Papas gratinadas

To me, wintertime means lots of comfort foods. And pardon the pun, but during the blizzard we had here last week, I was cooking up a storm while I was cooped up inside for three whole days. One of my favorite comfort foods is papas gratinadas, a Mexican version of potatoes au gratin.

I love it so much, in fact, that while I’m writing this, I’m thinking about going to the store for more potatoes so I can make another batch. The last two times I’ve made this dish, it disappeared in less than 24 hours. And my friend Silvia over at Mamá Latina Tips has been asking me to post this recipe for several weeks since I told her I made it because her mom used to make papas gratinadas for her and it’s one of her favorites, too.

These are a great side dish (or, um…an afternoon snack) when you need hearty, warm food to keep you full and fueled to fight the cold outside. Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to make this recipe.

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CROCK-POT FRIJOLES DE OLLA

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I love, love, love the little community we’ve grown on our Facebook fan page. A week or two ago, I posted a question asking fans what their favorite Mexican recipes are that they’ve adapted for crock-pot cooking. Overwhelmed with the number of delicious suggestions, I decided to whip up a batch of slow-cooked frijoles as my final tribute to National Slow-Cooking Month. (Thanks to Tortilla fan Annette for giving us the basic cooking instructions she uses.)

The results were tremendous, so I recorded a video recipe to show you just how I did it. As we’re preparing for a blizzard here in Chicago this week, I’m glad to have leftovers of this hearty, warm bean dish that is great as a snack, a side dish, or a main dish…. 

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Cooking Combat at the Kenmore Live Studio: Chilaquiles

Back in November, I did a cooking show with a live studio audience at the Kenmore Live Studio in Chicago. It was so much fun, I can’t wait to do another! For those who may have missed the show in person or couldn’t watch the live stream online, Kenmore was kind enough to put the show on YouTube so I could share with all of you.

¡Buen provecho!

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AGUA FRESCA: AGUA DE TUNA ROJA

I still remember the first time I saw tunas growing wild – José and I were visiting Mexico City one warm week at the end of the summer several years ago. One afternoon we were bored, so my suegra suggested that José take me on an official tour of Ciudad Universitaria. Also referred to as CU, it is home to the main campus of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (la UNAM or in English, the National Autonomous University of Mexico), the largest university in Latin America and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2007.

This year on September 22, UNAM celebrated 100 years since its founding as the National University of Mexico as it was conceptualized by Secretary and Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts, Justo Sierra, and inaugurated in 1910 by President Porfirio Díaz. The university is also the successor to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, founded by Spanish Royal Decree in 1551 – technically making UNAM one of the oldest universities in the Americas.

On the campus grounds, besides the historic buildings designed by some of Mexico’s most well-known architects, murals and sculptures by famous Mexican artists, an Olympic stadium that has hosted a Summer Olympic Games (1968) and a World Cup (1986), and an impressive number of students, faculty and staff, there exists a serene, green space that is as close to the original land’s flora and fauna as it might have grown freely during the height of the Aztec empire…. 

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HOW TO ROAST POBLANO CHILES

Step-by-step instructions on how to roast poblano peppers using a gas stove, comal or  barbecue grill from theothersideofthetortilla.com

a fresh poblano chile before roasting

Over the years, I’ve been asked many times how to roast poblano peppers. It’s easier than you think, but takes a little bit of time because you have to roast, sweat, peel, seed and devein them to prepare them for use in a dish. Poblano chiles are used for a number of Mexican dishes such as chiles rellenos, chiles en nogada and rajas con crema, to name a few. I can’t think of many dishes I make without roasting the poblano chiles first, which gives them a more robust flavor. Poblano peppers are also called chile poblano, poblano chiles or, in some cases depending on the region, pasilla chiles. (These are not to be confused with the dried pasilla chile.)

I sometimes make the mistake of using my bare hands to peel, devein and remove the seeds of a poblano chile because it doesn’t smell too spicy. Usually each time I do, I get fooled and the back of my hands feel like they’re burning for the rest of the day. A few times, I’ve scratched my forehead only to feel the searing sensation and have a little red raspberry spot to show off my mistake.

You can save yourself from the burn by wearing fitted latex gloves.

There are several methods for roasting chiles. The two ways I prefer are over a direct flame or on a hot comal. Either way, be sure not to burn the meaty flesh of the chile or it will have a bitter taste. With both methods as the skin starts to blister, you’ll hear what sounds like little zaps of electricity or sizzling—that’s normal.

ROASTING POBLANO PEPPERS OVER A FLAME

  • Place 1-2 chiles directly on the stove burners over a medium flame. Turn with kitchen tongs as each side blisters until the skin is toasted and blackened, but it should not blacken so much that it starts to peel or turn into ash. It should take a few  minutes per side and about 10-12 minutes total, depending on how large they are.
  • You can also follow this same method  on a barbecue grill to roast more peppers at once.

ROASTING POBLANO PEPPERS ON A COMAL

  • If you don’t have a comal (a flat, thin, and usually round or oval shaped pan for cooking tortillas), use a cast-iron or heavy non-stick skillet. Heat over medium flame and add 2-3 chiles to the comal. Turn them until the surfaces are toasted and blackened. The amount of time it takes will depend on whether you have a gas or electric stove and the thickness of your comal or skillet.
Step-by-step instructions on how to roast poblano peppers using a gas stove, comal or barbecue grill from theothersideofthetortilla.com

Roasted poblano pepper

HOW TO SWEAT THE CHILES

Place the chiles in a sealed, plastic Ziploc bag to “sweat” for about 15 minutes. (You can also refrigerate the chiles for a day or two after sweating if you are not ready to peel, devein and remove the seeds for use.) Sweating has two purposes: first to remove the skin and then to cook the chile a bit further in its own vapors to acquire the characteristic taste of a freshly roasted chile. Have a bowl or plate ready to hold the skinned chiles.

Put on your latex gloves.

After 15 minutes, open the bag and one at a time, pinch part of the skin so it tears and peel it off. Remove the skins from each chile and transfer them to the bowl or plate you have waiting. Discard the skins.

HOW TO SEED AND DEVEIN POBLANO PEPPERS

To devein and remove the seeds, cut a slit along the side of the chile. Use your fingers to dislodge the seeds. Pull out what you can with your fingers and then using a slow but steady stream of cool water, rinse the inside of the chile. This should flood the rest of the seeds out if you knocked them loose but couldn’t remove them with your fingers.

Feel for any thick veins along the side of the chile. Using a small paring knife (and being careful not to pierce the skin) gently cut the veins away from the skin. Pat the chiles dry with a paper towel to remove any extra moisture inside and out.

Now the chiles are ready to prepare for a dish.

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