Tag Archives: churros

CHURROS

If you have ever lived in the American Southwest, and if you have ever gone to an outdoor event like a baseball game, there is a good chance you have eaten a churro. There is also a good chance that you have never made them at home.

Street vendors sell them from carts, and folks line up at concession stands to get the freshly made confections straight out of the deep fryer, messy with cinnamon sugar.

Fancy restaurants have taken to serving them a little more elegantly.

One reason you may have never made them is because they look complicated with their delicate flutes, crispy outsides, and creamy insides. Actually, they are easy to make. The dough contains as few ingredients as water, flour, and salt though there are recipes that call for eggs and what is really choux paste. Simple is still good. You do need a cookie press with a star-shaped disc or a special churrera made of gleaming plastic.  A sturdy pastry sleeve fitted with a large star-shaped tip may work, but the dough is firm and could tear a flimsy one. Churros have their origin as a street food of Madrid, but they are now very much a part of Mexico and the American Southwest. The churrera that I own was made in Spain by a large cookware company, Bernar, S.A. They even make an industrial-size churrera if you want to go into the business.  It was easy to find in our local cooking supply stores.  (Of course, this is New Mexico). I guess that you could even drop spoonfuls of the dough into hot frying oil, but then I don’t think you could legitimately call them churros.

Churros are a bit like doughnuts and a close cousin to the funnel cakes sold at county fairs and the beignets of New Orleans. They should definitely be eaten warm. They lend themselves to creative variations:  You can smother them in powdered sugar. You can dip them in chocolate sauce. You can put them on top of ice cream. You can top them with a fruit compote. You can drizzle them with cajeta, the Mexican caramel sauce made from goat’s milk, probably maple syrup, or just about whatever comes to mind. However you decide to serve them, folks of all ages, but especially the kids,  will be clamoring for more.

RECIPE

Churros

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • oil for frying
  • cinnamon sugar (optional)

Method

  1. Combine the water, sugar, salt, and vegetable oil in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour all at once, stirring vigorously until a smooth dough is formed. Cool in the pan
  3. Transfer the dough to a churrera fitted with the largest opening, or a cookie press, or a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8 inch star tip.
  4. Place about 2 inches o frying oil in a deep, heavy pan and heat over a medium flame to 375°F.
  5. Press out about 5 inches of the dough into the hot oil, cutting it off with a table knife or your finger. Repeat until the pan is filled but not overcrowded.
  6. Turn the churros frequently until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to several layers of paper towel to drain. Roll in cinnamon sugar if desired. Serve while still warm.

 

 

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PAELLA AND SOFT-BOILED EGGS. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: COOKING FOR A FOUR-YEAR-OLD

It is a challenge to cook for Sarah and Evan. They are always gracious and polite, but you worry that whatever you cook might not be up to their standards. During their recent visit, they stayed in a resort hotel near the Plaza for a couple of nights. Their reports on meals were, “Oh, they were OK.” Hardly a resounding testimonial.

In the meantime, Susan and I took care of the 2-year old and the 4-year old. We had a lot of Cheerios, hamburgers, Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner, and hot dogs. That seemed to work as long as Susan could buy them off with ice cream on a stick from the Village Market.

Still, I accepted the challenge to cook outdoors on Independence Day. I decided to have “Spanish Night” actually Spanish/Mexican Night. We started with Sarah’s well-known watermelon margaritas along with olives, manchego, membrillo, and crackers. We were also going to have marcona almonds fried in olive oil and Spanish paprika, but I forgot them. Then gazpacho – not the mushed up kind, which I don’t like, but instead coarsely chopped vegetables in a double consommé. Evan told the four-year-old that it was a kind of special tomato soup, and he got very excited. He said he loves tomato soup. He was disappointed when it came out and refused to eat. Fortunately, we had a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, the kind that his best friend’s mother serves. We heated that up, and a dietary crisis was averted.

Then came the main course. I cooked  paella over an open fire in our outdoor fire pit. The dish had chicken, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and chorizo. Again, I forgot something – this time it was the calamari. Nonetheless, the paella cooked well over the open fire and wound up with a good crust. Not surprisingly, the four-year-old would have none of it.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rich

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rich

He did eat the home-made churros and cajeta.

Then we watched the fireworks displays from several locations all around us. Of course, the conversation turned to family times in the past, and favorite foods while growing up. Sarah said that one of her favorites was Susan’s soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, served in egg cups. The four-year-old was very excited.

That inspired Susan to get up early, select egg cups from her big collection of family treasures and antiques. Then she made soft-boiled eggs, served them in special egg cups, and topped them with hand-knitted egg cozies. The four-year-old would have none of it. Fortunately, we had some Campbell’s tomato soup left over from the night before.

All of this proves that it’s harder to cook for a four-year-old than a professional chef. It is also hard to get decent photos with a four-year-old. Ah well, we all still had a good time.

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SANTA FE RESTAURANTS 3: TERRA AT ENCANTADO RESORT

This has become one of our favorite restaurants in Santa Fe. We also like it for special occasions and celebrations. In an earlier post, I mentioned that our younger daughter was visiting with her 10-month-old from San Francisco. During her visit, she and her husband completed the negotiations on space for their new restaurant. That of course called for a celebration, so we made reservations at Terra.

Part of the charm of Terra is that it is several miles north of town, and the drive is beautiful. Another part of its charm is the beautiful view of the Jémez Mountains from the deck and huge picture windows of the bar and restaurant.

We chose the earliest seating so that we could arrive before the sunset to enjoy one of New Mexico’s incomparable evening displays.

We arrived at the front door of the resort and were immediately greeted by the friendly valet. The traditional Santa Fé scent of piñon smoke hung in the air as we passed the blazing fire in the huge fireplace on the deck.

As we entered the bar, we were greeted by the bartender and welcomed into a beautiful room flanked by another fireplace – this time modern and chrome – and huge windows looking over the distant mountains. We tried to sit outside in the cool early evening, but the heaters failed to work, even with the attention of the bartender and the manager, so we came back in. That was ok, because it was warm and we still got to enjoy the beautiful sunset along with flutes of New Mexico Gruet sparkling wine and some tasty truffle French fries.

Lights in the bar at Terra

Dinner kept up the excellent experience. The room was spacious, beautifully decorated, and blessedly quiet. Another breathtaking fireplace anchored the room with a glass-enclosed wine cellar on either side.  Our server was attentive and knowledgeable but not intrusive. The wine selection was enormous. Many of choices were well beyond our budget, but there were enough modestly priced bottles that we easily found an excellent option.

The menu presented a lot of hard choices, but eventually we made our decisions, and we were not disappointed.

Diver scallop and crispy pork belly with edamame purée was beautifully presented, the flavors blended.

Crispy sweetbread salad had its high and low points: the sweetbreads were crisp yet delicate, just as sweetbreads are supposed to be, and the “potato wheel” was amazing – a single spaghetti-sized strand of potato coiled into a perfect circle and fried to a delicate golden brown. The sauce was bland and needed salt (no chef ever wants to hear that).

Crispy sweetbread salad with potato wheel

The mains, though, were flawless. The venison two ways included a creative red chile venison tamal and a perfectly roasted venison lin with Cumberland sauce.

Venison two ways

The duck cassoulet was complete with a crispy duck leg and green chile sausage along with the traditional bread crumb crust. The big surprise was that New Mexico chicos substituted for the beans.

Duck cassoulet

The hot smoked salmon was topped with a crisp “chicharrón” of salmon skin and served with a delicate cauliflower mousse flavored with almond along with roasted kale.

Hot smoked salmon

Dessert included the traditional street food, churros, but raised to a new level and accompanied by rich cajeta.

This last week, we went back with our older daughter, Carol, and her two children. The scene was just as magical, and we now had an opportunity to try more things on the imaginative menu. I had the “West of the Pecos Winter Posole”, which was unlike any posole I have ever had. A big bowl was brought to the table with a nest of shredded ham hocks, posole, and micro cilantro nestled in the middle. The server then poured a steaming pitcher of fragrant broth into the bowl. The seasoning is not for the faint-of-heart, but it was a beautiful and flavorful start.

West of the Pecos winter posole

Carol had the warm chicory salad with crispy prosciutto and topped with a glistening, perfectly poached farm egg just begging to be opened so that the yolk could flavor the whole dish.

Warm chicory salad

She also chose the Guajillo prawns with – white chocolate molé! What’s not to like about that?!

The venison from the week before looked so good, that I chose that. As before, it was well-prepared with interesting seasonings. There was a delicate “cloud” of fois gras foam as an accompaniment.

Susan chose the wild mushroom ravioli with rabbit ragu. She pronounced it delicious.

 

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