Huevos divorciados

For anyone who can’t decide if they want salsa roja or salsa verde with their eggs, Huevos divorciados is for you. This whimsically named breakfast features two different salsas, red and green, which separate — divorce — the eggs to make a colorful breakfast plate. With just the two of us, I don’t usually keep more than one salsa on hand, but with some salsa roja in the fridge, leftover from queso fundido a few days ago, and a bag of tomatillos waiting to be turned into salsa verde, this was a good time to make huevos divorciados. Serve with beans for a heartier breakfast.

Salsas can be fresh or cooked. Cooked salsas are made by grilling, broiling, simmering, or toasting the veg ingredients in a dry skillet, then blending. Or you can blend first, then “fry” the ingredients in a skillet. The salsa verde used here is a “fried” salsa, but you could use any cooking method.

If you can corral a helper, one of you can cook the eggs while the other spoons the two salsas on the tortillas. That way, eggs, tortillas and salsa all come together still warm. Runny yolks are best so that the yolk pools into the salsa, creating a visual and palate pleasing desayuno (breakfast). Russ’es unprompted assessment: This is very good!

Huevos Divorciados serves 4

  1. Fry eggs over-easy or sunny-side-up.
  2. Place 2 warm tortillas on each of 4 plates. Spread one tortilla on each plate with salsa roja, and the remaining tortillas with salsa verde.
  3. Top with 1 egg per tortilla.
  4. Serve with optional beans.

Salsa Verde

  • 14-16 large tomatillos, quartered
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3-4 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or lard)
  1. Purée all ingredients in a blender, except olive oil, until mostly puréed, but with some little chunks remaining.
  2. Heat olive oil in skillet, and add tomatillo mixture. The skillet should be hot enough that the tomatillo mixture sputters when poured in. Stir down the sputter.
  3. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if too thick.
  4. Adjust for salt.

Notes ~

~ Tomatillos originated in Mexico and have been used since the pre-Columbian era. Providing a fruity-acid flavor to sauces and stews, they are most commonly used for making salsa verde. Their high pectin content can thicken leftover salsa (thin with water if this happens). They have a papery husk which is removed before cooking. The name is derived from the Nahuatl word, tomatl, and is pronounced toh-ma-TEE-oh.

~ Cilantro is an annual herb much more common on Mexican plates than parsley. All parts of the plant are used, including the tender stems which are as flavorful as the leaves. The dry seeds are the spice, coriander. In some parts of the world, the fresh herb is also known as coriander, or Chinese parsley. For about one-quarter of the population, cilantro has an offensive, soapy taste. To all who can’t enjoy cilantro, take my word that its unique taste gives Mexican dishes an unparalleled flavor.


Queso fundido

Día  de la Independencia, Mexico’s Day of Independence, normally finds us in Mascota watching the parade of beautifully costumed señoritas, the dashing caballeros on horseback, and the cute children dressed as revolutionaries from the 19th century. But it was not to be this year, as the governor of Jalisco had called off all festivities and gatherings because of covid. It rained much of the day anyway, so it was a good day to stay home and celebrate with queso fundido, melted cheese similar to fondue, but better. Better because of the additions of chorizo, rajas of poblano chile, and salsa roja.

This dish is commonly served as an appetizer at restaurants, but we made lunch of it. It was close to our quota of cheese for the month, but what a way to have a month’s worth of cheese! Actually, it proved too much to polish off for lunch, so leftovers became the filling for the next morning’s omelet, which Russ enjoyed as much as the fundido.

Queso Fundido serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 poblano chile
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 small onion, sliced
  • large pinch of salt
  • 3 oz (85 g) chorizo
  • 8 oz. (227 g) cheese, grated
  • 4-6 corn tortillas, warmed
  • salsa roja
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  1. Toast and peel poblano chile. Cut into strips (rajas). Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 °F (232 °C) with rack at top of oven.
  3. Sauté onion until just starting to brown. Add poblano strips, cook 2 minutes more. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. In same skillet crumble and cook chorizo.
  5. Place cheese in lightly oiled, oven-proof dish or skillet. Bake until cheese is completely melted, about 8 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and spoon poblano/onion mixture and chorizo over top.
  7. Return to oven and bake about 8-10 minutes, until cheese is starting to brown at edges and has browned spots on surface.
  8. Serve bubbling hot with warm tortillas, avocado slices and salsa.

Notes ~

~ To make a vegetarian version, substitute sautéed mushrooms for the chorizo.

~ Use a cheese that melts easily. I used 4 ounces of sharp, white cheddar and 4 ounces of manchego. Other cheese suggestions are Monterey Jack, muenster, Oaxaca string cheese or mozzarella.

~ Queso fundido is common in northern Mexico, where it is served with flour tortillas.

~ In different regions of Mexico, chile guajillo and chile ancho are called chile teñir. I know. I’m confused, also.


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Chile en nogada, vegetarian style

Plates of Chile en Nogada will be served all over Mexico on September 16, Mexico’s Día de la Independencia, and some of them may be vegetarian. Every large city in Mexico has vegetarian restaurants. In fact, a plate of beans, rice and tortillas, eaten by countless campesinos through the years, is comida vegetariana. For the carnivores, here is an earlier meat version of Chile en Nogada.

Chile en Nogada was first prepared in the city of Puebla in honor of the visiting Emperor Augustin de Iturbide in 1821. The green cilantro, white cream sauce and red pomegranate seeds, representing the Mexican flag, make for one of Mexico’s most colorful dishes. Nogada refers to the walnut cream sauce. Most recipes call for skinning the walnuts, something that seems beyond tedious to me. Skin the nuts if you wish, but the sauce is delicious with unskinned nuts.

To peel the chiles, first char them over a grill or a gas stove burner. You could also use a broiler, but I haven’t tried that. See complete instructions on roasting and peeling poblano chiles.

Chile en Nogada serves 4

  • 4 large poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) walnuts
  • 9 oz (260 g) drained (reserve juice), canned tomatoes or chopped, fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (2.8 oz/80 g) chopped dried peaches and pears or other dried fruit
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (about 18 oz/510 g cooked)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) crema or sour cream
  • 34/ cups (75 g) walnut meat
  1. Slit one side of each chile, and remove seeds. Set aside.
  2. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil.
  3. Add cooked lentils, tomato, dried fruit, bay leaves, oregano, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes, adding reserved tomato juice or water to prevent lentils from becoming dry.
  5. While lentils and simmering, make sauce by combining crema and walnuts in blender until smooth. If too thick, thin with milk
  6. Fill chiles with lentil mixture.
  7. Spoon walnut sauce over chiles, and garnish with chopped cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Serve at room temperature.

Notes ~

~ If you cut into pomegranates the way I have for years, you may have found it a messy job, with juice everywhere and stained clothing. After some internet research, I found an efficient method to section the fruit.

  1. First, cut out the small spot where the flower was, cutting at an angle, but not through the skin into the seeds. Remove this “button”.
  2. Now notice the ridges that run from the flower end to the stem end. Make very shallow slits along these ridges through the skin from the flower end all the way to the stem end, being careful not to cut through to the juicy seeds. The slits should meet at the stem end of the pomegranate. If you see drops of juice, you are cutting too deeply.
  3. Holding the pomegranate, place both thumbs at the flower end and firmly pull out a section, releasing it along the slits. Now you are ready to pull out the individual seeds. It’s still not a good idea to wear white when you do this.

~ This recipe is adapted from a meat version, Chile en Nogada with Fresh Fruit, and published here in 2011.


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Flan de México

September is here, the month to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day. Flan seems in order, the most Mexican of Mexican desserts, and one that any good cocinera mexicana worth her sal should know how to make.

Flan and other very sweet desserts arrived during the Spanish colonial period with the nuns. I can’t remember eating flan until we started traveling south of the border. On one of our trips, we assigned ourselves the mission of finding the very best flan anywhere. After many different tastings in many different towns, the winner was a flan at the Hotel Victoria in Chihuahua. Delicate. Silky. The stuff food memories are made of.

Flan is fairly simple to make, though I added the extra step of cooking sugar with evaporated milk to avoid using condensed milk, an ingredient in many Mexican flans, but excessively sweet. This substitution for condensed milk allows for adjusting the sweetness level to your own taste. Use less or more sugar in the condensed milk substitution, or use a can of condensed milk in place of one of the cans of evaporated milk if your sweet tooth needs sating. But if you do use condensed milk, omit adding sugar to the evaporated milk. It’s already in the condensed milk.

Flan in Mexico can be made with whole milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, coconut milk, orange juice, even with a box mix. This is a low-sugar version with evaporated milk.

FLAN serves 8-10

  • 2 cans (340 ml/360 g each) evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup (104 g), plus 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Bring evaporated milk and 1/2 cup (104 g) sugar to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  2. Bring 8 cups (2 liters) of water to a boil. Line a larger pan with a folded dish towel. This is to stabilized the loaf pan when it is placed into the larger baking pan of boiling water, creating a bain-marie, or water bath.
  3. Caramelize sugar to line loaf pan by bringing 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar and 1/4 cup (60 ml) water to a simmer over medium high heat in a medium sized, heavy-bottomed skillet, swirling pan briefly to evenly moisten sugar. Do not over-swirl or stir to prevent sugar from forming crystals. When it reaches a medium dark brown color, carefully pour into a 9″ (23 cm) loaf pan. Set aside. (See notes below recipe before caramelizing sugar.)
  4. Pre-heat oven to 300ºF (150ºC).
  5. Whisk yolks, whole eggs and vanilla. Gradually add evaporated milk and whole milk until combined. To avoid bubbles, do not over-mix. Pour into loaf pan. Cover with foil.
  6. Place pan on lowest shelf of oven. Carefully add boiling water to larger pan.
  7. Bake for 1 hour and 20-30 minutes. The center should jiggle when done. Let loaf pan rest in water bath for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, set on rack to cool. When room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  8. To unmold, run a thin knife around inside of loaf pan, place a large, rimmed dish upside down over flan and quickly invert, holding 2 dishes securely together. Remove loaf pan. Scrape any remaining caramel sauce around the flan. Slice and serve with spoonfuls of caramel sauce.

Notes ~

~ Making caramel requires a few does and don’ts. Do stay with the pan during caramelization. There’s a fine line between the complex bitter-sweet, dark brown caramel stage, and burnt caramel. Don’t stir. This can create sugar crystals. Swirling the pan at the beginning to moisten all the sugar is sufficient. Dark caramel reaches 380 F (193 C), so no splashing or spoon licking. Do pour the finished caramel immediately into the flan pan to stop cooking.

~ The pan can be removed from the heat at any time after the caramel starts to brown, but the darkest color, just when the caramel starts to smoke, yields the delightful bitter-sweet flavor that gives a counterpoint to the sweetness of the flan. Some of the caramel will remain in the pan after the flan is turned out. Set the pan in a skillet of very hot water for a few minutes, then scrape out softened caramel, but it won’t be possible to get it all out. Fill the pan with hot water and allow to soak before washing.

~ A lighter colored caramel will come out of the pan more easily, but will not have reached the complex burnt sugar flavor that is the hallmark of flan.

~ Serving flan is a delicate operation because the flan is so delicate. Use the thinnest knife you have to cut one slice. With a serving spatula as large as the slice, ease it into where you just cut. Have a second large spatula in place against the outer surface of the slice of flan. Using the first spatula, ease it onto the second spatula, then onto the dessert plate. Did that make sense? No worries if your served slice isn’t pristine. It will still be delicious.


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Molletes and Salsa Fresca

Molletes are common lunch fare, found in mercados and street stalls, but so easy to make at home. They are Mexico’s grilled cheese sandwiches, but heartier with refried beans and salsa fresca, fresh salsa that Russ and I still call pico de gallo — beak of the rooster — because that’s the name we learned when we first encountered it on our early trips to Mexico.

Bolillos, the crusty yeast rolls found everywhere in Mexico, are the base for molletes. During these covid days (months), my neighbor Maria and I take turns going into Mascota to pick up our pre-ordered groceries from Pepe’s. When I ordered bolillos, I got round, soft rolls. Not what I wanted. The next time it was my turn to go in, I pointed to the pointy rolls in the glass case in front of the store, not knowing what to call them, because to Pepe they weren’t bolillos. But they were! The grocery receipt itemized them as bolillos telera grande, a full 8″ (20 cm) long. We had molletes muy grande! If you can’t get bolillos or teleras by any name, crusty French bread makes a fine substitution.

Molletes ~ serves 4-6

  • 3 bolillos, or French bread cut into 6 4-6″ lengths
  • 4 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2 cups refried black beans, hot
  • 9 ounces grated manchego or Oaxaca cheese
  • 6 tablespoons cotija cheese, crumbled, optional garnish
  • 2 cups fresh salsa (recipe below)
  1. Cut bolillos in half lengthwise. Using a fork, pull out much of the doughy interior. Lightly butter cut side of bolillos and toast under a broiler until light brown.
  2. Heat oven to 400ºF (180ºC).
  3. Spread about 1/ 3 cup of refried beans across toasted side, filling cavity.
  4. Sprinkle cheese over beans and return to oven until cheese is melted.
  5. Spoon salsa generously over melted cheese, topping with optional cotija cheese. Serve immediately. Good with pickled onion, cebolla encurtida.

Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo ~ about 2 cups

  • 2 Roma tomatoes, about 10 ounces (283 g), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (2.4 oz/68 g) minced red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded and finely minced
  • 1/2 cup (.7 oz/20g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients. Adjust salt

Notes ~

~ For breakfast, serve molletes with a fried egg on the side. Russ wanted his with a scrambled egg on top (pictured below). And additional salsa verde, just because. I don’t know if Mexicans add eggs to molletes, but it worked for us.

~ On one of our trips to Mexico, before we made it our home, we came across a panedería with a wood-fired oven in the little town of Ciudad Fernández, in the state of San Luis Potosí. Such crusty bolillos, with a hint of wood smoke. Twenty-some years later, those bolillos remain a delicious memory.

~ The double “l” in mollete is pronounced as a “y” sound. Mo-YEH-tay. Bolillo is pronounced bo-LEE-yoh.