I am in Houston today before heading out to Mexico on Sunday for my teacher fellowship! I always love coming home to visit family but am taken aback by the crazy Texas heat. There is only one thing on my mind on a hot day like today- fruit paletas! Mexican paletas are fruity and delicious…
Maggie is one of the best cooks I know, and she is the author of today’s Enchiladas Verdes recipe.
As a cook, Maggie is a traditionalist, remaining true to recipes—but she is not inflexible, adapting recipes when needed. Although she loves traditional Mexican cuisine and cooks some of the best mole and cochinita pibil around, she is always open to new cuisines and she knows how to ejecutarse any recipe. In Spanish, “ejecutar” literally means to execute or to implement something, but in my family it is a verb that means to copy a recipe from a restaurant or a friend so well that it’s better than the original.
Maggie is an authority in the kitchen. Efficiently chopping, slicing, sauteing and blending all at once, she can beautifully present a delicious meal in an impossibly short amount of time. She can seem a bit harsh when you cook with her because she is very serious about doing things the right way, which often happens to be her way, but she is right 100% of the time so there’s no use in arguing with her.
Who is Maggie, you ask? Maggie is my mom! Her real name is actually Maria. Maggie became my mom’s name when she immigrated to the states. It was a name given to her by her first employers in Houston. They thought that Maria was too hard to pronounce so they suggested the name Maggie. My mom took on the new name unfazed. In fact, she liked the name so much she has claimed it as her own ever since.
If I am honest, 90% of the recipes on this blog should have the name Maggie before them because they are all inspired by my mother in some way. I learned to “cook” under her strict tutelage. Potatoes needed to be cut this way. Rice should only be stirred this many times. And why is there such a mess? Under my mom’s watchful eye, I became a very competent assistant, but not truly a cook.
Thinking back, it’s no wonder I only began to cook in earnest when I went away for college. My mom was such a great cook that there was never a need for me to even attempt to cook anything. She was also so strict about what was good food that I was too wary to experiment beyond the occasional sandwich, or my signature dish—velveeta ramen.
In college I began to truly cook as I had the new found task of keeping myself alive. I was also homesick and craved the Mexican food that I had grown up eating. Although I had very little experience cooking full meals before college, I found that the years of training under my mother had given me a knack for cooking. I had a sense of how to prepare foods, and an even bigger surprise to me: I loved to cook. The rote actions of slicing and dicing were therapeutic. Trying to replicate familiar taste profiles with stolen ingredients from my cafeteria, a mish mash of cooking utensils in the ever grimy communal kitchen and a limited spice cabinet was an exhilarating challenge.
Since those first moments clumsily working my way through the most basic dishes, Mexican rice and beans, I’ve learned to cook and I’ve become pretty good at it. The questions that I used to call my mom with on a daily basis—How do I know when chicken is fully cooked? Does that recipe call for parsley or cilantro? Should I eat garlic with a green bud inside?—have diminished.
Now when I visit my mom in Houston, I cook some of the meals, eager to share my new favorite salad, or a new Korean dish that John and I love. My mother is still the boss and I the protegé. But there is more of an exchange in the kitchen. When my mom asks, “What do you think about this?” as she moves a spoonful of sauce towards my mouth, the question is less rhetorical now.
Thanks for teaching my everything I know, Mom!
Notes: I have made these enchiladas more than anything else on this blog and they are truly crowd pleasers. The creamy tomatillo salsa is accentuated perfectly by the subtle nuttiness of the almonds. You can prepare these ahead of time and pop them in the oven right before dinner. They are also incredibly easy to veganize by omitting the heavy cream from the sauce and the cheese from the top of the casserole (or using vegan cheese if you’re into that). Give them a try and let me know what you think!
Maggie’s Enchiladas Verdes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yields: 10 enchiladas
- 1 lb of tomatillos, peeled and washed
- 2-3 jalapeno or serrano peppers, destemmed
- ⅓ bunch of cilantro
- ½ small onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup of sour cream
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- ¼ cup almonds
- Salt, to taste (for me roughly 1 teaspoon)
- 4 cups of cooked shredded chicken
- 2 tomatoes, diced into small pieces,
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 3 cups of fresh spinach
- 2 cups of monterey jack, or Mexican blend, cheese
- 10 tortillas
- Peel and wash tomatillos, peppers, ½ small onion, 2 cloves of garlic and place in a small pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Once water comes to a boil, remove from heat.
- In a non-stick pan, combine 2 minced cloves of garlic, a small minced onion, and the diced tomatoes with a small glug of oil and cook for a few minutes. Then add chicken, spinach and salt and cook for a few minutes.
- In a small pan, add about ¼ cup of vegetable oil and fry all of the tortillas briefly, 1 minute, until gleaming and softened. This will prevent breakage when rolling.
- In a blender, combine the cooked tomatillos, pepper (one at a time to prevent the sauce from being overly spicy), onion, garlic, dairy, almonds, cilantro and salt and blend until smooth and creamy. Add peppers until you reach your desired spice level.
- Set up your enchilada assembly station by placing your green sauce, tortillas, chicken filling and cheese out. Add a generous 2 tablespoons of filling to the tortilla, a sprinkling of cheese and then roll tortillas. Place rolled tortillas in an oven-safe container, pour remaining sauce on top, then add your cheese.
- Finally, bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble.
- Serve and enjoy!
We had a snowstorm in Boston two weeks ago.
Even though the real snowfall—8-12 inches—came on a Saturday, I treated it like a snow day. I woke up late and immediately began to make a breakfast only suitable for weekends or snow days—buttermilk pancakes! Quite an upgrade from my normal breakfast fare: oatmeal, cereal or yogurt.
After making the fluffiest and tallest buttermilk pancakes that ever were and eating snow ice cream for lunch, I needed something to warm me up. These two classic Mexican drinks, champurrado and matchole (matcha atole), truly hit the spot.
Mexican champurrado is the great-grandfather of hot chocolate and dates back to pre-Columbian times. In fact, chocolate is believed to have been present in Mexico from 1900 BC, and maize, another key ingredient in champurrado, was around even longer. This means a) that you can thank Mexicans for hot chocolate and b) that this drink has been keeping people cozy for at least a couple thousand years.
Atole, a very similar drink to champurrado minus the chocolate, comes in a variety of flavors and can sometimes be indistinguishable from champurrado. Both are thick, hot drinks made of water or milk and corn flour. In most cases, you can think of champurrado as chocolate flavored atole. Both drinks are delicious, and the added thickness from the corn flour makes them extra comforting and cozy on cold winter days.
Champurrado can vary in its ingredients but is usually chocolate flavored and includes some of the following spices: cinnamon, anise, cloves etc. Atole, can come in many flavors and is sold in small envelopes at Mexican grocers. My favorite atole flavor growing up was chocolate, which, technically was champurrado, but I didn’t know it then.
In my family, atole often accompanied tamales around the Christmas season. To this day I crave atole when eating tamales, since the two have become inextricably linked in my mind. Atole, in its sweetness, viscosity and warmth is an inherently comforting drink that brings out all sorts of feelings of cheer and coziness when I drink it. It is best enjoyed with at least one friend, or better yet, made in a large pot and shared with many others.
The matchole featured in these images, came about because I love green tea. The addition of green tea to the atole gives an already delicious drink a caffeine boost. I have been sipping on atole all day long and have a ton of ideas for atole flavors that I will share with you throughout this winter.
Let me know if you give either of these drinks a try and stay warm!
Notes: Feel free to use any kind of milk when making these drinks, although if using plant-based milks you might need some extra cornstarch to thicken your drink.
Matchole and Champurrado Recipe:
Yields- 1 small cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Spiced Kitchen Champurrado:
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- A dash of cinnamon
- A dash of chile powder
- Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon powder
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon matcha powder
- Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of matcha powder
Chocolate shavings, whipped cream, spices
Instructions for both drinks:
- Using a blender or whisk, mix all ingredients until fully incorporated and slightly frothy.
- Heat in a small saucepan until thickened and simmering (3-5 minutes) on medium-low heat.
- Serve in your favorite mug, garnish, and enjoy!
It is common knowledge that I ate pozole rojo for two years straight as a child.
My mom was a waitress at a small Mexican restaurant near our home for years, and I was often dropped off or picked up there by my dad. Every time I visited, without fault, I would ask for pozole rojo. Both the gringos and Mexicans that frequented the restaurant would look up with surprise at the sight of a small curly headed girl lapping up pozole by the spoonful. Pozole is a red, mildly spicy soup usually made with pork meat and large pieces of hominy, white nitxtamalized corn. Not exactly a kids meal.
Not only was my affection for pozole remarkable for my age, but the prolonged nature of my obsession with pozole was also surprising to those around me.
I’ve always been a little obsessive. As a toddler I watched the Jungle Book every night before going to sleep for about a year. Freshmen year of college I sang these two lines, “only one word comes to mind, there’s only one word to describe,” for three weeks straight. One night, while working with my best friend in the library late one night, she finally yelled in exasperation “What’s the word!? You never say the word!” (The word, for the record, was holy).
Now, as an adult, my obsessiveness still emerges—like when I ate a bagel sandwich for breakfast every day my first year teaching, or when I listened to the same Christmas carols from November to February. However, generally, after the thing—movie, song, sandwich—loses its novelty, I move on and am usually over said object indefinitely. Pozole is unique— it never grew old for me.
All Mexicans will agree with two statements about Pozole. 1) There are two main varieties of pozole in Mexican cuisine: pozole rojo and pozole blanco (The difference in hue is accounted for in the lack of pepper in the latter). 2) Pozole must include hominy. Apart from these obvious statements, pozole recipes can vary greatly depending on the cook! Pozole is traditionally made with an entire pork head in a pot too large to lift by oneself. However, family recipes can vary greatly; some recipes call for chicken and others for beef, and there is great variations in other components of the soup like toppings and spices used.
Although pozole is traditionally made with pork, my mom doesn’t like pork, so the pozole we ate at home was actually pozole blanco made with chicken! My mom began to cook more frequently when I was bout 4 or 5, and around this time we transitioned permanently to pozole blanco.
At first, the tangy white pozole’s milder broth paled in comparison to its deeper, darker hued sibling, but slowly I began to love pozole blanco. Over time, the tanginess of the tomatillo in pozole blanco won me over. Although I always added enough dried pepper flakes to the soup so that it ended up resembling pozole rojo anyway. Now, I love to eat this soup in the winter because it’s so hearty, healthy and tasty. My husband has also grown incredibly fond of pozole and his eyes light up when he hears that we are having pozole for dinner.
This pozole soup is made differently each time depending on what ingredients we have at hand. My mom will often add beef bones to the broth to produce a more nuanced broth. And when we don’t have bones at all, we simply cut up boneless chicken breast into uniform pieces and use that for our broth base.
This pozole blanco gets tastier the longer it sits together, so it makes for great leftovers. It will keep in your fridge for a week and also freezes beautifully!
Pozole Blanco con Pollo
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yields: 8 servings
- 1 lb of peeled and washed tomatillos, diced into small pieces
- 1 small onion, diced into small pieces
- 5 cloves of garlic, two minced, three whole
- 2 stalks of celery
- A few sprigs of fresh oregano or one teaspoon of dried Mexican oregano
- ½ a bunch of Italian parsley, finely minced
- 1 large can of hominy
- 2 lb of bone in chicken breast
- 1/2 white cabbage
- 2-3 radishes,
- 3 limes
- Salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Add 2 stalks of celery, the onion, 3 whole garlic cloves, oregano, and chicken breast to your favorite stock pot. Cook on medium heat until chicken is fully cooked, 35-45 minutes.
- Sauté diced onions in 2 tablespoons of oil. After onions have become almost translucent (a few minutes) add the parsley, tomatillos and garlic. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and cook a few more minutes until the tomatillos begin to change color to a more muted green.
- Add tomatillo salsa to pot of soup base.
- While chicken is cooking, prepare pozole toppings, slice radishes and cabbage finely and cut limes into wedges.
- Once chicken is fully cooked, removed from pot with tongs and place on a bowl or plate to cool. Meanwhile, taste soup base and add salt as needed.
- Once chicken is cool enough to touch, shred chicken and discard bones.
- Add shredded chicken back to soup and do one final taste test.
- Serve with toppings and enjoy!