Category Archives: mexican

papas pastores

papas in bowl

in honor of a diana kennedy event i’m going to tonight, i give you papas pastores, or shepard’s potatoes, one of her recipes that i’ve been making for years. and boy, are they good. addictive, really, so go ahead and make extra ‘cos you’ll sure wish you had. these are eaten primarily as a snack in mexico, but i serve ’em with grilled steak. it is an outrageously fantastic pairing due to the freshness of the lime in the potatoes. this recipe comes from her cookbook ‘My Mexico’, which came out about 10 years ago.  i was introduced to her by my old friend jack who gave me an original print of her first book ‘The Cuisines of Mexico’, which came out in 1972. it is autographed for someone named scott. maybe i’ll take it tonight and have her cross out scott and write in steph instead! (hey, same amount of letters…).


for those that are not familiar with her work, diana kennedy is said to be the julia child of mexico. she also has some friends (ever heard of fonda san miguel?)and a residence in austin, so we are graced with her presence quite frequently. she is a purist, by all accounts (say ‘no more chips ‘n’ salsa’ like joan crawford says ‘no more wire hangers’), and sometimes i feel guilty when i can’t find fresh epizote or powdered tequesquite and i have to make do. i really do prefer to cook and bake without the aid of esoteric ingredients, but sometimes it’s worth it to go the extra mile when it comes to authenticity. because of her, i now know what to do with all those wrinkled peppers, spices, and other weird lookin’ sundries at my hispanic grocer.


papas pastores (serves 4 as a side dish, 6-8 as a snack)

adapted from diana kennedy

1 pound very small new potatoes*

2 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped white onion

1 garlic clove

3 serrano chiles, finely chopped (seed and ribs removed if you prefer less picante)

1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 cup water

*if potatoes are on the large size, just cut them in haves or quarters–these were grown by my good friends at copper dog farms. a bio of them is coming soon!

heat oil over medium high heat in a large heavy pan. add potatoes and sprinkle with salt, shaking pan from time to time until potatoes skins begin to wrinkle and brown. add onion, garlic, and chiles, saute 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently. add cilantro and lime juice and continue sauteing for 1 minute longer. add water and cover the pan. cook over low heat until potatoes are tender and almost all the liquid has evaporated.

post script photo:

me & d


Filed under appetizer, mexican, side dish

hot carrots!


if you’re anything like us, if it’s pickled, it’s better.  i’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a few years when my friend (and fabulous hairstylist) stacie was remarking that you just can’t get ‘hot carrots’ here in texas, like we had back in california where we grew up. i had almost completely forgotten about these beautifully tangy and mildy picante carrots found on the table of virtually every mexican restaurant in southern california. ninfa’s here in texas used to have them, then removed them for so-called ‘health department’ rules…oh, well. once you try them, you will find any excuse to pair them with whatever you are eating–they are super addictive.



hot carrots (makes about 8-10 half pint ball jars)

12-14 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4″ on the bias (see picture)

6 fresh  jalapenos, sliced thinly lengthwise

2 onions, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced thinly

5-10 whole garlic cloves, peeled

4-5 bay leaves

about a tbsp of whole black peppercorns

2 cups regular ol’ white distilled vinegar

4 cups water

1 tsp dried oregano


put all ingredients except oregano in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. make sure you have enough liquid to cover the vegetables, adding more water & vinegar in the same 2:1 ratio if necessary. simmer on medium high for a few minutes until carrots are crisp tender, about 5 minutes (a bit less done than you would normally like to eat them because as they sit off the heat, they will cook a smidge more). remove from heat and add oregano. cover with a lid and allow to sit off the heat until cool. put in jars, covered with the vinegar broth and give them away. or put ’em all in a big bowl and cover tightly if you’re selfish and want to keep them all to yourself (stacie!). you really don’t need to sterilize the jars if you keep them refrigerated–they’ll keep for about a thousand years this way. and they’ll get spicier as they become further infused by the peppers.


these are great on tortilla chips or crackers while you’re waiting for someone to cook you up some homemade enchiladas. or put ’em on some black or borracho beans. or sit at the counter and eat ’em straight outta the jar-you know who you are.


Filed under appetizer, mexican, side dish

taco night!


fond food memories for me always include names like taco night, friday night-pizza night, and potato bar. to this day whenever i finish making loaded baked potatoes and salad for dinner i always tell houston that “the potato bar is now open”. that sentence must be deeply imbedded within my genetic code. it just spews forth without hesitation. anyway, i still get a kick out of ‘themed’ dinners like these–they make me feel child-like.

everyone once in awhile taco night means going out for tacos (there are so many places to get fabulous tacos in austin, don’t even get me started…), but mostly it means making the taco filling (we use ground turkey–it has a very meaty bite, but is much lighter than hamburger) and fryin’ up the shells and serving the whole mess with fixin’s. that way everyone gets to eat tacos exactly how they like ’em.


i like to get those ready first and keep them in the fridge nice ‘n’ cool ’till everything else is ready. you can go tradtional tex-mex with ice berg lettuce and yellow cheddar or put another spin on it like i have here. this is more california baja-style with shredded purple cabbage and queso fresco.


do you remember these? everyone used them. sometimes i still do if i’m feeling lazy. but really, you already have everything that’s included in this packet hanging out in your spice rack. really. go look right now.


the only thing you might have to get is some cocoa powder (unsweetened). but you should get some of that anyway and add it to your next pot of chili. it adds a nice depth of color and flavor that will really surprise you.


you should NOT under any circumstances, however use store-bought taco shells. go the extra mile and fry them yourself. this is the differnce between ok and delicious. it’s really easy. i found these red tortillas at our local mexican mega-mart. they’re made with red chili powder-purdy, huh?


bring a shallow frying pan 1-2 fingers full of vegetable or canola oil you’ll want something fairly inocuous here. can you tell i’ve had this pan since the time my mother fried taco shells in it? ah, my first (and still only) le creuset!


use a deep fry, a.k.a. candy, thermometer to get the oil to about 350 degrees F. this is the perfect temperature to get fried things crispy, not soggy.


add in your first tortilla, sliding it in carefully as not to splatter yourself. let it puff up a little. after about 5-10 seconds, while it’s still pliable, fold it over but not all the way. you want to be able to get fillings in there after you take it out. fry on 1 side for about 5 seconds, then flip over to the other side. each tortilla should only take 15-20 seconds in the oil.



drain on some paper towels. you can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven if you like.


fill ’em anyway you like and enjoy!


homemade taco night tacos

1 lb ground turkey

1 small onion, diced

2 fresh jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced or sliced thinly

3 garlic cloves, minced

a few tablespoons of canola oil (plus more for frying)

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (find this in the baking aisle, it was what you once used to make hot chocolate before they came out with those little packets)

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp mexican oregano (fresh or dried)

1 cup of your favorite salsa

1/4-1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 lime

fixin’s and hot sauce or salsa of your choice—get these chopped, shredded and ready to go. put them in the fridge so they’re nice and cold when you build your tacos. the contrast with the hot, spicy meat and the toppings is all part of the package.

in a large skillet over medium high heat, saute the meat up in a bit of canola oil until almost no pink, breaking it up as you go. take it to just underdone because you will adding it back in and it will cook for a little longer. this will prevent it from drying out. drain the grease from the meat through a colander. set aside. add a bit more oil to the same pan and saute the onion and peppers until soft. add the garlic and saute for about a minute, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t brown (this will make it bitter). add the chile powder, cocoa powder, cumin, and oregano and stir often for 30 seconds to a minute. add the meat back to the pan as well as the salsa and water. i start with 1/4 cup or so of water, give the whole thing a good stir, then add more if it appears too dry for my taste. you want it a little soupy, but not drowning. turn the flame down to low and cover, simmering for 5-10 minutes. turn off the heat and add the cilantro and lime juice.

fry up the tortillas. heat a shallow pan with about an inch or so canola oil until it reaches 350 degrees on a deep-fry or candy thermometer. fry tortillas one at a time, folding each over after about 5 seconds in the oil, then cooking for about 5-6 seconds for each side. drain on paper towels.

get your toppings and hot sauce out and open up the taco bar!

these go great with a cold beer like st. arnold fancy lawnmower.



Filed under main dish, meat, mexican

the budget

this time of year always seems to bring out the accountant in all of us. as the government attempts to figure out what we’ve all known all along, i.e. you can’t spend more than you have, we try to do that at home too. this weekend my brand new husband, houston, announced that we should try to go through the entire weekend without going to the grocery store while still managing to eat well. i thought this was a great idea, but what he didn’t know is that we actually do this type of thing all the time. if it is not obvious by now, i am doing most of the cooking, shopping, planning and prep of our meals. i am not complaining. on the contrary, it is one of the most satisfying things that i do. although you will find that i like to make food that takes hours simmering, requires that i learn a thing or two while doing it, and generally makes enough for 10-12 people so we can invite our friends to bring wine and beer, this weekend we will hunker down, regroup, and be creative emptying out the pantry.


our first meal after the declaration of a new budget was one houston’s famous egg scrambles. he is famous in his family for finding things in the fridge, chopping them up into bite-sized gems and throwing it all together in a scramble for breakfast, sometimes unashamedly cooked in the drippings the bacon just left behind in the pan moments before. what’s not to like? later that morning we found a beautiful cut of country style ribs in the freezer that we had purchased at the farmer’s market from one of our favorite meat farmers, Richardson Farms. houston sliced her up and put the gorgeous meat into the crock pot with garlic, onion, green chiles and some tomatillo salsa from the fridge. although it was very spicy, we were able to tone it down as we ladled the pork morsels, with their lovely chile gravy over some plain steamed rice. i will post the recipe as soon as i can get him to write down exactly what he did!

not to be outdone, the next morning i put together one of my favorites, huevos rancheros. having a well-stocked pantry makes challenges like this a cinch, really. living in texas also gives us a special advantage: ready access to latin foods. i heated up a favorite brand of  salsa from mexico, added some cumin and other spices with a touch of olive oil. then i topped sauteed corn tortillas, also kept well in the freezer, with some doctored up black beans, over easy eggs, the warm ranchero, with just a smattering of shredded cheese to round it out. i truly felt like the frugal gourmet. here’s the result:



we shall see what we come up with for sunday dinner but more than likely it will be, as it should be on a budget, leftovers which almost always taste better the second day anyway!

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Filed under breakfast, mexican