Chalupas Poblanas


Photo Credit: Rebecca Smith Hurd.

Chalupas, an iconic street food of Puebla, are so popular that you will find them served at the top restaurants. They have a resemblance to tostadas and are the perfect antojito for any Cinco de Mayo celebration. To put it simply, chalupas are fried thick tortillas topped with salsa, shredded meat, chopped onion and sometimes queso fresco.

There are two versions on the culinary origins of chalupas. The first is that it gets its name from baskets.

According to “All About Puebla”,Ch alupas date back to the Colonial era, when Spanish settlers spent a good part of their days washing clothes by the Almoloya (San Francisco) River. It’s said that the women carried everything to the river in big baskets made of wood called chalupas, after which they’d rush home and quickly fry up corn tortillas in lard, top them with salsa, shredded beef or pork, and chopped onion – and call it dinner.

The second is that they are named after the Aztec boats (chalupas) used in the ancient city of Tenochtitlan.

Named for the canoe-like boats that the Aztecs used to navigate the canals of their ancient capitol Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, chalupas are one of the most popular snacks in Central Mexico. They are a specialty of the city of Puebla, where they are served everywhere from street stands to elegant restaurants. They are smaller than those found in other regions, and the silver dollar size chalupas sold in the San Francisco plaza are famous throughout the country.

Chalupas are an excellent way to use leftover roast meat or chicken, but can also be served with no meat at all. Although many people prefer to cook without lard, chalupas just do not taste the same without it. Corn oil may be substituted, but don’t expect the authentic, succulent flavor of chalupas fried in manteca.

Makes 24, Serves 6

Ingredients:
1/2 cup manteca (pork lard) or corn oil
24 3 inch-diameter tortillas
3/4-1 cup salsa verde
3/4-1 cup salsa roja
1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded beef, pork or chicken
1 1/2 cups queso fresco or mild feta cheese
1 medium white onion, peeled and finely chopped

Directions:
In a large, deep frying pan, heat the oil or lard until a few drops of water sprinkled into the pan bounce and sizzle.

Place tortillas, as many as will fit, into the pan and soft-fry them, just 3-4 seconds on each side. They should remain pliable and not crispy. Drain them well on paper towels as they are removed from the pan.

Spoon salsa verde, about 1 tablespoon per chalupa, over half of them, and salsa roja over the other half. Top each with a bit of shredded meat, crumbled cheese and onion.

Serve Immediately.

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Grilled Sardines

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Sardines are named after Sardinia, the Italian island where large schools of these fish were once found. While sardines are delightful enjoyed fresh, they are most commonly found canned, since they are so perishable. With growing concern over the health of the seas, people are turning to sardines since they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, feeding solely on plankton, and therefore do not concentrate heavy metals, such as mercury, and contaminants as do some other fish.

While there are six different types of species of sardines belong to the Clupeidae family, more than 20 varieties of fish are sold as sardines throughout the world. What these fish share in common is that they are small, saltwater, oily-rich, silvery fish that are soft-boned. In the United States, sardines actually refers to a small herring, and adult sardines are known as pilchards, a name that is commonly used in other parts of the world. Sardines are abundant in the seas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean with Spain, Portugal, France, and Norway being the leading producers of canned sardines.

Sardines date back to time immemorial, but it was the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who helped to popularize these little fish by initiating the canning of sardines, the first fish ever to be canned, in order to feed the citizens of the land over which he presided. Extremely popular in the United States in the 20th century, sardines are now making a comeback as people realize that they are an incredibly rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

Fresh sardines were used in this dish. If you are purchasing fresh sardines, look for ones that smell fresh, are firm to the touch, and have bright eyes and shiny skin.

In this recipe, the full flavor of fresh sardines needs very little to enhance it. Here, it is complimented by a tomato based Portuguese salsa and grilled lemons.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
10 to 16 fresh whole sardines
2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
3/4 cup extra- virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Coarse sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
4 Roma tomatoes halved
Garlic bread, for serving

Directions:
Preheat a very clean, well-oiled grill or broiler to high.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup olive oil,  parsley, shallot, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 /2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well. Set aside at room temperature until sardines are ready to be served.

Scale the sardines under running water, by rubbing the skin with your fingers from the tail towards the head. Slit the belly and remove the innards, rinse and pat dry.

Lay the sardines side by side on a clean, dry kitchen towel or on paper towels and gently roll together into a cylinder to remove excess moisture. Refrigerate until ready to use. Note: It is very important that the sardines are sufficiently dry before oiling, seasoning, and grilling.

With a sharp knife, make two slashes in the skin on both sides of each sardine.

Transfer sardines to a small rimmed baking sheet and drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over them. Turn sardines in oil to coat. Oil grill grate one more time before you begin cooking. Season sardines on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place directly on grill and cook, undisturbed, until skin is crispy and lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn sardines over and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Note: If you try to turn the fish too soon, they will stick to the grill. Be patient here and the fish will turn easily once the skin has crisped.

While the sardines are cooking, brush lemon slices and tomato halves lightly with remaining 1 /4 cup olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste, and place on grill. Grill until softened and nicely marked on both sides, about 2 minutes.

Place tomato salsa on a serving platter, arrange grilled sardines on top, season them a final time with sea salt and black pepper, and drizzle with remaining 1 /4 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 /4 cup olive oil. Serve immediately with the grilled tomato halves,grilled lemon slices and garlic bread.

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Salmon Tacos

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Photo Credit: Joseph de Leo, 2011

A spin a on a traditional taco made with the flavors of the heart healthy salmon and a fruit salsa made of apples and cucumbers. This dish could be a nice refreshing meal for lunch or dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound skinless wild Alaskan salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 corn tortillas
Kosher, salt to taste
1 Hass avocado, mashed

For the Apple-Cucumber Salsa:
1 Granny Smith apple—peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cucumber—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Kosher salt, to taste

1 cup finely shredded cabbage

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lime juice. In another small bowl, combine the chipotle powder with the orange zest and sugar. Rub each piece of salmon with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and then with the chipotle–orange zest mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a bowl, toss the apple with the cucumber, onion and pepper. Stir in the vinegar and sugar, season with salt and set aside.

Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake for about 8 minutes, until they are softened and heated through.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan. Season the salmon with salt and grill over high heat until nicely browned and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Gently break each piece of salmon in half. Spread the mashed avocado on the warm tortillas and top with the salmon, Apple-Cucumber Salsa and the cabbage. Drizzle each taco with the lime mayonnaise and serve right away.