Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) was yesterday but I didn’t manage a post because I just returned from a wonderful trip to San Antonio. The holiday is especially popular in the state of Puebla and in areas along the U.S.-Mexican border. It celebrates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It isn’t a good time to visit Mexico in light of the recent flu outbreak, but you can celebrate at home by preparing the Mexican recipes below. It’s fun to create a festive table setting like the one in the photo above. Carnitas and Mole de Olla are authentic Mexican recipes shared by Adriana Torres Chong, a talented young photographer and chef from Mexico City, who lives in Hawaii. After a period of e-mail correspondence, I met Adriana in Oahu in October 09, during the annual conference for Les Dames d’Escoffier. We became friends while working on the organization’s publication.
Born in Mexico City, Adriana holds a bachelor’s degree from the Universidad del Claustro de Mexico in Gastronomy (study of relationships between cultures and food.) At the convent school, Adriana studied practical culinary skills, household management, food history and food writing.
After graduation, she worked at highly-acclaimed restaurants including Au Pied de Cochon in Paris and Le Cirque in Mexico City. Adriana was also head chef of the Gourmet Training Center in Mexico, where she represented quality cookware manufacturers such as Tefal, Krups and Moulinex. She taught cooking classes at the center and began dabbling in food photography. As a result, she decided to pursue serious studies in photography.
Adriana met her husband, Kevin Chong, in a French restaurant in Mexico City after she had returned from working in Paris. Born in Korea, Kevin is a noted Chef de Cuisine at the highly acclaimed Honolulu Restaurant, Chef Malvro. The couple is expecting their first child this month.
Living in Honolulu, Adriana has combined two passions – teaching Mexican cuisine at the University of Hawaii’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapi’olani Community and free-lancing as a food stylist/photographer. She is the primary photographer for the cookbook shown above, A DASH of Aloha: Healthy Hawai’i Cuisine and Lifestyle. Her latest work can be found in The Hawaii Coffee Book and The Maui Book of Lavender, released June 2008 and January 2009 respectively. You can read more about the lavender book and Maui’s lavender fields in my post at: https://susanslacktasteofcarolina.wordpress.com/?p=1408. Adriana has been a proud member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International since 2007 and works as photographer/writer on the magazine staff.
Notes on Chef Malvro Restaurant: Chef George Mavrothalassitis is a founding member of Hawaii’s Regional Cuisine with other luminaries that include Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi and Sam Choy. His restaurant holds a Five Diamond award, the top rating from the American Automobile Association (AAA). It is the only restaurant in Hawaii in the Gayot “Top 40 U.S. Restaurants” and the state’s only 18/20 rating. Chef Mavrothalassitis won the James Beard Award, a one-time lifetime achievement award and the top culinary honor in the U.S.
Chef Kevin Chong is “instrumental in the seasonal evolution of the restaurant,” which partners with Hawaii’s local farmers to offer diners a ‘farm to table’ dining experience. Seafood is a specialty at the restaurant, along with bountiful ingredients such as Maui goat cheese, watercress, onaga, Keahole lobster, vanilla, wild mushrooms and a variety of traditional Hawaiian foods. The menu changes seasonally, except for one particular dessert that diners expect to see on the menu regularly- Lilikoi (passionfruit) Malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts) with sunset-colored guava coulis and pineapple coconut ice cream. YUM! I love Hawaiian malasadas and this version is particularly luscious!
For more information on Chef Malvro, visit the website:
This fabulous recipe comes from talented chef, Adriana Torres Chong. Carnitas (“little meats”) is a dish of slow-cooked meat (usually Boston butt), served in chunks or shredded and stuffed into fresh, warm tortillas. Carnitas can be used in other dishes too. In this recipe, the meat is simmered in water until tender, then cooked in lard until the outside becomes crispy brown and a succulent, sweet flavor develops. The orange peel is an authentic flavor addition to carnitas. Shred or chop the tender pork into smaller pieces before serving. Some cooks like to chop the meat into small chunks even before it is cooked. Lard is the traditional fat for frying. With apologies to Adriana, you can fry the meat in vegetable oil if health reasons dictate, although the flavor will be slightly different -yet still delicious.
1/4 to 1/2 onion
3 garlic cloves
Salt, to taste
2 pounds pork (boneless butt)
1/2 cup pork fat (lard)
Zest (peel) of 1 orange
1/2 cup pork fat (lard)
Warm corn tortillas
Red radishes, thinly sliced
1 lime cut in quarters (optional)
Chopped cilantro (optional)
- In a medium pot, combine onion, garlic, oregano and salt. Add water and bring to a boil then add the pork. ( If necessary, add more water just to cover.) Cook about 1- 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. If using pressure cooker, cook for 35 minutes.
- Remove meat from liquid and with paper towels, pat dry to remove excess water.
- In a pot, heat the lard and add the orange peel and pork; fry until meat is brown and crispy. Remove from the pot and drain on paper towels. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately with warm corn tortillas, salsa and radishes. Add lime and cilantro, if desired. Recipe serves 5 to 6. Buen Provecho! (Bon Appetit)
MOLE DE OLLA – Beef Stew (literally “mole from the pot”)
Adriana says, “A very different Mole this is really a beef soup, strongly seasoned with ancho and pasilla chiles, epazote (a common Mexican herb, also known as Mexican tea) and tomatoes.” Adrianna’s flavorful beef soup is a staple dish in Central Mexico, where you can buy bags of vegetables at the market for making it.
1 dried ancho chile, seeded
1 dried pasilla chile, seeded
1 tomato, cut in quarters
2 garlic cloves
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 pound beef shank with bone marrow (meat cut in 1 inch dice)
Epazote (dry or fresh)
1 corn cob, cut in 4 pieces
2 medium zucchini, in 3/4-inch slices
4 ounces green beans, cut in 1-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
- 2 key limes, cut in wedges
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled, sliced
- Warm corn tortillas
- In a large pot, bring water to boil. Simmer chiles until they soften. Discard water.
- Puree chiles in the blender together with the tomato and garlic; add water and salt and pepper.
- Put this mixture in a pot, add the beef, beef marrow and epazote. (*If needed, I suggest adding enough water just to cover the meat.)
- Cook at medium low heat for 1 hour. Add the corn, cook for ten minutes, then add the zucchini and green beans and cook for 20 more minutes or until the beef and vegetables are fully cooked. Serving: Garnish stew with onion and season with lime wedges. Enjoy with avocado and warm tacos! Serves four. Recipe from Adriana Torres Chong.
* Note from Susan
To complete your fiesta, add side dishes like beans and rice, chips, salsa, guacamole and flan or fresh fruit for dessert. Strawberry Margaritas make a great addition to the party!
3 1/2 cups strawberries
2 1/2 cups crushed ice
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur)
Lime wedges (optional)
Fresh mint leaves
Combine strawberries, ice, tequila, lime juice, sugar, and liqueur in a blender, and process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the margaritas into 4 large chilled glasses. Garnish margaritas with a lime wedge and mint leaves, if desired. Serve immediately. One cups servings for four. Per serving – 198 calories. Recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine.
Photos by Susan Slack
Head shot of Adriana by Chrissy Lambert
Of course, the recipes should be copied!