In the Mexico edition of Saveur, Diana Kennedy was described as being the “Julia Child of Mexico.” I received two of her cookbooks from my dad last Christmas, and finally decided to open them.
First I felt the need to make chiles rellenos (literally “stuffed chiles”). I decided to make a vegetarian chile relleno because I had zucchini and squash leftover in my fridge. They were delicious – spicy chiles filled with tender squash, salty cheese, and tangy onions.
And after reading Diana’s recipe for Mexican rice, I realized I was wrong on my previous Mexican rice blog post. While my made up version of Mexican rice is delicious, it’s not the traditional Mexican rice (which I have since realized is made with tomatoes). I must say, though, I am quite happy that I’ve realized the error of my ways. This rice is WAY better.
Chiles Rellenos con Calabacitas (Stuffed Chiles with Zucchini)
Recipe slightly adapted from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, by Diana Kennedy
From Central Mexico
- 2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup finely chopped white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 lb zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch cubes (tiny cubes)
- salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp dried Mexican oregano (definitely find Mexican oregano – not Italian oregano. They taste very different)
- 1 tbsp wine vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 oz queso fresco, crumbled
- 6 medium-large poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, with insides cleaned out (get rid of all seeds), with only one slit down one side
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Heat 1 1/2 tbsp of veggie oil in a heavy skillet. Add 2 tbsp of the onion and half of the garlic. Fry gently over medium heat without browning for 2 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and salt, cover the pan, and cook over medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time so the mixture doesn’t stick, until the zucchini is just done (around 8 minutes). I cooked my zucchini for exactly 8 minutes and it was perfect.
- Diana explains that because squash vary in moisture content, and should steam in their own juices – thus if they seem dry, add some water. If they are too juicy, leave the lid off to get rid of some moisture)
- While the mixture is still warm, add the remaining chopped onion and garlic, and add the oregano, vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, and cheese. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
- Stuff the chiles until they are full but will still meet at the opening. There should be some stuffing left over. Fasten each opening with a toothpick (see picture below).
- Melt the butter and remaining 1 tbsp oil together in a skillet. Adding oil to butter fortifies the butter, and makes it better able to withstand high heat without burning (it will still burn if your skillet gets too hot – but still)
- Add the stuff chiles and fry them over medium heat, turning them over gently so the stuffing does not fall out, until lightly browned.
- Remove from skillet, and serve!
Arroz a la Mexicana (Mexican Rice)
Recipe adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking, by Diana Kennedy
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
- 1 cup finely chopped unskinned tomatoes
- 2 tbsp chopped white onion
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup safflower oil, melted chicken fat, or melted lard (I used lard – turned out great, but melted chicken fat would probably be the best)
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth (low or no sodium)
- 1/2 cup zucchini, chopped (you can also add other vegetables, such as carrot rounds or fresh peas)
- kosher or sea salt to taste
- Put the tomatoes, onion, and garlic into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Heat oil/fat/lard into a heavy pan. Put the rice into the heated fat. Fry over fairly high heat until the rice begins to turn a light golden brown color. Strain off excess fat from the rice (pour rice into small opening colander, letting fat drain out, then putting back into pan).
- Stir tomato slurry into the rice. Fry, scraping the bottom of the dish to prevent sticking, until the puree has been absorbed into the rice and is no longer liquidy – about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the broth and vegetables, add salt to taste, and cook over fairly high heat, half covered, until all broth has been absorbed and air holes appear in the surface.
- Remove from heat, fully cover, and seat aside in a warm place for the rice to absorb the rest of the moisture in the steam and swell – about 15 minutes.
- Dig gently to the bottom and test a grain of rice. If it is still damp, cook for a few minutes longer. If the top grains are not quite soft, sprinkle with a little hot broth, cover, and cook for a few minutes longer.
- Before serving, turn the rice over carefully from the bottom with a fork so that the flavored juices will be distributed evenly.