What to do with: Taste of Oaxaca Box

What to do with: Taste of Oaxaca Box

Ben @ Ben to Table

Looking for more pointers on what to do with your Taste of Oaxaca items? You've come to the right place!

Much more than mole and chili (though certainly there’s lots of mole and chili!) Oaxacan cooking packs all sorts of delicious flavors for us to explore.

This month’s box features five top-notch ingredients to allow you to explore Oaxacan cuisine. We’re going deep with specific flavors in ways that will be relatively easy to dive into.

Here's what's in the box:

  *  Mole Coloradito (Guelaguetza)
  *  Epazote Powder (Curio Spice Co)
  *  Hoja de Aguacate (Evergreen Herbs)
  *  Poblano Powder (Boonville Barn Collective)
  *  Guajillo Chili Oil
(Hot Mama Salsa)

I'll go into each ingredient a bit below, with recipes interspersed. A couple of additional notes:

  * For a deeper dive, check out Oaxaca, by Bricia Lopez and the rest of the family behind La Guelaguetza, the LA restaurant that brought Oaxacan cooking to the US. You've already got one of their moles, and I'll be referencing their recipes a lot.
  *  There are a lot more chilis used in Oaxacan cooking than what's here. Curio Spice Co and Guelaguetza both have online stores where you can stock up on more variety if you'd like.
  *  Tomatillo salsas are usually better fresh than jarred; making some or getting some locally will help enhance many of the recipes below.
  *  Asiento is a base spread, often smeared on tortillas in different preparations, that can either be made with chicharrón (pork rinds) or there's a great vegan version with garlic, seeds, and peanuts.

Mole Coloradito (Guelaguetza)

Mole Coloradito

As I mentioned above, Guelaguetza is a renowned Los Angeles restaurant, largely credited with first popularizing Oaxacan food in the US, and their lines of jarred mole pastes are top notch, providing an easy path to an authentic version of an otherwise deeply involved preparation.

To turn it into mole sauce, simply follow the directions on the jar, using only tomatoes, salt, brown sugar, and broth. Here are a few top uses for that sauce:

* Simply serve it with tortilla chips (totopos)
* Cook a meat (or meat substitute) in it, or use it as a sauce for poached or grilled meat
* Make "enmoladas," or mole enchiladas, by lightly crisping up corn tortillas, dipping the tortillas into the sauce, then putting on your plate with a couple more, filling with meat, cheese, or veggies as desired, then topping with queso fresco, onions, and more mole sauce

The paste straight from the jar also works wonderfully as a rub, and can work especially well as the seasoning for meat cooked sous vide. I got great results doing that with a variation on this recipe for sous vide pork belly (where I cooked it in mole and used it for tacos, instead of the very different flavors at the link).

Epazote (Curio Spice Co)


Epazote is an herb not-too-frequently seen in the US, but very common in Oaxacan cooking, especially with beans, where we recommend you add them. They both bring a distinctive, earthy flavor AND aid in digestion. Win-win!

Simply add a heaping spoonful to your next pot of beans (quite possibly black beans from Oaxaca!), and see the difference it makes.  

You can also add it as a topping in your next quesadilla, or in your stuffing for chiles relleno.

 Hoja de Aguacate (Evergreen Herbs)

 Avocado Leaves

Even more than Epazote, avocado leaves very much occupy the “frequently seen in Oaxacan cooking; infrequently seen in the US” category. These can be used like bay leaves in brothy preparations, though they soften and blend more easily. They bring an anise-like flavor, and they can be added to pot beans (like the epazote). They’re also used in abundance in soups and stews, like barbacoa.

Here's a great recipe for chicken barbacoa (pollo en barbacoa), and here's one for lamb barbacoa (barbacoa de borrego). Both call for guajillo chiles -- you can substitute some of your guajillo chili oil instead, and I used some roasted tomatillo salsa in lieu of the tomatillos called for in the chicken barbacao. Once you've got the stews made, you can:

* Take the meat off the bone, chop/shred, and use for tacos, taquitos, or stuffings for quesadillas.
* Simply serve with warm tortillas
* Take the meat out, cook some greens/other veggies in the broth, and then recombine
* Ladle over rice

Poblano Powder (Boonville Barn Collective)

Poblano powder

We’ve seen Boonville before: their Piment D’Ville was a star in the France box last year, and this poblano powder is equally (if differently) delicious. Poblanos bring a deeply flavorful, and quite mild, heat.

They’re used fresh most often in Oaxacan cooking, but this powder provides a great way to bring that flavor to bear in all sorts of places, from atop an egg, to in beans, to being a big part of a rub for grilled meats and vegetables. This works with Oaxacan recipes but also stretches far beyond.

Here are a few of my top uses:

* As part of the seasoning mix for seafood, either prepared gently/raw (like a scallop crudo), or sous vide
* Sprinkled on top of eggs
* Added to other dishes, like the barbacoa linked above, as an additional flavor note
* Mixed with sour cream for a lovely dip
* Mixed with queso oaxaca for a quesadilla

Guajillo Chili Oil (Hot Mama Salsa)

Guajillo Chili Oil

There are many chilis used in Oaxacan cooking, including guajillo, pasilla, morita, puya, ancho, costeño, chilhuacle, agua, anaheim, serrano, chipotle, jalapeño, and poblano. Choosing which ones to highlight in this box was tough! But, aside from the poblano powder, guajillo stood out as the clear winner. As the Oaxaca cookbook states, guajillo is “the foundational flavor of many traditional Mexican and Oaxacan dishes, including mole, salsas, and braised meats.”

It’s a relatively mild chili, and this preparation by Hot Mama Salsa will allow you to put it directly to work, without going through the whole toast + soak + blend rigamarole.

Here are some uses, aside from drizzling over eggs, nachos, or roasted meats/veggines:

* In the two barbacoa recipes linked above, in the avocado leaves section
* Substituted for the chile de arbol called for in this black bean paste recipe -- use this paste as a super tasty spread on tortillas
* Substituted for the chile de arbol in this recipe for enfrijoladas (tortillas in a black bean sauce), which also uses avocado leaves and epazote
* In your favorite chili recipe


Add a comment

* Comments must be approved before being displayed.