“RECIPES ARE AMAZING THINGS, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN MAGIC POTIONS AND PASSPORTS TO A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIVING.” /BEE WILSON, THE GUARDIAN 18 JUNE 2017
Because without immigrants, there’d be no restaurants.
MADDIE OATMAN SEP. 29, 2017 7:30 PM MOTHER JONES
Traci Des Jardins, a Top Chef Masters finalist and owner of six San Francisco restaurants including the much-lauded Jardiniere, hopes her award-winning French-rooted cuisine inspires pleasure and satisfaction above all—but knows that it’s sometimes impossible to avoid the spice of politics. The question of how far to wade into political territory—without distracting from the food she concocts—is often on her mind. “I’ve always tried not to be preachy in my restaurants,” she said on a recent episode of Bite podcast. But some causes tip the scales. On Jardiniere’s receipts, she now includes a tiny message at the bottom that reads, “Immigrants make America great! They also cooked and served you dinner this evening.”
“Immigrants are the backbone of the restaurant world,” Des Jardins says. “I think it’s incredibly important in the political climate that we’re in to really acknowledge that.” But even in liberal San Francisco, not all diners agree, she says: “We’ve had people write on the bottom of the checks: ‘I’ll never come back here again,’” after seeing the message. “There’s a lot of vitriol.”
And Des Jardins was once again drawn into a political cause. It started with Chef Andrea Lawson Gray, author of Celebraciones Mexicanas and a private chef in San Francisco who runs a group of top-rated local private chefs.When she learned that the DACA program was ending, Lawson Gray thought first of her daughter-in-law, a former Dreamer who had finally qualified for her permanent residency just weeks before.... Lawson Gray spent the next three weeks organizing a benefit dinner to raise funds for Mission Asset’s scholarship. One of the chefs who agreed to help was Rogelio Garcia, executive chef of Des Jardins’ The Commissary restaurant. He approached Des Jardins about the benefit, and she offered up a dining room at her restaurant Jardiniere. “I think Rogelio got the impression that this would happen,” Lawson Gray says of Des Jardins’ offer. “I think this is very personal for her.”.... MORE
RECIPES FROM THE MISSION
Atole: History and a Chocolate Atole (Champurrado) Recipe
Corn is one of the "Three Sisters" of Mexico, three ingredients that have mainstays of the Mexican diet since pre-Columbian times (the other two 'sisters" are squash and beans). In Mexico, they even say, "Sin maiz, no hay pais" or "Without corn, there is no country". Corn tortillas are on the table at every meal, and the average Mexican consumes half a kilo, or just over a pound per day and up to a kilo per day in rural areas. So it is no surprise that a corn-based beverage is one of the most popular, typically served with a Torta de Tamale (a tamale on a Mexican bread roll) for desayuno. Atole is also traditional on Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 12th) and comes in many flavors: with fruit, nuts, and the most popular is with chocolate, called champurrado. This thick, creamy and comforting beverage has event attracted the attention of the likes of David Lebowitz, who describes it as having "a consistency similar to crème anglaise"
As early as 1651, the process by which atole was made was noted by botanist Francisco Hernandez in a report on the use of plants in Nueva España. :
Atolli was eight parts water and six parts maize, plus lime, cooked until soft. The maize was then ground and cooked again until it thickened
The following description of Mexican atoles by Englishwoman Fanny Chambers Gooch, written in 1887, gives us some interesting insight into the varieties of the time:
‘I found plain atole much the same in appearance as gruel of Indian meal, but much better in taste, having the slight flavor of the lime in which the corn is soaked, and the advantage of being ground on the metate, which preserves a substance lost in grinding in a mill. . . . Atole de leche, (milk), by adding chocolate takes the name of champurrado if the bark of cacao is added, it becomes atole de cascara; if red chile—- chile atole. If, instead, any of these agua miel, sweet water of the maguey, is added, it is called atole de agua miel; if piloncillo, the native brown sugar, again the name is modified to atole de pinolei’
There is evidence of mixing atole with chocolate as far back as the Mayan era. In the Yucatan today, where the strongest Mayan influences remain, they serve a thick, chocolate-flavored atolecalled tanchcua, to which allspice, honey ad black pepper is added. Although the following recipe uses milk, it is common in Mexico to skip the milk and make champurrado with water. Experiment… there are so many ways to make this!
(makes 6 small cups)
1 cup prepared tortilla masa (Maseca brand or equivalent) or fresh tortilla
masa (not tamale masa)
1 cup milk
5 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1 Mexican chocolate (available in Latino markets, brand names Ibarro or Abuelita,
Rancho Gordo stocks a wonderful hand-crafted stoneground Mexican Chocolate)
1 ½ piloncillo, grated (see photo, right, or 6 oz. sugar)
1 cup milk
Blend masa with a cup of water by hand or with a blender;, be sure there are no lumps. Add a second cup of water gradually, continue blending. Heat the remaining water in another saucepan. Once your water is boiling, lower to medium heat and add cinnamon, chocolate, and sugar or piloncillo, cooking until the chocolate is dissolved and starts to just begins boil. Now, add masa mixture and stir constantly to avoid lumps and to keep from sticking to the bottom of pan. Lower heat to medium and continue stirring until masa is cooked (30 minutes), Then add milk and stir for 5 more minutes.
5 Mexican beverages to KEEP YOU WARM that you can make right now!
Those of you who follow me know that I am usually a stickler for authenticity, especially when it comes to the subject of Mexican cuisine and customs. But, baby, it’s cold outside and that means everyone needs a quick fix of something hot and Mexican (unless you already have this in your life, in which case you don’t have to worry so much about the cold. But for the rest of you….), so we are going to cut some corners.
If you have:
A clay pot* (optional)
4½ oz piloncillo, roughly chopped or brown sugar
(or omit for those who take their coffee without sweetner)
Zest of half orange, finely chopped
2 whole cloves
3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
¾ cup freshly ground dark-roasted Mexican coffee
… then you can make
1. Mexican Coffee or Cafe de Olla CON CANELA
(Makes 2 cups)
*The clay pot used for this recipe adds a subtle put perceptible flavor to the coffee. Do not use the same clay pot you use to prepare beans—you need a separate pot.
In a clay pot (olla) or a kettle bring 9 cups of water to boil, combine the ingredients, stirring until the piloncillo or brown sugar is dissolved. Let steep at least 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer before serving. For special occasions, it is traditional to add a splash of rum or brandy to the individual coffee cups.
If you have...
*an envelope of “Horchata”
1 cup of white rice
1 cup milk
2 sticks of cinnamon
8 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar or to taste
Ground cinnamon to taste
… then you can make
2. Horchata Latte
*(Makes 8 -10 cups of horchata)
Note, if you leave near a Mexican market, like Casa Lucas on 24th St. in the Mission district in San Francisco, you can buy envelopes of “Instant Horchata Drink Mix” (not my favorite by a long shot because it typically is way too sweet and contains at least come artificial ingredients) to which you just add water. It’s not the real deal, but it is certainly much quicker. If not, recipe for making Horchata follows
Wash rice and then soak it in 1 cup of milk with cinnamon sticks in a covered container; refrigerate overnight. In a blender, add rice, milk, and cinnamon sticks with some of the water; mix until completely blended. Strain though a coffee filter or a fine cheese cloth.In a large pitcher, add the strained mixture, vanilla, sugar to taste, and the rest of the cold water. Stir well and reserve.
Prepare coffee for lattes as usual. Substitute Horchata (rice milk) for regular milk. No need to add sugar, your Horchata Latte is already sweet. Serve with a dash of ground cinnamon
2-3 teaspoons sugar, preferably brown, to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional), we recommend MySpaceSage Pure Vanilla Extract
3 oz or 6 tablespoons chocolate (in any form)
2 1/2 cups milk or, water and 1/4 cup cream or half & half
... then you can make
3. Quick Mexican Hot Chocolate
(Makes enough for 2 large mugs)
Bring 2 1/2 cups of milk or water (yes, in Mexico, they sometimes make hot chocolate with water) with a teaspoon of vanilla (optional) to boil and reduce heat, adding 1 stick of cinnamon only if you do not have Mexican Chocolate disks (like Abuelita or Ibarra). Allow to simmer (on low) for ten minutes. If using milk, you’ll want to stir occasionally as you are warming the milk mixture, being careful not to allow the pot to boil (or boil over!) Next, add your chocolate. This part is important: if you are adding any kind of sweetened chocolate, including Mexican Chocolate disks, do not add sugar (see next step). If using unsweetened baker’s chocolate square, add 2-3 teaspoons, to taste, of brown sugar (or cane sugar if you don’t have brown sugar) to the hot milk or water and continue cooking until chocolate is completely melted. If using any kind of sweetened bar chocolate, or even sweetened chocolate chips, follow this same step but do not add sugar. If using unsweetened cocoa powder, heat 2 tablespoons of water, sugar and the cocoa powder and microwave briefly and stir to form a paste, which you will add to the hot milk or water. If using sweetened cocoa powder, follow this same step but do not add sugar. Remove warmed milk-chocolate mixture from the stove. Whisk until the hot chocolate turns frothy. Pour into individual clay mugs. Garnish with a stick of cinnamon.
If you have...
1/2 cup prepared tortilla masa (Maseca brand or equivalent) or fresh tortilla
masa (not tamale masa)
scant pinch of salt
4 cups water and a cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate (see above)
5 cups water and any kind of chocolate
1/2- 1 cup milk
...then you can make
4. Quick Champurrado (Chocolate Atole)
(Makes enough for 4 large mugs)
Blend masa with a cup of water by hand or with a hand mixer; be sure there are no lumps left after mixing. Add a second cup of water gradually, continue blending. In a large pot, heat 2 cups water, salt and 1 cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate, bring to a gentle boil; or, add whatever chocolate you are using (see italicized section above in the instructions for Mexican Hot Chocolate) to 3 cups water to which salt has been added and bring to a boil. Add masa mixture. Lower heat to medium and continue stirring until masa is cooked (5 minutes), then add more water if needed (in case mixture is too thick, you want to achieve a consistency similar to a thinnish gravy, although some prefer a thicker atole) and stir for 5 more minutes. Finish by adding 1 cup of milk.Taste for sweetness, add more sugar if needed. (You may want to use an electric whisk to finish off your atole, it adds a lovely foam and will get out any lumps of masa that might remain.)
If you have...
2 cups apple cider
an apple, cut bite-sized
a pear, cut bite-sized
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup other dried fruit such as prunes, cherries
1/4-1/3 cup dried cranberries (important for tartness)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves (optional)
1 star anise (optional)
2 oranges, sliced and cut in half
Sugar cane (optional)
... then you can make
5. Quick "PONCHE"- Mexican Holiday Punch
(Makes enough for 2 large mugs)
Wash all fruits and cut as required. In a large pot, boil apple cider to which add star anise, cloves, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks have been added. Boil on high for 10-15 minutes, strain mixture to remove any remaining spices. Once strained, add all cut fruits, cook 5 minutes and add dry fruits, and sugar cane. Cook for additional 20 minutes. Serve in a mug or a clay cup. Garnish with sugar cane (optional). Add brandy for extra warmth!
Traditional recipes for Mexican Hot Chocolate, Champurrado, Ponche and Cafe de Olla can be found in my book, Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes.
Roasted Veggies with Salsa Macha
About Salsa Macha
I don’t know about you, but I find that I almost always have small quantities of different kinds of nuts in my pantry, most leftover from topping salads, or even from snacking. And, like any good Mexican chef, I have a huge jar of assorted dried chiles. These, and garlic and good olive oil are all you need to make Salsa Macha, which has the power to turn any vegetable into a stellar plate. The trick is to use an array of nuts and an array of chiles. Each brings it’s own, unique flavor to the salsa. Make note of the quantities and combinations of nuts and chiles you use. When you make your favorite batch, you’ll be ready to repeat it the next time.
Salsa Macha works especially well with vegetables that have layers, like fennel or Brussels sprouts, that you can cut in half and place on a roasting pan with the layered side facing upwards; this way, when you drizzle or brush your veggies with the salsa it penetrates the layers for really great flavor. For an unexpected side with steak, half a Spanish white onion and brush with a thick layer of Salsa Macha, roast in a slow oven (300°) for 30-40 minutes, then drizzle with more Salsa Macha before serving. This salsa also pairs beautifully with chicken: simply brush skin before roasting, and if roasting whole bird, rub inside cavity with it as well.
Salsa Macha is originally from the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, a port city where spices and ingredients not indigenous to Mexico entered with the ships that docked there. Much of the cuisine coming out of Veracruz is atypical to that of the rest of the country, in that there is a strong Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean component to the ingredients and flavors. This, combined with indigenous Mexican and, of course, Spanish cooking comes together to inform Veracruzano cuisine.
(makes 2 about cups)
4-6 dried chiles (any combination of chiles will work: Anchos, Guajillos, Puyas, Chipotle Moritos or Mecos are especially good due to their smoky flavor; if using smaller and much hotter Chiles de Arbol, you will want to adjust the total # of chiles accordingly
4 cloves garlic
1/3-1/2 cups assorted nuts (peanuts, pecans, almonds are all good. If using walnuts, blanch first to remove bitter skin. If using hazelnuts, roll them in a dish towel to remove skins)
2 tablespoons raw white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ Star anise (optional)
1 tablespoon oregano (preferably Mexican, available through Rancho Gordo)
2 tablespoons piloncillo (or substitute brown sugar)
Salt to taste (adjust salt if any of the nuts you are using are salted)
Dry roast garlic on the comal, until it begins to blacken, turning so as to expose all sides of the garlic to the heat. Dry roast chiles until they puff up and/or begin to change color and just start to blacken. You will need to watch your chiles carefully so as not to burn them; every chile cooks differently—some, like Chiles de Arbol, cook very quickly; others, like the wrinkly Ancho chile, need a little encouragement. Weigh Ancho chiles down by placing a small pot of water on top of them (or, even better if you have a bacon press, use that) so that the surface of the chiles are touching the comal. Dry roast sesame seeds until they begin to “dance”; after this happens you will need to immediately remove them from the comal as they burn very easily. Remove stems and break or tear larger chiles into small pieces. You may include the seeds for a hotter salsa, or remove them, to your taste (the seeds and veins are the hottest parts of a chile). Now, put all the dry-roasted ingredients including the star anise (if using) into a strong blender with the remaining ingredients and mix until well blended but not pulverized. You are not going for a purée, but rather a sauce that has the texture of a pesto but with more olive oil than pesto. Let the mixture sit at least overnight before using, so as to infuse the olive oil with the flavors of the rest of the ingredients.Store in airtight jar in the refrigerator.
Note:I prefer dry roasting because it adds a smoky flavor to the salsa, but some chefs prefer to sautée the garlic and dry ingredients in the olive oil before blending. If you choose this method, be sure to allow the olive oil mixture to cool well before blending.
Esquites Shooters and Warm Corn Soup two ways
A Word About Fresh Corn
According to the National Gardening Association, “you can pull back a bit of the husk and check to see if the ear looks well filled and the kernels are creamy yellow or white. Many gardening guides tell you to pierce a kernel with your thumbnail to test for ripeness. If the liquid inside is watery, that ear isn’t quite ready. If the liquid is white or ‘milky,’ you’re in business.”
It’s especially important to buy corn from a farmer’s market or a retailer you know gets fresh produce deliveries direct from the farm early every morning, Why? Corn tastes different and is different after 24 hours,“the natural conversion of sugar into starch is sped up when you harvest [the corn]. The moment you pick an ear of sweet corn, its sugars start to change into starches because the natural goal is to nourish seed for reproduction. In 24 hours, most varieties convert more than half their sugar content to starch”.
(make 6-8 servings of soup or 36 shooters)
10 very fresh ears of corn
1 1/2 tbsp salt
8-12 cups water
2 epazote sprig or 1 tsp dry epazote (optional)
2-4 cups Corn Stock (see recipe, below)
12 tablespoons crumbled Cotija cheese
Piquin or Ancho chile powder, or Rancho Gordo's Stardust Dipping Powder
Dollop of mayonnaise per serving (optional)
Using a very sharp a knife, remove corn kernels from cob by sitting the base of the corn on a wooden cutting board (plastic boards are too slippery) and slicing close to the cob with a downwards motion, using a serrated knife. Put corn kernels, corn cobs and epazote into rapidly boiling, salted water in a large pot for 3 minutes. Do not overcook corn. Shock corn by placing briefly in a large bowl of ice water so as to stop it from cooking further. Remove corn cobs and strain liquid and save both to make stock.
Traditional Esquites or Warm Corn Soup
Add corn kernels to simmering Corn Stock (see recipe below) and cook for just for 1-2 minutes, just to reheat them. Your ratio should be 2/3rd stock and 1/3 kernels, or, for a more stew-like dish, you can reverse the ratio so there is more corn than stock, which is how traditional Esquites are served in Mexico. There, they sprinkle the Esquites with piquín chile or ancho chile powder, the juice of half a lime, and 1 tablespoon of crumbled Cotija cheese, and some even add a dollop of mayonnaise.
Creamy Corn Soup
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS FOR CREAMY CORN SOUP
2 cups milk or cream or coconut milk (you can use low-fat milk, whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream or any combination thereof to achieve the richness and creaminess you want)
cilantro for garnish
red or green chili oil for garnish
Purée 3/4 of the corn kernels with 3 cups of the Corn Broth and the milk, half-and-half or heavy cream, until you have a smooth soup. You may need to work this soup in batches and blend longer than usual, as corn is fibrous. Add more corn stock or milk to thin the soup as needed. Taste and add salt as needed. To serve, reheat soup and remaining corn kernels, separately. Ladle soup into bowls, add a heaping tablespoon of the remaining corn kernels in the middle and garnish with chopped cilantro and red chile oil.
RIFFS: Add 6-8 oz. cooked crabmeat (quality canned, fresh, previously frozen crabmeat is fine, you’ll want to reserve some for garnish) to mixture, and all of the corn kernels you prepared, to the blender and purée for a Creamy Corn and Crab Soup. Add a dollop of crabmeat to middle of soup (see below) a little chopped cilantro and chile oil for garnish.
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS FOR ESQUITE SHOOTERS
1 serrano chile or jalapeño (according to your taste), deveined, seeded, and minced
1 sweet red pepper, small dice
6 tablespoons melted butter
Salt and pepper (optional) to taste
Add butter, chiles and sweet peppers to cooked kernels and mix well. Add salt, and pepper (if using), to taste. Chill for at least an hour. Serve cold in double shot glasses, topped with Cotija cheese.
RIFFS: If you want to make Creamy Esquite Shooters, follow instruction for Creamy Corn Soup, above, ladling the soup into double shot glasses and topping with kernels. Creamy Esquite Shooters can be served hot or cold. If serving cold, top with Cotija cheese crumbles; if serving hot, garnish with red chile oil and chopped cilantro.
For Corn and Scallop Shooters, add well-seasoned broiled, sautéed or marinated (as in ceviche) bay scallops (if available, these are sweeter and you can leave them whole as they are smaller) or, sea scallops chopped to about the same size as your corn kernels. Ratio should be 2/3 corn to 1/3 scallops. Do not top with Cotija cheese, just a little chopped cilantro will do, for color. Serve hot if using sautéed or broiled scallops. Serve cold if you have prepared your scallops as ceviche, in an acidic (lemon or lime) marinade.
2 tablespoon salted butter
1 poblano, dry-roasted to remove skin
1 Spanish white onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
10 corn cobs (the ones you left over from making the Esquites, which will still have plenty of flavor left in them as you only boiled them for 3 minutes)
4 cups water (if you have liquid left from boiling your corn, use it now)
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste
Sautée poblanos and onion in butter. Put corn cobs and garlic in a large pot adding water, or a combination of water and liquid from boiling your corn kerns, to cover and salt well. (You may need to cut your cobs in half so as to fit them in the pot). Bring to boil and lower to a simmer. Add onions and poblanos. Simmer for at least half an hour; the longer you simmer, the more corn flavor your stock will have. Check for salt and add as needed. Keep pot covered if you choose to continue cooking past 30 minutes, so your stock does not evaporate. Remove cobs and strain stock before using. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, freeze for up to 3 months.