March 24, 2012

Authentic Mexican Delights

Welcome home to Texas!
If you like to make meals that have a bit of kick, these recipes are for you. Fresh poblano chilies and Tomatillo's provide ample spice for this hearty, comforting Mexican meal.

Why not learn to cook authentic Mexican cuisine when living in the state of Texas? One of the ingredients in this scrumptious enchilada recipe is tomatillo's. If you are not familiar with these little fruits, here is a small bit of information for all of us. Tomatillos are a staple in Mexican cuisine.

The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by an inedible, paper-like husk formed from the calyx. As the fruit matures, it fills the husk and can split it open by harvest. The husk turns brown, and the fruit can be any of a number of colors when ripe, including yellow, red, green, or even purple. Tomatillos are the key ingredient in fresh and cooked Latin American green sauces. The freshness and greenness of the husk are quality criteria. Fruit should be firm and bright green, as the green color and tart flavor are the main culinary contributions of the fruit. Purple and red-ripening cultivars often have a slight sweetness, unlike the green- and yellow-ripening cultivars, and are therefore somewhat more suitable for fruit-like uses like jams and preserves. Like their close relatives cape gooseberries, tomatillos have a high pectin content. Another characteristic is they tend to have a varying degree of a sappy sticky coating, mostly when used on the green side out of the husk. Ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks.

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas Verde
1 1/2 pounds poblano chiles
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds (16 medium) tomatillos , husked, rinsed
4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 large white onions, chopped
24 corn tortillas
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup crème frâiche or sour cream
6 cups shredded roast chicken (from 2 roast chickens)
1 pound (4 cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Heat broiler. Place chiles on a baking sheet; lightly brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Broil as close to the heat source as possible, 8 to 10 minutes, turning frequently, until skins are blackened all over. Transfer to a plastic food storage bag or paper bag; let cool. Scrape off charred skins; cut off stems, halve chiles, and remove seeds; coarsely chop. Place tomatillos and garlic on broiler pan rack; broil close to heat source, 15 minutes, turning frequently, until tomatillos and garlic are charred in spots and soft. Remove skins from garlic and chop.Heat remaining oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook 8 minutes. Add chiles, tomatillos, garlic, 2 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat; when cool enough to handle, transfer mixture to food processor with cilantro and salt; pulse until sauce is just slightly chunky. Transfer to a bowl; whisk in crème frâiche until blended. Spread 3/4 cup of sauce thinly on bottom of 2 (13x9x2-inch) baking dishes. In a large bowl, combine chicken with 1 cup sauce and toss to lightly coat (sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated; thin with more broth or water before using).
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Stack 11 of the remaining tortillas on a microwave-safe plate and cover with a moist paper towel. Microwave 1 minute, until heated through and pliable. To assemble enchiladas, dip a tortilla into sauce just to moisten and top with a heaping 1/4 cup chicken mixture and 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese. Roll up tortilla snug and transfer to a baking dish. Repeat with remaining 10 tortillas.
Soften remaining tortillas in microwave and assemble second baking dish with enchiladas. Spoon remaining sauce and cheese over top of enchiladas. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead; bring to room temperature before baking.) Bake 20 minutes, or until heated through and sauce is bubbly. Remove enchiladas from baking dishes with a spatula and serve immediately.

"My grandmother, or Mama Grande, lived in Donna, between Brownsville and McAllen, and we’d often go see her on Sundays. We’d take Highway 281, a two-lane road that runs parallel to the Rio Grande and that Dad called el camino militar. I remember sitting in the backseat of his ’57 Chevy for the 45-minute drive, no air-conditioning. Mama Grande was born in 1886, and she raised fourteen children. In her kitchen, she always had a pot of beans cooking, a stack of tortillas made with White Wings flour, and rice. She probably made two pots of rice a day, grinding the fresh cumin, garlic, and black pepper for it in her molcajete. She loved rice, sometimes even eating it cold. My mother learned the recipe and passed it down. Now when I want a taste of home, I make a batch of this rice and relive those weekend afternoons with Mama Grande".~From Sylvia Cásares, Featured in Texas Monthly

Mama Grande’s Rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 cup onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
2 1/4 cups chicken broth, divided
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add rice and stir every 3 to 4 minutes until it turns golden brown. Meanwhile, put tomato, onion, and 1/4 cup broth in a food processor and blend until tomato is liquefied. Grind garlic and cumin seeds with a molcajete or mortar and pestle. Add the tomato mixture, the garlic and cumin, pepper, salt, tomato sauce, and remaining broth to rice. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for another 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork before serving. Serves 5 to 6. ~ Sylvia Cásares


  1. Memories of Texas♥♥♥ I loved living there, the heat not so much... but the the food, YES! Texas Monthly is a treasure of recipes and the culture. I tried my hand at tamales that first Christmas we lived there, nothing to brag about at first but I got better with each batch! The calories are the only thing that keep me from making them OFTEN! Love tomatillos bright and limey flavor. Have I mentioned I am so happy you are back in Texas sharing great regional recipes?!!!

    1. Now that is IMPRESSIVE Joycee, that you made homemade Tamales! My favorite! I will have to give these a try....Thank you for the comments...right now the weather is gorgeous! I know the heat is coming, but after six months of cold winter, I think maybe I am ready!


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