It’s not Christmas until the tamales are made. For my family, and so many others, it’s a tradition that involves participation from everyone — in many ways a rite of passage.
I remember very clearly the day I was first allowed to help. It was at my Grandma Ollie’s ranch, and I must have been around six or seven. Sitting around the long counter right next to my Ma, I was handed an oja (corn husk) and a spoon.
My job was to spread masa on as many ojas as I could. I recall my Grandma helping me figure out how to hold the oja in my little hand.
There’s a distinct way to gently use the spoon to smooth out the masa in swift strokes. I was so frustrated at first.
I recall feeling like each oja took FOREVER to do!
But, I was at the table. And, that’s what mattered.
An assembly line of family members laughing, working, and celebrating an extraordinary culinary experience rooted in my heritage — a memory that would imprint on my heart forever.
To be able to continue the tradition — right next to my Ma and with Grandma Ollie at 99 years and still in charge of the crew — means everything to me and more.
Merry Christmas. May your own family traditions during the holiday season be as special to you as mine are to me.
*song used for entertainment only – no copyright infringement intended*
So, I’m late to the game — Meso Maya has been around for a while now. I’ve driven past and even called to ask a few questions about the menu. And, honestly, based on its early reviews and the lackluster love received over the years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try it. That was until it inched its way across the loop and into my neck of the woods. Meso Maya had planted its huarache where I could no longer ignore the smells of handmade corn tortillas and mesquite grilled meats. Continue reading “Meso Maya”
By now you’ve figured out that I have a serious love of food.
Grandma Ollie used to hypnotize me with the movement of her wooden spoon, creating intoxicating aromas in the kitchen at the ranch with the simplest of ingredients. And, when I wasn’t at the ranch, my smoking, 500-pound, denture-wearing, narcoleptic, poem-reading babysitter (best. babysitter. ever.) would lovingly knead potato rolls then slather them with jewel-toned homemade jelly once baked, all while I sat on top of the kitchen table, anticipating the very moment she would hand over that pillowy-sweet treasure. Continue reading “Pollo con Calabaza”
There are very few things, if any, that scare me in the kitchen. As an avid eater, I’ll pretty much try anything and love diving into the rich history and culture behind all food. And, for the most part, there really hasn’t been a recipe I’ve come across or food I’ve wondered about that gave me pause when attempting to recreate it in my own kitchen… except for one thing… menudo.
Menudo has always just been there for me. It’s comfort food. I grew up eating it. For those who don’t know about menudo, it’s a traditional Mexican soup that’s made from (just wait, don’t go anywhere) cow’s stomach, pig’s feet, hominy, and seasoned with Mexican oregano and a red chile sauce.
You there? Are you still reading? Hello? Okay, good. I promise. It’s delicious! I love it!
My Aunt Adelma is a Master Menudo Maker, and she was even our “Madrina de Menudo” (Godmother of Menudo) for our wedding! We didn’t have Padrinos de Lazo or Arras (Godparents of the Rosary or Coins) – we had Padrinos de Menudo (Godparents of Menudo), okay? No joke.
That’s how important menudo is in my life.
When I show up on Sunday at any Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant, it’s on the menu. When we have a Christmas or New Year’s Eve family party, it’s being served. When I take Sunday breakfast over to Grandma Ollie’s, it’s right next to the pan dulce and barbacoa. When I have a hankering for menudo, it’s never more than a few miles away, waiting for me to christen it with a sprinkle of cebollita (onion) and a splash of lime juice. But, I’ve never attempted this sacred dish in my own kitchen.
Why, you ask?
Because even though I know the flavor profile, basic ingredients, history, and process, I was scared it wasn’t going to live up to the menudo in my head! I didn’t know if I was ready to hit up this iconic labor of love. I was terrified that I was somehow going to bring shame to Aunt Adelma’s signature dish and end up with some pathetic, watery mess. (Plus, it takes forever to cook and stinks to high heaven when it first starts to cook. So, I really never had the desire to make the magic happen within my own four walls, especially when I knew where I could order it.)
Yet, two days ago, as I was thumbing through one of my Ma’s favorite recipe books, the menudo bug bit me.
I was going to make it; I was going to stink up my brother’s house to do it, and it was going to be amazing.
After researching for hours, reviewing about 15 menudo recipes, making calls to New Mexico and South Texas to get any input from relatives, I was ready to create my own approach, and I was determined to avoid using any “menudo mix” in the process, a packet of spices most grocery stores carry in the spice aisle. I was going 100% authentic – all the way.
First thing was to create the Chile Colorado, a red chile sauce that gives both the flavor and rich red color to the menudo, and I was going to use Bear’s Grandma Julia’s base recipe to get started. This recipe is something that Bear remembers growing up in Las Cruces, and he said this was the base sauce for many of his grandmother’s dishes. The only thing I added was the onion to help mellow out any bitterness from the chile (I know, total Texan move – sorry, Grandma Julia – I’m not New Mexican enough to do straight chile.)
Chile Colorado Sauce During this step, be sure to either use gloves and/or avoid touching your eyes. The chile capsaicin will hurt like Hades if you get it in your eyes or any sensitive areas.
4oz Dried Whole New Mexico Chile Pods
1/2 Onion, quartered
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tsp Salt
Remove the stem from each dried chile pod, and then shake out any seeds from within each pod.
Add the de-stemmed/seeded chile pods, the quartered onion, and salt to a large pot and cover with water just until the pods are covered. Heat over medium-high and bring to a boil, using tongs to flip over the chile pods to ensure all sides are met with boiling water.
Once the chile pods have softened and the onion is cooked through and nearly translucent, use tongs to remove the soft chile pods and onion, and transfer ingredients to a blender. Do not use any of the water that was used in the pot, as it is bitter and will ruin the sauce. Discard the boiled water.
To the warm chile pods and onion in the blender, add minced garlic; then, add fresh water to cover half of the contents only. Blend on high until the mixture creates a paste-like consistency. The sauce will have a similar appearance to a thick/chunky tomato sauce.
Remove the contents of the blender into a fine mesh sieve, and using a spat or spoon, work the contents through the sieve to create a beautifully bright, velvety red sauce absent of any chile or onion pieces. Set aside.
This is Chile Colorado! You can use this sauce as enchilada sauce, seasoning for meats, and/or use it for menudo.
2 lbs Beef Tripe
1/2 lb Beef Honeycomb Tripe
2 Pig’s Feet, split
2 TBS Mexican Whole Oregano
1 Large Onion, quartered but attached at the stem
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Bay Leaf
1/2 Lime Juiced
2-4 tsp Salt
3 15.5oz Can White Hominy
Chile Colorado (4oz recipe above)
Notes: It’s very common practice to open the windows or doors when making menudo because the initial boiling of the tripe can be quite aromatic. Beef tripe can be found in most Hispanic markets, and if honeycomb tripe is unavailable, add 1/2 pound of regular tripe instead. Honeycomb tripe looks exactly as you think it might, a honeycomb.
Remove one end of the onion, leaving the stem side intact. Using a knife, gently quarter the onion without going all the way through the stem. The onion should hold together and just add flavor this way. Set aside. Thoroughly rinse the tripe and pig’s feet under running cold water in a colander, making sure that every part has been washed over with water.
Cut the rinsed tripe and honeycomb tripe into bite-sized pieces. Add all the rinsed tripe, pig’s feet, quartered onion, minced garlic, 1 TBS of Mexican oregano, 2 tsp of salt, and two bay leaves to a large stockpot (10qt).
Cover the ingredients with water, and fill the 10qt stockpot 3/4 full. Spin the onion if you like a little pizazz while cooking. I know I do.
Bring the stockpot to a full, rolling boil and let boil for approximately three hours, watching the water level closely. You can reduce to a medium-high simmer and cover after the first hour, but a constant low boil is necessary for the full three hours. After three hours, add the Chile Colorado and remaining Mexican oregano to the stockpot. Continue to boil for another hour. After the fourth hour, taste and add the remaining salt if necessary. Add the lime juice and hominy to the stockpot. Continue boiling covered for another 30 minutes.
Menudo will be finished when the tripe is tender and nearly melts in your mouth when chewed. Garnish with chopped fresh onion, additional Mexican oregano, and a squeeze of lime. Accompany your menudo with corn tortillas heated on a comal (South Texas style) or with a buttered and toasted bolillo or hoagie roll (New Mexico style) that can be found in any market.
This was, by far, one of my greatest kitchen accomplishments, and that’s not me bragging. You know I would tell you if it was a disaster. Thank God it wasn’t!
My entire family loved it, and I was just so happy that this labor of love turned out so well that I needed to share the recipe.
It made me so proud to use Grandma Julia’s Chile Colorado base recipe, and it made me proud that my Grandma Ollie loved it so much once it was done.
Never again will I fear a recipe. When you love cooking and love the culture behind the food, that love serves as the perfect seasoning to make any dish sing. Well, that and research and remembering what you did by writing it down. But, you get the picture. ¡Buen Provecho!
Brrrrrrrrrr… it’s chilly up in here! North Texas may not inspire tundra-like weather, but it has officially hit the freezing mark; and, that can only mean one thing: Caldo!
Growing up in South Texas, it rarely dipped past the 40’s, but when it did, it was like the Bat Signal went up for all the abuelitas to kick into high gear and get those ollas (cooking pots) out and fill them with warm, delicious broth that overflowed with hearty potatoes, calabaza (large green squash), carrots, and celery atop large pieces of chicken that fell right off the bone. And, while I’m nowhere near abuelita status, that doesn’t prevent me from hauling out the ol’ enamel-covered cast iron 7-quart dutch oven I like to call Pun’kin… ‘cus she’s orange, large, and in charge.
You should also know that you can swap out the chicken for large chunks of beef rump roast and swap the Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning for Knorr Caldo de Tomate Bouillon Seasoning and get Caldo de Rez (beef soup). If you do this, add some fresh corn cobs cut into thirds when you add the cabbage. Everything else is exactly the same.
1 Large Green Squash
4 Large Carrots
3 Large Stalks of Celery
5 Medium Potatoes
1 Large Onion
1 Small Whole Green Cabbage
1 Bunch of Cilantro
4 Chicken Quarters or 1 Whole Chicken Cut in Fryer Parts
3 TBS Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning
2 TBS Vegetable Oil
6 Garlic Cloves, diced
1 TBS Cumin Seeds
2 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
Cumin Powder (optional)
Garlic Powder (optional)
Black Pepper (optional)
Rinse and dry all of the vegetables. Cut the squash, carrots, and celery into large 2-inch chunks, and set aside. Cut the potatoes in half, and set aside with the other veggies. Quarter the onion, removing the ends and peeling the outer layer. Core the cabbage, and cut the cabbage in half and then into large chunks. Do not worry about separating the onion or the cabbage, as they will fall apart in the soup. Set all the veggies aside. And, on a separate cutting board, separate the chicken quarters if they are not already cut into fryer parts. Then, liberally season the chicken all over with the Knorr Caldo de Pollo Bouillon Seasoning. You can find this seasoning at your local grocery store right next to the bouillon or in the Mexican/International aisle.
Get out your version of ol’ Pun’kin (large stock pot), heat to medium-high on the stove, and add the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the seasoned chicken to the pot, being careful not to overcrowd the pan at one time. Brown the chicken on one side, then turn over. When you turn over the browned chicken, add the squash, carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion on top of the chicken. Then, cover the ingredients with warm water, leaving some space for stirring and adding the cabbage. At this point, you’re deglazing the pan with water, removing any bits of the chicken from the bottom. Use a pair of tongs to gently stir up the bottom to remove all the wonderful yummy bits, being careful not to splash. Bring the pot to a rolling boil.
When you’re bringing the pot up to a boil, in a separate small skillet, add the cumin seeds. Place the skillet on medium heat, and toast the cumin seeds for about two minutes. Once you can smell the cumin, remove it from the heat, and immediately place the toasted seeds into a molcajete (mortar and pestle). To the cumin seeds, add the diced garlic and peppercorns. Take out any aggressions from a possible bad hair day or any other disaster, and smash those suckers into a paste, just like Grandma Ollie taught us how to do. Then, add some warm water to loosen the paste.
Once the pot is up to a rolling boil, add the watery cumin, garlic, and peppercorn mixture to the soup and stir. If you do not have a molcajete or mortar and pestle, do not fret. Whip out some cumin powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Add one heaping Tablespoon each of cumin powder and garlic powder; then, add one teaspoon of black pepper. Then, go buy a molcajete. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have one. They are cheap and are needed to truly create that magical seasoned paste that gives life to most Mexican/Tex-Mex dishes.
¡Andale! Go buy one after you eat caldo!
After you’ve stirred in the key magical cumin, garlic, peppercorn mixture, take the cabbage, and simply place the large chunks on top. Rip up the bunch of cilantro, and then place that on top, as well. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover the pot. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Be careful not to let the caldo over boil. If needed, leave the lid partially open to prevent overflow of precious caldo broth, and stir occasionally. This is the kind of soup you can leave on the stove simmering all day while you serve from the pot until every last drop is gone.
Once the chicken is falling off the bone, ladle the soup into a bowl, making sure you get at least one of every vegetable in your bowl. Serve with warm corn tortillas and a squeeze of fresh lime.
In our household, my Grandpa always used to eat corn tortillas with mayonnaise (don’t knock it ’til you try it), and that’s exactly how I eat my caldo. I slather some mayo on my corn tortilla, roll it up, and dip it into that warm, comforting broth. It brings back such wonderful memories of Grandma Ollie, as well as my Ma, making caldo and me sitting in my warm pajamas, eating right next to Grandpa at the kitchen table at the ranch.
Okay, I know! It’s been forever! And, I won’t make any excuses because I cooked plenty of times; I ate plenty of times, took plenty of pics, and I neglected to tell you any of it since September 2015. So, here’s a quick catch up… since last we spoke:
So, this is awkward.
Okay, I know! It’s been forever! And, I won’t make any excuses because I cooked plenty of times; I ate plenty of times, took plenty of pics, and I neglected to tell you anyof it since September 2015. So, here’s a quick catch up… since last we spoke:
I made a killer Pesto Chicken Bake in my handy-dandy toaster oven, using the last four sticks of mozzarella left in the fridge, a few remaining Roma Tomatoes, three skinless chicken breasts I reluctantly purchased in an effort to “be better,” and tons of garlic and basil that were in their last days of glory. I felt like I was on “Chopped” but instead of a basket, it was a molcajete full of garlic cloves next to items on my counter.
I discovered Emporium Pies in McKinney, TX, and if I remember correctly, this one was a banana cream/caramel concoction – I really can’t remember for sure. It’s all a blur. I just remember taking this picture and waking from a sugar/happiness pie-eating induced coma on the couch – smiling and with a little bit of pie crust stuck to some whipped cream on my cheek.
I hung out with my Grandma Ollie and made her some rustic braised chicken thighs with pan-roasted herbed potatoes. Easiest, no-frills deliciousness ever! She loved it. Basic but bomb-tastic and totally what I would also serve to Jon Snow if he ever came over to visit – and if wanted to bring over Melisandre as a thank you for the whole “bring me back from the dead” thing, that would be cool, too. Bear would love to chat her up, and maybe she could even whip up some magical dessert???
At some point I went on a rustic/fire-roasted kick. We went camping in the mountains, and I pulled a Chef Mallmann move. I threw
potatoes into the burning embers of our campfire, and it was amazing. We ate “fire food” for days in the woods… right outside of our air-conditioned cabin that included cable TV. It was awesome.
Upon returning from the wilderness, I needed a taste of home, and so I indulged (using the term loosely here – I eat it all the time) in one of my favorite weekend comfort foods, menudo. Tipico’s in Dallas or off Beltline in Carrollton, TX has the BEST! And, what makes menudo taste even better??? Horchataaaaaaa! Just say it with me… “Horchataaaaaa!” Doesn’t it make you happy just saying it??? Horchataaaaaaa!
I pretended I was mining for rubies and that I hit the motherload. So, I took a picture and then decided to eat the pomegranate because who was I kidding? I was hungry. There were no rubies. This pomegranate was the object of my desire, and I delighted it in, okay??? It was delicious.
I decided I should really start paying attention to my food allergies and that I should try not to drink milk straight-up anymore. So, I began a love/hate relationship with almond milk. I searched for “how not to hate using almond milk for pancakes,” and this recipe popped up. It was UH-mazing! I love these pancakes and have added all sorts of twists and turns to these bad boys. I make banana nut, blueberry, lemony, and bacon-filled pancakes using that recipe as a base, and it’s fantastic! Go almond milk! And, yes, I use Silk, but they didn’t pay me for that. Silk! Are you listening??!!!??
I made all sorts of stuff and played various versions of refrigerator “Chopped” like “I’m hangry and want something sweet – what goes with frozen almond slivers and a slightly browning apple?” I have to say, I’m pretty good at this game.
I had some huge wins in the kitchen, and I had some serious failures, like when I decided to try almond milk when making Brazilian Pan de Queijo instead of real milk – yeah, no bueno. Or, “no boa” as it were.
I got in touch with my inner cat-lady.
I made new friends with random animals waiting for their people on cool evenings, a.k.a. prepared to dial the cops if the dude with the dog in the car didn’t return very quickly, even though it was 60 degrees outside. He did, and the dog was definitely very happy and healthy.
I wondered about the various types of fabrics that could have possibly been used to hold this mariachi in place while he beautifully belted out such high notes.
And, I visited severalnew spots in DFW, as well as Phoenix, Chicago, Kansas, Atlanta, Oklahoma, and a few other places during my business travels. And, many of those visits will find their way here!
So, there you have it! We’re all caught up!
Thanks for being patient – thanks for following my adventures via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram , and thanks for checking in.
Consider this my official re-entry into the stratosphere. We’ll chat soon… I promise! Horchataaaaaa!!!!
Since 2009, food lovers, bloggers and the like have convened at the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) to explore food, writing, and technology, all while indulging in some of the best wine and food anyone can find at a conference. This year, I am partaking in the fun and leaving Bear and the cats to fend for themselves for a few days. To ensure the refrigerator doesn’t grow something funky, I decided to create a lil’ something from what we had already in the fridge and leave a good meal behind.
I started out with a large onion and three beautiful Poblano peppers just hanging out ready to be consumed. I French cut the onion and julienned the Poblano, then added about six large cloves of chopped garlic to the mix.
In a large skillet, I heated up a tablespoon of vegetable oil on medium high heat and then added the mixture to sautee until the onions started to get translucent and the Poblanos became relaxed.
While that was going, I chopped a couple of chicken breasts into bite size pieces and then seasoned the chicken with Knorr Caldo de Pollo (chicken bouillon a la Mexicana), cumin powder, and garlic powder. I didn’t add salt because the bouillon has loads of salt. Once the onion and Poblano mixture was nice and tender, I created a well in the center of the pan and then added the chicken to the center. After the chicken began to start browning on one side, I stirred it all together and created another well.
This time, I added 3/4 cup of white rice to the well and allowed each grain to be coated with some oil and to be toasted up nicely. Once the rice started to turn from opaque to a solid white, I went ahead and combined everything together, making sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet to lift up any fond (yummy tasty bits that get stuck to the pan when cooking).
In a measuring cup, I added the remaining smoky salsa I had made a few days ago, along with two tablespoons of table cream, making about 1 cup of liquid and then added hot water to the mixer to make it just over 1 1/2 cups total. You can use tomato sauce, chicken stock, or even use some of your favorite jarred salsa that you have on hand, as long as it totals double the amount of rice. I simply used what I had on hand. I added the liquid to the skillet and combined well, scraping the bottom of the skillet once again to incorporate that delicious fond.
Immediately, I covered the skillet and reduced the heat to medium low and left to simmer covered for 25 minutes. Whatever you do, DO NOT remove the lid. The key to perfect rice, alone or with a protein or veggies, is to start on medium high, then add one part rice to two parts liquid, let come to a boil, immediately cover and reduce to medium low for 25 minutes completely covered and undisturbed. You will have perfect rice every single time – we can both thank my cousin Normie for that tip. It changed my rice game forever. I even usually just cut the heat off once the time is up and leave it covered until ready to serve. Best rice advice, I’m telling ya. Check out this rice from a few meals ago. ——–> Right!?!
Once the Poblano Arroz con Pollo was done, I sliced a few salad or cherry tomatoes for a pop of color and freshness. Now, I can enjoy the IFBC knowing Bear has some amazing Poblano Arroz con Pollo to devour!
I can’t wait to share what I discover at the conference. From what I understand, we’ll enjoy an amazing tasting of Seattle’s very best restaurants, specialty shops and more, and if that isn’t enough, I have tons of restaurant visits planned… Seattle, here I come!
I’ve been a little bored lately, as seen by the blatant, “Hi – she’s lost it – someone please take her,” expression on Cat’s face in this photo.
Bear’s out of town. (clearly) I had just wrapped up an assignment, missed a family hang by minutes and had already cashed in all my “fine, I’ll humor you” cards with Cat.
As you can imagine, the stale late afternoon only poked at my boredom, teasing it into a whirlwind of creative energy demanding to be utilized. After writing a song, cleaning our place, finishing a painting and walking with a friend, there was only one other thing to do – make chocolate cake.
But, the only problem was I had just cleaned the kitchen. (see earlier energy outlet activities) So, I needed an easy, no frills cake that would not ruin my freshly sanitized Fortress of Solitude. I needed a cake in a mug recipe.
So, I found this quick and easy recipe on the Food Network and molded it into what I needed. Recently, I’ve been trying to eat better so I don’t feel like I’m dying when I’m tying my shoes. So, I had to figure out how to tweak this bad boy without removing any of its decadence and delight, two things absolutely necessary for an enjoyable chocolate cake experience.
Here’s the original as I wrote down from their site – the parenthesis was my scribble-scrabble for myself. I’ll explain in the revised version.
Side note: the day before I’d made an easy cherry almond crumble – seen here:
And, I had some leftover cherry filling I’d made.
Super Easy “Sugar-Free” Cherry Filling
1 Cup – Fresh Pitted Black Cherries
2 tsp – Unsalted Butter
2 tsp – Stevia powder
1 tsp – Cornstarch
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of Salt
Good Splash of water
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and heat on medium until thickened.
So, I had about 1/2 cup of refrigerated cherry filling left since my crumble was an individual portion. I knew I could make a killer Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake in a Mug with what I had left.
Here’s my healthier, cherried-up version of the cake:
Gooey Chocolate Cherry Cake in a Mug
¼ Cup Flour
3 tsp Stevia Powder
2 TBS Cocoa Powder
3 TBS Almond Milk
3 TBS Melted Coconut Oil
1 tsp Mexican Vanilla Extract
Dash of Salt
Dash of Chipotle Chile Powder (substitute or add a dash of cinnamon for more depth)
Super Easy “Sugar-Free” Cherry Filling
Whisk all but the cherry filling together in a medium sized bowl until well combined. Add cherry filling into the bottom of a large mug. Pour combined cake batter over cherries. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. I like mine gooey, but you can microwave for another minute if you want yours without the muddy goodness.
My substitutions are the healthier alternatives and don’t take away any of the decadence or flavor. The addition of the chipotle chile powder is also just another layer of depth that adds to the cake. It’s that extra “something” that tickles the throat without creating a burn. Since the cherries already had nutmeg in them, I didn’t add more cinnamon. If you wanted to remove the cherry filling altogether and just add cinnamon, you’d have a wicked Mexican Chocolate Cake in a Mug! Plus, you probably won’t need that additional minute in the micro to avoid the gooey. And, you could add some sweetened condensed milk or cajeta (caramelized condensed milk) over it to really take it to another level!
Enjoy whatever version you decide to make!
I know I enjoyed mine, especially with my cafecito!
It was that time of year where we found ourselves in the Land of Enchantment nestled in a sea of green chilies, and I just couldn’t get enough. One morning, we decided to make a quick stop for breakfast before heading out towards Ruidoso. And, instead of grabbing a sure thing and getting on the road, we were in a gambling mood and decided to try somewhere we’d never been, La Nueva Casita Cafe. Winner! We hit the jackpot!
The second we walked into the doors, we suspected it would be an amazing experience, and they did not disappoint. The deceptively small but charming adobe building is located in the historical part of Las Cruces and is on the legendary El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road of the Interior Lands. The restaurant has been “a timeless tradition with a modern-day flare” since 1957, according to their menu.
As we entered the building, we were kindly greeted and ushered to the open dining area where the masa-colored adobe walls, Mexican ranch-style wooden chairs and tiled wooden tables created a statement of comfort. The distinct aromatic flavors of Mexico danced in the air and made me a little giddy, knowing we were in for a treat.
Our server, Diana, introduced herself cheerfully and offered us menus to review. I immediately noticed their choices were few and unique, like a specialty menu. In my experience, for the most part, the smaller the list of items, the better quality of food. Although they do have a breakfast menu, you can order from the lunch or dinner menu anytime. We decided to stick with breakfast choices and then ask for a few side dishes to try the lunch and dinner items that stood out the most.
Bear enjoyably devoured their Chile Relleno omelette, and I snuck in a bite (for research purposes only, of course). When someone describes a cheesy dish as warm and gooey goodness, they’re describing this dish. From first to last bite, the fluffy, light omelette filled with warm, green chile and smothered in melted cheese delivered an ooey, gooey experience with every lift of the fork. Needless to say, there was absolutely no remnants of ooey or gooey cheddar or green chile after a few minutes with Bear.
As he focused intently on the relleno omelette, I turned my attention to the abundantly filled corn cups with green chile beef, topped with perfectly cooked over easy eggs and melted cheese, Huevos Compuestas. Oh. My.
Once the yolks were released, they slowly nestled into every crevice of the green chile beef to blanket it all, adding a creamy finish to the already cheese laden dish. To say the first bite was delightful, unctuous and warm with spice would be a terrible understatement. I vaguely recall hearing by name being spoken moments after that first bite and slowly drifting back to reality from this pillowy green chile dream sequence. It was damn good.
And, because I knew this would be a short visit and I’d likely not have another chance to try many other items on the menu, we managed to build a nice, solid rapport with our already phenomenally accommodating and sincerely service-oriented server, Diana. Believe me, it wasn’t that difficult to create a bond, and I give full credit to Diana for what I’m about to tell you.
When we explained it was our first visit, that we’d likely not return for a year, then ordered a small side of fideo to taste, plus obsessively kept taking photos of our food, she immediately began to offer tastings of their best dishes… just because!!! Needless to say, I leveraged this opportunity to our advantage.
First up to taste, we tried the fideo. For those unfamiliar, this is a very simple, traditional Mexican staple that involves toasting vermicelli noodles in oil and then creating a seasoned light broth in which the noodles fully cook. Some people may add beef or chicken to fideo, but the most common version is a tomato-based broth with noodles. At La Nueva Casita Cafe, they took this comfort food to a whole new level by creating the broth mainly with steeped, then blended, red chiles and only enough water to cook the noodles. I was convinced they’d added some sort of thickener, but Diana confirmed the only thickening agent came from the red chiles which provided this incredible slow, warming, spectacular burn as it made its journey to become nourishment. And, the finishing touch was fresh, diced tomatoes suspended in this magical, flavorful tomatoey potion that had me so transfixed!
Another magical potion was their menudo! We were able to get about five spoonfuls total from our tasting, and it was amazing. Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup or stew created with beef stomach lining, hominy and spices. The soup is usually very light and fluid, but this menudo had a similar texture as the fideo and was teaming with warm, spicy red chile flavor that thickened the broth to this ridiculously addictive consistency. You couldn’t get enough! It wasn’t soupy; it wasn’t creamy or too thick; it was the absolute perfect consistency, and we ate it up!
Just as we thought the tasting was over, Diana walked over with a tiny bowl of calabacita. This is another traditional vegetarian Mexican dish but is very different from the calabacita I grew up eating in Texas. Where I’m from, the base of all calabacita is the calabaza or green squash that can be found in any market. Next is the corn, onions and tomato. They’re stewed in a tomato based salty broth, rich in flavor, and is oftentimes combined with chicken and ends up more like a very hearty stew where the squash sort of melts into the dish and becomes… well… squashed.
This calabacita was the New Mexican version and very different from what I’d experienced. While the base was mostly familiar with calabaza, freshly cut corn, and tomatoes, this calabacita replaced onions with green chiles and thickened the broth with cheese, creating this unbelievably velvety finish with every bite! And, what truly impressed my palette was the amazing balance of freshness from the brightly colored vegetables against that creamy, intoxicating broth. I’m salivating just thinking about it. You better believe I’ll be doing this dish at home on a regular basis.
So, after the tasting parade was over, Diana (who was just a total bad ass at her job), did what any great server would do when facing two people who had already eaten way too much, she offered us dessert! And, we did what any two people would do after tasting all those amazing dishes – we said, “Yes!”
After Diana listed every house-made sweet treat, Bear landed on ChocoFlan, a combination of a rich, chocolate cake topped with a creamy caramel flan and garnished with whipped cream. I’m sure you can’t tell by the look on his face just what he was thinking. He was thoroughly impressed and did not leave a single bite of that unique dessert combination on his plate. Thankfully, I got first bite dibs, and I can tell you, the cake was very dense but moist and flavorful, while the flan created this fantastic balance of texture. I don’t blame him for the face. It was well-deserved.
And, I decided to go with a cherry empanada. Diana explained that their back of house baker used to own his own bakery and when that didn’t pan out, he started work at La Nueva Casita and brought his delicious Mexican pastries to the menu. The moment she placed the empanada in front of me, I could smell the anise and cinnamon in the dough, teasing my senses and calling me to duty. I did not hesitate. I have to say, I could not get enough of the light, delicate dough that was gently wrapped around the filling and preferred it much more than the filling itself. Come to find out, the filling was pre-made. While I did absolutely find the empanada flavorful, I was surprised it didn’t fall in line with all the other house-made items on the menu.
So, when you’re in Las Cruces and are looking for a comforting meal with genuine personality in a relaxing environment, check out La Nueva Casita. I can’t wait for next year!!
There are a handful of places I’ve visited where when I walked in, I “knew” the place was special. I didn’t have to wait for the drinks or engage with our server. I just “knew” it, and Mexican Sugar has officially fallen into that category.
I’ve been holding out on you. But, the guilt has completely overwhelmed me; so, now I must share… one word… Tupy’s.
For something like a million years, Tupinamba has been a staple of Dallas Mexican cuisine, and up until about 2010, north of the loop was destitute, lacking the love that only comes from a Tupy’s Taco Patron. Then, The Shops at Starwood in Frisco, off of Dallas North Tollway and Lebanon, brought happiness to the masses, and after hogging it to myself over these last few months, I’ve decided to come clean and share the love.I’m not afraid to say that I’ve pretty much worked my way through a majority of their menu at this point, and I have some personal favorites to share with you. Number one on the “I’m so hankerin’ for this, I need to have it” list is Tortilla Soup. I know… sounds wimpy. But, in the great words of Nacho Libre, “It’s tha’ Beeeeest.”
With allergy season blasting through the area, it was both a relief and a healing potion on several occasions these last few weeks. I have been so protective of this place and the gold within its doors that I even kept the soup top secret from my husband until he started to get the sniffles the other day. I knew exactly what to do… Tupy’s. Continue reading “I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Blogger”
This is a “From the Kitchen” and “On the Road” combined posting since the home cooking was inspired by a restaurant we visited during our recent trip to New Mexico. As you know, my husband is from New Mexico, and when we travel to visit his family, I’m treated to various introductions of New Mexican regional cuisine. One of the favorite hang outs in Las Cruces and Roswell is a pub called Farley’s. It’s like a burger joint / New Mexican bar cuisine / beer hang out – think local diner food with beer and pool.
Visiting my husband’s family in New Mexico has become a two fold experience. Not only do I adore his family and sincerely love the fun we have while there, but I also get to experience the local food of Las Cruces, New Mexico and surrounding areas… translation… I get my green chile on.
One of the local favorites is Si Señor, located in central Las Cruces and definitely a “must eat” while visiting. The first time my husband took me there, I didn’t want to leave. I insisted we stay
and snack our way from lunchtime through dinnertime and take sopapillas (fried bread dessert) with us on the road back to Texas when we left. (Note photo of me eating said sopapilla while husband drives). So, during this last visit, we went TWICE! The first time I forgot to take photos. I know, bad blogger. However, I did manage to tear myself away from the food to take photos and introduce this place to you during the second visit. Continue reading “The Land of Enchanted Green Chilies – Si Señor!”