Category Archives: Mexican

Crab Rellenos: Cangrejo Rellenos

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Crab Rellenos

Here in the low country, Blue Crabs abound. But what do you do with all of that crab meat? It is sweet stuff, but not served on the half shell like Dungeness or King Crab. You have to meticulously pick the crab from her tiny shells. So this will be the first in a series of crab adventures. Things you can do with this lovely little Low Country crustacean.

blue-crab-

Day 1:

Make the sauce (below) this can be made up to a week in advance

Make basic filling using 1 pound of crab meat. Here is a primer on how to cook and pick the crabs. You can of course always go to your fish monger and get a pound of crab meat. It is available pasturized in cans. If you buy this, ask for lump meat.

Whip 2 large packages of cream cheese. Add them to the crab and thoroughly blend. Remove 1/3 of this mixture for crab rangoon, tomorrow’s treat.

Ingredients for Relleno Base:

3 ears of grilled Corn on the Cob, cut from the cob

1 cup of grated sharp cheddar, 1 cup of grated jack cheese

1/2 cup of fresh cojita cheese crumbles

2 red onions medium chop, sauteed and caramelized

Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic into the onions for the last 4 minutes of cooking.

3 green onions finely chopped

1/2 cup slow roasted grape tomatoes cut in quarters

Stir all of this together  

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Poblano Peppers (you can also use the smaller, thinner Anaheim Chile), slit clean and roasted then peel. This part can be tricky. I have learned that if you remove the seeds and membranes before putting them on the grill, they come out easier and there is less ripping of the pepper. Do this by making a T shaped cut, horizontally across the top and then one vertical slit from top to bottom. This picture is of Anaheim chiles on the grill. Grilling-Poblano-PeppersWhenever I grill peppers, I always retain few, usually ones that have torn to be used in sauces and fillings, or ropas. Once you roast your peppers on the grill or the open flame of your stove, place them in a plastic bag to steam. The skin will come off much easier then.

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Allow the peppers to cool and then stuff with the filling. Bring the opening as close together as you can. Since there are only two of us and these are big peppers, I only made two. But you can certainly make at least 6 with this amount of filling. I am going to be making some other dishes with the filling.

Relleno coating:

(for two large peppers, double it for 4)

4 eggs, separated

3 Tablespoons cream

salt

flour for dredging

about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan

roll the peppers through the flour till coated

While the oil is heating, whip the egg whites & salt till they have stiff peaks. Whisk the yolks with the cream. Fold into the whites carefully.

When the oil is about 250 degrees, take a large spoon and put enough of the egg mixture into the oil to make a bed for the pepper. It will spread slightly. lay the pepper down, then cover with more egg mixture. After about 2 minutes carefully turn the pepper and cook on the other side till golden brown. Place on a drip pan and put in a warm oven while you continue the process.

Sauce and plate: You can choose any kind of sauce for this, but this is the one I made ahead of time. The base is something I use for enchiladas and other meals. I added cream and sherry to lighten this one up because the peppers and crab are so delicate.

New Mexico Rojo

1 cup New Mexico Red Chiles

2 tablespoons masa (finely ground)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups chicken stock

Melt the butter in a saucepan, slowly stir in the masa,  till a roux is formed. Whisk in the chicken broth and simmer. Allow to simmer for a while adding more stock as it thickens.

For the relleno sauce I then added 1 cup of cream and stirred for a while, letting it reduce a bit, then about 1/4 of Spanish sherry. Stir again and then turn off the heat.

Plating: 

Use a small plate with a good upturn to hold the sauce. Puddle the sauce on the plate, then add the relleno. Squiggle crema on top. Serve with a simple salad of radishes, pea shoots, pepitas and cojita.

 

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Pepita Granola

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Granola 3

I have been making granola forever, it was probably one of the first foods I made in my adult life as a cook. When I was in cooking school in Cuernavaca, Mexico we had some with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and since then this has been my favorite recipe. My favorite way to eat granola is on top of fresh Greek style yogurt with some fresh berries or fruit. This is very easy to make and far better than most store bought versions. I do not add dried fruit to the granola until serving as it tends to soften the granola, but this goes nicely with dried fruits as well as fresh. You can also store granola in the freezer to prevent softening.

granola 1
This recipe was adapted from Calle Ocho in New York City.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

6 Cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups hemp seeds (available at health food stores)
2 Cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can use pumpkin seed oil if you have it)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 cups green hulled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3/4 cup local honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup maple sugar
sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon
pinch of salt

granola 2

Mix all in a very large bowl. Bake on baking sheets lined with parchment or silpat for 15minutes, remove from oven and stir well, then bake for another 10 minutes. If the granola is browned, remove from the oven. If it is not browned, stir and put in for another 5 minutes. When golden brown cool, then place in airtight containers.

 

 

Tamale Time

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tamales to steam

I make a big batch of tamales several times a year. Yesterday I made a batch of pork and green chile tamales. They are not at all difficult to make and they freeze really well. They are also easy to re-steam. Here is the recipe, but keep in mind the filling can be any number of things, from chiles and cheese to chicken, pork, crab, beef etc. Once you get the rolling technique down you will be able to make them with anything. I often triple this recipe. This recipe makes about 20 good sized tamales. You can make them smaller if you are using them as an appetizer.

filling and husks
You will need: 

Cornhusks or banana leaves for wrappers

String

4 cups of Masa para tamales (this can be found in the Hispanic aisle of most large grocery stores.

1 1/2 cups of home rendered lard (see here how to do it and why) or butter

4 cups of good stock (I used duck stock, but turkey chicken or veal stock works great)

2 tablespoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

A large pot fitted for steaming. You need a lot of water for this, so raise your steaming basket to allow for a lot of water. This has to boil for 40-60 minutes.

filling

Filling: 

2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
2 cups of well seasoned shredded pork shoulder (see my recipe here for making smoked braised pork shoulder Latin style).

1 onion finely chopped

6-8 roasted poblano chiles seeded, skinned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (or in a pinch you can use canned green chiles)

8 cloves of garlic finely minced

1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar

1 teaspoon of smoked salt (I make my own, but you can buy it here)

2 tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder

1/2 cup of stock

queso

2 cups of Queso para Quesedillas, para papusas or Jack cheese grated. Any good melting cheese is fine for this.

sauce

Sauce:

4 tablespoons of masa para tamales

4 tablespoons of house rendered lard or butter

1 cup of New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder

3 cups of good stock

Method

Cut lengths of string long enough to wrap the tamales. There are different ways of folding and wrapping the tamales, but this is my favorite way to do it. You can also tie just the ends or you can fold it so there is one side open and don’t even use strings. If you do this, you must place them upright in your steamer. Some people use parchment paper instead of corn husks or banana leaves.

Soak the corn husks in hot water, weight them down so they are immersed. Just before making the tamales, pour out the water. If you are using banana leaves they need to be heated to soften. I blanch them and place them on a wet towel.

In a stand mixer (or bowl with a beater) whip the cold lard for about 3 minutes on high speed till it is fluffy

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Fold that and the stock into the lard. Mix until a very moist (but not sticky) dough forms. Chill for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

masa

In a large skillet melt the lard and add onions. Stir and cook till the onions are translucent, add garlic in a hot spot and stir, then add the chiles and spices and finally deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to simmer till the stock is absorbed, then cool.

Set up a station on a table or counter top. You will need the masa, the cheese, the filling, the string and a platter to stack the finished tamales on.

tamale ready to fold

Start with about 1/2 cup of masa on a corn husk. Fold the sides of the husk where you will want the ends of the tamales to be and spread the masa with the folded husk. Do the same thing with the top and bottom of the husk so that the dough is spread out and you end up with a square of dough about 4″ X 4″. You will need to select the husks that are large enough to accommodate this size of tamale. You should have at least an inch of exposed husk on all sides. Place the filling in the center of the masa and lightly push down on it. Then take the bottom end of the husk and roll it forward to meet the end of the dough. Pull the dough forward making the two ends of dough meet. Then fold in the sides and roll the tamale. Place the string under the tamale and tie like a package. Repeat till you have used all of the dough or filling.

tamale folded

In a steam pot, place the tamales on a rack, cover and boil vigorously for 40-50 minutes. While you are steaming make the sauce.

Chile Sauce:

You can use New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder for this. I used red this time, but my next batch of corn, cheese and chile tamales I am making green sauce.

Make a roux of the masa and lard, stir till slightly brown. Add the chile powder and stir, then whisk in the stock. Allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Keep warm till ready to serve.

To serve, open the husks and remove the tamales to a plate. The masa should be soft and supple, yet firm enough to hold together. Spoon the sauce over and add additional cheese, crema and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

tamales steamed

tamales plated 2

 

 

 

 

New Years Fun Food: Collard Green Empanadas

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empanadas with sauce

I had a New Years Day dinner party and decided to have a Hispanic theme. I usually make my Chiles en Nogada for Christmas, but I was busy working on Christmas Eve and decided to postpone that tradition till New Years. I have done a lot of regional Mexican and South American cooking, spent a great deal of time in Latin America from a young age and went to cooking school in Mexico.  Since moving to the Low Country, I have been interested in the spin that my friend Sandra A. Gutierrez has put on some of the traditional Latino recipes and ingredients in her book The New Southern-Latino Table. I decided to incorporate a few of her recipes into my menu for New Years and the first one  was Collard Green Empanadas. In the south it is a tradition to eat two things on New Years, greens  which represent folded money and black eyed peas which represent good luck. Sandra had recipes using both ingredients, so I made them her way with a few twists of my own.

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Here is the recipe for the empanadas. She suggested frying  store bought empanadas dough or and I wanted to bake, so I used store bought pie pastry & baked them because of the time and mess crunch with all of the other parts of the meal. But you can make them with your favorite pastry dough too. I have filling leftover and plan on doing that next weekend.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or shallots
  • 1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix (or 4 garlic cloves finely chopped + a teaspoon of salt)
  • 1 bag of chopped frozen collard greens
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chopped bacon (I bake my bacon with Sweet Onion Sugar on it)
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cojita or fresco cheese (optional) these cheeses can be found at Hispanic markets or the Piggly Wiggly if you live in Charleston, KTA if you are on the Big Island of Hawaii
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 egg whisked
  • Sweet Onion Sugar or Habanero Sugar
  • 16 empanada disks or 1 package of Pillsbury pie dough.

Method:

Empanadas

  • In a large skillet heat the oil/drippings and cook the onions till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about 20 seconds, then add the drained collard greens. Saute for a few minutes and remove from the heat, cool for 20 minutes. 
  • On a floured surface roll out the pie dough to an increase of about 25%. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter or glass. *you can make them bigger if you have a larger cutter, using more filling.
  • Put a teaspoon of filling on each disk and brush the egg wash around the edges. Close and seal, using a fork to crimp the edges. Use the remaining egg was on top of the empanadas. Sprinkle with the flavored sugar. Top with Habenero Sugar. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with salsa.

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Tacos al Pastor

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One of my all time favorite Mexican foods is a street food, Tacos al Pastor or literally “tacos de trompo” . It started in Puebla Mexico, where many middle eastern immigrants came and sold their own rotisserie meat, the doner kabob.  Now, all over Mexico they have stands where the pork and pineapple that have been marinating are stacked on a huge skewer and cooked in a vertical rotisserie and then the meat and pineapple is shaved off and served on a tortilla with onions, cojita and cilantro.

When I lived in Chicago I could just go to the Carceneria and buy however much I wanted of the velvety red marinated pork and pineapple and take it home and make the tacos straight away. Here in South Carolina it takes a little more work to produce the meal… but the results are outstanding. If you too like this dish, or want to try it, you can, no matter where you live. The first thing you will need is annatto, or if you live in a place with Hispanic groceries, you can buy the achiote paste commercially made. I have always been able to buy the paste, but here in Charleston…. no soap, so I learned to make my own.

It is easy and I actually like it better than the commercial paste. I froze the extra paste in a ZipLock bag. Annatto is the seed of the achiote tree and is used in Hispanic & Caribbean cooking for color and flavor. I work at the Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston and we sell annotto, so that was easy for me. If you cannot find it near you,  we also sell it on our website. Once you have the paste made, then you make the marinade. Because of  the pineapple juice in the marinade, you do not want the meat to marinate more than 4-6 hours. Then you cook the slices of meat and pineapple and serve them the same way I described above. I usually serve them with lime slices and sometimes crema (Mexican table cream).

Tacos Al Pastor

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for cooking, or home rendered pork lard
  • One 1-ounce package achiote paste (or make your own, see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 4 chipotles in adobo sauce (you can also freeze what is left in the can for another time)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then into 1/2-inch-wide strips and then in 1/2 inch chunks
  • 12 fresh 6-inch white corn tortillas
  • 1 red onion, 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 a fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, 1/2-inch dice (0r you can use chunky canned pineapple)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves coarsely chopped
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled, for serving
  • Hot sauce, creama and lime quarters


Method:

Puree 3/4 cup of the pineapple juice, the vegetable oil or lard, achiote paste, adobo sauce, chipotles, garlic and salt in a food processor. Mix the pineapple juice mixture with the pork in a freezer bag and move around to coat. Marinate the pork in the fridge, 1 to 3 hours.

Preheat a cast-iron skillet or grill to medium-high heat. *Note: if you are doing this on a grill, leave the meat in strips and then chop after cooking. Lightly oil the skillet and add the tortillas, toasting, about 30 seconds per side. Remove the tortillas and store in a towel to keep warm.

Raise the heat under the skillet to high and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or lard. Remove the pork from the bag and wipe off any excess pineapple juice mixture. Cook the pork in batches, until charred and cooked through.

Remove the pork from the skillet. Add half of the onions and the fresh pineapple and quickly cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup pineapple juice and the chopped pork back to the skillet with the juices.

Place the pork, pineapple and onion mixture in the tortillas. Top with the remaining onions, cilantro, cotija and hot sauce.

Home made Achiote Paste

Ingredients

    • 6 tablespoons annatto seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted black pepper corns
    • 5 allspice berries (these can also be toasted)
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt (I use smoked salt)
    • A pinch of nutmeg
    • 6  whole cloves
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • Juice & zest of 3 limes or lemons
    • Enough olive oil to make the paste (about 1/4 cup)

Directions

  1. Put all spices and dry ingredients into a spice grinder, and grind until you have a fine powder.
  2. Take the powder and put it into the  bowl of a food processor and add the garlic, lemon juice, zest and the olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a thick paste which binds together, in a putty like consistency.
  3. Separate into Tablespoon size portions and freeze individually.
  4. When you want to use it, you can mix the TB size portion with 10 cloves of garlic crushed, and 1/2 cup of 50/50 orange juice & lemon juice and marinate pork or chicken overnight.
  5. Some recipes say to add tequila, but that is an Americanization of this Yucatecan specialty. However, I have done it and it is good.

*NOTE* Annato seeds are very, very hard, and are difficult to grind with a mortar and pestle, use the grinder or it won’t make a paste. They DO, and WILL stain your grinder, and anything you happen to spill it on, be careful. You can double, or multiply this recipe as you wish, and I usually make enough for a year’s worth at a time. It freezes well.

Prickly Pear Sorbet

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This recipe is quite simple. You will need an icecream maker of some kind, but even the very inexpensive ones work well for this. You will also need a fine sieve.

8 Prickly Pears (they call these Tuna) in Mexican markets. They come in yellow, orange and pink. My favorite is pink.

1 cup of simple syrup (half water/half sugar till sugar melts) or light agave syrup. Sometimes I put fresh mint in the syrup too.

Juice of three limes

1/4 cup raspberry liqueur  such as Framboise. This step can be eliminated if you do not want the liquor.

Often times you can find these pears growing wild and in gardens. In Mexico they also candy them. In Italy they are used to make gelato ad sorbet in the fall.

When making your simple syrup, you can add spices, in this case I used one cardamom pod, mint, a cinnamon stick and 3 star anise. These just flavor the syrup slightly.

Using a fork, cut off the ends of the prickly pear. Commercial pears like you would find in a hispanic grocery will have the little prickles removed. If you harvest them your self, you will need to be more careful. Hold the fork on one end, stand the pear on the other end and using a sharp knife cut just the skin from the pear. Then cut into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pour in the simple syrup, lime and liqueur. Pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Strain carefully, there are a lot of seeds inside. Cool the mixture.

Process as you would in any ice cream or gelato machine. Pack tightly in freezer containers. It will be ready to eat within a couple of hours.

Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Golden Beets and Corn)

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Empanadas de Betabel 

I love roasted beets. When I was doing research for an Oaxacan Dinner Party I had on Saturday, I found saw a recipe in Susana Trilling’s great Oaxacan cookbook Seasons of My Heart.  Her recipe for Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Beets) stood out to me. The recipe also incorporated fresh corn which I had also planned to use for the party. Her method was to boil the beets  I roasted mine. In her recipe the empanadas were cooked on a camal. I did them on a camal for the dinner party, but last night I had some oil in a pan because I was making enchiladas, so I fried them and I think they actually came out better fried. On the night of the party I also paired them with home made Mole Verde, last night I just squiggled on a little crema and tossed on some cilantro. I used golden beets because that is what was available grown locally. I am sure red beets would change the color of the filling significantly. These can be made with or without cheese… but I really love cheese. I added a few things to her original inspiration and lessened the cooking time for the filling.

For the filling:

 1 pound of fresh beets (I used golden because that is what was locally available)

1 medium white onion, finely chopped (I like to use red onions, but white onions are used in Mexico most of the time)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons garlic finely minced

Corn cut from 3 fresh ears of corn, about 2 cups (In a pinch you could use frozen)

¼ cup fresh roasted green chiles diced (you could use canned, but fresh is so much better)

1 teaspoon smoked salt (sea salt is fine, I make smoked salt and love the flavor)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ cup fresh epazote leaves chopped (you can substitute cilantro or parsley if you cannot find fresh epazote, but the flavor will be different)

12 ounces quesillo shredded (if you cannot find quesillo, any good white melting cheese works, such as Jack, Gouda or Manchego)

For the masa:

3 cups masa harina

2 cups chicken stock

¼ teaspoon of salt

A pinch of chili powder

METHOD FOR THE FILLING:

Wrap the beets in heavy duty foil with a few garlic cloves and drizzle on some olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pull or cut off the skin. Then dice into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.

In an 8 inch frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the oil and butter till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the corn kernels & chiles and cook for another 3-5 minutes more.  Add the seasonings, beets, salt, pepper and epazote. Cook for a few minutes just to blend flavors. Put the filling in a bowl and cool slightly till you can put the mixture in your hands.

Have the shredded cheese available in a second bowl.

METHOD FOR THE MASA:

Pre-heat a comal or griddle over medium heat

Mix the stock and seasonings into the masa. You want a soft slightly wet dough, wetter than for tortillas. Knead for about 1 minute. Divide the dough into 10 balls, slightly larger than a golf ball. Using a tortilla press, put a piece of a plastic shopping bag on the bottom of the press and then place the ball of dough and top with a second piece of plastic. Press down wiggling the handle a bit to flatten the dough. Pick the circle (looks just like a tortilla at this point) up in your hand and while cradling it fill it with about 3 tablespoons of cheese, then 2 tablespoons of the beet and corn filling. Seal the edges with water and pinch all the way around.

To cook the empanadas; place on a hot comal and allow to brown on each side for about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately or keep warm in a warming oven. I served these with green mole and crema.


Alternative;  have about 1 inch of oil in a small frying pan at medium heat and fry the empanadas, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with a drizzle of crema and fresh chopped cilantro.