Chiles en nogada

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Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day; it celebrates the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, which came after Mexico’s independence from Spain, the Mexican-American War and the Mexican Civil War. In our neighbor to the south, the holiday is mainly celebrated in the region of Puebla, and mostly in the state’s capital city of the same name.

Cinco de Mayo, as celebrated in the United States, shares some similarities to St. Patrick’s Day: a mainstream marketing gimmick that evolved out of an authentic celebration of cultural heritage. The typical Cinco de Mayo is a day of eating tacos and drinking margaritas. But, just like you won’t find corned beef and green beer in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, you won’t find ground beef tacos, nachos and frozen margaritas in Mexico on Cinco de Mayo.

Before Spanish explorers and immigrants swarmed Mexico, Puebla was already a culinary capital. The sacred town of Cholula known for its great pre-Colombian pyramid was also home to pre-Columbian street food. In this ancient city, vendors would set up outside the pyramid to feed those who came to worship.

After arriving in Puebla, the Spanish settled close to Cholula and created what is known today as the city of Puebla. Religion was a major aspect of Spanish conquest and convents and monasteries were set up across the city. Spanish nuns invented many of Puebla and Mexico’s most cherished dishes in these convents by integrating old world traditions with new world ingredients.

An authentic dish that can be served is Chiles en nogada, an iconic dish of Mexico. It is said to have been invented in the convent of Santa Monica for Agustin de Iturbide‘s visit to Puebla in 1821. Agustín de Iturbide was Mexico’s first emperor after Mexico won independence from Spain. He was served chiles en nogada in Puebla while traveling back to Mexico City from Veracruz after signing the Treaty of Cordoba, which gave Mexico its independence.

The dish signifies Mexico’s independence and is made up of the colors of the Mexican flag; red, white and green. The flavors are just as colorful as the ingredients. The sweet, savory, picadillo stuffed poblano pepper dipped in egg batter, fried, and topped with a rich walnut sauce, pomegranate seeds and parsley is something you will not regret. Though it is more traditionally made for Mexico’s Independence Day,, rather than Cinco de Mayo,  it is one of Puebla’s most cherished dishes.

In making this dish, it is  highly recommend  to roast the pork the night before you want to make the dish. You might also want to chop all the fruit so the picadillo is quick and easy to assemble. Also note that the walnuts should be soaked in milk overnight.

Makes 12 chiles

Ingredients
12 poblano chiles

For the Picadillo:
2 pounds boneless pork butt
1 tablespoon lard
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon all-spice
2 small white onions chopped
3 tomatoes
1 green apple
1 ripe yellow plantain
2 firm yellow peaches
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup Jerez Sherry Fino
zest of one lemon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

 

For the Nogada Sauce:
1 cup milk
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup queso fresco
2 tablespoons Jerez Sherry Fino

 

For the Capeado (optional):
10 eggs, separated
1/4 cup flour

Pomegranate nibs, for garnish

Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

 

Directions:

For Chiles and Picadillo: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place 1 tablespoon lard in a oven-proof skillet, and heat on medium-high until rippling. Add the cinnamon, cloves and all-spice, toasting for 1 minute. Add the pork roast and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Add 2 cups water and one white onion chopped and simmer for 5 minutes. Put into the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Cut pork into a quarter-inch dice. Set aside.

Meanwhile, chop all the apple, peaches and plantain into a quarter-inch dice. Soak the golden raisins in the sherry. Set aside.

 

Roast the poblano chiles on an open flame or under the broiler until blistered and blackened — 3 minutes per side if over a flame, 5 minutes per side if under a broiler. Tightly wrap the chiles in a clean dry towel and let them “sweat” for 15 minutes. When chiles are cool enough to handle, gently remove blistered skin. Cut a slit in the side of the chile and carefully remove seeds.

 

Roast the tomatoes on a cast-iron comal or under the broiler until blishered and blackened and so flesh yields to touch. Peel off the skin, core and puree in a blender. Set aside.

 

In a large skillet, on medium-high heat melt butter. Add the chopped pork. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the remaining onion. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3 more minutes. Add the chopped apple, peaches, plantains, lemon zest and raisins and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Finally add the tomato puree, salt to taste and simmer on low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings.

 

Photo credit: Apartment Therapy

 

Stuff each chile with about 1/4 cup picadillo filling, so the chiles are full but not bursting at the seams.

To make the Sauce: Soak the walnuts in the milk overnight. Place the walnuts, milk, sherry, queso fresco, salt and sugar in a blender and process until a smooth, slightly thick sauce forms. If you prefer a thin sauce add more milk.

(Optional) Capear/Lamprear: Let eggs come to room temperature. Meanwhile, lightly coat each stuffed chile with flour. Separate yolks and whites. In a clean bowl or blender beat egg whites until very fluffy. Gently fold the yolk into the whites. Heat a pan with 1/4 cup vegetable oil or lard until rippling. Dip each floured chile in to the batter and place in hot oil, cook on each side until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. (See: How to Lamprear video by Zarela.)

 

Garnish and Serve: Place the chiles on a platter and pour the nogada suace over them. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and parsley for garnish.

 


Pomegranate and Blood Orange Margarita

Today is National Margarita Day 2019 and it could not fall on a better day, being that it is Friday!

 

National Margarita Day is a day celebrated on February 22nd every year and is a day used to honor the cocktail that is usually made of a combination of tequila, triple sec and various fruit juices (such as lemon or lime). While the drink – and to a lesser extent the holiday dedicated to it – is widely known not only in the United States but around the world, no one really knows the origins of either one.

The fact of the matter is that no one really knows when the margarita was invented – or National Margarita Day for that matter, but the drink is believed to have been invented sometime around World War II. One of the most common origin stories associated with this drink is that it was invented by Rancho La Gloria restaurant owner Carlos Herrera in 1938.

However, a recipe for a tequila-based cocktail first appeared in the 1930 book My New Cocktail Book by G.F. Steele.

Hotel-Garci-Crespo-Mexico-en-Fotos-copy-511x300And then there’s Bartender Danny Negrete, who legend has it, created a signature wedding cocktail  in 1934 at the Garci Crespo Hotel in Puebla which was one of the most luxurious hotels at that time, and christened it “Margarita” in honor of his future sister-in-law. Or maybe Negrete was really inspired by a stunning young dancer named Margaret Cansino who performed at the glamorous Agua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana where he also worked. That 16-year-old beauty later  became the legendary Rita Hayworth.

                       Rita Hayworth at 16 (left) and at the height of her career in the 1940s.

 

Without noting a specific recipe or inventor, a drink called the Tequila Daisy was mentioned in the Syracuse Herald as early as 1936. Margarita is Spanish for Daisy, which is a nickname for Margaret.

According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the popular Mexican drink was remade with tequila instead of brandy, which became a sensation during Prohibition as people drifted over the border for alcohol. There is an account from 1936 of Iowa newspaper editor James Graham finding such a cocktail in Tijuana, years before any of the other margarita “creation myths”.

 

 

MEXICO-EN-FOTOS-RANCHO-LA-GLORIA-RESTAURANT-AND-BAR-458x300The 1937 Cafe RoyalMargarita 4 Danny Herrera Cocktail Book contains a recipe for a Picador using the same concentrations of tequila, triple sec and lime juice as a margarita. One of the earliest stories is of the margarita being invented in 1938 by Carlos “Danny” Herrera at his restaurant Rancho La gloria, halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Baja California, created for customer and former Ziegfeld dancer Marjorie King, who was allergic to many spirits, but not to tequila. This story was related by Herrera and also by bartender Albert Hernandez, acknowledged for popularizing a margarita in San Diego after 1947, at the La Plaza restaurant in La Jolla. By then it was known as the ‘Margarita.’ San Diego newspaper editor Neil Morgan was a friend and made sure Hernandez’ story appeared locally.

Danny Herrera

 

 

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Albert and Helen Hernandez at La Plaza in 1947. Chef Washington at left.

 

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However, there are many people who claim that it was invented by Don Carlos Orozco in October of 1941. As the story goes, Mr. Orozco was working as a bartender at Hussong’s Cantina – a restaurant in Mexico – when the daughter of the German ambassador named Margarita Henkel walked into the restaurant and asked for a special drink. He then whipped her a drink that was equal parts tequila, an orange liqueur and lime. This concoction was then placed in a salt rimmed glass and served to her. Since this lady’s name was Margarita, that is the name that he decided to give the drink.

 

There are also claims that the margarita was first mixed in Juárez, Chihuahua at Tommy’s Place Bar on July 4, 1942 by Francisco “Pancho” Morales. Morales later left bartending in Mexico to become a US citizen, where he worked as a milkman for 25 years. Mexico’s official news agency Notimex and many experts have said Morales has the strongest claim to having invented the margarita.

 

Others say the inventor was Dallas socialite Margarita Sames, when she concocted theMargarita2.jpg drink for her guests at her Acapulco, Guerrero vacation home in 1948. Tommy Hilton reportedly attended, bringing the drink back to the Hilton chain of hotels. However, Jose Cuervo was already running ad campaigns for the margarita three years earlier, in 1945, with the slogan, “Margarita: It’s more than a girl’s name.” According to Jose Cuervo, the cocktail was invented in 1938 by a bartender in honor of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.

 

Jose Cuervo Tequila bottle (1930s)

 

Another common origin tale begins the cocktail’s history at the legendary Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas where, in 1948, head bartender Santos Cruz created the margarita for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee. He supposedly named it after the Spanish version of her name, Margarita.

While all of these origin stories may or may not account for when this drink was created, it is known that the first published recipe of this drink occurred in the December 1953 issue of Esquire. This recipe called for an ounce of tequila with dashes of triple sec and the juice of half a lime or lemon.

 

Margarita6 Trader VicThe person credited for really popularizing the Margarita was Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, who owned California’s Señor Pico chain of restaurants. In the 1960s he went to Mexico to do research on a cocktail containing tequila, but discovered that Mexicans drink tequila straight. So he collected recipes for tequila cocktails from other restaurants around the States, and settled on the Margarita. By 1973 his restaurants sold more tequila than any other restaurant in the world.

Victor Bergeron

 

 

 

 

frozenAlthough many consider the  frozen Margarita an abomination,  it should be mentioned that the world’s first frozen margarita machine was invented on May 11, 1971 by a Dallas restaurateur named Mariano Martinez. He modified a soft-serve ice cream machine into the first frozen margarita machine to create a consistent, mass produced beverage. He got his inspiration from a frozen slushee machine he saw at a convenience store. Frozen Margaritas and Piña Coladas were all the rage back then, but they had to be made in a blender, which was time consuming, loud, and didn’t make for a very consistent product. His invention popularized the bar and the frozen Margarita at his Dallas TexMex restaurant, El Charro, and the category of frozen drink machines has gotten ever more popular through the years. His original machine now resides in the Smithsonian Institute.

 

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At this point in time, the margarita began to spread across North America, but it wouldn’t really gain mass popularity until  a musician named Jimmy Buffett released a song called Margaritaville on February 14, 1977, from the album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. This song was written about a drink Buffett discovered at Lung’s Cocina del Sur restaurant on Anderson Lane in Austin, Texas, and the first huge surge of tourists who descended on Key West, Florida around that time. He wrote most of the song that night at a friend’s house in Austin, and finished it while spending time in Key West. In the United States “Margaritaville” reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and went to number one on the Easy Listening chart, also peaking at #13 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Billboard ranked it number 14 on its 1977 Pop Singles year-end chart. It remains Buffett’s highest charting solo single.

Named for the cocktail margarita, with lyrics reflecting a laid-back lifestyle in a tropical climate, “Margaritaville” has come to define Buffett’s music and career. The relative importance of the song to Buffett’s career is referred to obliquely in a parenthetical plural in the title of a Buffett greatest hits compilation album, Songs You Know By Heart: Jimmy Buffett’s Greatest Hit(s). The name has been used in the title of other Buffett compilation albums such as Meet Me In Margaritaville: The Ultimate Collection and is also the name of several commercial products licensed by Buffett. The song also lent its name to the 2017  Broadway musical Escape to Margaritaville, in which it is featured alongside other Buffett songs. Continued popular culture references to and covers of it throughout the years attest to the song’s continuing popularity. The song was mentioned in Blake Shelton’s 2004 single “Some Beach”.

“Margaritaville” has been inducted into the 2016 Grammy Hall of Fame for its cultural and historic significance.

With all that being said, it’s still not clear when National Margarita Day was invented. Like the drink it is named after, it’s origins have been buried in history. Whichever story is true, one thing is certain…Americans have an ongoing love affair with the margarita. According to a 2016 biannual survey of cocktail consumers conducted by Nielsen CGA, tequila was everyone’s go-to base spirit, and the margarita was their favorite cocktail.

The best way to celebrate National Margarita Day is by choosing your favorite recipe and whipping one up, or by going to your favorite bar and ordering one of these icy cold concoctions. See our recipe for a version of this famous cocktail, given that blood oranges are in season.

This is not your ordinary margarita. Combine fresh pomegranate and blood orange juice to create this unique concoction that’s as tasty as it is beautiful — perfect for “wowing” guests at your next party or get-together!

 

Makes Two 12 oz drinks

Ingredients:

8 oz Fresh Pomegranate juice
4 oz Fresh Blood Orange juice
8 oz Tequila of your choice
2 oz Cointreau
1 oz Key Lime juice
1 oz Simple syrup

Directions:
Combine ingredients in shaker and shake well. Serve over ice in salt rimmed glasses and with a twist of orange.

 


Quail in Rose Petal Sauce

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In   Laura Esquivel’s Novel,  Like Water for Chocolate, the reader is introduced to this recipe in Chapter 3, where the love sick character Tita, who is a cook, prepared an elaborate dish with a rose, a token of love, given to her secretly by her lover Pedro. She calls the dish “quail in rose petal sauce”. At the dinner table, the meal receives an ecstatic response from Tita’s family members, especially Pedro, who always compliments Tita’s cooking. However, a more curious affect is observed in Gertrudis, her younger sister, not long after eating the dish, who begins “to feel an intense heat pulsing through her limbs.” It appears that the meal serves as a powerful aphrodisiac for Gertrudis, arousing in her an insatiable desire. This turbulent emotion pulses through Gertrudis and on to Pedro. Tita herself goes through a sort of out-of-body experience. Throughout the dinner, Tita and Pedro stare at each other, entranced.

Dripping with rose-scented sweat, Gertrudis goes to the wooden shower stall in the backyard to cool off. Her body gives off so much heat that the wooden walls of the shower stall burst into flames—and so do her clothes.Running outside, the naked Gertudis is suddenly swooped up by one of Pancho Villa’s men, who charges into her backyard on horseback.

“Without slowing his gallop, so as not to waste a moment, he leaned over, put his arm around her waist, and lifted her onto the horse in front of him, face to face, and carried her away.”

The escape of Gertrudis serves as a foil to Tita’s stifled passion. The intensity of the former’s reaction to the meal serves to communicate the potency of the passion that the latter possesses but is unable to express directly. With her primary form of expression limited to food, Tita takes the illicit token of love from Pedro and returns the gift, transforming it into a meal filled with lust. The manner in which Gertrudis is affected by the food and later swept away on a galloping horse is clearly fantastical, and the vivid imagery like the the pink sweat and powerful aroma only exemplifies the novel’s magical realism.

To  be carried away so gallantly,  in a moment of passion………..is magic!

And with that being said, this would be the perfect dish to make for someone you love, especially for a romantic dinner for Valentine’s Day.

Enjoy!

Updated February 2, 2018

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 quail (or 6 doves or 2 Cornish Hens)
3 Tablespoons butter
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup dry sherry
6 peeled chestnuts (boiled, roasted, or canned)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup red prickly pear fruit puree
(or substitute raspberries, red plums or pink dragonfruit)
1 Tablespoon honey
¼ cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
14 teaspoons rosewater
Petals of 6 fresh, organic red roses, for garnish
Pepita seeds, for garnish

Directions:
Heat the serving platter in an oven set to low. Rinse the quail and pat dry. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and lightly brown the birds on all sides. Add sherry and salt and pepper to the quail. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Turn the quail, cover, and cook another 10 minutes. Remove the quail when done to your liking and place on a heated platter.

Combine the remaining ingredients with pan juices, transfer to a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour the sauce into a small pan and simmer 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, and/or honey. Pour the sauce over the quail on the heated platter.  Sprinkle with the rose petals and pepitas, for garnish, and serve hot.

Cook’s Notes:
The original recipe for this dish calls for rose petals, but you don’t want to use petals from conventional flower shop roses—those are treated with fungicides. Still, if you have some organically grown roses in your backyard, or know where to buy them, feel free to use them to garnish the finished dish.

If you cannot find any rose petals, 3 bags of  Tazo Passion Hibiscus Tea is a great alternative to use as well.

You can find rosewater at local Middle Eastern stores.

The original recipe calls for cactus. In this version red prickly pear fruit puree or juice is used and can be found at most health food stores—or substitute frozen raspberries or even use 2 large red plums that have been pitted and skinned, for the red prickly pear.

Another  substitution for the prickly pear would be  dragon fruit , which is closer in terms of the flavor given that both are cactus fruits.While you may not initially equate “cactus” with “edible,” the dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is indeed borne on a cactus. When the fruit is cut open, the flesh is revealed to be either snow-white or magenta pink and peppered with tiny, edible black seeds throughout — quite a contrast to the exterior.The flesh is mildly sweet, some say comparable to a melon. A source of calcium, fiber and vitamin C, the dragon fruit is widely cultivated throughout much of the tropics, particularly in Asia. Its popularity in tropical Asia combined with the dragon reference may lead us to believe it originated in Asia, but the fact is no one seems to agree on where it came from. We do however know it is in the cactus family (Cactaceae), and therefore almost sure to be of New World origin.

If you have a dove hunter in the family, try this with dove instead of quail. In fact, doves may be an even more romantic choice, if you don’t mind picking a little birdshot from your teeth. Cornish hens also work well, as a substitute for the protein in this dish.

 

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