by Julia Jean-Francois
The cooking adventure continues, and this month it took us on a virtual trip to Mexico with a visit to Luz Maria and her incredible mighty-mini Sunset Park kitchen. Luz Maria is a soft spoken and gracious young woman from the Mexican state of Puebla. In previous cooking lessons she has turned out the lightest, fluffiest chiles rellenos (stuffed poblano chiles) that we have ever had the unalloyed joy and happiness to sink our teeth into.
This month we persuaded her to show us a few new recipes, picaditas and enchiladas, both made with the best salsa verde that we’ve had in a long time. Hand made tortillas, soft, toothsome with a slightly nutty-sweet toasted ground corn flavor, knocked the whole experience out of the culinary grand stands. Luz claims she is nothing special in the kitchen, but we feel differently. Little by little, she is coming around to the possibility of joining our newly formed group of cooks offering private cooking lessons to eager home cooks in NYC. “Émigré Gourmet,” our cooking artist collaborative, would be the richer for Luz Maria’s joining up! Stay tuned for the launch of Émigré Gourmet in the upcoming weeks.
Recipes after the jump.
10 small green tomatillos (these look like small tomatoes covered with a pale green paper lantern peel).
10 serrano chiles
A handful of pipicha (a grass like herb with a lemony scent) or if you can’t get to a Mexican market, substitute fresh cilantro
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of salt
2 oz warm water
Cook chiles in boiling water until soft; add tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes. (If you really want spicy sauce, you can grill the chiles in a dry cast iron pan until their skins turn brown and the flesh is soft. Peel off the burnt skin and keep the flesh). Transfer chiles with 2 oz. of warm water into a food processor, blender or, if you have one, a stone mortar. Crush the chiles, then add tomatoes, salt, pipicha or cilantro, and blend or mash them into a chunky, rather than smooth, sauce.
(This recipe makes about 10 tortillas)
3 cups of cornmeal (The best type to use for tortillas is a corn flour called masa harina, which is also more nutritious and easier to digest)
2 cups of warm water
Although you get more consistent results by using a tortilla press, tortillas can be made by hand. Mix the corn flour with a cup of water until a soft pliable dough is formed. Knead the dough well for about 2 minutes, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Between your hands, form large egg-sized pieces, and flatten each piece using light pressure with the heel of your hand, into a thin pancake on a piece of plastic wrap (so it doesn’t stick to the surface).
Preheat the tortilla pan (or a cast iron griddle or a large skillet- non stick surfaces are not desirable for this preparation). Cooking one at a time, gently lay down the tortillas on the pan and press the top lightly. It takes about 30 seconds to a minute on each side, so that the tortillas are lightly browned and somewhat fluffy. As they are done, transfer them into a tortillero, or any heat-insulated container that will keep them warm while you finish cooking the rest. Finished tortillas should be firm but not hard and dried out (this indicates that they are overdone).
1 small white onion,
small block of white farmer’s cheese, chopped
Follow the recipe for tortillas, but shape the mixture into oblong shapes about 4 inches wide and 6 inches long. Cook until picaditas are lightly browned and somewhat fluffy. The moment they are removed from the heat, lightly pinch the edges of the still hot picaditas so that a ridge is formed. This will help to hold the sauce and toppings. As they are done, transfer them into a tortillero, a heat-insulated container that will keep them warm while you finish cooking the rest. Before serving, put the tortillas back on the pan one by one for another 30 seconds, while spreading some salsa verde, chopped onions and farmer’s cheese on top. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
½ pound of pork (shoulder), thinly sliced
half of a small onion, chopped
Heat oil and sear salt and pepper-seasoned sliced pork in a pan. In another pan, cook onion until golden, and toss in remaining salsa verde. Cook both for about 10 mintues. Soak the fresh tortillas in the sauce, transfer them onto the tortilla pan, and to with pork. Fold tortillas in half, sprinkle cheese on top, and serve warm.