La Cocina~The Kitchen  

Mexican Hot Chocolate

This recipe calls for semisweet chocolate; try a Mexican chocolate such as
cinnamon-flavored Ibarra from Guadalajara if you can.
If using Ibarra, omit the cinnamon sticks and brown sugar.

4 cups whole milk
3 3-inch-long cinnamon sticks, broken in half
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
5 tablespoons coffee liqueur

Bring milk and spices to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chocolate, cocoa and sugar; whisk until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Cover; let steep 45 minutes. Bring hot chocolate just to simmer. Mix in liqueur. Strain into 4 mugs.
Makes 4 Servings

Pan Muerte
a semi-sweet egge bread for Dias de los Muertos
Makes two eight to nine inch loaves
4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tblsp. active dry yeast
2 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tblsp. anise
3 eggs
1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening softened
2 tablsp. butter softened
1 tblsp. sesame seeds

In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and aniseed with your fingers unil well incorporated. Make a well in the center. Add the eggs, lard, butter and 1 cup of water and mix.

Put the dough in a greased bowl. Spread the top of the dough with a little lard or oil so it will not dry out. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place. Let the dough rise util doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough, knead it a few minutes., and divide it into two balls. Form round loaves, the place them on a piece of waxed paper or a floured baking sheet, allowing space for the bread to increase in size. Wet the sesame seeds with a little water, drain them, and place them in a shallow bowl. Dip your fingers into the seeds and pat them on the top of each loaf. Alow the dough to rise for 15 miutes then cut a slit in the top, using a sharp knife. Allow to rise for 15 more minutes.

Preheat oven to 350f.

Bake for 45 minutes or until top is nicely browned and the bread has a hollow sound when tapped. Allow to cool completely before you cut it, or it will smush down nd won't rise back up again. It is a very soft bread so don't stack loaves either.

The bread will keep for weeks wrapped in a cloth in a plastic bag. The bread is traditionally dipped into a bowl of hot chocolate so it doesn't matter if it dries out like a biscuit. It's also great for French Toast.

Sugar Skulls ~ Dias de los Muertos

2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 tablespoon of light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/3 cup of corn starch
Food coloring
1 fine paintbrush

1. Sift powdered sugar.
2. Mix egg white, syrup and vanilla in a dry, clean bowl.
3. Mix sugar into wet mixture gradually.
4. Mix with fingers until the mixture forms a ball.
5. Sprinkle cornstarch on table or board.
6. Put the mixture on the table and shape into smooth, manageable ball.
7. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill until ready to use.
(Mixture will keep for months.)
8. Use plenty of cornstarch when making skulls or other shapes.
9. When the figures are dry, color them as you wish

Sopa Azteca
serves 12
This is fun to serve in small pumpkin shells
1 1/2 tablsp olive oil
2 medium onions peeled and sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 cups water
2 lbs meaty chicken parts
3 bay leaves 1 sprig epazote
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups diced zucchini
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt to taste
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 cup vegetable oil
15 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 lb. fresh spinach washed and shredded
1 avocado, peeled, cubed and sprinkled with lime juice to prevent discoloration
1 lb monterrey jack cheese, shredded

Place the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, cumin, and pepper. Continue to cook until the tomatoes are soft then puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Bring the water to a boil in a large soup pot and add the chicken pieces, bay leaves and epazote. When the water comes back to a boil skim off the foam that rises to the surface then add the pureed vegetable mixture and tomato paste.

Simmer over a low heat uncovered for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and tender. Remove the chicken and when cool enough discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Set the meat aside. Add the bell pepper, celery, zucchini and carrot to the broth and cook about 10 minutes or until tender. Remove the vegetables, set aside and salt the broth to taste.

While the soup is cooking, parboil the diced potato in salted water until tender. Drain and pat the cubes dry on paper towels. Heat the oil in a saute pan or skillet and fry the potato cubes until brown. Remove, drain on paper towels and set aside.

In the same oil fry the tortilla strips in small batches until crispy. Place on paper towels to drain. To serve divide the vegetables and potato cubes among the soup bowls. Add to each, in order, the tortilla strips, spinach, shredded chicken, cubed avocado and cheese. Pour the boiling broth into the soup bowls and serve immediately.