Día de los Muertos

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Here at Silver Spork we’re all about holidays. All of them. Holidays are an excuse to get together with friends and eat lots of food. Day of the Dead is no exception.

Traditionally, Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and in some parts of South America. All cultures celebrate in similar but unique ways.

For those of you not familiar with the holiday, it falls on November 1st and/or 2nd. Day of the Dead is all about remembering loved ones that have passed away. People set up altars in their homes full of flowers and things that the deceased loved. They also go to the grave site, clean it up, and decorate it with flowers and other decorations like lights. It’s really a beautiful concept we should all adopt.

But here is the part we like the most: the food. A part of the altar involves cooking the loved one’s favorite meal and leaving a plate for them in the center. This plate is not eaten; the idea is that the spirit of the passed is present and is absorbing the energy of the food. Then for dinner the family can enjoy what wasn’t set up on the altar in remembrance of the deceased.

All families do the holiday a bit differently, but this is a general overview of how the holiday works.

The recipe below was given to me by my tía Nancy, who picked up how to make this dish from her mother and grandmother in Mexico. It is an example of what one might make for their passed loved one this Day of the Dead.

A note to all of you, please leave this out for my soul to absorb when I’m dead or I will haunt you for all eternity. It’s my favorite. Really. I’ll do it.

Arroz de Tomate 

Ingredients
Vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves
2 cups of uncooked white rice
4 medium sized tomatoes
1/4 onion
1 tomato bullion cube

Instructions
First, get a large pot that can hold at least eight cups of water and has a lid. Cover the bottom of the pot in 1/8-1/4 of an inch of vegetable oil. Put on medium heat.

While the oil is heating, peel five cloves of garlic and chop them finely. Put the garlic in the oil and stir it around until it browns. Now, add two cups of raw white rice (unwashed). Be sure to not let the rice burn in the oil, just let the rice brown up. Reduce the heat if you need to.

While the rice is browning, in a blender place four medium sized tomatoes, 1/4 onion, and a tomato bullion cube. Now, fill the blender with water, up to the six cup mark. Blend all that deliciousness together.

Pour the liquid on the rice carefully, but don’t let the oil splash you or you’ll be sad for days. If you weren’t brave enough to leave it on medium heat, now’s the time to return the mixture to medium. Place a lid on the rice with a steam hole, if you don’t have one like this, just place the lid on an angle so some of the steam can escape. Now walk away. Don’t touch the rice until it is fully cooked, you’ll be able to tell because all of the water will be absorbed and there will be a layer of oil on top. This could take 30-40 minutes. Check regularly.

Once the rice is cooked, remove from heat, and immediately use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pot and mix the rice up. Some of the rice will have burned on the bottom, but no worries, it adds a scrumptious factor.

Salsa de Tomatillos

Ingredients
16 tomatillos
Chiles de arbol
Two medium tomatoes
1 jalapeño
5 cloves of garlic
Salt

Instructions
First off, what is a tomatillo? It is a small green tomato looking thing wrapped up in a corn-husk like shell. They are amazing and you should cook with them all the time. You can find them in most grocery stores in the produce section. If you can’t find them, ask around or just go to a Mexican grocery store, they are sure to have them.

Next, chile de arbol? These will be found in the ethnic food isle. The English name is tree chili. They will be in a bag and all dried up looking. Once again, they should be at most grocery stores but you can always find them at Mexican grocery stores.

Now, let’s get started. After peeling the tomatillos, you’re going to parboil the tomatillos, a handful of chiles de arbol, the tomatoes, and jalapeño. This is the part where you can decide how spicy you want the sauce by how many chiles de arbol you add. If you’re feeling really crazy you can also add another jalapeño to the mix. So, to parboil, put all of that in a pot and fill with water. Bring the water to a boil on medium heat, let it boil for only a minute, then remove from heat.

Use a colander to drain all of the water off the vegetables. Now, place them all in a blender with five cloves of garlic and a pinch of salt. Pulse the blender until the liquid is smooth.

Set aside for the next recipe or eat with chips.

En Tomatillos

Ingredients
Can of refried beans
Vegetable oil
1 jalapeño
Tortillas
Salsa de tomatillos
Garnishes

Instructions
In a medium sized pan or pot heat the can of beans with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a tablespoon of water. Stir them together well. Add one jalapeño to the mix for flavor, squish the pepper and cook it with the beans.

Once the beans are well heated, you can start to fry up your tortillas. I use corn tortillas but you could also use flour. In a pan on medium heat put down a light coat of vegetable oil. Heat up your tortillas one or two at a time, until both sides are slightly browned.

Now, in yet another pan, heat up some of your salsa de tomatillos. Flip the tortillas in the heated sauce, so they are well coated. Be careful not to burn yourself and get salsa everywhere, I like to use a spatula to try and combat the struggle.

After all of that, put a tortilla on your plate and fill it with the beans. Fold the tortilla over so the beans are safely wrapped up inside. Line up however many you want on your plate. Serve with a heaping spoonful of the arroz de tomate and garnish with anything you like to put on tacos. I garnish mine with radishes. Some other great toppings would be lettuce, corn, and avocado. Once you have finished, cover some leftover sauce all over that delicious authentic Mexican dish.

¡Provecho!

Post and photos by Kylie Torres.