Like so many other ancient cuisines, the food we associate with Mexico is an amalgam of many different cultures who have passed along their culinary traditions over the centuries, plus elements that are unique to the country, such as chili peppers, corn, beans, tropical fruits and vegetables, and even edible flowers, as well as essences including vanilla and chocolate. Europeans contributed meats, cheeses, and a variety of herbs. All of these come together in dishes that are as flavorful as they are popular. A Mexican meal might include corn or flour tortillas with fresh poultry or seafood, tomatoes, onions, cheeses, and the all-important fresh guacamole. Serve with a shot of tequila, a glass of sangria, or a margarita. Buen provecho!
Puntas de Filete en Adobo consists of little pieces of rib-eye steak filets seared in a pan and topped with a red chile adobo sauce. Serve with old-school, slightly mashed black beans and garnish with fresh cheese and cilantro.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle the meat all over with salt. When the oil is very hot, add the meat in an uncrowded single layer and cook, stirring and turning regularly, until browned but still rare inside, 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, scoop the meat onto a plate, leaving behind as much oil as possible.
Pour the rest of the oil into the skillet. When hot, oil-toast the chiles 1 or 2 pieces at a time, until very toasty smelling and blistered, only a few seconds per side. Pour off all but a generous film of oil from the skillet and set aside. Transfer the chiles to a large bowl and measure in 4 cups hot tap water; a small plate on top will keep the chiles submerged. Let rehydrate for about 20 minutes. While the chiles are rehydrating, set a grill pan over medium-high heat (or fire up a charcoal or gas grill) and lay the unoiled onion rounds uncrowded in a single layer. Grill for about 5 minutes per side, until the onions are soft and there are dark grill marks. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces, set aside.
Measure the garlic, oregano, black pepper, cumin, and cloves into a blender or food processor. Pour in the rehydrated chiles, liquid and all (do this in two batches if necessary). Process the mixture to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh strainer set over a bowl.
Set the chile-frying skillet over medium heat. When quite hot, add the chile puree and stir until reduced to the thickness of tomato paste, about 10 minutes. Stir in the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes or so. The finished sauce should be quite brothy in texture, not watery, but just one stage thicker. Season with salt (usually about 1 teaspoon), the vinegar and sugar (usually about 1 tablespoon)-it should be a little sweet-sour with a hint of saltiness.
These are entirely different from the rolled, sauce-drenched enchiladas you might know, with a chili-spiced dough and a half-moon shape perfect for eating with your hands. You can make many of the components of this recipe on their own and use for fresh salads or dips: the guacamole, ensalada fresca, salsa crudo, or salsa for queso are all versatile and delicious.
Makes 54 enchiladas
Add all dry ingredients to stainless steel bowl. Mix by hand and set aside.
In medium saucepan, add oil and let it reach 350 degrees F. Add dry mixture, continuously stirring so paste fries evenly but does not burn. Add a touch of salt; add water. Set to 210 degrees F, occasionally stirring, for 10 minutes, until chiles reconstitute and turn into paste. Let completely cool before using.
Muddle ingredients in a lava rock molcajete or coarsely blend, adding salt if needed. Bring sauce up to a boil, then let simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Work masa with hands, adding chile paste (enchilado) until it’s evenly incorporated into masa.
Hand mix all ingredients in a stainless steel bowl. Set aside for stuffing.
Hand press masa ball (the ball should be about 15 g) into a thin, flattened, circular tortilla on a plastic bag liner. Cook tortilla on a hot flat top. Only cook tortilla on one side. Tortilla should be raw on other side (making it adhesive). Remove tortilla from heat and place about a teaspoon of queso salsero mixture in center. Fold tortilla in half, enclosing the stuffing and pinching the seams. Place back on flattop to dry the masa on both sides and bind the ingredients. Let cool. To finish, lightly pan fry or sear on flat top until both sides are crisp. Note: do not deep fry!
Place all ingredients in blender and puree until silky smooth. Add more salt if needed.
Mix first four ingredients. Drizzle oil, lime juice, and salt to taste. Dress with salsa cruda.
Place garlic and peppers in blender and puree, or muddle with a molcajete. Mash avocados using a large masher in a large stainless bowl.
Add the garlic/chile mixture to the smashed avocado, slowly folding it in. Do not over-mash the avocados. Add garlic/chile mixture in stages, to make sure the guacamole is not too garlicky or spicy. Add lime zest and more lime juice. Salt if needed.
Tamales are traditionally filled with meat, vegetables or cheese and wrapped in a cornhusk which is removed before eating. These tamales take on a sweet twist and are perfect for entertaining. Serve with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and piloncillo crumb.
Makes 25 Tamales
Prepare a pot with water and bring it to boil. Chop chocolate and butter into small pieces and place in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch, then whisk in the egg whites and yolks.
Once the water is boiling, put the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie to melt it. Once melted, add the egg/sugar mixture little by little, whisking constantly until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees F.
Remove and let cool until mixture has a temperature of 38 degrees F. Soak tamale leaves in water in a bowl for at least 10 minutes. Tear a strip from the leave to use as a tie. Have a spoon or a scale to measure the tamale mixture to 4 oz per tamale. Place in middle of tamale leaf. Fold tamale leaf over mixture and press slightly to flatten – but not too much. Fold over other side of leaf and use torn-off strip to tie narrower end of leaf closed.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cook for 15 minutes until they have the texture of a tamale.
Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Instead of your usual shrimp cocktail, try this Mexican version, with tomato aguachile – chile water – that's hiding a secret ingredient: miso. Plus, learn the perfect way to boil shrimp so that they’re never overcooked.
Place 8 cups water in large pot. Add coarse salt, bay leaves, garlic, and lemon halves. Bring to boil over high heat, and boil for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and devein your shrimp.
Place shrimp in a shallow pan. Pour boiling water over the shrimp. Watch the shrimp, just until they turn pink, about 6 minutes. Add a few ice cubes to chill. Once the shrimp is chilled, remove from the water and store until ready to serve.
Serve in a shooter with tomato aguachile. Garnish with fennel fronds.
In a blender, place the chiles, juices, tomatoes, ginger, miso and honey.
Blend over high to combine.
While blending, drizzle in the oil to make an emulsified vinaigrette.
Strain the tomato aguachile and place in a squeeze bottle and chill.
When ready to serve, place about 2 tbsp in a shot glass with shrimp.