Posts tagged Mexico

A world of chili sauces

On a dare my teen once drank a glass of Cholula, a vinegary Mexican hot sauce that’s spicer than Tabasco. She was used to dousing her food with the hot stuff anyway so it didn’t seem like a big deal to have a drink. She downed the Cholula in a few gulps, reached for a glass of water and then downed that too. I should probably mention that my middle child was the one who suggested the dare. And me? Well, I just sat back and watched the whole thing unfold.

This is NOT the way I’d suggest introducing your kids to hot sauce. My advice is to go gently. One dab at a time. Mix a little into stews or sauces to give them a bit of a kick. Add a drop or two to sandwiches. Why hot sauces? To put it simply, they give food an added dimension of flavor. They wake up your taste buds. Turn up the heat in your food by trying out one of these sauces:

Cholula sauce: This bright, deep orange-red Mexican sauce is thin and vinegary. Use it in place of Tabasco sauce on sandwiches or mix it into guacamole to turn the heat up just a bit.

Valentina sauce: Another Mexican hot sauce. But this one is slightly thicker and spicier than Cholula. I noticed a chef at Caffe Lola in Niagara Falls mix it into marinara and I’ve been doing the same ever since. The heat isn’t overpowering just enough to give you a tickle in your throat.

Chili Garlic Sauce: You can see the red peppers seeds right in this pungent sauce that combines heat and garlic. This Vietnamese sauce works well in Asian dishes. But you might also mix it with mayo to use it either as a dip for chips or a sandwich spread.

Sriracha sauce: The standard variety available in the U.S. has a building heat that envelops the middle of your tongue–and stays there. Mr. Squid is a huge Sriracha fan and sneaks it in whenever he gets a chance. The consistency is almost like ketchup and you can use it as you would ketchup. Just remember that it packs a kick. Use it in Italian, Asian, Indian, Mexican … well, you get the idea. This is one versatile hot sauce.

Frank’s RedHot sauce: I had to add one all-American favorite. This sauce is synonymous with the place where it was created: Buffalo. It’s a must if you’re making wings and it’s a perfect match with bleu cheese. I like to dabble it on salads that have creamy dressings too.

Your turn: What’s your go-to hot sauce–or do you prefer to go without the heat?

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Roasted tomatillo guacamole

Forget the chunky guacamole. What about a smooth, tart version that’s nearly as fast to make as your standard plop-it-in-a-bowl-and-mush-with-a-fork variety? Time to break out the blender.

Traditional Mexican taco shops, or tacquerias, often offer a liquidy version of guacamole along with salsas and such to put on your tacos. The thin guac is fine for tacos, but not so good for chip dipping. I wanted to come up with an in-between guacamole. Not too thin, not too chunky. Enter tomatillos, a mandarin-orange sized green berry that many people mistake for a green tomato. You can usually find fresh tomatillos in the produce section at the grocers near the chiles. Tomatillos have husks that cover the green berry, which is slightly sticky on the outside and tangy with a subtle sweetness on the inside.

Recipe

Servings: About 2 cups

Prep time: 15 minutes


Ingredients

7 tomatillos

2 ripe avocados

2 cloves garlic

2 large slices white onion (about 1/4 of the onion)

1/2-1 fresh serrano chile or jalapeno

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup cilantro

1/3-3/4 cup water

2 tablespoons diced, canned green chiles (optional, but really good)

Olive oil

Directions

  1. Bring 1 teaspoon olive oil to medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan (I used my cast iron).
  2. Remove the husks, rinse, and then place the tomatillos, garlic, and onion into the hot pan.
  3. Roast for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the tomatillo skin is beginning to blister.
  4. Place the tomatillos, onions, and garlic into a blender along with the vinegar, 1/3 cup water, avocados, and serrano chile (keep in mind, the more chile you use, the hotter the guac will be so you might want to start with one half, before adding the entire chile).
  5. Add more water to adjust consistency. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Blend in the cilantro (and green chiles, if using) and get your dipping chips ready!

Bonus: I made this guacamole a day ahead to serve with dinner and with the vinegar whipped in the color stayed bright.

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Mexican Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. Around here I happily spent very little time in the kitchen. Mr. Squid took over and made a Mexican feast. I wanted to pass along a few pictures, but I’m saving the recipes for 2012–after all, it’s time to start baking holiday cookies!

Our meal–Mole is a complex, hearty sauce that melds dozens of spices with chiles, chocolate, and nuts. The red mole (mole poblano) we make is traditionally made with turkey. Mr. Squid seared a bone-in turkey breast and then cooked it all day in a mole sauce in the crockpot. After cooking for hours the meat literally fell off the bone–no worries on how to carve the bird! To finish off the meal, he served it with whipped mashed potatoes (my job), fried white and blue corn tortilla strips, ranchero beans and garnished the dish with Mexican crema and fresh cilantro. I wish there were still leftovers!

Mr. Squid used the mole sauce as gravy for the potatoes--yummy

The sauce-soaked meat fell off the bone

Pinto beans roasting with epazote, onions, bacon, tomatoes, and cilantro

For dessert I made a streusel apple pie

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Mexican rice

Continuing with dishes to make to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day tomorrow, here’s my favorite version of Mexican rice.

The ingredients behind good Mexican rice may sound almost like you’re making a pico de gallo—tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic. But instead of dipping chips into a chunky salsa, you puree the tomatoes and other ingredients and add them to the rice after you’ve sautéed it in oil. Each of these steps guarantees that each rice kernel will get coated in seasoning and have that bright red color.

This recipe is based on one I discovered in The America’s Test Kitchen: Family Cookbook, one of my favorite cookbooks. But I’ve made quite a few changes to make it even faster and easier to put together. The original recipe calls for you to cut up fresh tomatoes, seed jalapenos. When I’ve done that I always seem to end up with either too much jalapeno—meaning the rice is way too spicy to eat or there’s not enough oomph with the jalapeno (but I still had to get chile juice underneath my nails after getting them prepped for the recipe). I bypass all those steps by using canned tomatoes with green chiles. The milder chiles have the perfect balance of spice.

Recipe

Prep time: 20 minutes + baking

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

2 10-ounce cans sliced tomatoes and green chiles

1 small onion, peeled, quartered

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves

2 cups chicken broth (or water)

2 cups rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

fresh cilantro (optional)

¾ cups peas (canned or frozen, thawed optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse the rice with water to remove the starch.
  3. On the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed pan bring the oil to a medium-high heat.
  4. Add the rice and cook until the rice is no longer translucent (about 5 minutes).
  5. In a blender or food processor, mix the tomatoes, salt, onion and garlic.
  6. Carefully pour the tomato puree into the rice, cook for 3 minutes then add in the chicken broth.
  7. Bring the rice mixture to a boil and then place it in the oven for 20 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cook the rice on the stovetop.)
  8. Remove the rice from the oven, checking to make sure all of the liquid is absorbed. Add in the peas and cilantro and fluff with a fork.
  9. Serve with lime wedges to drizzle on top.
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Are you eating your tacos wrong?

My youngest eating her taco--notice the head tilt?

Did you know there’s a right way to eat a taco? Yup. Here it is: hold the taco together in one place with your hands and then to tilt your head to take bites. No taco tilting!

I know, this isn’t rock science. But there are those foods that you can pick out the real eaters from the dabblers. Take thin, chewy New York City pizza slices. I remember getting an education in how to eat a NYC slice when we lived there–always fold it at the sides. (Hey even the Emily Post Institute recommends folding your pizza slice, maybe she’s a New Yorker?) I had moved there from the West where you’d never dream of folding the thick slices.

So maybe it’s no surprise that tacos have their own eating etiquette: the head tilt. This keeps all the yummy fillings intact and from falling out the other side if you try to taco tilt. When our family visited Mexico City a few years ago we bought tacos from a stand in Chapultepec Park and joined others eating our tacos at nearby picnic tables. At the end of the meal, my plate was covered in carne asada pieces (yummy bits of barbecued, seasoned steak). I looked around to see clean plates. Non-taco tilters. My messy plate was a giveaway that I was still a taco novice–well, that and my baseball cap, sneakers and backpack.

So if you want to eat your tacos like a pro, tilt your head, not your taco!


Real Mexican tacos--no cheese, no crisped shells, lots of flavor!

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