It’s weird that I don’t write more about Mexican food. Because it’s pretty much what I grew up on and what I eat at least twice a week. Just wrap me in a tortilla when I die and deep fry me.
I used to live and work in Mexico and became familiar with the distinct culinary styles of the different regions in Mexico. And each region was quite sure that their version of whatever they were cooking or baking was the best in all of Mexico…if not the world. You do not cross a proud 80 year old tortilla maker! I got fed quite well by pretending to not understand why a certain mole, torta or relleno was better than another. Mexican cooks are fierce, competitive and love to stuff me, a silly gringa, with their mole or panaderia specialty - with me being the judge of how muy delicioso it is. Aren’t I a smart one?
I wonder if that would work with Thomas Keller. Yo, Tom! Is that lobster BLT really the best in the world??
Yesterday I was craving a bread pudding and found this very unusual recipe by Miguel Ravago. It’s a northern Sonora style of bread pudding – as in every type of Mexican cooking, there are so many differences between recipes within regions. The ingredients will surprise, if not shock you. Cheese? Cilantro? Dried pineapple? But I promise, it all works very well together. It’s just one of many bread puddings you could find in Mexican cooking. If you travelled just 12 miles from town to town, each one would have a completely different take on it. The syrup was amazing and I’d consider using it within another recipe…the anise seeds really made a nuanced difference.
by Miguel Ravago
For the syrup:
3 cups light brown sugar
2 tablespoons anise seeds
1/4 cup vanilla extract
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
For the bread mixture
1 loaf French bread (about 12 oz), sliced and lightly toasted
3 cups sliced bananas (about 3 large)
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped scallions, both white and green parts
1 cup dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried candied pineapple, chopped
6 large eggs, slightly beaten
Whipped cream for garnish, if desired
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9” X 13” inch baking dish.
2. Pour 4 cups of water into a 3 quart saucepan. Add the brown sugar, anise seeds, cinnamon stick, vanilla, and butter. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. For the bread mixture, tear the toasted bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the bananas, cinnamon, cilantro, cheddar, raisins, scallions, peanuts, and pineapple. Toss well. Add the eggs to mixture and toss gently.
4. Strain the cooked syrup into the bread mixture and toss gently. Pour bread pudding into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 55 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Spoon into serving dishes and to with whipped cream if desired.