Chili-Cheese-Bacon Cornbread

piece of cornbread

This rich, moist cornbread is flavorful with charred poblano chili, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon grease. The guilty pleasure of bacon grease is balanced by the healthy addition of olive oil! Sweetened with applesauce. Bake in the cast iron skillet used for frying the bacon.

baked pan of cornbread

Ingredients:

chili cheese
1 cup 1% milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 large poblano chili
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp paprika
1 cup cornmeal
½ cup unsweetened applesauce (I buy the little plastic containers.)
2 Tb bacon grease, melted but not hot, made from 3 slices bacon.
2 Tb olive oil
2 eggs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425◦ and place rack in middle position.
Add vinegar to milk and let it curdle while you mix the other ingredients.

sweating poblano chili

Place poblano chili on comal or heavy frying pan over high heat, turning so that it burns in places. Place in a small covered pot to sweat.

While chili is sweating, grate 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and set aside.

bacon frying

Fry 3 pieces of bacon in a cast-iron skillet. Eat the bacon or add it to frijoles pintos, but save the grease. It should yield 2 Tb of bacon grease. Add the olive oil to the pan, and then scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Cool while preparing the other ingredients.

Sift white flour with baking powder, salt, paprika, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in cornmeal until well combined.

miniced poblano chili

Remove poblano chili from pot and scrape off the blackened skin. (Don’t rinse it, since you’ll be rinsing away some of charred flavor.) Mince the chili. Include the seeds if you like more heat.

Whisk eggs with milk in a separate bowl, then whisk in applesauce and bacon-oil mixture, including the browned bits of bacon.
Stir in minced poblano chili and ¾ cup cheese.
Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Slowly mix and fold with a large spoon, only until batter is combined.

sprinkle cheese on top

Pour batter into the skillet that you fried the bacon in. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

cornbread and frijoles

Excellent served with frijoles pintos.

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Pozole

Oy vey! Nice Jewish girl learns to cook with pork products! My friend Jann made this hearty and delicious pozole with her Mexican husband, Luciano, for their  New Years Eve parties. She gave me her recipe using pork shoulder, but the second time I made it I used the leaner pork loin.

Cooked with chilies and hominy and topped with cabbage, oregano, radishes and cilantro, it makes a rich and satisfying stew.

This recipe made 10 servings, including leftovers.

Ingredients:

1 gallon chicken broth. For the cross-cultural experience, use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup.
4 dried red chilies, such as ancho or pasilla chili
2 fresh poblano chili peppers
2 Tb olive oil
2 onions
2 1/2 pound pork loin.
1 Tb dried oregano
1 head garlic.
3 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne
1 Tb paprika (Spanish smoked paprika adds a nice smoky flavor)
Several grinds black pepper
1 Tb salt to taste
2 chayotes, peeled, seed area removed, and chopped
39- oz and 15-oz cans of white or purple hominy (maíz blanco o morado)

Condiments:

1 Tb dried oregano
Black pepper
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 small green cabbage, shredded
A bunch of radishes, sliced thin
1 jalapeno, sliced thinly
4 limes, sliced into wedges
 

Bring the soup stock to boil in a large pot.

Heat a heavy frying pan and toast the dried red chilies and the poblano peppers. Place them in a covered bowl to cool, and then remove the stems and seed pods. Throw them in the stock pot

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan and cook the sliced onions until soft. Slice the poblano chiles and fry up with the onions, then add to the soup. Smash the garlic bulb with a molcajete or mortar and pestle, chop it finely and add it to the soup. Add bay leaves, salt, paprika, black pepper and cayenne.

Cut the pork into large (about 3 x 3) chunks and trim extra fat. Pour another tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and add the pork, sprinkling salt and dried oregano on each side. Brown pork on all sides then put in the stock. After pork is browned, add  2 ladles of hot broth to the frying pan to deglaze it. Using a metal spatula, loosen all the browned bits  into the broth and then pour it back into the pot.

Simmer the soup at low-medium heat for 1 ½ hours.

Pour the soup into a large container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the congealed fat from the top of the soup. Pour the broth through a sieve into a large pot, and heat it. Pour the solids into a bowl. Remove the red chili and strip whatever skin from it that you can. Put in a blender with 2 cups of broth and run blender on high, then add to the broth in the pot, rinsing the blender with broth several times to get all the chili out.

While broth is cooking, shred or chop the meat, discarding bones and fat, and then add the shredded meat to the broth. Add chopped chayotes and hominy. Adjust salt to taste. Simmer for 30 minutes, until chayote is tender, and then scoop into bowls.

Top with condiments, squeeze a bit of lime in, roll up a few warm corn tortillas to dip in the soup, y disfrútelo.

Cocido de Res – Mexican Beef Stew


After 25 years of marriage, my husband, Jesús, suddenly told me “You know my favorite food is caldo de res. My mom used to make it for me.” It took him that long to tell me! (In California it’s known more as cocido de res, so I titled the blog that.) So I called his mom, Conchita, and I got the recipe. Of course I tweaked it a bit, but he loved the results since the broth was so rich.

I used the leftover broth from making the chicken for Enchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers. You could also go cross-cultural and use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup or go the easy route and use boxed or canned broth. When you add the bones and beef to broth and slow cook it, you will get an incredibly rich broth.

I went to the local Mexican market in Berkeley,  Mi Tierra, and the carnicero (butcher) cut up the meat for me on a giant band saw.

If you don’t have chilies, you can substitute 1 tsp ancho chili powder (or more if you like it spicier).

Makes about 12 servings

Ingredients:
1 gallon (16 cups)  chicken or beef broth. If not using the broth fromEnchiladas Rojas for 15 Hungry Dancers or Tamales de pollo,  add the following ingredients to Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup  or other plain chicken or beef broth:
3 ancho chilies
1 tsp. chipotle powder
3 Tb cumin powder (comino)
2 Tb. dried oregano
 
2 chopped onions
1 sliced bell pepper
6 minced garlic cloves
 
2 cups diced Roma (plum) tomatoes or 15 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice)
6 – oz can tomato paste
1 Tb. salt to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
 

Boil the broth in a large pot. Toast the chilies on a heavy skillet until soft and slightly blackened.  Remove and let cool a few minutes, then place in a plastic bag. After it’s completely cool, about 20 minutes, remove the skin, stems and seeds and add to the boiling broth. If you want a spicier stew,  add some of the seeds to the broth.

Toast the chili powder, comino, and oregano on the skillet a few minutes until fragrant then add to broth.

Pour a tsp of olive oil in the skillet and add the chopped onions and bell peppers, stirring over medium flame, until softened. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, then add to broth. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, black pepper and salt.

1 pound beef chuck roast, cut into cubes against the grain

1 pound beef short ribs, cut into cubes against the grain

2 Tb olive oil.

Salt and pepper to sprinkle on beef

Vegetables:

2 bell peppers, stem, ribs and seeds removed

1 pasilla chili, stem removed.

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds

3 large red potatoes, peeled and chopped in bite-size chunks

2 large chayotes , peeled, seed area removed, and chopped in bite-size chunks

3 cobs sweet corn, cut into rounds (use a large knife)

Garnish:

cilantro leaves

avocado slices

lemon or lime juice

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Sprinkle beef with salt and black pepper, and add to the skillet in batches, browning on both sides.  Then add it to broth. Pour the soup into a crock pot and cook on low for 5 hours.

Transfer the whole soup to a large pot, add vegetables to the broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 more minutes until vegetables are tender. Adjust salt to taste. You can skim the fat off the top of the soup and serve. Or you can transfer it to a large container and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The vegetables will absorb the flavors of the broth and impart their flavors as they sit in the broth all night. Remove the congealed fat from the top of the soup before serving.

Serve garnished with fresh cilantro leaves, a slice or two of avocado, and a squeeze of lemon or lime, with warm  or fresh baguette (we are in Berkeley after all).

Watermelon Avocado Salad – ensalada de sandia y aguacate

avo watermelon salad ingredients
This refreshing salad is a perfect match for spicy dishes. I was inspired by Mexican street vendors who sell watermelon and corn topped with salt, lime juice and chili powder.

Serves 4

2 cups cubed seedless watermelon

1 large firm but ripe avocado, cubed

¼ cup cilantro leaves.

½ cob boiled or roasted corn kernels

Dressing:

juice of 1 lime

sprinkle of cayenne or hot chipotle chili powder

¼ tsp salt to taste.

Combine watermelon, corn and cilantro. Gently stir in avocado. Squeeze lime over salad, sprinkle cayenne or chipotle powder and salt, mix well. Serve immediately.

 

Enchiladas Verdes

unnamed

When tangy tomatillos ripen at the end of summer, I get a hankering for Enchiladas Verdes (green enchiladas) . I used to think that tomatillos were little green tomatoes, but I found out they are actually not tomatoes at all, but related to the gooseberry. The ancient Aztecs grew them and gave them the name miltomatl. Best eaten when green, they come wrapped in a papery husk, which must be removed before cooking. They are high in pectin, which helps thicken sauces. Roasting the tomatillos, chilies and garlic enhances their flavor.

Makes 8 enchiladas

Salsa Verde

10 large tomatillos (about ½ pound), husks removed

1 ½ small spring onions or 1 small white onion, peeled

3 large garlic cloves, peeled

2 poblano chilies

2 jalapeño peppers and 4 Serrano chili peppers (This will make a spicy sauce. Use less chilies if you want a milder sauce)

1 ½ tea. salt (to taste)

juice of one lime

1 cup cilantro leaves, plus a few for garnish.

1/3 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

1 tea. minced fresh oregano leaves (or ½ tea. dried oregano)

1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

Enchiladas

8 corn tortillas

3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (1 large whole breast). See Roast Chicken

OR one pound ground turkey

½ cup reduced fat shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Olive oil cooking spray

You can make the sauce and filling ahead of time, then assemble and heat right before serving.

Preheat oven to 425’ Spray a baking pan with non-stick olive oil spray. Place tomatillos, chilies, garlic, and onion on baking pan.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove garlic and tomatillos, and flip other vegetables. Bake 10 minutes more, until chilies are charred and soft and onions begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cool in a bowl or container. You can do this part a day ahead and pop the container in the fridge.

Toast pepitas on a comal or heavy frying pan over medium heat until they begin to pop. Let them cool, then grind them in a clean coffee grinder or spice grinder. If you don’t have a grinder, you can run them in a food processor. Reserve a few whole pepitas for garnish.

Remove stems and seed pod from chilies. Keep some seeds in for extra spicyness.

removing seeds from chilies

Remove stems from tomatillos over container or blender container since they will make a mess. Add roasted vegetables and liquid from them, ground pepitas, lime juice, oregano, cilantro, salt and 1 cup chicken soup and blend until smooth.

Bring sauce to boil in a saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce is thick and coats the spoon. If it is too thick, add up to 1/2 cup more broth.

While sauce is cooking, shred the chicken breast. Stir in about 1 1/4 cups of sauce to the chicken breast and reserve the rest. Heat sauce and chicken in the saucepan over medium heat until the sauce permeates the chicken, about 10 minutes. Let it cool until you can handle it. Again, you can do this part ahead of time.

chicken for enchiladas verdes

You can also make this dish using ground turkey. Brown one lb turkey and drain fat. Add 1/2 cup sauce to turkey and let it cook 5 minutes until sauce permeates it.

Assembling the enchiladas: preheat oven to 350’

Traditionally tortillas are dipped in hot oil before coating with enchilada sauce. I use olive oil spray to cut down on the fat. I only bake with some of the sauce, so the enchiladas won’t get soggy. I pour heated sauce on the enchiladas just before serving.

Pour half the warm sauce into a shallow bowl. Lightly spray each tortilla with olive oil spray before heating briefly on the comal or heavy frying pan. When tortilla is hot and soft, dip it into the sauce so that it coats the tortilla on both sides.

Place tortilla on a plate and place a few tablespoons of the chicken or turkey inside the tortilla

then roll it up.

Place seam side down on a baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Continue with all tortillas. Spoon the sauce that’s left in the bowl over the enchiladas (about ¼ cup).

Bake at 350’ for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle grated cheese over enchiladas.

Put back in oven for 5 minutes so that cheese will melt.

Heat remaining sauce until hot. When you remove the enchiladas from the oven the second time, pour hot sauce on and around the enchiladas. Garnish with cilantro leaves and whole roasted pepitas.

Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

¡Frijoles! Mexican Pinto Beans

These beans are a favorite of my friends and family. This recipe evolved from my mother-in-law’s frijoles al charro. She made hers with bacon to flavor the beans. I usually omit the bacon, but it’s good either way. The chipotle and smoked paprika give it a nice smokiness. You can either use powdered chipotle or a whole one. Discard the seeds and ribs, unless you want super spicy beans.

There are many opinions  in this family about cooking beans. My husband is  insistent about not soaking the beans first, as he swears that takes away the flavor. I boil the beans with all the flavorings on the theory that they will soak up the flavors. My mother-in-law says the garlic will help eliminate the gas from the beans. She told me never to put salt in until the end because it will toughen the beans. And I add cocoa powder to bring out the flavor of the chilies, just as the ancient Aztecs did.

epazoteI recently started to add epazote leaves, which are popular in southern Mexican cooking. My mother in-law, who came from northern Mexico, didn’t use them. They have a sharp smell, akin to turpentine, but they adds wonderful flavor to the beans.

Ingredients

9 cups of water

1 chopped onion

4 minced garlic cloves

1/2 – 1 tsp. chipotle powder (to taste) or 1 dried chipotle pepper

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)

1 tsp. cumin powder (comino)

1 1/2 tsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 diced Roma (plum) tomato

1 diced bell pepper (green or red) or 1 cup frozen diced bell peppers

1 bunch of chopped epazote leaves, stems discarded

3 cups dry pinto beans

2-3 tsp. salt to taste

Wash beans thoroughly, checking that there are no stones.

Heat water to boil in large pot.

Add  chopped onion, garlic and seasonings.

When water is boiling again, add beans and boil for a minute or two.

beans with epazote stirred in

Pour into a crock pot. Cook on low until very tender, usually 5 hours. You can make it in the evening and let it cook overnight or make it in the morning and it will be ready for dinner. Add 2-3 tsp salt to taste when cooked. Serve with fresh cilantro, either queso cotija, queso fresco, cheddar or jack cheese, and chopped onion if desired.  Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Excellent for making tostadas. Simply mash well-cooked beans with the pot liquor, no frying necessary.

Vegetarian/ Vegan tacos: Fill a warmed tortilla with beans, fresh tomato, avocado and cilantro. Top with salsa and a shake of sea salt.

Store beans in small containers in the freezer. Sure beats opening a can!