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Saturday, Jul 21, 2018
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For Día de los Reyes, or Three King’s Day, make these classic Mexican dishes

It’s easy to start the new year with the postholiday blues. Thankfully, Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings’ Day, which is celebrated around the world on Saturday, heralds a host of traditions and flavors that can keep the celebration going for days to come.

Rather than waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, children in Latin homes may await the arrival of the Three Kings on Jan. 6 for their holiday gifts. Families gather, not only to exchange gifts and food, but also to celebrate Día de los Reyes, associated with the Catholic celebration of Epiphany. For millions, Epiphany and Día de los Reyes still reign as king of the winter holidays. And they arrive with their own set of flavors and festivities.

Slice your own piece of a Rosca de Reyes, the inspiration for Louisiana "King Cakes," or dip hot, cinnamon sugar bunuelos in piloncillo "honey" and start a new tradition. After the holiday rush, there’s nothing that brings up your spirits like a hot bowl of pozole, appreciating the culture and light of Día de los Reyes and time spent with family.

EASY

Pozole

Pozole is the winter comfort soup of choice in many Mexican homes, and it’s easy to see why. This is one of the best soups I’ve ever had. Hearty, rich and bursting with flavor, it’s a winter soup you will find yourself making all year long. Go out of your way to explore your local Mexican grocery market — the dried peppers are plentiful and affordable, and quality peppers are what make authentic Mexican cuisine sing.

1 ½ pounds pork shoulder

Salt

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 whole fresh jalapenos, seeded and stemmed, minced

2 whole dried ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed, chopped

2 whole dried California chiles, seeded and stemmed

4 cups canned white hominy, drained and rinsed

Guacamole

Corn tortilla chips

Lightly salt pork and place in a large pot. Fill with water until pork is just covered. Add half the onion, 2 cloves garlic, black pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper and oregano.

Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove meat and broth from pot and place in a large bowl.

Heat oil in pot. Saute the other onion half, 2 garlic cloves, jalapenos and ancho and California chiles in oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

Shred or cube pork and return to pot. Strain liquid from pork and add to pot; there should be 3 to 5 cups of broth. Scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze.

Add hominy to the pot and simmer, covered, for about 1 hour. Add 1 to 2 cups of water (or chicken broth) to add liquid, if needed.

Serve generously topped with guacamole and tortilla chips, if desired.

Source: Adapted from Genius Kitchen

MODERATE

Rosca de Reyes

Much like Louisiana’s King Cake — inspired by Rosca de Reyes — this festive "Kings’ Ring" dessert is a colorfully decorated brioche bread that comes with its own traditions. Typically, food-safe plastic babies, which represent baby Jesus, are baked in the ring. Adults and children alike take turns picking their slice of the ring. Finding a surprise baby is a delight for children, but not so much for adults — it means they must make tamales for the next festival. In this recipe, nuts are used to represent babies.

For the cake:

½ cup water

1 envelope dry active yeast

½ cup plus 4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

6 eggs, at room temperature

3 tablespoons milk

1 ½ tablespoons orange extract

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 orange, zested

For the topping:

2 egg yolks

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

6 tablespoons margarine

Red or green colored sugar

1 tablespoon milk

¾ cup sugar

Guava paste, quince paste, dried papaya, dried figs or dried cherries, optional

Pecans, almonds or other hard nut, optional

Make the cake: In a medium glass bowl, microwave water for 15 seconds. Stir in yeast and cover with plastic wrap for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in ½ cup flour, cover again and let rise for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 4 1/3 cups flour, ¾ cup sugar and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix 3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks with milk and add to the flour mixture, along with orange extract, butter and orange zest.

Once the yeast-flour mixture has risen for 20 minutes, add to the flour-butter mixture and knead by hand for 15 to 20 minutes or by stand mixer for 7 minutes, adding no more than 1/3 cup additional flour as you knead. Dough will be very sticky but should be able to be rolled into a ball.

Roll dough into ball and place in well-buttered bowl. Cover with buttered plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.

Use your fingers to create a hole in the center of the dough and work the dough into a ring no more than 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Place on a greased baking pan, preferably with a rim to catch any toppings that may slide down. Let rise, covered, in a warm place for 40 minutes.

Make the topping: Mix 1 egg yolk, flour, confectioners’ sugar and margarine in a small bowl, kneading by hand if needed to make a soft dough. Roll dough into 10 to 15 (4-inch) ropes. Roll ropes in red or green sugar.

Beat 1 egg yolk and milk together in a bowl; brush top of bread with egg wash and sprinkle generously with sugar.

Decorate bread with sugar ropes, thin slices of guava or quince paste and dried fruits to resemble a colorful crown.

Tuck several nuts throughout the bread to resemble the "surprise" plastic baby tradition. Whoever gets a nut might get a prize or good luck — whatever tradition you would like to begin.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and cook until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Source: Adapted from Mexico in My Kitchen

MODERATE

Buñuelos Mexicanos

Bunuelos are one of the most traditional holiday foods in Latin American countries. While each family has their own special recipe, ranging from fried balls of dough to thin, lacy patterned cookies, bunuelos have graced holiday tables for centuries. This Mexican bunuelos recipe, created from thin rounds of dough fried crisp, is served sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and a special sauce. Piloncillo cones are inexpensive and found at local Mexican grocers. Try using a piloncillo cone rather than brown sugar for the sauce. Although they are similar, the piloncillo brings a special flavor that’s all its own.

¾ cup plus 1 ½ cups water

3 to 4 tomatillo husks

3 to 4 whole star anise

2 ¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 egg

1 piloncillo cone

2 cinnamon sticks

2 cups canola oil

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Combine ¾ cup water, tomatillo husks and star anise in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, then allow to cool.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add butter and egg, then mix until crumbly.

Remove the tomatillo husks and star anise from cooled water. Drizzle the cooled water into the crumble mix until a wet, sticky dough forms.

Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is soft and smooth, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour to prevent sticking.

Let the dough rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.

Heat the 1 ½ cups of water, pilonchillo cone and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the pilonchillo cone has melted completely. Remove syrup from heat and cool.

Cut the dough in half, then cut each half into 7 pieces, for a total of 14 dough pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and cover the rest of the dough with plastic wrap while working.

Roll each ball out into a 6-inch disc between two sheets of plastic wrap. Lay discs out on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, covering with more wrap to prevent them from drying.

Heat canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When a small piece of dough dropped into the oil springs to the top, sizzling rapidly, the oil is ready.

Working quickly, gently lay one disc into the hot oil, pressing down with a slotted spoon to prevent too much puffing. Let the buenelo fry for 10 to 35 seconds, or until you can see plenty of golden brown through the buenelo. Flip and fry for another 10 to 35 seconds, then remove to a drying rack.

Combine cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar-cinnamon mixture over one side of the buenelo. Repeat with all of the discs.

Serve with cooled cinnamon-pilonchillo syrup on the side or drizzled on top.

Source: Adapted from Jauja Cocina Mexicana

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