Mexican

With Cinco de Mayo fiestas well underway north and south of the Mexican border, it is Mexican food that is at the center of all the celebrations and, of course, Mexican beer and margaritas as well. So why not make a zesty margarita pie as a final flourish for the celebrations.

The recipe that follows mirrors a classic margarita made with freshly squeezed lime juice, a good silver/blanco tequila, triple sec, sugar or agave syrup, and crystallized flaked salt. These very same ingredients provide the essential flavors for a sensational chilled sweet sour margarita confection with just a hint of green earthiness from the tequila and a crisp salty after note.

Margarita Pie

Margarita Pie

As popular as a pretzel crust seems to be for a margarita pie these days, I have to say I favor a classic sweet pastry crust for this pie which allows the flavors of the margarita lime curd to take center stage. Served chilled, this pie is as bedazzling and refreshing as an icy margarita on the rocks would be on a hot summer evening in the tropics.

Margarita Pie

Margarita Pie

Margarita Pie

Needed: 1 10 inch pie dish

Crust:

  • sweet pastry dough
  • butter for brushing
  • crystallized salt

Use your favorite sweet pastry dough recipe and chill the dough for several hours before you intend to roll it out.

Roll out the dough and place it in the pie dish. Even out the edges. Transfer to the the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c

Melt a small amount of butter. Remove the chilled pie shell from the refrigerator and lightly brush the entire surface of the dough with melted butter.

Then evenly press salt flakes onto the outer rim of the dough.

Line the inner surface of the dough with baking parchment and trim off excess paper so the salt studded surface of the rim of the pie is exposed. Place pie wights (or dried beans) into the parchment lined pie dough and transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the salted edges are lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and, using a spoon, remove the weights and set them aside to cool. Remove the parchment and return the pie shell to the oven and bake another 12 minutes, or until the interior crust is lightly colored and dry.

Remove from the oven, place on a cooling rack, and cool to room temperature. You can then refrigerate the crust.

Margarita Pie Curd Filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons silver tequila
  • 1 tablespoon triple sec (or other orange liquer)
  • 3 oz chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lime juice, tequila, and tipple sec in a non-reactive stainless bowl.
Gently whisk until the ingredients are well combined.

Place the bowl over a pot of hot, but not boiling, water and gently whisk continuously until the mixture thickens and mounds onto itself.

Promptly remove the bowl from the heat and scatter the butter over the surface. Stir with the whisk until the butter has completely melted and is mixed evenly into the curd.

Remove the chilled crust from the refrigerator and, using a silicone spatula, spoon the curd into the pie shell. Spread the curd evenly and return the pie to the refrigerator to chill.

Sour Cream Topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat the oven to 400 f/ 200c

Combine the sour cream, sugar and lime juice in a bowl and stir until well combined.

Remove the chilled pie from the refrigerator and spoon the sour cream mixture over the surface of the lime curd. Giggle the pie to even out the surface and place in the oven and bake for or 5 minutes.

Promptly remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, and return the pie to the refrigerator to chill.

Lime garnish:

  • 2 seedless thin skinned limes, sliced into paper thin rounds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a wide saute pan. Cook until the liquid is bubbling, thick, and clear. Add the lime slices and cook for 3 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and let the lime slices rest in the syrup until completely cool. Remove the slices to a rack to drain off excess syrup.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator and carefully arrange the lime rounds over the surface of the pie.

Cover the pie with cling film and refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Serving:

About 20 minutes before serving transfer the refrigerated pie to the freezer and chill for 15 to 20 minutes. This final chill gives this pie a crisp icy sensation when served. 

Slice using  a very sharp knife dipped into water for each slice made.

Molettes

Molettes

 

Molletes are a must have for a quick breakfast or a snack on the run just about anywhere in Mexico.

The Mollete is an antequera round bread from the Andalusian region of southern Spain. There the mollete is sliced into halves, spread with with butter or lard, and topped with savory meats and cheeses. The Spanish took the  molette with them to the new world where the Mexicans adapted the idea and made it their own. Molletes are in essence  Mexico’s bruscetta. Usually associated with northern Mexico but molletes are popular throughout the country.

Mxican molettes are made with crusty oval shaped bollilos, also known as pan Frances, that were introduced to Mexico by French Emperor Maxmillion’s cooks. Maxmillio’s reign was short lived. He was executed in 1866, but the Bollilos went on to become Mexico’s favorite bread and sold in panaderieas throughout the country.

Mexican molletes are so easy to make. Slice a bolillo in half lengthwise, butter the cut side and toast until golden brown. Top with refried beans, scatter grated cheese over the top and return to the oven until the cheese has melted. Serve with a salsa fresca and your done.

If the thought of cooking dried beans is putting you off by all means use canned refried beans instead. I have fond memories perfectly delicious canned refried beans on numerous camping trips.

You are probably thinking to yourself, it’s just beans on toast, so what’s the big deal?” Well, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. This is an addictive taste of Mexico you are going to be making again and again, and again I promise you.

 

Molletes:  serves 4

  • 4 bolillos or other oval shaped crusty rolls, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • 2 cups refried beans (click here for recipe), or canned
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheese; a Mexican cheese if available, or provolone,or Monterrey Jack
  • salsa fresca (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375 f/ 190 c

Slice the bolillos lengthwise and place them on a baking tray cut side facing upward. Spread butter evenly over the cut side surfaces and transfer the baking tray to the oven and bake until the surface is a light golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and rub the garlic clove over the toasted surface. Discard the remaining garlic.

Spread the refried beans over the bollilos generously and top with shredded cheese.

Turn the broiler on in the oven and move the oven rack to the upper position. Place the tray of molletes under the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and lightly colored.

Serve at once with a spicy salsa fresca 

 

Salasa Fresca with Roasted Radishes  makes about 2 cups

This is a a favorite Salas Fresca with a hint of smoky flavor and earthy heat from the radishes.

Salsa Fresca with roasted Radishes

Salsa Fresca with roasted Radishes

Prepare the salsa at least an hour before serving and chill.

  • 6 radishes, flame roasted
  • 2-3 jalapeno chiles, flame roasted
  • 1 medium size onion flame roasted
  • 4 tomatoes, flame roasted
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste

Heat up an outdoor grill or place a grill rack over a gas burner on the stove top.

Place the radishes, jalapenos, onion, and tomatoes over the hottest part of the grill, or flame on the stove top, and grill all until the skin is charred and blistered on all sides. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with cling film and set aside to sweat.

Once cool enough to handle rub or peel away the charred skin of all.

Slice the radishes and then dice and transfer to a non-reactive bowl.

Slice the jalapenos open lengthwise and remove the seeds and veins. Slice into thin strips and then dice, and add to the bowl.

Remove the outer layer of the onion, dice, and add to the bowl.

Slip the skin off the tomatoes and quarter them. Remove seeds, dice. and add to the bowl.

Add the chopped cilantro, lime juice, and salt and stir to combine. Taste and add more lime juice and salt if needed.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

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.

Mexican Chocolate Lava Cookies

Mexican Chocolate Lava Cookies

 

The holidays have arrived and, like myself, you are probably finalizing menus and about to dash off to the local farmers market, the grocery store, and your local delicatessen with shopping list in hand. Tis the season for home cooks to go into overdrive and, once again, manage to put a noteworthy holiday feast on the table with a certain air of relaxed aplomb.

Christmas in Buddhist Thailand is a non event other than retail of course. So every year rather than cooking a traditional western Christmas dinner I gravitate towards a meal drawn from another culture. This year I am doing a Mexican Christmas supper beginning with a Sopa de lima from the Yucatan (click here). Following that a succulent Barbacoa (click here) from central Mexico along with  frijoles refritos (click here) and a spicy slaw with apples and avocados. For dessert I’ve come up with a recipe for Mexican Chocolate Lava Cookies that will be served with cinnamon ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce. Cocoa is native to Mexico and often combined with cinnamon and, yes, chile in both savoy and sweet dishes that date back to the Aztecs. The soft chocolate “lava” chunks in these cookies are a reference to the active volcanoes that dot the landscape in central Mexico, and the caramel sauce is a nod to the Spanish influence in Mexico’s evolving cuisine.

I have adapted this recipe from a recipe by Jacques Torres for his now famous chocolate chip cookies that forever changed the conversation about what the best chocolate chip cookie should be.

There may be just enough time left to add these cookies to your holiday preparations, but if not do try them first thing in the new year!

 

Mexican Chocolate Lava Cookies   makes 24

  • ½ cup pecans (or walnuts) lightly toasted
  • 4 ½ ounces cake flour
  • 4 ½ ounce bread flour
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon pure ground red chile powder ( New Mexican)
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 10 ounces dark chocolate (best quality), chopped into chunky shards
  • crystallized salt (Maldon)

Ideally make the cookie dough 24 hours before baking.

Preheat the oven to 325 F/ 160 C   with the baking rack set in the middle position.

Spread out nuts in a single layer in a baking tray and toast them in the oven until they are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove the nuts from the oven, set them aside to cool, and turn off the oven. When cool break the nuts up by hand and set aside.

Combine the cake flour and bread flour in large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nut meg, allspice, and red chile powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream at medium high speed for 5 minutes or until the mixture is a light color and fluffy in texture.
Add the egg and mix on medium speed until the egg is completely incorporated into the dough. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture and mix until the flour is completely mixed into the dough.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the chocolate and nuts and, using a silicone spatula, mix until combined.

Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C    with the baking rack set in the middle position. Set up 2 cooling racks.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, using a scale divide the dough into 1 ½ ounce portions. Roll the portions into balls between the palms of your hands.

For best results, baking one tray of 6 cookies at a time will deliver the best results. Refrigerate the remaining balls of dough until you are ready to bake them.

Place 6 balls of dough on the tray with plenty of space between them. Top each ball with a light sprinkle of crystallized salt, patting the top lightly so the salt sticks to the surface. Transfer them to the oven and bake for 6 minutes. Open the oven and rotate the tray from front to back and bake another 6 minutes.

Mexican Chocolate Lava Cookies

Mexican Chocolate Lava Cookies

The cookies should be just slightly golden but still very soft while not looking overly moist on the middle of the top of the cookie. You do not want to over bake these cookies so their texture will remain soft, the chocolate still holding its shape, once the cookies are cool.

When done remove promptly from the oven and place the tray on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then gently remove the cookies from the baking sheet and place them directly on a cooling rack.

Repeat the same process for the remaining cookies.

When the cookies are nearly cool you can serve them at once while still slightly warm.

Otherwise let the cookies cool completely and then store in a large cookie tin with the cookies stacked in just 2 layers.

As mentioned these cookies are ideal served with cinnamon ice cream. The caramel sauce is optional, but it does make a very special taste of Mexico.

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