Varying the Menu With Mexican Dishes
Women and their Work
Touches of Indian, Spanish and French culinary art are found in the cookery of Mexico
ESTELLE C. MACPHERSON
THE influences on the cookery of Mexico,
attributed to the different periods of her history, are easily discernible to those who seek for them. Her cookery is, unlike that of any other country, a
mixture of ancient Aztec, Indian, Span-
ish and of the traces left behind by the French invasion.
Of the wonderful sun worshipping Aztec civilization; the people who fought and sacrificed to preserve their freedom, before being finally reduced to Spanish slavery and ignorance; there remains, to-day, to mark their passing, only a few ruined cities, and the cookery and drinks, which have survived the destruction of a nation.
Owing to its varying elevations, almost anything may be grown in Mexico. Corn and beans are the most dependable crops, so of corn the bread of the country is made, while beans are second in importance. Nearly all of the dishes, which are of the sort that may be leisurely cooked in thick earthenware pots and stone griddles, gain in flavor, and ripen by simmering or standing about,to be warmed when some one strolls home for a meal.
Tortillas are the ancient Indian bread loaves, made of corn, and used by all classes. They take the place of both the bread and potatoes in our diet, and are very good. Where white flour is obtainable, pastry may be bought, and small sweet loaves or buns called pan bianco, a bread of poor quality. While tortillas may be purchased, and are warmed as desired, northern people, resident in Mexico, prefer those made in their own kitchens.
NO REAL Mexican meal could be complete without tortillas and frijoles. Tortillas are made as follows:— Soak two quarts of dried corn in lime water. The solution must be strong enough to burn sharply when a drop is applied to the tip of the tongue. When the kernels have swelled to the bursting point, which takes from three to five days, wash them repeatedly until the lime is all out of them. Take a few of the kernels at a time and pound or crush them until they are soft enough to put through a food chopper. Put the corn through the chopper three times. If a sausage grinding machine is available, the kernels will require little crushing. These machines are replacing the stone process in some parts of Mexico. The
lime makes the corn pulpy and adhesive.
No salt or leven is used.
Pat the dough into cakes and bake on a thick griddle.
URIJOLES are dried * beans cooked to a pulp, then warmed in lard or bacon fat as required. They are undoubtedly good, although they may not sound so. In hotels or restaurants, when the frijoles are served, it is ih intimation that the courses are completed; nothing but a dulce (sweet) will follow, so
satisfy your hunger, if it still persists, on the frijoles. They are very soothing to Northern throats after the other chilli flavored foods.
Some such intimation of the approaching end to the menu is necessary as the courses have no regular sequence except in the large modernized hotels. Soup, one of the French dishes, may appear at any time during the meal.
Almost all Mexican cookery contains quantities of red chilli-peppers. It is impossible for most uninitiated people to really enjoy sauces and foods thus prepared, but the novelty of them is fascinating.
A typical middle class Mexican family dinner might be composed as follows; enchiladas, frijoles, salad, fruit and coffee.
CUT the tops from one and one half dozen chillipeppers, remove the seeds, soak the peppers in water one hour, mash to a pulp, remove the peeling by putting them through a collander, add one half tablespoonful of sait. Put a tablespoonful of bacon fat in a frying pan, cook the chillies in this, three minutes after they start to boil, thicken with a little flour. Take sixteen tortillas, heat in deep fat, drain, dip in the chilli sauce and sprinkle with grated onion and cheese. Roll, then sprinkle rolls with more onion and cheese. Serve hot on lettuce leaves. A salad served with this would be dressed with lime-juice and oil; the frijoles warmed. The coffee is roasted until very black, then ground very fine, and served with the grounds, not unlike Turkish coffee. Should you ever desire to serve enchiladas, any of the milder sauces hereafter described, especially the one given for picadillo, will prove very good.
Mexican Dishes Adapted to Northern Palates
TT IS my intention, in this article, to give the readers
recipes for Mexican dishes which may be easily prepared in our homes, made of materials grown or purchasable in their local districts. Hereafter, while using the Mexican name, the dish will be adapted to our requirements. On the Pacific Coast, where many Mexican dishes are used, by the substitution of green or red peppers for the chilli-peppers, many delicious dishes have been concocted.
Blanquillas Fritos make a nice chafing dish luncheon or supper. Fry some bits of bacon
in a baking pan and add two green peppers from which the seeds have been removed and the peppers cut into rings. When they begin to brown, slice on top of them, two good sized tomatoes, coverand let simmer until tomatoes and peppers are well
cooked, flavor with salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Now slip four eggs on top of this as if for poaching, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, cover and let simmer slowly until eggs are cooked. Dot bits of butter over them and sprinkle with parsley minced very fine and a dash of paprika. Serve in the dish in which they were cooked, accompanied by buttered toast.
Picadillo is excellent for a dinner or luncheon. Grind one pound of lean beef through the food chopper; also one medium sized onion. Fry the onion in a little fat until light brown. Soak a thick slice of bread in a a little milk. Season the meat with salt and pepper, add to it the onion and the bread squeezed rather dry and crumbled, and one beaten egg. Make the mixture into cakes, fry until brown on one side, then turn them over, cover and cook until done. Lift the meat balls from the pan, into the fat, place one onion chopped fine, fry until light brown then add one heaping table spoonful of flour, brown and stir in one-half cup of water and one half cup of milk; stir until thick. Slice two red or green peppers from which seeds have been removed, boil in a little water ten minutes, then add one and one half cups of tomatoes. Cook well, then stir this mixture into the brown sauce and blend. Put the meat balls in a baking dish or casserole, pour the sauce around them, let stand in oven or on back of stove fifteen minutes or more, to ripen. Keep well covered and just at the boiling point but not bubbling. These are very good served with baked potatoes or plain boiled rice. A dish of grated cheese is generally served with them, to be sprinkled over them if desired.
Chicken tamales, and chicken tamale pie, are internationally famous on the Pacific Coast, chicken tamales were long heralded as the most desirable of late supper dishes. They are made of two parts of ground fresh or canned corn, two parts of dried corn prepared as for tortillas, or yellow corn meal cooked to a stiff porridge consistency, three parts of ground chicken, raw or stewed, and one part of ground olives. The mixture is seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper, ground chilli-peppers or ground seeds of the red or green peppers. If you want it hot with peppers, the soaked and pounded chilli-peppers may be used, but one green or
red pepper with a few of the seeds ground up with the pepper shell, will make it quite sufficiently ‘snappy’ for the general taste.
Corn husks, green or dried, are used as containers. Place a desert spoonful of the mixture on a corn husk, keeping it well to the centre; roll the husk lengthwise, place an empty husk over the edge and roll it around the first husk ; put another spoon of the mixture on a
husk, keeping the mixture in the centre of the husk, place this about the little roll, cover the lapping edges with an empty husk; alternate the ends of the husks so that some of the large ends and the narrow pointed ends will go to each end of the roll. ‘Apply’ another prepared husk to the other side of the roll, keeping it round; place five little corn husk poultices in all about the centre roll, then wrap the bundle in two thicknesses of corn husk, tie each end of the corn husks tightly up, close to the centre contents, making a neat little rounded parcel with ends of husks protruding in a bunch of fringe effect. Steam the tamales for three hours, serve as they are. To eat them, the end strings are clipped as they rest on the individual plates, the husks are separated by layers with the fork, and the contents hunted out.
When corn was out of season, and not wishing to be bothered with drying husks, some clever cook evolved the modernized Chicken Tamale Pie, a supper or luncheon dish hard to excel.
Chicken Tamale Pie—Scald one cup of corn meal and drain well, partially dry it in a shallow pan in the oven, stirring occasionally to keep it from caking. Drain canned or cooked tomatoes; two cups of drained chopped pulp will be required. Mix together three-quarters of a cup of milk, the corn meal, one can of sweet corn, three well beaten eggs, two tablespoons of butter, two cupsful of ground stewed chicken, then stir in the tomato pulp, one cup of whole stoned olives; keep these as whole as you can if you have to pit them; the pitted kind are convenient to use; two dashes of pepper, two dashes of paprika, one and one half teaspoons of salt, one fourth teaspoon of black pepper. If neither the corn nor tomatoes are seasoned, more salt may be required. After stirring the mixture well taste it to make sure it is well seasoned, adding more salt and red pepper if desired. Place the pie in the dish it is to be served in, and steam it for two and one half hours. The tamales cooked in the corn husks, are quite moist when served but the pie is drier. In order to make a completely attractive dish, a delicious sauce is served with it. To make the sauce take one and one half cups of the thin of the tomatoes, one cup of rich chicken stock, dash of cloves, alspice and cinnamon, two stalks of parsley, boil gently ten minutes, strain through colander, then thicken with one tablespoonful of butter rubbed to paste with one tablespoonful of flour, cook until thick. Serve the pie very hot with sauce in a sauce boat or dish.
Sapa (Mexican Rice)—Wash well one cup of rice; put one tablespoonful of dripping or butter in a frying pan, add the rice (uncooked and well drained) and stir until the rice browns; then add one and a half cupfuls of tomato, one onion cut fine, two sprigs of parsley, two cups of soup stock or two oxo cubes and two cups of boiling water. Season with salt, a dash of red pepper, white pepper and little paprika. Put into a thick dish and, on top of the rice, place a large green pepper, whole, from which the seeds have been removed. Dot bits of butter over the top, cover the dish, and simmer gently in oven or on top of the stove for forty minutes, adding hot water when necessary, but do not stir.
A bowl of grated cheese is served with this or if preferred, the cheese may be sprinkled over the rice and allowed to melt before taking the dish from the fire.
Mexican Butter Beans—Required: Four tablespoons of fat, two large onions, two tomatoes, one pepper, two pints of butter beans, one tablespoon of flour.
Slice all the vegetables thin, cutting the beans, after stringing them, slantingly through the pods. Let soak overnight or an equal number of hours. Place the vegetables, excepting the beans in the fat, and cook until brown, then stir in the flour and blend well, add two cups of hot water, stir well, then put the beans 1 into the mixture, simmer until the beans
are cooked, adding hot water as required. Season with salt and pepper when half cooked, and add a dash of red pepper just before removing from stove if desired. Beans cooked in this way, if sufficient time is given them to ensure their being well cooked, are very good indeed. A different method and way of meeting an old familiar friend.
/"'ALDO is a typical Mexican soup. To ^ our familiar vegetable soup, add thin '' rings of peppers, red or green, and some corn (either fresh kernels cut from the cob or canned corn), using rice to give the soup more solids than is generally served in ours. Tomatoes may be used or not as desired. This soup is of French ancestry and is made thick like the soup of the peasants, whose bowl of soup, with bread, makes his entire dinner.
Mexican Scrambled Fritos—Eggs prepared after this manner make a nice luncheon or Sunday evening supper dish. They, too, may be prepared in a chafing dish. Required: Four eggs, one small onion, one tablespoon of butter, one quart can of tomatoes, one teaspoonful of salt, one-quarter teaspoonful of pepper, onequarter teaspoonful of paprika, one-eighth teaspoonful of soda, one heaping tablespoonful of flour. Buttered toast.
Cut the onion fine, and cook in the butter for five minutes, then add the tomatoes and seasoning. Let these cook together five minutes, then mix the flour with a little water and stir into the sauce and add the soda, following this immediately with the well beaten eggs. Stir until it thickens and serve immediately on buttered toast. A teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce sprinkled over the eggs, when cooked, is sometimes used.
Spanish Lamb With Rice—This is another Mexican dish which lends itself readily to chafing dish suppers or luncheons and is an exceedingly palatable way to use up the end of a roast leg of lamb.
Required: Two tablespoons fat, half butter and half dripping will do nicely, three small onions, one green pepper, three fresh tomatoes, one and a half cupsful of canned tomatoes, one cupful of cooked diced lamb, one and a half cupsful of cooked rice, one and a quarter teaspoonful of salt, one-eighth teaspoonful of pepper.
Fry the chopped onion and pepper in the fat for five minutes; add the tomatoes peeled and cut in thin slices and cook until the sauce becomes quite thick. Then add the lamb, rice, and seasoning. Heat thoroughly, stirring constantly.
Tatisuile—This is a dish of the ancient Aztecs. It is made entirely of shrimps. No person seemed able or willing to describe the actual process to me; but it is very good indeed. I rather thought it must be made by pounding some of the boiled shrimps to a paste, then making of these a sauce with the addition of the least suspicion of garlic, oil and lime juice and probably a little stock or water. Into this sauce whole shrimps were placed. These latter had been boiled and then lightly fried in deep fat. Eaten with Tortillas it was delicious.
Mexican Lilies-—A dessert to conclude a Mexican luncheon or dinner, should you wish to plan one or the other, may be made as follows:—
Select your prettiest dessert plates: glass ice cream plates set on a china plate with a lacy paper doily between would be very appropriate. On the centre of the glass plate, place a slice of pineapple from which the core has been removed. Take six small bits of orange, about a fourth or sixth of a section, and place them on the pineapple about an inch from the outer edge of the slice. Marinate some oranges, cut in small pieces, about four pieces to each section, in some of the pineapple juice, to which has been added a little-* lemon and enough sugar to make it a syrup. Cut a banana into lengths. Each length must be just the width of the pineapple from the edge of the core cavity to the outer rim of the slice; round the end of
the central sections so they will be curved like the two end pieces of the banana. Slice the sections lengthwise thinly; cut little strip off each side of every slice, leaving the centre strips a narrow half inch wide. Cut the pieces taken off the sides of the slices into as narrow strips you can make them but still retaining stiffness. Lay the wide strips on the slice of pineapple making six petals with straight ends converging at the rim of the core, the rounded ends being elevated inch from the tips by the previously placed bits of orange. Now place the very narrow strips standing up in the core cavity, wedging them about and supporting them on underside with the marinated pieces of orange; they should stand up like the calyx of a Lily.
A few strips of angelica placed amongst them will add to the effect. Cut some maraschino cherries into tiny oblong bits and place one on the tip of each upright strip of banana and angelica; put tablespoonful of the juice the orange was marinated in, over the pineapple and banana petals. Work a little stifflybeaten and sweetened whipped cream about the orange bits at the core and a thread of the whipped cream down the centre of each wide banana petal. would be advisable to stiffen the whipped cream with a little dissolved gelatine that it will remain dry. A few bright red flower petals slipped under the glass plate at the extreme edge, would add to the effect.