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festivities – La Gourmandista

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Etiqueta: festivities

Pork Dumplings

The Spring Festival or Chinese New Year is when the Lunar Year begins. Therefore, its date changes year after year. In 2020 it’s from January 24th to the 30th. Thus, this is the perfect time of the year to prepare a batch of everyone’s Chinese favorites: Dumplings. Today’s recipe is with a pork stuffing, however, you can always prepare them with veggies or any other animal protein. I’ve seen pork, beef, chicken, lamb… anything, even fish and shellfish.

Truly we all refer to them as ‘dumplings’, but in English they could be named ‘Chinese turnovers’, and I even saw them be compared to them as well. They are an everyday staple Chinese food and we can see them in different forms. Mine always look like turnovers, but I feel I should practice their round version. After all, the difference lies only in the way one closes them, since the forcemeat can be the same.

Today I used the wrappers sold at the grocery store raw, since even though I have a recipe at hand that seems to be quite simple, I haven’t tested it. According to the instructions, one must combine water, one egg and two cups of all-purpose flour. Once kneaded it should rest for 30 minutes, to then dust with cornstarch and flatten with the pasta machine. Lastly, one must cut out circles of a diameter of about 10 cm. I think it is about 1.5 inches. Anyhow, should you want to test it, I leave it here, try it. It seems to be easy enough.

I hope you like them just like we do at home. Also, may the Year of the Rat bring health and fortune to all. 

Pork Dumplings

Getting Chinese takeout always includes dumplings for me, so why not have them homemade for a change.

  • Chopping board
  • Chef's Knife
  • Medium bowl
  • Silicone spatula
  • Small skillet
  • Pastry brush
  • Baking dish or sheet tray
  • Kitchen towel (clean and dry) – to cover dumplings assembled
  • Bamboo basket or steamer (for steamed dumplings)
  • Medium Skillet with lid (for fried dumplings)
  • Turner or Kitchen tongs
  • 12 dumpling wrappers
  • 200 g pork (ground )
  • 10 g ginger (minced )
  • 100 g green cabbage (minced )
  • 50 g chives (minced )
  • 1 carrot (finely diced)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 egg white
  • 60 ml soy sauce
  • Dash Sherry (amontillado)
  • Salt and pepper (to season)
  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and incorporate.
  2. Take one teaspoon of the forcemeat and sauté. Verify seasoning should you consider it necessary. This is just to be able to taste, so don't sauté all of the forcemeat; just that little bite.

  3. Assemble the dumplings with the raw forcemeat. In order to accomplish, take one of the wrappers and place it on your working surface. To the center, add a teaspoon stuffing at the most, since you don't want them to explode when they get cooked. With a pastry brush or just using your finger, smear a little water on the edge of the wrapper using it as a kind of glue. I do it with the tip of my finger. I feel it's much easier. Close the turnovers by creasing the edge. A second option is to simply press down and curl it like a flounce.

  4. As you assemble your dumplings, be sure to put them in a baking sheet or a dish and cover them. You don’t want them to dry out; it will crack the dough. As soon as you have all of your dumplings you can cook them either in the steaming basket or by frying them in a skillet with a lid.
  5. If you choose the steaming option, line the bamboo basket with a couple cabbage leaves, place them with the seam facing upwards, and cook them for approximately 8 minutes.
  6. If you’d rather fry them, I use a skillet with peanut oil. Heat it up and fry the first side to golden brown, turn them around and color the second side. When both sides look more or less the same, add 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh water to your frying pan and cover immediately. Let the water evaporate and turn the fire off.
  7. The dumplings are ready to be served. On the side, you can serve a dipping sauce of your preference with a soy sauce base with rice vinegar or mirin. At home we only put soy sauce with a bit of lime juice and sometimes a little minced chili like serrano or árbol.
Starter
Chinese
dumplings, from my kitchen, my recipes

Chiles en Nogada: A Recipe full of Secrets, History, and Myths

To talk about Chiles en Nogada seems to me is to go looking for unnecessary trouble if we don’t really know what it is all about. And hey, I don’t mean that they are difficult to make. I mean, anyone who can prepared stuffed chiles or pepper is competent enough for making this well-known dish. It is also true, that there are many myths and stories around it. I also believe that any co-national will agree to taste this delicacy and even more to be able to share it with friends and new acquaintances who come from far away lands is an honor. However, it is not necessary to go and spend a fortune in one of these delights if we want to pamper a bit the tummies at home.

But before we start chopping, de-seeding, and and seasoning, I feel obliged to share one of the many stories around the origin of the chile en nogada. Now, this is also one of my favorite dishes. And I must underline that there are many versions to the legend behind the dish, but I shall sustain that when I first learned it, I believed it. It’s quite ironic that an Englishman who didn’t cook but who had fallen in love with them shared it after having done his own research about them while living in Mexico. Today, I know this story is a legend. Nonetheless, I share it because it’s one of the most popular ones. But I insist, IT’S A LEGEND.

The Legend of Agustín de Iturbide

In 1821, Mexico through Agustín de Iturbide, a military who fought for Mexico’s Independence, the Córdoba Treaty was signed with Juan O’Donojú in the city with the same name. This lead to Mexico’s Independence. Upon his return to the city of Puebla the Augutinian Sisters of the Convent of Saint Monica were celebrating their patron, St. Auguste on August 28th. For the celebration, we believe, the nuns had been planning for months a recipe of something innovative with the seasonal products found in the region. The recipe incorporated the colors of the Trigarante Army.

Lastly, and before getting busy in the kitchen, I want to emphasize that this does not match the coronation of Independent Mexico’s first emperor, since the latter took place until 1822.

With or Without Batter?

Every historic cookbook, starting with La Cocinera Poblana, includes batter in Chiles en Nogada. Currently, I believe people enjoy them more without. And I attribute it to the fact that cuisines everywhere are getting lighter. Let us just glance at how our diets have evolved. Aren’t we trying to reduce calories and make dishes healthier?

Having said that, at home, we eat them without any batter. But if you want them 100% traditional, go ahead and add the batter. I’ve also heard that many aren’t fond of fried foods anymore.

But that’s more than enough introduction. So, the recipe I’m sharing today is one I quite a few years ago. It was September. Lively patriotism everywhere, so I went to eat to a now-extinct restaurant in Mexico City. The chef’s special included a printout of his recipe. Like I said, the place went out of business. But, I saved the recipe in my files. Now, as Independence Day arrives, this is the one I follow whenever I enter the kitchen and prepare them.

Chiles en Nogada (Poblano Chiles in Nogada Sauce)

Few are the dishes we still respect because of the access to seasonal ingredients. This jewel demands respect; that's how special it is.

  • Comal or griddle
  • Chopping board
  • Chef's Knife
  • Food processor
  • Big pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bowls in various sizes
  • Sieve
  • Blender
  • Plastic bag

For the peppers:

  • 12 Poblano peppers
  • 300 ml oil
  • 1 Kg ground beef (there are people who prefer 50% beef and 50% pork )
  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 6 tomatoes (diced)
  • 4 pitted olives (chopped)
  • 6 capers
  • 5 Bartlett pears (diced)
  • 4 apples (diced)
  • 6 plantains (diced)
  • 3 peaches (diced)
  • 100 g almonds (silvered)
  • 100 g raisins
  • 75 g candied pineapple
  • 1 clove
  • cinnamon (ground)
  • salt, pepper, and sugar (to taste)
  • 1 dash dry Sherry
  • 5 eggs (only if poblanos will be coated with batter)
  • 200 g all-purpose flour (only if poblanos will be coated with batter)

For the nogada sauce:

  • 300 g walnuts (peeled)
  • 200 g ricotta or goat's cheese
  • Dry Sherry (as necessary)
  • Sugar to taste

Para la decoración:

  • 5 pomegranates (only the seeds)
  • heavy cream or milk (as necessary)
  • Parsley leaves

For the chiles:

  1. Toast the poblano peppers on your comal or griddle. Let them sweat in a plastic bag to take off the skin. Before cleaning them, there are some people who will put on some oil in their hands, others prefer wearing latex gloves and clean the inside of the peppers -taking the seeds and veins out- without having the risk of having chilly fingers. Also, for those who do not like their poblanos very spicy, there are people who soak the peppers in salted water for a while to calm the spiciness as much as possible.

  2. Separately, heat a big enough pot with about 2 Tablespoons of the oil and sautée the finely chopped onion and garlic. Add the ground meat, the tomato previously roasted, peeled, and chopped, as well as the chicken stock. Let it cook at a medium heat until the meat is tender and there is no liquid left in the preparation. Add the spices, the fresh fruit chopped into small cubes, the dry raisins, candied pineapple, capers, chopped olives, and slivered almonds. Season with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar (if needed), and a touch of sherry. Let the cooking liquid evaporate. Once the stuffing is ready, set aside and let it cool down.

For the nogada sauce:

  1. Even though everyone recommends preparing the nogada one hour before serving to avoid oxidation, the walnuts must be cleaned, peeled and let to rest in milk since the night before. Consider that in order to peel the walnuts more easily, soaking them in hot water will help. Thus, before serving, put in the blender or food processor the peeled walnuts with the milk they were soaked in, the cheese, a pinch of sugar, cinnamon, and half a glass of dry sherry. Adjust the seasoning with a bit of heavy cream or milk if deemed necessary. The result must be a smooth sauce.

Plating:

  1. Once the poblano peppers have been stuffed, they may be covered with the egg batter. To do so, beat the five egg whites to stiff peaks, and then incorporate the egg yolks. Cover the poblano peppers with flour, and then with the beaten airy eggs and fry in a skillet with hot oil. On the other hand, I prefer to have mine without the batter coating, but that is a license I allow myself to take, for the batter coating is a feature of the cuisine of the period when they were invented for a feast preparation as this one. Also, please consider that this is a plate that is served at room temperature and served with the nogada sauce on top, and decorated with the pomegranate seeds and a bit of parsley leaves coarsely chopped.

I wouldn’t doubt in just making half the recipe. It will be plenty. 

The calculus of the nutrition table is made for chiles WITHOUT the batter coating.

Note that the original recipe calls for a type of apple called “panochera”, but finding it outside of Mexico is impossible. I substitute it with Fuji to obtain a similar flavor scheme.

Also, the type of cheese suggested for the sauce is called “requesón”, which in texture and mild type of flavor would be similar to ricotta, therefore, this might be a substitution to work well with the Nogada sauce.

Before 2016,  this recipe was generally prepared with acitrón, a candied cactus. However, this is nowadays a species considered at risk of extinction. So, what I do, is I substitute with candied pineapple. It works really well. 

 

*  Post edited and updated on September 9, 2021. 

Principal
Mexican
festivities, historic dishes, Mexican food, Traditional Mexican Cuisine, traditions

How to Bake a Great Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread), the traditional Mexican sweet bread of the Festivity

I generally don’t whine about missing Mexican food because I try to reproduce our favorite foods at home, however, there are some which I have come to learn all the way to my Parisian kitchen because they were always within reach. It was just necessary for me to go the store and/or the supermarket.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story behind the origins of this bread, and which until today I was not completely aware of. Back in pre-hispanic times, this was already part of the offering made for ancestors, however, it was prepared with ground toasted amaranth seeds, and then bathed with the blood of sacrificed people to honor the gods Izcoaxauhqui or Huehuetéotl. Nevertheless, during Mexico’s conquest by the Spaniards, such a ritual was rejected and a wheat bread shaped as a heart which was then bathed with sugar painted in red started to be prepared. As time passed, the preparations and styles have changed in the different parts of the country. Evidently, I looked for the one type I have eaten since I was little in my hometown, Mexico City.

Thus, I share here the recipe I prepared last year, and which I edited, because even though the bread came out delicious and beautiful, it was a bit confusing for me to follow the instructions. I am surely going to prepare it again this year, but if you want to prepare it before hand, voilà !

Pan de muerto (Day of the Dead Bread)

The bread we eat for Día de Muertos is one of those we wish we had at home year-round, however, at least at home, it's just available between October 25 and November 3.

  • Big Bowl
  • Plastic dough scraper
  • Baking sheet (preferably 2)
  • Stand mixer with bowl (it may be done by hand as well)
  • Hook attachment for the stand mixer
  • 2 Small bowls
  • Brush
  • Medium bowl

For the dough:

  • 240 g All-Purpose flour
  • 9 g Active-Dry yeast
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 3 g salt
  • 80 g unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 orange (zest)
  • 30 ml water
  • 3 ml orange blossom water
  • cooking oil

To decorate:

  • water
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • granulated sugar (to sprinkle on top)
  1. To begin with the dough, spread the flour in a well, or a volcano, leaving the space of the crater empty.

  2. Spread the dry active yeast on the outside of the well.

  3. In the center of the well (the volcano crater), add 1 ½ tablespoons sugar, 2 eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, and half the butter needed fort dough, i.e., 1 ½ tablespoons butter previously softened.

  4. Start mixing all the ingredients with your fingers from the inside towards the outside, integrating flour and yeast with the ingredients from the center of the well. Once you work the ingredients into a single mixture, add the 2 tablespoons of water and knead until a uniform dough consistency.

  5. Extend a bit the dough to integrate the rest of the butter (1 ½ tbsp), the orange zest, the orange blossom essence, and the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons sugar.

  6. Integrate everything into the dough. It will become sticky, but there’s nothing to worry, just keep kneading it until it becomes compact again.

  7. This process will take about 20 minutes or so, since the kneading takes place in order to develop gluten and make the dough become elastic. If you decide to use your stand mixer with the hook attachment, the whole mixing and kneading process will take about 10 minutes instead of 20.

  8. Smear a bowl with cooking oil. I personally prefer sunflower or grapeseed. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp cloth in a warm place for about 45 minutes for the fermentation to take place and the dough to double its size.

  9. In the meanwhile, prepare a baking sheet with some parchment paper, or flour the baking sheets if you’d rather.

  10. Once the fermentation has taken place, “punch” the dough to extract the generated gas. Then, knead the dough for a moment in an orderly fashion just to make it compact once more.

  11. Take small portions of about 2 oz. to make the individual pieces of bread. Mold them, and separate two portions to work on the bone-like decorations for the bread.



  12. To mold the pieces of bread, take a portion under the palm of your hand and on the work surface. With your fingers towards the inside, press the dough just a tad and make the dough go round on the table until obtaining a firm uniform ball. Place all the balls on the baking sheet and press a little on the center to flatten them a bit to let them expand.

  13. With the portions previously reserved form the bone-like decorations for the bread. These bone-like decorations I made them as if I was forming snakes with the dough, and for the irregularities, make some of the sections finer by pressing the dough in some sections . This will make the dough that you haven't pressed a bit thicker.

  14. Brush each of the portions with water, but only making a cross in the center of each bread where the bone-like decorations are to be placed. Then repeat the brushing, but only in the very center to stick the bone-like decoration that crowns the bread in the form of a sphere.

  15. Once the mounting has been done, let the bread rest for another 30 minutes. This will allow the breads to double their volume.

  16. When the second fermentation has taken place, brush the breads completely with egg wash for the breads to come out with a nice shiny color.

  17. Pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes at 400 °F (200 °C) and put the baking sheet with the breads inside to be baked. Lower the heat to 350 °F (180 °C) for about 20 minutes or until the bread has its base cooked. 

  18. When taking the breads out of the oven, melt the last ¼ cup butter to brush over the breads and sprinkle generously with sugar.

* Oven preheated to 400 °F or 200 °C to bake at 350 °F or 180 °C

Bread Baking
Mexican
bread baking, festivities, Mexican bread baking, Mexican cuisine, traditions
es_MXSpanish