Thursday, August 6, 2009

Let's Amble Over to Verazcruz..... What a Lovely Spot!

Veracruz borders the states of Tamaulipas to the north, and Chiapas to the south, Tabasco to the southeast, Hidalgo, and San Luis Potosí to the west, and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. In the coastal plains and throughout most of the state, the climate is hot and humid. In the foothills of the mountains, the climate is cool and humid. The climate only becomes cold in the mountain regions, where it also rains copiously and where the famous Veracruz' coffee comes from (among other things).

Veracruz is occasionally affected by hurricanes since it is a port and is at the heart of the Gulf of Mexico, which for good or bad (as in the past) not only gives it a strategic placement but is the gateway to Europe, the Caribbean and more...

Veracruz has a tropical climate and impressive natural scenery, such as the Citlaltépetl Volcano (also known as Pico de Orizaba), the highest peak in the nation. There are picturesque cities and towns that have preserved their local architecture. Along the coast is the Costa Esmeralda, a 50 kilometers (31 mi) beach strip north of the port, and the archaeological zone of El Tajín, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Driving from Puebla, it's less than a 2 hour trip which makes visiting this wonderful place a snap and a real temptation. Great hotels, fabulous food, colorful traditions, one of the best Mardi Gras in Mexico, archeological sites, friendly people, ocean waters and incredible natural scenery... what more could you ask for? A quick trip was easy to plan at last minute and off we went...... The cuisine here is fabulous and I'll give you some examples of some truly worthy entries:

For Cocktail hour, you have to try this, it's awesome! Torito de Cacahuate, which loosely translated means "Peanut Bull" (?)- don't let the ingredients fool you either, a winner!

1 can evaporated milk (like Carnation)

1 can condensed milk (like Eagle Brand)
2 cups "aguardiente" (moon shine? Cane Alcohol? White Rum? - all valid)
1 cup smooth peanut butter
Ice -as much as necessary

Put al
l the ingredients into a blender, if you're not going to drink at once, omit the ice until you're ready, if not then include it and blend.
Note: you can exchange the peanut butter for guanabana or guayaba by exchanging it for the pulp
of these fruits and also adding some sugar syrup (1/2 cup of each).
SEAFOOD TARTLETS: Appetizer for 6 6 small flour tortillas (you can purchase these or make your own) 1 tbl butter 3 slices sliced bacon 1/4 onion finely chopped 1 serrano chile, finely chopped (without seeds and veins) 1-2 cups mixed seafood (can be frozen variety or any kind of fish or seafood you like) 2 tsp flour 1/2 cup milk 1/2 tsp chicken consome powder or 1 cube Knorr 2 tsp parsley, chopped 1 egg, beaten 1/4 butter, stick, slightly melted 1/2 cup bread crumbs Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fry the bread crumbs for 2-3 min and set aside. Fry bacon in butter (or not) along with the onion, chile and stir fry 1-2 min. Add fish or seafood you have chosen and allow to release some of it's liquid. Add the flour and milk alternately, a little at a time, stirring and add the consome powder and parsley. Heat the tortillas slightly on a dry pan so they are pliable, paint them with some melted butter and place them in cupcake pan, cutting off the excess if desired. Paint with the beaten egg and bake for about 10 min. Remove from the oven and fill with the seafood filing, top with the bread crumbs and bake once more 10 min. Top with parsley and serve. Note: Possible combinations could be: Shrimp, Octopus, Oysters, Fish pieces, mixed seafood, leftover fish fillets, scallops, etc. Pretty much anything could be a filling, get creative. These make great party fare too. *****************************************************

FISH VERACRUZ STYLE: Serves 4- (A Classic!...)

1 whole Snapper, about 1 Kilo in weight (2.25lbs) cleaned and prepared for baking
3 cups fish stock
4 roasted garlic cloves in olive oil
1 large onion, sliced, stir fried in olive oil
3 large tomatoes, sliced
3 tbls capers, reserve liquid
3 tbl olives, green, reserve liquid
2-3 jalapenos, sliced

2 laurel/bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tbl parsley leaves

10 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

The fish can be semi-cooked in the fish stock. Stir fry the garlic, onion, tomatoes and the rest in olive oil for about 5-10 min. Add the reserved liquids. Transfer fish to a baking dish, cover with the vegetable mixture and bake in a 250 degree oven for about 15 min. Serve.
Note: If you like the sauce thicker, add 1 tsp of corn starch when boiling and allow to thicken before you top the fish. Taste the sauce often and adjust seasonings to your taste. Also, if you like, you can fry the fish in oil instead so it's crispy and cook the vegetables separately and reduce the sauce naturally. The you can bake.
I always a
dd more of everything to bring the flavor up, but this is a personal choice as I prefer strong flavors. No rule to this, just your personal taste. You can also use fish fillets for this or any other kind of fish too, we love Cod.
Platanos Machos Rellenos con Frijoles o Queso.- Fried Plantains Stuffed with Bean or Cheese:
Ok, we've all seen the big bananas they call "Machos" right? (or Males..) Platano Macho. They are hard and spotted, high in carbs and really hold their shape and are great for frying..... here's another way to enjoy them!

4 platanos machos
1 cup refried black beans (but you can use any other kind of refried beans as well)
1 package Panela Cheese (you can use whatever kind you like)

Cut the cheese into sticks about 1/4 inch thick all around. Put plantains in a pan (skins and all) with about an inch of water in the pan, cover and cook for about 15 min or until you pinch them and they feel softer but not mushy. Let them cool. Peel them and put the meat in a bowl and mash until it resembles mashed potatoes (yes, you can have them this way too). Now take a lump of the bananas, about a small ball's worth and put in your palm and shape it into a cylinder shape. With your finger, push your finger into the banana and leave a space where your finger was.... fill this space with the refried beans and cover the beans up so all you see is the banana (now stuffed with beans), you can also stuff with cheese like panela..... If you like, you can dust your cillinders with a little flour before frying, dust off the excess.
Place a pan on med high heat with some oil for frying and get it hot. Start putting your banana cylinders in the oil and fry until they are all golden, turning to make sure they are even on all sides. Put on paper towels. Serve as a side dish or appetizer (kids will eat these alone, believe me) and you can place on a banana leaf and drizzle with crema and habanero salsa! This is a great side dish......
COCADAS.- Coconut Sweets.- You've probably seen these traditional sweets all over Mexico and are very nice and easy to make.
1 liter of milk
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 coconut, peeled and shredded (or a bag of this already done) about 2-3 cups I guess
6 eggs yolks, beaten

Put the milk and sugar in a pan on med heat to boil, watch it and stir until it begins to thicken. Lower the heat to simmer. Add the coconut and stir for about 30 min. stirring constantly. Take off the heat and add the yolks, but mix forcefully while doing this so the eggs incorporate well, preferably with a wire whisk. Return to the stove on med low heat and you continue stirring until it really comes together and you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir it.
Pour your coconut mix into a baking pan (spray with PAM or butter dish before) and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 min or until the top gets golden brown.
NOTE: I stir until all the liquid is absorbed and then I use a cookie sheet instead of a baking pan and make "clumps" of the mix and then bake. This way I have cookie sized portions you can eat with your hand when cooled. You can also put some aluminum foil on the sheet and then grease to help with cleanup.
If you ever have the opportunity of visiting Veracruz I hope you will.... the area is very much worth a trip and so much to see and do here. There's a definite difference from other states which I love, from the food to the celebrations, due to the influence from the Caribbean which adds a lot. Don't miss El Tajin for archeology, Tlacotalpan for one of the most picturesque places around, Fortin de las Flores for sheer beauty up in the mountains close to Orizaba, Papantla where the Vanilla and the "Voladores" are from and all points in between. Put it on your agenda next time you're in the area!.......

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