All over the Mexican republic, you will find arroz served as a side in fluffy pilafs, sprinkled in chicken soups, used as a binder for albondigas, or used as the base for morisqueta, Mexico's unsung rice-bowl hero found in regions along the Pacific, specifically Michoacán. Morisqueta is essentially a taco in rice form: rice topped with a saucy pork, beef, or seafood guisado, beans, raw cabbage for texture, and some crema to pull it all together. Bone-in beef short ribs are essential for maximum flavor and texture in the dish—ask the butcher to cut the flanken through the bone into smaller pieces.
Christmas Time Is Tamal Time
For event producer Paola Briseño González, tamales are a new holiday tradition—one that’s here to stay.
Lightly sweetened coconut rice pudding provides a custardy contrast to the tender masa in these dreamy dessert tamales. Drizzled with sweet and buttery goat’s milk caramel, they also make a festive holiday breakfast.
Ponche Navideño is a Christmastime spiced tropical fruit punch that's served warm with a shot of tequila in Mexico. Paola Briseño González's chilled riff on this holiday classic pays homage to her love of vermouth. Light and fragrant with perfectly balanced bitterness, it's refreshing and bright thanks to hibiscus, guava, apples, and mint.
Each two-bite, egg-shaped tamal cradles a shrimp encased in masa seasoned with chiles, garlic, and dried shrimp. At her holiday tamal-making parties, Paola Briseño González likes to make these ahead of time, for snacking on while drinking Guava Ponche with Sweet Vermouth and making main-course tamales with friends.
These smoky braised-lamb tamales, favorite at event producer Paola Briseño González's holiday tamale parties, get a pop of freshness from bright cilantro-onion relish, while a wrapper of banana leaves perfumes the masa with a softly sweet aroma as they steam. The banana leaf wrappers also yield tamales with a dense, custard-like texture. The rich, slow-cooked flavor of lamb shanks is the perfect partner for the intense smokiness of morita chiles; substitute chipotles in a pinch.
Paola Briseño González often uses duck fat for her masa preparada for tamales but switches to shortening for vegetarian guests. Whether you grind your own homemade fresh masa or you pick some up at a local Latin market, it's the secret to perfect tamales. A dough made from masa harina can be used if fresh masa is unavailable, but it will lack the sweet corn aroma and fluffy texture of fresh masa. For convenient-yet-flavorful alternatives to fresh masa, try the masa harina from Masienda (from $7, masienda.com), made from single-origin heirloom corn sourced from Oaxaca, or Gold Mine's Organic Yellow Masa Harina (from $10, amazon.com).