By the time March rolls around, we are all ready for a change of scenery.
Papayas stand up straight and cheerful at a local market in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
And for a place in which you can leave the house without your Uggs, down puffy and fleece jacket.
One of the colorful locals I met in central Mexico.
The mass exodus from Jackson Hole is about to begin. If your Spring Break is taking you South, here is a recipe to get you in the groove. And if you are staying in Jackson Hole, then you will likely have some fabulous powder skiing and this hearty soup from central Mexico to keep you warm.
Papel picado: perforated paper flags adorn all street fairs in Mexico.
I have fallen in love with the food of central Mexico, with the dried guajillo and pasilla peppers, and the creamy pumpkin seed sauces. With the chochoyotes (little dumplings made of masa dough) floating in the tomatillo soup, and the cinnamon-laced flan.
Caldo Tlalpeño, a tomatillo soup with chochoyotes, little masa dumplings.
The city of San Miguel de Allende lies 90 miles north of Mexico City, in the mountains at 6000 feet. This is the land of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, a mecca for artists and students. It is the land of salsas made from guajillo, pasilla, chipotle and ancho chilis, which are the basis of central Mexican cuisine.
A bowl of dried guajillo peppers, stripped of veins and seeds, and ready to be soaked and pureed for a classic Mexican salsa.
When traveling in Latin America, empanadas are my weakness.
Here is your first "change of scenery" spring break recipe: Caldo Tlalpeño, a hearty and healthy tomatillo-based soup, with potato, zucchini, and chochoyotes. And it couldn't be simpler.
Chochoyotes are the Mexican version of gnocchi, made with corn flour instead of ricotta or potato.
First tomatillos are husked, cleaned and quartered, and placed in a blender with white onion, garlic and cilantro. The vegetables are pureed, and then brought to a boil with chicken broth and a whole chipotle chili. After a brief simmer, diced potatoes and zucchini are added. Then the chochoyotes: little dumplings made of masa dough (the same dough used to make corn tortillas), which are rolled into marble-sized balls, with a thumbprint in the middle, like Mexican gnocchi. When the chochoyotes rise to the surface of the broth, they are done. Just like gnocchi!
Before serving, the whole chipotle is fished out of the soup, and chopped up to be served alongside as a condiment. Chipotles measure 15,000 on the Scoville scale (a measure of a chili pepper's heat level), but when cooked whole without exposing seeds and veins, just a subtle undertone of heat and a lot of flavor is added.
Margaret sipping hibiscus iced tea in Marilau's Mexican kitchen.
These recipes are from Marilau, my Mexican cooking instructor. Her school specializes in the regional recipes taught to her by her ancestors. These recipes are centuries-old, and Marilau is just now writing them down.
Next on our tour of central Mexican food: Salsa 101. The red and green (and brown) salsas of your dreams.
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
Tortilla dough is easy to make, or you can purchase it fresh from the local tortilleria, Tortilleria mi Pueblo. You'll find them on Broadway in Jackson Hole, tucked behind the Gun Barrel Steak House.
- 1 pound tomatillos, husked, cleaned and quartered
- 1 thin slice of white onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 8 stems of cilantro (stems and leaves)
- 1 teaspoon lard or vegetable oil
- 1 large potato, diced
- 4-5 cups chicken broth
- 1 dried chipotle chili (smoked jalapeno), whole, or substitute a few drops of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilis in adobo
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1/3 cup tortilla dough to make chochoyotes: 1 cup masa harina corn flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 3/4-1 cup hot water
- salt and pepper to taste
- First make the dough for the chochoyotes. Mix the salt into the masa harina corn flour. Slowly add the hot water, stirring constantly with a fork. Mix well until the consistency is firm and springy when touched. Cover with a towel and set aside while the soup cooks.
- Place tomatillos, onion, garlic and cilantro in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Pour tomatillo puree into a saucepan with 1 teaspoon of melted lard. Add chicken broth, whole chipotle chili, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer 15-20 minutes.
- Add diced potato until cooked through. Taste and add salt.
- Add diced zucchini. Taste and adjust salt again.
- While the soup is simmering, make chochoyotes by pinching off teaspoons of dough and rolling them into marble-sized balls. Indent with your thumb.
- Add chochoyotes to the soup, and do not stir. When the masa dumplings rise to the top, they are done.
- Remove the chipotle chili from the soup, and chop finely. Serve alongside of the soup as a condiment.
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