Recipes (1)

7-109.jpgThe author's aunt Marita Rojas of La Yerbabuena, Zacatecas, walked us through her approach to enchiladas – a food whose name, translated literally, means "in chile". That's the key to enchiladas' concentrated flavor : dipping the tortillas in a thick sauce made of (in this case) dried New Mexico chiles, garlic, cinnamon, and other seasonings. Rojas also includes a little chololate, for added richness and intensity, and pulverized saltine crackers, which give the sauce terrific body. These are spare, unfussy, northern Mexican-style enchiladas, with just a cscant filling of minced onion and crumbled queso aňejo, a hard and pungent aged cheese; the art lies in the making. Here's how :

  1. Rojas toasts the dried chiles to deepen their flavour; steeps them in boiling water, which not only softens the leathery chiles but also releases pectin that will give the sauce a silky texture; and then purees until smooth.
  2. Straining the sauce after blending removes any remaining solids that would get in the way of its clinging to the tortillas.
  3. The tortillas are dipped twice : first in hot oil, which makes them more pliable; then in the red chile sauce.
  4. After double-dipping each tortilla, she lays it on a plate and scatters it with just a few table-spoons of filling, so that it will roll up snugly into a narrow cigar shape, with the sauce acting as an adhesive between layers to secure the enchilada.
  5. Unlike many Americanized enchiladas, these are not baked after dipping and rolling; they're simply stacked on a serving plate after they're rolled, which leaves them lusciously moist.
  6. A simple garnish of crumbled cheese looks striking against the vivid red sauce and provides an enticing hint at what's tucked away inside.

Plated with sides of beans and rice, these enchiladas are a satisfying main course, but they also make wonderful finger food.

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Arroz a la Mexicana (Mexican Rice)

Serves 6-8

This vibrant rice is served with virtually every meal in Zacatecas.

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ½ small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  1. Place stock, tomatoes, 1 clove garlic, and onion in a blender and puree until smooth; set tomato mixture aside.
  2. Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; add remaining garlic and rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in tomato mixture, season with salt and pepper, and reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, until rice is tender and has absorbed all liquid, 25-30 minutes. Remove fromeheat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Gently fluff the rice with a fork.

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Asado de Bodas (pork in red chil sauce)

Serves 8-10

This sumptuous stew makes a satisfying supper when paired with Mexican rice, pinto beans, and tortillas.

  • 8 dried New Mexico chiles, semmed and seeded
  • 2 dried Guajilo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ cup unsalted peanuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp.ground cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, smached
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 oz. Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra, roughly chopped
  • ¼ small ycllow onion, chopped Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1" chunks
  1. Heat chiles in a 12" skillet over high heat and cook, turning, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes; transfer to a blender. Return skillet to heat and add almonds and peanuts; cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer nuts to blender, reserving skillet, and add raisins, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, cloves, chocolate, onion, and 5 cups boiling water; season with salt and pepper, and puree until smooth. Set sauce aside.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and, working in batches, add to skillet and cook, turning as needed, until pork is browned on all sides, about 12 minutes.
  3. Stir the sauce into the pork and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender, about 1 hour.

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Elote (spiced Mexican corn)

Serves 4

The herb epazote added to the boiling water lends a floral flavor to this corn.

Kosher salt, to taste

  • 4 ears corn, in husks
  • 8 sprigs epazote
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/3 cups crumbled cotija cheese
  • 4 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add corn and epazote, and cook (adding more water, if necessary) until corn is tender, about 1 hour. Remove from water and let the corn cool briefly.
  2. Peel back husks over each eat, then brush with 2 tbsp. mayonnaise and spinkle with 1/3 cup cheese and 1 tsp. chile powder. Serve with lime wedges.

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Enchiladas

Makes 12

They aren't baked; they're simply drenched in a rich sauce made with fruity dried chiles, rolled, and eaten right away.

  • 8 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 oz. Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 saltine crackers or 2 ½ tbsp. bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 whole clove
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. canola oil Losher salt, to taste
  • 2 cups queso aňejo, grated, plus more to garnish
  • ½ small yellow onion, minced
  • 12 corn tortillas
  1. Make the red chile sauce : Heat chiles in a 12" skillet over high heat, and cook; turning as needed, until toasted, about 5 minutes; transfer chiles to a blender with chocolate, oregano, cinnamon, crackers, garlic, clove, and 1 ½ cups boiling water, and let sit for 5 minutes. Puree until smooth, and then pour sauce through a fine strainer into a bowl.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a 2-qt. sauce-pan over medium-high heat, and add chile sauce; cook, stirring often, until reduced and thickened, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.
  3. To assemble the enchiladas, combine the queso aňejo and onion in a small bowl and set aside. Pour oil to a depth of 2" in a 6-qt. Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°.
  4. Using tongs, grasp all the tortillas in a stack and submerge in oil, swirling in oil until slightly fried and pliable, about 15 seconds (the surface of the tortillas should puff up in tiny pockets in several places). Remove from oil and set aside on a plate to cool (alternatively, you may wrap the tortillas in a damp towel and briefly microwave to steam).
  5. Dip each tortilla in chile sauce until completely coated. Transfer to a plate and top with 3 tbsp. cheese filling; roll up like a cigar and spinkle with more cheese. Serve immediately with rice and beans.

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Frijoles de la Olla (stewed beans with pico de gallo)

Serves 6-8

Leftovers from these soupy pintro beans can be used to stuff the baked gorditas (see below right).

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 whole jalapeño, plus ½ stemmed, seeded, minced
  • ½ small yellow onion, plus ¼ minced. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • 1 tomato, cored, seeded, and finely chopped. Crumbled cotija cheese and flour tortillas, for serving.

Bring beans, garlic, whole jalapeño, ½ whole onion, and 8 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high heat; redeuce heat to medium-low, scason with salt and pepper, and cook, covered and stitting occasionally, until beans are just tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Meanwhile, make pico de gallon by stirring remaining jalapeño and onion with cilantro and tomato in a small bowl until combined. Ladle beans into serving bowls, and top with pico de gallo and cotija. Serve with warm tortillas.

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Gorditas de Huevos (masa cakes stuffed with eggs)

Serves 6

These savory gorditas, stuffed with chile-spiced scrambled eggs, make a great breakfast meal or afternoon snacks.

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 dried New Mexico, chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together masa harina, salt, and 1 ¼ cups water until dough forms; let sit for 5 minutes. Divide into six 2" balls (about 3 oz. each), then flatten with your hands into ¼"-thicks disks. Set aside.
  2. Heat chiles in a 10" skiller over high heat and cook, turning, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes; reduce heat to mediaum. Transfer chiles to a blender, add garlic and ½ cup water, and puree; return to slillet; add eggs and cook, stirring often, until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Heat a 12" cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add disks, season with salt, and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to a work surface, cut horizontally halfway through disk, and stuff with scrambled egg mixture. Serve immadiatly.

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Gordiatas Zacatecanas (Zacatecas-styles baked masa cakes)

Serves 8

Margarita Morales of Fresnillo, Zacatecas, shated the recipe for these crisp, bean-filled snacks.

For the bean filling :

  • 2 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • ¾ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans Kisher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the gorditas :

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  1. Make the bean filling : Heat chiles in a 10" skillet over high heat and cook, turning, until lightly roasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender with cumin, garlic,and ½ cup water; purre until smooth. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add chile mixture, beans, salt, and pepper; mash with a fork and cook, stirring often, until thickened but not dry, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Make the gorditas : Heat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, whisk together masa harina and salt; add shortening and 1 ¼ cups water, and stir until dough forms. Divide into eight 2" balls (about 2 ½ oz. each); flatten each into a 1/4 "-thick disk, and place 1 heaping tbsp. bean filling in center. Wrap disk around filling, pinching edges together to seal, then transfer, seam side down, to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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Guiso de Flor de Calabaza (squash blossom sauté)

Serves 4

Squash blossoms bring color and a light texture to this fresh vegetable stew. Serve it, if you like, with warm corn tortillas.

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • ¼ small yellow onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ red jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, minced
  • 2 calabazitas (Mexican squash), summer squash, or zucchini, halved, seeded, thinly sliced crosswiseµ1 ripe tomato, cored, minced
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh epazote
  • 20 squash blossoms, stemmed Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add squash and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add tomato, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and stir in epazote, squash blosoms, salt, and pepper; let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Mole Verde Zacatecano (Zacatecas-style green mole with chicken)

Serves 6

Lighter and simpler than the nutenriched moles of Puebla and Oaxaca, this Zacateca version is made with fresh tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeños, and garlic.

For the chicken :

  • 1 3-4 lb. whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro stems
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf

For the mole :

  1. 8 oz tomatillos, peeled and chopped
  2. 2 jalapeños, stemmed and chopped
  3. ½ cup cilantro leaves
  4. 2 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  5. 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  6. 2 8" flour tortillas, tasted
  7. 3 tbsp. canola oil
  1. Cook the chicken : Place chicken cilantro, salt, peppercorns, garlic, onion, bay leaf, and 12 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken from saucepas and strain liquid through a fine strainer; reserve 4 cups, and save remaining liquid for another use. Set chicken and liquid aside.
  3. Heat tomatillos and jalapeño in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until darkened and thick, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender with cilantro, salt, garlic, tortillas, and 1 cup reserved cooking liquid; puree.
  4. Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepas over medium-high heat; add tomatillo sauce and fry, stitting constantly, until it thickens into a paste about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining cooking liquid and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes.
  5. Add chicken pices and cook until heatd through, about 10 minutes. Serve with Mexican rice and tortillas.

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Papas en chile rojo (potatoes in red salsa)

Serves 6-8

Crisp-fried potatoes bathed in fresh salsa make a Mexican-style hash that's great with eggs and tortillas for breakfast.

  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold or red potatoes, pelled, quartered lengthwise, then cut into ½"-thick slices
  1. Pulse cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic, and 1 cup water in a food processor until lightly chunky; season with salt and pepper, and set salsa aside.
  2. Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and cook, stirring, until browned on all sides, about 20 minutes.
  3. Drain all but a couple of tablespoons of oil from the skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add the salsa and 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and the salsa clings to them, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Pastel de tres leches con coco (three milks cake with coconut)

Serves 10

This velvety cake is drenched in coconut milk ant topped with poached peaches.

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for an
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. coconut-flavored rum
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 12-oz.can evaporated milk Poached peaches in syrup, cut into eighths, to garnish
  1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9" springforme pan; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs on high speed until tripled in volume, pale, and thick, about 12 minutes. Add flour and gently fold with a rubbr spatula until just combined; pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool.
  2. In a large pitcher, whisk together rum and condensed, coconut, and evaporated milks. Pierce cake all over with a toothpick and slowly drizzle milk mixture over top. Chill until milks are completely absorbed, about 4 hours or overnight. To serve, slice into wedges and top with a poached peach wedge.

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Rebocado (pork neck and purslane stew)

Serves 6-8

This slow-cooked stew of pork, chiles, and peppery purslane I best eaten with warm flour tortillas.

  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • 14 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ stick cinnamon
  • 2 lb. pork neck, cut into ¾"-thick slicks by butcher
  • 3 lb. purslane leaves and small stems
  • Warm flour tortillas, for serving
  1. Place salt, cumion, chiles, clove, bayleaf, cinnamon, and 2 ½ cups boiling water in a blender, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a 6-qt. saucepan with pork and 4 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until meat is tender, about 2 hours.
  2. Add purslane and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about another 30 minutes.
  3. Divide pork and purslane among serving bowls, ladle sauce over top, and serve with tortillas.

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Sopa de habas (fava bean soup)

Serves 4

The secret to this soup is a flavorful aromatic base of tomatoes, garlic, and onions – called a recado – that is pureed and fried before the beans go into the pot;

  • 2 cups shelled, dried fava beans
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ½ small yellow onion, chopped Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp. crushed saffron threads
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  1. Bring fava beans and 4 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered and stirring, until tender, about 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, make the recado : Combine tomato, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor and puree; set aside.
  3. Heat oil in another 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add recado and cook, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the fava beans along with their cooking liquid, saffron, and cumi. Cook the beans, stirring occasionally, until flavours meld and beans are very tender and break up in the soup, about 10 minutes.

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Tacos de papa (potato tacos)

Serves 8

These tacos are stuffed with cumin-spiced potatoes with cumin-spiced potatoes and fried until they're crunchy.

  • 1 tbsp.finely chopped cilantro
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored
  • 2 red jalapeños, stemmed
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed, plus 2 cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 18 corn tortillas
  • Thinly slices green cabbage and tomatoes, and crymbled corija cheese, for serving
  1. Purre cilantro, oregano, sugar, tomatoes, jalapeños, smashed garlic, and 2/3 cup water in a blender until smooth; set salsa aside. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, add potatoes, and cool until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add minced garlic, butter, salt, pepper, and cumin, and mash until smooth. Set potato mixture aside.
  2. Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Spead 1 heappong tbsp. potato mixture over half of each tortilla, and fold over to forme a taco. Working in batches, add tacos to oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stuff cabbate, tomatoes, and cotija into tacos; drizzle with salsa before serving.

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