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 de res — Mexican beef soup


Caldo de Res, Mexican beef soup, is perfect for our unusually chilly winter. With chunks of tender beef and vegetables, including chayote, this soup is found on menus all across Mexico. Years ago, before we settled here, we would cross the border and drive all day through the desserts of northern Mexico to reach the highlands and jungles further south. As we drove, we would be already thinking about that day’s breakfast and lunch, our mouths almost salivating with anticipation of the upcoming meal, the first real Mexican food since our last trip south. Driving all day was tiring, the northern desserts could become boring. The thought of lunch or dinner was the carrot dangled in front of us. Onward to the next town and its restaurants, with their regional dishes of locally grown and raised chiles, beef, tomatoes, chayote, and more. I guess you could say we travel on our stomachs.

“Chayote?”, you are wondering. Also known as mirliton in France, and vegetable pear in English, it is a common squash south of the border, served in soups or stewed with tomatoes. Its unique appearance sets it off from the more familiar squashes, with tucked-in creases on its wide end. Zucchini makes a good substitute if you can’t find chayote.

Thinly sliced shanks and meaty beef bones make a rich broth. Oscar and Marta at Kenny’s Carniceria know I’m a regular soup maker, so they slice the bones thinly for me. Ask for chambarete (sham-bar-EH-tay) if you are shopping in Mexico. I brown the meat and bones first for richer flavors. I don’t pretend to be a food scientists, so this is the best explanation I can offer: when foods brown, chemical reactions take place, resulting in hundreds of different flavor compounds. This same reaction gives cajeta, (dulce de leche) its marvelous taste.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs. (1 kilo) shank and soup bones, thinly sliced
  • 2 quarts water plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/8 head of small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 ear of corn, husked and cut into 4-6 pieces, or slice off kernals
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, such as basil, mint, epazote, minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • cilantro for garnish
  1. Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot and brown meat and bones on all sides, about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Add water, cover and simmer 1 hour, or until meat is tender (or pressure cook 30 minutes).
  3. Pour off broth and reserve. Skim off any fat.
  4. Remove meat from bones when cool enough to handle.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in large pot over medium-low heat and cook onion until tender.
  6. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring.
  7. Add carrot, potato, cabbage and corn and reserved broth. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  8. Add meat, tomato and fresh herbs and simmer 5 minutes more.
  9. Salt to taste.
  10. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and warm corn tortillas.

Notes ~

~ For a traditional bowl of caldo de res, vegetable size matters. Cut the pieces into large cubes, slices or chunks for an authentic presentation. Mexican soups are always served with lime wedges and corn tortillas.

~ Of all those bowls of caldo de res we ate while traveling across Mexico, neither of us can ever remember chile being one of the ingredients. For heat, a dish of cooked salsa was brought to the table. Salsa roja would make a nice accompaniment to serve with caldo de res.

~ Again, we have the Aztec Nahuatl language to thank for the word, chayohtli, which became the Spanish word, chayote.

~ Corn, or elote, as it is known in Mexico, is still a foreign vegetable to me. Tough and starchy, it is not the sweet, tender, juicy corn we grew up with north of the border. It is included in the recipe and photo for the purpose of remaining true to the preparation and presentation of caldo de res, but I generally omit it because I simply can’t chew Mexican ears of corn. Mexicanos love their elote, sold roasted on sticks, smeared with mayonnaise, and sprinkled with lime juice and chile powder. I have yet to find one tender enough to chew.

More Warming Mexican Soups

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© 2009-2020 COOKING IN MEXICO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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