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Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

February 9, 2017
Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Sometime between the holiday’s fading glow and spring’s first warm breezes lies a long, frigid stretch of nights when we huddled in our homes, hunker down from the cold and wind, and heat up leftovers for dinner. There is no better time than now to gather some friends together and throw a party full of cozy comfort food, delicious cocktails, and loads of laughter—An Italian Polenta Party!

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

When Aida of Salt & Wind suggested the idea to myself and Meg from This Mess Is Ours we answered with an enthusiastic, YES! I mean, I am never one to turn down an opportunity to cook and gather together with my friends, especially over creamy mountains of soft polenta and Aida’s sensational creamy pesto.

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Throwing an Italian Polenta Party is a really fun way to entertain. All you have to do is invite some fun-loving friends, make a few appetizers, a simple cocktail, and then pour out the polenta onto a board in the middle of the table and let everyone dig in!

Here’s All You Need To Know To Throw Your Own Polenta Party

Fiesta: How to Throw An Italian Polenta Party

We all gathered on a late Saturday afternoon and Meg mixed up some sparkling Apple Basil and Prosecco Spritzer cocktails while Meredith finished her sweet herb and floral wreaths to line every plate. Aida arranged Fontina and Prosciutto Puff Pastry Squares and Mushroom Ragout Agrodolce Bites on a marbled wood board along with balsamic roasted apples, several types of cheese, and charcuterie. It was all just the beginning to the main event about to come: The Polenta!!

Italian Polenta Party Menu

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Here is the rundown of the entire menu. We did one meat topping and one vegetarian topping to go with the polenta but you could always just pick one. It is all the little extras however that make it super fun, so try to have at least three or four different sauces or garnishes that your friends can add to their polenta. Included are the recipes to make these but you could easily make one or two and buy a couple more high-quality versions from the store. Or make the sauces and have toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan or Pecorino on hand for generous sprinkling.

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party


Apple Basil and Prosecco Spritzer cocktails | This Mess Is Ours

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party


Fontina and Prosciutto Puff Pastry Squares | Salt & Wind

Mushroom Ragout Agrodolce Bites | Salt & Wind

Nuts, Cheese, Sliced Charcuterie, Balsamic Roasted Apples, Crackers, and Fruit

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

The Polenta Board + A Salad

Escarole, Charred Mandarins, Toasted Almond Salad with Rosemary Balsamic Vinaigrette | Salt & Wind

Basic Creamy Polenta | Salt & Wind

Beer Braised Beef Barbacoa| ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Braised Chickpeas with Porcini and Tuscan Kale | This Mess Is Ours

Creamy Basil Pesto | Salt & Wind

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes | Salt & Wind

Red Pepper Romesco Sauce | Salt & Wind

Blood Orange Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Recipe

Something Sweet

Blood Orange Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone | ¡Hola! Jalapeño

Serving the Polenta

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

For our party of 8 people Aida quadrupled this recipe and we had plenty of leftovers to take home (gratefully). The polenta is really nice because you can start it and then let it basically cook on its own, giving it a stir every now and again until it is ready.

To serve the polenta you’ll need a very large food-safe board. Meg had a gorgeous reclaimed wood board that ran the length of the table from Pasadenaville which worked perfectly as everyone had some polenta right in front of them at the table. A large wood cutting board or tray would also work. Just find your biggest food-safe board and pour the polenta out onto the it. Top half of the polenta with the barbacoa and half with the braised chickpeas and place it in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves. Serve all the sauces and garnishes in small dishes scattered about the table so your friends can add what they please. Aida also made a dairy-free version of the polenta with chicken broth and olive oil instead of the butter, milk, and cheese.

The Place Settings

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Our very talented friend Meredith created delicate mini wreaths made from fresh (and totally edible) herbs, olive leaves, and straw flowers. They look rustic and pretty on the plates and Louisa turned them into a darling little tiara after the party was over. Get all the details on how to make them here.

Shop The Party

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

Here are a few party essentials we can’t live without:

W/R/F Lab ceramics

Pasadenaville Polenta Board

Pink Shibori Napkins

Linen Napkins

Vintage Roly Poly Cocktail Glasses

Cheese Knives

Denim Cloth Table Covering

All Produce: Melissa’s Produce

Fiesta: How To Throw An Italian Polenta Party

A humongous thanks goes to Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours for all the photos.

Did you love this post? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!


Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa

February 8, 2017
Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa Recipe

Cooked in a mixture of dark beer, and spices this barbacoa is crazy tender. Serve with tortillas or over polenta like we did for our Italian Polenta Party.

Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa Recipe

What is Barbacoa?

The term barbacoa has always confused me. The first time I heard it was in my early twenties as a sous chef at Mustard’s Grill in the Napa Valley. A few of my fellow cooks were gathered around discussing weekend party plans and announced they were going to do a barbacoa in their yard. Truly a weekend project, they dug a deep hole, filled it with smoldering wood and a baby goat then covered over the hole with agave leaves.

Beer Braised Beef Barbacoa Recipe

The meat roasted very slowly and about 8-10 hours later was shredded and served with an accompanying chile broth with which you’d brush the meat through before piling it into warm corn tortillas. This was a meal reserved for a grand celebration and one that my Mustard’s compadres offered to replicate for our wedding. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the go ahead from the our reception venue to follow through—something about not wanting a huge, gapping, smoking hole on their property—ridiculous.

Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa Recipe

I was then later told it was only made with cow head and then Chipotle came along serving barbacoa in every nook and cranny of America (did they all have baby goat-sized holes in their parking lots? Were they really serving goat? Or even more interesting, cow’s head?) But now I’ve come to discover that barbacoa means beef to most people, more specifically tender, slow roasted succulent beef.

Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa Recipe

A Much Easier Version

This recipe was inspired by my friend and fellow chef Susana who cooks her barbacoa in a beer and spice bath. The addition of molasses adds a subtle sweetness that is undetectable but also very much there if that makes any sense. It is about as easy as a recipe can possibly be—not one single shovel necessary. All you need is a sturdy blender, a large enough roasting dish, and a few hours then leave the oven to do all the work.

Even better, the slow cooking means an inexpensive cut of meat is actually preferable here making it a very budget-friendly way to feed a crowd. I’ve made this recipe using boneless beef brisket, boneless chuck roast, and even a clod roast which I got just because it was the cheapest roast at the market and I wanted to see if it would be as good as the most expensive brisket and guess what? It was! Any tough cut of meat would melt under all that beer and heat.

Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa Recipe

I made this barbacoa recipe for an Italian Polenta Party I threw with Aida from Salt + Wind and Meg from This Mess is Ours. We piled the meat on top of the polenta straight from the tray with all those beautiful juices. Even though it is Mexican in origin it went beautifully with the sweet roasted tomatoes, grated hard Parmesan, and Aida’s silky romesco sauce. For more polenta party details head here!

Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa Recipe


Beer-Braised Beef Barbacoa
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cooked in a mixture of dark beer, and spices this barbacoa is crazy tender. Serve with tortillas or over polenta like we did for our Italian Polenta Party.
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 5 pounds boneless beef brisket or chuck roast
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, stemmed and sliced (remove seeds if you'd like it less spicy)
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup Italian parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 9 epazote leaves, or ¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  1. Heat oven to 300°F and place roast in a large baking dish or roasting pan.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender starting with the beer (you may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender). Blend on high until all is pureed.
  3. Pour beer mixture over roast and move it around in the mixture to coat all sides. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven.
  4. Slow-roast the beef 3 hours, remove foil and return to the oven and let cook 30-45 minutes more or until the edges are browned and the meat easily pulls apart with a fork.
  5. Shred meat and mix with the sauce in the pan. Serve immediately with a generous sprinkling of Italian parsley leaves or let cool completely, cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  6. To reheat; place meat and sauce in a shallow pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Did you love this recipe? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

A huge thanks goes out to Salt + Wind and This Mess Is Ours for the photographs and WRF Lab for all the ceramics.

Comida Latina, Condiments and Salsas, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes, Salads

Chili-Lime Broiled Salmon Salad

January 25, 2017
Chili-Lime Salmon Salad @holajalapeno

Hello dear hearts! What’s for dinner? Oh, that again. Here’s a constant dinner companion that I have up my sleeve for when I do not want to think about dinner but I must because I decided about 9 years ago to feed and protect. Salmon salad.

It sounds simple enough, and it is, but is also a genius solution because it can be basically anything you want. Follow along below if you’d like to make this exact recipe but you really only need a fillet of salmon, some lettuce, and dressing to make salmon salad for dinner.

Chili-Lime Salmon Salad @holajalapeno

This is a standard at Casa Ramos because there are only a handful of dinner options that all four of us get excited about and salmon salad is one of them.

Spaghetti and meatballs is another although Louisa only eats the meatballs and Hiro only eats the pasta. Roasted chicken is another, but honestly Louisa’s not a huge fan. But salmon salad that’s a winner. Both kids love the salmon, lettuce, and if I add tomatoes, or cucumbers well they REALLY love that but even more of a bonus is I can add roasted butternut squash or potatoes and just put them on the plates that want them. I can also try something new, like these fresh garbanzo beans, and the kids will be so happy about the other stuff happening on their plates that they don’t complain one iota.

chili-lime salmon salad recipe @holajalapeno

Speaking of these garbanzo beans they are delicate and delicious raw versions of the dried or canned chick peas you are familiar with.

I picked some up last weekend at the Mexican market even though I had no idea what to do with them. There was a scrum of overzealous women hoarding the pile of fuzzy green pods and shoveling them into bags with such fervor that I knew they were something not be missed.

Chili-Lime Salmon Salad @holajalapeno

After asking around on Instagram I realized they are best eaten charred, skin and all, on the comal with a little butter and salt and then the beans are finagled out with your teeth edamame style—a street snack eaten in Mexico AND Israel!

For the salad, I removed the beans from the shell and roasted them along with the salmon to get the same toasty effect but one you could eat with a fork. If you can’t find fresh garbanzo beans you can substitute canned beans, drained and rinsed, tossed with a little olive oil, salt and some of the chili-lime mixture you use for the salmon. Cook them the same as the fresh beans, broiled with the salmon fillet.

Chili-Lime Salmon Salad Recipe

Chili-Lime Broiled Salmon Salad Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A main-course salmon salad with roasted butternut squash, pepitas, crunchy Romaine lettuce, broiled chili-lime salmon and fresh garbanzo beans.
Serves: 4
For the Vinaigrette:
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium orange
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced scallions (green part only)
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Chili-Lime Mixture
  • 3 limes zested
  • 2 teaspoons ground chili powder
For the Butternut Squash:
  • 2 pounds peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into ½-inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Salmon:
  • 1½ pounds salmon fillet, rinsed, patted dry, and pin bones removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Salad:
  • 1 pound fresh garbanzo beans, peeled
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried thoroughly, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • ¼ cup pepitas (roasted, salted pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
To Make the Vinaigrette:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth.
To Make the Chili-Lime Mixture:
  1. Combine lime zest and chili powder in a small bowl.
To Make the Butternut Squash:
  1. Heat oven to 450°F and arrange rack in the upper third.
  2. Toss squash slices with oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of the chili-lime mixture. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast until just tender when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes.
To Make the Salmon:
  1. Heat broiler to high.
  2. Lay salmon on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and remaining chili-lime mixture. Rub everything over the salmon so the flesh is seasoned all over.
  3. Toss fresh garbanzos with a teaspoon or so of oil and a pinch of salt and arrange around the salmon. Cut one of the limes you zested in half and squeeze the lime halves over everything.
  4. Broil salmon and beans until salmon is done to your likeness. This is going to depend on the thickness of your salmon, start checking after 4 minutes. Salmon should feel firm to the touch, but not hard and opaque. This could take anywhere from 4-10 minutes.
For the salad:
  1. Toss Romaine, pepitas, squash, cilantro leaves, and garbanzo beans with about half of the vinaigrette. Arrange on plates and divide the salmon on top of the salad. Pass remaining dressing on the table.

Did you love this recipe? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes, Soups and Stews

A #1 Kitchen Mistake + A Caldo de Res Recipe

January 17, 2017
Caldo de Res Recipe from @holajalpeno

Thanks to JORD for sponsoring this post. All ideas and opinions are my own.

Winter cooking means long-simmering stews (like this Caldo de Res recipe), braises that require the meat to be browned first, and soups whose vegetables must caramelize to perfection. What do all these things have in common? Patience…no time….no waiting…err patience.

Caldo de Res Recipe from @holajalapeno

The biggest mistake you are probably making in the kitchen is more about what you are NOT doing, and that mis amigos, is waiting. Waiting for the pan to get hot, or waiting for the oil to get hot, or giving the chicken a bit more time to brown is a major factor in how the final dish will turn out. Therefore, it is worth taking your time and I think the easiest way to do this is by watching the clock. Just when you think something is done it is best to give yourself just one more minute before taking any action. Unless something is on fire, it probably needs a minute to really get crisp or hot or caramelized, you get the picture.

Caldo de Res Recipe from @holajalapeno

Wearing my JORD watch in the kitchen is very helpful. That way I can set a time for say, when I need to stir my onions that are caramelizing, and then walk away. When I’m just standing there watching the pot is when I get impatient. It is easier for me to look at my watch, set a time, and go wash a few dishes or tidy up the kitchen while I wait.


I’m never in the kitchen without my JORD Frankie 35 in Zebrawood and Champagne. It’s scratch-resistant crystal face means I don’t have to worry about it holding up to my busy cooking schedule and it is completely made out of wood (97% of which is reused from old furniture remnants). If you know an impatient cook you should check out the giveaway and gift code at the end of this post and gift a JORD watch for Valentine’s Day.


This Caldo de Res recipe is a perfect place to practice your kitchen zen. First of all it doesn’t require mere minutes of waiting but a few hours, which in some ways is much easier. The longer the beef and bones simmer the richer the broth will become but if you skimp on the time the flavor of the soup will sacrifice. Secondly, the cut of beef (the shank or leg) is pretty tough which means it needs a whole heck of a lot of time to gently simmer, softening up those tough fibers.

Caldo de Res Recipe from @holajalapeno

If you live near a Mexican market you will not have trouble finding center-cut beef shank which is what I use to make my Caldo de Res. They should also sell a mixture of beef and bones and chunks of flavorful fat called, carne para caldo de res, or beef for soup which is another way to go. It is more traditional but a little too fatty for my tastes. If you can’t find either one use beef stew meat and see if you can find an oxtail or beef bone to throw in for flavor.

Caldo de Res {Mexican Vegetable Beef Soup}
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Mexican comfort food at its best. This Caldo de Res or Mexican Vegetable Beef Soup takes 15 minutes to put together and is the best way to warm up in winter.
Serves: 6-8 Servings
  • 2 pounds center-cut beef shank (with the bone) or beef stew meat
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatillos, husks removed and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt + more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
For Garnish:
  • lime wedges
  • minced red onion
  • cilantro leaves
  • dried oregano
  • sliced jalapeños
  1. Rinse beef and place in a large soup pot. Add onion, tomatoes, garlic, salt, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, black pepper and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.
  2. Let gently simmer for 2 hours or until beef is falling off the bone. Add carrot and potatoes and let cook until they are just tender, about 30-45 minutes more.
  3. Taste and add more salt if needed (I ended up adding 2 more tablespoons).
  4. You can either remove the meat from the bones or serve as is with lots of chopped onion and lime wedges and warm tortillas.


Want to score one of these beautiful watches for yourself? Thanks to the wonderful JORD family they are offering a giveaway for all my readers! Enter to win a $100 Gift code to use towards your very own JORD watch in Men’s or Women’s styles.

To enter follow this link: 

And get this: everyone will automatically receive a $25 code just for entering! The contest will close on 02/19/17 at 11:59pm. Both the $100 and the $25 codes will expire on 04/30/17. Best of luck everyone!!

Did you love this recipe? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram. Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. If you run into trouble shoot me a message on Instagram and I’ll walk you through it.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!


Luxury Wooden Watch

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

Chicken Tamales with Pumpkin & Mole Sauce

December 7, 2016
Chicken Tamales @holajalapeno

What are your Christmas food traditions? Eggnog? Gingerbread? A favorite Christmas cookie perhaps? In our house it’s just not Christmas until we have a freezer full of tamales. I wish I could say there was a one and only tamale that I make every year, but to be honest there are too many versions to pick just one and every year I like to try something different but chicken tamales are usually on the menu in some form or another.

This year I settled on a little combo I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Chicken tamales with roasted cubes of pumpkin and a sweet and spicy mole made from charred pineapple, spicy chipotle chiles, and ripe plantain called Manchamantel.

Chicken Tamales @holajalapeno

If making tamales seems too overwhelming, host a Tamalada!

A tamalada is a tamale-making party where everyone chips in on the chore of assembling the tamales and gets to take a dozen or so home when it’s all over.

Follow these steps to make the perfect tamale!

First things first, gather all you ingredients. If you are making these chicken tamales, have the chicken cooked and shredded, the mole and masa made, and the pumpkin roasted.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Recipe @holajalapeno

Soak the corn husks.

Dried corn husks can be found at any Mexican market and the ethnic aisle of some grocery stores or you can buy them online here. They will need about 2 hours to soak in hot water.


Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Recipe

After the husks have soaked wipe each one dry on both sides.

Set aside any that are smaller than a hand-width wide or any that are torn. Don’t throw them away though you can use them to line the tamale pot or tear into smaller strips to tie the tamales together if you’d like.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe @holajalapeno

The Steamer

Fill your tamale steamer with water up to the rack where the tamales will sit. I use a 15.5-quart tamale pot like this one, but you can also use a large lidded stock pot fitted with a steamer rack on the bottom. Line the rack with a few soaked corn husks and put it on the stove to boil. Spoon about 1/3- 1/2 cup of masa onto a cornhusk. Make your own masa following the directions below or purchase prepared masa (masa preparada para tamales) at your local Mexican market. Masa preparada is made from fresh ground corn instead of dried cornmeal.  

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe @holajalapeno

How to Spread

Using a large spoon or a tamale spreader and spread masa evenly over the bottom half of the cornhusk, leaving about a 1/2 inch border on the sides.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Recipe @holajalapeno

Fill with about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin and 2 tablespoons of chicken in the middle.

I used sugar pie pumpkin, but any winter squash would be delicious. You want enough filling to get a little chicken and pumpkin with each bite.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Recipe @holajalapeno

Spoon about a tablespoon of mole sauce over the chicken. 

Don’t be skimpy with the sauce, not enough and the tamale will be dry. It’s okay if a little drips out the top when you are rolling them.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe @holajalapeno

How to Roll

Using the clean edges of the corn husk, bring the two sides of the masa together to enclose the filling. Press the two sides of masa together to seal.

Chicken Tamales Recipe with Manchamantel Mole Sauce @holajalapeno

Tuck one side of the cornhusk over the masa and pull back gently to make a snug cylinder.

If you’ve ever rolled sushi you will be familiar with this move.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe @holajalapeno

Roll the husk up and fold the pointed end down.

Place the tamale with the folded-side down and repeat until you have enough tamales to fill the pot. If you want, you can wrap each tamale individually in parchment or waxed paper at this point, place in a resealable plastic bag and freeze to steam later. They will keep uncooked in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe @holajalapeno

Now, steam away! 

Place the chicken tamales with the open side up in the tamale steamer, stacked against each other so they don’t fall and become unraveled. You want there to be a lot of steam but not boiling away, adjust the heat accordingly.

Chicken Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe @holajalapeno

Let the chicken tamales cool

About 10-15 minutes, then unwrap and dig in! If saving for later you can let them cool completely then pack into resealable plastic bags. They will keep for about a week in the refrigerator or 2-3 months in the freezer.

Chicken and Roasted Pumpkin Tamales with Manchamantel Mole Recipe

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 4 hours

Yield: About 3 dozen

Fluffy tamales filled with chicken, roasted pumpkin, and a sweet and spicy Manchamantel mole sauce made from charred pineapple and chipotles.

A time-consuming task but definitely worth the work, plus this recipe makes a few dozen so you can have a freezer stocked with enough tamales for a month!

Chicken, mole sauce, and pumpkin can be prepped a few days in advance.

Make sure to soak the corn husks a couple hours before beginning.


    For the Chicken:
  • 1 (4-5 pound) whole chicken
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • For the Mole:
  • One recipe Manchamantel Mole Sauce
  • For the Pumpkin:
  • 4 cups peeled and diced pumpkin or winter squash
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • For the Tamales:
  • 50 dried corn husks
  • For the Masa:
  • 6 cups Maseca corn flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup lard or vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
  • 5-6 cups chicken cooking liquid or store-bought broth


    To Make the Chicken:
  1. Rinse chicken and remove any neck or giblets (save and freeze for later or discard).
  2. Place in a large stock pot with remaining chicken ingredients and cover by an inch or so with cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook until chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, about 1-11/2 hours.
  3. Remove chicken to a baking sheet and let cool. Strain broth into a heat-proof container, discard solids. When broth is cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to use for the mole sauce and masa.
  4. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces removing any bone, skin, or fat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. To Make the Pumpkin:
  6. Heat oven to 450°F. Toss diced pumpkin with oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. You may need to use 2 baking sheets if they are too crowded on one.
  7. Roast until just tender, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.
  8. To make the Tamales:
  9. Soak corn husks at least 2 hours in advance in hot water. Use a heavy plate to submerge husks in water.
  10. Combine Maseca, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add cubed lard or shortening rubbing it into the dry ingredients with your fingers until it in very small pieces. Add 5 cups of reserved chicken cooking liquid and mix into a dough making sure all Maseca has been incorporated and there are no dry spots. It is best to mix together with your hands so you can feel any dry Maseca.
  11. Add more liquid if the masa is too dry, you want it to be easily spreadable but not runny, like fluffy mashed potatoes. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
  12. Assemble:
  13. Fill a tamale steamer with water just until it reaches the rack where the tamales will sit. Use a few of the small or ripped soaked corn husks to line the rack. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn heat to medium and keep covered.
  14. Dry a soaked corn husk with a clean kitchen towel. Hold the corn husk with the wide end toward you. Using a large spoon or tamale spreader, evenly spread about 1/2 cup masa from the middle of the husk down leaving about 1/2-inch border on the sides.
  15. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of chicken and 1 tablespoon of pumpkin down the middle, then top with a generous tablespoon of mole.
  16. Fold one side of masa over the filling until the two edges of the corn husk meet, and holding onto one side of corn husk, pull the other side toward the middle to press the two edges of masa together. Fold the pointy end of the corn husk up over the large end, and place on a clean baking sheet. Repeat with remaining corn husks.
  17. Place tamales vertically, open-side up in the tamale steamer, keeping them snug in the pot so they don't unravel during cooking. Make sure water is at a steady simmer and producing lots of steam. Cover tightly and steam until masa is cooked through and not doughy in the middle, about 45 minutes. Check occasionally and add more water if the pot looks dry.
  18. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pot. Tamales can also be left in the pot, covered with a clean towel (and then covered with the steamer lid) for up to an hour before serving. They will stay warm and soft if you want to make them in advance.
  19. Serve with remaining mole.

Did you love this recipe? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram! Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!

Besos, Kate

A big thank you to Beard + Bonnet and Salt + Wind for the beautiful photos!

Comida Latina, Condiments and Salsas, Dairy Free, Recipes

Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe

December 7, 2016
Manchamantel Mole Sauce @holajalapeno

Are you familiar with the seven moles of Oaxaca? Similar to the French “Mother Sauces“, these moles represent the foundation of Oaxaca cooking….and also prove my point that Mexican gastronomy is every bit as complex and sophisticated as any in Europe, but that’s a post for another time. Let’s just start with one for now: Manchamantel Mole Sauce.

Manchamantel Mole Recipe @holajalapeno

What is Manchamantel?

There is the classic mole negro made lots of chiles and bittersweet chocolate. There are moles in white, green, and yellow, then there is a real beauty called Manchamantel. Literally translating to tablecloth-stainer. This is a sweet and spicy mole made from chipotle chiles, pineapple, peanuts, and plaintain. It is commonly made more like a stew where thick pieces of pork or chicken or chorizo are cooked as part of the sauce then the served together with tortillas or rice.

Manchamantel Mole Sauce @holajalapeno

I wanted to make it to stuff in this year’s Christmas tamales with chicken and roasted pieces of pumpkin for our tamalada. This recipe makes a ton so I figured (or had high hopes) that there would be plenty leftover after making the tamales to have around for the week to come. I’m not sure what I was thinking. After everyone had packed up and gone home, there wasn’t a single drop of mole to be had! Make some more I must, but there are worse fates in life.

Manchamantel Mole Sauce @holajalapeno

Here’s the deal with Manchamantel mole sauce

I made it in conjunction with the chicken that I cooked for the tamales. If you are not making the tamales and want to make the mole anyway, substitute store-bought chicken broth where it calls for the cooking liquid from the chicken. You could also make it vegetarian and use the water the chiles are soaked in instead of the chicken broth. If you are going that route however you are going to need more liquid than that, so I would also buy a container of vegetable broth as well.

Manchamantel Mole Sauce Recipe {Charred Pineapple and Chipotle Mole}

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 cups

I made this mole to go with my chicken and roasted pumpkin tamales so I used the cooking liquid from the chicken to make the mole sauce. If you are making the mole on it's own without the chicken use store-bought broth where it says to use the chicken cooking liquid. Mole is better the longer it sits. Make a day or two in advance for the best flavor. Mole will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.


  • 3 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, diced
  • 1/4 cup raw peanuts
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1 inch piece Mexican cinnamon stick (canela) or regular cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or lard
  • 1 small ripe plantain (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut in thick slices
  • 3 chipotles en adobo
  • 3 cups broth from chicken cooking liquid or store-bought chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Remove stems from ancho chiles and shake out the seeds. Tear into thick strips so they can lay flat. Heat a dry comal, cast iron skillet, or frying pan over medium heat and lay chile strips in pan. Toast on both sides until darkened and fragrant, but not burnt. Remove as they are toasted.
  2. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add toasted chiles and remove from heat. Use a plate to submerge completely under water. Let sit 30 minutes.
  3. Heat broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and place onion, garlic, and pineapple on prepared sheet. Broil until charred on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove garlic as it gets toasted, it will cook much quicker than onion or pineapple.
  4. Toast peanuts and almonds separately in a dry frying pan over medium heat, stirring frequently so they don't burn. Let both cool slightly, then grind in a spice or clean coffee grinder until finely ground, but not a paste. Set aside.
  5. Grind cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon in a coffee grinder until finely ground. Set aside.
  6. Heat oil or lard in a large pot (large enough to cook mole in--I used a 4-quart Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add plantain slices and fry on both sides until golden. Use tongs or slotted spoon to remove to a plate, leaving oil in pot.
  7. In a blender combine drained, soaked chiles, ground nuts, a third of the charred vegetables, and about a cup of the cooking liquid from the chicken. Blend until very smooth. Pour into a large bowl and repeat with remaining charred vegetables, ground spices, fried plantains, and chipotles adding enough chicken broth to get things moving but not too much to make it runny (you'll use about 3 cups total). You may have to do this in two more batches depending on the size of your blender.
  8. Return pot with oil to medium heat. Once shimmering, add pureed sauce (careful it will spatter). Stir continuously to cook the sauce in the oil. Add salt and reduce the heat to low. Cook until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  9. Serve with roasted chicken or pork or in tamales.

Did you love this recipe? I want to know! Leave me a comment and snap a photo for Instagram! Tag @holajalapeno so I can see your beautiful creation! Your feedback is super important to me. Besos! Kate

A BIG thank you to Salt + Wind and Beard + Bonnet for these beautiful photos!

Apps, Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Recipes, Snacks

Mayo-Free Guacamole Deviled Eggs

November 30, 2016
Guacamole Deviled Eggs Recipe

Hi! Hi! And Happy Monday. Do you remember a couple weeks back when I made you Butternut Squash and Maple Empanadas and told you about the new e-cookbook that myself and whole slew of other talented food bloggers contributed to called The Casual Veggie?  Well, guess what? The book is now available! And to celebrate I made you guacamole deviled eggs!

Guacamole Deviled Eggs



The Casual Veggie Cookbook

This is a extensive compilation that features over 150 veggie-centric recipes from 45 food bloggers. Each of the 29 most common veggies from asparagus to eggplant to Brussels sprouts have their own chapter with details on how to buy, store, and cook them. The digital format is easy to navigate from any device but all the recipes are also printable so you don’t have to take your iPad into the kitchen if you don’t want to. The book is available for download right here from my site and every copy of the book bought from ¡Hola! Jalapeño helps support my blog, which means more delicious recipes for you…and maybe a glass of wine for me, I won’t lie. To purchase your very own copy click on the image of the book on the right-hand side of this page!

Deviled Guacamole Eggs

To celebrate several of us contributors are throwing a virtual party full of autumn nibbles and drinks.

Click on the links below to find all the details. My contribution to the shindig is a combination of everyone’s two favorite hors d’oeuvres; Deviled Eggs and Guacamole to make the world’s best guacamole deviled eggs (in my opinion). If the words deviled eggs have you thinking gloppy mayo-laden gut bombs then think again. These are light and creamy without using any mayonnaise at all. The avocado acts as the fat here which means less guilt for me when I accidentally devour half a dozen.

Guacamole Stuffed Eggs

Even better guacamole deviled eggs are super simple to put together. Here’s how…

Ingredients for deviled eggs

First you get the hard part out of the way; boiling and peeling the eggs (I give you a detailed rundown in the recipe for how I boil eggs, follow them and you will have perfect eggs every time). Then combine the yolks and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the filling is smooth. If you don’t have a food processor you can chop all the filling ingredients super small and then mash them together with a fork.

Pureeing the filling for eggs

Pipe or spoon the filling into the egg white shells, top with some thinly sliced jalapeños or red chiles if you’d like and serve!

Prepping Guacamole Eggs

For the rest of the party check out these fancy veggie-inspired autumn drinks and appetizers:

Guacamole Deviled Eggs Recipe


Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of salt, divided
  • 1/2 large, ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced, plus 1 for garnish (optional)
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil then remove from heat, cover, and let sit 12 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle.
  2. Peel eggs and slice in half vertically. Remove yolks and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and pulse until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally.
  4. Pipe or spoon filling back into the cooked egg whites, top with thinly sliced jalapeños if desired and serve.

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Recipes, Side Dishes

Blistered Sweet Potatoes with Serranos and Lime

November 15, 2016
Blistered Sweet Potatoes Recipe

I romanticize Thanksgiving.

In my mind Thanksgiving is a crisp fall day where family gathers around, happy to be with one another, and share in a glorious day of cooking and eating together. I feel like I had such Thanksgivings as a child but when I think back on it, I was probably too young to notice any tension between adults and only ate my favorite things, shunning the oyster stuffing and other offerings I thought looked or smelled weird.

Blistered Sweet Potatoes Recipe

In reality this day is usually not everything we hoped it would be; too much family, or not enough. Guest’s palates don’t reflect your own and favorite dishes are missed or worse than that, the meal is a flop and nothing is good at all. Or even worse than that, everything is completely perfect but you are too tired from refining every last detail that you could care less about the meal and would much rather drink a glass of bourbon…I mean wine and go to bed.

Blistered Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Jenny Rosenstrach writes about it beautifully in her newest book How to Celebrate Everything. She gives it a name in fact: Empty Celebration Syndrome, which perfectly describes the feeling (especially at Thanksgiving) that something is, I don’t know…..missing.

This year, even though it will be just the four of us, I will try to make the dinner seem special and hopefully, unlike every other family dinner we have at 6pm on a Thursday night. I will make pumpkin pie even if Louisa and I are the only ones who will eat it. I think I will make little Cornish game hens instead of a big turkey, although it really doesn’t matter— Hiro devours the drumstick of any poultry—and I will make these spicy candied sweet potatoes for Armando (although maybe just half a recipe, these make a ton).

Blistered Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Tips for success

If you want to add this recipe to your Thanksgiving menu (which I highly encourage) here’s a few tips: The sweet potatoes can be slow roasted the day before and kept covered in the refrigerator. The lime syrup can also be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to eat, drizzle the syrup over the sweet potatoes and roast until caramelized and blistered in a few spots. Sprinkle with chives and salt and serve.

Blistered Sweet Potatoes with Serranos and Lime Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: 8-10 Servings

A candied sweet potato dish that defies all cliches; slow-roasted sweet potatoes drizzled with a spicy lime syrup and blistered in a hot oven until brown and caramelized. Dairy and gluten free!

The sweet potatoes can be roasted up to a day in advance and the lime syrup can be made the day before as well. Drizzle syrup over potatoes and roast just before serving.


  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 2 thinly sliced serrano chiles
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • sea salt flakes for sprinkling, optional


  1. Heat oven to 300°F. Scrub sweet potatoes and poke all over with a fork. Place in a roasting pan large enough to hold all the potatoes with a few inches in-between (I used a 12 x 16-inch roasting pan).
  2. Cover with foil and bake until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife, but not mushy, about 60-70 minutes. Unwrap and let cool slightly. Raise oven temp to 450°F and arrange a rack to the top of the oven.
  3. Meanwhile, combine serranos, coconut oil, lime zest and juice, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the oil is melted and the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
  4. Smash potatoes with the palm of your hand. Pour syrup over the top and roast in the top of the oven until blistered and browned, about 20-25 minutes. If you'd still like them a bit more brown you can stick them under the broiler for a few minutes more.
  5. Sprinkle with chives and sea salt and serve.

Comida Latina, Dairy Free, Recipes, Salads, Side Dishes

Rainbow Jicama Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

October 18, 2016
Rainbow Jicama Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe

This jicama salad is a colorful combination of jicama, sugar snap peas, radishes, and red cabbage tossed with a creamy (but dairy free) poppy seed dressing.

This jicama salad is the seventh and final recipe to wrap up our Dia de los Muertos super-fiesta and thus our menu is complete. Now you have all the recipes and are ready to throw the ultimate Day of the Dead party in a couple of weeks.

Rainbow Jicama Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe

I love the entire menu because there is something for everyone; vegan pozole, spicy chicken enchiladas, even a knock-your-socks-off chocolate pie but I dare say, I might have saved the best for last.

Rainbow Jicama Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe

Why You’ll Want to Make This Jicama Salad

This salad is so bright and cheerful and full of crunch it is borderline addictive. And (aside from all the chopping) pretty simple to throw together. The dressing you will find yourself making again and again and putting on just about every single salad you make. It feels indulgent and creamy but is really only four ingredients and dairy-free!

Rainbow Jicama Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe

How To Cut Matchsticks

Back to the chopping: let me assure you, you can chop these vegetables anyway you please. They do not need to be in uniform matchsticks but they sure look pretty that way and if you have little eaters matchsticks are pretty fun to eat with your fingers too. To cut vegetables into matchsticks (aka julienne), peel and cut off the top and bottom of the veggie. Cut the veg into thin (1/4-inch) thick slices, then layer the slices on top of each other and cut into 1/4-inch thick strips. This video shows what I’m talking about.

Rainbow Jicama Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe

For more fun Day of the Dead ideas and the full menu check out this post!

A special thanks to Melissa’s Produce for all the beautiful vegetables and to Beard and Bonnet for the beautiful photos!! 

Rainbow Jicama Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6-8 Servings

A colorful and crunchy combination of jicama, sugar snap peas, radishes, and red cabbage tossed with a creamy (but dairy free) poppy seed dressing.


    For the Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • For the Salad:
  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced
  • 4-5 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage


    To make the dressing:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a resealable jar. Cover tightly and shake until smooth. Dressing can be refrigerated for up to a week.
  2. To make the salad:
  3. Toss all the ingredients together. Drizzle dressing over the top and toss until well coated. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Serve immediately.
  4. All the vegetables can be cut up to a day in advance. Keep them separated however, otherwise the red cabbage will color anything it touches. Dress the salad right before serving.

Dairy Free, Drinks, Recipes

Campari Wine Spritzer

September 16, 2016
Campari Wine Spritzer Recipe

Hi There! Today I’ve got a quick and easy cocktail for your Friday. This is a most efficient drink and one you will find yourself making again and again because for the amount of effort (or lack thereof) the results are truly stellar.

Campari Wine Cocktail Recipe

We are all familiar with Campari, right? It is the cardinal red Italian apéritif used to make Negronis and Americanos and all those other fancy drinks we like to sip on date night. Its bitter orange flavor is incredibly refreshing and us lovers of all things bitter might even enjoy it poured over ice but let’s not be crass.

Campari Wine Cocktail Recipe

Now let’s move on to the wine. A dry, steely white wine with just a touch of fruit cuts through the bitterness of the Campari. I used Pinot Grigio to keep with the Italian theme but it depends on how sweet you’d like it to be. I would only recommend to stay away from Chardonnay; it has too much of a woodsy thing going on to be good here.

Campari Wine Cocktail Recipe

Finally a splash of sparkling mineral water adds effervescence for a refreshing drink that is perfect for sipping before dinner. Our mineral water of choice is Topo Chico, bottled at the source in Monterrey, Mexico, just saying.

Campari Wine Cocktail Recipe

Don’t forget the lemon slices, also, orange would be good. Have a great weekend mi gente!!

Campari Wine Spritzer Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

A simple drink idea: bittersweet, fire-red Campari mixed with dry white wine, a fizzy splash of cold sparkling water and a few thin lemon slices.


  • 1 part Campari
  • 2 parts chilled white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • Splash cold sparkling water
  • Lemon slices


  1. Fill a rocks glass with ice. Pour in Campari and wine, add a splash of sparkling water and stir to combine. Add a few lemon slices and enjoy.