Papadzules

Papadzules

 

Papadzules are the Yucatan’s extraordinarily delicious and irresistible breakfast enchiladas. Freshly made corn tortillas are dipped into a toasted pumpkin seed sauce and filled with hard cooked eggs and finished with additional sauce and a Yucatecan spicy salsa de jitomate! The nuanced flavors of the Yucatan’s pre-Colombian Mayan cuisine will all be revealed within the very first bite.

There are several components and perhaps some unfamiliar ingredients used for this recipe, but the preparations will allow you time to immerse yourself in the flavors and techniques that make the food of the Yucatan so unique. I find working away in the kitchen is a perfect time to let your thoughts wander and savor the journey as well as ending up with a meal that has a story of its own to tell.

There are a couple of ingredients that are Yucatan specific that may be hard to find, but I have included alternatives that reflect the intended flavor.

Epazote

Epazote

Epazote is especially popular with cooks in the Yucatan. It is a wild herb with a slightly astringent resinous flavor that is best used fresh, although dried is perfectly acceptable. It is an acquired taste, but pairs well when cooked with beans as well as soups and stews. Available fresh in some Latin markets or dried online. It is also easy to grow if you become a fan. An alternative flavor combination is provided in the recipe.

Habanero chile

Habanero chile

The Yucatan is the largest exporter of Habanero chiles in the world. The Habanero is a relatively small chile but packs a wallop of heat, so

beware! That said, the slightly sweet fruity flavor of this chile counterbalances the heat just a bit. Available fresh as well as dried, although they can be hard to find. A reasonable substitute would be several small fresh red Thai chiles.

For authenticity I have referenced Diana Kennedy’s recipe for Papazules from her wonderful book The Cuisines of Mexico first published in 1972.

 

Papadzules   serves 4

Have on hand:

  • Freshly made corn tortillas (or packaged)
  • 4 hard cooked eggs

Prepare ahead:

Yucatecan Salsa de Jitomate

  • 4 plump vine ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • ½ head garlic
  • 1 red Habanero chile, or 4 medium size fresh Thai red chiles
  • 1 teaspoon of salt or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil

This salsa can be made well in advance and stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Brush the whole tomatoes, onion, garlic. and the small red chiles (if substituting for the Habanero chile) with oil and place on the grill, or stove top grill, and roast until the skin is evenly charred on all sides. Then transfer the tomatoes, onion, and garlic to a baking tray and place in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. Remove the garlic after about 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

Place the charred chiles in a small bowl and seal with clingfilm and set aside to sweat.

When the tomatoes and onion are fully roasted and quite soft remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When they are cool remove the charred skin from the tomatoes, cut in half and remove the seeds and cores. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and crush them using your hands. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and add them to the tomatoes.
Remove the outer skin of the onion, chop the onion finely and add it to the tomatoes.

Finally remove the charred skin from the small chiles, slit open lengthwise, and remove all the seeds. Then dice the chiles and add them to the tomatoes.

If you are using a fresh Habanero chile I would suggest using gloves to avoid a lingering burning sensation on your fingers from the capsaicin residue. Open the Habanero chile and remove the seeds, finely mince the chile, and add it to the bowl of the tomatoes.

Smash the tomatoes, garlic onions and chiles together to release all the juices. Then place a large skillet over medium high heat and add the peanut oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the tomato salsa mixture and fry for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the salsa juices have reduced and the salsa has thickened. Season with salt to taste and set aside to cool. You can then store the salsa in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Broth for the pumpkin seed sauce

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 large sprigs fresh epazote
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

If epazote sprigs are not available substitute:

  • 3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds 
  • coriander root

Place the water in a saucepan along with the epazote, including the stems, and the salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. If epazote is not available add the parsley, oregano, fennel seeds, coriander root, and salt to the water and simmer for 15 minutes.

Allow the broth to cool. Then strain the broth and set aside to use later.

Toasted Pumpkin Sauce

  • 6 oz/ 170g unsalted green pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted and finely ground
  • broth

Place the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet set over medium heat. Keep the seeds in motion so they toast evenly without loosing their green color. Once the seeds begin to pop keep turning the seeds until they are evenly toasted. Promptly transfer the seeds to a tray to cool.

When the seeds are completely cool transfer them to a spice grinder and grind into a flour like powder. You will have to do this in batches and be sure to shake the grinder so the seeds are evenly ground. Place all the ground seeds in a wide shallow dish.

Then sprinkle about ¼ cup of the both over the ground seeds. Using a silicone spatula mound the damp seed mixture together until it binds together in a mound on one side of the dish. Prop the dish up on one side so it is slightly inclined with with mound of damp seeds on the elevated side of the dish.

Begin compressing the seed mixture with the spatula and you will see pumpkin seed oil appearing and flowing to the lower side of the dish. Diana Kennedy explains in her recipe that the oil is then used to decorate the Papadzules just before serving. This step is entirely up to you. The collected oil will be about 2 tablespoons. If you don’t want to bother with this step just mound the seed paste together and transfer it to a small saucepan.

Add some of the broth to the saucepan and stir it into the seed mixture until the mixture is quite fluid. Place the saucepan over medium low heat and stir continuously while the sauce heats up, without actually boiling, and begins to thicken. At this point it is important to stir continuously as the sauce will otherwise stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch.

Once the sauce is slightly thick you can blend the sauce with a hand held blender until the sauce is very smooth, adjusting the consistency by adding additional broth as needed. Ideally the sauce should resemble thick cream.

The best way to hold the sauce until you are ready to assemble the Papazules is to transfer the sauce to a stainless mixing bowl set over a pot of nearly simmering water; a ban marie kind of arrangement. This will keep the sauce from curdling as it tends to do if it is held over direct heat. Keep the remaining broth on hand to stir into the sauce if it begins to dry out or curdle.

Assembling the Papadzules for serving. Traditionally Papadzules are served warm rather than hot.

Gather all the components together for easy assembly. Be sure the sauce is warm and slide a tortilla through the sauce to coat. Do this quickly as you do not want the tortilla to get soggy. Promptly place the tortilla on a plate, scatter the chopped egg over the inner surface, and roll the tortilla to encase the chopped egg filling.

Place 2 filled tortillas on a plate for each serving. Spoon additional pumpkin seed sauce over the filled tortillas, and then spoon the salsa diagonally over the sauced Papadzules. Garnish with fresh epazote leaves if available, or with fresh oregano leaves as pictured.

Buen proveche !

Other recipes from the Yucatan you may want to try:

Pollo Pibil (click here)

Cochinita Pibil (click here)

Chinese Long Noodle Soup

Chinese Long Noodle Soup

 

 

2019 is The Year of the Pig in the Chinese Zodiac and calendar. The pig symbolizes wealth and good fortune which bodes well for the year ahead!

In China the New Year is a week long holiday where families either return home to celebrate or seize the opportunity to travel together during holiday. Tens of thousands of visitors from mainland China will be arriving here in Thailand as I write to join in the local celebrations. Here in Chiang Mai both locals and tourists alike will be flocking to Kad Luang Market, also known as Talat Worarot, to stock up on local products of every description for the coming celebrations. The market is also adjacent to one of several Chinese temples here in Chiang Mai where throngs of local celebrants will gather on the eve of the New Year to usher in a year of prosperity, happiness, and auspiciousness.

 

 

Of course food plays a big part in the Chinese New Year festivities including many traditional dishes with symbolic significance. A typical New Year’s meal “nian ye” may include as many as twelve or more dishes including spring rolls, dumplings, steamed fish, steamed chicken, assorted rice cakes, hot pots, and noodle dishes. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds awaits.

Having picked up freshly made long noodles, dried Chinese mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, Hong Kong kale, fresh ginger root, an assortment of spices, herbs, shaoxing rice wine, Chinkiang black vinegar, and dried chiles in the old market this morning, a simple long noodle soup is now in the making. I’m by no means claiming authenticity here, but a long noodle soup, the long noodles being a symbol of longevity are, in spirit at least, what you might find included in a Chinese New Year’s meal. Otherwise this is a simple healthy Chinese noodle soup that you can make with a dash of longevity thrown in to enjoy anytime of the year!

Ingredients can be found in most Asian markets, in some super markets, or online. If you enjoy Asian food these staple ingredients are a must to have tucked away in your pantry.

 

 

Chinese Long Noodle Soup  serves 4 to 6

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, poached
  • 4 ½ oz/128 g long noodles, fresh or dried
  • 1 ½ quarts/ 1 ½ liters ginger flavored chicken stock
  • 2 oz/57 g Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 4 oz/ 113 g fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 bunch young kale (Hong Kong kale), center ribs removed and leaves sliced
  • 1 bunch Chinese cabbage or mustard greens, leaves and tender part of the stems sliced
  • 1 bunch Chinese celery, leaves separated and stems sliced
  • 1 or 2 whole dried red chile pods (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (or medium dry sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce + more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Chinkiang Chinese black vinegar
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground Sichuan pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon 5 spice powder (optional)
  • 1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
  • lemon balm leaves (optional)
  • Sichuan chili bean sauce (optional condiment)
  • chili oil (optional condiment)

Place a saucepan half full of water on the stove top set over medium heat. Add a bay leaf, some salt, and a few peppercorns, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer a few minutes and then add the chicken breasts. Once the water comes back to a boil lower the heat to a simmer and cook the breasts for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid, and set aside to cool undisturbed. Once completely cool, pull the chicken apart into bite size pieces and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan full of water to a rolling boil and add salt. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and using tongs toss the noodles so they do not stick together while cooking. Cook until the noodles are al dente; about 4 minutes for fresh noodles or 10 to 12 minutes for dried noodles. Drain the noodles and set aside in a bowl to use later.

Place the stock in a wide pot ( a Dutch oven is ideal) on the stove top over low heat. If using a regular stock add several slices of fresh ginger root and simmer for 30 minutes. Then remove and discard the ginger. Reduce the heat to keep the stock warm while you prepare other ingredients.

Place the dried Chinese mushrooms in a small sauce pan and add water to just cover. Bring to a low simmer and cook until the mushrooms are nicely softened. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, thinly slice the mushrooms and set aside to use later. Pour the cooking water into the pot with the stock.

Slice the fresh mushrooms thinly. Heat a medium skillet on the stove top and add the peanut oil.Toss in the the garlic and stir until the oil is flavored with the garlic. Then remove the garlic and discard. Add the sliced fresh mushrooms and stir continuously until the mushrooms have wilted and softened. Season with a little salt and continue to saute. When just lightly colored add the reserved dried mushrooms and stir until well combined. Then add the combined mushrooms to the pot with the stock. Bring the stock to a simmer and add the sliced kale and Chinese cabbage leaves and stems, the celery leaves and stems, and the whole dried chiles if using. Add the Shaoxing rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, Chinkcang black vinegar, sea salt and ground Sichuan pepper, sugar, 5 spice powder if using, and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning to you liking and then stir in the sliced spring onions and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the pulled poached chicken and stir into the soup and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the whole dried chiles if used and discard. The soup is now ready for serving.

Serving:

Place portions of the noodles in individual soup bowls and ladle the soup over the noodles. Garnish with the lemon balm leaves (if using), and serve.

Place the Sichuan chili bean sauce and the chili oil on the table (if using)

Red Sweetcorn Salsa Fresca on soft taco

Red Sweetcorn Salsa Fresca on soft taco

 

Siam red ruby sweet corn is once again showing up in the markets here in Chiang Mai. A real treat that reminds me of all the colorful native varieties of corn you find in markets all over Mexico. Yellow and blue corn are commonplace throughout the Americas these days, but there are as many as 60 colorful heirloom varieties of native Mexican corn that are still found in regional markets across the country. Unfortunately there is the looming threat of GMO conglomerates that are attempting to control seed distribution with exclusive patenting. This is a very contentious issue for farmers and consumers alike globally. Hopefully GMO conglomerates will be regulated and the patenting of seeds will be curtailed if heirloom seeds by right are to survive for future generations.

Siam Ruby Red Sweetcorn

Siam Ruby Red Sweetcorn

That said, having access to heirloom varieties of locally grown produce is every cooks ideal.
In this case I decided to make a simple salsa fresca that lets the crisp flavor and texture of the locally grown Siam Ruby Red sweetcorn shine while  pairing beautifully with  a variety of savory dishes.

 

Red Sweetcorn Salsa Fresca      makes about 2 cups

  • 2  ears red sweetcorn with husk intact (or other available variety)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, skin on
  • 2 plump jalapeno chiles
  • 2 vine ripe Roma tomatoes (or equal volume of ripe cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure mild red chile powder or paprika
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

 

I like to steam the corn undisturbed in the husk for about 15 minutes. The husk encasing the corn preserves the flavor of the corn and softens the kernels just enough so that they still retain a crunch and bust with flavor when eaten.

teaming Ruby Red Sweetcorn

Steaming Ruby Red Sweetcorn

I use a bamboo steamer, but any steaming arrangement will do. Cover and steam the corn for about 15 minutes, and then set aside to cool.

When the corn is cool enough to handle remove the husks and silk and discard. If you are using red corn you will notice some staining on your hands, but not to worry, the stains will wash off with soap and water.

With one hand holding the corn upright centered in a deep bowl, cut the kernels off the cob using a serrated knife in the other hand. The kernels tend to fly about, so the deeper the bowl the better for containing straying kernels.

Remove outer layer of the onion and cut into thick rounds. Place a dry skillet on the stove top over medium heat. Brush the onion rounds with a little oil and place in the skillet along with the garlic. Turn both the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are nicely colored on both sides and the garlic has softened. Set aside to cool.

When the onions and garlic are cool enough to handle dice the onions. Peel off the skin of the garlic and mince, and place both in the bowl with the corn.

Trim the tops off the jalapenos and quarter them lengthwise. Remove the seeds and discard. Cut into thin strips, dice the strips, and add to the bowl with the other ingredients.

If using Roma tomatoes, cut them in half, cut out the core and discard. Slice into strips, dice, and add to the bowl with the other ingredients.

If Roma tomatoes are not vine ripe, as is likely during the winter months, use cherry tomatoes instead, which will have a sweeter fresh flavor. Simply quarter and halve the quarters.

Coarsely grind the toasted cumin seeds and add to the bowl. Add the sage and several tablespoons of lime juice and give the ingredients a good stir. Then add the red chile powder, chopped cilantro, and salt. Toss until all the ingredients are well combined.

Taste and add more salt and lime juice to taste. Finally add the olive oil and fold into the salsa.

Cover and refrigerate the salsa until ready to serve.

Serving:

This salsa is ideal for tacos (as pictured), with grilled meat, fish, and poultry or as a garnish for soups, nachos, and of course with tostada chips along with your margaritas.

una Casserole...extraordinaire

Tuna Casserole…extraordinaire

January always ushers in a welcome return to some semblance of normalcy after all the excesses of the holidays. Cooking everyday meals again somehow feels fresh and interesting with all kinds of new ideas floating around about how to turn ordinary meals into extraordinary meals.

Tuna Casserole...extraordinaire

Tuna Casserole…extraordinaire

Take for example the tuna casserole, a baked concoction topped with potato chips that was popularized back in the 50’s in America. The formula couldn’t be simpler. Canned tuna, a can of Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup, milk, cooked noodles, frozen peas, and grated cheese tossed into a casserole dish, topped with potato chips, and baked off in the oven. It was quick, easy, and cheap! That 50’s recipe has somehow managed to weather the test of time and has inspired endless reinterpretations along the way, including one of my own that follows.

What I propose is not the 30 minute tuna casserole of the 50’s. But with an investment of a few more ingredients and more time spent in the kitchen will produce, and I say this with complete confidence, a tuna casserole…extraordinaire. This is a tuna casserole you would be proud to serve for a dinner party.

Reinterpreting tried and true everyday recipes, especially over the long winter months, is both fun and productive. Just give your creative self free reign in the kitchen and turn those old standbys into some extraordinary meals that everyone is going to love!

 

Tuna Casserole…extraordinaire serves 4 to 6

As there are multiple components required I have arranged the recipe in an easy to follow step by step format.

Step 1:

  • 1 head of broccoli, florets divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F/ 220 C

Place the broccoli florets and garlic in a bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss until the ingredients are evenly coated with oil and transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast until the broccoli is tender and nicely colored, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Step 2:

  • 1 jalapeno chile
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved

Roast the jalapeno, red pepper, and the halved onion over an open flame on the stove top or grill until all are evenly charred. Transfer the jalapeno and red bell pepper to a bowl, seal with cling film, and set aside to sweat. Once cool slip off the charred skins and discard. Open both lengthwise, remove the seeds, and cut into thin strips. Reserve several strips of red pepper for garnishing, as pictured, and dice the remaining strips and set aside.

Remove the charred outer layer of the onion halves and discard. Dice the onions and set aside.

Step 3:

  • 6 medium sized white button mushrooms (or 10 smaller shiitake), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a medium size saute pan set over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil and add the sliced mushrooms and reserved roasted diced onions. Saute until the mushrooms have wilted, given up their liquid, and are just beginning to color. Season lightly with salt and pepper and toss.

Once most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated add the wine and turn up the heat. Saute until the wine has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender and nicely colored. Set aside to cool.

Step 4: For the sauce mornay:

  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk, heated
  • 2 strips lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ cup grated pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan and when bubbling add the flour. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes. Then begin slowly adding the heated milk while continuing to stir. Once all the milk has been added toss in the the lemon zest and continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and cook, stirring continuously as the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the thyme and grated pecarino. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside. Remove the lemon zest before adding the sauce to the casserole.

Step 5

  • 1/2  cup dry macaroni noodles
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Bring a pot of water to a rolling broil and add the salt. Add the noodles and stir. Boil the noodles until al dente. Strain and set the noodles aside until you are ready to assemble the casserole.

Step 6: For the bread crumb topping:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan and when bubbling add the bread crumbs and saute until the butter is absorbed and the crumbs are lightly browned. Season with salt, toss, and Set aside to cool.

Step 7:

Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C with the rack in the middle position.

Prepare a buttered casserole dish large enough to hold all the ingredients.

Assembling the casserole:

  • 1 can of well drained tuna
  • reserved red bell pepper strips for garnishing the top of the casserole as pictured

In a large bowl combine the roasted broccoli florets, the diced roasted jalapenos and bell peppers , the mushroom onion mixture, cooked noodles, and the tuna. Toss until well combined. Then add several ladles full of the sauce and toss until all the ingredients are evenly coated with the sauce.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Even out the contents in the dish and ladle sauce over all, jiggling the dish so the sauce fills the dish evenly to within a half inch of the top of the casserole dish. Distribute the bread crumbs evenly over the surface and garnish with the reserved red pepper strips.

Transfer the casserole to the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the bread crumbs are nicely browned.

Serving:

Serve straight out of the oven! A beautiful simple mixed greens salad pairs well with this casserole and rounds out the meal perfectly!

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