Chayote con chorizo

Chayote is in season in Mexico. Trellises in local gardens are hanging heavy with this edible gourd, neighbors are giving them away by the dozens (thank you, Lupe), and the fruterias (produce stores) all have piles of green or pale cream colored chayote, smooth or spiney. I prefer the green, smooth variety, though Lupe is generous with her spiney harvest, which requires the use of heavy garden gloves to grasp the gourd without being punctured.

Fruterias sell not only fruit, but almost every vegetable that can be found in Mexico. In fact, fruterias seem to be stocked with more vegetables than fruit. Maybe its just me, but I wonder why they are called fruterias, and not veradurias (vegetable store). That word doesn’t seem to exist in Spanish. This will be my first question if I ever meet a Mexican lexicographer.

There are as many ways to cook chayote as there are to cook zucchini or any other squash. It appears in soups and salads, and fried or stuffed. Chayote is bland on its own and takes well to other seasonings. Chorizo, the uncooked, highly seasoned pork sausage, adds great flavor. Personally, I prefer chicken chorizo, made locally in our little town of Mascota, but pork chorizo would work just as well.

Chayote is between zucchini and winter squash in density, being more firm and taking longer to cook. In the raw state, it really resembles a potato in its hardness.

There are a few wild stories associated with chayote. One involves its regenerative properties, so potent that those who eat a lot of chayote will mummify when deceased. At least that seems to be the case in San Bernardo, Columbia. The other story involves McDonald’s apple pies in Australia, suspected of being made with chayote instead of apples. McDonald’s has debunked this myth, though it is true that chayote was used as a substitute for apples in pies in Australia, because of fruit shortages during the Depression Era and World War II.

Chayote con Chorizo serves 4

  1. 1/2 large onion, quartered lengthwise, then sliced
  2. 1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 8 oz./228 grams chorizo, removed from casing
  5. 2 large chayote, about 2 lbs/907 grams, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seed carved out, and sliced 1/4″/.74 cm thick
  6. 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, or 1 tablespoon fresh, finely minced
  7. 1/2 cup (118 ml) crema or crème fraîche (or sour cream)
  8. salt and ground pepper to taste
  9. 2 oz/57 grams crumbled cotija cheese
  1. In a large, oven-proof skillet, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent and tender, adding garlic for final 2 minutes of cooking. Remove from pan.
  2. Saute chayote in 1 tablespoon of oil, adding 2 tablespoons of water and oregano. Cover and steam until tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Don’t allow to cook until mushy. Remove from pan.
  3. Cook crumbled chorizo in same pan, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil if using chicken chorizo. If using pork chorizo, no oil is needed. When cooked, remove from pan.
  4. Return onion and chayote to pan and mix with chorizo.
  5. Stir in crema or sour cream. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Top with crumbled cotija cheese.
  7. Broil 6 – 8 minutes, or until cheese is melting and starting to brown.
  8. Serve hot.

Notes ~

~ In the US, chayote is available at Mexican grocery stores or at large supermarkets. Zucchini or potato can be substituted for chayote. If using zucchini or potato, cooking time will vary.

~ Grated parmesan cheese can be substituted for cotija cheese, also found at Mexican grocery stores or large supermarkets.

~ Top leftovers with a lightly fried egg for a delicious and unusual breakfast.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Caldo Tlalpeño

Years ago, when we lived outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, we would make the five and a half hour drive to Juarez, just across the Mexican border. It was a quick weekend trip for south of the border food, shopping and sights. One of the attractions was a restaurant whose name I no longer remember, but its bowl of Caldo Tlalpeño has kept its place in our gustatory memory bank. Its chile chipotle heat was the kind that could take the roof of your mouth off, but we had to order it every time. It was just that good.

Our Juarez shopping excursions were memorable, also. One of our favorite stores was run by FONART, a government agency to promote the sale of Mexican arts and crafts. FONART stands for Fondo Nacional para el Fomento de las Artesanías. (Thank goodness for acronyms.) The FONART store in Juarez was where we bought our first Huichol yarn art, craft of the indigenous people of Jalisco and Nayarit, and made by pressing colorful yarn onto a beeswax- and resin-coated board. Contemporary Huichol yarn art uses more subtle colors and intricate patterns, but we still enjoy the primitive design we purchased decades ago with the classic Huichol symbols of deer, corn and peyote.

Caldo Tlalpeño is named after the community of Tlalpan on the outskirts of Mexico City. Like all soups, there are many variations. With or without vegetables. With or without rice. Cheese or not. But chicken, avocado, garbanzo beans, and chipotle chile seem to be common denominators. Melted cheese in the bottom of the bowl adds richness.

You can start with poaching a chicken and using the broth, or use the breast meat from a Costco roast chicken with additional broth, as I did here. Either way, it’s a warming soup for a chilly day. If you are in Mexico, where chilly days may be few and far between, soup is good for the soul, regardless of the outside temperature.

For the U.S. readers, do you have a Mexican grocery store in your town, or a well stocked Mexican foods aisle at your grocery store? That’s where you would find canned chipotle chile en adobo, the smoked, dried jalapeños in a vinegary tomato sauce that scream five-alarm fire. But it is oh so good, that the heat is worth it. Use judiciously.

Caldo Tlalpeño serves 4

  • 2 cups (10 oz./283 g) cooked chicken breast, cut into bite-sized strips
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, crushed
  • 1-2 tablespoon chipotle chile en adobo, finely minced, or to taste
  • 6 oz. (170 g.) manchego cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large avocado, sliced
  • cilantro for garnish
  • salt to taste
  1. Bring chicken broth to a simmer and add rice, beans, chicken, oregano and chipotle chile. Return to simmer.
  2. Divide cheese among 4 bowls.
  3. Ladle soup over cheese.
  4. Garnish with avocado slices and chopped cilantro.
  5. Serve with hot tortillas and slices of lime.

Notes ~

~ Diana Kennedy adds green beans, carrot and tomato to her recipe in “The Cuisines of Mexico”, making it more of a vegetable soup, and probably more traditional. This version more closely resembles the caldo we had in Juarez.

~ Monterey Jack or mozzarella could be used instead of manchego cheese.

~ The Fort restaurant outside of Denver makes a similar Juarez version, giving it the whimsical name, Bowl of the Wife of Kit Carson. If you are in the Denver area, this restaurant is worth seeking out.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All photos and text are copyright protected. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Chocolate pan de muerto — bread of the dead

Día de Muertos, observed November 1st and 2nd in Mexico when families honor their departed loved ones, has its own bread, the unique pan de muerto, bread of the dead. This egg-rich bread decorated with skull and bones is offered in all the supermercados and panaderías (bakeries) throughout October. Homemade pan de muerto is far superior to what the panaderías sell. Most commerical pan de muerto doesn’t have much of a buttery flavor. Maybe there’s no butter at all. Formed huesos (bones) and a ball of dough for a skull, give this bread an appearance like no other. As I had already made a more traditional pan de muerto in 2015, this is a chocolate version of pan de muerto for something different.

A few days ago, trying to come up with a different take on pan de muerto, I made a sourdough version. That entailed getting a starter going, which is another story. Suffice it to say that my starter is bubbling along now and is named Niño. (Apparently, sourdough starters have names, so I’m told. If any of you need any starter, just ask. I have plenty of little niños I’ll happily give away.) But pan de muerto, sourdough-style (and without cocoa powder), turned out to be, perhaps, too complicated to expect you to devote the better part of a day to it, with a stretch and fold technique and overnight fermentation in the fridge. Russ and I can’t stop nibbling on it, so it was worth the effort, but I would not expect this bread effort of you, unless you happen to be a sourdough aficionado.

Orange blossom water, orange zest and green anise seed are the traditional flavors of pan de muerto. Green anise seed is not to be confused with star anise. While similar, they are from two different plant species, sharing a subtle licorice flavor, while anise seed is spicier than the milder star anise. The anise and orange pair well with chocolate.

It took three loaves for me to get the chocolate version right. Russell can’t believe his good luck. This might be better than Halloween candy any day.

Chocolate Pan de Muerto 1 loaf

  • 125 g whole wheat flour
  • 125 g white flour
  • 1 tablespoon gluten flour (optional, and not necessary if all white flour or bread flour is used)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) whole milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 2 teaspoons roughly crushed green anise seed
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 egg for brushing on loaf before baking
  • Coarse sugar for dusting on loaf after baking
  1. Add all dry ingredients to bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix for 1 minute to thoroughly blend.
  2. Add milk, eggs, orange blossom water, anise seed and orange zest. Knead with dough hook for 10 minutes, or until dough forms a soft, slightly sticky ball of dough and no longer sticks to side of bowl. Add a very small amount of milk if dough is too dry, or milk if too wet, to form a soft ball.
  3. Place dough in a lightly buttered bowl, cover, and let rise until almost doubled in volume, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Punch down dough, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Cut off four 1-oz. (30-grams) pieces of dough.
  6. Form a smooth ball with remainder, placing seam on bottom of ball. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Roll one small piece into a round ball. Roll remaining 3 pieces into 8″ (20 cm) long ropes. Using one finger, roll 5 equally spaced flat spots along each rope. (See 2nd photo.) There is no need to flour the work surface, as the dough is too buttery to stick. Place across large ball of dough, tucking ends underneath. Press small ball into indentation on top.
  8. Slide baking sheet into plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this can take 30 minutes to 1 hour. (In my warm kitchen, it was ready for the oven in 30 minutes.) To test when rise is complete, gently press a finger tip into dough. If indentation remains, it is ready to bake. If it springs back, allow more time to rise.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  10. Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush lightly on loaf.
  11. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped firmly by thumb. If you use an instant read thermometer, internal temperature should read 185°F (85°C).
  12. Remove from oven and lightly brush with egg wash again, then dust with coarse sugar. Return to oven for 5 minutes to set egg wash.
  13. Cool for 1 hour before slicing.

Notes ~

~ Fany Gerson’s pan de muerto recipe from “My Sweet Mexico” inspired this recipe, with my addition of cocoa powder.

~ Like all rich egg breads, pan de muerto is best the day it is baked. Leftover slices are wonderful when toasted, with morning coffee or as an afternoon treat.

~ Day old pan de muerto makes great French toast.

Google photo

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All photos and text are copyright protected. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Kuchen de manzana con migas

Just to set things straight, this is not a dessert from Mexico. It is from south of the border, but way south. In fact, south of the Equator. When thousands of Germans immigrated to Chile (and many other countries, including Mexico) in the 19th century, they took their recipes for breads, pastries and cakes (and beer!) with them. Kuchen de Manzana con Migas evolved in Chile, based on Apple Kuchen from Germany. It translates to Apple Cake with Crumbs, or crumble, as we might say.

There are German communities in Mexico, and I would like to think that somewhere a Mexican-German family is baking Kuchen de Manzana today. Maybe Frida Kahlo, of German heritage, baked this cake. Maybe Vincente Fox, the former president (whose immigrant ancestors changed their name from Fuchs to Fox), enjoyed it at his family’s table. In any case, this is a cake worthy of Chile’s and Mexico’s German immigrant heritage.

It’s apple time in Mexico, when small manzanas criollas, sometimes called manzanas nacionales, start making an appearance in the local grocery stores. They always used to have a wormhole or two, and be a little misshapen. That wormhole was, for me, a seal of not being sprayed. At least, I liked to tell myself that. Now the only ones I see are wormhole-less, sprayed no doubt, but still good and definitely better than the carbon footprint it takes to get apples from Washington State to Mexico.

This cake has three elements — an egg-rich, buttery, cake-like crust, an apple filling, and a streusel crumb topping. It is baked to my usual specs of using part whole wheat flour and less sugar. I used homemade, cultured butter, but sweet cream butter will work just as well. It took a few zen minutes to arrange the apple slices. Not to create a pattern, but to fit the slices as closely as possible. When ready to serve, dust the cake with azúcar glass (confectioner’s sugar) if you wish, but I think that might be gilding the lily.

Kuchen de Manzana con Migas serves 8

Crust

  • 1 cup (120 g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (120 g) white, all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon if using salted butter)
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (128 grams) very cold butter, cut into 1″ (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 2 large eggs

Filling

  • 1.8 lbs. (850 k) apples
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup (120) g) whole wheat flour (or white ( flour)
  • 1/3 cup (67 g) brown sugar or musovado, not packed (for those in Mexico, this is known as azúcar mascabado)
  • 8 tablespoons (113 g) butter
  • pinch of salt if butter is unsalted
  1. Line bottom of a 9″ (228 mm) springform pan with parchment paper. Butter sides. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust oven rack to center of oven.
  2. For crust, mix flours, baking powder, sugar and salt briefly in food processor or by hand.
  3. Add butter, and process just until mixture resembles cornmeal, or blend butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing just until dough starts to form a ball.
  5. Press into springform pan, pressing dough 1.5″ (38 mm) up sides of pan. Chill in freezer while preparing filling and topping.
  6. For filling, peel and core apples. Slice into quarters, then slice each quarter into 4 slices. Toss with lemon juice and sugar. Set aside.
  7. For topping, blend flour and sugar in food processor or by hand. Blend in butter until crumbly looking, and starting to form small lumps.
  8. Arrange apples slices on pastry crust, fitting slices closely to each other.
  9. Evenly top apple slices with crumb topping.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, or until topping is starting to brown and apples test tender with a paring knife or skewer.
  11. Cool on cake rack 30 minutes. Run thin knife around inside of pan to release sides. Remove side of pan. Cool for one more hour before slicing. Refrigerate leftovers.

Notes ~

~ My grocery receipt lists these apples as “manzana criolla” — wild apple. But they are not wild at all. Apples originated in central Asia, and they likely arrived in Mexico with Spanish colonists. These apples from Pepe’s in Mascota are Galas, so Russ says, and I think he’s right. Galas keep their shape when baked, and their natural sweetness allows for a decrease of sugar in a recipe.

~ Other apples which maintain their shape and texture when baked include Granny Smith, Winesap, Pink Lady, Braeburn and Honeycrisp.

~ Mascabado sugar is Mexico’s equivalent of brown sugar. It is less refined than white sugar, containing some molasses, and comes either light or dark brown in color. Muscovado, also unrefined cane sugar, is the same thing.

~ Mangos, pineapples, and bananas are typically thought of as the fruit of Mexico, and it came as a surprise to us to discover an apple season when we moved here. Our part of Mexico, the mountains of Jalisco, grows peaches and plums. We have yet to encounter local cherries and apricots, but I’m hopeful.

© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All photos and text are copyright protected. Do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Capomo

Caffeine and I parted ways a number of years ago. I’m one of those people who can wake up, raring to go. But it is still nice to have a hot cup of something first thing in the morning. For years, it was Pero, the coffee substitute made from roasted grain. Every summer, when I make my annual trip north of the border, I bring back Pero. At least that was the plan until this year when covid upended everyone’s travel. I had tried Capomo before, and didn’t really like it, but now I had no choice. Maybe I just bought a poor quality. Now I really like its mocha flavor with a hint of chocolate. I don’t miss Pero. In fact, I prefer capomo.

Capomo is ground from a dried, tropical fruit, and makes a satisfying, hot morning beverage. It can also be served over ice and used in a variety of recipes, like smoothies, baked goods and ice cream.

Capomo is also known as breadnut or Maya nut, and by the Spanish name ramon, and the indigenous names ojite, ojushte, ujushte in Mexico, and ojoche in Costa Rica. It is not a true nut, but a drupe harvested from the Brosimum alicastrum tree, which grows in southern Mexico, in our state of Jalisco, and is also found in tropical regions of Central America and the Amazon. It is known throughout Mesoamerica as a nutritious food source, where it has been stewed and roasted by indigenous people for millennia.

Making a cup of capomo is as easy as making coffee. The ground, roasted “nut”, resembling ground coffee, can be simmered in water or steeped in a French press. I multi-tasked a milk foamer into a French press, as it has a very fine screen with a plunger. I’m not even a week into this, and I’m already looking forward to my morning capomo routine. A soothing way to start the day.

French Press Capomo

  • 2 cups (475 ml) water
  • 2 rounded tablespoons (25 g) capomo
  1. Add capomo to French press.
  2. Bring water to a boil.
  3. Pour water into French press and stir a few times.
  4. Put plunger on French press, but don’t press down. Allow to steep for 4 minutes.
  5. Slowly push plunger down.
  6. Pour capomo into cup, and add milk or sweetener of choice if desired.

Alternate methods: use a drip coffee maker; or add capomo to a tea ball and steep in hot water; or steep capomo in a saucepan of hot water, then strain. Use the same proportion of water to capomo as given for French press method, adjusting for the strength preferred.

Notes ​~

​~ I bought a 500 gram bag (just over one pound) of Caffiana Capomo from Pepe’s, our local tienda de abarrotes (grocery store) in Mascota, for 126 pesos, about $6.00 USD. Caffiana doesn’t have an internet presence, so it’s possible their market is local in Jalisco.

​~ If your local grocery store doesn’t carry capomo, order online in Mexico from Wayak Táanil, which also sells capomo flour for baking. Farmacia San Pablo, Chedraui supermarkets, City Market (Mexico City), natural food stores, and the Wayak Táanil office in Roma Norte, Mexico City, sell Wayak Táanil organic capomo. wayaktaanil.com

​~ Outside of Mexico, capomo can be ordered online.