Category Archives: Southern Comfort Food Mexican Style

Buying Chicken in Mexico

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You can buy live fattened chickens where they advertise Venta de Pollo Gordo. You can get a chicken here for about $100 pesos. Some places will kill and pluck it for you for a higher price. Others won’t.

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So the next best bet is going to a pollería which gets its chickens from the chicken fattening places. These aren’t organic or free range chickens. If you want organic free-range chickens, you’ll have to raise them yourself but remember it’s much easier to eat them if you don’t give them names.

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Incubated hatched peeps can be bought in area from veterinarian/feed places. The last time we bought some, the price was 6 chicks for $100 pesos.

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At the pollería you can buy an entire chicken. The price will vary depending on the kilo size. An averaged size whole chicken currently is about $120 pesos. You can ask to have the chicken cut into smaller pieces, which is usually done with a huge pair of scissors or just buy 60 pesos of individual pieces which you can pick out yourself. You can also find raw chicken at places that advertise Pollo Fresco (fresh chicken), or at stands in the tianguis or markets.

If you want chicken already cooked, you can go to a rosticería and get rotisserie chicken or pollos a la leña which are cooked over the open flame. You can buy whole chickens, pieces of chickens as part of a combo, sometimes with rice and mole or floppy french fries, or an order of pescuezos (chicken necks).

You can also get “American style” or “Kentucky” chicken in our area, which is fried (empanizada). Unbelievably the family packs are often served with coleslaw. UGH! Fortunately for our family, if you ask they will substitute the coleslaw, which NOBOBY likes, for an extra wing.

Where do you get your chicken?

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Southern Comfort, Mexican Style – Church Dinner on The Grounds

In rural eastern North Carolina where I grew up, church dinners on the grounds are staples of summer. Church Homecomings are scattered throughout late spring, summer, and early fall with seemingly coordinated timing so that no two are on the same Sunday. After all, folks might want to go to more than one, depending on which church their extended family attends (or attended).

Homecoming – when everyone who ever went to a particular church comes home and brings all the young’uns and the grandbabies. It’s like a big ole family reunion.  The laughter, the hugs, the embarrassing stories of youth, watching the kids run around on the same grounds you ran around on as a kid – it makes for a truly delicious bit of nostalgia. And the food. Oh my, the food.

Although technically a potluck dinner, a Southern country church dinner on the grounds is no average run of the mill potluck where people show up with just a skimpy little side dish. No, ma’am. The rule is you bring enough to feed your entire family and at least two other people so that out of town folks don’t feel so much pressure to perform. Because it is definitely a performance. I wouldn’t say the ladies are competitive, but heaven help the poor fella who yumyums someone else’s fried chicken if his own wife made fried chicken that day.

When the last amen is said, there’s no dilly-dallying. Dozens of country boys with uncomfortably snug neckties dutifully follow their wives, mothers, and sisters to the parking lot and return heavily laden with casserole dishes and Tupperware buckets and tubs. They follow the perfectly manicured finger of the church lady in charge who is pointing everyone to the correct table. Advice for the younger men:  Remember the color of the dish you are carrying, what’s in it, and what table you put it on because you absolutely must put your wife or girlfriend’s food on your plate even if you have to search for it. The only acceptable excuse is that it was finished by the time you got to it.

More than a dozen eight-foot tables are stretched end to end piled high with everyone’s best dishes. First up – meats and main courses including sliced ham and roast beef, chicken pastry, pulled pork, lasagnas, and at least ten variations of fried chicken, followed by potato salads, seven layer salads, jello salads of every color, deviled eggs, collard greens with ham hocks, squash casseroles, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, scalloped potatoes (technically au gratin because, cheese), green bean casseroles, succotash, broccoli a dozen ways, corn on the cob, raw veggies with ranch dip, plates of sliced red tomatoes fresh off the vine,  alongside a divinely heady selection of homemade pickles and relishes. Lots of biscuits, yeast rolls, breadsticks, and cornbread both baked and fried. And of course, plates of ham biscuits are scattered throughout just in case you needed a snack while waiting in line.  

And desserts, lawdamercy! What can I say? It’s an irresistible confectionary dream or diabetic nightmare depending on your perspective.  Banana pudding with toasted meringue, coconut cream pie with real whipped cream, cheesecake, chocolate layer cake, German chocolate cake, caramel cake, carrot cake, strawberry shortcake,  Boston cream pie, lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, chess pie, apple pie, blueberry pie, peach pie (my fave!), puddings, trifles, cookies, brownies, and homemade ice cream. Oh, my! *I make most of these exquisite Southern specialties at home from scratch because I love to do it, but for folks who can’t make them at home, really SadFace because there is no bakery here that sells them.

So, when the little Mexican church we attend announced an “Anniversary Celebration” complete with a potluck dinner on the grounds, this little ole Southern girl’s heart was just all aflutter with excitement and anticipation.  Oops. Hold the phone.

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Sign up sheet?  What do you mean, I can’t bring deviled eggs? All my Mexican friends love them.  I can’t bring a seven layer salad either? They love that too!

Nope, tacos. Tacos? OK, so back up and punt.  

Right now friends SOTB are saying, “yum!” and friends NOTB are going “huh?” We aren’t talking about those crunchy shells with meat-like filling that some consider tacos which I do love and recreate here in Mexico from scratch with healthy ingredients. Shhhh!  But no. A real Mexican taco is made with soft tortillas, usually corn but sometimes flour so you can fold them or roll them up depending on your age and eating style, often with una copia, a second tortilla to give a little extra support.  Basically, a tortilla is cornbread that’s been rolled out like a pie crust and lightly toasted so you can pile it up with all kinds of deliciousness.

So, the day arrived. We brought a large casserole dish of chicharrón en salsa verde (recipe below) and a 13×9 simple chocolate cake.  I forgot that a lot of Mexican women don’t bake, and ovens are often absent from Mexican homes. Mine was the only dessert other than the official celebratory anniversary vanilla sheet cake.  Faux pas? Maybe, but it was eaten, every crumb.

From the moment the church service was over and the people began setting up tables, the air was buzzing with a familiar church dinner electric excitement as people greeted friends they hadn’t seen in months or years. The menfolk paraded through the crowd with pots and pans full of the aforementioned deliciousness made by their wives and mothers and sisters into the sanctuary turned fellowship hall, and followed the perfectly manicured finger of the church lady in charge pointing them to the correct tables to display their chicken tinga, chicharrón en salsa roja, res con papas, nopales, rajas con crema and so on.  

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Kids eagerly scrambled to find their places at big round tables, to nibble on corn chips and frijoles refritos, to hear instructions from the church lady, and the blessing from the pastor.  

And then, the most familiar tantalizing aroma tickled my nostrils as the top was removed from a nondescript metal box near the table. Carry me back, cochinita pibil (“Buried Little Pig”)! No time to discuss that now, but we absolutely will be comparing Down East pit-cooked barbeque to cochinita pibil in an upcoming post, and I’ll be asking my brother-in-law for the recipe for his famous sauce. Stay tuned.

This is what happens when I am unable to write for a long time; I can’t stop.  Here I am already well over a thousand words and haven’t even gotten to a recipe yet!  So, here is my husband’s very spicy, strongly seasoned recipe. This is definitely NOT a “no pica” salsa, but there were some habañero salsas on the table that were even spicier. Remember our motto, always make it yours. Use fewer serranos, less garlic, less onion if you like.  Or more. Remove the seeds if you want. Or not. Up to you.

 

Nico’s Chicharrón en Salsa Verde

12 tomatillos

12 serranos

One medium onion

One small head of garlic or 5-6 large cloves

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp dried herbs of choice (we used epazote & oregano)

½ kilo (1 lb) chicharrón (fried pork rind)

Place the tomatillos (whole), serranos (whole with stems removed), garlic (whole peeled cloves), and ¾ of the onion (rough chopped) in a large stockpot and just barely cover with good water. Bring to a soft rolling boil and cook until the tomatillos are soft but not bursting, about ten minutes.

Please be careful with this step and use proper precautions. If your blender cannot handle very hot liquids, allow the veggies to cool completely before blending.  You know that, right?

Transfer the veggies to a blender along with a cup of the liquid, the salt, pepper, and remaining quarter of the onion, chopped. Reserve the remainder of the liquid in a separate bowl. Blend on medium speed for one minute.

Return the salsa to the stockpot and let simmer for about five minutes, adding more liquid if the salsa gets too thick. Using a small piece of the chicharrón, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Keep hot until time to serve, then break up the chicharrón and stir into the salsa.  

 

This is the point where Southern and Mexican diverge. I love the crunchy chicharrón by itself and have eaten it plain since childhood. As an adult, I like to use the salsa as a dip with a little sour cream. But I my husband loves it this way, and it is a very popular dish. Enjoy!

***Y’all, just a little side note. As I was proofreading this article, the voice in my head had a decidedly more pronounced Southern accent than usual. Weird, huh?

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Southern Comfort Food Mexican Style–Chilled Meals for Hot Weather

Hello again. I’m sorry for the unexpected absence, but I had a little accident and I’ve only been “allowed” to type again for a few days, and with just two fingers on my left hand.  I’ll write about that another day. Today it’s all about moving from beautiful, arid, mountainous Queretaro to beautiful, humid, sea level Merida.  

We had been planning to move because I’m a southern girl used to lots of humidity and the dry air was really wreaking havoc on my sinuses.  My husband got a job offer in Merida, so I started looking at rental houses online. We hired someone to go look at the house I found, and we were off to the races!

We used the same mover who moved us from the states to Queretaro, who I have recommended to numerous people, but this time the experience was horrible, for a hundred reasons. The biggie was that when the truck’s hitch receiver came loose and dropped the trailer in the highway, the driver was going to leave the trailer (and us!) there in the highway in rural Tobasco after dark with no lights, at the bottom of a tall bridge, no way to signal oncoming traffic to change lanes, no way to call for help. Not on the shoulder, not on the side on the road, actually IN the highway, a dead duck sitting in the traffic lane exactly where we dropped.

For the first time ever, I played the crazy gringa card and I used words that I have never used in my entire life, repeatedly, and very loudly.  And it worked. The Green Angels arranged a tow truck to pull the trailer to a hotel parking lot, costing us just shy of a month’s rent, and we waited while the driver went to get his truck repaired and we got back on the road.

I don’t tell that story to make anyone afraid of moving to Mexico. This was a super scary, but isolated experience.  We move freely in Mexico, and I have driven to the border alone multiple times and have never been afraid. The Green Angels patrol all the toll roads in Mexico and offer free roadside assistance. Every policeman who has ever stopped me has been courteous and polite, and Mexican people, in general, are kind and generous and welcoming. The guy we hired is a US citizen, a dual citizen actually. Just saying.

But that’s all behind us now! We did ultimately make it to this beautiful city of sunshine and palm trees.  We have a cute little house with a big yard, a big kitchen, and a front porch.

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There’s even a pool, a fresh well water, non-filtered, non-chemical pool. Not that we were looking for a pool, and we probably won’t use it unless we have visitors.  Hint, hint to friends and family, direct flights to Merida from lots of US and Canadian cities!

We’ve had a few 104 degree days since we arrived in February, but most days only hit the mid-90s. The heat makes it uncomfortable to cook in the afternoons, and so we try to prepare foods in advance to keep in the fridge, beans for snacks and light meals, boiled eggs for tuna, deviled eggs, salads, and straight up protein snacks, toasted sesame seeds for hummus, celery sticks for PB dipping.

We are eating more tomato sandwiches, more salads, more fruit. We can get a pineapple for ten pesos and oranges grow on trees in the backyard. But I also admit that on more than one occasion, I’ve had chocolate ice cream for breakfast and beer for lunch. For the first time in my life, I’ve developed a taste for beer, and find it more refreshing than water when sweat is dripping off the end of my nose.  

One of our favorite light meals is a bean and corn salsa served with corn chips. Back in North Carolina, everyone has a favorite variation of this recipe, usually with black-eyed peas, Mitchell’s white shoepeg corn and Italian dressing. Here in Mexico, I use black beans and yellow corn, and the dressing is a simple lime vinaigrette. It’s so quick and easy to put together, delicious and healthy.

Dice two tomatoes, one onion, one half of a bell pepper, two serrano peppers, and a bunch of cilantro.  I remove the seeds from the tomatoes, but you don’t have to. I don’t remove the seeds from the chiles, but you can if you want to. I like green bell peppers in this, but you can use any color you like. I like red onions, but you can use any onion you like. I also like to throw in a few thinly sliced green onions, which you can opt to do or not do. You know my motto. Make it your own.

Add two cups of drained firm beans and two cups of corn. You can use black beans, black-eyed peas, red beans, or any other firm bean for this dish. You can use canned white or yellow corn, frozen corn, or fresh cooked corn when in season. Add more or less of whatever you like. Make it your own.
pic2In measuring cup, add the juice of two limes, a quarter cup of oil, a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper. You can use olive oil or whatever vegetable oil you like. A lot of recipes call for more oil, and you can certainly increase it if you like, but in small amounts at a time.

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Whisk the dressing together, pour over the veggies, and toss. Chill for at least an hour, overnight if you can.  Toss again before serving, and if you want to add avocado, do that at this point. Serve with corn chips or toasted pita chips.

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This is a super healthy, high protein, filling, delicious dish to serve on hot days! Enjoy!

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Southern Comfort Food, Mexican Style –Creamy Bread Pudding

Southern Comfort Food, Mexican Style –Creamy Bread Pudding

By Neva Gurrusquieta

I’m a Carolina girl accustomed to having beaches within driving range and the lack of humidity in Queretaro is wreaking havoc with my sinuses.  We’ve been planning to move to Merida, Yucatan for over a year. This is a thousand mile move, never easy no matter where you live, but everything just kind of fell into place for us over the last thirty days, a job for hubby, a project contract for me, the house, the mover, everything.  

I thought moving across Mexico would be complicated, but things have gone really smoothly – so far. We used Yucatan Transition Services for practically everything.  Casey was searching for houses for us, and I was searching as well.  When there was a listing worth looking at, she was my eyes and ears.  We finally found what we thought would be impossible to find, and in spite of other interested parties, she was able to secure the house for us!  So, I’ve been packing boxes like crazy so that we can leave next week! I’ve been so focused in fact that I forgot about writing my blog post!

But good news!  I can magically turn this post about moving into a blog about Southern food!

One of the happiest outcomes of cleaning out the fridge and freezer is using up all the old bread to make this delicious, creamy smooth bread pudding, baked in a cast iron skillet if you have one. My mother taught me this recipe, and I recall her mother making this same sweetness. The only difference is that mama used vanilla, and grandma used almond flavoring. They are both delicious.

When I pulled out all my leftover bread that I had stashed in the freezer for a month or so, I had bolillos, waffles, pancakes, sliced bread, and pan de muerto.  You’ll need about five or six cups of bread crumbs (not cubes) and ¾ cup your favorite kind of sugar or equivalent, a little more if you like it pretty sweet, one can of evaporated milk and an equal amount of water, three eggs, and flavoring of your choice.  You can use whole milk, almond milk, or any other milk substitute you like as long as you don’t use sweetened condensed milk. No leavening agents, oils, or salt are needed.

The first step is making bread crumbs out of all leftover, dried out bread.  Do this by hand or use a food processor or blender if you like, or even buy them already made.  Just be sure there are no added herbs or spices or salt.  Put the crumbs into a large stainless steel or glass bowl.

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Next, pour the milk and water into a large measuring cup and stir in the sugar until completely dissolved.  Pour the mix over the crumbs and stir until thoroughly mixed.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The longer the mixture soaks, the smoother and creamier it will be.  With just a 30 minute soak, you will have a coarser texture, still delightful, so if you’re short of time or fridge space, just do a short soak on the counter.

After your crumbs have soaked up all the lovely milk and sugar, remove the bowl from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.  If the mixture seems stiff, add more milk, ¼ cup at a time until you reach the consistency of a thick porridge.

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Meanwhile, prepare your pans.  One 10” cast iron skillet is sufficient for this recipe, or a dark, heavy bundt pan if you don’t have cast iron. Darker, heavier pans will give you a crispier crust than glass, which contrasts beautifully with the creamy interior. Lather up your pan with your ointment of choice; I used manteca (lard)this time, another small step in cleaning out the pantry.

Preheat your oven to 425F/220C. While waiting, add ½ teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract to the crumb mixture and stir well.  Taste to check for sweetness and flavoring. If more flavoring is needed, add only one or two drops at a time until your desired intensity, if more sweetness, add by the tablespoon. Whip the eggs until they are a pale yellow and thoroughly incorporate into the crumb mixture until no streaks remain.  

Pour into your prepared pan and place in your preheated oven, uncovered, on a middle or upper rack. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a butter knife inserted into the center comes out almost clean.

What helps to make this dish so creamy is the steam that is generated during the baking process.  This also means you need to have a cooling rack and silicone spatula at the ready when you take it out of the oven.  When you bake a cake, you allow it to sit in the pan for a few minutes before turning it out onto your cooling rack. Don’t do that with this dish or you’ll wind up with a soggy crust.

A lot of steam builds up in this custardy dish. Immediately after you remove the pan from the oven, make a slit in the center with a butter knife, and gently push it open to allow steam to escape from the bottom. Then quickly run a silicone spatula around the sides, place a cooling rack over the pan, and flip to turn it out. This treat is delicious hot from the oven, but I also love it at room temperature the next morning with my coffee. Enjoy!  

**My apologies for not having pictures of the final product. Moving brain, I guess.

Next post from my new kitchen in our new home in Merida! Sneak peak:

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