Connie’s Spanish Rice
Being Mexican-American, I grew up on Spanish rice. It was a constant at our table for everyday meals and also served at almost every family get-together, from baptisms to funerals to birthday parties. I never tired of eating it.
My parents were both great cooks and each seemed to specialize in their own dishes. But Spanish rice belonged to my mom.
When my family would go out to eat at Mexican restaurants, I’d always compare the rice they served to my mom’s. Of course, it didn’t compare. Some came close, but not close enough.
My mother passed away a few years ago and my memories of her include the great food that she and my dad Manuel made for us. Sometimes, I’ll close my eyes and I can still see Mom at the stove, the steam rising as she uncovered the pan to check to see if the rice was cooked. She had pretty dimples and they’d appear if the rice was ready to eat.
I still cook Spanish rice and when I do, I always think of it as hers.
Connie’s Spanish rice
Like many of the Mexican dishes I love to make, there aren’t set measurements. So just experiment.
long grain rice (brown rice will work but the flavor will be different)
chicken broth (canned but the best is the broth you
save from cooking chicken)
canned diced tomatoes
Add rice to a pan and enough oil to coat the rice. Add in chopped onions, stir, and cook the rice until
it is brown. Lower the heat. Add water, chicken broth, and diced tomatoes. The
rule I use is one cup of rice for every three cups of liquid, which in this case would include the water,
broth, and tomatoes. Cover. Do not stir. If you need more liquid, add more water. You can also add fresh or frozen peas
to the rice. When the rice on the top is tender, is it done and ready to eat.
(Excerpt from FAMILY RECIPES FROM THE SNAKE RIVER PLAIN, River St. Press)
Comfort foods — Manuel’s burritos
We all have our comfort foods—be it, hot chocolate or mac and cheese.
Mine are burritos.
Not the fancy ones of Mexican restaurants. But the ones filled with whatever we used to have around the house. My father, who worked at a steel mill, was a great cook. He’d whip up the burritos for us or for guests to our house and we always seemed to have family and friends stopping by. The burritos were filling and delicious.
Here are some that you can try.
Dice and fry up potatoes. My father would sometimes have boiled potatoes in the fridge to have at the ready for such occasions.
Add egg, diced up cooked bacon (the thicker the better) and yellow cheese and place the ingredients in a warm tortilla. For those watching calories as we all should be, use olive oil, cholesterol free eggs, turkey bacon, and mozzarella.
You can also make chorizo and egg burritos. For these, I’d skip the cheese. Fry up the chorizo and drain well before adding the eggs.
For anytime burritos
Fry up hamburger, onions, and potatoes and add cheese.
Of course, serve up with salsa. You’ll find good salsa recipes on this site.
The ingredients for the burritos are simple but together they are great.
Whenever I make these burritos they remind me of my late father and can still picture him as he cooked up the burritos and smiled. I suspect his burritos weren’t just filled with potatoes, bacon and cheese. They were also filled with love.
Not only do I love to write, but love to cook Mexican food. Several people have enjoyed my family recipes on this blog, and here is one more.
One is quick and easy or one, not so quick. Both pretty damn good.
Quick and easy
Chop onion into small pieces.
Grate a bunch of yellow cheese (I know it has fat, but it is the best)
For filling you can use most anything. My favorite is chicken, but don’t let me sway you. Beef is also good. Ground or a slow roasted until shredded.
Spray oil in a pan and lightly cook corn tortillas until soft.
In the middle of your tort, place a generous helping of cheese, onions and your meat. (Or even more cheese if you just want cheese enchiladas.
Heat up canned red or green enchilada sauce (canned red is better in my humble opinion)
Pour over your enchiladas, scattered more cheese and bake until bubbling.
Here is the hard one, but even better.
Peel, wash and cook about ten tomatillos, a staple of Mexican cooking. Put tomatillos in blender, throw in fresh cilantro and puree.
In a saucepan, add the tomatillo sauce, minced onion, chicken stock. Salt and pepper to taste. For the daring at heart, add cut up green chilies. Thicken with flour or corn starch.
Use this instead of the canned stuff. It will make your toes curl.
Both dishes are even better heated up.
Manuel’s Chicken Tacos
When we were kids, my sister and I would have contest to see how many of Dad’s chicken tacos we could eat. They were that good.
But I must warn you, these tacos are not for those cutting fat. That is unless you use olive oil and don’t eat anything else all day.
OK here goes.
Boil chicken (breasts are fine, but thighs are better because the meat is more tender)
Heat your oil until you dip in the tip of a corn tortilla and it sizzles. Add a good dallop of cooked chicken to the middle of the tortilla and deep fry until the tort browns a little on both sides. Drain (I warned you this is not the stuff of low fat)
To your taco, add shredded yellow cheese and finely chopped lettuce, top it off with Santos Salsa, the recipe of which is also found on this page.
Enjoy and I bet you too will have a taco eating contest.
Mexican Bread pudding
This is one of our family’s favorites.
Take a loaf of bread. (yes you can use wheat and I even have used week old bread)
Toast it in the oven until it is nice and toasted. Set aside.
Boil two cups of water with two to three cinnamon sticks until you have cinnamon tea, add in brown sugar to suit your taste. Throw in a half a box of raisins. (more if you like raisins).
Grease a pan with butter.
Tear pieces of the bread and create a layer in the pan. Sprinkle on grated mild cheddar cheese. Toss on peanuts, and ladle on some raisins.
Create a second layer.
Pour the cinnamon tea mixture until the bread is pretty moist. And add some cheese on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Best served hot.
It is delicious!
Food is a special part of my family’s traditions. For example, chicken mole makes me think of weddings, where it’s served a lot. Menudo goes with the day after New Year’s Eve, because it’s a great hangover remedy. But I can’t help but connect Christmas with tamales.
My best memories of the holidays are not of a favorite present. What I remember most is my mother and father around our kitchen table making tamales. When they cooked, our house smelled spicy and warm. I remember my father carefully smoothing the golden masa, (cornmeal) over the ojas (corn husks) while my mother added dollops of red pork meat in the center. Then, they’d fold each one and place them into a big pot to steam. Each tamale was like a gift of tradition to our family.
The work was hard — my parents would start early in the morning mixing the chili and cooking the meat. But they talked and smiled as if it was no work at all. Nothing under the Christmas tree seemed to compare with the moment when my father announced that the tamales were ready. Soon, my cousins, uncles and aunts stopped by to join in and our house was make even warmer by the love of family.When I made my first batch of tamales, I was married and in another state, so I called my father and mother long distance every 15 minutes or so to make sure I was following their directions, which were short on exact measurements but long on loving advice. My first batch was too salty. My walls were covered with masa. The next time I made the tamales, they were huge, which was okay with me since I mostly loved the masa part, anyway. But the next time, my tamales turned out great — if I do say so myself. I’ve taught my daughters to make them so they will have their own memories to pass on to their own families.
Tamales go back to Aztec times and were used in wedding ceremonies. In the days of Christianity, some say the wrapping of the oja around the masa and meat symbolizes the wrapping of the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and of the good things God has provided from the earth. Those stories only add to the richness of tamales.
To me, however, tamales are Christmas. They will always taste of home and family. Be warned. Tamales take all day to make, but are well worth it. And because this is a family recipe, you may have to experiment. Good luck.
5 pounds Juanita’s tamale mix
1 pound can Crisco vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons baking powder
3 pounds pork butt or shoulder
1 package corn husks
New Mexico red chiliGarlic cloves
Boil pork until flaky, then shred it into pieces. Save the caldo, or broth. Add some of the caldo to the beef, along with red chili, a little salt and smashed garlic cloves or garlic powder. Set aside on stove to keep warm, but don’t boil. Meanwhile, soak the corn husks in hot water.
For the masa: Melt Crisco and add to dry mix, along with the baking powder and some of the broth and salt to taste. Mix until fluffy. Add some of the masa to the chili mixture to thicken. Spread a thin layer of masa on one side of the husk. (More if you like lots of masa, but these will take longer to cook). Add chili mixture and fold over sides of husks and fold at one end. Place in a large pot with the folded bottom down. At the bottom of the pot, place a coil of aluminum foil and water, but not enough water that it covers the tamales. Place tamales to top of pan and cover with a clean white dish towel. Cover and boil about 1 1/2 hours or untilthe masa is cooked.
For sweet tamales, set aside some of the masa and cut back on the salt but still use the Crisco. Boil cinnamon (canella) sticks, sugar and raisins (you can also crushed pineapple.Add the cinnamon water, sugar and raisins. Add a couple of dollops to a corn husk and fold. Cook separately from the spicy ones. These won’t take as long to cook and they are great for breakfast.
SANTOS SALSA (Ay yi yi)
I love this salsa and it’s so simple and goes great on tacos and tostadas. I’m giving you the large recipe because I don’t know who to make small amounts of this salsa. Besides if you make it right, every bit will be eaten. I just that hope my family won’t be mad that I’m divulging the recipe.
Two large (29 ounce) cans of stewed tomatoes
two jalapenos or more if you want it really hot
two or three bunches of shallots
one bunch of cilantro
garlic & salt
Put the stewed tomatoes in a food processor and chop until they’re a nice consistency. Finely chop the jalapenos. (Add another if you can take the heat)Chop the shallots and the cilantro. Add garlic salt to taste. Let it set for an hour before you serve if you can wait.For fresh salsa, just finely chop fresh roma tomatoes instead of using the canned. This one is also great for chip dipping.
CONNIE’S QUICK CHILI RELLANOS
These are delicious and fast. They come from the kitchen of my mom, Concepcion, or Connie to those who love her and there are a lot of us that do. If you grow chilies, such as Anaheims, roast and peel them. An easy way to do that is put them in the oven on broil until they are toasted, put them under a wet cloth and peel. (use gloves or your hands might be hot for days)
Keep the stem in place. Or just buy a can of whole green chilies.
Make a length-wise slit in the chilies, and roll them in a dusting of flour. In the slit add a small rectangular wedge of cheese. American, cheddar or even low fat will do if you are watching calories. Put a little olive oil in a pan and place in the chilies. Over this add beaten eggs (or egg substitutes)
Salt and pepper to your liking.Cover until egg is cooked. (I like mine fried a little on the bottom) Good with refried beans and tortillas. You can also get adventurous and add green chili over them, but I love them as is. Enjoy!
This is a quick soup that is great in cold weather. You can use pork, beef or chicken.
Cut your meat into cubes and boil. If using pork or beef, add beef bullion; for chicken, well you know what kind.
Add finely diced garlic and chili powder to taste.
Cook meat until it is fall-off-the-bone done.
To serve, finely chop onion and cabbage to add to your posole and eat with tortillas. You can even try this with avacado (which I can eat with anything.)
To soup it up so to speak, you can also add potatoes, or spanish rice.