Mexican

 

Chef’s Table Season 5 has arrived on Netflix with four documentary episodes on chefs who celebrate their native cuisines through traditional foods, their origins, their cultural bonds, and a return to sustainable organic farming.

This season of Chef’s Table, as well as all the preceding seasons, should not to be missed by anyone who loves food and cooking.

This is compelling food television at its very best!

 

Chefs’s Table Trailer ( click here)

 

Chef’s Table Season 5

 

Episode 1: Christina Martinez    South Philly Barbacoa & El Compadre
Both restaurants are located on South 9th and Ellsworth, South Philadelphia

Episode 2: Musa Dagdeviren    CIYA Kebap and CIYA Sofrasi, Istanbul, Turkey

Episode 3: Bo Songvisava    Bo Lan, Bangkok, Thailand (www.bolan.co.th)
Soi 24 Sukhumvit 53, Bangkok BTS Thonglor station

Episode 4: Albert Adria      Tickets, Enigma, and Pakta, Barcelona, Spain

 

 

The episode with Christina Martinez had particular resonance for me as I have  an enduring love for Mexico and its cuisine. But also, as a working chef in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure to have worked with dedicated kitchen crews who were all immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Christina’s story is so like millions of others in many ways, but told through her love of her native food and culture. Her determination to make the best of her circumstances as an immigrant and thrive and, by example, giving a face to the mostly invisible immigrants who work behind the scenes in the American food industry.

Of course I am also very familiar with the food culture in South Philadelphia and was delighted to learn that Christina and her husband Ben Miller have been growing native Mexican corn on a farm in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, where I  grew up.

Episode 3 also has particular resonance for me as Bo Lan Thai restaurant is here in Thailand. The lush photography, the street food, the markets, and Thai kitchen banter feels particularly familiar of course as this is where I live. Thai food is like none other and is only really understandable when you encounter all the totally unrecognizable produce and spices that are at the heart of real authentic Thai food.

All a real visual feast for anyone who loves food!

opa de Lima rom the Yucatan

Sopa de Lima rom the Yucatan

This is certainly one of the Yuctan’s most unique contributions to the world of Mexican cuisine. The Mayan version of tortilla soup that includes two unique ingredients from the Yucatan peninsula, citrus limetta (limon dulce) and habanero chilies. Citron Limetta is neither a lemon nor a lime as we know them, but an aromatic mildly tart lemon lime like citrus fruit with a mild tropical aromatic sweetness native to the Yucatan. The habanero chile is considered one of the hottest chilies in the world and the Yucatan’s most important agricultural export. The flavor has a hint of fruitiness as well as a heat delivery that is unrivaled. Alas, both of these ingredients will be hard to find unless you are lucky enough to have a Central American grocer where you live.

Citrus Limetta & Habanero Chile

Citrus Limetta & Habanero Chile

But not to worry, the best substitute for citrus limetta is either using Meyer lemons or Florida Key limes. Their juice  mixed with a dash of Seville orange juice nearly replicates the flavor of citron limetta. In a pinch,  using lemons or limes with a dash of orange juice  will be just fine.

Likewise, the best substitute for the habanero chile is replacing it with 3 or 4 small red Thai thin skinned chiles.

Sopa de Lima is uniquely flavored with spices that have been used in the local cuisine dating back to the early Mayan culture. There are versions of Sopa de Lima found throughout Mexico, but once you have tasted the Yucatecan version you will appreciate the subtlety of this refreshing tropical soup that cools you down in the hot and humid climate of the Yucatan or warms you in the middle of winter further north. A visit to this lush tropical peninsula that sits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea lulls you into slowing down and letting the Mayan cultures of the past as well as the present wash over you. Merida is a beautiful colonial town where you can easily fall into the rhythm of the local’s lifestyle and enjoy some of the most beautiful markets and delicious foods in all of Mexico.

 

Sopa de Lima     serves 4

ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, roasted, peeled, and chopped
  • roots of 3 cilantro stalks, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, lightly toasted
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, lightly toasted
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon bark (canella)
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt + more as needed
  • 10 cups water plus more if needed
  • 1 pound/450g chicken breasts (or turkey breast), skinless and boneless
  • 8oz/225g chicken livers (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 sweet green bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, thinly sliced into strips and halved
  • 1 habanero chile, minced (or  4 small thin skinned Thai red chillies, minced)
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and diced
  • 4 citrus limetta (or alternatives as mentioned above)
  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped serrano or jalapeno chilies, including seeds
  • 2 ripe Haas avocados, sliced
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves

To make the broth, place onions, roasted garlic cloves, cilantro roots, marjoram, peppercorns, bay leaves, whole cloves, cinnamon bark, allspice berries, sea salt, and water in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Then add the chicken breasts (or turkey breast which is a local favorite) and lower the heat to a simmer and poach for 20 to 30 minutes. Timing will depend on the size of the breasts. As soon as the breast are tender remove them from the broth and set aside to cool. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the flesh apart into pieces and set aside.

While the breasts are poaching you can cook the chicken livers. Rinse the livers and place them in a small sauce pan. Ladle in just enough broth from the stock pot to cover the livers and bring to a simmer. Cook about 8 to 10 minutes only. Using a slotted spoon transfer the livers to a bowl and set aside. Pour the broth back into the stock pot. When the livers are cool cut them into a fine dice and set aside.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the broth into a large bowl. Discard the solids left in the strainer and return the strained broth to a cleaned stock pot and set it back on the stove over very low heat.

To make the soffrito place the lard or vegetable oil in a  skillet placed over medium heat. When hot add the onions, garlic, bell peppers, habanero chile or (Thai chiles), and a pinch of salt. Saute for 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted and very soft without browning.

Meanwhile blanche the tomatoes in boiling water for 45 seconds or until the skin begins to split. Promptly remove the tomatoes and set aside to cool a couple of minutes. Then slip of the skin off and discard. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds and core and discard. Finely dice the tomatoes and place them in a bowl along with juices.

Then stir the diced tomatoes into the soffrito and cook a couple more minutes. Then transfer the mixture to the broth in the stock pot and bring back to to a simmer. Continue simmering the soup for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Meanwhile juice 2 of the citrus limetta and thinly slice the 2 remaining and set aside.

In a small saucepan heat the vegetable oil for frying the tortilla strips. When the oil is hot add the strips a fry until golden, about 45 seconds. Set the fried tortilla strips on paper towels and set aside.

When you are nearly ready to serve add the pulled chicken and the chicken livers (if using) to the simmering soup and cook another couple of minutes.

Serving:

Best to serve the soup in individual bowls as pictured above. Have all of the finishing condiments ready and within reach.

Just before serving add the citrus limetta juice to the soup and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Ladle portions of the hot soup into each bowl and tuck several slices of citrus limetta into the soup. Put the remaining sliced limetta in a small bowl to serve along with the soup at the table.

Place 3 slices of fresh avocado over each serving and top with tortilla strips. Scatter some  serrano or jalapeno chilies and fresh cilantro leaves over each serving and serve promptly! Serve with the remaining serrano or jalapeno chilies in a bowl on the table.

Buen provecho y feliz cinco de Mayo!

Mexican Chorizo Burrito

 

Mexican Chorizo Burritos have been on my  mind the last few days as Cinco de Mayo celebrations are just around the corner. The 5th of May in Mexico celebrates the unexpected defeat of the French army in the battle of Puebla in 1862. While this was not the definitive ending of the French occupation of Mexico it marked the turning point for Mexico’s liberation from French rule. 

As there is sometimes confusion about the differences  between tacos and burritos, a short clarification follows. Both tacos and burritos us tortillas as a base. Tacos are generally made with 6 inch corn or wheat flour tortillas as a base. The tortillas can be either soft or fried and crispy.  Tacos are served flat along with various salsas to add as condiments. Soft tacos are then folded and eaten using your hands. A burrito is best described as large 10 inch soft flour tortilla filled with various ingredients that are then wrapped and rolled into an open ended cylinder and eaten beginning at the open end. The burrito is the precursor of the contemporary“ wrap” if you will. Burritos are considered Mexican street food. Burrito is the diminutive word for burro. And so the burrito was  aptly coined as a donkey loaded down with an assortment of ragtag cargo. 

The Aztecs were making corn tortillas as far back as 10,000 BC, once they had devised a method called nixtamalization, in which native corn was soaked in water and lime which released vital nutrients in the corn. The corn was then boiled, dried, and ground into meal that was used to make corn tortillas. Tortillas were all made with corn until the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the mid 1500’s, and introduced and cultivated wheat that was integrated  into the Mexican diet via wheat flour tortillas which are used to this day as burrito wrappers.

Fast forwarding to twentieth century North America, where the fist commercially handmade tortillas were introduced in San Antonio, Texas, in 1947. Then In 1972 Villamex introduced the first machine made tortillas into the North American market and Mexican foods went mainstream.

The breakfast burrito, which includes fried chorizo and scrambled eggs, has become a favorite the world over. But the more common rustic chorizo burrito found all over Mexico that is filled with beans or rice, some Mexican cheese, and salsa  is the real deal and pure perfection in my mind’s eye.

The Mexican chorizo burritto recipe that follows involves making several traditional components, but once they are prepared the burritos are easily assembled. Just think of the preperations as honing your Mexican cooking skills that you will be using again and again!

 

Mexican Chorizo Burritos      makes 6

Homemade Mexican chorizo For recipe (click here)

Follow the instructions for preparing the chorizo mixture and marinate it for at least 24 hours before you intend to use it.

Divide the chorizo mixture into 12 2 oz/57g portions. Shape each portion into small torpedo shaped sausages and place them on a parchment lined baking tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Any leftover chorizo mixture can be frozen for later use.

Preheat the oven to 375f/190c

Brush the Chorizo with olive oil and transfer the tray to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Homemade Chorizo for Burritos

Homemade Chorizo for Burritos

Assembling the burritos:

  • 6 large flour tortillas, wrapped in a kitchen towel and warmed in the oven or microwave
  • soft cooked beans, or refried beans, warmed   For recipe (click here)
  • For refried beans recipe  (lick here)
  • Mexican cotija cheese (or mild Feta), crumbled
  • 12 small warm cooked chorizos (2 per burritto), cut in half lengthwise 
  • sprigs of fresh cilantro leaves
  • fire roasted tomato salsa   For recipe (click here)

Have all the components assembled before you begin making the burritos.

Making Mexican Chorizo Burritos

Making Mexican Chorizo Burritos

Place a warmed large flour tortilla on a large flat plate or cutting board.

Spread a generous amount of warm cook beans or refried beans over inner surface of the tortilla, leaving about an inch around the edge of the tortilla as it is.

Place 4 halves (from 2 sausages) on top of the beans in the center of the tortilla from top to bottom.

Scatter the crumbled cheese over the surface as pictured.

Spoon salsa around the center and topping the chorizo. Top with fresh cilantro sprigs to your liking.

Fold about ¾ of an inch of the bottom edge of the tortilla towards the top as pictured. Then fold the left side of the tortilla over the filling, gently tucking the inner edge of the tortilla under the filling as pictured.

Then gently roll the filled burrito until it meets the right side of the tortilla. Spread a small amount of beans near the edge to act as a “glue” before closing the burrito.

Serving:

Serve promptly while still warm with additional salsa on the table.

If you prefer making the burritos ahead of time, omit the salsa and the cilantro sprigs. Place the burritos on a backing tray and tent the tray with foil and secure the edges tightly. Place the tray in the preheated 300f/150c oven for about 20 minutes. Serve right from the oven with salsa and cilantro sprigs placed on the table.

Santa Fe Burger with Grilled Pineapple and Chilies

Santa Fe Burger with Grilled Pineapple and Chilies

 

Here are a couple of hearty old favorite wintry food ideas to enjoy while you are sitting in front of your TV watching all the ongoing 2018 Winter Olympic competitions taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea.

I’ve been a real fan of winter sports ever since I was a kid and have followed my two favorite winter sports, figure skating and downhill skiing, ever since. There is something about the physical freedom of gliding over the ice or snow that defies description other than to say it is as close to an out of body experience you will ever have. When you stand on top of a snow covered mountain there is a crisp silence that sets you free just before you push away for your downhill run through the snow covered forest. I lived in Santa Fe for several years and there was Ski Santa Fe just a short drive outside of town, so skiing became a regular weekend activity. After several runs it was always great to ski up to the mountainside outdoor bar and grill to refuel and catch up with friends. The grill cooks were at their stations turning out these amazing, I’m going to call them, Santa Fe burgers topped with Grilled New Mexico green and red chilies and grilled pineapple. I guess it could be called a Hawaiian burger as well. In any case the heat of the chilies paired with the caramelized pineapple really hit the spot! You felt re energized and ready to hit the mountain for a couple more late afternoon runs before the sun sets over the northern New Mexican mountain scape.

Another hearty favorite ski season meal is a New Mexican cassoulet like bean stew laced, of course, with wonderfully hot and flavorsome roasted red and green chilies. This is food for any season, but especially perfect served in front of a fire, or in this case in front of your TV, watching the Winter Olympics.

 

 

 

Santa Fe Burger with Grilled Pineapple and chilies    1 burger

Best to gather all your ingredients together grill side and ready to go once the grill is fired up and red hot!

The green and red chile rajas should be made in advance. See the recipe below.

  • 1 burger roll of choice
  • olive oil for brushing
  • 1 small peeled garlic clove
  • 5 oz/ 142 g best quality ground beef, formed into thick patty
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon light soy sauce
  • sea salt
  • 1 slice yellow or red onion, grilled
  • 1 pineapple round, grilled
  • green and red chile rajas (strips)
  • 2 thin slices Manchego or Gouda cheese
  • mayonnaise
  • firm green lettuce leaf
  • tomato ketchup (optional)

Preheat the grill until the coals are red hot.

Slice the burger bun in half and lightly brush the interior surfaces with olive oil. Place the halves on the grill and toast, turning the bun a quarter turn after a minute to mark the surface with a cross hatch pattern. Remove from the grill and rub the grilled surface with a small garlic clove and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, fish sauce, and light soy sauce and set aside.

Pat the burger dry with a paper towel and place on a small plate. Brush the surface with the olive oil mixture and season with sea salt. Place brushed side down on the hottest part of the grill. Lightly brush the top surface with olive oil mixture and season with salt. let the burger grill until it is deeply marked before giving a quarter turn to mark with a cross hatch pattern. Then flip the burger over and grill as before until marked with a cross hatch pattern. At this point the burger should be done with a pink center. If you want a medium well done burger continue grilling another minute on each side.

Top the burger with the cheese and allow the cheese to soften before removing the burger from the grill.

While the burger is grilling brush both sides of the onion and pineapple slices and place them on the grill. After a minute or so give the slices a quarter turn to mark with a cross hatch pattern. Then flip them over and repeat to mark with the cross-hatch pattern as before.

Assembling the burger:

Place the bottom half of the bun on a plate. Lightly spread mayonnaise over the surface and top with a leaf of lettuce.

Place the grilled burger on the lettuce. Add the grilled onion on top and top the onion with the grilled pineapple round. Place some green and red chile rajas over the pineapple and add ketchup if using.

Place the top of the burger bun over the burger and serve!

 

New Mexican Bean Cassoulet
Green and Red Chile Rajas   Makes 1 pint

Chile rajas are useful as an addiction to so many dishes! There is some preparation involved but well worth the effort. The whole process does become second nature once you have made them a few times, and, as pictured above, are a spicy garnish for a New Mexican bean stew/cassoulet

Flame Roasted Green and Red chile Rajas

Flame Roasted Green and Red chile Rajas

  • 6 whole  fresh green chilies
  • 3 whole fresh red chilies
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves, crumbled

Place the whole green and red chilies on the hot grill, or over an open flame on the stove top, and grill until the skin is blistered and charred on all sides. Place the charred chilies in a bowl and tightly cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to sweat until cool enough to handle.

At this point the charred skin will slip off the chiles quite easily. If there are scorched flesh or stubborn bits of blackened skin left attached don’t worry about it. This will add a smoky flavor to the chilies.

Slit the chilies in half lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds and membranes and discard them. Slice the chilies into thin strips (rajas) lengthwise and halve the strips crosswise.

In a skillet heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the sliced onions and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Then add the chile rajas and season with salt and dried sage. Saute for several minutes until the mixture is well combined and fragrant. Transfer the rajas, including the oil, to a bowl and set aside to cool. Then cover with cling film and refrigerate if not using right away. The rajas will keep well for about 5 days when refrigerated.

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