(Photo/Courtesy of Marcela Valladolid)
It’s two days before Mexican television chef Marcela Valladolid boards a plane from San Diego to Miami, where she’ll attend the 2012 South Beach Food & Wine Festival this weekend, and she’s already finished her list of things to pack. Shampoo and conditioner. Check. Flip flops. Check. Sexy little Dolce & Gabbana dress with stiletto heals. Hello, it’s South Beach…check. Three hundred home made tostadas and a jar of fresh garlic and gaujillo chiles. That would be a big, proud Mexicana check. “I can never find the exact ingredients I want when I’m traveling so I decided to pack coolers and bring some stuff myself,” she said. “I always wonder what the security guys at the airport think when they open my luggage and see a knife kit, heels and my chiles.”
If they’re like everyone else lining up for a taste of the doe-eyed beauty’s cooking, they’re not thinking—they’re just savoring. At 32, she’s host to The Food Network’s most successful Hispanic program to date, Mexican Made Easy, for which she is currently filming a fifth season, and the author of two cookbooks, Fresh Mexico and Mexican Made Easy, that focus on simple and authentic cooking from her homeland. While she’s one of the hottest Latina cooks in the country—the cover of her website boasts a photo of her sharing a plate of guacamole with none other than Eva Longoria—Valladolid is known as much for her culinary prowess as she is for being the single mom to 7-year-old Fausto, for whom she frequently cooks on her show. “I live on this side of the border and my son is here with me and I work everyday to keep my culture alive for him,” she said. “The food I cook for him is a huge part of that.” Indeed, if she has one message for Latina moms who, like her, want to pass on to their children a sense of heritage it is “keep cooking, keep talking about it, and keep the traditions alive. There is so much history and so much of who we are in our recipes.”
Not surprisingly, she’s bringing that sense of passion and history (along with a very interesting suitcase) with her to the South Beach Festival, where she’ll participate in two events: the first is a Tequila pairing seminar she says “will help show people what Mexicans really eat and drink. That we don’t eat burritos and nachos and yellow cheese.” Tequila, she says, “can have the same nuances as a beautifully aged cognac and it’s truly exciting for me to help people discover that.” The second event, called Swine & Wine, is a pig-roast extraordinaire where various chefs are challenged to cook using a caja china, a rustic roasting box typically used to make Cuban style pork. Valladolid will make a Yucatan-style cochinita pibil, which is traditionally marinated in citrus, seasoned with annatto seeds, wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted. What’s most special about making this, she says, isn’t that she’s giving it her own chef-y spin, but that she’s making a recipe that’s been around, quite literally, for hundreds of years. “The idea that I’m doing something that’s been done for so long,” she says, “connects me to my culture.”
For those not able to join the pork or tequila parties, Valladolid shared with us one of her favorite simple Mexican recipe you can make at home: Queso fundido with chorizo.
8 ounces raw chorizo, casings removed
¼ cup chopped white onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups grated Oaxaca or mozarella cheese
6 (6-inch) Homemade Flour Tortillas or purchased, warmed
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush a 3-cup gratin or other oven-to-table baking dish with oil.
2. Sauté the chorizo in a dry medium skillet over medium- high heat until almost crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to paper towels to drain. Discard all but 2 teaspoons of fat from the skillet. Add the onion and garlic, and cook over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Return the chorizo to the skillet and stir to combine.
3. Put 1 cup of the cheese in the gratin dish and sprinkle with half of the chorizo mixture. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake until the cheese is almost fully melted, about 10 minutes. Top with the remaining chorizo mixture and bake for 10 minutes longer, until the cheese bubbles.
4. Serve with flour tortillas alongside for everybody to make his or her own soft tacos. Serves 4 to 6.
BETTY CORTINA, NBC LATINO STAFF
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