Papa con Chorizo Casserole

Serves 6

Serves 6

8 oz. Mexican chorizo
½ bell pepper, chopped
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (30 oz.) package frozen hash browns, thawed
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes (I used ‘mild’ here, but whichever you prefer)
1 can cream of chicken soup
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 c. panko bread crumbs

Remove casing from chorizo and crumble into skillet. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic and sauté. Drain off excess grease.

Drain potatoes in colander. Wrap them in cheesecloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. Mix Ro-tel, soup and salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Remove potatoes from cheesecloth and add to bowl. Mix well. Stir in chorizo and cheese.

Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and top with panko crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Puffy Tacos

Filling: seasoned ground beef, salsa and monterrey jack cheese

Filling: seasoned ground beef, salsa and monterrey jack cheese

“Puffy Tacos”—those words strike fear in my heart, causing me to put off doing them for this blog for more than a year. I just ‘knew’ they wouldn’t puff for me! So what exactly is a puffy taco? A puffy taco is a corn tortilla that’s fried for 30-45 seconds until it puffs up and hold its shape. Sounds simple, right?

Well, when I read that Chef Bobby Flay couldn’t get his tacos to puff up, I figured we were doomed (we being me and Bill, the master fryer). But we were bored the other day, so…we pulled out the deep fryer and went to work. You need vegetable oil about 3 inches deep in your fryer. Depending on your fryer, heat the oil to between 300 and 400 degrees.

If you read about puffy tacos, you find that professional chefs like Diana Barrios-Treviño of San Antonio say it’s all about the masa, which should be fresh. Well, I can’t get fresh masa here in Queens, so I had to use maseca (the same stuff that Bobby used). I followed the package directions:

2 cups maseca
1 1/3 c. water
¼ t. salt

Mix together to form a soft dough, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if needed until the dough will roll into balls without being too sticky. Make 16 golf ball-sized parts, and keep them covered with a damp cloth until you put them into the tortilla press. I like to line the press with plastic wrap to make removing each tortilla easier (you can hand roll them if you don’t have a tortilla press). Press until flat and not too thin. As soon as you take each tortilla out of the press, put it into the oil.

Take a spatula or a pair of kitchen tongs and gently press down into the center of the tortilla so the sides fold up into a shell as it’s puffing. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain. They should be crisp on the outside but soft within. As you can see, ours didn’t form perfect folds, but they puffed! Fill like you would any other taco and enjoy.

Pappitas Borrachas

Sorry for the recent hiatus, but I’ve been traveling. Now that I’m back, it’s time to get into the kitchen again.

My fantastic Irish husband is a saint (so my Mother always says), and he will eat anything I give him, but I know that he has been feeling there aren’t enough potato recipes on this blog. So here’s one I’ve been working on.

papas-borrachas                                                      Serves 8
While I understand that rosemary is most often used in Mexican cooking for curative teas, rather than food seasoning, I love it with potatoes. I think it deserves a chance to come to the table.

2 T. oil
½ onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1½ t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 T. paprika (hot or sweet)
2 lbs. russet potatoes, cubed, skins on or off
Salt to taste
12 oz. beer

Sauté onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent. Add rosemary and paprika and cook one minute. Add potatoes and salt and coat well. Stir in the beer. Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring several times. Remove lid and let the beer cook down all the way until it forms a glaze, about 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Matzo Ball Soup

matzo-ball-soupJust before Rosh Hashanah, NPR aired a piece on matzo ball soup “by way of Mexico,” featuring Pati Jinich’s recipe from her cookbook, Mexican Today.

Intrigued, I resolved to make my soup using her recipe, but I couldn’t help tinkering with it a bit, especially since I always use boxed matzo ball and soup mix. So here’s what I ended up with:

1 box of your favorite brand of matzo ball and soup mix
6 scallions, chopped, including tops
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1 large pickled jalapeño, chopped (seeded if desired)
8 oz. sliced mushrooms (more if your family is like mine)

Follow the package directions to prepare the matzo balls. Prep the soup as per the directions, adding in all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, add the matzo balls, reduce heat and simmer covered the amount of time listed.

Why Not Couscous?

couscousOn our recent trip to Dubai, we ate in a Tex-Mex restaurant [yes we were surprised they had one!]. On the menu we noticed that several dishes were accompanied by beans and couscous rather than beans and rice. We made faces at the idea, passing those dishes by. [I blame the Mojitos.] Later on the return flight home, I started thinking, “Why not couscous?” So, here’s what I came up with:

1 10 oz. box couscous (1½ c.)
2 c. chicken stock
3 T. butter
½ large bell pepper (green/red/both), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, sliced tops and all
1 pickled jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 t. comino, ground in molcajete
2 t. chili powder
1 t. oregano
2 Knorr cilantro seasoning mini cubes* or 1 T. chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lime (2 T.)
1 c. canned corn, drained

In a large saucepan, bring chicken stock and 1 T. butter just to a boil. Stir in the couscous and cover. Remove from heat and set aside.

In large skillet, sauté peppers, garlic and scallions in remaining butter until soft. Add in jalapeño and spices, mixing well. Stir in lime juice. Remove from heat. Fluff the couscous with a fork and add to the skillet, mixing well. Stir in corn. Cover and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend together.

*If using the Knorr cubes, do not add salt.

Tacos de Salmon

tacos-de-salmon                                                                                                                                       Serves 4
2 T. oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (14.75 oz.) can pink salmon, drained
1 T. ground comino
1 t. chili powder
1 (10 oz.) can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with lime juice and cilantro
Flour tortillas
Sour cream

Cook onion in oil in large skillet until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Drain salmon and remove any bones, but leave skin intact. Add salmon, comino and chili powder to the pan, mix thoroughly and cook 2-3 minutes. Add in tomatoes and heat through.

Serve in warm flour tortillas with salsa, sliced avocado, sour cream and shredded lettuce as desired.

Adapted from

Chewy Pralines

These pralines, found near the cash register in pretty much every Mexican restaurant in South Texas, have a very different texture than the Praline recipe we posted previously.

chewy-pralines                                                                                                                       Makes 24
1c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
½ lb. butter (2 sticks)
1 c. evaporated milk
1½ t. vanilla
4 c. pecans (halves and broken pieces)

Combine sugar and syrup in saucepan and heat to 250 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted. Then slowly stir in milk. Heat, stirring constantly, to 245 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and pecans. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper or aluminum foil. Let stand until cool. Wrap each in plastic to keep them separate.

Papa con Huevo Enchiladas

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted red or green salsa for these enchiladas, so I made both. the family sampled both kinds and decided they preferred the red ones. But since both are quite tasty, I’ve included both salsa options and photos.

Papa Enchiladas - Red                                                                                                                            Serves 6
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
Oil for frying and dipping
6 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
12 corn tortillas
4 oz. grated monterrey jack cheese
1½-2 c. Salsa Verde or Red Chile Salsa

Fry potatoes in oil until golden brown*; beat eggs and add in. Add salt and pepper and scramble well. Dip each tortilla in oil to soften and then in hot salsa. Place in baking dish, stuff with a heaping spoonful of egg mixture and a spoonful of cheese and roll. Cover enchiladas with remaining sauce and top with grated cheese. Heat 15 minutes in 350-degree oven to melt cheese. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

*If softer potatoes are preferred, microwave the cubed potatoes for 5 minutes before frying.

Salsa Verde

Papa Enchiladas - Green2 medium bell peppers, chunked
3 (13 oz.) cans tomatillos, drained (or 2½ lbs. fresh tomatillos)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ t. cilantro
1 t. salt

If using fresh tomatillos, stew in covered saucepan with 1 cup water until soft. Combine all ingredients in blender and puree. Pour into saucepan, cover and simmer 30-40 minutes.

Red Chile Salsa

5 T. powdered chile ancho (or chili powder)
3 c. water
2 t. salt
1 T. shortening
1½ t. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. flour

Combine chile powder and water and let sit for at least an hour.

In large saucepan, heat shortening and oil over low heat. Grind garlic in molcajete and add to saucepan. Add flour and brown lightly. Add in chile mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened.


ColiflorServes 5-6
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
5 scallions, sliced (including tops)
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 t. chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 c. oil
Juice of 2 limes
2 T. water
2 t. sugar

Combine all ingredients in large bowl, mix well, and let marinate for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread mixture on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast until tender, 25-30 minutes.

Calabacita con Okra

Calabacita con OkraNow that the original recipes have all been posted, it’s time to have fun creating some new ones. Since it’s summer and squash of all types are plentiful, let’s start with this one:

Serves 4-5
2 T. oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb. patty pan squash, sliced
1 lb. okra, ends trimmed off and sliced*
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles (whatever heat level you desire)
3 slices crisp bacon, crumbled (optional)

In a large skillet, sauté onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent. Add squash and okra and cook about 2 minutes. Add Ro-Tel tomatoes and bacon and simmer uncovered until squash is tender and liquid reduced.

*Although I did manage to find the patty pans, I could not find, anywhere in Queens or Nassau County, fresh okra, so had to resort to canned. It shrinks beside the squash visually, even though I waited until the last minute to add it in.