Mexican Oktoberfest

Cooking with Beer by | Oct 2011 | Issue #57

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

It’s hard not to notice that Mexican beer styles originated from Germany. So this year, for Oktoberfest, I wondered what it would be like to try putting a Hispanic twist on traditional German cuisine. I was shocked at how well the flavors and cooking techniques complimented one another. Here’s how to celebrate this year’s Oktoberfest with a Mexican flare.

Chilaquiles Rojos
This could be one of the best hangover breakfast dishes, while still being hearty enough to be served for dinner.

Serves: 4–6 guests

Roasted Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
8 each tomatoes, roma, fresh, or a 28-ounce can of San Marzano peeled tomatoes
1 each onion, yellow, large, peeled and sliced
1–3 each jalapeño pepper(s) (or Thai, habanero … all depending desired heat level)
14 each garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
3 each ancho peppers, dried, stems and seeds removed
2 each guajillo chilies, dried, stems and seeds removed
1 tsp smoked paprika powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano, dried
24 oz Vienna lager or other German-style malty lager (Bock, Rauchbier, Märzen)
2–3 tbsp vegetable oil or rendered lard
7 oz corn tortilla chips, restaurant style (white, yellow or blue)

Garnish Ingredients:
2 each avocados, ripe, peeled and sliced
1/4 lb. queso fresco or chèvre, crumbled
1 bunch cilantro, washed
favorite hot sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly coat a sheet pan with oil. Mix the tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, garlic cloves, olive oil and salt; mix evenly to cover the vegetables with the oil, and then place into the center of the oven. Roast until the vegetables are a dark brown and the kitchen has a wonderful smell, about 40–50 minutes. Remove from the oven.

While the vegetables are roasting, stem and seed the dried chilies. Then add them to a bowl of warm water and let soak for 20 minutes. In the pitcher of a blender, add the roasted vegetables, rehydrated chilies (leaving the soaking water behind), smoked paprika, oregano and the beer. Purée until the sauce is very smooth.

Place a large Dutch oven or high-sided skillet over medium-high heat and warm the pan for 3–4 minutes. Add the oil or lard, then pour the roasted tomato sauce into the hot pan, causing the sauce to splatter and spit. Cook the sauce for 5 minutes, and then stir in the tortilla chips. Cook for another 3–4 minutes, until the chips are soft, but not mushy.

Portion the chilaquiles into serving bowls and garnish with the sliced avocado, crumbles of cheese and cilantro. Serve with some of your favorite hot sauces. Try pairing this dish with a German Munich Helles, a Schwarzbier, or an Altbier. For variety’s sake, you could also top each bowl with a fried egg for breakfast.

Lamb Neck Roasted Tomato Sauce

3 tbsp olive oil
3 each lamb necks, split in half lengthwise
1 each onion, yellow, large, peeled and sliced
12 oz Vienna lager or other German-style malty lager (Bock, Rauchbier, Märzen)

Make the Roasted Tomato Sauce as described above, and hold the recipe with the smooth sauce in the pitcher of a blender. Heat the Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil, then brown the lamb necks until golden brown on all sides (this may need to be done in batches depending upon the size of the pan). Once browned, pour in the purée and remaining beer, covering the pan with a lid. Place into a 325°F oven and braise the necks until tender, about 3–4 hours.

Take the pan out of the oven and, using tongs, remove the necks to a plate to cool. When the necks are cool enough to handle, remove the meat between the vertebras and add back into the sauce. Repeat until all the meat is removed. If the sauce is too thick, add more beer until the consistency is that of a tomato sauce. Then continue with the recipe above, adding the tortilla chips; garnish and serve.

Hänchen (Chicken) Schnitzel with a Blue Corn Tortilla Crust
This dish has nuances of both cuisines, a combination that’s achieved by applying German cooking methods to a Hispanic flavor profile.

Serves: 4 guests

Hänchen Schnitzel Ingredients:
20 oz Bock-style lager or other malty German-style beer
2 each oranges or tangerines, zest removed, juiced
1 tsp kosher salt
4 each chicken breasts, skin off, boneless

Hänchen Schnitzel Directions:
In a medium-sized bowl, add the beer, citrus zest, juice and salt. Mix together and set aside. Remove the chicken tender from the bottom side of each breast and set aside. Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a clean cutting board. Place one chicken breast in the center of the sheet. Tear off a second sheet of plastic wrap and cover the first piece evenly. Using either a kitchen mallet or an empty, flat-bottomed, thick-walled glass beer bottle, starting in the center of the chicken breast, lightly pound the poultry in a circular pattern, spreading the meat out into a large disk shape. The meat should be an even 1/4 inch thick.

Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap and set the chicken round into the beer marinade. Repeat with the remaining breasts, then pound out each of the chicken tenders in the same fashion. Mix the chicken in the beer marinade to coat evenly, and place into the refrigerator for at least 2–6 hours.

Corn Flour Coating Ingredients:
1 cup corn flour or polenta, milled fine
3 oz blue corn tortilla chips

Corn Flour Coating Directions:
Place the corn flour, tortilla chips and salt into a food processor and pulse until the mixture is a uniform powder consistency. Pour the mixture into a pie plate or a wide bowl.

Egg Wash Ingredients:
2 each eggs, jumbo
1/2 cup Sierra Nevada Kellerweis Hefeweizen or other German Wheat Ale
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Egg Wash Directions:
In another pie plate or wide-rimmed bowl, crack each egg, adding the Hefeweizen and salt. Whisk with a fork until the mixture is incorporated.

Blue Corn Tortilla Crust Ingredients:
7 oz blue corn tortilla chips
1 tbsp ancho chili powder

Blue Corn Tortilla Crust Directions:
In the bowl of the food processor, add the blue corn tortilla chips and fine-ground dried ancho (dried pasilla/poblano pepper) powder, and pulse until the chips are a fine powder. Transfer to another plate or wide-rimmed bowl.

Tomato, Bacon, Sauerkraut and Pepper Salsa Ingredients:
5 each bacon strips, black pepper encrusted, cut into lardons
1 each onion, white, peeled and chopped
1 each bell pepper, yellow, red or orange, seeded and chopped
1 each pasilla/poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
6 each tomatoes, roma, ripe, chopped
1 tbsp Mexican oregano
1 cup sauerkraut, squeezed to remove any liquid/brine

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the cut bacon and let cook, rendering out the fat. Once the bacon starts to become crispy, about 7–9 minutes, add the onions and peppers, and sauté for another 5–6 minutes. Once the onions and peppers are slightly caramelized, add the chopped tomatoes, and season lightly with salt and oregano. Cook the warm salsa for 5–6 more minutes, until the tomato becomes soft and the moisture has evaporated from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the drained sauerkraut, cooking for 3–4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed. Set aside and keep warm.

Hänchen Schnitzel Directions:
Have a large sauté pan or large skillet over medium-high heat ready. Remove a chicken paillard from the beer marinade and shake off any extra moisture. Dredge the chicken into the Corn Flour Coating on each side, making sure the chicken is covered evenly, shaking to remove any extra coating. Next, dredge the coated chicken into the Egg Wash on both sides. Finally, transfer the wet breast into the final Blue Corn Tortilla Crust and coat the meat on both sides. Add a few tablespoons of fat (bacon, olive oil, rendered lard or duck fat) to the preheated pan. Lay the coated cutlet away from you (to prevent splashing hot oil) into the pan and cook about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a warm (300°F) oven and repeat with remaining chicken.

Garnish Ingredients:
1/4 lb. queso fresco or chèvre
1 bunch cilantro, washed
2 each limes, washed and quartered

To Serve:
Place a Hänchen Schnitzel onto a plate with a scoop of rice, beer-stewed black beans or corn flour spätzle, then garnish with a few scoops of the warm Tomato, Bacon, Sauerkraut and Pepper Salsa, sprinkling with some of the queso fresco and a few sprigs of cilantro. Pair this dish with German Hefeweizen, Bock, Kölsch, or Dunkelweizen.