Mexican

Guacamole Basics

Guacamole Basics

Guacamole, ahu ctl in the Aztec language, is unequivocally Mexico’s most loved contribution to an ever evolving international cuisine that embraces diversity as a commonality of taste.

Guacamole making has been practiced for thousands of years in central Mexico where avocados originate from. The simple traditional guacamole recipe is essentially unchanged. Avocados, onions, chiles, lime juice, cilantro and salt are tossed into a molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar, and pounded with a stone pestle into a rich and flavorful guacamole much like the guacamole we are making today.

IGuacamole ingredients

IGuacamole ingredients

I use a mixing bowl and a wooden Mexican bean masher instead of a molcajete for this process which works perfectly. The bean mashers are sometimes available online or in markets in Mexico. Otherwise use a wooden mallet or pestle. Doing the mashing by hand is an essential part of the process that melds the flavors together while preserving their charter. Please, do not even think of using a food processor!

I have probably made guacamole over a thousand times in my lifetime, yet every time I make it, it feels fresh and new. Repeating time tested rituals is what I love about being a cook. There is always a shared history in everything that one does in the kitchen.

I highly recommend using Hass avocados for guacamole or any other application for that matter. They are plentiful here in the US. Most are imported from Mexico and consistently top quality. Hass avocados are smaller than the smooth skinned Fuerte avocados. They have a darker textured skin and a higher oil content that imparts a richer flavor and creamier texture for your guacamole.

The recipe I have provided is only an approximation. Every time you make a guacamole involves orchestrating a delicate balance of flavors so quantities of ingredients will vary somewhat! The key here is to taste and trust tour instincts as you go until the balance of flavors tastes just right. Keep in mind the assertive flavors of a margarita. Balancing the creamy fresh green taste and texture of the oil rich avocados with the tang of onions, the heat of chiles, the tartness of fresh lime juice, and the zest of the cilantro requires an assertive saltiness to bring all those flavors harmoniously together. Practice will have you making a truly authentic guacamole in no time!

Keep in mind that guacamole is best when served fresh so prepare batches accordingly.

Guacamole (basics)

  • 2 or 3 Hass avocados
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 1 or2 serrano chiles, seeds removed and finely diced
  • 2 tablespoon finely sliced cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice + more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil f using Fuerte avocados.

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits, reserving one to use when serving if you like.
Spoon out the flesh of the avocados and place in a non reactive mixing bowl.

Add the diced onions, diced chiles, sliced cilantro leaves, lime juice, and salt to the bowl.

Using a wooden bean masher, wooden mallet or wooden pestle, mash the contents of the bowl together until the mixture has a relatively uniform textured consistency and a thick overall creaminess without overworking it if that makes sense.

Taste the guacamole and add additional lime juice and salt as needed. Keep in mind that the lime juice and salt is what is going to bring the guacamole to life!

Serving

Guacamole

Guacamole

 

Serve the guacamole in a non reactive bowl. Tradition has it that placing an avocado pit in the center of the guacamole will retard any discoloration due to exposure to the air. Whether this is true or not is questionable, but it does make an alluring presentation so why not if you like.

Serve guacamole with crisp corn tostada chips, as an accompaniment for tacos, or my favorite, with huevos rancheros for breakfast.

If you refrigerate the guacamole for any lengthen of time before serving press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole, seal tightly and refrigerate.

Buen provecho!

 

Dutch Oven Roasted Chicken and vegetables

Dutch Oven Roasted Chicken and vegetables

I am a big fan of the high heat roasted chicken that’s been all the rage of late, but a Dutch oven roasted chicken is still a favorite method for a homey one pot meal! It is so easy and never fails to deliver a beautifully bronzed succulent moist  chicken along with colorful array of aromatic roasted seasonal vegetables that lays out a comforting meal time after time. 

No recipe required as the ingredients will vary with the changing of the seasons.

As it is now approaching late fall the vegetables I have used are season appropriate including onions, garlic, turnips, carrots, celery, potatoes, and bell peppers. Herbs used include locally dried rosemary, sage, and thyme, and a bay leaf. All the vegetables are tossed together with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and roasted along with the chicken.

The whole chicken I’ve used is free range. Rinse the chicken well and pat dry with a paper towels. Generously salt the interior of the cavity and tuck in a couple of garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary, and some died sage and thyme, and a bay leaf. Loosen the skin covering the breasts and legs and slip in some butter and rosemary under the skin. Season the exterior of the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Set the chicken aside to come to room temperature.

By all means if you have a Dutch oven this is the time to use it. A cast Iron Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid retains heat beautifully and is ideal for slow roasting. Otherwise use a large casserole dish with lid or a roasting pan with the contents covered tightly with foil.

Set the oven temperature at 350 f /180 c

Lay a single layer of prepared vegetable vegetables in the bottom of the pan and center the chicken on top of them, breast side up.

Tuck the remaining vegetables  in around the chicken, leaving the top of the chicken exposed. Rub with olive oil and season the exposed top of the chicken with salt and pepper again if needed.

Add a half cup of water and cover tightly with the lid. Place in the oven, and roast for 45 minutes.

Open the oven and turn the pan from front to back and roast another 25 minutes, covered.

Then open the oven and remove the lid to expose the top of the chicken.. Increase the temperature to 375 f/ 190 c. Push the pan to the back of the oven and roast another 15 or 20 minutes or until he the top of the chicken is nicely browned.

Remove the pan from the oven and set aside with the lid just ajar to rest for 10 minutes.

Serving:

Transfer the chicken to a carving board, carve, and serve promptly with roasting liquid spooned over the chicken and vegetables.

Having some warm thick slices of crusty levain loaf is the perfect for accompaniment for sopping up some of that irresistibly flavorsome roasting liquid left in the pan!

 

Leftovers?: My go to favorite re purposing solution is enchiladas! They are easy to assemble and are always sure to please.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Enchilada

Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Enchilada

Reheat some of the roasted chicken that has been pulled along with vegetables that have been cut up along with roasting liquid to cover in a saucepan over medium low heat. Cover and bring to a summer. 

warm  corn tortillas on a griddle or in a cast iron skillet. Top with some grated mild cheese. When the cheese begins to melt transfer the now pliable tortilla to a serving plate. Top with hot chicken and vegetables and roll up the enchilada with the seam tucked underneath to hold it together.

Bring the pan liquid to a simmer. Stir together 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 1 tablespoon of cold water, or more depending on the amount of liquid, and add to the simmering pan liquid while stirring for two minutes until thickened. Add salt to taste. Ladle the sauce over the enchiladas garnished with sour cream or Greek yogurt.

New Mexican Green chile Sauce

New Mexican Roasted Green Chile Sauce

New Mexico’s legendary chiles are renowned for their their sweet and earthy flavor and beguiling assertive heat. Their flavor is unlike any other chile in the world. When eating in New Mexico the colloquial question is “Green or Red?”as chiles play a part in most meals.
New Mexico’s chile growing season begins in mid- summer and culminates in late fall when the chiles are harvested and the aroma of roasting green chiles fills the air. It’s that time of year when cocido, a New Mexican roasted green chile stew, is on the menu to ward off the chills of fall and winter.


A New Mexican chile harvest for most is a savored idea or a memory of a visit vividly remembered. Luckily for we far flung cooks New Mexican roasted green chiles are available frozen as a first choice and canned as a second. I have found Bueno brand frozen green chiles in my local supermarket as well as Hatch brand canned roasted green chiles as a backup should the frozen be out of stock once the season’s harvested supply is depleted. There are also sources available online. You can even reserve a supply in advance from the next season’s harvest. Amazon has a wide variety of sourcing options to choose from. All New Mexican brands offer both mild and hot flame roasted chiles. 


So you are probably wondering should I use mild or hot?
That depends entirely on your tolerance level of a chile peppers heat. I can say this, hot New Mexican chiles are seriously HOT! The capsicin levels from these hot chiles trigger a release endorphins and dopamine that produces that tingling “chile high” if you will, along with a refreshing sweat on the back of your neck. However, unlike the scorching heat of the small red chilies used in Southeast Asian cooking, the much larger New Mexican green chile’s heat peaks quickly and then stabilize at a palatable level as you continue to eat.
My advise to all you cooks is to combine both mild and hot chiles at first and discover your own comfort level.

The recipe that follows is a very easy basic New Mexican roasted green chile sauce that I made at least once a day when I was teaching New Mexican cooking in Santa Fe years ago. This green chile sauce is ideal for enchiladas, tacos, with grilled meats and fish, as well as added to a queso fundido, or as a base for a green chile “Cocido” green chile stew with the addition of pork, potatoes, and corn. (click here for a similar recipe)

 

The applications for this New Mexican green chile sauce abound!

So let’s get cooking!

 

 

New Mexican Roasted Green Chile Sauce (basics)

 

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, pealed and chopped ( about 1 cup)
    3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour 
  • ½ cup chopped hot green chiles and 1 ½ cups mild green chiles, or 2 cups chiles of choice
  • ½ teaspoon toasted ground cumin seeds 
  • a pinch of Mexican oregano
  • 2cups hot chicken stock, a bouillon cube dissolved in hot water, or just hot water
  • 1teaspoon salt or to taste

 

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium low heat. When the oil is hot and add onions and saute for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic.

Saute another minute and then stir in the flour. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent the flour from browning.

Add chilies and stir to combine. Pour in hot stock and seasonings. Bring to boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 or 20 minutes partially covered, stirring from time to time to avoid scorching.

Taste and add salt as needed.

Storage:

Cool the sauce to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for later use.

Cuban Chinese Taco Plate

Cuban Chinese Taco Plate

 

When the weather gets colder my food cravings automatically start to wander southward in an effort to stave off the inevitable fact that winter is a coming. One of my all time go to favorite frigid weather culinary escapes was ducking into a Cuban Chinese diner called Mi Chinita on 8th ave and 18th street when I was living in NY in the late 70’s. The windows were all steamed up and the place was always packed. Believe me, this was transportive fare!

I don’t know a lot about Cuban food’s evolution, but migrant Chinese workers that arrived in Cuba after slavery was abolished added their indelible culinary fingerprint to the local diet.

Likewise, Cuba has had had an influx of Mexicans laborers from the Yucatan since the 19th century who have added their voice to an evolving Cuban cuisine.

Fast forward to Cuban’s emigrating to the US during Castro’s revolution and opening up Cuban Chinese American restaurants in the 70’s and 80’s.

Long story short, Cuban cuisine is a fascinating melding of cultures that is undeniably a part of the ever evolving inclusive tastes of the American palate.

I am a great fan of tacos in any form, including those filled with a Chinese stir fry paired with the essentials of a typical Cuban plate that includes well seasoned black beans, rice, and fried plantains/ tostones. This is hearty food with all the bright flavors of the tropics that are a welcome respite from the chills of fall and winter.

Cuban Chinese Tacos            

serves 4

Needed:  1 package each of street size flour and corn tortillas(4 ½ “ / 11cm in diameter) warmed before serving

 

 

  • 1 pound chicken, pork, or beef thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoon corn starch divided
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • oil for stir frying
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, quartered, and sliced
  • 1 each red and yellow bell peppers, quartered, seeded, cut into thin strips, and halved
  • 2 or 3 serrano green chiles, quartered, seeded, cut into thin strips, and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 inch knob fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced, and diced
  • 2 cups shredded bok choy or green cabbage
  • 1 chayote, peeled, quartered, center core removed, and diced
  • 1 cup chicken stock divided
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine or sherry
  • red chile flakes to taste
  • soy sauce to taste

Place the sliced chicken pork, or beef in a bowl. In a cup combine 1 tablespoon of corn starch with ¼ cup cold water and stir until combined. Pour the mixture over the meat and swirl to combine. Add a little more water if needed to just cover the meat and set aside for 30 minutes. This step will tenderize the meat.

Select a wok or a wide skillet and heat over medium high heat. When the pan is hot add several tablespoons of oil and swirl the pan to coat the pan with oil. Add the meat in a single layer and cook the meat  until it is seared and begins to release from the pan. Turn the meat over and seer until browned and then transfer the seared meat to a plate and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan if needed and add the onions and stir fry briskly. As the onions sear they will pick up the remaining bits stuck to the pan adding flavor to the onions. Continue stirring until the onions begin to wilt.

Add the sliced bell peppers, diced serrano chilies, and sliced garlic and stir fry until the onions are translucent. Add the ginger, carrots and stir fry until combined.

Add the bok choy, or cabbage, and the chayote and toss to combine. Add a little chicken stock to lubricate the pan and continue stir frying until the vegetables are just wilted.

Add the sesame oil and toss. Then add the oyster sauce, Chinese cooking wine, or sherry, and toss until combined. Add the chile flakes to taste.

In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup stock combined with the remaining 2 tablespoons of corn starch and stir until combined and smooth.

Add the seared meat to the stir fry and then slowly stir in the corn starch mixture and continue stir frying for another two minutes or until the liquid has thickened and nicely coats the stir fry.

Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Then set the stir fry aside and ready for filling the soft warmed  tortillas.

Serving:

As pictured, have ready a pot of hot and spicy black beans, a bowl of hot steamed rice of your choice, and fried plantains/ tostones. Fill the tortillas and add to the plate and you are ready to go!

Note: Tostones are fried plantains Cuban style, which are actually twice fried until crispy. By all means make them if you know how. There are several tostone making videos available if you are feeling ambitious.  Or instead  simply pan fry plantains or unripe bananas, sliced in half lengthwise, which are a a fine substitute. The slight sweetness of the fried bananas are a nice foil for the spicy heat of the tacos and the black beans

For basics on how to cook beans (click here)

 

Tostones

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