As today is December 13th, and as December 13th is just twelve days from Christmas, today is the day we start celebrating Los Doce Dias de Navidad–twelve days of all the Christmas-y things we do here at Frontera. First up: buñuelos.
Like almost everything in Mexico, buñuelos vary by region. In Oaxaca the fritters are made only around Christmas; elsewhere, such as Morelia, they’re made year-round. In many places they are thin and crisp; in Mexico City, you’ll often find buñuelos de viento, which are thicker and shaped like a flower.
We’re serving them both ways. At Frontera, miniature versions of thin buñuelos are paired with guava, cinnamon ice cream and lime-scented meringue. At XOCO, buñuelos de viento are plated on ganache and topped with ice cream and cajeta.
Can you make these at home? Sort of. Buñuelos de viento require a specially shaped iron, which is kept hot, dipped into the batter, and then immediately dropped into the fryer, where the buñuelo crisps up and releases. Hard to replicate at home, for obvious reasons. But if you’re up for a project (maybe we a few other people to help), you can make the flat version at home. We’ve put the recipe (originally from Fiesta at Rick’s) on the site. Get organized now–Christmas is in only doce days.
For our second day of Los Doce Dias de Navidad, we present a salad. A salad with sprinkles on it.
The ensalada denoche buena is traditionally served on, well, noche buena, a.k.a Christmas Eve. Aesthetics are crucial here: The salad is designed in the Christmas color palette of green (lettuce), red (beets, pomegranate seeds) and white (jicama).
Of course, if you Google the salad, you’ll see that some people leave out the green—that is, the lettuce—altogether. And some people go crazy with the white, adding, um, mayonnaise. Our version at XOCO sticks pretty traditional, with romaine, roasted beets, jicama, orange, peanuts and a piloncillo-sherry vinaigrette. True, we left out the pomegranate seeds. But we kept the sprinkles, which are the ornaments on this Christmas tree of a salad. By any measure, that’s a fair trade-off.
It’s Los Doce Dias De Navidad. Day three. Time to talk about rompope.
The big question about rompope is, is it eggnog?
The answer: Basically.
It’s true that eggnog often incorporates egg whites that have been whipped but not cooked, and that, in contrast, rompope is usually cooked fully. But in all other ways the two are twins.
Sometimes this sweet, custardy drink is spiked with booze, sometimes not. Sometimes people buy it at the store, where it’s available year-round (despite having strong ties to Christmas); other times, people make it at home.
It goes without saying that we like rompope much better when its made from scratch. Our housemade version is being sold in adorable little bottles at XOCO. Alas, those are meant to be consumed in the restaurant only. (If you want rompope at home, there’s a recipe right here.)
But wait. There’s a third option: Come to Topolo, order the Fiesta de Rompope and eat your rompope instead.
There’s sort of always a beer revolution happening at Xoco—we’ve got 30 craft beers available all the time, and that’s not for nothing, you know? But in May we’re going next level. On May 7th at 5pm we’re hosting Kevin Kuzlik from Revolution Brewing to come in and give you free beer (and because fair is fair, we’ll give you free food to go along with it). Following that, we embark on a full month of Revolution madness, an entire menu of Revolution beers paired with new, seasonal additions to Xoco’s already extremely beer-friendly menu. Finally, you should probably know about Craft Beer Week, because it means that from May 15 through May 25, we’re selling Revolution beers for $4. That’s almost cheaper than water. But hey, it’s not called a revolution for nothing…
This morning, Katy and I spoke at length about what the perfect Mother’s Day recipe is. (Forgetful folks may want to take this as a reminder—Mother’s Day is this Sunday!) Like most people, our first thoughts were of baked goods. But baked goods just weren’t sitting right. Anything with chocolate seemed wrong. Strawberry shortcake—at one time a famous recipe around here—seemed like a good idea, but here in Chicago berries are nowhere in sight. Our minds wandered to savory recipes like this egg torta, but those didn’t seem right either. Imagine greeting your mother with the words “Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Here’s an egg sandwich.”
Then we thought of granola. Granola excites us for Mother’s Day because it’s both a brunch (fruit and yogurt needed) and a gift (Ball jar recommended). It helps that we have a great granola recipe from Xoco, full of puffed amaranth, almonds, pepitas and honey. And it helps that is just sounds good:
“Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I made you some granola.”
1 1/2cupold-fashioned rolled oats (quick-cooking oats will work here, but the texture isn’t as attractive)
1/2cup (about 2 ounces)raw almonds
1/2cup (about 2 ounces)raw peanuts
1/2cup (about 2 ounces)raw cashews
1/2hulled, raw pumpkin seedshulled, raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/4cupspuffed amaranth (amaranth is classic in Mexico, but if you can’t find it, replace it with the easier-to-find puffed millet)
Turn on the oven to 300 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread out the oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds and amaranth. Bake, stirring halfway through, until the nuts are just beginning to color and the oats are crispy, about 20 minutes. Scrape it all to a large bowl, sprinkle on the flour and toss to coat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, sugar and salt. Pour this mixture over the oats and mix until everything is evenly coated. Spread the mixture into an even layer on that same parchment-lined baking sheet and return it to the oven. Bake, stirring every ten minutes, until the oats are a rich caramel color, the nuts are browned and shiny, and the granola is fragrant, about 40 minutes. (The baked mixture may still feel dampish when you stir it with a spatula, but it will crisp as it cools.) Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the granola cool completely. With your hands, break the granola into bite-size clusters and transfer it to an airtight container; it will keep for two weeks or so.