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The First Annual Rancho Winslow Mayan Fin del Mundo Fiesta!

Friday, Dec. 21, 2012

Fri., Dec. 21, 2012

The Menu

Beverages

Noche Buena or Indio, Tecate, or Bohemia beers

La Paloma ("The Dove") cocktails

Appetizer

Sikil P'aak: A dip of roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and charred tomatoes, tomatillos, chiles, garlic, and onion, with sour orange juice and chicken stock; to be eaten with tostados (totopos)

Soup

Sopa de Lima con Pavo y Chilmole: Yucatecan lime soup, with carrot, onion, celery, garlic, turkey stock and meat, lime juice, cilantro, and avocado, and "burnt" (recado negro/chilmole) chile paste: charred árbol and ancho chiles, achiote paste, clove, allspice, pepper, oregano, cumin, lots of roasted garlic, and vinegar

Salads         

Ensalada Xek: Mandarin orange and jicama salad with cucumber, sour orange juice, olive oil, garlic, pequin or árbol chile powder

Zic de Carne: salpicón of shredded braised flank steak with scallion, garlic, chiles, green olives, radish, cilantro, and avocado, dressed with sour orange juice

Entree

Cochinita Pibil: pork shoulder marinated in achiote paste, sour orange juice, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, güero and habanero chiles, wrapped in banana leaves and slowly baked until falling apart; eaten with tortillas

Sides

Lentejas Yucatecas: brown lentils, bacon, pork, onion, garlic, carrot, chayote squash, potato, tomato, chile, epazote, chicken stock

Arroz Verde: rice sautéed with onion and garlic, cooked with roasted poblanos, lots of cilantro, parsley, lime zest, and chicken stock

Condiments

Cebollas Encurtidas: Yucatecan pickled red onions with sour orange juice, charred garlic, güero chiles, allspice, clove, oregano, pepper

Xnipec (aka "Dog's Nose" Salsa): fresh salsa of tomato, red onion, garlic, güero and habanero chile, sour orange juice, splash of vinegar, salt

K'uut Bi Ik: pounded dried chile salsa of árbol and ancho chiles, charred onion and garlic, water, chicken stock, salt, pinch of sugar

Dessert

Caballero Pobre: "Frenched" bread pudding with canela (Mexican cinnamon) syrup and pecans, drizzled with Mexican brandy butter sauce

Mexican brandy (Azteca de Oro or Don Pedro Reserva Especial) and strong coffee or café mocha


Recipes


Beverages:

Beers

Noche Buena – 5.9% ABV. First introduced in 1924, this is Mexico's only seasonal winter beer, done in a lightly sweet bock style, using Styrian hops. Noche Buena is the Mexican name for the poinsettia, which is featured on the label. Nochebuena is Christmas Eve in Mexico, and the last night of Las Posadas: Dec. 16th – Dec 24th, with the nine days representing the nine months of pregnancy, as well as Mary and Joseph looking for lodging. The perfect beer to celebrate a world ending in December!

Indio – 4.5% ABV. Done in the Märzen/Oktoberfest style, this is a recent import from the folks at Moctezuma, and one of the beloved beers across Mexico. Brewed since 1893, it's a dark malty beer with a light caramel aroma (and it makes a fine michelada).

Tecate – 4.5% ABV. Brewed in the American Adjunct Lager style, Tecate is light, comes in a can (environmentally friendly), and tastes fine with some lime squeezed into it.

Bohemia – 5.3% ABV. A Czech pilsner style brew made by the Moctezuma guys. One of the better Mexican beers, with subdued hops, a light sweet graininess, and a clean, dry finish; since 1905.

Believe me, some burps will be necessary when the world is crashing down around you.

Cocktail:

La Paloma – The Dove

La Paloma may be the favorite tequila cocktail in Mexico; it's definitely the most refreshing one. Think of it as a fizzy tequila Salty Dog, made across the border with silver (blanco) tequila, a squeeze of lime juice, a pinch of salt, and Jarritos Toronja or Fresca Toronja. If you followed that recipe in the States, the best grapefruit sodas to use are, in order: Kiss, Fresca (the Mexican version made with cane sugar if you can find it), and Squirt. If you haven't tried Alteño tequilas, you're missing out on some serious 100% agave taste for minimal cost ($11). To jump up the price quality ladder, try the blancos from El Jimador ($18), Espolón ($20), Herradura ($41), or Don Julio Blanco ($46). I slipped on my mixology pants to come up with this artisanal version of La Paloma. It's the perfect cocktail to enjoy the apocalypse (or the rebirth of civilization)!

1 small grapefruit wedge

Coarse sea or kosher salt

Ice

2 ounces blanco tequila (Alteño or Milagro)

2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice

½ ounce fresh lime juice

½ ounce agave simple syrup infused with grapefruit peel (or ¼ ounce more, to taste)

Dash of grapefruit bitters (Bittermens, Scrappy's, Fee Brothers, or Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6)

2 ounces chilled seltzer, Topo Chico preferred, in the smallest bottle possible

1 lime wedge, for garnish

1 grapefruit twist, for garnish

Moisten the outer rim of a collins or a double highball glass with a grapefruit wedge and coat lightly with salt. Fill the glass ¾ full with ice. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the tequila, grapefruit, and lime juices, as well as the simple syrup and bitters; shake well. Strain into the glass, stir in the seltzer, and garnish with a lime wheel and a grapefruit twist.

Grapefruit Simple Syrup:

1 cup agave syrup (or sugar)

1 cup water

1 tablespoon grated organic grapefruit rind

Combine all ingredients in a small pan and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain into a container and store refrigerated; it will keep for about a month.

Appetizer:

Sikil P'aak (P'aak I Tsikil) – Pumpkin Seed and Roasted Tomato Dip with Chiles

P'aak is Mayan for "tomato" and sikil means "squash seed" (close enough to pumpkin seeds, right?), and the dish dates back to pre-conquest times. While it is delicious any time of the year, this dip was traditionally served in the autumn, when pumpkin seeds were used to celebrate the harvest.

4 cups hulled green pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted in a dry skillet

1 green chile habanero, charred

3 Roma tomatoes, charred on a comal or heavy skillet

2 tomatillos, peeled and washed, charred on a comal or heavy skillet

6 large cloves garlic, top sliced off horizontally, charred on a comal or heavy skillet, cloves squeezed-out

¼ cup sour orange juice

¾ cup chicken broth

¾ cup white onion, minced

3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon canela

1 teaspoon salt

Place pumpkin seeds in a food processor and grind into a fine powder; reserve in a mixing bowl. Place chile, whole tomatoes with skin, tomatillos, garlic cloves, juice, and broth in the same processor, pulsing until coarsely blended. Add the mixture by portions into the seeds, stirring to incorporate. Stir in onions, cilantro, canela, and salt to taste, mixing well. Serve with tostados (totopos). Tortillerias Rio Grande No. 1 and No. 2 have superb totopos.

Soup:

Sopa de Lima con Pavo y Chilmole – Lime Soup with Turkey and "Burnt" Chile Paste

Serves 8

This specialty soup of the Yucatan uses a variety of lime called citrus limetta, which grows in abundance in the region. In Mexico the Yucatecan lime is called limón, which translates to "lemon", but it more closely resembles the tart key lime of Florida and the Caribbean basin. The Persian or standard lime can also be used in making this soup. Chicken can be substituted for turkey, but turkey was a traditional food of the ancient Mayans.

2 tablespoons lard or butter

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

3 large cloves garlic, top sliced off horizontally, charred, cloves squeezed-out

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 serrano chiles, de-ribbed, seeded, minced

2 quarts rich turkey or chicken stock

½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ cup lime juice (or more, to taste)

2 to 3 tablespoons chilmole (recado negro), to taste (see recipe below)

3 to 4 cups cooked chopped or shredded turkey meat

2 limes, sliced thinly

4 corn tortillas, julienned and flash-fried in vegetable oil, to make "whiskers"

Cilantro leaves and sprigs for garnish

In a soup pot, heat the lard and add the onion, carrot, celery, roasted garlic, tomatoes, and chiles; sauté over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the reheated turkey stock, oregano, allspice, and lime juice, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the chilmole and bring back to a simmer. Add the turkey meat and bring up to serving temperature. Adjust the seasonings, checking for tartness and spiciness, adding more lime juice and chilmole spice paste if desired. Do a final taste for salt.

Serve immediately, garnished with tortilla whiskers, cilantro, and a couple of thin lime slices floating on top.

Recado Negro/Chilmole – "Burnt" Chile Paste

Yield: about 2 cups

The base of the term chilmole is the Nahuatl word molli, which means "sauce", so chilmole is a sauce, paste, or mixture of chiles (chile mole). In Spanish, the spice paste is called recado negro, which means "a black-colored spice mixture used in cooking". For chilmole, dried chiles are charred black over a flame or on a comal and ground together with other spices to make a thick, spicy, pungent paste with the texture of cold cookie dough. It can be rubbed on meats as a marinade or glaze (1 to 2 tablespoons per pound), or used to season and thicken soups and stews. The heat level is based on the type and quantity of the chiles used; in the Yucatán, habanero chiles are used and the paste can be downright incendiary. The fumes from producing the paste commercially are so noxious that making it within the city limits of Mérida is illegal. Commercial brands of chilmole are available in Mexican markets, including El Yucateco, Productos Marín, Coralito, La Anita, etc. If you are going to Yucatán, be sure to pick up some chilmole paste in the market; if well-sealed, it will keep in the freezer for about a year. Note: I've checked at Fiesta, H-E-B on North Lamar, La Hacienda, and La Michoacana and none of them carry the commercial paste.

 

3 ounces dried chile de árbol

1 ounces dried chile ancho

2 heads garlic, top sliced off horizontally

1 large onion, quartered

2 corn tortillas

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon achiote (annatto) seeds

2 teaspoon whole allspice

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano leaves, toasted

½ cup distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate

¼ cup vegetable oil

Using a heavy comal or skillet or a flame, char the chiles until blackened but not burnt; soak in cold water. Remove the chiles and slit open, using water to rinse out the majority of the seeds.

Char the garlic on the comal until very dark, about 5 minutes; when cool enough to handle, squeeze out the flesh inside the cloves by squeezing from the bottom. Char the onion quarters on the comal until very dark, about 10 minutes. Char the tortilla until very dark, about 5 minutes; break into small pieces.

Combine the salt, peppercorns, achiote, allspice, cumin, cloves, and oregano in an electric coffee mill and grind into a fine powder.

In the work bowl of a food processor combine the charred chiles, garlic, onion, tortilla, spice mix, vinegar, orange juice concentrate, and oil, and process until the mixture is thick and smooth, with the consistency of a cold cookie dough. It will be necessary to scrape down the sides periodically. Wrap the paste to seal well and it will keep frozen for a year, or refrigerated for several months.

Salads:

Zic de Carne / Salpicón de Carne – Salad of Braised Shredded Beef

Serves 8 as an appetizer

Traditionally, this salad is made using venison meat (small deer are indigenous to the Yucatán peninsula), but beef is an acceptable substitute. A lean cut like flank or brisket is perfect, as the meat gets shredded apart after long braising.

4 black peppercorns

4 allspice berries

½ stick cinnamon or canela

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

1 bay leaf

1 medium white onion, peeled and roasted on a comal or griddle

1 whole head garlic, top sliced off, roasted on a comal or griddle, cloves squeezed to extract

3 serrano chiles, roasted on a comal or griddle

2 cups beef broth

2 pounds flank or skirt steak, trimmed

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons oil

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

¼ cup red onion, finely chopped

¼ cup radishes, diced

¼ cup chopped green olives

1 avocado, diced

½ cup sour orange juice (¼ cup orange juice + 2 tablespoons lime juice + 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice)

Salt to taste

Combine the peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaf, onion, garlic, chiles, and beef broth in a blender and puree the mixture. Rub the beef with salt and pepper and heat a sauté pan to medium high heat. Pour the oil in the pan and sauté the beef on both sides until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Pour in the broth mixture, add enough water to cover the meat with 1 inch of liquid; bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, cover the pan, and simmer over low heat for 2 to 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender. Let the meat cool in any remaining pan liquids, then finely shred the meat, moistening with some of the cooking liquid. Reserve.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a nonreactive bowl and let them rest for 15 minutes to combine the flavors. Add the shredded beef to the mixture and serve immediately, or refrigerate and bring to room temperature at serving time. Spoon onto tostados/totopos, to be eaten out-of-hand

 

Ensalada Xec – Jicama and Mandarin Orange Salad

Serves 8

1½ pounds jicama, peeled and cut into julienne strips

¼ cup sour orange juice (2 tablespoons orange juice + 1 tablespoon each grapefruit and lime juice)

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped

5 Mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned, seeds removed

½ teaspoon crushed dried chile: chilaca > pasilla > pequin > habanero (mild > hot), or more to taste

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Salt to taste

Pequin chile powder for garnish (optional)

 

Peel jicama. Cut jicama into julienne strips and immediately toss in a large bowl with sour orange juice to prevent discoloration. Mix oranges and cucumber with jicama (you can use canned Mandarin oranges if you're really lazy). Mix in chile and cilantro. Toss well and taste for seasonings. Garnish with pequin chile powder, if using. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Entrée:

Baked Banana Leaf-Wrapped Marinated Pork – Cochinita Pibil

Serves 8 to 10

Pibil dishes are traditionally cooked in a pib: a hand-dug pit in the ground lined with mesquite coals and stones heated in the fire. A corrugated metal top covers up the pit, which is then sealed with earth. Meats cooked inside a pib are first wrapped and bundled in banana leaves to contain juices and flavor. The pib cooks with heat and steam, making anything cooked within tender and succulent.

Any meat, poultry, or seafood can be cooked pibil style, with varying appropriate cooking times. Fresh banana leaves should be pesticide-free and need to be softened over a flame so that they become pliable. Frozen banana leaves can be used as a substitute, but must be briefly flamed or blanched in hot water to become pliable. Aluminum foil can be used as a last resort, but the flavor of the dish will suffer.

4 pounds pork shoulder, cut into large chunks

8 ounces achiote paste

1 cup bitter orange juice (½ cup orange juice + ¼ cup lime juice + ¼ cup grapefruit juice)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 allspice berries, coarsely ground

8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed into a paste

4 güero chiles, crushed into a paste

2 habanero chiles, finely minced or crushed into a paste (optional)

About 4 to 6 banana leaves, passed over a flame to soften

2 tablespoons melted lard or butter

Pickled red onions and corn tortillas for service

Place the pork in a large resealable plastic bag. Dissolve the achiote paste in the orange juice, add the remaining ingredients except for the banana leaves and the lard or butter, and mix well. Pour the marinade over the pork, distribute evenly, and marinate overnight.

Line the bottom of a large oiled baking dish with banana leaves, letting them hang over the sides of the dish so that they can be folded over the pork. Place the marinated pork and the marinade on the leaves. Drizzle the melted lard or corn oil over the pork, fold the banana leaves to cover the pork, and seal all tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 1½ hours. Remove the dish and allow the pork to rest, sealed, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, fold back the banana leaves, and use two forks to shred the meat. Drain all juices from the pan into the shredded meat.

Serve with pickled red onion rings and hot corn tortillas (the tortillas at Tortilleria Rio Grande are fantastic).

Sides:

Lentejas Estilo Yucateca – Yucatan-Style Lentils

Serves 8

Make this dish using black beans instead of lentils, a little bit soupier and omitting the potatoes and chayote, and it becomes bul keken, which is the traditional Monday meal for Mayans (like red beans and rice in Cajun country).

¼ pound bacon, diced

½ pound pork shoulder, cut into ½-inch cubes

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 large chayote, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 medium onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

3 canned whole tomatoes, minced

1 pound brown lentils, picked through for pebbles, rinsed

Chicken broth to cover lentils by about 2½-inches

3 güero chiles, chopped (2 jalapeños may be substituted, ribs and seeds removed for less heat)

Salt to taste

Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Place the bacon in a pot over medium heat; cook until crisp and fat has rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat. Add the pork to the pot, brown on all sides, and remove.

Add the carrots, chayote, potatoes, onion, garlic, and tomato. Sauté the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Add the lentils, return the pork cubes to the pot, and cover with broth by about 2½-inches. Simmer, covered, until the meat and lentils are tender, adding more broth as needed; it should have a thick consistency.

Return the bacon to the pot and add the chile. Simmer an additional 10 minutes and taste for salt. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Arroz Verde – Green Rice

Serves 8

Green rice gets its name from the herbs (cilantro, parsley, epazote), seasonings (scallions), and chiles (roasted poblano rajas) used to flavor and color the dish. A roasted green habanero can be substituted for one of the poblanos if a much spicier version is desired.

3 tablespoons lard, or 1 tablespoon butter + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed and thoroughly drained

4 scallions, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large chiles poblanos, roasted, peeled and seeded, chopped

4 cups chicken stock, heated

¾ cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and firmly packed

¾ cup cilantro (substitute 2 tablespoons epazote for a portion of the cilantro, if available), coarsely chopped and firmly packed

1 tablespoon lime zest

Heat the lard (or the oil and butter) in a heavy skillet; add the rice and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the rice turns opaque. Add the scallions, garlic, and poblanos, and continue cooking another 5 minutes, or until the onions and garlic are translucent.

Liquefy 1 cup of the stock with the parsley and cilantro using a blender or processor. Add to the rice mixture and cook over high heat until liquid is mostly absorbed and you see small air pockets bubbling on the surface. Add the lime zest and the remaining 3 cups of stock to the rice. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook about 10 minutes, or until water is mostly absorbed and you see little air pockets bubbling on the surface. Cover the skillet with a lid wrapped in a clean, damp towel. Simmer 5 minutes more and remove from heat. Check rice after 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork before service.

Condiments:

Cebollas Encurtidas Estilo Yucateca – Yucatan Style Pickled Onions

Yields about 1 quart

These go on many Yucatecan dishes as a condiment, especially the cochinita pibil.

2 large purple onions, peeled, sliced thinly

10 cloves garlic, bruised

½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon allspice berries, cracked

½ tablespoon dried Mexican oregano leaves

2 sprigs thyme

1 cup apple cider or pineapple vinegar

½ cup sour orange juice (or ¼ cup orange juice + 2 tablespoons lime juice + 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice)

Salt to taste

Immerse the onion slices in boiling salted water for a few seconds to blanch, and immediately rinse in cold water to chill. Drain well, and place the onions in a nonreactive bowl or glass jar. Add all remaining ingredients, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Shake gently periodically to evenly distribute seasonings.

Xnipec – "Dog's Nose" Fresh Salsa

Yields about 1 cup

Xnipec (pronounced shneé-pek); in Mayan, xni translates to "dog" and pec to "nose", because when you eat this salsa your nose is wet and runny like a dog's nose. The much more widely available güero chile substitutes for the yellow and relatively mild xcatik (aka caribe, carricillo, caloro, trompita) chiles of Yucatán. A milder substitute would be the hot banana pepper or yellow Hungarian wax pepper.

2 habanero chiles, finely chopped (seeded and de-ribbed if less heat is desired)

2 güero chiles, minced

2 tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch dice

¼ cup red onion, minced finely

¼ cup scallion, minced finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup cilantro, chopped fresh

3 tablespoons sour orange juice

¼ teaspoon white vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

Pinch of sugar

Combine the chiles, tomato, onion, scallion, garlic, cilantro, sour orange juice, and salt in a serving bowl. Toss to mix. Correct the seasoning, adding more sour orange juice as necessary. The salsa tastes best served within 3 hours of making.

K'uut Bi Ik/Chile K'uut – Pounded Dried Chile Salsa

Yields about ¾ cup

K'uut in Mayan means "crushed or pounded," and ik is the Mayan word for chile. Traditionally, it is made using the small dried chile de país, instead of the much spicier dried habanero. In Yucatán this sauce is pulverized using a mortar and pestle, but a blender is much easier and faster. El Yucatec makes a bottled version of this sauce if you're feeling lazy, but homemade always tastes better.

20 chiles de árbol plus 5 to finish, stemmed and seeded

¼ cup water

¼ cup sour orange juice (2 tablespoons orange juice + 1 tablespoon lime juice + 1 tablespoon grapefruit juice)

Salt to taste

Sugar to taste

Combine 20 chiles de árbol with water, juice, and salt in a blender. Liquefy on high for 2-3 minutes or until chiles are pulverized. Add remaining chiles to the blender and pulse to mince the chiles, allowing them to remain chunky in the finished sauce. Taste for salt. Taste for sugar but use sparingly, just to add richness and balance the flavor. Allow to rest 30 minutes at room temperature before service; will keep chilled for 2 weeks.

Note: For a milder sauce, substitute chilaca or ancho chiles for the chiles de árbol (or for a portion of the chiles de árbol). For a hotter sauce, do not remove the seeds and ribs of the chiles, or substitute a portion of dried habanero chiles.

Dessert:

Cabellero Pobre – "Frenched" Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Syrup and Pecans

Serves 8

This dish is found on many Yucatecan restaurant menus and is very popular all over the peninsula. The bread is dipped in the style of French bread and then coated with meringue before it is fried. The bread gets layered with a rich cinnamon-pecan syrup before being baked.

2 cups milk

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla

1 large baguette stale French bread, 3/4-inch slices

6 eggs, separated; whites beaten until stiff, yolks beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cone piloncillo, chopped (substitute: 1 cup brown sugar)

3 whole cloves

½ teaspoon allspice berries

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

10 3-inch sticks of canela (Mexican cinnamon)

½ cup whole pecans

¼ cup Mexican brandy (Azteca de Oro, Don Pedro Reserva Especial, etc.)

For the brandy-butter sauce (optional):

½ cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

½ sugar

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons Mexican brandy (Aztec del Oro or Don Pedro Reserva Especial)

Combine milk, sugar, and vanilla. Dip each slice of bread completely into milk mixture and drain in a colander over a bowl. Beat the egg white to form stiff peaks and fold the beaten yolks carefully into the whites. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dip each slice of bread into the meringue to coat the exterior and fry in the oil, cooking both sides until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve.

Combine water, sugar, piloncillo, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and canela in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar and piloncillo are dissolved. Cook slowly until the syrup coats a spoon. Strain through a sieve into another small pan, discarding the cloves and allspice berries. Place canela sticks on parchment or wax paper to cool. Add pecans and brandy to the syrup and cook another 5 minutes (syrup will thicken again). Stir diced butter into syrup and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly butter a 5½ quart baking dish. Line the bottom of the dish with the fried slices of bread. Pour on a large spoonful of the pecan syrup, and add another layer of bread slices. Top with the remaining pecan syrup, evenly arranging the pecans on the top. Bake uncovered 35 minutes, or until you see the syrup boiling and caramelizing. Garnish with the canela sticks.

To make the optional brandy-butter sauce:

In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Stir in the butter and sugar. Temper by pouring some of this mixture into the egg yolks while whisking. Return mixture to the pan and simmer, whisking constantly, just until the mixture thickens; do not boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the Mexican brandy.

Serve with whipped cream flavored with a bit of powdered sugar, Mexican vanilla, and a splash of brandy, or with a scoop of Blue Bell Mexican Praline ice cream.

Note: Raisins can be added if desired; almonds can be substituted for the pecans.

Mocha Café – Mocha Coffee

Mayans loved their cacao, and used the pods and beans as a form of money. To cap off the Mayan dinner, take a cup of strong coffee using beans grown in the mountains south of Xalapa, from the coffee farms around Coatepec, Xico, or Teocelo, and stir in 1 tablespoon of unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of sugar or piloncillo (or a little more, to taste). Top it with cream to taste, and perhaps a sprinkle of canela (Mexican cinnamon).

Notes:

Sour Oranges:

Sour oranges were imported to the Yucatán by the Spanish in the 1500's from southwestern Spain, and the native birds did a great job of spreading them around. To closely mimic the taste of sour orange juice, combine 2 parts fresh orange juice with 1 part Mexican or Key lime juice and 1 part fresh grapefruit juice.

Yucatecan Chiles:

Chile pepper = ik in Maya

Most culinary historians now believe that Yucatán was the home of the domesticated chile, and that they developed on the peninsula as early as 8,000 BC; habanero chiles originated there as well. The Spaniards mistakenly named the habanero chiles ("of Havana)" and the name stuck; ironic since Cuban food is not particularly spicy. The Maya cultivated as many as 30 varieties of chiles and used them constantly in their cuisine.

Fresh:

de árbol: slender, slightly curved, pointed tip; clean taste, hot, used in table sauces; aka cuauhchilli, alfilerillo, pico de pájaro ("bird beak"), and cola de rata ("rat tail")

Cascabel: aka cora, catarina; called "jingle-bell" when dried from the seeds that rattle; plum-sized, medium hot; tannic notes in fresh salsas

Chile dulce: bell pepper, pimiento

Chile verde: serrano, pungent and sharp, medium hot; fresh or pickled

Cobán: an ancient Mayan chile from South Central Mexico; pequin-sized, very hot; used fresh and dried

Habanero: native to Yucatán; lantern shaped, ripens to white, yellow, orange, or red; extremely hot, distinctive fruity taste

Uxmal: a cultivated form of habanero

Jalapeño: aka cuaresmeño, gordo; medium hot; used fresh, pickled, roasted, and dried

Pequin: small "bird" peppers, native; very small and pointed; very hot and citrusy; used fresh in salsas

Tuxtla: a southern Mexico form of pequin

Amash: a very hot wild form of pequin that grows in Yucatán

Max: alternate name for pequin in Yucatán

Puya: aka guajillo, pulla, colmillo de elefante; smaller and slightly hotter than the guajillo; cooked in sauces; especially fruity

Xcatik: aka caribe, carricillo, cristal, cristalino, caloro, trompo, trompita; light yellow; substitute güero, yellow wax type; mild to slight heat, used fresh in salsas; 4-5" long by 3/4" wide

Dried:

Ancho: poblano when fresh (roasted and peeled); called mihuateco in Yucatán; cooked sauces when dried

de árbol: slender, curved, pointed tip; clean taste, hot; used in table sauces; aka cuauhchilli, alfilerillo, pico de pájaro, and cola de rata

Chile de agua: poblano-shaped but smaller; lime green ripening to red or orange; cut into strips and sautéed; Oaxacan origin

Chile seco de yucatán, chile de pais: similar in appearance and slightly smaller than a de árbol chile; hotter; used in cooked sauces

Chilhuacle – bigger, meatier poblano; used dried, hot

Habanero: native to Yucatán; lantern shaped; ripens to white, yellow, orange, or red; extremely hot, distinctive fruity taste

Morita: a slightly hotter chipotle with a purplish color

Pasilla: known as chilaca when fresh; long, ripens to mahogany or purplish dark green; roasted and used in table sauces

Pequin: "bird pepper," native; very small and pointed; very hot and citrusy; used fresh in sauces and dried as a condiment

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