Archive for ‘Tex-Mex’

July 24, 2012

Despite the Heat | Tortilla Soup

Eating soup when it’s hot out can strike people as odd.  But think French-inspired Pho in steamy Vietnam, or British-influenced Mulligatawny in India.  There’s a point to eating something hot and spicy when it’s hot out: it makes you sweat (I glow).  And that helps you cool off.  So while it may seem counter-intuitive, now is certainly the season to give some spicy soup a go.

It’s always hot in Texas.  So it’s not surprising that tortilla soup is on just about every menu you peruse in San Antonio.   There’s something about it that San Antonians can’t seem to get enough of, no matter the season.   Perhaps it’s the mix of textures, but like Pho and Mulligatawny, it’s spicy and hot and a treat to eat.  (It also happens to the be the exact thing I was eating when Hades first fell in love with me fifteen years ago.  I even spilled it all over myself and he still loved me.  Magical stuff this is.)  And summertime is when the produce that comprises the bulk of the ingredients for tortilla soup are at their peak.

I like to play around with ingredients: if there’s corn, add some, if there’s not, no worries.  Zucchini and summer squashes work wonderfully, too.  Tomatoes, however are a requirement. 

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January 17, 2012

Best Topping for Tacos | Cactus with Prickly Pear Vinaigrette

I was recently forwarded this Nigel Slater article that really drives home the importance of doing some big cooking on the weekend (such as this roast pork shoulder in the article) so that you have enough for several meals that require minimal prep for the rest of the week.  I love cooking in this way.  And pork shoulder is literally one of the most cooked cuts in this house.  It’s economical and super, super flavorful.

Our leftover roast pork was converted into tacos one night.  And one of the things I often find elevates the humble taco is the quality of the crispy cold salad on top.  At good taco stands, you’ll find some cold radishes, or perhaps some chopped onion and cilantro, maybe a bit of lime to squeeze on top of that rich carnitas or barbacoa.  I love the contrast in flavors, textures and temperatures.

This quick cold salad is tasty enough on its own for lunch, but is fantastic on some of that pork.  You can sub some radishes and apples (add lovely sweetness) for the cactus or jicama, if you have trouble finding them.   But the cactus is so full of gorgeous green flavor, and the jicama so sweet and crunchy, do make an effort to stop in a reputable Hispanic market with brisk turn over in its produce department to track some down to try.  Next time I make this, I might also toss in a green onion thinly sliced and perhaps some pomegranate arils for extra crunch.

Nopales and Jicama with Prickly Pear Vinagrette

For the salad:

1 small cactus pad, carefully trimmed well of all spines, rinsed, then cut into small batons

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July 21, 2011

Roots | Tex-Mex Enchilada Gravy

It almost pains me to give up this recipe.  Almost.

But I think everyone should try hyper-local specialties: Texas style enchiladas with chili gravy; Taylor ham, egg and cheese; mirabelles.  It’s a taste of place.  It should be a bite that makes you say, “Yes, this is what it tastes like in San Antonio.”  “This is what it tastes like in northern New Jersey.”  “This is what it tastes like in Nancy.”  It’s one way of understanding the world in a deeper way.

This recipe harkens from my father’s mother, passed to my mother, passed to me, passed to Cherub.  (She still likes my Mom’s better than mine.  But she’s not wrong.)  To me, this chili gravy that smothers corn tortillas that cuddle spoonfuls of ground beef, chopped onion and cheeses tastes not only of San Antonio, but of childhood and tradition and family.  And love.  Lots of love.

Enchilada Gravy, makes enough for approximately 48 enchiladas

1/2 c flour

1/2 c vegetable oil (or lard)

1/2 c chili powder (what your powder tastes like will be the dominant flavor of the sauce, taste for sweetness, heat, etc.)

2 heaping T ground cumin

3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely minced

Salt to taste

2 bouillon cubes dissolved in 6 to 8 c very warm water

In a large pan (ideally a cast iron skillet) over medium heat, warm the oil or lard and brown the flour lightly.  Remove from heat.  Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic and salt.  Return to medium heat with enough water to make a gravy.  Simmer for twenty minutes.

{To assemble enchiladas, warm corn tortillas in oil, then roll, filling with any combination of grated cheese, diced white onion and ground beef.  Place in a baking pan in in close rows that had a ladleful of gravy covering the bottom.  Ladle more gravy over the tops of the enchiladas, sprinkle with cheese or whatever fillings you’ve chosen.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.}

Playlist included Blisters May Come, by Centro-Matic.

March 24, 2011

Persephone’s Cocina | Tamales

In San Antonio, tamales are an important tradition around major holidays leading to long lines at some of San Antonio’s favorite spots like Delicious Tamales and Ruben’s.  I had always considered them something that might be too much work on my part, but as it turns out, they’re really not as much as I thought they’d be.  Especially if you happen to have a few pinto beans leftover from a recent meal.

Last weekend’s trip to my favorite Mexican grocery store yielded dried corn husk wrappers and set me off on the wild idea to make a few for myself.  So this afternoon during Cherub’s “quiet time,” i.e., the thing you do when a preschooler no longer naps, I made tamales with refritos.  And because I used a recipe for the masa from Rick Bayless, which used a stand mixer (read: five minutes of work) and the beans were essentially already made, the tamales came together pretty quickly.  And while I’m not suggesting you make these on your own (have a sister or a friend around to gossip with while you do it on a Saturday afternoon), they are not the daunting delicacy that you might have presumed.

And for that pleasurable bit of work and chat, you are rewarded with a tender and ethereally light corn dumpling filled with smoky, spicy beans.  Truly, these are something that you need to be careful

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March 20, 2011

Sunday Breakfast | Huevos, Persephone Style

There’s something about Mexican food lately.  I’m just loving the spices and the fats and the flavors and the family feel of the meals.  This morning, since we had so many ingredients of Mexican origin in the fridge, I decided to do a take on huevos rancheros.  It’s not really rancheros; it’s just a delicious breakfast with spicy Mexican ingredients on a crispy tortilla, topped with a huevo.

I realize that this morning’s recipe is going to look a bit too involved.  But it has a couple of different simple components (the chile paste, the avocado crema) that you might consider making at some point and stashing in the freezer or have a bit leftover for a breakfast like this.

Huevos Persephone, serves two

Small link of Mexican chorizo, casing removed and sausage crumbled

1/4 of a small onion, diced

1 potato peeled and cut into small cubes

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March 20, 2011

Quick Flavor Boost | Dried Chile Paste

I have been using chile paste in a lot of my cooking lately, because it’s just so flavorful.

I make my own and use it in braises, sauces and marinades.  (In chili. Duh.)  It takes just a bit of time, and if you portion it out in ice cube trays and freeze it, you’ve got a little bit to add whenever you want a little kick in your cooking.  And a little kick is kind of nice.

Chile Paste

4 dried pasilla chiles

2 dried chipotle chiles

4 dried Guajillo chiles

In a tall container, combine chiles and cover with boiling water.  Allow to stand for 30 minutes.  Drain.  Remove the stems and the seeds.  Do a thorough job removing seeds if you don’t want your paste too spicy, leave a few if you love heat.  Add the cleaned chiles to the bowl of a food processor or a blender.

Now make sure you wash your hands really well.  PK tip: Don’t touch your eyes, for God’s sake, you’ll go blind.  At least temporarily.

Add a bit of water (1/4 c to start) and blend until smooth.  If the chiles need a bit of help blending, add a bit more water (a tablespoon at a time).

Portion out the paste into ice cube trays or small containers.  Freeze.  If you used an ice cube container, pop out the cubes once they’re frozen and put into a Ziploc.

Playlist included Oh My Heart, by R.E.M.

 

January 30, 2011

Hangover Cure | Migas

Do not get the wrong idea: Persephone is not hung over.  She doesn’t get hung over.  Let’s just get that straight first.  But I do know that this is a malady that occasionally affects those fashionable folks who enjoy a nice meal with a few (extra) glasses of wine.

A sturdy, spicy breakfast lunch the next morning midday with a good strong bit of coffee is just what Persephone thinks you need, if you’re one of those fashionable folks.  And the refreshing thing about this is that you can be as creative as you like (or as creative as your refrigerator allows). The only basics you need are pork, eggs and tortillas.

For the migas this morning, it was a mash-up between a Spanish version that’s heavy on the pork products and the Tex-Mex version that’s heavy on the tortillas.  Typically the Spanish version uses breadcrumbs, but we have nine zillion corn tortillas in the fridge so there you have it.

To get started, I fried up some chorizo that was sliced into thick chunks, and a few slices of bacon that had been chopped into five or six pieces.  While this was frying over slowish heat, I soaked some corn tortillas in water that was seasoned with salt, some slices of jalapeno, and smashed garlic.  I also chopped up a couple of tiny potatoes and some fennel tops that we had in the fridge.  I whisked a couple of eggs together and added in a handful of watercress that was feeling lonely.   When the bacon and chorizo was just about crisp, I drained the tortillas and dried them then sliced them into thin strips.  I tipped in the tortillas, potatoes and fennel and let it cook a few minutes until most had crisped a bit (not too much, mind you) then added in the eggs and cress.  Stir and cook until the eggs are the consistency you like then divide into bowls and top with a bit of chopped cilantro.

This is pretty seasonal right now, but certainly in the warmer months, you might add tomatoes or kernels of  summer corn instead of the fennel and potatoes.  There’s also a plethora of cheese choices you can add to this everything from cojita and queso fresco (my favorite) to the shredded four cheese blends you get at the store (not so much my favorite, but entirely do-able).

Make sure you set a bottle of sriracha on the table for those that need a bit more help waking up and facing the day.

Playlist included Help, I’m Alive, by Metric.

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