Saturday, September 22, 2007


My freshman year of college, I had the most fantastic roommate. At first I thought that she was a stick in the mud because she never wanted to go out and just napped a lot. But we found a common bond in our dislike of the other two women in our apartment. And then halfway through the school year, my roommate finally explained her fatigue to me. Her ovarian cancer (She was first diagnosed with it at age 16.) was out of remission. One of the things we discussed was how she was about to lose her remaining ovary. And the thing that stays with me to this day is how she was really meant to be someone's mother. At the end of our freshman year, she transferred to UC Santa Cruz so that she could be closer to home -- and to her doctor at Stanford. We'll never know if my belief in her parenting skills was true because she died by the time we were 21.

So what made her such a great mother in my eyes? Her cooking. Some mornings I would roll out of bed to be greeted by the smell of pancakes, eggs, and bacon. She would poke her head in and say, "Breakfast is ready. You should have time to eat before you go to class." And then there were the evenings I would come home to find dinner ready. Dinner was usually some sort of casserole. She was also a huge fan of Hamburger Helper. The meat that she served me was about the only meat I ate during freshman year. Meat just wasn't in my budget.

My favorite though was a casserole she made that she said came from a family recipe. I watched her make it numerous times and could kind of guess at the ingredients. After years of searching, I finally found a recipe that comes close. Although it could have just as easily been the Chilaquiles. Because now that I think about it more, I think hers involved stewed tomatoes. *sigh* Either way, I will think of her when I make both dishes now. Because I will be making both again.

Pastel Cuauhtemoc from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Mexican Favorites

Lots of chicken, tortilla, cheesy goodness topped with crema.

I probably thought this recipe was the closest because the stale tortillas are left whole before frying, save the dry edges that you trim off. The fried tortillas are then layered with a puree of beans with ancho chili and cumin, shredded chicken, pasilla chili strips and cheese. I like chilaquiles, but I love this dish. Almost as much as I love bacon.

* Sobrante means "leftover" in English.

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