Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guacamole, Pickled Onions and Posole

Guacamole is one of those dips that has become the sometime subject of interpretation and at other times, its victim. Some have added delightful surprises while others have ruined perfectly good avocados. I won't mention any names but to me anyone adding blue cheese to to guacamole has not made a marriage so much as she has forged an inharmonious relationship.
I will offer two. One is the traditional sort made with avocados, limes, onions and such whereas the other uses tomatillos as well as avocados, the former lending an interesting citrus-like flavor to the creamy taste and texture of the avocados.


2 large ripe avocados
Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small tomato diced and drained of its resulting juice
1 jalapeno finely minced (optional)
1/4 cup while onion, finely minced
Salt to taste if desired

Halve avocados and remove pit. Scoop out flesh and mash with a fork.
Add the rest of the ingredients and correct for seasoning.

Guacamole con Tomatillos

4 fresh or canned tomatillos
3 canned mild green chilies, seeded. or a seeded serrano or jalapeno if you want more heat.
2 large avocados
1 tablespoon minced onion
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish

If using fresh tomatillos, remove husks, rinse and plunge in boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
Combine chilies and tomatillos in blender and puree.
Halve avocados, remove pit, scoop out flesh and mash with a fork.
Combine avocado with pureed mixture, onions and salt to taste.
Garnish with cilantro.

I am very grateful to my sister for the next two recipes. I had never heard of pickled onions as a topping before she told me she wanted to share the recipe early Monday morning. I'm so glad she did because I want to make this soon.
I'm also glad she shared the recipe for pozole along with its colorful history. For those of you who missed the show, let me tell you that pork was not the original meat used in this dish. It was a celebratory stew prepared after a battle victory that included some choice parts of the slain enemy. I'll never feel the same again when offered a steaming bowl of this ancient delicacy.

Pozole de Chris

6 slices bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces - suggest an applewood smoked or other quality bacon
1 pound pork, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 large onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can or one fresh bag of hominy, drained and rinsed
4 cups + chicken stock
2-4 cups pureed tomatillos
cumin to taste
salt to taste
2 mild chiles - such as poblanos or 1-2 small cans of chopped green chiles
Lime wedges, shredded cabbage, sliced green onion tops, chopped fresh cilantro, salsa, baked or fried tortilla strips for garnish
Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain bacon and reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in heavy saucepan or stockpot. Add pork, onions, and garlic to grease and saute until meat is lightly browned - about 10 minutes. Add hominy, chicken stock, tomatillos, seasonings, bacon and chiles. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered for about an hour. Add more stock or water as necessary to maintain a stew-like consistency.
Serve posole ladled into bowls with garnishes available on the side for individual tastes.

One of the garnishes for the above dish might be Chris's pickled onions.

Chris' Pickled Onions

yield: 1 1/3 cups (it never hurts to double or triple the recipe!)
1 small (6 oz) red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vinegar
Parboil the onion - place the onion slices in a saucepan with salted water to cover, bring to a boil, let boil 1 minute, then remove from the heat and drain.
Coarsely grind the peppercorns and cumin in a mortar or spice grinder, then add to saucepan, along with remaining ingredients. Pour in just enough water to cover the onions, bring a boil over medium heat, time 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a non corrosive bowl. Let stand several hours before using. Will keep in fridge for weeks.

On the show Monday, I mentioned the Mexican restaurant down the street from our old place in Santa Monica. The food was always good, reasonable and the Margaritas always potent.
I think I always ordered the same thing on our frequent visits: Cheese Enchiladas en Mole'.
The mole sauce used was the traditional Mole Poblano, a mixture of chilies, ground seeds and chocolate. I use the readily available jars of mole' paste found in the Hispanic section of the supermarket or, better yet, go to your local Latin American market and discover some of the other wonderful things offered while picking up your jar of mole' paste. Before I proceed with the recipe, let me tell you that Jim and I were once so fond of this that we would, on trips to Baja, make it a point to pick up gallon jars of the stuff at the market before we headed home.

Cheese Enchiladas en Mole'

1 jar mole' poblano paste
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 dozen corn tortillas
1/2 pound Monterrey Jack or Mild Cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup minced onion

To make the sauce:
Pour oil that floats on top paste into a medium heated skillet. Fry paste for about 3 minutes and then slowly add broth making sure to break up any pieces of the paste to make a smooth sauce.
Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350f
Heat about a 1/4 inch of oil in a small skillet and one at a time, fry briefly on both sides the tortillas until softened.

In a 9x13" baking pan, smear bottom lightly with a ladle of the sauce and set aside.
Place some cheese and a sprinkling of onions on a tortilla about 1/3 from the bottom and roll up.
Place seam side down in the prepared pan. Proceed in the same manner with the remainder of the tortillas.
Spoon enough sauce over the tortillas to cover completely.
Sprinkle cheese over top and cover with foil.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted.
Serve with sour cream and sliced avocado if desired.

I have some very bittersweet memories of living in Houston. It was a hard time much of the time and the first place that I ever really knew what it was like to be hungry, to go to bed hungry and to be just this side of eating some stranger's leftovers in a cafeteria. I'll confess, it wasn't my pride which prevented me but fear of getting caught. So how was it that I could be surrounded by food while I was cooking in a restaurant and, at the same time, be so hungry? I'll just say this: if you ever want to go on an extreme diet, work in a restaurant kitchen from 11pm til 7 the next morning.
The last thing you'll want is food. The sweet part of this story is the things I learned to cook.
While working the graveyard shift at the restaurant, I was introduced to Mexican chorizo, a sausage of pork, spices and vinegar. We made a dish called Breakfast Tacos, a combination of fried potatoes, eggs and chorizo. Once I left that job, I started making it for myself and haven't stopped since.

Breakfast Tacos

2 large russet potatoes, diced
1 pound fresh chorizo
6 eggs, beaten
Toppings of choice such as, grated cheese, sour cream, salsa or hot sauce, sliced avocado.

Heat oil in large skillet and add potatoes turning as they brown. When done, move them to back of pan and crumble in chorizo, frying and turning until done.
Move chorizo to back of skillet with potatoes.
Tilt skillet forward to drain oil to front. (You may need to add some more.)
Pour in beaten eggs and move them around to scramble.
Mix all ingredients in the pan together and serve with softened tortillas and toppings.

I related my first introduction to Pumpkin Empanadas on Monday's show and thought about how long it had been since I'd had one. Today I will remedy that. I hope you'll get around to making these treats. A great finish to a Mexican meal or a start to a Sunday morning.

Pumpkin Empanadas

For the filling:
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cups brown sugar (or 3 piloncillo, available at Mexican markets)
1/2 teaspoon anise seed or ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Cool.

For the pastry dough:

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup cold butter cut up into small pieces
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup ice water

Preheat oven to 400f
Sift together four and sugar and work in butter with pastry blender.
Beat together yolk and water and gradually add to flour and mix well.
Divide dough into two balls and rolling each thin on a lightly floured board. Cut into 4-inch circles.
Fill each circle with about 1 tablespoon of filling, fold in half, pinch edges to seal and flute.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet, brush with lightly beaten egg whites and bake for 15 minutes.

The last recipe, this week's Quick Fix, takes us back to that restaurant in Houston where I met my first undocumented Mexican workers who were washing dishes and living the American dream on top of each other in crammed apartments.
On my first day cooking, one of the dishwashers came and told me that the guys were going on their break and wanted breakfast. When I asked him what he wanted, he informed me that he and his co-workers would be making their own breakfast. This is not done. Well, it's not done in any restaurant I ever worked in. In my experience, the dishwasher is allowed in the cook's area to bring dishes, pots and pans. Before my head exploded, I was told by the other cooks that they were allowed to make their own food. I got off my high horse and watched.
Years later, I still make what I like to call Dishwasher Eggs.

Dishwasher Eggs

Leftover chile con carne
Grated cheddar cheese
Toppings of your choice such as minced onion, avocado slices, salsa or hot sauce.

For each serving:
Reheat your favorite chile.
Soften two tortillas in oil and place on a plate.
Fry two eggs any style you wish and place on tortillas.
Ladle chile over eggs and top with cheese and toppings of your choice.

Happy Cinco de Mayo and Mother's Day!
Next Monday it's all about pizza!

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