewhat porous, texture. They are not always the best tool for grinding spices or making pastes (a job traditionally done with a metate and mano), but they are unequaled in their ability to create a rustic, textured salsa with maximum flavor. Unfortunately, most molcajetes found in Mexican-American tiendas, ethnic grocers in the United States, or even tourist-oriented markets in Mexico are low-quality and made of very porous, brittle rock or even concrete. When choosing, bear in mind that darker rock generally signifies a better material. Likewise, search for a less porous or rough interior. You do not want a molcajete with a chalky surface, a clear sign that you'll always be burdened with grit in your salsa. You can find decent quality molcajetes through Sur La Table (not available online) and GourmetSleuth.com. Make sure to season your molcajete before use. The most straight-forward method is to take a handful of uncooked rice and grind it to a powder, brush it out (if you purchase your molcajete at a Mexican supplier, look for the small straw cleaning brushes), and grind more rice until the powder becomes off-white instead of grey. This may take several sessions, after which you should be able to see some amount of smoothing of the interior. That's all there is to it, but be prepared for some sore shoulders if you do this in one day. (Additional information and excellent photos here and here.) TL: Molcajete and tejolote; TR: Grinding rice to season the molcjaete; BL: Why seasoning is important, chunks of rock that could be in the salsa; BR: The ultra-rough surface of a cheap molcajete. Comales A comal is a round, slightly concave, clay griddle used for cooking tortillas and ingredients for salsas. They were used by the Aztecs and they're still used today, though often the fragile clay comales have been replaced by metal ones. You're most likely to find metal comales of differing composition and quality at Mexican-American grocers. However, the Lodge cast iron (eGullet Amazon link here for the 10 inch or here for the 12 inch) does an excellent job, is readily available, cheap, and useful for more than just Mexican food. Each of these comales require seasoning, but you can put a layer of foil on your comal if you want to use it for cooking salsa ingredients. Most skillets make poor substitutes for a comal, but are passable. For the purposes of roasting ingredients, a broiler works nicely. Just place the ingredients on a broiler pan approximately 2 to 4 inches from the heat source and cook according the recipe's instructions. Foundational Recipes and Techniques Below are five recipes representing five styles of salsas. Each recipe contains a unique preparation method for the salsa as a whole and the ingredients in the salsa. Try the recipes to familiarize yourself with the basic techniques of salsa making. However, these recipes can also be used as templates. Tinker with the quantities or wholly replace ingredients with others to make the recipes your own. Salsa Mexicana Ingredients: Raw Salsa: Raw Form: Chunky Tool: Knife One of the most basic styles of salsa, a salsa cruda (raw sauce), is simply composed of ingredients chopped and mixed together. Sometimes called a pico de gallo (rooster's beak) or salsa fresca, the most common version, the salsa mexicana, consists of tomatoes, onions, fresh chiles, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. An extremely versatile salsa, it especially goes well with fish and chicken. 1/2 lb. or 2 medium tomatoes, approximately 3/4 C when diced 1/2 C white onion, diced 1-2 jalapeño chiles 2 T cilantro, finely chopped 1 tsp lime Salt Remove the core and seeds from the tomatoes and dice the flesh. The tomatoes should be firm, yet ripe. Plum tomatoes make an excellent choice here because of their naturally firmer flesh. Toss in a bowl with the diced onion. Holding the jalapeño upright, slice down the sides of the chile removing the flesh until only the stem and attached seeds remain. Finely chop or mince the jalapeño strips and toss them in the bowl. Serranos are actually typical to this salsa, but I prefer the bright front-of-the-mouth bite of jalapeños instead. Traditionally, all ingredients are chopped quite finely and similarly-sized to allow the flavors to unify. I prefer about a 1/4" dice for the onions and tomatoes with the jalapeños minced so that the chiles do not overwhelm the salsa. Add the cilantro and mix, taking care not to crush the tomatoes. Add the lime juice, mix again, and salt to taste. Let rest for 15 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. TL: The flesh of the jalapeño cut into strips, then julienned, then finely chopped; TR: Adding a loosely packed tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro; BL: Gently mixing ingredients; BR: The final salsa mexicana. This is the best template to use for most fruit salsas. Substitute mango, papaya, or even apple, for tomatoes and you still have a wonderful, but entirely different, Nuevo Latino salsa. Substitute corn, beans, or cucumber for the tomatoes and again the salsa takes on a whole new character. Salsa de Molcajete Ingredients: Roasted Salsa: Raw Form: Textured Tool: Molcajete Making a salsa in a molcajete isn't as difficult as someone prejudiced by grinding spices in a mortar or pounding a Thai curry paste might think. The bulk of the ingredients are soft. Only when you add spices or dried chiles does it become labor-intensive. While I'm not convinced that using a molcajete makes a significant difference in the flavor of most salsas, it makes a very meaningful difference in the texture of many components and anyone who prizes texture highly should give a molcajete a try. You'll be able to compare the texture of the cooked chiles in this recipe with that of the cooked chiles in the salsa verde that follows. I think you'll find that the smashed and ground chiles have a far superior texture to that of the blended chiles. Ultimately the main benefits of a molcajete are two-fold: 1) connecting with the traditions of Mexican cuisine, and 2) the beauty of serving a salsa in the hunk of volcanic rock in which the salsa was made. This salsa is closest in style to what Americans know as salsa, though the wonderful freshness makes the flavors incomparable. Serve with chips, on eggs, on enchiladas, tacos, or even nachos. This recipe was adapted from Diana Kennedy's Salsa de Jitomate in From My Mexican Kitchen (p 200). 1/2 lb, or 2 medium tomatoes 1 garlic clove with skin 1-2 serrano chiles 1/4 C white onion, diced 1 T cilantro, finely chopped Salt Char and soften the tomatoes, garlic, and serranos on a medium-heat comal or its substitute (see tools section). The skin of the tomatoes should be mottled black and the insides squishy. The garlic should be soft to the touch and the serranos should be even blacker than the tomatoes (see photo). The roasting intensifies and sweetens the tomatoes, while softening both the flesh and flavor of the serranos and garlic. Some people are put off by the crispy black skin of the roasted tomatoes and remove it, but it's my favorite part. I've even encountered salsas consisting primarily of just this blackened skin from the tomatoes and they had a wonderful sweetness. Place the garlic (skin removed), chile, and a little salt in the molcajete and grind to a paste using a circular motion. Add the tomatoes one at a time, mashing and grinding until there are no large chunks remaining and the chile-garlic paste has been fully combined with the tomatoes. Stir in the diced onion and chopped cilantro and salt to taste. Serve in the molcajete. Makes about 1 cup. TL: Cooking the tomatoes, serrano, and garlic on a foil-lined comal. These are just about ready; TR: Grinding the serranos and garlic in a circular pattern; BL: Smashing the tomatoes with the tejolote; BR: The finished salsa in the molcajete. Salsa Verde Cruda Ingredients: Simmered Salsa: Raw Form: Textured Tool: Blender There are many salsas verdes, or green salsas, in Mexican cooking. Most of the table salsas use tomatillos for the base. In this example, the tomatillos are simmered before blending. Because tomatillos are so naturally tart, cooking them can subdue this characteristic and bring out their sweetness. It also changes their texture from something like an apple to something closer to a ripe tomato. While I use this recipe as an example of using an immersion blender, it would be more traditional to use a molcajete and the final product would be superior. You could also fry this salsa afterwards, like in the chipotle salsa that follows, for a less bright, richer version. This recipe is adapted from one provided by the taqueria La Iguana Feliz in Portland, Oregon. 3/4 lb or 4-6 tomatillos, slightly larger than golfballs 1/4 lb or 3-6 jalapeños 1/2 C white onion, diced 1/4 C cilantro, finely chopped Salt Remove the husks and sticky film from the tomatillos under warm water. Place, along with the jalapeños, in enough simmering water to just cover the tomatillos. All items may float. Simmer until tomatillos are soft and have changed from a dark to a pale green, about 10 minutes. Remove the stems from the jalapeños and place them along with the tomatillos in a blender jar and pulse until just pureed, but not entirely smooth. There should be texture to the salsa mimicking that of a molcajete salsa, although the chiles will appear chopped. An immersion blender works better here than a standard blender which has a tendency to make such salsas too smooth. Salt to taste. Chill the salsa approximately 30 minutes to let the flavors blend. Mix in the diced onion and chopped cilantro when ready to serve. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. TL: Rinsing the tomatillos under warm water to remove the husk and sticky coating; TR: Simmering the tomatillos and jalapeños. Note the change in color; BL: Using a stick blender to lightly puree; BR: The final salsa, onions and cilantro added at presentation. This, and the salsa de molcajete above, are excellent templates for any salsa you might want to create. You could alter this salsa by preparing the tomatillos and chiles differently, roasting or leaving them raw which would completely change its character. Taking a giant leap outside of Mexican tradition, you could simmer carrots with fully-ripened red chiles or habeneros and puree with extra water, adding honey for sweetness and raisins for texture and contrasting color. Salsa de Chile Chipotle y Jitomate Ingredients: Roasted Salsa: Fried Form: Textured Tool: Blender A wonderful distinction between Mexican and Italian tomato sauces, besides the heavy use of chiles, is that Mexicans usually fry, rather than simmer, their sauces. In just five minutes, a tomato sauce will darken and develop a rich, sweet depth of flavor and lose the bitterness of its dried chiles. The rich, sweet, and smoky flavor of this salsa goes especially well with beef and pork and even makes a good base for a stew. The recipe also highlights the use of dried chiles. Substituting another dried chile for the chipotle would drastically change its character and the recipe simply begs for experimentation. This is an adaptation from Rick Bayless' book Mexican Kitchen (p 34). 3/4 lb or 2-3 medium to large tomatoes 2 cloves garlic with skin 1 chipotle, preferably dried 1 T lard Salt Char and soften the tomatoes, garlic, and chile on a comal or using one of the substitute methods (broiler method pictured below for the tomatoes). The tomatoes should be mottled-black and squishy. The garlic should be soft and the chipotle quite pliable. Try not to burn the chile. It should be slightly darkened and fragrant, reminiscent of the smell of a campfire. It's worse to burn the chile than to not toast it at all. The toasting wakes the chile's flavors, but burning it will turn the chile violently bitter. The chipotle should finish well before the garlic and tomatoes. You can press down on the chile with a spatula to cook it more quickly and evenly. On medium heat, it should only take a minute at most on each side to liven the chile. With other larger chiles, such as guajillos and anchos, you can cut off the stem, slice up the side and spread the chile into a broad, single-layer piece for toasting. This also allows you to remove the veins and seeds. If your chiles are too brittle, you'll need to soften them on the comal first; it only takes a few seconds of toasting. Place the chile in a bowl of tepid water, topping it with something to keep it submerged. After about 20 minutes, the chile will be re-hydrated, softened so it can be easily pureed, and some of its bitter taste will have been removed. Place the tomatoes, garlic (skins removed), and chile into a blender and pulse. Try to leave some texture, simulating the chunkiness created in the molcajete. Put a pan on medium-high heat. The salsa will splatter as it's fried, so something deep is preferable. Ceramic-coated dutch ovens work perfectly for this purpose, but any heavy saucepan is fine, too. When the pan is heated, add the lard and let it get almost smoking-hot. Add the salsa, stirring occasionally until it turns a deep red, about 5 to 10 minutes. You want it to slightly thicken but not dry out. Salt to taste. Makes about 1 cup. TL: Dried chipotle on the left, can of chipotles in adobo sauce on top, a canned chipotle with adobo sauce on the right; TR: Toasting the chipotle and garlic on a comal; BL: Re-hydrating the chipotle; BR: Broiling the tomatoes. TL: Gently pureeing with the immersion blender; TR: The pulsed sauce still with some texture. Note the orange color; BL: The salsa sizzles as it is poured into the hot lard; BR: The final salsa with its deeper red color and richer flavor. Salsa de Chile de Arbol Ingredients: Roasted Salsa: Raw Form: Smooth Tool: Blender Most Americans are familiar with Tabasco Sauce. If you ever eat in a taqueria you'll almost certainly encounter a bottle of Tapatio. Whereas the first three salsas in this course are similar to relishes, chutneys, or tapenades, smoothly pureed table salsas are more akin to ketchup or mustard and generally have more intense flavors, frequently using a heavy proportion of dried chiles. Add this salsa to soups, tacos, cheesy dishes, and even other salsas to provide a kick. Many other chile de arbol salsas add vinegar or tomatoes to counter the strong chile flavor, but I like this recipe's unadulterated taste. If the result is too bitter, you could add a little sugar or even re-hydrate the chiles, though neither should be necessary. This recipe is adapted from one provided by the taqueria La Iguana Feliz in Portland, Oregon. 24 chiles de arbol 1 garlic clove 1/4 C white onion, diced 3/4 C water 2 tsp oil 1/2 tsp salt Sweat the onions, garlic clove (whole, no skin), and chiles in oil over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the chiles. When the chiles are pliable and slightly browned and the onions and garlic are softened, transfer them to a blender. Add 1/4 cup of water and puree. When it stops making progress, add another 1/4 cup of water and continue to puree. When it appears to be fully blended, add the final 1/4 cup of water and the salt and puree, stopping to scrape down the sides until the salsa is as smooth as possible. Makes about 3/4 cup. TL: Sweating the chiles, onion, and garlic; TR: Adding the ingredients to the blender; BL: Scraping down the sides after blending with water; BR: The finished fiery, orange salsa. Conclusion This course has introduced you to the basic methods and ingredients used in Mexican table salsas. Remember to treat these recipes as templates, mixing and matching ingredients and techniques to invent your own fiery flavors to suit the salsas to your tastes. Salsa making isn't baking and exact measures are not necessary, therefore the improvisational cook is free to explore. Appendix I: Choose-Your-Own-Salsa Table The following table provides a matrix for creating your own salsas. Just choose selections from each column and combine them. Choosing one item from each column allows for 57,051 combinations. That exponentially increases if you start selecting more than one item in the first four columns (and you can always choose none in any of the first four columns). Add your own ingredients to the lists and you're quickly in the millions of possibilities. Example: Fruit/Base: Avocado Chile: Serrano Flavoring: Onion Acid: Lime Ingredients: Raw Salsa: Raw Form: Textured End Result: Guacamole Appendix II: Additional Recipes Guacamole Ingredients: Raw Salsa: Raw Form: Textured Tool: Molcajete Guacamole is one of the oldest Mexican salsas. It's great as a side dish or a relish. 1 large, or two small, Hass avocados 1 lime Salt 1/4 C white onion, minced 1-2 serranos, minced 1 tomato, seeded and diced Halve the avocado by running a knife lengthwise down the center of the fruit against the pit and around to the other side. Gently twist and separate the halves. Remove the pit by swiftly embedding your knife blade into it and twisting away from the avocado. Dice the avocado in the peel by running a knife first lengthwise and then side-to-side creating a cross-hatch. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl or molcajete. Add the juice of the lime and a pinch of salt. Lightly mash the mixture with a potato masher, fork, or the tejolote. Add salt to taste. Mix in onion, serranos, and tomato. Serve immediately. Makes about 1 1/2 cups Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa Ingredients: Raw Salsa: Raw Form: Smooth Tool: Blender This is a common taqueria salsa that provides a counter to the chile de arbol salsa above. Where that is quite hot and earthy, this one has a cooling effect and a much brighter flavor. This recipe is adapted from one provided by the taqueria La Iguana Feliz in Portland, Oregon. 1 small Hass avocado 1 tomatillo 2 jalapeños 1/2 C white onion, diced 1/4 C cilantro, chopped 1/2 Tbsp salt 1 1/4 C water Remove the meat from the avocado and the tomatillo from the husk and add to a blender. Remove the jalapeño stem and add the jalapeño along with the onion, cilantro, and half the salt to the blender. Add 1/2 cup water and puree until smooth. Add more water until the salsa reaches the consistency and intensity you desire. Finish salting to taste. Makes about 2 cups with all the water. Kiwi-Apple Salsa Ingredients: Raw Salsa: Raw Form: Smooth and Chunky Tool: Blender and Knife By experimenting with various substitutions you can create splendid, unique salsas. This is one I first made a couple years ago. It's sweet, so I recommend leaving in the seeds and ribs of the jalapeño. I especially like this as a balance to richer salsas and on seafood and poultry. 1/2 lb. or 3-4 tomatillos, golfball sized 1 kiwi 1/4 C white onion, diced 1/4 C cilantro, chopped and loosely packed 1 jalapeño 1 lime Sugar Salt 1 Granny Smith apple Remove the husk and quarter the tomatillos and put them in a blender. Peel the kiwi, quarter it, and add it as well. Add the onion and cilantro. Remove the stem (and the ribs and seeds, if you wish) from the jalapeño and add it along with the juice of the lime. Puree until all large chunks are gone. Add salt and sugar to taste. Peel and dice apple and add to the salsa. Chill and let rest approximately 15 minutes so the flavors can mingle. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Appendix III: Resources Some of these books and websites were used as a knowledge base for this lesson, all are worth checking out. Favorite Books Authentic Mexican by Rick and Deann Bayless: A great introduction to Mexican food with useful illustrations and sidenotes on tools, techniques, and ingredients. Mexican Kitchen: Recipes and Techniques of a World-Class Cuisine by Rick Bayless: Another excellent book by Bayless that expands the descriptions of tools, techniques, and ingredients, adding depth to the reader's understanding of traditional Mexican cooking. From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients by Diana Kennedy: Ms. Kennedy really deserves the upmost praise for legitimizing Mexican food in America. This, her latest book, is one of her best with thorough discussions of ingredients, tools, techniques, and dishes. It has wonderfully instructive full-color photos, too. My Mexico: A Culinary Odyssey with More than 300 Recipes by Diana Kennedy: A regional exploration of Mexican food by its pre-eminent English author. The recipes take on a time and place through her travelogue and it's wonderful reading along with having excellent recipes. A Cook's Tour of Mexico by Nancy Zaslavsky: An irreplaceable resource for anyone traveling to Mexico in search of food. But it also includes recipes that take a regional approach and are consistently interesting and successful. 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore: There isn't much information here, but there's no more extensive collection of quality Mexican recipes. The Great Salsa Book by Mark Miller and Mark Kiffin: A large and diverse collection of salsas that should inspire you to invent your own. America's First Cuisines by Sophie D. Coe: The best history of pre-hispanic Mexican cuisine in English I've found. It focuses on Aztec, Mayan, and Incan foods before the conquest. Favorite Links MexConnect.com: A great site with a lot of conent even without becoming a member. Their food section doesn't require membership and has many recipes and articles. GourmetSleuth.com: Nice site with an emphasis on Mexican cooking. It includes a Mexican ingredient dictionary, articles on tools, ingredients, and dishes, and lots of very good links. Includes links to quality Mexican tools that you can purchase online. MexGrocer.com: Online store with broad selection of products, including canned chiles, salsas, masa harina, tortilla presses, and cookbooks. Desperately Seeking Authenticity: Article for the LA Times written by By Rachel Laudan on the illusory notion of authentic Mexican food. (Originally posted to eGullet by John Whiting.) Appendix IV: Internal Links Topics Most Singular Guacamole: Thread in Mexico forum on guacamole. Guac Talk: Another topic on guacamole. Making Hot Sauce: donk79 requests things to do with the fruits of a chile garden. Rick Bayless' Salsas: The enigma that is jarred salsa. Salsa versus Chutney: Defining salsa. Salsa et al: Another topic on salsa versus other relishes. Tomato Chutney: What's the difference between a tomato chutney and a salsa? You be the judge. Raw Sauce: Members give their favorite salsas crudas. eGCI Hot & Spicy Class: Discussion of chiles includes salsa-talk. Nopales: Discussion of nopales, or cactus paddles, a great salsa ingredient. Cilantro: eGulleter's love/hate realtionship with cilantro. I Love Cilantro: Tommy loves Cilantro. Storebought Chips and Salsa: Yes, pure eeeevil, of the deeeevil. Northern Mexican: Varmint makes a northern Mexican meal. Gets lots of suggestions as to what he can do with that Mexican meal. Mexican Food and Diana Kennedy: Topic that quickly moved into Jaymes' fried tomato recipe using canned tomatoes and garlic salt. Mexican Food in the UK: Lament over making Mexican outside the colonies. Condiment Personality: See if you're truly a salsa person. Recipes Guacamole Lime and Serrano Chile Sauce Nacho Dip Pico de Gallo con Aguacate Rancho Relish Post your questions on Mexican Table Salsas here.
  19. We've been singing this small restaurant's praises for a while now on the North Jersey Mexican thread, I can't believe we never gave it it's own. Here's some pertinent quotes from the previous thread: "For a basic taco stand El Gran Mexicano in bogota is great." - finker99 "The chimichangas were actually fried much more lightly than I'm used to and it was a welcome change....perfect Mexican rice and black beans." - 201 "I will also add that their mole ... is some of the best I've ever had -- very powerful, bitter taste, like good mole should be." - Jason Perlow "I love those tacos too much, esp. the chorizo and flank steak versions." - jhlurie Then there were a bunch of posts about how the place closed for renovations and made everyone very nervous that they would never reopen. Fortunately, on November 22, 2002, they did. Yippee!!! "El Gran Mexicano has reopened! .... I hope you will all head out there and show them how much you missed them." - Nick Reingold "that mole is really something special." - pnapoli We went back again last night, all is still yummy. I particularly noted the flavor of their corn tortillas. I don't think they are made in house, but are still a worthwhile wrap for the tacos and other dishes. We also tried their stuffed jalapenos, just for the heck of it. They are the same poppers you can get anywhere, but an excellent version of them. For some reason we thought the black beans were new (like they previously served refried beans), but after reviewing the previous thread, I saw 201 mention having them months ago, so I guess not. Also, they now have a website in the works, El Gran Mexicano.com.
  20. Hello All. I just joined tonight so this will be my first post, but I've quite enjoyed reading all of yours for the last week. My question is: Is there any decent Mexican food in this city besides Fandango? Or Peruvian? Or any other Latin American cuisine for that matter. Or even Southwestern? My boyfriend and I have scoured the city and come up with basically nothing. We love Fandango, but would like to try someplace new. We'd been living in NYC up until September and went to Chicama, Patria, Maya, and Hell's Kitchen all the time and are looking for something similar. Thanks in advance for your help. Lauren
  21. I made mole for the first time on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I've eaten it a few times in restaurants and bought a jarred version after reading an article that said this one brand was acceptable (it was good), but never made it from scratch before. I had a pot luck lunch/meeting scheduled for Sunday afternoon. They chose Mexican, so I was stuck. I scoured my three Mexican books, Cantina by the Two Hot Tamales; One Plate by Bayliss, and Border Cookbook by the Jamisons. For some reason, Bayliss' Apricot-Pine Nut Mole jumped out at me and once I thought about it, I couldn't do anything else. Didn't matter that I've never made anything like it before. Didn't matter that I've never used dried chilis before. Oh, and did I mention one of them's a professional chef? Once I thought of it, I had to do it. I made the grocery list: tomatillos, sesame seeds, dried ancho chilis. I had the dried apricots, pine nuts, garlic, chicken stock and chocolate (I thought). Store #1 Safeway had tomatillos and sesame seeds, but no whole dried chilis. Store #2 Albertson's had whole dried California, New Mexico, and Guajillo chiles, but no anchos. No way was I driving to another store this late. I bought a bag of each kind thinking maybe one of them was a regional synonym for ancho. I found a bag labelled Pasilla Ancho in the cupboard too. But a quick google search led me to a site that explained that probably none of them were real anchos. Oops #1. I decided to use the bag of Pasilla Ancho (3 oz.) and then half California and half New Mexico with a coupld of Guajillos thrown in for the hell of it. Oops #2: procrastinating on egullet, I notice it's 9:45 pm and decide I probably should get started. I assemble some of the ingredients and stem and seed the dried chilis just to get started doing something. I did remember to use gloves, but didn't think it would take as long as it did to do the 6 oz of chilis. It's now 10:30. I get the rest of the ingredients only to find oops #3, the recipe calls for Mexican chocolate and not only do I not have any of that, I'm out of all forms of baking chocolate too. But I do have some Williams-Sonoma sweet chocolate and Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder. And there's really no way I'm driving to the store again now. I plunge ahead, roasting the tomatillos without incident. I toast the dried chilis, learning not to put a lot of small pieces in at once because they're really hard to fish out before they over-cook, cover them with boiling water to soak. Back to the tomatillos, I mix them with the sesame seeds (toasted), fried pine nuts, fried garlic, bread and spices. Since I don't have chocolate, I try to figure out how much powder to use. I end up with 4 tablespoons of the sweet chocolate and one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, plus an extra 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon because that's in Mexican chocolate. I don't know why that worked, but it seemed to taste "right" though I don't really have a clue as to what "right" is. Back to the chilis. It said to taste the soaking water and if it's bitter not to use it. I had tasted it earlier and it wasn't bitter at all. I measured 2 cups, tasted it again, it was a little bitter, then as I added 1 cup, the bitterness kicked in. Oops #4, but at least I didn't add the whole 2 cups. I added 1 1/2 cups plain water after that. I blend it up and then strain it. I hope a lot of the bitterness is in the solids, so I don't press down very hard on it, discarding a fair amount. I add the tomatillo mixture to the blender and find I have to add 2 cups of chicken stock to get it to swirl. It's supposed to be smooth, but it's thick and chunky and since it's supposed to be cooked down, I don't want to add too much liquid. I don't strain it, deciding that I'm making the rustic variation. Oops #5. I reduce the chili puree and then the tomatillo blend without incident, add the rest of the stock and simmer away. After an hour, I taste it and it's bitter. And needs salt and sugar (both in the recipe). I add the salt first and it intensifies the bitterness. Oh oh. . . . I add the sugar which tames it a bit, but there's still a definite bitterness to the sauce. I keep it on low while I sautee some boneless, skinless chicken breasts sprinkled with salt, pepper, and chili powder in the left over oil from frying the chilis, garlic, and pine nuts. One last taste and the bitterness is still there. I clean up the kitchen and by the time I'm in bed it's around 4 am. I'm tired and annoyed by the thought that I'm going to have to get up early and get some butternut squash tamales from Picante's Cocina on the way to the meeting. And that I still have to serve the mole if nothing else so they can tell me what I did wrong (though I have a good idea I screwed up the chili toasting/soaking). I get up and heat the sauce on low, resigned to failure, and lo and behold, somehow overnight, the bitterness vanished! It's actually good. The other people thought it was good too. Now I want to make it "right" and also to try other versions. It seems, at least to my uneducated palate, to be a resilient dish. It takes some effort and time, but nothing really that difficult or complicated to do. Does anyone have any other versions they'd like to share?
  22. I am going out to LA next weekend and would like recommendations of authentic mexican food. Something which is difficult to come by here in NY. Anyone ever hear of Juanitas Tamales? All suggestions greatly appreciated.
  23. I somehow have agreed to host a very small get-together of NC eGulleteers (Thread Here), and it looks like we'll be focusing on the cuisine of Northern Mexico. OK, I need help. Please tell me what I gotta do. It's only 9 days away!!!!
  24. Jason and I went to dinner at Saigon Republic in Englewood tonight. We parked just up the street in front of this new store. A family party was just breaking up as we arrived, they had been having a "set up the store" party and the grand opening is tomorrow. After dinner we noticed a few people still inside so we stopped in to say hello and check it out. The grocery part is not huge, but a nice selection including souvenier trinkets from Puebla, all along one wall of the store. The rest is cold case & counter for prepared food. Soon there will be a few tables between the service area and the soda fridges in back, but they were not in evidence tonight. Jason got to sample the kick ass mole sauce that Jesus, the cook/owner (who formerly worked at Chez Dominique in Bergenfield), had served earlier at the party. We also learned they will be soon selling tacos, tortas, taquitos, etc. Saturday is their Grand Opening at Noon, featuring Free Tamales! El Paso Mexican Grocery and Deli 46 West Palisade Avenue Englewood, NJ 07631 201-567-3201
  25. Good evening. We are newcomers to this forum. Our question does not address Mexico per se, but we hope it will engender responses from fellow tamale enthusiasts. We live in an isolated community on the far northern California coast (Eureka is the largest town). There is virtually no good Mexican cuisine in local restaurants, although the Chicano community is sizeable. A couple of the multitude of cheap restaurants provide decent tapa-style tacos, but little else; the vegetarians have intimidated them. Our own home is the only place we can expect such routine fare as frijoles de olla, refritos, carnitas, chile verde, etc. [We render our own lard, whereas local restaurants use only vegetable oil; accordingly, their food is overwhelmingly bland.] Recently I bonded with a couple of Spanish language teachers at the local college where I teach. We agreed that we are starved for real tamales, since all we can get is tasteless, dense, and flavorless. So we decided to do a "tamale project" in January, after all the holiday stress is over; we booked a small "boutique" bakery that has an industrial mixer for the masa/lard/broth, and we've agree that we're going to bring our own fillings, and conduct a Tamale Assembly that will produce freezable and delicious tamales. And if we run out of fillings, we'll generate a bunch of "tamales de casa," fillingless dumplings that can be used to make the Mexican version of "tamale pie." The last time my wife and I made tamales, we were totally successful, except that we struck out on corn husks: our "Achilles Heel" was the husks, which were Safeway, hence small and old (prolonged soaking tended to have little effect - they remained stiff, and using 2-3 husks per tamal was tedious and time-consuming). The supermarket stuff doesn't cut it. Since so much quality will be going into this project, does anyone have a source for high-quality corn husks? (I'd welcome ideas for fillings too, although one of our 5 participants is a visiting Guatamalan mama, who has some entirely different recipes.)
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