One of the most important holidays in Mexico is Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which begins November 1 and is a two-day celebration honoring deceased friends and loved ones. Aaron Sanchez, owner and executive chef of Paladar, in New York City, was invited on the “Today” show to share some traditional dishes from the holiday. Here are his recipes:
Dehydrated, powdered masa, often referred to as instant corn masa. Maseca is a popular brand and can be found in most grocery stores. The flour is made from cooked ground hominy and looks like white cornmeal.
Hoja santa leaves
Sometimes called acuyo or hanepa in some regions of Mexico; also known as Mexican pepper leaf. This aromatic herb, which means “sacred leaf,” literally translated, is much used in the cuisines of tropical Mexico. Unfortunately, it’s not widely available outside the region of origin (southern Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and northern Columbia). The flavor is loosely reminiscent of anise, black pepper and nutmeg; when fresh, the leaves look like big lily pads. Fresh or dried tarragon can be substituted (use 2 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried).
“Ancho” is literally translated as “wide”; a brownish chile that is the dried form of the fresh poblano. It has a mild, sweet flavor and is a staple in Mexican cooking.
The dried form of the fresh mirasol chile. Commonly used to give sauces and marinades a bright red color, it is ferociously hot and is called travieso (“mischievous”) in parts of Mexico because of its bite.
Also called ceylon; the inner bark of the tropical laurel tree. The cinnamon in Mexico is flesh-colored and sold ground into powder or in whole quills, ranging from 6 inches to 1 foot long. The flavor is mild and sweet, without the astringent burn associated with powdered cinnamon (cassia). In the Latin household, canela is used in both sweet and savory dishes. If you must, substitute powdered cinnamon, but the dish will not be nearly as good or complex.
Recipes provided by chef Aaron Sanchez. Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.