mexican cooking

Tamales Are an Experience

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Tamales are not just masa and meats wrapped in corn husks,  a whole experience is wrapped into tamales, they are full of flavor, family, friends, memories, traditions, and history!

The tamale is recorded as early as 5000 BC, possibly 7000 BC in Pre-Columbian history.  The women would make tamales for the hunters or when in battle would travel with them, the tamal is a filling meal and holds well for traveling.

Over the centuries tamales remain as one of the most traditional foods in Mexico, and also in Central & Southern America.  There are so many variety that are often distinguished by the region of Mexico, the technique for the masa (corn dough) making is fairly consistent, however the fillings have a huge variety.  One thing for sure, they are labor intense and time consuming to make, thus now they are so often only made during the holidays or special celebrations.

What I enjoy most of tamales, besides eating them, is the event itself of making the tamales, the tamalada, which is the assemblying of the tamales (soaking the corn husks, spreading the masa, filling them, wrapping them, and cooking).  I guess it’s similar to getting together and making Christmas cookies.  It’s really quite an event to make the tamales, most often entailing 2-3days of preparation for the shopping of ingredients, preparation of the mole, preparation of the masa, then the assembling, and finally the cooking.  If you are making tamales from scratch, and most likely making several dozens, it requires, and is much more fun when family and/or friends participate!  The holidays are a great time for a tamalada, growing up my mom and the tias (aunties) and cousins made everything from scratch.  And if you are planning on making tamales from scratch and it’s your first time, I highly recommend to have at least one experienced person assisting you so you to get perfect tamales, everything from the masa to the sauce to the cooking process has it’s tricks- trust me!  I’m lucky I have El Burrito Mercado to get the prepared masa and tamales fillings so all I have to do is assemble the tamales and cook em up!

Four years ago we held our first tamalada class and people look forward to it now, this weekend we had our 2016 tamalada in our newly expanded La Placita Room and it was a success! Everyone had a great time, my mother, our matriarch, shares some really fun stories and a plethora of information all about tamales while the class sipped on cocktails and ate dinner. Then, the last half of class everyone assembles their tamales, learns about tamales cooking techniques and then enjoy dessert & ponche navideno, each person walks away with a swag bag full of goodies.

Here are some pictures from our 2016 tamalada:

 

We are offering another tamalada in January, this event is open for kids too, 12yr and older, it’s a wonderful cultural experience, eat delicious authentic dinner, learn the basics about tamale making and then assemble your own to take home and freeze to later cook for your Superbowl party or for any event! Registration is now open and limited capacity, register soon, makes a great holiday gift!

So you see, tamales are not only masa and meats wrapped in the corn husk, also wrapped into each tamal is history, tradition, flavor, memories, and experiences.

Cheers, to your Tamalada!

Hearty, Delicious, Comforting Mexican Foods for the Fall

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I think Mexican food is the best comfort food especially for cold weather, it’s tasty, hearty and the spiciness not only adds flavor, it feels good especially on a chilly day.

Spicy food is proven to boost your metabolism thus, literally heating you up! Many salsas and sauces help heat us up because of the capsaicin found in peppers, capsaicin is an active chemical compound component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum.  It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact.

One can measure the spiciness of peppers the brave, riskier, and much more macho method and actually taste test the peppers.  Or, you can use the ever so clever Scoville Scale as a guide.

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What’s the big deal with the spice? Well, spicy foods is proven to boost your metabolism, so you get a double whammy benefit, warm up and burn calories!!  And for spicy ethnic food lovers, we’ll agree that spice makes bland food better, turn a plain ol baked potato into a taste bud delight, roast some peppers, chop them up, top the papa with sour cream, the peppers, and cheese, or, mix a spicy salsa into the sour cream before topping.  One of my favorite ways to spice up food? A sprinkle of a few freshly chopped serranos (yea, my level on the Scoville chart maxes at about the middle), into rice, beans, eggs, pasta, and salads, and sometimes, it’s just a sprinkle of good ol tabasco sauce on eggs or pizza, or Salsa Valentina on potato chips & popcorn.

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Drizzle Salsa Valentina, Tapatio, or Salsa Bufalo with a squeeze of fresh lime juice onto your favorite chip snack or popcorn!

Mexican foods are are hearty, filling, and can be spicy, but not all Mexican food is spicy.  From stews, cheesy chile rellenos or enchiladas, to tasty hearty soups, the options for Mexican dinner night at home can convert to nightly Mexican dinners!  Below are a couple of my favorite comfort Mexican foods and links to some excellent recipes.

ENCHILADAS ROJAS, (and I must mention the bragging rights of our enchiladas rojas to our winning status in City Pages 2010 friendly ‘street food smack down) For this recipe, I recommend our ready to use Enchilada Sauce available by the jar in our deli., and the simple recipe to make these with our sauce, all ingredients available at El Burrito Mercado:

Heat up some oil in a fry pan, heat up oven to 350degrees

1dz corn tortillas (we prefer Sabinas brand for this)

2cups of your favorite shredded cheese (we prefer Supremo Queso Chihuaha or shredded chicken- or mix them together)

1 jar of El Burrito Mercado Salsa para Enchiladas

Toppings of choice, we recommend: Supremo Queso Fresco, shredded cabbage or lettuce, and Cacique Crema Mexicana.

Step 1: Place the tortilla in hot oil (use tongs), for a few seconds on each side, just until tortilla is pliable, place on a plate with paper towel to drain.

Step 2: Pour sauce into a fry pan, simmer low.

Step 3: Grab drained tortilla, dip into the salsa, place onto baking pan.

Step 4: In the baking pan, grab the cooked tortilla, add about a tablespoon of the salsa to center of the tortilla, add about 2tbsp of filling, roll tightly, place along the inside of edge of the baking pan, repeat with all the tortillas.

Step 5: Pour half of remaining sauce & spread sauce evenly over the enchiladas (leave some extra), place in oven for about 20min.

Remove from oven. Serve onto plate, add more sauce, crumble queso fresco on top, garnish with crema and lettuce. Want to make your own salsa roja? Try this recipe: http://thelatinkitchen.com/r/recipe/red-enchiladas-chile-guajillo-sauce-enchiladas-rojas-de-chile-guajillo

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POZOLE ROJO

My favorite soup- really any time of the year, Caldo de Pozole Rojo or Verde (red or green pozole) Pozole soup is made with pork shoulder or shanks, red chiles, and lots of hominy corn. (Pozole is actually hominy, hominy is dried maize kernels, when used in cooking, it goes through an alkali process, known as nixtamalization, loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the kernels. The process can cause the kernels to double in size, sometimes the lime is replaced with lye or wood ash for processing.)  Traditionally pozole is made for special occasions (and actually in my family it still is a tradition) but it’s a fairly common soup that you will find on many Mexican restaurant menus, including ours, but only on Fridays because we have other exquisite soups every other day of the week like Caldo de Albondigas (a meatball & rice soup), Caldo Tlapeno (the supreme chicken soup), and Menudo amongst others.

Pozole Rojo
Pozole Rojo
Caldo Tlapeno
Caldo Tlapeno, chicken, vegetables, topped with fried tortilla strips, avocado, chipotle, and queso cotija

Funny story, when I was first married, I wanted to impress my husband with an authentic traditional Mexican meal (mind you he comes from a family of EXCELLENT cooks on all Mexican foods) And, we lived in California at the time, so my mom was no where near me to help. So, I took on the challenge to make him pozole rojo (it’s actually a very simple soup to make), I made a 4qrt pot of what ended up as huge pot of water, tough meat, and seeds from the peppers floating everywhere- it was a disaster! None the less, my darling hubby gave it a try and smiled, and asked me “did you forget to remove the seeds and strain the sauce?” I almost cried I was so embarrassed, but he praised my efforts and we tossed the huge pot of pozole.  Since then, I have learned to make a decent pozole, (and now know to remove the seeds from the peppers and strain the sauce into the soup) I still prefer my in-laws pozole the best! (they add pork feet which gives it a flavor I LOVE!)  Try this recipe from Mexico in my Kitchen, I’ve reviewed Mely’s recipes and they are very authentic, I recommend following her for other delicious recipes and  you can find the ingredients at El Burrito Mercado.  http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2010/09/how-to-make-pozole-como-hacer-pozole.html

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Tamales, we sell a variety of tamales in our deli!

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TAMALES (a mesoamerican dish made of corn dough spread onto a leaf or corn husk, filled with a variety of meats & sauces, steam cooked)

And the mother of all cold weather Mexican food, TAMALES! In Mexico, in the early cold winter mornings, you will encounter little crowds of people gathered at street corner buying tamales & atole (hot corn- and masa-based beverage of Mexican, Guatemalan, Honduran, and El Salvadoran origin) from street vendors.  Another experiencia mexicana that El Burrito Mercado offers you from Mexico, tamales and atole as a daily breakfast special, we are open daily at 7am with hot, authentic Mexican breakfasts and bakery variety.  Here are a couple recipes for making atole, as for the tamales, I recommend you grab a siz pack or dozen (and freezeable) from our deli to heat and eat at home. Tamales are a very time consuming process, but, if want to try it from scratch, try Mely’s recipes and mark your calendar to join us on December 6 for our Tamalada class (details to follow).   And, for a simple and still fun way to make tamales, we cut the labor in half for you, this holiday season, just come buy the ready to use ingredients from our grab n go deli ready to assemble and freeze or cook, corn husks, masa (corn dough), filling, and the special pot to cook them in.

GUISADOS (stews based from variation peppers cooked with pork, beef, or chicken)

Guisados are good year round, but like any stew, especially in the cold weather, a steamy, spicy guisado hits the spot every time. This time of year we especially like to make guisados with corn, zucchini, and chayote (a green pear-shaped tropical fruit that resembles cucumber in flavor). Guisados are available in our grab n go deli, and in case you didn’t know, this is what we are most known for in our El Cafe Restaurant y Bar, we offer a steam table filled with at least six variety of from scratch, homemade guisados! This fall when you visit us, be sure to try one of our daily specials inspired with fall ingredients in mind, and extra spice to heat you up!

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Pork in Chipotle & Cactus, a perfect blend for a cold day! Smoky, and spicy

This season, venture into the hearty and tasty flavors of Mexico, and add peppers or hot sauces to your everyday foods for some heat! Visit our grab n go deli for convenient guisados (stews) and explore the many unique ingredients in our mercado for inspiration and ideas to create your own experiencias at home.

Feliz Fall!

Milissa

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