Food photography by Per Johansen Photography
My grandmother Petra was a very simple cook. She raised 9 children in the East Bay on a very modest farm workers budget. I recall most meals consisting mainly of grain and vegetables with meat occasionally making a surprise appearance. At eight years old, I got to watch her slaughter and butcher a chicken – which left my other cousins screaming and in tears. While I on the other hand - was ready to pluck the feathers off it the second she showed me how. And, that single chicken somehow ended up feeding 20 people. There were things about my grandmothers kitchen that I still recall to this day – the linens made from old cotton flour sacks, the layers of sheer and floral curtains and the jar of pickled jalapeños always on the table. There were also some rules at my grandparents house that I found odd as a kid because we didn’t practice them at home. Mainly that the men all sat down to eat a meal before the women. And that included all of the snotty little grandsons. The women cooked, cleaned and served – making fresh tortillas to order and replenishing plates and beverages as requested. One time I remember sitting at the table watching my grandmother opening the oven door – slowly lifting the foil to check on the bread pudding. I could see the dots of little black swollen raisins popping out of the golden brown bread as she poked it with a fork to check for doneness. That was when I fell in love with capirotada.
This Mexican bread pudding is addicting. There are many variations of this dish. But it is typically composed of toasted or stale bolillo (which is a very soft French style bread) and soaked in a mulled syrup made of the following: piloncillo and spices. In addition nuts, dried fruit and cheese is added, which might explain why some many bread pudding recipes call for milk.
12 oz. pilonchillo, chopped or light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups water
1 cinnamon stick (4-inch)
½ pound stale bolillos or French bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
¾ cup raisins
¾ cup salted peanuts
½ pound queso Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese, grated
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 2-quart baking dish.
Bring the pilonchillo, cinnamon and water to a boil over medium-high heat until reduced to about 1 cup – about 30 minutes. It should be caramel in color and have a syrupy consistency. Discard the cinnamon and cool. Whisk the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture.
Add the bread to a mixing bowl along with the 3/4 of the cheese, raisins and peanuts – toss to combine. Pour the sugar / egg mixture over it and mix evenly. Transfer to a buttered baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and dot with the cold butter. Cover with foil.
Bake until the pudding is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake until it is slightly brown about 10-15 more minutes.
Serve while still warm with vanilla ice cream.
Special thanks to Cole for helping me edit this old recipe.
When I first started cooking in San Francisco I met an amazing chef who became a great friend of mine until the day he passed – a little over 10 years now. Joe Carvajal and I would spend our work nights together cooking – and on special occasions (that is after some drinks) line dancing in the restaurants open kitchen – much to the applause of the hungry patrons. On our days off if we weren’t headed to Salsa Sundays at El Rio or driving his huge vintage car (boat) to the EndUp – we spent the day cooking at his kitchen in his Panhandle apartment. He inspired me immensely with his nonchalant way of cooking. One of his catch phrases was “Make it smell Mary” – and he yelled it out at the top of his lungs to a diva serving you everything onstage.
This braised lamb dish was one he would prepare in late winter / early spring. I believe it was one passed onto him from one of his former chef’s – and it has stayed in my repertoire over the years. It is rich in flavor and so satisfying on a cold day. We always ate it with fresh corn tortillas.
Lamb Shanks Braised w/ Chorizo & Hominy
4 lamb shanks, about 1 1/4 pounds each
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed black peppercorns
8 cups veal stock
3 cups dry red wine
2 heads garlic, halved crosswise
4 carrots cut into large dice
1 large onion, peeled, cut into about 8 wedges
1 cup crushed tomatoes
6 cloves, smashed garlic
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
6 bolitos chorizo, casing removed
1/2 pound dried hominy
1/2 pound green peas
Salt to taste
Bouquet garni – parsley, thyme, bay leaf
For the hominy – 1 white onion, 1 carrot, 1 bay leaf and 1 whole clove
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Season the shanks with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven heat the oil until hot. Sear the shanks on all sides until golden brown. Remove all shanks from pot. Add chorizo and cook until done. Add the carrots, onions, garlic and peppercorns. Sauté until the vegetables are just soft. Place the shanks back in the pot with the crushed tomatoes, bouquet garni, stock and wine. Bring to a simmer.
Cover and place the pot in the oven and cook, turning the shanks every 1/2 hour for about 1-½ hours. Add the hominy and green peas and continue cooking for about ½ an hour more – the meat should be very tender but still on the bone.
To prepare the hominy began by soaking it overnight. Before starting your shanks place the hominy in a pot with 4 times the amount of water, the onion – stuck with the clove, carrot and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until it is just tender. Discard the vegetables and liquid and add to the recipe when called for.
Nurse Michael Flores shares the contents of his fridge.
Katherine Cebrian was one of the ‘grandes dames’ of San Francisco society, who famously said: “I don’t even butter my bread. I consider that cooking.”
I guess this could be gross.
I haven’t made this tart in years and was so happy that someone asked me for the recipe over the holidays. It was such a treat!
For the shell:
1 ¼ cups flour
¾ stick, cold butter
2 tablespoon shortening
2-tablespoons ice water
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine flour, butter and shortening in a medium sized bowl. With a pastry blender, blend the ingredients until they are the size of small peas. Slowly pour in just enough ice water so that the dough comes together. Form into a disc and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out the cold dough to fit the tart pan.
Bake the tart shell with lined with parchment paper and weights (I like to use beans) until the edges are golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.
For the filling:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg white
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups pecans
1 ½ cups cranberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream together the butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat in the egg white, Cognac, vanilla, and salt. Beat until light and creamy. Coarsely chop together the walnuts and cranberries and stir them into the mixture in the bowl. Press the filling into the tart shell and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely and serve with lightly whipped cream.