Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen:
Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking

I’m thrilled that this week’s guest blogger is Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, author of the acclaimed Quick & Easy Korean Cooking.

Her latest cookbook, Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking, successfully tackles a cuisine that is considered hard to make ‘easy’ to prepare. Given Cecilia’s exposure to Mexican culture and food from a very young age—growing up in Los Angeles as well as a stint when she lived in Mexico—she knows these foods as well as a native, resulting in recipes that are accessible without being dumbed down in any way.

Do you have a favorite Mexican dish you make at home? Are you lucky enough to live somewhere where there’s actual authentic Mexican food to be had? Have you ever tackled making homemade churros? Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking I’ll be giving away at random on May 18th.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

When my family had a Mexican grocery store, I may have had a crush on the butcher’s son, but it was the baker who taught me a thing or two about Mexican food. Starting from the crack of dawn, he would pull out trays and trays of pan dulce fresh from the oven. The aroma of sweet bread would drift down to our store and I would have to walk two doors down to see what he was making.

He taught me a how to make the best churros, how to get the frying oil just right and be patient before dropping the dough strips in.

I would watch him prepare the dough and crank out what seemed like miles and miles of fried dough, covered in sweet, cinnamon goodness. The churros would be still warm from the fryer when he would bring my siblings and me handfuls of them wrapped in waxed paper sheets.

They were perfect. Crispy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside, and covered with a generous coating of sugar and cinnamon. Perfect for an afternoon snack and perfect for eating without sharing with your siblings.

Even now, I can’t walk past a panaderia without peering in to see what’s fresh out of the fryer or oven. A small part of me still hopes to see a large, smiling man, dressed all in white, beckoning me to come in for freshly baked marranitos (those gingerbread cookies shaped like pigs) or my favorite churros. I would be enjoying every last crumb, licking my finger until the end, and he would be laughing as he left a trail of white flour everywhere he went.

Churros

You’ll need a cake-decorating tube or piping bag with a large star tip attachment to make the churros into their classic shape. The key to getting the perfect churros (with chewy middles and crispy outsides) is to wait until your oil is hot enough. Otherwise, you’ll have soggy, limp churros and who wants that? Dress up the sweet treats with a side of chocolate dipping sauce or some Mexican hot chocolate.

Makes about 24 churros

Vegetable oil
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Over medium-high heat, preheat a deep skillet with about 2 inches of oil to 375°F.

While the oil is heating up, add 1 cup of water, the butter, brown sugar, and salt to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the flour until the mixture forms into a ball (it’ll take about 1 minute).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla, then add to the flour mixture, stirring until well combined. The dough should be sticky.

Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon on a plate.

Put the dough into a decorating tube or pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Check that the oil is ready, then squeeze the dough into the oil, starting from the outside of the pan and spiraling in.

Fry until golden brown all over, about 2 minutes on each side. Using a slotted spoon or long wooden chopsticks, remove from the oil and place the churros on a large plate lined with paper towels to absorb the grease. While the churros are still warm, roll them over the cinnamon-sugar mixture until well coated. Repeat until all the dough is used. Cut the churros into 4-inch-long pieces, being careful not to burn yourself.

Enjoy them immediately.

Note: To test your oil without a kitchen thermometer, place a little dollop of the dough into the oil. When the oil is hot enough, the dough will begin to bubble up right away.

Purchase Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking: More than 80 Everyday Recipes.

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12 Comments

  • SewLindaAnn May 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I love cooking Mexican. My favorite to make is homemade tortillas with rice, re-fried beans, enchilada sauce, mexican melting cheese, and bits of steak, chicken or shrimp. Some hot sauce and I'm ready to roll.

    Reply

  • Madalene May 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Mmmmm….churros.

    Reply

  • Laila May 8, 2011 at 4:17 am

    I live in the UK and mostly we just get bland 'mexican' chains. When we visited New York we discovered the most fantastic array of tiny little mexican cafes. To be truthful the tatty ones were usually the best and I discovered amazing dishes such as mexican version of a pizza and had the best guacamole ever in a little dive just north of Washington Square. Guess we brits will have to wait awhile before true mexican fast food comes to us. Am definately going to try the Churros soon though!

    Reply

  • Maureen May 13, 2011 at 8:29 am

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Mexican food. I grew up in Texas. I'm now in CA and so the way we cook Mexican has changed but I still love it. Favorite is guacamole – can't beat good guac. Found a recipe to make my own taco meat and will never go back to those packets. Would love this cookbook. Thanks! Maureen (jnomaxx at hotmail dot com)

    Reply

  • ann May 13, 2011 at 8:30 am

    My favorite thing to make right now is black bean + avocado tacos… so delish. Homemade churros sound devine!

    Reply

  • Sabrina Parnell May 13, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Oh My, these look delicious. I will def be trying these soon . Looks like a great cookbook too..

    Reply

  • MelodyJ May 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I love tacos. I make Garlic Lime Chicken Tacos. I want to learn to make more Mexican food. There are markets pop up in my area. Mainstream supermarkets are offering more Mexican products.

    melodyj(at)gmail(dot)com

    Reply

  • Sara May 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    My family loves Mexican food! Everyone thinks it is a special treat when I make chicken enchiladas. This looks like a great cookbook!

    Reply

  • Lien May 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I had the best `who can eat the most churros con chocolate` competition with my friends in Spain. It was hysterical,.., of course everybody ended up being covered in chocolate!
    I live in New York right now,so bring them on those churros!!!
    Would love to make them myself..

    Lien

    Reply

  • kevin armstrong May 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    I gotta say that I think the secret to mexican food is good beans. Start with dried, cook 'em with garlic, onion, pepper and some bacon. Then pretty much eat 'em on anything. That's the ticket.

    Reply

  • Chris May 15, 2011 at 11:13 am

    My favorite Mexican foods are simple — fresh ingredients with very little preparation like fish caught today with a bit of lettuce, some fresh salsa, and some lime in a corn tortilla. Delish!

    Reply

  • @wirechairs May 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Lien, you are the lucky randomly selected winner of a copy of Cecelia's wonderful cookbook – congrats! + thanks to all for your great comments.

    Reply

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