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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CROCK-POT COCHINITA PIBIL

When I found out that January was National Slow-Cooking Month, I knew exactly what recipe I was going to adapt first for Crock-Pot cooking. I’ve always wanted to test my theory that cochinita pibil can be done in a slow cooker, so the fact that it was a nationally recognized month-long culinary holiday-of-sorts was the perfect chance to take on the challenge.

And, ahem… Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner, so if you’re planning a party with some Mexican food, this is an easy and delicious way to treat your guests to something new!

Yes, we’ve posted a recipe here before for cochinita, but let me tell you why this one is different. We’re using a different cut of meat (boneless country-style pork ribs), an easy spice mix made from scratch (no achiote paste in brick-form here, amigos), and as with most slow-cooker recipes, you can set it and forget it, making it relatively hassle-free compared to the traditional method of making cochinita. If you’re making it for guests, you can still serve it wrapped in warm banana leaves to impress them. Just check out our original recipe for cochinita pibil for directions on how to heat the banana leaves so they’re pliable.

And finally, we’re not going to serve our cochinita pibil as a taco like you might expect–we’re going to make a version of panuchos Yucatecos instead. In some places, they put the black beans inside the little tortillas and fry it before adding the meat, salsa and any garnishes on top, but we’re going to use a simpler method using small store-bought tostadas. After all, the point of a slow cooker is to make your life easier by letting you spend less time in the kitchen preparing food, so there’s no need to deal with the mess of stuffing and frying your tortillas. Plus, this recipe is a bit healthier because we’re leaving the frying out. If you can’t find small tostadas or picaditas at your grocery store, you can make your own by either heating corn tortillas in the oven until they’re dry and crispy, or you can get the same result by cooking them longer on your comal…. 

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ENCHILADAS VERDES

Last month at my cooking show at the Kenmore Live Studio where I made chilaquiles, I talked about the versatility of salsa verde. I can think of about a dozen uses for this sauce just off the top of my head, so when I make it, I usually make extra so that I can get a few different meals out of it. One of my favorite things to make with salsa verde is enchiladas.

This recipe is so easy to make; great whether you need to feed just a few or a whole family. A few weeks ago, I made these enchiladas for my suegro and he ate three helpings! I laughed and asked him whether they were that good or if he was very hungry and as he was about to take another bite, he said “both!” These are also a favorite of José’s.

If you want to make these vegetarian, you can substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth in the salsa and fill them with cheese instead of chicken.

RECETA:

ENCHILADAS VERDES

FOR SALSA VERDE

  • A little over 1 pound of small tomatillos, husked & thoroughly washed
  • 3-5 serrano chiles (depending how spicy you like it), stems cut off and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 slices of white onion
  • A pinch or two of salt to taste
  • 1-1 ¼ cup chicken broth or water

FOR THE ENCHILADAS

  • 3 cups shredded chicken (2 chicken breasts and some dark meat)
  • 6-7 oz (about ¾ cup) of shredded Chihuahua cheese
  • ½ cup crema Mexicana
  • A dozen corn tortillas
  • Some canola oil for frying the tortillas

To make the salsa:

First, husk and wash the tomatillos. Rinse them well in cool water.

Fill a pot with water (large enough to fit all the tomatillos) and bring to a boil. Put the tomatillos in and cook in the boiling water until the tomatillo flesh begins to get transparent. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos to a blender. Add the onion, garlic and salt. Cut the stems off the serrano chiles and cut each chile into a few pieces so they’re easily chopped in the blender.

Start by adding 2 chiles to the blender with about ¾ of a cup of water or chicken broth and blend on high until smooth and the chiles and tomatillos are completely incorporated. Taste the salsa to see if it’s too hot; if it needs more chile, add them one at a time, blending & tasting the result until you are happy with the level of heat from the chiles. If it seems the salsa is not quite liquid enough, add another ¼ cup of water or chicken broth. The salsa will reduce slightly when cooked.

Pour blender contents into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the salsa boils, occasionally stirring. Remove from heat.

For more on salsa verde, visit my original post on the topic.

You can either make a bone-in chicken breast from scratch or use a store-bought rotisserie chicken if you’re short on time. For bone-in chicken breast and chicken stock, you can just gently boil the chicken on the stove with a pinch or two of salt, a slice of onion and a small spring of cilantro or a few epazote leaves until the meat is cooked through. If you use a rotisserie chicken, buy one that’s low-sodium or barely seasoned. You can pour the juices from the container into a saucepan with a few cups of water and a chicken leg or two.

To make the enchiladas:

Preheat the oven to 350º F (177º C).

Heat a little bit of oil in a frying pan (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan) and lightly fry both sides of the tortilla. Each side will dome up when it’s ready to be turned. Drain on paper towels. Put a bit of the shredded chicken in the center of each tortilla and add a generous pinch of the shredded Chihuahua cheese. Roll them up and place seam-side down in a baking dish.

Spread the crema liberally over the top of the enchiladas and then ladle some salsa over them. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and heat in the oven at 350º for 8-10 minutes to heat through. Then move to the top rack and broil on low until the cheese is completely melted and bubbly, with some brown spots. Remove from the oven. Using a spatula, transfer enchiladas to plates and finish with some extra salsa on top.

Yields 12 enchiladas. There will be some leftover salsa.

  • How do you like your enchiladas?

FRIJOLES CHARROS

frijoles charros

For weeks, José has been bugging me to make his Tía Carola’s frijoles charros. Outside of El Charco de Las Ranas, his favorite taquería in Mexico City, Tía Carola’s frijoles charros are the only ones he has ever raved about.

Until now.

When I asked for the recipe a few weeks ago, it felt like I was playing “teléfono descompuesto” with at least three people – where something surely gets lost every time someone relays the message on to another person. José called his sister, who called his aunt; then his sister called him back and he translated the ingredients to me. Note that he only relayed the ingredient list and not the portions. And he only got a vague set of instructions. Apparently, Tía Carola is not exactly keen on lots of details and also hasn’t made this dish in at least 10 years. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about making this vaunted recipe with such a vague idea of what I was supposed to do.

I returned from the store with a big bag of frijoles pintos (in English: pinto beans). José argued with me that I had bought the wrong beans because they were supposed to be frijoles bayos. I knew that, but couldn’t find them at the store so I settled confidently on a hand-sifted bag of carefully chosen pinto beans. I settled the argument with a quick google search that ended in my favor, which had me secretly feeling proud on the inside that I knew frijoles pintos and frijoles bayos were not the same, but often interchangeable because of their similarities in taste, color and texture ‑ especially in this recipe.

I knew when José argued with me about the beans that he was going to be a tough customer to please. I lit one of my San Judas Tadeo candles (the patron saint of lost causes and desperate situations) and hoped for a culinary Hail Mary pass with my limited instructions and the guesswork lying ahead. I was short on time with no room for mistakes since I was making the frijoles charros for lunch on a weekday and all I had as a backup were some emergency TV dinners in the freezer. Who could have ever imagined there could be so much pressure behind a pot of beans?

As I served the frijoles charros, my stomach was in knots. Would they live up to Tía Carola’s recipe? I waited for the verdict as he savored the first spoonful…. 

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ALBÓNDIGAS EN SALSA CHIPOTLE

This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the Blogalicious Weekend conference at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach in Florida. I had an absolutely incredible time and was inspired by so many of the women I met, but more on that later this week.

albóndigas

The kind folks at Kenmore hosted a pop-up kitchen at the conference and invited me several weeks ago to do a cooking demo using their kitchen. There was one challenge: I had to choose a recipe that could be made only using small appliances.

I thought for several days about what I could make with only access to a blender, a convection toaster oven, a toaster, a stand mixer, an induction pad, a food processor, a coffee maker or teakettle and a slow cooker. It was a tough decision because I really wanted to make rajas con crema, but without a sink and an oven, I didn’t think I could pull it off.

A few weekends ago, my mom was foraging through my refrigerator looking for a snack and I ended up giving her some albóndigas (meatballs) over rice. She loved them so much that she gobbled up the last of what little was left in a Tupperware from a few nights before.

The next day at 7 a.m. – a Sunday – my mom called to tell me she’d been up all night thinking about albóndigas and that she needed my recipe so she could make them herself that day. Seldom in my life has my mom, who is an amazing cook, called me for a recipe – it’s always me calling her. That’s when I decided if they were good enough for mom to call me at 7 a.m. on a Sunday and risk waking me up on the one day a week that I like to sleep in, then the Blogalicious crowd would surely love this recipe, too. If you weren’t able to see it live in Miami, check out the video below of the cooking demo from start to finish.

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Albóndigas are a simple comfort food, easy to make and even easier to eat. Some people like to make their albóndigas bigger so they can accommodate a whole egg filling on the inside. José only likes them without egg, so a few months ago I finally learned this recipe from our family friend, Esmeralda. This is her recipe, so we fondly call it albóndigas estilo Esme (or in English: meatballs, Esme-style) in our house. It’s a simple but traditional Mexican food sure to please the whole family…. 

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