The New Southern-Latino Table – Recipes, Y’all
When I moved to Nashville from New Jersey 20 years ago, I dove deep into a new world of Meat and Threes, biscuits and barbecue.
As I dined with new friends, I found myself saying things like:
“The Cubans live on pork too, but instead of barbecue sauce we roast it with lime and garlic.”
“The mojito is like a Mint Julep, but with rum instead of Kentucky bourbon.”
“I love grits! They are like runny tamales!”
And, I remember a few conversations comparing heavenly Cuban bread — full of lard — with blessed Southern biscuits — also either full of lard or shortening. (Heaven can be hell.)
And, it became obvious to me that two distinct cultures can have many similarities.
As the Latino presence in the South continues to explode, an acceptance and a co-mingling of food cultures has been quietly going on, creating a new Southern sabor identified and honored in Sandra A. Gutierrez’s cookbook: The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America & the American South.
That means mojo sauce now available bottled in a Southern grocery store is marinating a non-Latino cook’s pork shoulder, that tamales are being stuffed with collard greens, that chicharrones are added to traditional buttermilk biscuits.
“Southerners and Latinos have similar culinary histories, ingredients and cooking techniques, but we interpret them in different ways,’’ Gutierrez, a cooking instructor and food writer, said from her home in Cary, North Carolina.
“Both cultures have been influenced by people of three ethnicities: Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africans and Europeans. They all have basics in common such as corn, beans, nuts, squash and pork. They have braising, roasting, frying. Barbacoa comes from Latin America, not the South, but you can’t imagine the South without barbecue.”
Gutierrez, who was raised in the United states and Guatemala, once could not find all the ingredients she needed for her Latin kitchen, so she either had care packages sent to her from Miami, or she substituted Southern staples in her traditional recipes.
And then about 15 years ago, she began to witness Latino ingredients on the menus of Southern restaurants, she saw tiendas with Hispanic goods popping up all over the South, and her culinary students would tell her about the Latino ingredients they were using in their own kitchens.
And, of course, as a Latina mother in the South, Gutierrez was just as likely to serve hamburgers with ancho sauces as she was to serve Southern fried chicken.
Witnessing this food partnership led to Gutierrez’s creation of 150 original recipes and the cookbook. They are new and different recipes, but they honor flavors that both Latinos and Southerners are familiar with. And, the book also is a teaching tool indicating that not all Latin American food starts with salsa and chips, that not all of it is spicy hot, and that it is not all that complicated. (And of course, that not all Southern food is heavy and over-cooked).
Some drool-worthy examples from the New Southern-Latino Table:
- Peach and Bourbon Tres Leches cake
- Squash Casserole Enchiladas
- Arepitas with Goat Cheese and Green Tomato Chutney
- Sweet Potato and Plaintain Casserole
- Spice-Crusted Tuna with Peach Salsa and Yuca Fries
- Fried Okra (Quimbombo) with Chipotle-Lime Mayonnaise
- Whiskey and Tamarind-glazed Baby Back Ribs
There also facts and sidebars on foods such as biscuits, soups and stews (ala gumbos, tapados and muddles), chiles, pickled dishes and more. Reading through it is a discovery of how much we Latinos and Southerners have in common, and not just at the table.
“I think Latinos can feel pride that our culinary history is being properly represented and our culinary traditions are being embraced,’’ Gutierrez said. “And Southerners can feel pride that their cuisine is being embraced by new immigrants.”
I hope my book brings people together at the table,’’ she Gutierrez said.
As for me, I feel like one day I will be able to hand this book to my daughter — a semi-Cubanita raised in Nashville, TN — and say: “Look here, a history of both your cultures, as told by the traditional foods you’ve grown up eating.”
Now, someone pass me the chile-cheese biscuits with avocado butter.
The New Southern-Latino Table Recipes
From The New Southern-Latino Table: Recipes that Bring Together the Bold and Beloved Flavors of Latin America and the American South. Copyright © 2011 by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.
Chile-Cheese Biscuits with Avocado Butter
Moist and light, these new-Southern morsels deliver just the right combination of spice and comforting goodness. Self-rising flour is made from Southern soft wheat flour to which baking powder and salt have been added; it has less protein and gluten than all-purpose flour. The addition of just a little bit of fat and liquid yields fluffy, tender biscuits. Poblano chiles add a mild heat (see sidebar, page 98).
Queso seco is a Mexican dry-aged cheese that tastes similar to Parmesan; you can find it in most grocery stores. I learned to make biscuits from my Southern friends, who taught me to handle the dough with respect and loving hands. Serve these mildly spiced biscuits with this creamy avocado spread that melts in the mouth.
For the biscuits
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 cup grated queso seco (use Parmesan cheese in a bind)
- 1 teaspoon ancho (or pasilla)
- chile powder
- 1/4 cup chilled lard, bacon fat, or shortening
- 1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped (see page 116)
- 1–1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 475°F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cheese, and chile powder. Using a pastry blender (or two knives), cut the lard into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand. Stir in the chiles. Gradually add the buttermilk, mixing the dough with a wooden spoon or your hands just until it holds together (you may not need all of the buttermilk). Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently a couple of times. Pat it into an 8-inch circle (about 1/2 inch thick).
Using a well-floured 2 ⅛-inch biscuit cutter, cut out 12 biscuits (you’ll need to gather up the dough and pat it down again lightly after the first biscuits are cut to get all 12). Place the biscuits, with sides touching, in a 10-inch Springform or cake pan. With your knuckle, make a small indentation in the center of each biscuit; brush the tops of the biscuits with the cream.
Bake for 18–22 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.
- 2 Hass avocados
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch dried Mexican oregano (optional)
Halve and pit avocados. Mash the flesh with a spoon in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.
Jalapeño Deviled Eggs
These hearty morsels are rich, soft, and creamy. They offer just the right amount of crunch and a subtle kick from the chiles. Stuffed eggs, which are very popular in the South, are also common in Latin America, where they’re usually filled with cold salads, such as Ensalada Rusa (page 90). They’re easily made with everyday ingredients and can be made ahead of time. I often serve them at ladies’ luncheons, picnics by the lake, or Sunday barbecues.
Loved by adults and children alike, these are often the first to disappear from my table. I have a trick that makes peeling hard-boiled eggs a cinch: crack the bottom of the cooked eggs while they’re still hot and then plunge them into iced water until they’re cold.
This scrumptious recipe can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, making it ideal for feeding large crowds. Easy to tote, consider taking these to your next potluck supper.
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeños (seeded and deveined if less heat
- is desired)
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (leaves and tender stems)
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Smoked Spanish paprika (optional, for garnish)
- curly or flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)
Place the eggs in a medium pan and cover with cold water. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. As soon as the water comes to a boil, cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the eggs cook for 12 minutes. Plunge the eggs into iced water to stop the cooking process.
Once the eggs are chilled, peel off the shells. Halve each egg lengthwise; scoop out the yolk into a small bowl, and set the egg whites on a plate lined with paper towels.
Using a fork, mash the egg yolks into a paste; add the mayonnaise, onions, jalapeños, cilantro, parsley, mustard, salt, and pepper and stir together well. (If not serving immediately, cover the egg whites and the filling separately with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours.)
Using a spoon (or a pastry bag), fill the egg white cavities with the egg yolk mixture (about 1 tablespoon). Chill them, loosely covered, until ready to serve (but no longer than 2 hours). When ready to serve, sprinkle the eggs with smoked paprika and garnish with parsley.
Chile Chocolate Brownies
These decadent bars have a rich, moist, and dense texture. The luxurious taste of chocolatewill meet your taste buds and the sweetness will seduce your senses. Then slowly the slight heat of chiles will spread across your tongue and surprise you with a tingling sensation. The combination of chocolate and chiles gives the well-known mole poblano of Mexico and the mole de plátano of Guatemala their distinctive flavor. And here, fruity ancho chiles are a perfect match for rich, dark chocolate. The meaty pecans lend an unmistakable Southern touch.
These are “grown-up” goodies. Make a batch without chiles for the kids.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-1/4 teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped and toasted pecans (optional)
For the glaze
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 °— 9 °— 2-inch baking pan. Place the butter and chocolate in the top of a double boiler and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they have melted and are well combined. Lift the bowl carefully from the pan so no water droplets come into contact with the chocolate mixture; let cool for 5 minutes and transfer to a large bowl.
Stir in the sugar; add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; stir in the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ancho chile powder, and salt; gradually add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, beating well until fully combined. Add the pecans. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the center is set and the brownies begin to pull back from the sides of the pan. Cool brownies for 1 hour in the pan.
To make the glaze: In a medium bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, butter, liqueur, vanilla, and chile powder; blend until smooth. Place the glaze in a pastry bag (or zip-top bag with a snipped corner), and drizzle back and forth over the brownies. Cut them
into 20 bars.
Makes 20 brownies.