Botana de Chicharrón con Salsa Verde

Mexico is a very nose-to-tail consumer when it comes to eating animals; like in many other developing countries, and often motivated by economic circumstances in an effort to use the whole animal and not leave much—if any—waste, there are a lot of delicious and unique foods that have come out of this scrappiness. One of these simple delicacies is chicharrón, made of fried pork skins. 

Botana de chicharrón con salsa verde

This botana, or appetizer, of chicharrón served with salsa verde is very typical in Mexico. Generally, these pork skin cracklings are made by boiling the skin, hanging it to dry, then deep frying it in hot oil until the skin puffs up. They’re by no means a healthy snack, so should be eaten in moderation, but they’re a guilty pleasure worth the indulgence.

They’re not quite the same as processed food pork rinds or pork cracklings you might find in a potato chip-like bag in the supermarket. For that reason, it’s best to buy them from your local carnicería or near the butcher’s counter in any Mexican market.

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Calabacitas con elote

Calabacitas con elote is a traditional Mexican side dish, typically baked in the oven in a casserole dish or olla de barro. But I’m giving it a summer makeover by cooking it in easy-to-make foil packets for the grill. We’re spending tons of time outside with family and friends now that summer grilling season is here and this is a great dish to take to any parillada!

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and the California Milk Advisory Board.  The recipe and opinions are my own.

calabacitas_con_elote_TOSOTT

This vegetarian dish is one of my favorites for serving as a quick dinner side dish as well as for taking to parrilladas (barbeques) that are typically full of meats but lacking enough veggies. If I’m making it for just the two of us, I refrigerate half the recipe and grill it later in the week so that it’s fresh off the grill at dinnertime.

Now that we live in California and have such a variety of fresh, local dairy, produce and meats available to us year-round thanks to the climate, I’ve been consciously trying to eat more locally (and by that, I mean seeking out locally grown produce at the farmers markets and other foods made in my new home state). California is the country’s leading producer of Hispanic dairy products, which are sold nationally, and is the nation’s second largest producer of cheese. In fact, California produces more than 25 kinds of Hispanic cheeses and many other dairy products. A Real California Milk seal means your dairy products are made from 100 percent California milk.

This is what the calabacitas should look like inside the foil packet when it’s done or almost done cooking:

calabacitas_con_elote_grill_packet_TOSOTT… 

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Alambre de la Patrona

I haven’t written much here about my favorite taquería in Chicago, La Lagartija, but have always widely recommended the place to anyone who asked me in person, on Facebook or Twitter about where to get an authentic Mexican meal in my hometown. I wasn’t exactly trying to keep it a secret, but it’s definitely a gem and I always appreciated the neighborhood charm and the way that the meseras and owners always remembered us and greeted us like family. I have so many photos stowed away of memorable meals we ate there, and it was the only place in Chicago where we’d regularly eat tacos al pastor.

But one of my favorite standby meals there, the alambre de la patrona, is both succulent and super easy to recreate at home. The owners are from Mexico City, and this dish on their menu is actually a version of a popular dish at one of our favorite taquerías in Mexico City, El Charco de las Ranas. This dish is sometimes known as alambre de chuleta and is best served with warm tortillas, but you can skip the tortillas if you like and just eat it with a fork.

alambre_de_la_patrona_tacos… 

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Salsa mexicana for one

I often get asked how to make pico de gallo by my non-Mexican friends and, sometimes, new readers here. If you’re a regular reader or you know me personally, you probably know where this is going. In our house, pico de gallo is not the typical fresh salsa you may be familiar with, made of tomato, onion and cilantro. Instead, pico de gallo is a snack made with jicama, red onion, cucumber, orange, serrano chile, lime juice and sprinkled with Tajín. So, if you come to my house and ask for some pico de gallo, now you know what to expect.

What a lot of people call pico de gallo, though, we call salsa mexicana. And it’s extremely easy to make! To be clear, in most places if you ask for pico de gallo, the recipe below is what you’ll get. Since I’ve been asked several times in the last week how to make this easy, fresh salsa, I decided I might as well share it here for anyone who doesn’t already know how to make it. It’s easy to assemble in a big batch because you can play with the amounts of each ingredient to taste, but it’s a little more difficult to get it right when making a very small batch for only one or two people for a single meal, so I’ve provided directions below for the portions that I use.

A note, first: The chile is optional. I always put it in my salsa mexicana, but you don’t have to if you’re averse to spicy food. Or, if you want to go kind of half-way with it, you can cut a serrano chile open, remove the seeds and veins and chop it very finely. If you do that, you may still want to use half of the suggested portion and add more to taste as you can tolerate. But if you leave it out all together, just increase the amount of cilantro to taste. You’ll still have a nice salsa and no one will know anything is missing.

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VEGETARIAN: Tacos de hongo, chile poblano y cebolla

I’ve really been wanting to reduce the amount of meat we eat on a daily basis in order to be a bit healthier. I love veggies and don’t mind vegetarian meals, but when you live with a serious carnivore, it’s sometimes really difficult to convince them that a vegetarian meal is a) good and b) filling enough to be a meal and not just an appetizer.

Sometimes the mere mention of serving a vegetarian meal summons an apocalyptic response in my household. If you can’t get your family to eat a full vegetarian meal, this dish makes a great appetizer to ease them into enjoying it; just double or triple the recipe depending on how many people you’re feeding. They may soon see that an all-veggie meal isn’t so bad after all.

And if you’re truly desperate to get them to eat veggies, you can always add a little crumbled chorizo to this dish. It’s not meatless, but hey, at least they’re eating veggies, right? (You could also attempt to substitute soyrizo for chorizo if you’re brave, but I can’t be held responsible if they figure you out and throw chanclas at you.)

Regardless, whether you’re vegetarian, trying to get your family to eat less meat or just trying to observe meatless meals during Lent, this is a quick and easy recipe you’re bound to enjoy.

I like to use baby portabellas for this recipe, but you can use  just about any kind of regular-sized mushroom you like so long as you slice them somewhat thickly so that when they saute with the onions and butter, they don’t shrink too much or get too thin when they’re fully cooked…. 

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Chorizo casero

I always used to buy chorizo prepackaged or from the butcher because I thought it would be too hard to make at home. After months of wondering, I finally decided to delve in and give it a shot. The results were fantastic! Now that I know how incredibly easy it is to do on my own, I’ll think twice next time I reach for a package of chorizo in the grocery store.

A lot of people think of Spanish chorizo when they read chorizo in an ingredient list, and though Mexican chorizo is different, it’s equally delicious. Spanish chorizo is a hard sausage-like cured meat (think similar to a cured hard salami), and Mexican chorizo is a soft sausage-like meat, almost like a breakfast sausage patty if you broke it up into little bite-size pieces.

I love to use chorizo in a variety of ways: anything from breakfast dishes such as huevo con chorizo, to snacks such as queso fundido, to spicing up vegetables in dishes such as calabacitas rellenas. It’s also great as a topper to tostadas or sopes.

I used a blend of three chiles to make my chorizo slightly spicy and also some chopped onion and garlic to give it the right texture. The vinegar helps with giving the meat the signature crumble of Mexican chorizo.

Chorizo Casero | Homemade Chorizo

Chorizo Casero | Homemade Chorizo

My chorizo recipe was recommended by the New York Times Diner's Journal in December 2011.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cups of water (for soaking the chiles)
  • 4 chile guajillo
  • 3 chile de arbol
  • 1 chile ancho
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 quarter-inch thick slice of white onion (one slice will go in food processor; other will be finely chopped)
  • 7 large garlic cloves (reserve 2 for later)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Nakano rice vinegar

Instructions

  1. Bring two cups of water to a boil and remove from heat. Tear off the chile stems and soak the chiles for at least an hour or until completely soft. When the chiles are soft, remove them from the water, drain, and discard all the water. Do not remove the seeds from the chiles.
  2. Place the chiles, oregano, salt, pepper, one quarter-inch thick slice of onion and five cloves of garlic into the food processor or blender. Run for 5-10 seconds. Add the apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar. Reseal top of food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is a smooth paste.
  3. In a glass mixing bowl, add the ground pork and make a well in the middle of the meat. Add half of the chile mixture and gently work it into the meat. Add the second half and repeat.
  4. In the food processor add the two remaining garlic cloves and pulse a few times so that it's roughly chopped. Add to the meat and chile mixture.
  5. Finely chop the second quarter-inch thick slice of onion. Add to meat and mix well to incorporate.
  6. Transfer the chorizo to an airtight container or a plastic zippered bag and store in the refrigerator for four to six days. It needs that time to cure and for the seasoning to mellow out. If you eat it before curing it, it may taste too spicy or too salty, the garlic will be very potent and the vinegar will be strong. If you can bear to leave it alone for six days to cure, it's worth the wait.
  7. After a few days, some liquid will run off the meat, which is completely normal. You can dump it out when you notice it or you can leave it up until you're ready to cook the chorizo. Be sure to discard the liquid either way.
  8. When it's ready to be eaten, just heat a frying man over medium heat, add the chorizo and fry it up until it's crumbly and well-done. Drain over paper towels and use in your favorite dish.

Notes

You can refrigerate cooked or uncooked leftovers for a few days or freeze raw meat in an airtight container or plastic zippered bag for a few weeks.

http://theothersideofthetortilla.com/2011/12/chorizo-casera/
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