In Mexico you are as likely to find the comforting pasta dish fideo seco on the table as beans or rice, especially in central Mexico, where it is very popular. We cook fideos not as the Italians do, but like the Spanish, who brought them to Mexico, first frying them in oil until they are toasty and nutty-tasting, then simmering them in a tomato-based sauce or broth until the sauce thickens considerably and coats the noodles. Forget al dente—our pasta is soft, and that’s the way we love it. The dish is called fideo seco—dry noodles—because it is not saucy at all. It’s also very convenient, because you can make it ahead. You can get packages of fideo pasta, thin noodles broken into pieces, in stores that sell Mexican ingredients, but you can also use thin Italian noodles such as vermicelli, angel hair, thin spaghetti, or spaghetti, and break them up yourself.
I include three different kinds of dried chiles—ancho, guajillo, and chipotle—here in addition to tomatoes, onion, and garlic. For one more layer of complexity—a bit of sweetness in addition to smoky heat—I add some adobo sauce from chipotles in adobo. Top with a drizzle of crema and a sprinkling of tangy cheese, with some sliced avocado to counterbalance the heat of the chiles, and I guarantee that you’ll make it again and again.
A football-shaped or oval masa pocket, commonly filled with puréed beans, favas, or other pulses and topped with cheese, crema, salsa, and/or onions with cilantro; looks like a diminutive, stuffed huarache
Lentil soup seasoned with bacon is a Mexico City staple, with every fonda offering it at least weekly. If you like, add a dollop of Tomatillo Salsa and offer warm tortillas at the table.
Mexico City chef Eduardo “Lalo” Garcia’s secret is to cook these beans very simply, for a very long time, until they’re super-soft, then to add his seasoning—a sofrito of onion, garlic, tomatoes, and dried chiles—and boil them for another half hour, simultaneously infusing them with flavor and concentrating their cooking liquid. These are some of the simplest and yet most complex beans I’ve ever tasted, let alone cooked. A straightforward pico de gallo adds a little freshness and crunch. Serve with tortillas.
Mezcal is meant to bring joy and be used in times of celebration. Sip it, savor it, and kiss it, and make sure to take a moment to reflect on it, appreciate it, and understand it.
My mom made this during Thanksgiving on year and upon tasting it, we knew we had to have it every year for the rest of our lives. My family and I absolutely love Thanksgiving. I think it was because it was the only day of the year (aside from Christmas Eve) that my parents were forced to close the restaurant early. We embraced this tradition, making every Thanksgiving meal traditional with dishes like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. This green spaghetti (and our black bean puree) was how we made Thanksgiving our own, beginning a new tradition for our family that blended both cultures. I really hope it becomes one of yours, too.
Mexico has more than seven thousand miles of oceanfront and a wonderful coastal cuisine, especially along the Pacific. In comparison with other cultures, we add a lot of flavor to our fish dishes, so they’re rich and spicy. With so many peppers, herbs, and charred onions and garlic, you could say we season our fish too much, but it works.
For the past twenty-five years, I’ve been buying herbs from Fresh Herbs of Houston, which was founded by a Vietnamese woman named Pat, who came here back in the 1970s, and has been farming in Texas for many years. A decade ago, she asked me what special ingredients I might want for my menu and I answered flor de calabaza (squash blossoms). Pat has been growing squash blossoms for my restaurants ever since, and during the long summer season I buy more than a thousand of her blossoms each week. So, we two immigrants help each other.
Scratch-Made Hominy recipe from chef Hugo Ortega, who uses this method to make homemade hominy for his Turkey Pozole Verde recipe.
Recipe provided by chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo's, Caracol Restaurant, and Backstreet Cafe. Good for any time of year, but especially satisfying when you've got a lot of leftover Thanksgiving turkey but you're tired of turkey sandwiches.