Mexican Christmas Eve

After we bought our house four years ago, we finally had room enough to host a large number of people. I officially took over Christmas Eve Feast & Merriment duties. The first year was traditional (for our family at least) with the usual ham, my grandmother’s scary jello thing, and lots of booze. The following year we were at the end of a major remodel, but the house wasn’t quite ready yet. We were in a panic as to what to do. Do we cancel and risk disappointing the kids with no lead up to the man in the red suit? Can we really live without the scary jello thing? (The answer is a resounding YES! by the way.)

Rather than cancel our Christmas Eve Revels, the party was moved to my sister’s house. We ordered big pans of Enchiladas and Tamales from one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, and made margaritas. It was great. I love Mexican food. I could eat it everyday, and the rest of my family is no different. The night was a big hit. So much so that last year, when I had my kitchen back, we decided that we should start a new tradition of Mexican Christmas Eve. I must say it was indeed a very good idea.

As I put the finishing touches on this year’s Carta, I have listed last year’s menu for those who want to add a little fiesta to your usual Holiday Fare. Be sure to try the corn pudding, even if it’s not for the holidays. It’s an excellent side dish for any time of the year.

Feliz Navidad A Todos! 

Watercress, Orange, and Avocado Salad
Adapted from Bon Appétit | December 2005
by Roberto Santibañez
Makes 12 servings

To dress up a typical watercress salad for the holidays, Santibañez added orange segments, avocados, and a sweet-tangy pomegranate dressing.

4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2-inch-thick red onion slices
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses*
1 tablespoon minced seeded serrano chiles
3/4 teaspoon aniseed, ground in spice mill
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

4 large navel oranges
5 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
3 large bunches watercress, thick stems trimmed (about 10 cups)
5 green onions, trimmed, cut into thin matchstick-size strips
2 large avocados, peeled, pitted, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices

Preheat broiler. Place garlic cloves on small baking sheet; broil until golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add onion slices; cook until light brown and slightly softened, about 7 minutes per side. Finely chop garlic and onion. Whisk pomegranate juice and next 4 ingredients in small bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup oil. Mix in onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in cilantro.

Cut off all peel and white pith from oranges. Cut between membranes to release segments.

Combine cabbage, watercress, green onions, and orange segments in large bowl. Add dressing and avocado slices and toss gently to coat. Transfer salad to large platter and serve.

*A thick pomegranate syrup.


Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Breast with Hazelnut Mole
Bon Appétit | December 2005
by Roberto Santibañez
Makes 12 servings

What to drink: Roberto Santibañez recommends a Petite Sirah (a full-bodied, peppery red wine varietal) from L.A. Cetto in Mexico’s Guadelupe Valley. Or try the Guenoc Petite Sirah from California’s North Coast.

1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotles*
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 2-pound skinless boneless turkey breast halves
2 pounds applewood-smoked bacon slices
Hazelnut Mole
Chopped fresh parsley

Combine first 9 ingredients in processor; blend until marinade is almost smooth. Rub marinade all over turkey breast halves. Place turkey in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish; pour remaining marinade over. Cover and chill overnight.

Remove turkey from marinade, allowing some marinade to cling to turkey. Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper. Place 1 pound bacon slices side by side on work surface, overlapping slightly. Place 1 turkey breast half, rounded side down, atop bacon. Wrap bacon around turkey breast, stretching slices slightly to cover turkey. Secure with toothpicks to hold bacon in place, then tie with kitchen string to secure bacon. Remove toothpicks. Repeat with second turkey breast half and remaining bacon. Place turkey breasts on large rimmed baking sheet. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place turkey in oven and roast 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of turkey registers 155°F, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven; let turkey rest 15 minutes (internal temperature will reach 162°F).

Cut turkey breasts crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Ladle generous amount of Hazelnut Mole on large platter. Arrange turkey slices atop mole; sprinkle with parsley and serve.

*Chipotle chiles (sometimes called adobo) are dried, smoked jalapeños canned in a spicy tomato sauce.


Serrano Ham and Poblano Corn Pudding
Bon Appétit | December 2005
by Roberto Santibañez
Makes 12 servings

This comforting side would also be great for brunch.

2 large poblano chiles*
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 large ears) or frozen, thawed, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted, slightly cooled
1 teaspoon salt
Large pinch of baking powder
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup instant corn masa mix (Maseca)**
4 ounces 1/4-inch-thick slices Serrano ham or prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1 cup coarsely grated Manchego cheese (about 4 1/2 ounces)

Char chiles over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag 15 minutes. Peel and seed chiles, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine 1 1/2 cups corn, eggs, and next 3 ingredients in blender. Blend until almost smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add sour cream and Maseca; stir until blended, then stir in ham, cheese, chiles, and remaining 1/2 cup corn. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Bake until corn pudding is puffed and golden brown in spots on top, about 40 minutes.

*These fresh green chiles are often called pasillas.
**Maseca is an instant corn masa mix.

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