Savor the Holiday Flavor: 4 Latin Comfort Food Classics

Savor the Holiday Flavor: 4 Latin Comfort Food Classics

Spice up your holiday menu with these 4 Latin comfort food recipes.

By: Lucy Lopez

Whenever the holidays roll around, I make it a point to try to make it home for dinner as much as possible. There’s really nothing better than those warm comforting dishes. I’m going to take you through four different recipes that will surely be a hit with your familia, too.

1. Mole Chicken Enchiladas
When I was younger, I remember being at my friend’s house where her grandma was making the traditional Mexican chocolate sauce, mole. You might think, chocolate for dinner? Yes! This is usually an all-day process, but there are ways to shortcut the recipe and still get a great result.

2 chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

5 dried pasilla or ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 (6-inch) corn tortillas, or handful regular tortilla chips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 medium onions, chopped
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 (3.1-ounce) disk Mexican chocolate, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
1/4 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
3/4 cup queso fresco or mild feta
Green onion, chopped (optional) 

1. Chicken: Preheat the oven to 375 F. On a baking sheet, season chicken breast with salt and pepper and drizzle on a little olive oil. Bake until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool and shred into small pieces to get ready for the enchiladas
2. Mole: Soak dried chiles in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes, then drain
3. Toast corn tortillas in a dry skillet until crispy and carefully tear into small pieces. Set aside
4. Using the same skillet, simmer olive oil over medium heat. Add in onions, season with salt and pepper and sauté for about three minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional two minutes
5. In a blender, combine onion and garlic mix with chiles, tortilla pieces, peanut butter and oregano. Slowly pour chicken broth and blend until smooth
6. Transfer blend to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over a high heat; reduce to medium heat and simmer while covered for 20 minutes. This is when you’ll start to stir in the chocolate. Season with salt and pepper to taste
7. Enchiladas: Fill a medium sauté pan halfway with oil over high heat. Fry one full-size corn tortilla at a time until soft and heated through. Dip the tortilla directly into the mole and transfer to a plate. Put 1/3 of the shredded chicken in the center and roll the tortilla to enclose your filling; place in a serving dish. Once serving dish is full, pour more of your mole sauce over the top and garnish with a drizzle sour cream, queso fresco and chopped green onions

2. Pasteles
My fellow Puerto Ricans already know that you can’t go to a holiday dinner party without pasteles on the menu. They can be a little tricky, so make sure you have a good kitchen assistant on hand – like one of your kids!

Tip: With this recipe, you’ll make about 20 pasteles, so feel free to freeze some for later.

2 pounds diced pork
4 ajíes dulces (small sweet peppers)
1 small onion
2 tablespoons recaíto (green cooking base mix)
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon adobo
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf

Masa dough
4 pounds yautía (tropical root vegetable)
6 green bananas
1 tablespoon salt
Achiote oil

40 banana leaves (cut into 8x4-inch rectangles)
20 pieces parchment paper (cut into 10x5-inch rectangles)
20 pieces kitchen string (cut into 18-inch lengths)

1. Stuffing: Start by browning the diced pork in a pan. Add in the rest of the stuffing ingredients; cook the pork until it’s no longer pink inside
2. Masa dough: Peel and grate the yautía and green bananas together in a large bowl. Stir in salt and enough achiote oil to moisten the dough. Make sure you have a big enough work surface to assemble and wrap
3. Wrappers: Lay the cut parchment paper horizontally on a flat work surface
4. Place one of the cut banana leaves in the center of the parchment paper. Brush achiote oil onto the center of the banana leaf to prevent the dough from sticking
5. Place about 1 1/2 to 2 spoonfuls of masa onto the oil in the center of the banana leaf. Flatten and spread the dough evenly, but try to avoid going over the edge of the leaf
6. Place one spoonful of meat filling in the center of the dough. Place another spoonful of masa dough on top of the meat filling. Spread the masa evenly to cover the filling
7. Assembly: Brush a few drops of oil on one side of a second banana leaf. Place the leaf, oil side down, on top of the masa and bring the top and bottom edge of the parchment paper up so that the edges meet evenly over the top of the pastel
8. Fold or roll down the edges, forming a horizontal seam. Fold up the ends of the parchment paper and flip the wrapped pastel over
9. Cut a piece of kitchen string about 18-inches long; fold in half. Lay the string down so that the middle is at the top, in an upside down U-shape. The open end should be facing you
10. Place the pastel horizontally on top of the string. Take the two ends of the string, closest to you, and fold them up and over the pastel. Tuck the ends under the U-shaped end, farthest away from you
11. Without crossing the strings at the top, gently pull the string ends down toward the ends of the pastel. Flip over, and bring the string around the ends of the pastel. Tie the string in the middle. Flip the pastel over one last time; bring the string around the middle. Tie the string into a knot or bow
12. Cook: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, making sure there’s enough water to completely cover the pasteles. Boil for one hour and unwrap before serving

3. Mexican Chicken and Rice Soup
This dish is one of my personal favorites. It’s easy and tastes so fresh, especially if you use a fresh salsa to amp up the flavor. Nothing’s more comforting than a nice warm bowl of soup. Plus, this recipe is super healthy!

2 large chicken breasts
1 cup sweet corn
2 to 3 cups your choice of grain (I use wild brown rice)
4 to 5 cups chicken broth
Optional toppings: Diced avocado, lime slices, shredded cheese

Salsa – Simply mix together all your ingredients!
3 cups tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons jalapeño pepper, chopped (including seeds)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. On a baking sheet, season chicken breast with salt and pepper and drizzle on a little olive oil. Bake until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool and shred
2. In a large pot, add in prepared salsa, shredded chicken, corn and enough chicken broth to cover your mixture; bring to a simmer and cover
3. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Top with diced avocado, lime slices and shredded cheese of your choice! (I use Monterey Jack)

4. Coquito
I like to call coquito the Puerto Rican eggnog. With its rich coconut flavor and hint of cinnamon, it’s sure to be a hit at your next holiday party! Best part: It’s super easy to make.

1 (15-ounce) can coconut cream
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tip: If you can only find a solid “creamed coconut,” you can make coconut cream by simply adding hot water.

1. In a blender, combine the coconut cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk
2. Begin to add in cinnamon, vanilla extract and nutmeg to the mixture; blend well
    Refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, pour into small glasses and decorate with a cinnamon stick and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon on top

Entertaining Tip: No matter which of these recipes you choose, be sure to bring along Bounty quilted napkins. Just one napkin will help to keep you and your family mess-free!

I hope these dishes give you some inspiration for what to serve at all your holiday gatherings! I think it’s so much fun to explore Latin food, whether it’s from your culture or another, we’re all one big comunidad.

Lucía (Lucy) Lopez was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and lucky enough to have a second home on the pretty little island of Puerto Rico. With writing as her passion, she’s beyond excited to be a part of the Orgullosa community and getting to learn more about Hispanic cultures, other than her own, along the way.

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Love to see Coquito here! Every family has their own particular recipe for it though. I use eggs and also whole milk plus a little sugar to make up for the lack of it in the milk. All sugary recipes need a touch of salt so I add a generous pinch to it and the juice of half a lime. But most important is to pour half into a pitcher for the younguns, and add white rum to the adult portion!! Thanks for your recipe!

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