Botanas!

Botanas are snacks, or appetizers.  A variety of small snacks are served on a large platter and are intended to be served communally. 

I’ve been wanting to make refried beans for several days now and this seemed like a good way to showcase them.  Homemade tortillas, fire roasted poblano chiles, mesquite grilled chicken and queso Chihuahua offer bold flavors and textures to the party platter.  Lettuce, cilantro and tomato add bright colors to the ensemble.

The botanas platter took several hours to complete.  Boiling dried beans and preparing tortilla dough take an hour and half each to complete.  Roasting chiles and the chicken on an outdoor grill requires another hour, or more.  Some of these tasks can be done in advance and kept chilled and then reheated, when you are ready to assemble the platter.

Ingredients for Refried Beans:

2 cups dry pinto beans, cleaned and rinsed

1 guajillo chile, stemmed and seeds removed

1 cup onion, sliced in large rings

½ gallon water

¼ cup lard

2 Tbs bacon fat

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cumin

Directions for refried beans:

Add dry pinto beans to a pot of water.  Turn heat to high.

Slice the guajillo chile in half.  Add the chile and onion to the pot.

When the pot begins to boil, turn the heat to low and cover.  Simmer for one and a half hours.

Strain beans and discard the onion and chile. Rreserve one or two cups of the broth. 

In a large skillet, add the lard.  Melt the lard at low/medium heat. 

Add cooked beans and stir.  Fry the beans for about 5 minutes. 

Add about 1 cup of the reserved bean broth. Simmer and stir for one minute.

Add the bacon fat and stir for another minute.

Mash the beans with a potato masher or large fork.  Mash and mix the beans until they are creamy.  Add more broth if desired.

Add salt and cumin.  Stir for a minute.  Turn heat off and turn out to a serving bowl.

Ingredients for Fire Roasted Poblano Chiles:

3 fresh poblano chiles

The green onions will be grilled, too. They will be in another recipe.

Directions:

Roast chiles on the grill at very high heat.  Turn the chiles every 3 or 4 minutes to char each side. 

Once the chiles are charred on all sides, place them in a bowl and cover with foil or plastic wrap.  The chiles will soften and cool to room temperature in about 15 minutes. 

Remove the chiles and peel the charred outer skin away from the chiles. The charred parts should easy separate from the rest of the chile. Cut the stem off and pull out the seed cluster.

Slice the chiles lengthwise and lay the chile out on a cutting board.  Remove any seeds that were missed.

Slice the chiles in thin ribbons, about ¼” thick.  Set aside.

Pollo a la Parrilla de Mezquite

(Mesquite Grilled Chicken)

Ingredients

2 medium sized chicken breasts

1 tsp red chile powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 Tbs olive oil

Directions:

Sprinkle chile powder, cumin and garlic over the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss, to mix.

Carefully place chicken on a hot grill and grill each side for 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove the chicken, wrap in foil and store in a warm place until ready to serve.

Quesadillas de Rajas con Queso

(Quesadilla with Poblanos and Cheese)

Ingredients:

Flour tortillas

Sliced roasted chile poblano

Sliced Chihuahua cheese

Directions:

Add sliced cheese and strips of poblano pepper to one half of a tortilla. 

Make a quesadilla by folding the tortilla to cover the cheese and chile. 

Fry the  quesadilla in butter and olive oil at low/medium heat for a few minutes on each side.

Remove and cut the quesadillas in half.

Burritos pequenos

(Small burritos)

Ingredients:

Flour tortillas

Refried beans

Sliced Chihuahua cheese

Directions:

Add refried beans and cheese to a tortilla. 

Roll the tortillas to form burritos. 

Pan fry in butter and olive oil at low/medium heat for a few minutes.

Remove burritos and slice into small, bite sized pieces.

Assemble the botanas platter

Arrange the lettuce, cilantro and tomato on one edge of the plater.  Nestle sliced chicken next to the salad.  Add a bouquet of roasted poblano next to the chicken.

Arrange the quesadillas and mini-burritos in a decorative array to complete the platter.

Celebrate and enjoy! 

Sopapillas (with Apple Syrup)

Special occasions call for special meals.  When I make a special Mexican dish, I like to make homemade flour tortillas.  When I make homemade tortillas, I sometimes make sopapillas, because sopapillas are made from the same tortilla dough.

Sopapillas are Mexican pastries that are quickly fried in hot oil and served warm, with honey. 

Once in a while wires get switched and everything gets thrown into reverse. 

Several days ago, I made an apple crumble and I challenged myself to use 100% of the apples during the process.  One of the results was an unexpectedly delicious apple syrup.  The aroma, taste and color of the syrup was reminiscent of floral honey.  I couldn’t wait to try the syrup in a recipe where honey is normally used.

It didn’t take long to find a way to highlight the apple syrup.  That’s when my usual thought process switched into reverse. 

Sopapillas are made from tortilla dough and, since I was going to need to make tortilla dough, why not make make some homemade tortillas?  And, since I was going to have homemade tortillas on hand, why not make some Mexican food?

If you want to see my recipes for apple syrup and homemade tortillas click on these links:

Apple Syrup

Homemade Tortillas

Ingredients:

1 lb. prepared flour tortilla dough

2 cups cooking oil

¼ cup powdered sugar

¼ tsp cinnamon powder

½ cup apple syrup (or honey)

Directions for making sopapillas:

Add oil to a large, deep skillet.  Set heat to medium.

Mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough, roll it into a ball and place it on a floured work surface.

Using your hand, press down on the dough to form a disc. 

With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to form a larger, thinner disc.  I suggest rolling it out to ¼” thick, or thinner.  I like to roll out the dough very thin. 

Using a pastry cutter, slice the disc into quarters.   

Carefully transfer the cut pieces of dough to the hot skillet, one at a time.  Avoid crowding the pan.  I usually make 3 sopapillas at a time. 

With a large cooking spoon, ladle hot oil over the sopapillas while the fry in the oil.  The sopapillas should begin to puff up quickly.  After about 30 seconds, turn the sopapillas over and cook for another 30 seconds. 

Carefully remove the sopapillas to a paper towel lined plate. 

Transfer the sopapillas to a serving platter and dust them lightly with powdered sugar.

Serve warm with copious amounts of apple syrup!

Drizzle the syrup over the sopapillas or tear off the corners of the sopapillas and drizzle some syrup directly into the sopapilla.  It’s okay, I won’t tell.