For those of us who love to eat, one single bite can transport us back to a different time and place. Flavors manifest memories of close loved ones or those who have passed, and celebrations long gone. A signature dish can embody a sentiment that exceeds the meal itself: Filled with rich and satisfying traditions and experiences, sparking a broad spectrum of emotions ranging from joy and gratitude, and sometimes, even sadness.
Cena con mi familia is Spanish for dinner with my family, and these are our favorite dishes that share a greater story and depict a broader picture that food connects us all.
Part-time Baja resident
Chiles Rellenos de Cardinal
My family has a home in Baja California Sur. When I visit, we adventure around the area and try different restaurants, then I try to recreate the dishes I liked at home.
While dining at Cielito Lindo in Cardinal, the restaurant owner invited me into the kitchen to learn to cook my favorite version of: Chiles Rellenos de Cardinal.
Valley Center resident
As a child I loved the warm comfort of the Mexican bread pudding called capirotada. This love came before I knew what salty and savory meant, or before I knew cheese and dried fruits paired so well. It was sweet and a little salty and I loved it.
As a teen, I finally watched my grandma make it and was taken aback by everything that went into it (and, quite frankly, maybe even a little grossed out?). She started with a layer of tortillas, then added queso, nuts, and pieces of crusty bolillo soaked in butter or lard mixed with brown sugar and cinnamon. She threw in some raisins and topped everything with another layer of tortillas to keep it moist all this and I never saw measuring spoons!
Now, as an adult, capirotada is a comfort food yet it's also something else. Slightly salty from the nuts, with sweet cinnamon syrup and rich, creamy cheese, it's everything sophisticated.
Little Italy resident
Taco a La Malinche
I grew up with my grandmother in Torren, Coahuila, Mexico, where I had the most humble and delicious meals of my life.
One particular taco that my grandmother would make for me is called Taco a La Malinche. I would help get all the ingredients ready for her to cook, like getting the hen from our backyard, going to the tortilleria for a kilo of freshly-made tortillas for 5 pesos, and going to Do a Chachina and asking permission to go into her backyard and climb her avocado tree to pick avocados for guacamole.
The tortillas are heated directly on the fire and that smoky burnt tortilla flavor is unique. The taco filling is chicken breast slowly braised with oregano, hoja santa, rosemary, and thyme that sits on a bed of fresh guacamole that has a slight hint of serrano, lime, and salt and garnished with crispy chicken skin and homemade crema de rancho (sour cream).
My grandma still makes me tacos a la malinche for my birthday every year, and I think its an example of family traditions and conceptualizes how Mexican cuisines are represented. It's all about the remembrance of childhood and the love of family that was put into making a simple taco. This will be a memory thats in my head every day of my life.