Huevos Rancheros — Mexico on your breakfast plate

A Classic Mexican Recipe

Huevos Rancheros usually does not need a translation. “Ranch Eggs” doesn’t do it justice, anyway. Visualize two soft corn tortillas spread with well-seasoned refried beans (Frijoles Refritos), topped with two sunny eggs, and Salsa Ranchera, cilantro and crumbled fresh cheese. Carry your visualization through to reality and you will have in front of you what is probably the most requested breakfast in Mexico. If you just made Salsa Ranchera with me a few days ago and still have some in the fridge, and if you have left-over Frijoles Refritos also in the fridge, you are more than halfway to having this popular, authentic breakfast on the table.

The key to making Huevos Rancheros is preparation, also known as mise en place. With everything heated, measured and chopped, you  are ready to sit down and eat five minutes after you start cooking the eggs.

Huevos Rancheros serves 2

  • 1 cup Salsa Ranchera, heated
  • 1 cup Frijoles Refritos, heated
  • 4 very fresh eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • vegetable oil for softening and warming tortillas
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco,or cheese of your choice, such as Monterey Jack
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  1. Heat a skillet with 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. When butter is no longer foaming, cook eggs sunny-side up.
  2. While eggs are cooking, heat 2 teaspoons of oil for softening tortillas. Cook each tortilla 30 seconds per side. You may need to add more oil. Blot on paper towels. Do not overcook, otherwise they will become leathery.
  3. Place two tortillas on each plate. Spread each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of hot beans. Top each tortilla with one cooked egg, salsa, cheese and cilantro.

In Mexico, Huevos Rancheros are served stacked like pancakes.

Notes:

  • For a quick version, you can always use commercial salsa and canned refried beans, but I don’t recommend them if you want an authentic dish. Make the salsa and refritos the day before, and you will have Huevos Rancheros ready in minutes.
  • If four pans on the stove at once seem daunting to you, heat the salsa and refritos in the micro-wave oven, and keep covered until needed.
  • Some recipes call for poached eggs, probably because of their perfect roundness, provided you know how to properly poach an egg. No Mexican cook I know poaches eggs for Huevos Rancheros. They would probably find this idea laughable.
  • Cheese is optional, and not always served on traditional Huevos Rancheros. Actually, chopped cilantro is not used, either, if we are talking Mexican tradition, but I can’t break my habit of garnishing everything. It’s not a bad habit — the eyes see before the tongue tastes.

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Salsa Ranchera — Mexican tomato and chile sauce, country style

A Classic Mexican Recipe

Mexican Salsa Ranchera Recipe and Photos

No matter whether it is breakfast, the large mid-day meal, or cena (dinner), no table in Mexico is complete without a bowl of salsa. It may be red or green, raw or cooked, mild or off the heat scale, but it will be served with every Mexican meal. Salsa Ranchera is cooked, with a tomato base, and fired with serrano chiles. It is one of the most commonly served salsas in Mexico, and the salsa that accompanies Huevos Rancheros.

The tomatoes and chiles in Salsa Ranchera are broiled or roasted until starting to turn brown and soft. Black spots are OK. Tomato skin stuck to the foil is OK. Just scrape everything into the food processor, along with any juice.

There are a number of methods for roasting tomatoes and chiles. They can be broiled, cooked on a comal over a fire, roasted in an oven, or dry-cooked on top of the stove in a heavy skillet lined with foil. I use the latter method, as I will do almost anything to avoid turning on the oven. South of the Tropic of Cancer, temperatures are high enough already.

Salsa Ranchera
makes 1 1/2 cups (about 3/8 liter)
  • 4 large Roma tomatoes (about 1 lb./1/2 kilo)
  • 3 serrano chiles
  • 2 tablespoons mild oil
  • 1/4 medium onion, small dice
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Read the recipe through completely and assemble ingredients.

Roast tomatoes and chiles, using the method of your choice (see above), turning with tongs to darken all sides.

While tomatoes and chiles are cooking, sauté onion in oil over low heat until tender and almost translucent. Do not allow to brown. Add minced garlic and cook 30 seconds more.


Cut out stem ends of cooked tomatoes and cut into quarters. Remove stems and seeds from chiles; cut into quarters. To remove seeds, spear the chile with a fork, cut in half, and then use the tip of the knive to scrape out the seeds.

Blend chiles, tomatoes, onion and garlic in a food processor until roughly pureed, but not completely smooth. Texture is good.

Add tomatoes and chiles to the hot skillet to join the tender onion and garlic. Simmer for 3-5 minutes over a medium-hot flame until slightly thickened.

Salt to taste and enjoy with tostada chips, spooned over eggs and meats, or with almost anything served on a plate or in a tortilla. Salsa is the ketchup of Mexico, but much more tasty, varied and appealing.

A tostada chip heading for my mouth. Ole!


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Orange almond cake with marmalade and orange slices

The  recipe for Sweet Orange and Almond Cake had been tempting me for some time. It is in a book on raising citrus trees, All About Citrus and Subtropical Fruits, by Ortho Books. Since we are the proud owners of seven organic, navel orange trees, I have been eying this recipe with anticipation. Finally the occasion presented itself —  my birthday. I like to bake my own birthday cakes. That way I get exactly what I want, which is the way one’s birthday should be.

I made my usual changes: less sugar, and sifted whole wheat flour instead of white flour, plus grated ginger, since that is my current favorite flavor, and homemade marmalade instead of apricot preserves. Why apricot preserves in an orange cake, anyway? If we are doing orange, let’s do orange!

Orange Ginger Almond Cake

  • 6 oz. sliced almonds
  • 3 small organic oranges
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sifted wholewheat flour (save the bran for bread or muffins)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup orange marmalade, strained to remove solids
  • Additional marmalade to spoon over cake when served

  1. Butter or oil only the bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Leave the sides unoiled to help the cake climb up the sides as it bakes. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.).
  2. Chop almonds in food processor until as fine as bread crumbs. Do not over-process, as they can become oily if ground too finely.
  3. In a small sauce pan, cover 2 oranges and the lemon with water and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain, discarding liquid. When fruit is cool, spoon pulp and seeds out of lemon and discard. Coarsely chop lemon rind and rind and pulp of oranges. Pulse in a food processor (or chop by hand) until rind is fine, but not a puree. You should have 1 and 1/2 cups of orange pulp and minced rind.
  4. Using an electric mixer (speed setting #6 on a KitchenAid), whisk eggs and salt until thick and foamy. Beat in sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Remove whisk and insert paddle beater. Mix flour, baking powder and almonds and stir into eggs until blended, using the lowest speed. Blend just until all is incorporated. Blend in citrus pulp and olive oil, again not over-blending.
  6. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until cake tests dry with a knife or wooden toothpick. Place cake pan on a rack to cool. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing sides of pan. To remove sides, run a thin, sharp knife along the inside of the pan.
  7. Melt marmalade in a small pan. Slice the remaining orange into very thin slices and simmer in the melted marmalade for 10 minutes. Remove slices to cool. Use this syrup to coat top of cake.
  8. Arrange orange slices decoratively on cake. Spoon remaining syrup and additional marmalade over cake and orange slices, and down sides of cake.

Notes:

The wholeness of wholewheat flour is due to the presence of bran and wheatgerm, which have been removed from white flour. Bran is great for muffins, but not for a tender cake, so sift out the bran and save it for bread or muffin baking. Wheatgerm is high in oil, which easily becomes rancid. To avoid this, always refrigerate wholewheat flour. If your wholewheat flour tastes bitter, it is already rancid. Throw it out and buy fresh flour.

Organic citrus is preferable, since the peel is used in this recipe.

Homegrown, organic oranges — sorry Ortho.
River Ranch, Mascota, Jalisco

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Fish Stock

Home made fish stock is a liquid treasure to have in your freezer. It forms the base, the flavor enhancer, the distinguishing ingredient in Bouillabaisse, Mediterranean and Italian seafood soups, and in my recipe for Caldo Pescado with Chipotle Chile — fish soup with zingy smoked jalapeno chile. Mexican cooks are to be commended for using every part of the fish or animal — feet, ears, cheeks, you name it. In this spirit, we are glad to be able to use the trimmings from the fish market when we brought home fresh fillets today.

Fish Stock
makes about 5 cups

  • 2 lbs. (1 kilo) fish trimmings — head, tail and skeleton (fish frame), rinsed clean
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 or 4 large sprigs of parsely
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1 quart (about one liter) water
  • 1/4 (240 ml.) cup dry white wine

Place fish trimmings and next four ingredients (celery through lemon or lime juice) in a stock pot. Add just enough water to cover, pushing fish pieces below the water level. Add wine, cover pot and bring to a boil. As soon as a boil is reached, reduce to a gentle simmer and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, push pieces below liquid again, cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding solids.

Refrigerate stock immediately, leaving lid off container until stock is completely cool. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Notes:

When buying fish, tell the fishmonger you want the trimmings, minus the gills,  for stock making. He can also chop the frame and split the head in half.

North of the border, at your fish counter or seafood store, ask for trimmings. Often, this will be free, whether you buy fillets or not. At a large supermarket, I once asked for trimmings and I was given two huge King Salmon heads at no charge. When poached and de-boned, there was a pound of wonderful salmon to turn into salmon croquettes. At another store, I was charged a dollar a pound for trimmings, which is still a good deal, as the flavor of stock is so superior to bottled clam juice. Salmon trimmings are not recommended for making fish stock, but they do yield tasty meat.

Ideal fish trimmings to use for stock are firm, white-fleshed fish that are very fresh. Oily fish should be avoided. Treat the trimmings as you would the fillets, keeping all very cold until ready to use.

Salt and pepper are not called for in this recipe, because you will be using this as an ingredient in another dish, such as a fish soup, which you will adjust for seasoning when it is completed.  If you wish, you can salt and pepper the stock to taste before refrigerating or freezing.

La Cruz Marina in front of the Fish Market
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My favorite guacamole

Easy Recipe for Guacamole

There is really only one dip in Mexico and it is guacamole. At local parties you won’t see the trite onion dip, yogurt with herbs dip, even bean dip, unless you are at the home of a foreigner. If you are lucky enough to have Mexican friends who invite you to a fiesta, there will be guacamole to start things off. This is an easy recipe — all guacamole is easy to prepare — with one difference from the usual. Instead of mashing all the avocado, I cube one third of it and stir the pieces into the mashed avocado for added texture and chunkiness. And it is full of all the veggies you find in salsa.

It was almost a chore to have to follow a recipe for guacamole, but I had to in order to give you the amounts. But from now on, I won’t use a recipe, and you won’t need to either after you’ve made it one time. This is the kind of dish you just eyeball. More tomato? A little more onion for crunch? Your  tongue will tell you how much salt, lime juice and chile. You can cut back or increase any of the amounts to change the proportion of veggies.

Just don’t add mayonnaise, whatever you do. There are actually recipes that call for this, as if a ripe avocado isn’t creamy and rich enough. Pureed peas (?) and onion powder (please!) are also not allowed. This is the real thing, made with traditional ingredients.

My Favorite Guacamole

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, minced; seeded if you want less heat
  • juice of 1 or 2 small limes
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • Cilantro leaves and radish slices for garnish
  • tostadas (corn tortilla chips)
  1. Roughly mash 2 avocados with a fork. Cut the remaining avocado into small chunks or cubes.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients.
  3. Adjust salt, chile and lime juice if needed. Don’t be shy of salt — it can make a flat flavor stand up and be noticed.
  4. Garnish and serve with tostadas

Notes:

If you make guacamole ahead of time, don’t stir in the lime juice. Instead, mix everything else together and pour the lime juice over the surface, making sure it covers completely. This will prevent the guacamole from darkening. Stir in the juice at serving time.

Cilantro stems are edible and tasty. Discard the tough, larger stems, but keep the tender ones. They taste just as good as the leaves and add crunch.

A little etymology, thanks to Wikipedia: “Guacamole” comes from an Aztec dialect via the Nahuatl word,  āhuacamolli, from āhuacatl (“avocado”) + molli (“sauce”). Nahuatl is the language of the Aztecs and still spoken today in small villages in central Mexico.

And gracias to the Aztecs for giving guacamole to the world.

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