Sunday, March 28, 2010

A recipe story

What a productive Sunday I've had so far! Not yet noon and I've conquered the mess of a bedroom, finished two loads of laundry, changed the bed and baked.

Baked? Yes. Baked.

I'm not much of a bakestress, you see. I CAN, I just don't. I prefer cooking, like meals and stuff. I don't do THAT all that often either because cooking for one is kind of a drag and I'm not a huge leftover fan. Baking is the same thing. I mean, what am I going to do with a whole cake? Or sixty cookies, besides the obvious? So it's really better that I just don't.

So, many many moons ago when I was young and in a happy relationship and embarking on what I just figured was the rest of my life (I was wrong, but that's okay. I like an ending with a twist), my boyfriend-at-the-time Gus's Tia Nevia would come to California to visit her sister. Tia Nevia could cook the hell out of food. Gus's family came from Merida, Yucatan, and though his mother could cook well, Nevia was the master. We looked forward to all the fantastic things she would make for dinner - cochinita pibil, huevos con chaya, carne negra. One fine Sunday Gus decided that I needed to learn how to make some of this stuff, you know, so he would never go without, so we started simple with Hojaldra con Jamon y Queso.

Simple in theory, I suppose, but apparently Gus never stuck around the kitchen long enough to watch her make the pastry. Holy mother. I wasn't at all happy with the fact that the pastry part was basically a pound and a half of lard, flour and water, and I certainly wasn't happy with touching it. But learn I must, and it was a good thing that Tia Nevia had no, and I mean zero, English. Gus kicked back nearby in the family room watching sports while I battled it in the kitchen with Tia and her amazing french rolling pin (a tool that I looked around forever for, so that I too could reproduce such fabulous pastry, but couldn't find for years and years until finally my boss gave me one for Christmas, and which I ended up giving away when I thought I was moving back to Mexico for a good portion of my forever. Ironic, isn't it?). The pastry took for FLIPPING ever but it was worth it. I scribbled notes and we yelled for translations from Gus a lot, and in the end there was a ridiculously satisfying pastry, not too sweet, not too savory, very much delicious.

I remember I tried to recreate it while still with the boyfriend, using, instead of homemade pastry, crescent roll dough or something similar. Fail. Don't try it. But fairly recently I decided to try it with phyllo dough. Success. Really good, almost-close-to-the-real-thing success, as a matter of fact.

So for some reason yesterday I was getting all nostalgic and all these signs were being thrown at me from every direction, and I decided to make an hojaldra. I bought the stuff and made it this morning. It's fabulous, so I thought I'd share.

Hojaldra con Jamon y Queso (a la a lazy white girl)

You will need:
Phyllo dough
Sharp cheddar cheese (not shredded, you'll have to slice up a brick yourself)
Canadian Bacon
Sugar
Melted butter for the dough

Follow the directions on the box of phyllo - it's a pain in the ass to use so pay attention. Do everything it says or you'll have a bigger mess on your hands than necessary. I pretty much use one whole roll, maybe a little less. Slice the cheese, maybe an 1/8th of an inch thick, maybe a tiny bit more. Prepare (according to the box, remember what I said about following the directions on the box) the bottom pastry level - I use a decent sized base, maybe a little less than half the sheets in the roll - brushing each sheet with melted butter so it doesn't dry up and tear and be all out of control like it can. Lay it directly on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and lay the cheese out - it doesn't have to completely cover the pastry, allow room for it to melt. Make sure you get it as close to the edges as you can because nobody wants a piece that's all phyllo - that's just a recipe for disaster. Next lay the Canadian bacon down on top of the cheese, evenly spaced. Cover the cheese and cb with your top phyllo layer, again using the melted butter on every sheet. I use less than the bottom, but it's still a pretty good amount of sheets. It won't look perfect and that's okay. Use melted butter to kind of seal the ends around the pastry. Sprinkle the top with sugar, and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown, and there may even be some cheese bubbling out from the sides here and there. Let cool and cut into squares. Provecho!

(I'm not sure what happened to the size of this picture but you get the idea)

It may not be absolutely authentic, but I am sure Tia Nevia, where ever she is, would be proud to know that I continue to honor her in my little corner of the world.

Happy Sunday - I've done my quota of crap for about the next month, so it's time for a little nosh and maybe a little nap!

2 Comments:

At 6:00 AM, March 30, 2010, Blogger Cece said...

Wow, this really is a blog, you took a photo of the food, cool.

 
At 6:15 AM, March 30, 2010, Blogger JJ said...

Hahahahahahaha! Finally!

 

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