Mexican Food

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It’s called Budin Azteca. My husband requests it for his birthday dinner every year. Since posting a few Instagram photos, I’ve had many queries about this dish. It’s no wonder so many folks LOVE Mexican food. Our household is no exception. The ingredients, flavors and techniques make for a very sophisticated and deeply nuanced cuisine. Even to say Mexican food is a bit misleading. There are so many different unique, regional styles and traditions throughout Mexico!

According to Diana Kennedy, with whom I studied for a brief time, and whose books have taught me and others so much, this recipe here is a favorite in Mexico City. For this dish, every ingredient is prepared fresh, then layered and baked together in a purposeful manner. Yes, it’s time consuming but the results are truly delicious.

If I break the prep up into two days, then the process is pleasurable which is so important to me these days–enjoying the process. I even love shopping for the ingredients at a local Mexican grocer. Taking your time with each component is what makes the dish unique; homemade tortillas, peeled and simmered tomatillos for the fresh salsa verde, roasted and peeled poblano peppers for the rajas, and fresh poached chicken. This is why it’s a gift! Your time is a very precious resource.

Here’s the general plan of attack. The recipe can be found in The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. You can see that my copy has been used until the spine came off (and was turned into a bookmark). Nothing could be a better testament to a cookbook author. And Diana is one of the best recipe writers ever!

  1. Make your list, shop completely, enjoy the journey.
  2. Make the tortillas: purchase Masa Secca (Quaker brand masa harina is the best and widely available). You need a tortilla press to0. (Diana will teach you everything you need to know about forming tortillas in the book). Just practice and you’ll get the hang of it. Combined with water, the masa will easily roll into a ball, before pressing and baking. I have a comal (a flat griddle) to cook them, but any well-seasoned cast-iron pan will work. As they come off the comal, stack them on top of each other in a cloth until needed (it’ll make them pliable after toasting). One layer complete!
  3. Roast the poblano peppers: Put them directly in the flame until they char to black, turning often so the flame covers the whole pepper. Place the peppers in a plastic bag for 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and seed. These get sliced, and cooked which sliced onions and salt for Rajas. Another layer complete!!
  4. Peel the tomatillos which come with husks. Cover in water and simmer for 5 minutes. These get pureed with salt and garlic before the sauce is cooked ofr a few minutes to season and thicken it up. I guess you could call this a layer!!!
  5. Poach the chicken: place a 3-pound chicken in a pot breast side down. Barely cover with water. Simmer for 45 minutes. Cool and pull the meat from the bones. You’ll get a couple of cups of shredded chicken. Yes, this is also a layer!!!!
  6. All of the above can be done a day in advance.
  7. Ready to assemble. but not so fast. The tortillas now need to be lightly fried and drained before layering (an important step for the ultimate texture of the pie). Remove the crema (sour cream) from the refrigerator. Grate a couple cups of cheddar cheese. NOW you are ready to layer. But only up to a couple hours before baking.
  8. Here’s the plan: in a circular casserole, spread 1/3 of the tortillas over the bottom of the dish. Then spread in layers on top of them, half the chicken, half the rajas, and 1/3 each of the sauce, sour cream and cheese. Repeat the layers and finish off with a layer of tortillas, sprinkled with the rest of the sauce, sour cream and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Serves 6.

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