by Kate Heyhoe
Get ready for the Mexican Days of the Dead, on November 1 and 2. A happy celebration of death? You betcha! In this ritual observance, rooted in a bizarre blend of pre-Colombian and Roman Catholic practices, Mexican families make merry with the souls of their dearly departed. The living mingle with the dead at midnight picnics in cemeteries, they leave once-favorite foods as offerings at homemade altars, and welcome back the dead for a day on earth, with feasts of tamales, spicy moles, and Pan de Muerto. Decorated sugar skulls and skeleton figurines, known as alfiñique, liven up the festivities, and some towns, most notably Toluca and Guanajuato, host a large fair devoted to the art, known as the Feria del Alfiñique, which starts in mid-October and runs through the November 2nd.
To host your own festivities, fire up a Days of the Dead fiesta with this easy platter of chicken enchiladas, covered in savory mole sauce. Visit our Days of the Dead section for other traditions, including a recipe for Bread of the Dead, Pan de Muerto. (Check out our Halloween Special Feature for recipes, party ideas and more ways to celebrate.)
by Kate Heyhoe
Traditional mole sauce, which blends toasted spices and seeds, takes hours to prepare from scratch, so even Mexican home cooks often start with bottled mole concentrate as a base; Doņa Maria is a favorite brand (sold in most supermarkets). The unsweetened cocoa in the sauce makes it dark, nearly black, perfect for a Halloween-ish affair, too. Velvety Mexican crema balances the intensity of the mole sauce, but if you don't have it, drizzle on sour cream instead. The grated queso cotija used here is dry and slightly salty, so Parmesan or Romano make fine substitutes. No cooked chicken on hand? Quickly fry a batch of chicken tenders, then chop and roll in each tortilla.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking dish. Heat 1/2-inch oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to ripple, fry a tortilla about 5 to 10 seconds on each side, just long enough to soften but not crisp the tortilla. Drain, and repeat the process until all tortillas are fried.
2. Pour the mole and 1 cup broth into a medium skillet (use the same skillet if you like, wiped clean with paper towels). Heat over medium-high heat, stirring until combined. Lower the heat, and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. Continue cooking and stirring the so the flavors marry and the sauce thickens (like chocolate syrup), about 5 minutes total cooking time. If the sauce gets too thick, add more broth. Turn off the heat.
3. Using tongs, dip in a tortilla to coat on both sides and move to a plate. Roll some chicken in the tortilla and place in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat until all enchiladas have been made. (Keep thinning the sauce with broth or water if it gets too thick.)
4. Pour any remaining mole over the enchiladas, thinning as needed to loosen up the sauce. Drizzle the crema on top. Sprinkle on the green onion. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the queso cotija, if using, and serve.
Meet Mike Colameco: he's a seasoned chef, radio host, PBS host, CIA grad and has worked in some of New York's best restaurants, including The Ritz-Carlton where he was executive chef.
Naturally, Colameco knows everything about the NYC food world. But it's his food philosophy and professional-chef insights that make Mike Colameco's Food Lover's Guide to NYC so unique and engaging. "I look for restaurants that reflect the personality and point of view of the owners and chefs," he writes, "and as such are far more interesting and worth visiting." He seeks out "soul," and avoids restaurants that are run like dry cleaners, muffler shops or any other business. He boldly states that two of the city's most successful restaurateurs create places that leave him cold. And he's got no interest in tall plates, tasteless microgreens, or designer food foams, when these elements conflict with his mantra: If you have great ingredients, treat them with respect.
Colameco picks and describes places not as a wonky reviewer or blogging amateur, but instead with the passion and detailed eye of a guy who's sweated through 20-hour days in hot kitchens. His standards are high, but he's neither a snob nor a cutting-edge radical. Good food comes on white linen and butcher paper alike. He knows his stuff, and his articulate words reflect compassion and appreciation for whatever makes a place extra-special, with respect for the food it serves the top priority.
Even without going to New York, food lovers will recognize the hotspots and haute people that have long been in the national spotlight, like Murray's Cheese Shop, or Café Boulud. You'll also taste gems on the horizon of hipness, like Momofuku Ko, and discover hidden culinary jewels, like Banh Mi Saigon Bakery with bargain baguette sandwiches at $3.25 each.
Besides reading his book, you can hear Mike Colameco's radio show, Food Talk, on WOR and download podcasts at iTunes.
Buy the book: Mike Colameco's Food Lover's Guide to NYC
Get ready: a new wave of cookbooks geared at cutting back (or cutting out) meat will soon hit the shelves. Hurrah! The reduced-meat diet is seriously catching on. Hopefully, we can all adapt the meat-free trend into our daily lifestyle, another step towards making "being green" into the new normal.
This month, I've picked four basic meat-free recipes to inspire you (one per week), no matter how busy you are. And I've got a handful of main dish recipes where only a handful of meat is used.
People ask me all the time: what are the fastest, easiest ways to go greener in the kitchen? Simple: consume less meat. Eating less meat shrinks your cookprint in big ways, reducing a whole chain of emissions that start at the farm, ride into your store, and end up at your table.
As I mention in Cooking Green, producing a single serving of beef requires more than 2600 gallons of water...
...continued, with recipe links, at Less Meat
Make your own Halloween goodies for parties or your special trick-or-treaters.
Copyright © 2009, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified October 2009
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