Mexican marzipan, known as mazapan, is perhaps one of the simplest candy treats to make. After all, it’s typically only got two ingredients: ground peanuts and powdered sugar. Earlier this week, a friend at work brought me a bag full of mazapanes from her cousin’s trip to Mexico. He had given her too many and so I offered to take some of them off her hands. This simple, traditional candy reminds me of my husband’s abuelita Ana and her sweet, sly smile when she talked about her favorite foods. Her eyes twinkled and she would get this contagious grin that started on one side and slowly spread across her mouth, as if she knew the world’s best secret.
Last summer, I traveled to Aguascalientes to visit José’s abuelita for her 90th birthday. And of the many things I discovered while visiting this centrally-located city (and state), I learned that antojitos are king! Antojitos are like the Mexican cousin to Spanish tapas.
This past week, the Mexico Tourism Board in Chicago began a campaign called “Share Mexico/Comparte México” to educate the public about each of Mexico’s 31 states and the Distrito Federal. Each week will promote a new state and I’ll be blogging about all the states that I’ve visited to share my experiences. The first week is all about Aguascalientes, and I’m so happy to have the chance to share some photos from my trip.
There are several typical antojitos that you’ll see on just about every menu in Aguascalientes. In any lonchería or cenaduría, you’ll find some version of each of these dishes:
Enchiladas estilo Aguascalientes’n – These enchiladas are filled with chicken and cheese, and the tortilla is bathed in a chile mixture and lightly fried (just enough to make it pliable) before they’re stuffed. Usually, they’re topped with lettuce, diced tomato, cheese and crema Mexicana, and served with a generous side of potatoes and carrots, sort of cooked hash brown-style….
This past weekend, I ventured into a different bakery in Pilsen than usual when I decided to stop for some bolillo rolls to make capirotada for the last week of Lent. To my delight, this bakery that I hadn’t visited in several years had a tray of puerquitos – a molasses and cinnamon-flavored cookie cut into the shape of a piggy.
Some of you know I gave up eating processed sugar for Lent, something that has not been easy in a house where we love desserts and pan dulce. I was too weak to resist the temptation, though, and bought one to satisfy the craving. I just needed one little bite and I was immediately reminded of a bakery I visited in Aguascalientes last summer with José’s abuelita Ana. It was adjacent to a charming little restaurant downtown called La Saturnina, a place with cotton candy-pink, purple and cobalt blue painted walls, where she loves to eat breakfast (a place she swears makes the best torrejas in Aguascalientes, in part because of the dark, tangy, molasses-like miel de maguey it’s served with). The bakery, called Panadería Los Angeles, was certainly like a slice of heaven with the scent of sugar, cinnamon and freshly-baked breads wafting through the warm summer air….
This past summer I took a road trip from Mexico City to Aguascalientes with my suegros to celebrate José’s Abuelita Ana’s 90th birthday.
The day before we left Mexico City, my suegros were going on and on about this place we were going to stop for barbacoa for breakfast. I didn’t need to hear anything more; I was sold. Mostly because any time they mention food that’s along the highway, I know it’s going to be good. I can’t quite explain why, but every restaurant I’ve ever been to along the highway in Mexico with them has been practically legendary. It’s fodder for conversation for months – sometimes even years – at the dinner table, family gatherings, via email or phone. Highway food is never forgotten in our family. Many conversations begin with, “remember that time we ate at that little place off the highway?”
Perhaps I never understood what “something to call home about” meant until I ate the world-famous cecina at Cuatro Vientos on the highway to Acapulco just outside of Cuernavaca a few years back. (OK, perhaps it’s not world-famous, but it’s certainly famous within Mexico. It should be world-famous, it is that good.) I’ve explicitly trusted my suegros with steering me toward the best highway road trip food ever since and they haven’t disappointed me yet. So when they told me we were going to have barbacoa de la carretera, my salivary glands were already in overdrive.
We left Mexico City around 6 a.m., and as we got stuck in traffic on the way out of the city I began to drift off in the back seat. When I awoke, we were pulling off the highway and onto a gravel driveway that was packed with cars and people who all had the same motivation as ours: barbacoa for breakfast at Barbacoa Santiago….