Uchepos Patzcuaro (Michoacán-Style Fresh Corn Tamales)

Recipe by Chef Christian Irabién, Chef at Aparo, opening this fall in DC's historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Photography by Jennifer Chase.

 Uchepos patzcuaro made with Irabién's signature recipe.

Uchepos patzcuaro made with Irabién's signature recipe.

Uchepos Patzcuaro
(Yields 15 tamales.)

30 corn husks
11 cups sweet yellow corn kernels, about 15 ears of corn  
4 ounces unsalted butter
½  cup whole milk
3 tablespoons Crema Mexicana de Rancho
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 ounces semolina flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar

To finish:

Queso fresco (crumbled), Cornuts cut into small dice (plain, toasted and ground)

Take the dry corn husks and submerge in warm water, to rehydrate, for at least 2 hours before making your tamales. They need to be pliable.

With a knife, remove kernels from cobs, reserving 2 cups of whole kernels. With the back of the knife scrape the cobs to extract as much of the starchy corn milk as possible. Discard cobs (or save them to make a nice corn stock later with just some water and bay leaves)

In a blender, add all ingredients and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer the blended paste to a mixing bowl, fold in the remaining kernels with the corn mix.

Place equal portions of 1/2 cup of corn mix inside the corn husks and form your tamales by folding them.

Next, steam the tamales with a tamale steamer, which you can buy pretty much at any Latin market in the DMV or do as I like to do and use a Chinese dumpling steamer when making a small batch at home, on top of a sauce pot with boiling water.

Steam tamales for 1 hour (check often that your steamer has water, add some more if it is drying out, don’t burn the tamales or your fingers!) Remove the tamales from steam and allow to set for 20 minutes.

To serve, tear the corn husk, allowing only the bottom to serve as both a vessel and decor. Sprinkle with ground cornuts to add some texture. Drizzle with the Poblano Puree for color, earthiness and spice. Add one or two small cubes of queso fresco for garnish.

Crema Mexicana de Rancho (Ranch-Style Mexican Cream)
(Yield 2 cups)

1 and 1/2 cups sour cream
1 and 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons kosher salt

In a bowl, whisk sour cream with heavy cream and salt until evenly distributed. Your cream should be loose enough to drizzle, but thick enough to coat a spoon. Adjust the thickness by adding more sour cream or more heavy cream depending on which way you're trying to go. If you do, ensure you adjust your salt content too, the cream should be nice and salty.

Yield: 2 cups

***

Christian Irabien is a Mexican native who has led teams in renowned kitchens, receiving accolades for his Executive Chef role at Calavera in Oakland, Ca. and Jose Andrés’Oyamel in Washington, DC. Christian has been an integral part of the rising DC restaurant scene, collaborating with non-profits, restaurants, food banks and farms in the area as an active participant for better working conditions and wages for restaurant workers; while also strongly advocating for a better local food system. His restaurant, Amparo, will open later this fall at 3110 Mount Pleasant St NW in the historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood of D.C.

Ensalada de Nopalitos con Quelites (Fresh Cactus Salad with Field Greens)

Recipe by Christian Irabién, Chef at Aparo, opening this fall in DC's historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Photography by Jennifer Chase.

 Photo by Jennifer Chase.

Photo by Jennifer Chase.

Servings: 6

You should be able to find cactus with the needles removed, but if you don’t, you can ask nicely at the store to clean them for you. Or, you swiftly remove the needles by scraping them with a knife. Watch those prickles, they're small and annoying when they get inside your skin!

2 pounds cactus paddles, needles removed
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
2 teaspoons white pepper (or substitute black pepper)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lime, zested
1/3 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed and strained
1 teaspoon dry oregano, ground
2 1/2 cups blueberries
5 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
2 bunches purslane, washed and trimmed of thick stems (substitute watercress)

In a mixing bowl, coat your cactus paddles evenly with half of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Throw on the grill to get some nice char marks and dilute some of the cactus mucilage. Remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, add the remaining olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, 1/2 cup of blue berries, 3 tablespoons salt, oregano, and cilantro whisk until evenly incorporated to make the dressing. Reserve.

Cut cactus into manageable strips, and coat with remaining salt, about a cup or so - heavily salted - and place on a strainer to allow the salt to extract the remaining mucilage - I like to let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

Take the cactus and rinse under cold water to remove all the excess salt and place into a large mixing bowl. Add to the bowl the remaining blue berries, red onion, and dressing - toss freely.

Garnish with queso fresco crumbs and purslane vines.

***

Christian Irabien is a Mexican native who has led teams in renowned kitchens, receiving accolades for his Executive Chef role at Calavera in Oakland, Ca. and Jose Andrés’Oyamel in Washington, DC. Christian has been an integral part of the rising DC restaurant scene, collaborating with non-profits, restaurants, food banks and farms in the area as an active participant for better working conditions and wages for restaurant workers; while also strongly advocating for a better local food system. His restaurant, Amparo, will open later this fall at 3110 Mount Pleasant St NW in the historic Mount Pleasant neighborhood of D.C.

 

Flakey Chinese Pancakes with Chive Blossoms

Flaky Chinese Pancakes with Chive Blossoms

Chinese pancakes are usually made with green onions (scallions) but I love how chive blossoms’ purple petals give the pancakes a burst of color and add a delicate flavor reminiscent of garlic and onions. Chive blossoms resemble powder puffs and are unwieldy to eat whole. Before using them in dishes, remove their central stems first and then pull apart the florets/petals.

If you grow chives in your garden, you will have an abundance of these darling little blossoms. If not, you can often find chive blossoms at farmers markets at springtime. You can also experiment with whatever alliums catch your eye at the market: ramps, leeks, spring onions, etc.

Prep time: 20 minutes plus 30 minutes resting time

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4–6 as an appetizer

2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

⅔ cup (175 milliliters) just-boiled water

1 teaspoon fine sea salt plus more for sprinkling

1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil

½ cup (50 grams) chopped chives and chive blossom petals

Vegetable oil for frying

Dipping Sauce

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Slowly pour in the water, stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping the sides as you go. The dough will look like cheese curds. When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead into a ball with your hands. If the dough is still dry, add more water a tablespoon at a time until it just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until it forms a smooth, soft ball and is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed. Lightly oil a bowl to prevent sticking and place the ball inside. Cover with a damp towel and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Lightly flour your work surface again and turn the dough out. Knead for another 2 minutes. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a smooth ball.

Roll out one ball into a disk roughly 7 inches (17.5 centimeters) in diameter with a rolling pin. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and roll over the salted dough. Brush with a thin layer of sesame oil. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chives and chive blossoms all over the dough, leaving a ½-inch (1-centimeter) border on the edge. Roll the disk up like a jelly roll, then coil into a tight snail-like spiral, tucking the end under.

Flatten the spiral gently with your palm and roll it out again, this time into a ¼-inch- (0.5-centimeter)-thick pancake about 6 inches (15 centimeters) in diameter. If the chives start to poke out of the dough just tuck them back in. Set the finished pancake aside and repeat with the remaining dough. (Pancakes can be made ahead. Stack between layers of parchment paper and refrigerate for a few hours before frying.)

Prepare a paper-towel-lined plate or a rack over a baking sheet.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an 8-inch (20-centimeter) nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Fry the pancakes 1 at a time until golden brown and crispy on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula, swirl in 1 teaspoon oil and cook until the second side is golden brown, another 1 to 2 minutes. Jiggle the pan once in awhile. (Someone told me that this creates a flakier pancake. I’m not sure it works but it doesn’t hurt to try!) Transfer to the plate to soak up excess oil and cover to keep warm while you make the rest of the pancakes. Repeat. (Tip: Cast-iron skillets retain heat very well so adjust the heat and cook time as necessary.)

Cut each pancake into 6 wedges, sprinkle with more salt (optional) and serve immediately with Dipping Sauce.

Notes:

·      To freeze, stack pancakes between layers of parchment and wrap securely in plastic wrap or foil. Cook from frozen, 2 to 3 minutes longer on each side.

·      Reheat cooked pancakes in a 450°F (230°C) oven for 4 to 5 minutes.

Dipping Sauce

¼ cup (60 milliliters) soy sauce

¼ cup (60 milliliters) rice vinegar

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon finely sliced green onions, green parts only

Whisk together all the ingredients in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves.