By Victoria Freixa
We all have those tried and true Latin meals that we’ve grown to love. We order them at our favorite restaurants and they’re our go-to meal ideas on a weeknight when we just don’t have the time or energy to come up with new ideas for dinner. But let’s get real, we all wish we had that extra little bit of motivation and enthusiasm to really blow our loved ones away with our culinary ingenuity. Rachel Ray needs to tone it down and stop making us look bad.
I must admit, there’s no feeling quite like a table full of people singing your praises and thanking you for an earth-shattering, belly-filling meal. And what if I told you there’s a way we can cheat our ways to “table full of praises” status, without all the stress. Putting a fun little twist on some of our classic Latin favorites is a pretty common practice, but when homemade, it can have incredibly rewarding results. Here’s 4 ideas for sprucing up some of those sure-bet Latin favorites right at home.
CHICKEN & BRIE EMPANADAS WITH FIG JAM
You can’t mention Latin favorites and not include an empanada. Empanadas are so popular amongst Latinos that you’d be hard-pressed to find a Latin country that doesn’t consider them a cultural treasure—basically, they’re the Salma Hayek of Latin food. And while empanadas already come in tons of variations, there’s still some relatively untapped ingredients empanada makers have simply been slacking on.
The first delicious combo that comes to mind is the chicken and brie mash-up. Brie makes everything better, wouldn’t you agree? And pair it with chicken and figs and you have a fun-size pocket of gooey goodness. The blend of the savory chicken with the creamy brie and sweet fig jam will make this a regularly requested and eaten delight.
SHORT RIB QUESADILLA
Short ribs tend to be slightly ambitious, and for that reason, this is more of a ‘leftovers’ recommendation. One of these days, you’re bound to feel motivated enough to braise some short ribs for the family. A lavish meal for a lavish affair, or just a lavish mood. But once the meal is over, and the last member of the family taps out, you may wonder what to do with the leftover short ribs (make sure you always make extra—because in the wise words of my father, “si no sobró, faltó,” which basically means, “no leftovers: not enough.”)
So, if you’ve followed my dad’s rule of making enough for leftovers, store those short ribs overnight and you’ll have the best quesadilla stuffer the next day—melt-in-your-mouth status. Tender short ribs, gooey cheese, in a warm tortilla. Enough to make leftovers feel like a gourmet meal at a fancy-pants restaurant.
Milanesas are always a hit but make them “a la Napolitana” and you’ll be the most popular person in your home, at least for a good day or two. But if you have little ones and grown people to please simultaneously, then I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that nothing excites the crowd quite like the words “pizza for dinner!” I say why not have the best of both worlds.
Milanesa a la Napolitana has all the makings of a pizza only with the milanesa as the dough. I love this concept. The only difference with this and a milanesa pizza, is the artistic license—and you are the artist, so you decide your toppings. Make beef or chicken milanesas and top them with tomato sauce, cheese, and whatever your preferred pizza toppings are: pepperoni, mushrooms, veggies, the options are endless. Pop them in the oven and you have arguably the best pizza on this side of the Atlantic.
What crazy person doesn’t love a good loaded nacho plate. The melted cheese, the beans, the pico de gallo, the meat, and all on some crispy tortilla chips. But like most things, there’s always room for improvement. An even better alternative to this incredibly popular dish is, say it with me: FRIES! Fries are most people’s kryptonite. Why must they be so gosh darn delicious and addicting?
If you’re looking to spoil the family and splurge one night, or even if you’re home alone and you’re in “treat yoself” mode, then this is the recipe for you. Warm homemade fries, smothered with your favorite nacho toppings and it’s go-time. You’ll forget all about chili cheese fries in no time. Go-time, no time… is this the beginning of a very lame nacho fry poem? I’ll let you be the judge.