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.


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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.


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