Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Leftover Rosca de Reyes Bread Pudding Recipe

After about a day, Rosca de Reyes becomes more like dry cake, good for dunking into coffee or hot chocolate, but not so tasty for eating plain. What to do? Make bread pudding, of course.

I got a little carried away in the Teotitlan del Valle market and bought three Roscas. They are so pretty. After giving one away, there were still two. Friends came over for dinner last night, so I decided to use up what I had and make bread pudding.

Rosca de Reyes bread pudding, leftover deliciousness

Using a New York Times basic bread pudding recipe, I adapted it for Oaxaca flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small Rosca de Reyes sweet egg bread loaf, cut into 3″ cubes (be sure to remove all the plastic Baby Jesus dolls)
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 4 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 T. butter + 1 T. for greasing baking dish
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. Reposado mezcal
  1. Put the cut up bread, including candied fruit, nuts and raisins into large mixing bowl.
  2. Heat milk, butter, vanilla, and sugar in saucepan until butter is melted.
  3. Cool liquid mixture to room temp. (Put in fridge or freezer for speedy chilling.)
  4. Beat eggs in another mixing bowl. Add  liquid and beat again until combined.
  5. Add mezcal to liquid. Stir. (Note: Some recipes call for whiskey or bourbon. We’re in Oaxaca. Why not use mezcal?)
  6. Pour over cake bread. Let stand 30-40 minutes or until bread is soft.
  7. Pour into a buttered baking dish (preferably deep dish).
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until top is crusty and custard is completely cooked.
  9. Serve warm. Serves 6-8.

Rosca in it’s original form before it becomes pudding

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I owned a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school. Another part of my creative past life still emerges from time-to-time.

Rosca de Reyes and Three Kings Day in Oaxaca

Here in Oaxaca the tradition is to celebrate Three Kings Day, Dia de los Reyes, January 6, with gift-giving to the children. Godparents visit the homes of godchildren, godchildren come to the homes of godparents.

Rosca de Reyes topped with candied fruits, stuffed with plastic Baby Jesus

They will present a Rosca de Reyes,  that translates to wreath of the kings. They sit down to a cup of steaming, frothy hot chocolate, locally made, tear off a piece of Rosca, dunk, sip and eat.

Hard to tell what’s under wraps here.

Surprise, the sweet egg bread covered in candied fruit, is stuffed with little plastic Baby Jesus dolls. Whomever gets one in their piece of bread gets to host the Candlemas party on February 2, forty days after Jesus’ birthday. There will be a lot of parties around here. The dolls are plentiful. Forty is a magic number.

A gift-wrapped Rosca de Reyes, Mexico’s colors

Is this Mexican Christmas? Three Kings Day occurs twelve days after December 25, when the astronomers, called Magi, gave gifts to honor the birth of Jesus.

A stack of Rosca de Reyes, simpler version, still yummy.

Mexico has an amazing cycle of festivals occurring with regularity around the calendar, moving from one season to the next, opening and closing Christmas, moving into the Easter season with Lent and Carnival. It seems that there is not a week of respite here.

Another version of Rosca de Reyes, topped with a sugar dough crust

This is a country of celebration.

Today in the Teotitlan del Valle market, bakers of Rosca de Reyes proudly displayed their artisanry. They came from here, from Tlacolula and from Santo Domingo near Tule. Some gave out samples to lure customers. It worked for me.

By 10:30 a.m. almost all the Rosca’s were sold out and bakers folded up their tablecloths. The best, made with egg bread, called pan de yema, went first.

Selling Rosca de Reyes in the Teotitlan del Valle market. This is a BIG ONE.

The bread makes a great gift, if I don’t eat it all! And at 30 pesos each for a small one, it’s a real value. That’s about $1.50 USD for handmade edibles.

Tortilla sellers in the open air Teotitlan market

Toy and clothing sellers filled the market, too. Many were families visiting from the USA who bring things to sell to help cover their travel expenses.

Berta selling ingredients for Sopa de Guias

Sopa de guias, squash vine, squash blossom, squash and corn soup, is a specialty this time of year, too. All the ingredients are available at various stalls.

Fresh greens are an essential part of the diet here.

Some of the ladies bring their produce from the town of Benito Juarez, high on the mountain about an hour from here. They lay out their blankets, top them with produce, and sit, shucking corn and cutting vines.

Teotitlan del Valle Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo

It’s warm here now. Daytime temperatures are in the low 70’s Fahrenheit, and it dips down to about 48 degrees at night. Skies are clear blue. It’s a perfect place to be in winter. Please visit us.

 

 

 

Roasting a Thanksgiving Turkey in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

I bet you thought I disappeared! This is my first post since returning to Teotitlan de Valle, Oaxaca, a week ago.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I came back to my casita filled with aromas created by professional cook Kalisa Wells, who has been house sitting my two adopted street dogs. All kitchen surfaces were covered with culinary ingredients. It was a sight to behold.

A cook’s kitchen, filled with every imaginable local chile variety, herbs, spices

And, then, Thanksgiving was a mere four days later.

Cuni Cuni Guajalote. Yummy Yummy.

From Durham, North Carolina and via Facebook, I ordered organic turkey raised in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca from Cuni Cuni Guajalote before I left. This took some sleuthing, hunting down their whereabouts via the Facebook group Clandestine Oaxaca Appreciation Society — the source for everything Oaxaca.

La dueña de Cuni Cuni — Araceli Jimenez

As it turns out, we decided on two smaller birds instead of a 9 kilo (20 pounder) when we did the pick up at La Cosecha organic market at Macedonio Alcala #806 — enough to feed a crowd that kept expanding beyond local family and intimate friends as I settled back in to village life. We were worried about one big turkey fitting into a basic gas oven.

Merry, Kalisa and Rosario with preparations underway

It was the roasting pan and rack that had us stymied. Neither of us brought a sturdy vessel or rack from the USA and the only thing we could find were flimsy aluminum, so we bought three and stacked them. There were no racks to be found as I cruised the aisles of the super mercado.

Kalisa’s Camote (Oaxaca sweet potato) Pie with the flakiest pastry crust

My eyes lit on a stainless steel dish drainer. Sure, it had those upright racks to hold the dishes vertical and immovable tall sides. I bet my friend Arnulfo and I could figure out a way to modify this, I said to myself. Into the cart it went.

And, here’s how it turned out.

Flattened, cut dish drainer. Be sure to remove plastic feet!

One of the great pleasures of being in Mexico is that we learn to innovate, modify, imagine and manifest. Things we need don’t always come easily, but there seems to be a way to improvise and make it work. I have learned this from my Mexican friends who are masters at adaptation.

Friends and family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner on the patio

And, if you live in Oaxaca, I encourage you to think about ordering your Christmas turkey from Cuni Cuni Guajalote. You will love it. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Yes. This is NOT your Sam’s Club or Walmart frozen commercial turkey.

Organic beet hummus appetizer — veggies from Tlacolula market

How we roasted the turkey!

Kalisa loves butter. I found the local dairy-cheese man from the Teotitlan del Valle market and bought up all the butter he had. Probably five pounds. Kali coated the turkeys in butter, stuffed them with oranges, rosemary, apple peels (no pits), celery and carrot ends, covered the turkey with foil and put it into a hot 450F degree oven for about 20 minutes. Then she lowered the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continued to roast covered at 18 minutes per pound until the drumsticks wiggled easily and the juices ran clear. We didn’t have a meat thermometer. We were also cooking at 6,000 feet altitude using an oven with Centigrade settings, so we converted everything.

Jacki’s family sweet potato recipe

  • 300F = 149C
  • 350F = 176C
  • 400F = 204C
  • 425F = 218C
  • 450F = 232C

We needed this conversion for the camote and apple pies, too. But had to jack up the heat because we are running off a propane tank at a higher altitude. So, it was check, check again, triple check.

Thanksgiving buffet feast.

NOTE: We did not stuff the turkey because this is the most common culprit for botulism.  The turkey must be completely thawed and at room temperature to be stuffed and cooked successfully without risk of infection. Many people stuff a partially thawed turkey (oh, it’s just a little cold in there, it’s okay) and the inside becomes an incubator for the bacteria.

An array of artisanal mezcal

Everyone who came brought something to contribute: mashed potatoes, cranberries, Boulanc rolls, salad, organic black beans, tortillas made with local field corn, chocolate, wine, beer, mezcal. Yes, I smuggled fresh cranberries from Whole Foods but Jacki found them locally.

Setting the table, Teotitlan del Valle.

Earlier in the week, Kali and I made a visit to Macrina Mateo Martinez in San Marcos Tlapazola to get large platters that would serve as pie pans and some extra dinner plates.  They are my go-to family women’s cooperative for fine barro rojo that those of us who live here love to use.

Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie baked in a barro rojo plate

I’m very happy to be back in the village, surrounded by mountains, warmed by the sun, a hammock on my rooftop handwoven by the daughter-in-law of Mitla’s Arturo Hernandez. Despite the barking dogs and crawling critters, I am now embracing a slower pace of life — for the moment.  Tours and workshops start up in mid-December!

Feliz Fiestas, amigos.

For Dia de los Muertos and Everyday: Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie Recipe with Cornmeal Crust

In 1976, a few years before I opened a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school in South Bend, Indiana, I contributed a recipe to the first edition of the Temple Beth El cookbook. Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie is based on one that my mother prepared on occasion. For Dia de los Muertos, I found myself consulting that cookbook yet again as I prepared to welcome her spirit back to me.

Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie, from Muertos to Thanksgiving

Many of you asked for the recipe when I talked about it on Facebook. So, here it is:

Mama Dorothy’s Apple Pie

  • 6 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 1/4 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (you can also use pecans or almonds)
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon, size medium to large
  • 4 T. water

In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, raisins, nuts, sugar and spices. Mix. Add cornstarch, sprinkling it over the mixture. Mix so that the apples are completely coated by corn starch. Add lemon juice and water. Stir and set aside.  (You can prepare this a day in advance: seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Mama Dorothy, 1916-2015

Corn Meal Crust based on a James Beard Recipe 

I love this corn meal crust because of it’s crunch. I buy Goya brand extra coarse corn meal from the Mexican market. The egg yolk enriches the crust and binds it together.

In your Cuisinart, with the chopping blade in place, add:

  • 1-1/2 c. fine white flour
  • 1 c. coarse cornmeal
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. sugar

Pulse to stir these dry ingredients together.

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 stick salted butter, cut into 8 pieces

Add egg yolk and distribute the butter pieces evenly atop the flour mixture.  Use the “on” button to mix ingredients until butter is the size of small peas.

  • about 7-10 Tb. ice water

With the machine running, add the ice water slowly through the pour spout of the lid until the flour begins to form a dough ball. Add more ice water if needed. Remove lid and test to see if the flour is combined enough to form a dough. If not, continue processing and adding a bit more water. The dough should not be sticky!

Remove dough from machine. Put it in a mixing bowl, cover and let rest for 30-45 minutes before working it. At this point, you can refrigerate dough, covered with plastic wrap or freeze it until ready to use.  I will often roll out the crust, put it into the pie plate unfilled and then refrigerate or freeze until I need it.

Put the dough between two sheets of wax paper. It should be soft enough after resting to work easily with a rolling-pin.  Roll from center out to the edges, constantly turning the wax paper in 45 degree turns so that you create an even circle.

When dough gets to 8-10′ in diameter, remove top piece of wax paper. Lift edge of bottom sheet of paper and flip onto your pie plate.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put your rack in the middle of the oven.

Remove crust from the fridge. Fill it. Don’t make the apples too deep. If you have enough filling and crust, you can make two 8″ pies.

  • Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes until the liquid congeals and becomes bubbly. Remove. Serve warm or room temperature.
  • Serves 6-8.
  • Top with vanilla ice cream if you like.

I’m returning to Mexico on November 16, and preparing Thanksgiving with Kalisa Wells for a crowd at my Teotitlan del Valle casita on November 23. I bet this will be among the dessert offerings!

Pie on a plate. It’s also good smeared with cottage cheese on top.

 

 

Happy Halloween and Chicken Pozole for Dia de los Muertos

A friend told me this week that she heard from her Mexican relatives that this time of year offers the most transparent veil in the atmosphere, which is why the spirits can more easily return. Welcome to Dia de los Muertos — Day of the Dead.

The difunta paddling home through the veil of transparency, by Josefina Aguilar

We do Halloween up big here in the USA. One day. Trick-or-treat. Spend billions on the holiday (costumes, candy, decor) and most of us have no idea of the origins. In Latin countries — the Americas and southern Europe — where Catholicism took hold, the season gives us three days to honor and remember loved ones and ancestors, many who we did not know but appreciate for our heritage.

Searing poblano chiles on the comal iron griddle I brought from Mexico

I’m preparing for Dia de los Muertos on November 2, when the spirits return to their graves. I’ve ordered a mix of fresh tamales and pan de muerto from La Superior. I’ve shopped at the best Latino supermarket, Compare, fully stocked with all needs Mexico. I’ll make slaw and apple pie, using my mom’s pie recipe.

Removing the skin from the poblano pepper: use a paring knife lightly scraping

My menu includes pozole verde with chicken (see Serious Eats recipe) that I will start today. I’m a make-it-up-as-you-go-along cook. I usually consult several recipes, look at the ingredients I prefer (they always vary according to who is cooking), and then go at it. Innovation is important to me.

Here is a good one from Epicurious.

De-vein and remove seeds, stem

The stock for the pozole verde (click for Bon Appetit recipe) is a tomatillo, onion, garlic, carrot, chili poblano, Mexican oregano, and bay leaf base. I simmered all these ingredients together first for about an hour. Warning: the poblano needs to be charred on a griddle or over a gas flame to peel off the tough skin.

Soak peppers in water for 10 minutes to remove heat, drain

Tomorrow, I’ll add the hominy that I will have soaked overnight and then cooked. I’ll also add cooked organic chicken leg meat, using the stock for the base, and shredding the meat off the bone. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dried hominy. Soak it, then cook it, or buy canned

Slice poblanos and add to pot. Simmer until carrots are fork tender.

Garnish with sliced radishes, shredded cabbage, and thin sliced jalapeño peppers. Ready to eat. When prepared a few days in advance, the flavors have a chance to mingle!

Mexican spices from La Superior

You can actually add the seasonings and hominy to the base above, simmer for flavor development, and keep the chicken aside to satisfy the vegetarians.

Watch the heat. Use peppers for garnish to accommodate taste.

Food is comfort and memory. This is why we love the celebration of holidays, to remember the meals around the table, who was with us. We remember Halloween for costumes (homemade, then), whether we could fill the bag completely with candy, where we went for the best neighborhood hand-outs.

Panteon Xoxocotlan I, Dia de los Muertos 2010

I add a eucalyptus (bay) leaf to the stock. I remember the rustling of the eucalyptus trees in the wind that bounded the vast orange tree orchard across the street from where I lived in the San Fernando Valley. That was when the orchards of oranges, lemons and walnuts were plentiful, before the great migration of settlement that turned it all to concrete. I was scared. The aroma was heady, the kids held each others’ hands. The time when parents had little to worry about when the treat was an apple.

Teotitlan del Valle, Dia de los Muertos, 2015

What do you remember?