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Mexican Cooking — Novice Style (Enchiladas Tapatias and Arroz Norteño, 1964)

October 7, 2011
Cover of Las Senadoras Suelen Guisar, 1964

by John H. Frederick, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs


My Mexican cooking adventure began with a simple request at a recent Library event downtown: would I consider trying out one of the traditional recipes from the UTSA Libraries’ special collection of Mexican cookbooks? Although I am really not much of cook— ask my family!— I readily agreed to try, as I am a devout fan of Mexican cuisine.

I received some recipes by email to review as possibilities. Thankfully, someone had provided English translations of the original Spanish recipes. They all looked really appetizing, but I was daunted by the minimal direction provided in some of them. Apparently earlier cooks needed little more than a list of ingredients to churn out gastronomic masterpieces; as an infrequent chef, I am a little bit needier.

Finally, I settled on recipes for Enchiladas Tapatias (from Jalisco) and Arroz Norteño provided in Las Senadoras Suelen Guisar, by Salvador Novo and Albertó Beltrán. (As an aside, the title of this book is translated as “the senators usually stew” by the translation program on my Macintosh; perhaps I should serve this at the next Faculty Senate meeting?). The ingredients at least looked like things I could readily find.

So, I made a list and drove to our local HEB. As it turned out, everything was easy to locate except for the queso fresco and the ancho chiles, but the helpful staff there quickly got us on track. One substitute I had to make was dried ancho chiles in place of green ancho chiles for the rice recipe, but I assumed that the rice would turn out anyway. I also had to settle for using 16 six-inch tortillas instead of 24 four-inch tortillas, and by choice I substituted 2% milk , and low sodium chicken broth. My starting point is captured in this photo of the ingredients.

Ingredients

Looking through the translated recipes, I realized that there were some subtle points for which I would need further guidance. So I did a quick internet search on roasting chiles, frying tortillas (also called “soft-frying”) and preparing fried rice. I found the following sites particularly helpful for these tasks:

“How to Roast Chiles” from About.com

Direction on soft-frying tortillas in a “Cheese Enchilada Recipe” from My Home Cooking

“Spanish Rice” from Simply Recipes

The first step, roasting the Poblano chiles, was an adventure in discovery— I had no idea what the chiles should look like at the end of this process, but the internet-based instructions added the helpful tip that the chiles should be sealed in a plastic bag for about 10 minutes after roasting so that the skin of the chile would be easy to remove, and this was indeed the case. I used our oven, set to broil at 400°, to perform the roasting part.

To grind the roasted, skinned, cored, and de-seeded chiles with tomatoes and onions, I used a small food processor (see photo below for an image of what this looked like). I needed to divide my ingredients into about four portions to fit in the food processor, but this was only a minor inconvenience. The mixture was then simmered to reduce some of the liquid— my interpretation of “when dry, add the milk.”

Vegetables

I have to admit, my culinary abilities end well before the ability to make sauce from fresh ingredients (I am more accustomed to making sauce from powdered packets!), so this enchilada sauce didn’t really turn out as I expected. However, the use of the fresh ingredients made up for the inartistic product.

Soft-frying the tortillas would have been impossible without the helpful guidance of the cheese enchilada recipe found online. Thanks to the more detailed guidance of that recipe, I was able to successfully convert the instructions “after having fried the tortillas…” into tortillas that were lightly fried in lard and were soft and pliable. Dipping them in a “sauce” that had the consistency of a chunky ground mixture of vegetables was a challenge, but the remainder of the recipe was relatively easy to complete.

I stopped short of garnishing the enchiladas with radishes carved into flowers. I suppose that would be a nice touch, but I was more interested in serving the enchiladas hot, than serving them pretty!

Again, with the help of the internet recipe, the preparation of the Arroz Norteño went smoothly. The recipe is a little vague about the last part of the preparation (“bake in the oven at moderate heat”), so I put the dish in the oven at 300° for about 10-12 minutes. My one variation on the ingredients, however, proved to be a shortcoming in my effort. Clearly, this is a recipe that should be made with green ancho chiles— the dried ancho chiles, while flavorful, did not provide the same result. The substitution did allow me to avoid roasting, cleaning and de-veining the chiles, but at the cost of making the dish the way it was intended. In the end, my family still liked the rice, but I think that was a function of the non-chile parts of the final product.

And dinner is served!

We all enjoyed the fresh Mexican dishes very much,—even my teenage children whose culinary tastes tend to be more narrow—and I hope to try more recipes of this type in the future. The fresh ingredients (as well as the lard!) made this a flavorful experience, reminding us that we do sacrifice our enjoyment of food when we settle for frozen entrées warmed in the microwave oven. However, I am also persuaded that I shouldn’t change professions just yet!


Novo, Salvador and Alberto Beltrán. Las senadoras suelen guisar. México: Instituto Nacional de Protección a la Infancia, 1964.  Pp. 70, 124.  [TX 716.M4 S44 1964]


Enchiladas Tapatias (from Jalisco, P. 124)

Ingredientes:
24 tortillas chicas
4 chiles poblanos
1 cebolla
3 jitomates
1/8 litro de leche
215 gramos de mantecas
½ taza de nata
1 cucharada de alcohol

Relleno:
3 chiles poblanos
115 gramos de queso fresco
3 aguacates
1 lechuga
1 manojo de rábanos

Manera de hacerse:
En una cucharada de Manteca se fríen los chiles asados, desvenados, molidos con el jitomate asado y la cebolla; cuando reseca, se agrega la leche, la nata, el alcohol y la sal; cuando espesa, se van mojando allí las tortillas, que ya estarán fritas de antemano y se rellenan con rebanadas de aguacate, de queso fresco y tiritas de los chiles asados y desvenados; luego se enrollan y se sirven bien calientes, adornándose con hojas de lechuga y flores de rábano.


Enchiladas Tapatias (from Jalisco, P. 124)

Ingredients:
24 small tortillas
4 poblano chiles
1 onion
3 red tomatoes
1/8 liter milk
215 grams lard
½ cup cream
1 tablespoon alcohol

Filling:
3 poblano chiles
115 grams queso fresco
3 avocados
1 head of lettuce
1 bunch of radishes

Manner of Preparation:
In a tablespoon of lard, fry the chiles (after roasting, coring, and grinding with tomatoes and onions).  When dry, add the milk, cream, alcohol, and salt.  When the sauce thickens, dip the tortillas (after having fried the tortillas).  Then, roll each tortillas around a spoonful of avocado, cheese, and chile strips (which have been roasted).  Serve hot, garnished with lettuce leaves and radishes carved into flowers.


Arroz Norteño (P. 70)

Ingredientes:
1 taza de arroz

3 tazas de caldo
1 diente de ajo
2 chiles anchos verdes
¼ litro de crema
Rajas de queso y de cebolla

Manera de hacerse:
Se fríe el arroz sin dejar que se dore; se le quita la grasa sobrante, se le agrega el caldo, el diente de ajo, un pedazo de cebolla y sal.  Se deja cocer a fuego lento.

Los chiles anchos se asan, se lavan muy bien (deben quedar sin venas), se rellenan de queso y se acomodan en un molde refractario.  El arroz va encima y se le pone la crema.  Al final se mete al horno, con fuego moderado.


Northern Rice (P. 70)

Ingredients:
1 cup rice
3 cups broth
1 clove garlic
2 green ancho chiles
¼ pint cream
Pieces of cheese and onion

Saute the rice, but don’t let it brown.  Pour off extra fat, add borth, garlic, a piece of onion, and salt.  Allow to simmer on low heat.

Roast the chiles, and then wash, skin, and devein them. Stuff with cheese and arrange in a baking dish.  Put the rice on top the chiles, then pour the cream over everything.  Bake in the oven at moderate heat.

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