Ponche Navideño is served throughout Mexico during the beautiful Posada season, the traditional celebrations that take place in the days leading up to Christmas and that symbolize the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, where they ask for shelter, or posada. This is a delicious beverage that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It is perfect for a “piquete,” or spike, of rum, tequila, or brandy.
4 quarts of water
1/2- lb piloncillo (Unrefined brown sugar cones, available in many Latino markets and some major grocery stores)
1 large cinnamon stick (Sri Lanka, not cassia)
1 lb Tejocotes fruit – similar to apricots, available in most Latino markets
1 lb fresh sugar cane – stripped of the bark
1 lb guava, cut in halves
1 lb apples, cut in cubes
1/3 lb pitted prunes
Sugar to taste
- In a large stockpot, heat the water with the cinnamon and piloncillo. Let boil for about 10 minutes, until all of the piloncillo is dissolved.
- Add the tejocotes and cook until fork-tender. Add the remaining fruit. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add sugar to taste, if necessary.
- Enjoy as a hot beverage. Combines very nicely with a “piquete,” or spike, of tequila, rum, or brandy.
Sopa Seca de Fideos al Chipotle
Toasted Vermicelli in a Chipotle and Tomato Reduction
Sopa seca is used to describe dishes like rice, or fideos, that are cooked in stock that is then reduced. Every good home in Mexico has its secret for preparing the perfect Sopa Seca de Fideos. Chile Chipotle is central to our recipe. Some people like to use other wonderful chiles like the guajillo, ancho, or pasilla. My brother Andy’s favorite way to serve his Sopa Seca de Fideos is on a bed of pureed cream of black beans.
1 cup vegetable (corn) oil
1 12-ounce package of angel hair/vermicelli (preferably 1 gauge)
1 small white onion, quartered
2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
3 medium-size ripe red tomatoes
1-2 chopped chipotle in adobo, seeded and de-veined, with 1 tsp. of the adobo sauce
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1/2 finely chopped white onion
1 cup queso fresco – crumbled
2 pasilla chiles – thin-sliced and flash fried to toast.
Crema Mexicana, or creme fraiche, to taste
- Place the corn oil in a hot skillet to fill approximately 1/2 inch. Once the oil is hot, sauté and turn the vermicelli until it is evenly toasted. It will have the nutty aroma of toasted flour. Remove from the hot oil, drain, and place on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Set aside for later use.
- In a blender, combine the tomato, onion, garlic, salt, chiles chipotles and the adobo sauce. Add water to cover and blend until it is smooth.
- Remove all but 1 teaspoon of the oil from the pan and heat it up. Return the toasted vermicelli to the saucepan and, once the oil is hot, pour the contents of the blender over the toasted vermicelli. Add water, if necessary, to completely cover the pasta.
- Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced almost completely. Approximately 45 minutes.
- Serve with finely chopped white onion and cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, and a drizzle of Crema Mexicana, or crème fraiche. Garnish with some toasted and slivered chile pasilla.
Manchamanteles is a delicious mole from the states of Oaxaca and Puebla in southern Mexico, and is typically prepared for very special, festive, occasions. The name means tablecloth-stainer. This recipe calls for chicken. It is equally delicious made with pork or turkey.
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes
1 1/2 medium white onions, peeled and quartered
1 medium sweet potato
5 dried ancho chiles
3 dried guajillo chiles
3 dried mulato chiles
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/4 stick cinnamon
3 whole cloves
2 whole black peppercorns
6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup raisins
2 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 (3 1/2-pound) roasting chicken, cut into 8 pieces, discarding wings and cutting breast into 4 pieces
3 slices pineapple (1/4 regular pineapple or 1 small pineapple)
1 1/2 apples, such as gala, cubed
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 medium oranges)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (less than 1/2 medium orange)
1/2 cup prunes, pitted and chopped
Preparing the chiles:
- Cut the ancho, guajillo, and mulato chiles lengthwise and remove the seeds and the veins.
- Toast the chiles on a hot skillet or griddle until they begin blistering and changing color, taking care that they do not burn or your sauce will be bitter.
- Remove from the heat and soak in a bowl with hot water for approximately 20 minutes.
Preparing the fruits and vegetables:
- Roast the tomatoes in a 350-degree oven or a griddle until they blister and begin releasing their juices. Set aside.
- Roast the onions in the oven until they begin to caramelize. Set aside.
- In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds until they reach a golden color. Make sure they do not burn. Set Aside.
- In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the raisins until they puff, taking care to not burn them. Set Aside.
- Next, fry the plantains. Remove and set aside.
- Finally, using the same skillet, fry the almonds, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns until these toast slightly, stirring constantly. Remove and set aside.
Pureeing the ingredients:
- The chiles. In a blender or food processor, puree the chiles with some of the hot water and chicken stock until they are smooth. Pass through a sieve and set aside.
- The onions and garlic. Puree the tomatoes with the onion and garlic and some chicken stock. Pass through a sieve and set aside.
- The sesame seeds. Puree the sesame seeds in a blender or food processor using some chicken stock if necessary (2-3 minutes). Pass through a sieve and set aside.
- The nuts, etc… Puree the raisins, half of the plantain, the almonds, cinnamon, cloves and pepper, using 1-2 cups of the chicken stock, as necessary until it is very smooth. Pass through a sieve and set aside.
Cooking the Manchamanteles
- In a heavy stockpot over a high flame add 2 tablespoons of the oil.
- Add the pureed chiles and fry over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The chile puree will spatter for a few seconds when you put it in the stockpot with the oil.
- Add the remaining purees to the stockpot and cook for approximately 30 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, and adding broth as necessary.
- While the Manchamanteles is simmering, cut the chicken into medium pieces (1/2 breast, whole thigh, etc…).
- Briefly sear the chicken in a hot skillet until the skin begins to caramelize and then transfer to the stockpot with the simmering Manchamanteles.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Just before you are ready to serve, add the sweet potatoes, plantain, prunes, apple, pineapple, salt, sugar, orange juice and zest, and prunes.
Huachinango a la Veracruzana
Red snapper in a tomato, onion, olive, and caper sauce, Veracruz style
This is a great recipe that reminds me so much of my mother and of my childhood in Mexico City, and it is simply delicious, especially when served with white rice, black beans, and fried plantain. It can be made with the whole fish, or with filets, and is a perfect dish for holiday entertaining as the sauce can be made in advance (even a couple of days) and then the dish can be finished in the oven. Serve it with a great French baguette to get all of the sauce!
6 6-ounce filets of red snapper
1/3 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves
1 1/2 large white onions, cut into thin slices
4 pounds ripe, slivered tomatoes
4 ounces tomato puree (optional)
2-3 Tablespoons capers
3/4 cup red pepper-stuffed green olives
4-5 pickled chile jalapeno, cut lengthwise into strips.
2 ounces juice of the jalapeno
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves (flat leaf)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine
- Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and sauté until it is soft.
- Add the garlic and cook until it begins to toast, but make sure it doesn’t burn.
- Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring often so the sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pan, for approximately 7-10 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken.
- Add the tomato puree (optional), the capers, olives and the jalapeno chiles with their picking juice.
- Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and pepper.
- Cover and simmer for further 10 minutes.
- Add the cup of white wine and the vinegar and cook for 10 more minutes.
- Season to taste with the salt.
- Once the sauce is done, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Lightly cover the bottom of a glass baking dish with a bit of olive oil.
- Season the filets of fish with salt and pepper and place in one layer in the dish.
- Cover the fish with the Veracruzana sauce and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the fish is nicely cooked. Take care to not overcook the fish.
- Serve with white rice, black beans and fried plantain. Simply delicious!
Photograph by Edmund Bar