August 2011 Archives

Here's a terrific dessert for your end-of-summer dinner party.  Watermelon (Sandía) and Mexican lime are a natural in Mexican agua fresca, of course, but the addition of Italian Campari may give you pause.  Fear not. It harmonizes beautifully.  The right proportions and blending make this a truly complex bitter-tart-sweet, grown-up dessert.  Glazed Spearmint adds contrast both in texture and color.  Italy's Campari was already connected to Mexico because until 2006 its color used to come from the crushed Cochineal beetle that lives in the nopal, cactus of Mexico and Latin America. 

WtrmlnCampcu2.jpgI first saw the Watermelon-Campari combination in an egg-based savory sorbet featured in the new book, "Cocina de Autor," by Ecuadorian Chef Santiago Chamorro.  I look forward to seeing him at the upcoming CIA Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference and discussing how global our kitchens have become. 

Recipe: (serves 4)

4 cups watermelon cubes
2 1/2 Tbspn Mexican lime juice
1 1/2 fl oz simple syrup (make simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water and heating until fully dissolved)
3 oz Campari
12 Spearmint leaves
For mint glaze:
  1/2 cup sugar
  1/2 cup water
  1 Tbsp corn syrup

The method is really very simple.  It's actually the ratio/proportion and balance of the ingredients that is critical.  So, just blend all the first four ingredients until totally smooth and freeze, stirring occasionally, until the sorbet freezes completely.  Scoop into sorbet dishes and garnish with the glazed Spearmint.  I love this dessert.
To glaze the Spearmint leaves, heat the three ingredients in a small pan.  Using a candy thermometer, heat gradually to the soft ball stage, 235º F, and remove from heat.  When it cools down, dip the mint leaves, shake off excess and place them on a platter until you are ready to garnish.  These add a wonderful finishing taste to the sorbet.

Rajas Poblanas

This is a great appetizer for company.  With Rajas Poblanas you mix the heat of chiles with velvety Crema Mexicana. Rajassquare.JPG

Once you make it you'll see that it resembles the TexMex Chile con Queso.  Both combine chiles with cream and cheese for contrast in both taste and mouth feel. 

This is yet another example of how the TexMex regional cuisine developed simultaneously alongside the other regional cuisines of Mexico.

 map1824Mexcrop.jpgIn the Mexican constitution of 1824, the republic of Mexico included "Coahuila y Texas" as one state. (1)  It extended far North and South of the Rio Grande river which at that time was used in the region for transportation and irrigation.  

I sometimes like to serve both Rajas Poblanas and Chile con Queso side by side to savor the nice, interesting differences.

(serves 6 as appetizer)
4 Poblano chiles
1 White onion, sliced into 1/4"strips
1 Tbsp Canola oil
3/4 cup Crema Mexicana
1/2 cup Panela cheese
Salt to taste

1.  Deep-fry the chiles very briefly, about 10 seconds, in 360 F to blister the skin. Place in a paper or plastic bag for another few seconds to steam and then remove the skin, seeds and veins.  Slice the chiles into 1/2" wide strips.
2.  Peel and slice the onion into 1/4" wide strips.
3.  Cube the Panela cheese into 1/2"cubes
4.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until they turn soft.
5.  Keeping the heat on medium or low, add the chiles and the Crema Mexicana and heat them thoroughly.
6.  Add the Panela cubes and stir gently. 
7.  Season with salt according to your taste. 

Serve the Rajas with hot corn tortillas, of course.  Warning:  You may uncontrollably crave  a margarita!

(1) Map used by permission of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Chilorio from Sinaloa & Stone boiling

Chilorio is a specialty of Sinaloa, Mexico. I'm serving it here with Ensalada de  Bodas, another specialty of the northern Mexico region.chiloriosalad2.jpg
 My friend, J.C. Reid, reminded me of Chilorio and its similarity to Texas Chile con Carne in his recent  article describing the dish as it is served here in Houston.  The TexMex region shares many similar food types and techniques because of the cohesion that existed in the region, even with so much constant turmoil.   Alston V. Thoms from Texas A&M  writes that "Given substantial populations in all parts of Texas for thousands of years, it is unlikely that there were any significant trade secrets in the world of basic cooking technology.  In summary, the people of the interior South Texas were surely familiar with the types of game animals, aquatic resources and plant foods found in adjacent regions as well as with the methods the people there used to procure, process, cook and consume those resources."groundrockboiling.jpg

Chilorio is a type of pulled pork that is cooked by boiling, a technique that dates back thousands of years.  As seen here, the cooking implement is made by digging a bowl in the Earth, covering it with bark or hide and adding hot stones to bring the water to a boil.  (photo courtesy  As the meat cooked slowly, it became "fall apart" tender.  This technique was employed  by the Indians of what is now Texas and Northern Mexico.  They traveled back and forth across regions so it is not surprising that the Chilorio pulled pork of Sinaloa is similar to the Chile con Carne of TexMex.

mapcabezaroute1824.jpgIndeed, on this map of  1824 Mexico(1) I drew the route that Cabeza de Vaca followed in 1500's to travel from Galveston to Mexico City.  I traced the white line to show that, as the natives did at the time, he traveled from Galveston all through Sinaloa. (I based this route on the one researched and drawn by Alex D. Krieger, University of Texas Press)  There were other similar travel routes that made it commonplace to exchange cooking techniques and ideas.

In this recipe I've used Canola oil instead of lard.  

(serves 4)
1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder,cut into 1 or 2" cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup Canola oil
4 Ancho chiles, wiped clean, seeded and deveined
1 Pasilla chile, wiped clean, seeded and deveined
3 Garlic cloves
1/2 tsp Coriander seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
1/8 tsp Black Peppercorns
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar

1.  In a dutch oven, place the pork cubes and add water to cover them, add the salt and bring to a boil
2.  Simmer covered until the pork is fully cooked and soft, about one hour. Uncover in the last 15 minutes so that most of the water will have evaporated.
3.  Transfer the pork to a bowl and pull apart the meat strands using two large spoons or spatulas.
4.  Using a comal or cast iron skillet, dry roast the chiles slightly, not charred.
5.  Place the roasted chiles in a bowl of hot water and let them soak for 15 minutes.
6.  In a blender, place the soaked chiles, 1/2 cup of fresh water, all the spices and vinegars.  Blend on high until you have an extremely smooth puree.
7.  In the dutch oven heat the Canola oil and when it is shimmering add the chile puree slowly, stirring.  Fry the puree for about 5 minutes.  You will see the color change slightly and, as the liquid evaporates, it will thicken.
8.  Add the meat to the chile and combine well.

Serve with warm flour or corn tortillas. I'll upload the recipe for the Ensalada de Bodas, "Wedding Salad", in another blog. 
¡Buen Provecho!

(1) Map used by permission of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

"El Bulli: Cooking In Progress"

Just wanted to make this quick post about the 2-hour documentary by Gereon Wetzel that I  saw this week.
"El Bulli: Cooking in Progress" is beginning to screen in theatres here in the US and the critics are somewhat tepid about it.  I loved the film and just wanted to note that the director, in this work, has found creative synchronicity with El Bulli, the restaurant.  For me the film successfully and powerfully shows what it's like to make a serious, personal creative decision.  With no narrative (some critics wanted a voice-over to explain what we are seeing) and no interviews (some think that it is only in  the speaking that the idea is clear), the film gets inside the interactions of chefs, their desires, their personal relationships, the unspoken behaviors that lead to:  the making of a dish and with it the desire to express something new and meaningful.  The film is itself a work of art and the style mimics the style of the El Bulli cuisine which privileges discovery.  This is an example of the relationship of media to food that goes beyond media being a conduit for showing food.  There is an interaction of art forms.

Variety explains well the general US reaction so far, I think: " the pic doesn't have the narrative drive or emotional appeal of a documentary like D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus' "Kings of Pastry," but still will serve as a tasty item for fests on its way to broadcast."

I hope that you will see it if and when it shows at your hometown.  I think you'll see synchronicity of film and food.

As appetizers, Summer watermelons can become formal for a dressed-up party.  Here I place them on a thin Jicama wafer.   watermeloncanape.jpgThe filling is spicy guacamole with grapes. A sliver of fried Yucca finishes the canapé with a starchy crunch.   I came across the idea for guacamole with grapes while helping Chef Iliana De La Vega as she taught a course on Mexican Cuisines. She attributes her recipe, "Guacamole con Frutas" to Chef Roberto Santibañez of Rosa Mexicano fame.




1.  Peel the Jicama and slice it into very thin wafers using a mandolin.

2.  Cut the wafers into circles using a 2" fluted cutter. Set aside, keep chilled and covered with a damp cloth.


1. Peel one yucca root and, using a mandolin, make very thin wafers.

2. Cut wafers into strips 1/2" wide and 3" long.

3.  Deep fry in 360 F canola oil until golden.  This will be a few seconds.

4.  Remove from the fryer, place on a wire rack and salt evenly.


3.  Peel a seedless watermelon and cut into  3/4" slices.

4. Using a fluted cutter just slightly smaller than the one used for the jicama, make watermelon rounds.

5.  In each round, scoop out some of the center,  making a smalll  hole that does not cut all the way through.

6.  Set these aside and keep them chilled.


avocadograpes.jpgAVOCADO WITH GRAPES:

1.  In a molcajete,  place 1/2 sliced chile serrano and 1/2 tspn salt.  Grind into a smooth paste.

2.  Add the avocado, sliced into small cubes as shown, and blend thoroughly

3.  Add the grapes and blend again.

  To assemble the canapés, simply spoon the guacamole into each watermelon round, place on the jicama wafer and top with the sliver of fried Yucca. 

Serve immediately and celebrate the TexMex summer!

Thanks for the high interest in these classic TexMex
recipes!  Its heartwarming.

 So this morning I made "Huevos con Chile Verde."   IMG_1820.jpgThe dish uses the combination technique of partially frying (gives form to the eggs) and then poaching in a chile broth (renders the eggs moist and exquisitely flavorful).  It's amazing how such a simple, straightforward combination of ingredients makes for such a complex, bright dish.

My brother, Jimmy, taught me how to make these eggs.  He was very attentive when our mom, Dominga Mora Medrano, cooked them and so learned all the nuances and techniques. I'm so glad he's my brother!!


Recipe (serves 4)


3 Serrano chiles sliced

1/2 tspn salt

1 Tbsp Canola oil

3 eggs

1/2 cup water



      1.  In a molcajete grind the chile and salt into a paste, then add to the water and mix thoroughly.

      2.  Beat the eggs slightly in a bowl.

      3.  In a skillet add the Canola oil and then the eggs. Cook them on very low heat, stirring, until they just begin to set

      4. When the eggs are beginning to set, add the chile broth.

5.      5.  Bring to a boil and cook until most of the water has evaporated, stirring from time to time.  The rule is: SCC (small, creamy curds).

6.     Serve immediately. 

I most often serve these zesty, delicious breakfast eggs with refried beans and flour tortillas.

These breakfast eggs are immersed in fresh Serrano chiles and tomatoes.  My brother, Jimmy, taught me how to make these.  He is a master artist in the kitchen.  He learned the recipe from our mom, Dominga Mora Medrano,  who would make these on weekends.  The dish relies on a technique that involves a combination of par-frying and poaching.  eggschileserrano.jpgThis gives eggs a quick solid form and also a tender texture.

Recipe, serves 4


½ cup white onion, thinly sliced

3 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced

1 ½ cups tomatoes, finely diced

½ tspn salt

1 Tbsp Canola oil

2 cups water

4 eggs

additional oil as need for frying the egss



1.     In a large deep skillet, sauté the onions in the Canola oil until translucent

2.     Add the diced tomatoes and continue cooking on low heat

3.     Place the chile and salt in a molcajete (or blender or mortar & pestle) and grind to a paste.

4.     Add the chile/salt paste and the water  to the onions and tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  The flavors develop quickly into a delicious sauce.  Keep the sauce at a simmer and do not boil

5.     In a nonstick frying pan add just enough oil to cover the bottom. 

6.     Add each egg, one by one, and fry just to the point where the bottom of the egg white is firm.  Then slide the egg into the chile and tomato sauce.  The acid in the tomatos will react with the protein to keep the egg white from toughening and cooking too fast.  The eggs will remain tender and moist.

7.     When all the eggs are immersed in the sauce, gently spoon some of the sauce over the egg yolks to cook them.  Keep the sauce at a very slight simmer and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. 

I serve the eggs with flour tortillas.  !Buen Provecho!

TexMex Cornbreaded Fish Fry Menu

"Between A.D. 900 and 1500 most, but not all, the Indians living in Texas had developed the distinct culture that Europeans and Americans encountered and would write about." (David La Vere,The Texas Indians p.26). Their cuisine included various preparations of the fish they caught in the San Antonio, Guadalupe, Pecos, Rio Grande/Bravo and other rivers.  At that time the rivers were not so much borders as oases of food and irrigation,

More to the East, along the coast,(Beaumont, Galveston, Houston, Victoria, Corpus Christi) our Texas Indian ancestors dined on fish that included black drum, redfish, speckled sea trout, croaker, sea catfish, flounder, sheepshead, silver perch and mullet."(1). 

batteredfishfry.jpgThis fried fish method is straightforward and reflects the penchant for coupling the flavors of fish with corn, that elemental grain that was everywhere, even in our creation myths, all the way down to what is today Southern Mexico.

Even though fried fish is part of our TexMex cuisine profile, we all know that throughout the Southern US "Fish Fry" is a strong tradition.  For very good reasons: it goes back hundreds of years AND is deeelicious!

--Cut 6" filets of very fresh catfish or grouper (remember that there should be no "fishy," or other malodor at all!)
--dry the filets and season with salt and pepper
--dredge in wheat flour and shake off excess
--dip in a bowl of well beaten eggs, to which you've added just a little water. (1 teaspoon per egg) THEN immediately
--place in a bowl of corn meal.  Make sure the corn meal covers all the surfaces of the filet.  You can hold the filets in the cornmeal until you are ready to fry them.
--in a deep-fryer or deep saucepan pour enough canola oil so that the filets (2 or 3 at a time depending on the size of the pan) can be submerged. 
--When the oil is at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, place the filets in the oil and fry until the fish is golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon (or basket) and place in rack for  holding until served. I suggest you serve it with a green vegetable, maybe snap peas, and slices of lemon.

RioGrandeRiver.gifMayonnaise Sauce: makes one cup (I love this remoulade sauce. The French arrived in Texas in 1600's)
--combine the following ingredients in a bowl and let the flavors blend for about an hour:
7 fl oz mayonnaise
1/2 oz finely chopped capers
1 Tbspn finely chopped chives
1 Tbspn finely chopped tarragon
1/2 Tbspn Dijon Mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce
salt to taste.

Iceberg Salad with Herbed Onion-Radish Melange
: serves four
Vinaigrette:  In a bowl whisk together until an emulsion forms:
3 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1 fl oz red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp finely minced oregano
1 teaspoon finely minced sage
1 teaspoon finely minced thyme
1/8 tspn salt
4 radishes, cut into quarters or sixths if large
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/8 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbspn flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Place the melange in a bowl and add the vinaigrette.  Chill for 30 to 60 minutes.
Slice half a head of iceberg lettuce into 1/4"strips.  Arrange in circular fashion in plates.  Spoon the marinated melange on top and serve with the fish and sauce. 
This TexMex Fish Fry Menu is great for Sunday dinner!

1.  David La Vere, The Texas Indians, Texas A & M University Press, College Station, 2004.

Cube Steak with Mushroom Sauce

    At the end of a long day, how about sitting down to a deliciously simple, straightforward cube steak dinner. It's a cutlet.  Fast to make, very flavorful and if cooked right, tender.  It's from the round or top part of the animal and the mechanized "tenderizing" is just part of tradition.  cubesteak.JPG 

Braising is the added step that makes the beef tender.  You can omit it and just brown the steaks and they will still be delicious.  I first browned the cutlets in very little canola oil over high heat for just a minute to develop color and flavor.  Then add beef stock without completely covering the cutlets. Place a tight fitting lid and braise stovetop. The liquid does not boil but only slightly simmers.  Do this for 30 minutes while you prepare the carrots and spinach.  Uncover and let the liquid reduce to the viscocity of a sauce.  Remove the steaks and adjust the sauce with salt and pepper.  Then add mushrooms that you have previously sauteed in a little bit of butter.  This makes a nice mushroom sauce.

Carrots:  Here the cutlets are served with carrots that are cooked in just enough water to barely cover them and a tablespoon of butter.  When the carrots are cooked and the water has evaporated, turn up the heat and brown the carrots.  Add a little more butter if necessary to brown them well. 

Spinach:  In a skillet I sauté red onions in a little bit of bacon until they are transparent, then add the spinach and cook until they are wilted.  Adjust the salt to taste. 

Ah, life's basic pleasures.

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