Navidad in your Kitchen: Ponche, Bacalao, and Buñuelos

Christmas is a beautiful season to pamper ourselves and to be with our loved ones. This 2020 might be different; nevertheless, let’s embrace what we have and allow the magic of the holiday’s food to bring us joy and fun. For this occasion, we wanted to share with you some of our favorite Mexican traditional recipes to enjoy during this special season.

The recipes that we selected start with a warm fruity beverage: Ponche. This drink is a traditional drink in Mexico served during posadas and Christmas dinners. Its warm and fruity properties will make you feel calm and cozy at night, or during a cold morning. The next one is the customary Bacalao. You can enjoy this delicious dish as a main course during the dinner, the best part is that the following day you can put it inside a bolillo or telera to create the famous “Tortas de Bacalao” for the “recalentado” (or “reheat” in its literal translation, which is another popular tradition in Mexico when you get together the next day with loved ones to eat leftovers from the previous exquisite dinner). Finally, one of our favorites desserts that is also a popular street food: a recipe to make delicious Buñuelos, eating this messy and crunchy sweet is a fun experience on itself, just be mindful of the crumbs!

These recipes call for many ingredients that are not that easily found in regular supermarkets across the US. However, if you head down to an Asian or Latino supermarket, you will most likely find them in a canned or frozen versions, which works just as well. You can even find cans with all ingredients for the ponche. Lastly, considering the difficult times we are living in where it is not as easy to go out and search for them, you can always order them on Amazon or any other Mexican-focused online store. We will try to provide an alternative when we run into hard-to find ingredients, too.

Ponche Navideño

By Regina’s Tía Martha
This delicious hot drink is one of the most popular drinks for this season in Mexico. Although everyone makes it differently, one will always distinguish the fruity and somewhat spicy flavors merging together to invoke healing properties; having a hot cup of ponche is said to help maintain both soul and hands warm. All generations love it, from grandmothers to children alike, and choosing if you want it with fruit or just the juice is a personal decision.

Ingredients
3-4 Liters (12-16 cups approx.) water
1 cone piloncillo (or 1 cup of brown sugar)
2-4 cinnamon sticks
1 cup tejocotes, chopped and seedless. Can be fresh or from jar
10-12 yellow guavas
1-2 apple, chopped (opt for sweet apples like Pink Ladies)
1-2 pear, chopped
1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
1 orange
5-10 cloves
2-3 sugar cane sticks, fresh or from jar, peeled and cut into strips
1 cup of tamarind vines peeled (or 1 cup of Jamaica flowers, or both)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, boil water, piloncillo (or brown sugar), and cinnamon sticks. Cook for 15 minutes.
  2. If using fresh tejocotes add them now as they take a while to cook. Cook until soft and remove from pot. Let them cool and peel off the skin and return to pot together with the rest of ingredients. If canned, skip this step and add them in step 4.
  3. Chop guavas, apples, pear, and prunes, careful to remove seeds.
  4. Stick the cloves into the peel of the orange and cut into quarters.
  5. Add chopped fruit along with all the rest of the ingredients, to the pot and stir. This includes adding tejocotes, raisins, tamarind vines (or jamaica flowers), and sugar cane sticks.
  6. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the flavors are infused and fruit is soft to touch. Remove orange and cinnamon sticks if you want, this is not necessary, though.
  7. Serve hot, ladling in some fruits to each cup. Enjoy!!

You can always add a splash of rum, brandy, or aguardiente to grown-up’s mugs before serving the ponche.

Ponche is easy to reheat and can last for days, highlighting ingredients as it reheats every time.

Play with this recipe, it is one that allows for a variety of seasonal ingredients to be used and that is why everyone has a different take on ponche. Some regions in Mexico use different ingredients and it will be difficult for anyone to agree in one recipe altogether. However, you can adjust levels of sweetness, spice (not using cloves, maybe?), and flavor playing with different fruits or only those that you can find.

 

  Food, Mexico Recipe. Photo by By Pippa Whishaw (peregrineadventures.com)

 

 

Bacalao Navideño
or Vizcaina Style Salted Cod

Adapted from family traditions, unsure who passed it on to whom.
This Bacalao recipe is a delicacy for the holidays and knowing this recipe will be proof of your knowledge of Mexican cuisine and its culture. Although it takes days to make, it is a fairly easy to make recipe that is also delicious. Bacalao, or cod, is considered a seasonal dish for special occasions such as Christmas, religious events, and weddings, and it is served with bread on the side (or as a torta). This recipe calls for a unique type of pepper, chile güero or largo, which can be found as yellow wax pepper or chile. If this is too difficult to find, one can always use jalapeños, banana, or pepperoncini peppers.

(Makes 6 servings)
Ingredients:
1 lb of cod fish, or Bacalao (dried and salted), can be frozen.
½ cup of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 garlic cloves, whole
1 white onion, diced
2 lb plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 lb new potatoes, cooked and pealed (or russet in large cubes)
¼ cup of almonds, peeled and chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup pitted olives
2 tbsp capers
6 pickled chiles güeros usually found in a can (jalapeño, banana, or pepperoncini peppers work too)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Day 1, two days before the event (if serving on Christmas Eve, Start on December 22nd)
    Soak dried cod in water, changing its water every 6-8 hours until clear. You will first see white water, which is the salt from the cod. After several rinses, water should be clear and soft, ready to be cooked.
  2. Day 3, or two days after soaking the cod and the day which Bacalao is served.
    After the last rinse and drain, place cod in a pot with clean water and simmer on medium to medium-high 5-10 minutes until tender.
  3. Drain cod and reserve water, you can use this if dish seems to dry while cooking. Shred and remove all spines and bones from fish.
  4. On a large skillet (if you have a clay one, or one for paella or a large wok, use that one), heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add minced onion and sauté until transparent, then add 4 garlic cloves mince and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Roast tomatoes on a hot griddle, or comal, for about 10 minutes and transfer to a blender to liquefy as much as possible. Strain this puree into your skillet, blend with onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until puree starts simmering.
  6. Once simmering, add shredded cod and patiently stir to blend all ingredients together.
  7. Like the previous step, you will slowly add each ingredient, careful to stir slowly until it starts simmering again, start with capers and move to, 2 garlic cloves, olives, simmer, and potatoes last.
  8. Lastly, add chiles güeros, almonds, oregano, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Remember that, although cod was left soaking for days, it is still very salted, so make sure to try it before adding to the mixture.
  9. Cook for one more hour, simmering occasionally.

Tips:

  • This dish is better the day after it was cooked as time and several reheating allow for flavors to intensify and blend better. This being said, you want there to be plenty of leftovers, as this dish is served usually for days after it was cooked. It can be frozen and re-heated, too.
  • If mixture is too dry, add reserved water from last time cooking cod.
  • If you are not a big fan of garlic, cut portions in half.
  • Pre-cook tomatoes while simmering code for the last time in another sauce pan to speed cooking process.
  • To easily peel almonds, boil them for a few minutes and then shock them with cold water. When you squeeze the almond, the peel pops off of the nut.


Bacalao a la Vizcaina. Photo by Cocina Fácil (cocinafacil.com)

Buñuelos:

By Isaac, a family friend and chef, who makes them every year.
Now it’s dessert time!
And there is nothing better than some buñuelos. You can eat them on the table or just grab one with a napkin and go around. Just we warn you: embrace the mess and the fun! They are crunchy, sweet and good every time. There are some that love vanilla ice cream with them! So it is a fun way to try this traditional dessert.

Ingredients:
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
¼ cup of sugar
3oz of butter (room temperature)
1 TSP Baking powder
1 TSP Salt
½ cup of warm water
1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of cinnamon powder for coating.
Oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. On a big bowl mix all dry ingredients: the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Then, creating a crate-like structure with a hole in the center, add the eggs and butter blending everything really, really, well.
  2. Incorporate water little by little. Use a spatula at first and then transfer the mixture to a tabletop, Here, you will knead the dough with your hands to blend the mixture together and ensure all is perfectly moistened. Keep kneading with patience until the dough is perfectly smooth and elastic.
  3. Once ready (you will know it is ready from its smooth consistency), cover the dough with a clean towel and let it sit for 30 min.
  4. After 30 minutes have passed, divide the dough into small, 30 gram loaves, or approximately the size of a ping-pong ball, and let them sit covered for another 10 minutes.
  5. Using a roller pin, spread each loaf into thin round shapes, like a tortilla.
  6. Heat oil in a large pan to 350°F and, using tongs, fry each circle for about 1 minute, or until golden brown. Buñuelos will fluff, which is not a bad thing in terms of how they look, but it will make it difficult to eat. To prevent this from happening too much, use the tongs to keep as much as the buñuelo in the frying oil.
  7. Once the buñuelo has a light golden color, it is ready. Transfer to a napkin to remove excess oil and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon to have the snowy vibe.
  8. Enjoy!

 

Copyright 2014 Michael Pohuski. All Rights Reserved

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We wish you enjoy this traditional food and let us know of your comments below!

We want to hear from you! Let us know here and in our social media, do you have any favorite Christmas recipe? Is there any Mexican traditional food you would like us to share with you? Which food smells or ingredients makes you think of these holidays? We look forward to this!

 

Thinking of showing your holiday spirit in a Mexican way? Artisans are creating beautiful seasonal products and you can check them out in our Seasonal Collection. Considering fancy ways to present your dinner? Check out our Tabletop collection! Looking for ways to stay warm? We also have some of that.

 

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