The crackling sound of chicken frying or the smell of a pot of steaming white rice will immediately draw me back to my grandparent’s kitchen table. Warm wafts of vanilla, oatmeal or cinnamon flowing from the oven will always paint a picture of my mom in my head while the simplicity of a buttery turkey and cheese sandwich will evoke that of my dad. Macaroni and cheese immediately makes me think of our editor, Evy, and a host of other dishes like spaghetti with garlic bread, tortilla soup, roasted artichokes with hot mayo or fish tacos all remind me of different friends or periods of my life.
The best food is rarely about the food itself but the fragment of a memory that it brings to the forefront of our minds. Now more than any other time is a great moment to identify those foods and seek comfort in them. Here are a few recipes that take me to a happy place.
These brownies remind me of my cousin. She would make really dense, chocolatey desserts. She would pull them straight out of the oven and spoon whatever she was making — usually cookies — on top of ice cream before it had time to set. This is the style of brownie that I really like. Rather than a fluffy cake-ish brownie (which often come out dry) these are soft, slightly chewy with a nice crunchy top. Notice the lack of baking powder — these don’t really rise and that’s ok.
This recipe was pulled from Smitten Kitchen, which is a great resource for home cooks of all levels. I’ve adjusted the ingredients to fit a 20 x 30cm baking pan.
130g of dark chocolate, roughly broken apart
210g (1 2/3 cup) white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt
128g (1 cup) all purpose flour (or 0000 sifted)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Prep a 20 x 30cm baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease with butter.
Place chocolate and butter in a sauce pot or heatproof bowl and place over pot with simmering water. Stir until smooth and fully melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Incorporate flour and fully mix. Pour into prepared baking pan and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Eat hot from the pan or let cool and eat chilled out of the refrigerator.
One of my best friends Vina taught me how to make enchiladas. Her greatest words of wisdom when teaching the art of enchilada is simply “more sauce” and it’s one hundred percent true. There is no such thing as too much sauce.
Enchiladas can be filled with virtually anything. Here I will teach you how to prepare the sauce and stuff the enchiladas but the actual filling is us to you. This is a take on al pastor with fairly common local ingredients and goes great with roast chicken or shredded pork (!) For something vegan friendly try sauteed fennel or cauliflower or lightly grilled oyster mushrooms. Calculate about 1 cup of cooked filling for every four enchiladas.
Tortillas. Not the easiest time to find those, I suppose. This is the only acceptable moment to use rapiditos but feel free to try out your own flour tortillas. Here is an excellent recipe.
Ingredients (for 1.25lt sauce)
2 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup reserved chile water (explanation below)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, slightly charred then peeled and chopped
1 cinnamon stick, toasted and broken into pieces
4 cloves, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon of cumin or coriander
1 teaspoon of oregano or thyme
salt and pepper
A note about the chiles: I recommend 3 dry mirasol, 2 dry panka, two chipotle. Most good vegetable stands will have mirasol or panka hidden away. If they don’t, many vendors will bring you some from the Mercado Central if you ask nicely. Chipotle can be found at imported food shops and sometimes, but pretty infrequently, at a dietetica. Mercado Libre is also a good source for this. Whichever you choose, wash dry chiles thoroughly, toast to release the chiles’ natural oils and boil until softened. Reserve the chile infused water. Some people remove the seeds and veins (where the spice is), I prefer not to.
Blend everything together for a full minute or until the color is a strong red. We want to be sure to fully blend the chiles and the cinnamon stick. This will produce about 1.25lts of sauce. If you would like to cook your filling with this, be sure to reserve a liter for the enchiladas.
To prepare the enchiladas, heat tortillas in a skillet with a little bit of oil until tortilla is pliable. Dip gently in sauce. In the center of the tortilla, fill with 2 spoons of filling and roll into a cigar shape and place in baking pan fold side down. You can also simply fold in half like an empanada. Place in a baking pan that has been greased with some of the sauce and tightly pack each enchilada in. Once finished, pour remainder of the sauce over enchiladas. Add shredded cheese (I prefer without) and bake in oven at 180C for approximately 30 minutes or until sauce has begun to reduce.
Enjoy alone or topped with sour cream (cream and vinegar) and shredded lettuce.
Fried Pork Sammie
My grandfather used to make fried pork chops and smother them in apples that he cooked in fat and cinnamon. It was the first recipe he taught me to make. It became the inspiration behind this recipe, which we serve regularly at MASA and happens to be the LaLaLista crews favorite.
150g boneless pork chop per sandwich. Ask your butcher for carre sin hueso. Slice into 150g steaks and butterfly meat. Pound down with a mallet. This is more about breaking down the muscle fibers than thinning the steaks. Try to keep the thickness about 1.5cm (about a finger).
1 cup panko
1 cup rice flour (regular flour works too)
2 eggs, whisked
1 tablespoon each smoked paprika and crushed red pepper
pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
A note: the spice measurements are an approximation. Feel free to eyeball. When I prepare this for MASA we usually throw in whatever chile powder we can get our hands on. Peeps with an extensive spice collection could add gochujaru, chipotle powder, mustard, ground coriander and cumin. Add into both egg and panko mixes.
Another note: the rice flour is going to give an extra crunch but regular flour will due if your dietetica doesn’t carry it. Swapping panko for regular bread crumbs is going to change the texture pretty considerably. We want a really coarse bread crumb. Panko can be found in a lot of dieteticas. Check your nearest bakery and ask if they have any old bread lying around to make your own with a food processor (very effective) or mallet (a total fucking mess but does the job).
Start by coating steaks with rice flour. Incorporate whisked egg and mix. It is ok (actually great!) if there are little lumps. Add spices to prepped panko and mix and coat each steak with panko mix. Cover and set aside.
Heat a large pot with oil. We want to fully submerge each steak. You will need 1.5 to 2lt of oil. Test oil by tossing in a few drops of rice flour or panko, if it immediately sizzles, it is ready. Gently submerge pork chop into oil and fry for about 8 minutes. You will likely have to fry in rounds to not overcrowd your pot. Set finished chops aside on newspaper or napkins and lightly salt.
We usually serve this sandwich on thickly sliced white bread or soft baguettes with mayonnaise, japanese katsu sauce (ketchup with worcestershire, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic), pickles and thinly sliced iceberg lettuce.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Let us know over on instagram.