A Mexican breakfast or El desayuno often is just a simple fare of coffee and some sweet rolls or bread. Mexicans eat big time, commonly the grandest meal of the day, later in the morning (around 11 am) during Almuerzo or brunch. Basic almuerzo menu consists of tortilla, eggs, some beans, chocolate drink or chocolate over bread and fruits. Tortilla is actually a staple in any Mexican dish. It is considered as the bread of Mexico and is made from the cornmeal called masa. A famous brunch fare, which has tortilla as a base, is Huevos Rancheros. It is a full meal that consists of lightly fried tortillas and fried eggs topped with freshly-made salsa and served with refried black beans (frijoles refritos) avocado slices, some fried potatoes and extra chili peppers. Scrambled eggs are an alternative to fried eggs. The dish is served like an open-faced sandwich and is eaten using a knife and fork. To prepare one, the following ingredients are needed:
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 can (16 oz) cut tomatoes, cut to smaller pieces
- 3 tablespoon canned diced green chili peppers, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, or 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 4 each 6-inch tortillas
- 8 eggs
- 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil on a cast iron skillet or heavy frying pan. Allow to cook until tender but not too soft. Add the tomatoes, chili peppers, garlic and chili powder. Bring the mixture to a slow boil. When boiling point is reached, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the sauce has slightly thickened. Meanwhile, place tortillas on a baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees or till lightly crisp. One at a time, break an egg into a measuring cup and carefully slide the egg into the simmering tomato sauce. Repeat with remaining eggs. Cover and simmer slowly for 3 to 5 minutes or till the whites have set and the yokes begin to thicken. Place each tortilla on a plate, top with 2 eggs, spoon tomato sauce over top of eggs and sprinkle with cheese. Serve with a hot pepper sauce.
As already mentioned beans in the refried form or Frijoles Refritos are commonly served as a side to huevos rancheros. These are beans that are slow cooked with onions and garlic or cooked in chili broth. Then the beans are mashed and fried in pork lard. Pinto beans or black beans are the commonly used kind for this recipe. Northern Mexico produces white and pinto beans while the black ones are common in the southern part of Mexico. Red beans, although abundant, are almost never used in dishes. To make a traditional Mexican Frijoles Refritos, one will need:
- 1 pound package dried pinto beans
- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup bacon grease (optional)
- 3 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
- 1 tablespoon American chili powder
Soak the beans in water in a Dutch oven for at least six hours. After soaking, rinse the beans thoroughly. Put the rinsed beans and add two cups of the soaking water back into the Dutch oven. Add in the bacon grease, garlic powder, chicken bouillon powder and chili powder. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat and let it simmer for about four to six hours, stirring occasionally. The beans are done when they become very tender. If there seems to be too much liquid in the beans, leave the lid off for the last half hour. Stir or mash beans often when lid is off until approximately half of them are mashed and half are still whole.
A Mexican breakfast or brunch becomes complete with chocolate, either as a drink or a topping to a Mexican bun. A Mexican chocolate is darker and bitterer than the American or European kinds. It is often mixed with sugar, cinnamon, or dried and ground peppers that make it spicier and grainier in texture. The popular breakfast chocolate is often melted and blended with either water or milk. Here is a recipe of a Chocolate-topped Mexican Breakfast Buns that are made using the basin pan dulce dough. The bun is rich with butter, eggs and a crumbly chocolate topping. This makes a perfect partner to huevos rancheros or any other spicy dish. To yield twelve (12) buns, the following ingredients are needed:
For the bread
- 1 package active dry yeast (about 3 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3/4 cup whole milk, warmed to 108 degrees
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 4 1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup softened butter
For the chocolate topping
- 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1 egg yolk blended with 1 tablespoon water, for glaze
Dissolve the yeast and water in warm water (105-108 degrees), and proof until puffy for about ten minutes. Add the warmed milk, vanilla, sugar and eggs. Beat the mixture well, or until the eggs are fully blended. Add one cup of the flour plus the salt and soft butter. Blend well and stir in the rest of the flour to form a soft dough. Knead the dough on a floured board for about five minutes or until smooth. Rub some soft butter on a mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn once to coat with butter. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate topping. In a small bowl, combine and stir together the melted chocolate, butter, vanilla, flour, and powdered sugar. Freeze the mixture for 30 minutes or until well-chilled. Process into chocolate crumbs in a food processor and set aside on a plate. After the dough has risen, gently deflate and cut into 12 pieces then form the pieces into buns. Brush each bun with egg yolk glaze and turn upside down into the chocolate crumbs, pressing so the top is well-covered in chocolate. Place the buns on a greased baking sheer. Once all buns are done, set aside to let them rise some more for about 40 minutes. While waiting for the buns to rise, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake the buns for 12 to 15 minutes or until barely golden. Do not over bake because the bread is very delicate and come become dry.
The three recipes make a perfect brunch or almuerzo. The almuerzo is made even more perfect if served with fresh fruits like avocados, yellow and green bananas, grapes, guavas, mangoes among others. In the south and along the coastline, a seafood dish is also served. An example is a poached snapper served with tortillas. Another is the ceviche or diced seafood that is simple tossed with salt and lime juice whereby no cooking in heat is required because the acidity of the lime already cures the seafood.
A brunch is almost always too heavy to the stomach, and is usually long as they chat away while eating that many Mexicans choose to go on a siesta or afternoon nap to cap it off!