'Tis the season and 'tis definitely the busiest time of the year for my family. Since before I was born, my parents have owned a retail store. First a camera store in Point Loma, then a gift store along with the camera store, and now just the gift store, Patina, in North Pacific Beach.
Retail + Holidays = absolutely no free time. That's actually how I began hosting Thanksgiving at my house each year. My mom used to have the huge feast at her house, but then had to return to some of her busiest work days right after, leaving no time to clean up or take a breather. For Christmas, however, the tradition is to celebrate at my parent's house. There's obviously still a slight problem with that since their store is open every single day in December through the 24th, leaving no time to cook and prepare for Christmas day. Yes, you can say things are hectic.
So, to help combat that problem, we try to think of things we can cook ahead of time, in order to make that day not quite as chaotic. This year, she thought of a fun idea - Mexican food for Christmas. I love it! If I had to pick one cuisine to have every day for the rest of my life, it would be Mexican. Being so close to excellent Mexican joints in San Diego, I've never ventured much into cooking my own Mexican food, but that is all about to change. Any Top Chef fans out there? I never knew much about Rick Bayless until Top Chef Masters, but I'm definitely keen on securing a copy of his book Mexico One Plate At A Time.
He has been an inspiration to me in several ways. Chef Bayless' cooking style is authentic Mexican, more rustic and lighter fare than we get in San Diego, and his delightful personality (and handsomely good looks!) shines through in all that he does. The charity he played for was the Frontera Farmer Foundation and through his success, he came away with the Top Chef Masters title and $100,000 to give to the foundation. Another one of his cookbooks that sounds intriguing he actually did with his teenage daughter Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures - family-tested and home kitchen-tested recipes!
One of the make-ahead dishes my mom and I decided to do was a recipe that we haven't made in probably 15 years. Mexican Won Tons. I know it may sound strange, but when you think about it, you can basically put anything you want in those delicate skins. Wrap them up in any fashion, and you have a surprise gift package to delight your palate.
This recipe comes from a Sunset Wok Cookbook from 1979. Why do they have a recipe for Mexican won tons in a cookbook dedicated to Chinese food? The main recipe is actually for Chinese won tons, but then they have other variations listed. Not sure we've ever cooked anything else out of that cookbook!
The ingredients are simple - ground beef, chorizo, green chilies, green onions, and jack cheese. Cook the mixture together and let cool for a bit. Next take a won ton skin, dollop about a teaspoon of the filling towards one corner of the square and seal 3 of the corners together in the middle using a dab of lightly beaten egg/water mixture. Ryan was helping us that day, and in-between playing his computer games, he did make a few. His were quite unique and pretty looking since he made them look like envelopes (he sealed them using all 4 corners). We could easily tell which ones were made by him, so he was sure to try one of "his".
Another thing we haven't done in years is fry food. My mom dug out an electrical wok that worked perfectly. We used canola oil, the won tons browned up beautifully, and they had a lighter oil flavor then we remember; a pleasant surprise. After they cooled down, we put them in Ziploc freezer bags to store for Christmas day. Served with guacamole as a dipping sauce, I know they will be a huge hit!
Mexican Won Tons (adapted from Sunset)
6 oz chorizo sausage
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cans green chilies, chopped
1/2 cup shredded jack cheese
1 egg and a little bit of water, lightly beaten
Remove casing from chorizo sausage. Brown chorizo and ground beef in a pan over medium-high heat. Discard excess drippings. Stir in green onions, chilies, and cheese. Cook, until cheese melts. Let cool. Place about 1 teaspoon of mixture in a won ton skin. Dab at least 3 corners of the skin with the egg/water mixture and seal. Fry until golden and place on papertowels to absorb excess grease. Serve with guacamole. Makes about 2-3 dozen.