Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mexican Brunch

I don't remember what inspired the Mexican Brunch. My family had just come back from a three-week vacation and there was still a good month and a half until school started again. I had plenty of time to bake and scheme and scheme about baking, and somehow I ended up with my heart set on having a big Mexican-themed brunch.

I really don't know why I was so crazy about it being Mexican. That's not my heritage, though God knows I hear a lot of all-in-good-fun Mexican jokes at school, being the only Latina in my year. But I do love Mexican food, and the brunch didn't disappoint. The day dawned warm and sunny; we all woke up bright-eyed and ready for some serious cooking; and the food was, of course, amazing.


Being as stubborn as I am, I planned the whole thing myself and really only let my father in to smoke some ham. We had beef empanadillas, huevos revueltos a la Mexicana, corn cake, melon and clementine sections, mango juice, and black coffee with cinnamon. By the end of the meal, we were all full to bursting and just about ready to move to México.



The empanadillas were my absolutely favorite part. The pastry for these was not a traditional empanada dough, which usually uses hot oil instead of butter. These were a British/American cut-in type pastry, and they were ridiculously flaky, thanks to the addition of cold butter and cold beer. I'm including the recipe for this dough as well as for my favorite traditional empanada, so you can take your pick. Either one will be wonderful.

These were filled with a great beef-potato-pepper-onion-everything-else-on-hand mixture, but the filling options are endless. A popular Mexican treat is an empanadilla filled with a rich, sweetened egg-yolk cream and then dusted with sugar. If you haven't got cholesterol problems or a waistline to worry about, I'd recommend making those with the cut-in pastry. Pure heaven.


The corn cake was also great. This is actually my All-Purpose Vegetable Cake, so-named because it works with literally every fruit and vegetable I've thrown at it. The original recipe calls for two cups of mashed banana, but I've made it with with everything from zucchini to cherry pulp to corn. It's wonderfully satisfying, just the right amount of sweet, and makes a wonderful breakfast cake. I really can't tell you how much I love this cake, or how many times I made it over the summer with our abundance or produce. You can substitute whatever kind of veggie you'd like, but I do recommend giving the corn a shot; it's surprisingly good, and only gets better after a few days in the fridge or freezer.



I'm definitely a scrambled eggs kind of girl. There's something so wonderfully simple and satisfying about them, especially if I give in and top them with a generous squirt of ketchup. These didn't any of that sissy stuff; they've got plenty of tomatoes, onions, chiles, and cilantro built right in. My dad taught me to toss the eggs in the pan, as if sautéing, right when the eggs start coagulating to make them light and fluffy. Lesson learned: when it comes to the kitchen, my dad knows what he's talking about.

If you have a lazy Sunday morning to spend, brunch is great. If you're like me and love organizing and decorating and prepping, a themed brunch is excellent. If you like brunch and Mexican food, well, I've included recipes, and you know what to do. If you don't have the time for eating all morning, then give one of the recipes a try on its own. The scrambled eggs are good for a simple breakfast or lunch, the corn cake is a nice idea for mornings or with coffee, and the empanadillas are perfect for taking as lunch to the office or school. Either way, and I know it's totally cheesy to end this in spanish, buen provecho!

Empanada Dough 1 (cut-in version)
From Patricia Quintana's Mexico's Feasts of Life

1 pound all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter or lard
1 egg yolk
1 cup very cold pulque (alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant), beer, or sparkling wine

Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, two knives, or a mixer. Add the first egg yolk and gradually work in the pulque, mixing until the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it in a draft-free place for an hour.

Empanada Dough 2 (hot oil version)
From a friend of my grandmother

500 grams all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
130 grams hot oil
150 grams water
155 grams white wine
A pinch of salt

Make a mound out of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the liquid ingredients. Mix until the dough is smooth and manageable.

Beef Empanadilla Filling
Adapted slightly from Patricia Quintana's Mexico's Feasts of Life

1 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
3 chiles serranos or other small peppers, spicy or not
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
3/4 pound beef fillet, finely chopped
3/4 pound potatoes, boiled and very, very finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken or beef stock

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and brown the onion, leeks, chiles, and parsley. Add the meat and potatoes and cook 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is brown. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour in the broth. Allow to cool.

To make the empanadillas, seperate the dough into small balls and flatten each one into a disk. Place a tablespoon or so of filling in the center (more or less depending on the size of your disks) and fold the disk closed so that it makes a little half-circle. Seal the edge with a fork. Bake on a greased baking sheet at 350F for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

All-Purpose Vegetable Cake (or Corn Cake)

1 pound flour
14.5 oz sugar
7 oz oil
3 eggs
11.5 oz mashed corn (or banana, or zucchini, or carrots, or beets...)
3.5 oz walnuts
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Whisk the sugar into the oil. Add the vegetable and the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add to the liquid ingredients and mix until just combined. Mix in the walnuts. Bake in a greased and floured Bundt or pound cake pan at 350F for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Huevos Revueltos a la Mexicana
Adapted slightly from Patricia Quintana's Mexico's Feasts of Life

8 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
3 chiles serranos or other small peppers, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
6 eggs, beaten

Heat the oil in a large frying pan for 3 minutes. Add a tablespoon of onion and brown lightly. Add the rest of the onion, the tomatoes, and the chiles and cook over high heat until the ingredients begin to change colors. Add salt to taste and the cilantro . Add the eggs. Do not stir until they begin to set, and then gently toss the pan to fluff the eggs up. Give them a quick stir and cook until scrambled. Remove from heat.

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