Recipes: Sopa de Lima Chicken Soup With Sweet Lime Essence, Recado Para Escabeche and Recado Para Todo

These dishes from David Sterling’s “Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” capture some the staples and the diversity of Yucatecan cooking.

Sopa de Lima Chicken Soup With Sweet Lime Essence

Hands on: 30 minutes Total time: 60 minutes Serves: 10

Sopa de lima is the classic soup of Yucatán. The lima, also known as limetta or sweet lime, is more aromatic and less acidic than the Persian or Mexican lime and gives this soup its characteristic floral taste. Since lima is often not available, substitute whatever lime you like. The soup can be prepared in advance, refrigerated, and reheated just before serving. It’s also delicious served chilled.

For the soup base

10 cups chicken stock

1/2 medium chicken (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried

For the sofrito and finishing

Zest of 1 lima or lime, finely grated

2 tablespoons Spanish olive oil

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled, charred, and finely chopped

1 cup green bell pepper, cut to small dice

1/2 teaspoon recado para escabeche (see recipe)

3 medium Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped

1/3 cup fresh lima juice

For serving

Chopped cilantro

Crispy tortilla strips

Slices of lima or lime

Salsa or hot sauce

To prepare soup base

Place the stock, chicken, and thyme in a stockpot and bring to a simmer, skimming frequently. Continue to cook gently until the chicken is cooked through, 25–30 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Pull the meat from the bones into large pieces or slice into julienne strips; set aside.

Strain the stock through a fine sieve into another pot.

To prepare the sofrito and finish

Place the stock in a stockpot and return to a simmer. Add the citrus zest, cover the pot, and remove it from the heat to allow the stock to steep.

While the stock is steeping, heat the oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic and green peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, 2–3 minutes. Add the recado and tomatoes and continue to cook until the tomatoes are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the sofrito to the stock. Stir in the chicken and simmer 2–3 minutes to heat through. Add the citrus juice and serve immediately.

To serve

Ladle the soup into individual bowls, distributing the chicken evenly. Sprinkle on some of the cilantro and top with tortilla strips and slices of lima or lime and serve with your favorite hot sauce.

Per serving: 122 calories (percent of calories from fat, 40), 19 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 21 milligrams cholesterol, 170 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling.

Recado Para Escabeche

Hands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes

Makes: 1 ½ ounces.

This recado is used for pickled vegetables or fish and many other dishes.

3 tablespoons black peppercorns

3 tablespoons dried whole Mexican oregano, lightly toasted

20 whole cloves

20 allspice berries

13 bay leaves, divided

Place peppercorns, oregano, cloves, allspice berries and 5 bay leaves in a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind until very fine. Strain the powder over a fine mesh sieve, add the remaining bay leaves, toss to mix, and store in an airtight container.

Adapted from “Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling.

Kibi Frito Beef and Bulgur Fritters

Hands on time: 60 minutes Total time: 1 ½ hours including 30 minutes for chilling

The best kibis are to be found in local Lebanese restaurants, where they include beef (street kibis are often pure bulgur) and where they arrive fresh, hot, and crispy to your table. Yucatecan kibis veer from the traditional with the addition of habanero, which adds a light heat to the fritters. Fried kibis can be kept warm for about 1 hour in a 200-degree oven.

For the kibi mixture

1 cup fine bulgur

1 1/2 pounds lean sirloin, finely ground

1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the filling

1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus additional for frying

9 ounces lean sirloin, finely ground

1 cup white onion, finely chopped

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 medium chile habanero, seeded and minced

1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped

3/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 teaspoon Recado para todo

Salsas for serving

To prepare kibi mixture

Place the bulgur in a bowl and add cold water to cover; drain and add more water to rinse thoroughly. Pour the bulgur into a sieve and press out as much liquid as possible; allow it to drain in the sieve as you continue.

Place the drained bulgur and sirloin in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the onion, mint, salt and pepper and process about 1 minute, or until smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To prepare filling

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a skillet until shimmering. Add the sirloin and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, using a wooden spoon or spatula to crumble the meat. Add the onion, garlic, chile habanero, mint leaves, pine nuts and recado and simmer until the cooking liquids have evaporated, 5–6 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow to cool.

To form kibis and finish

Remove the kibi mixture from the refrigerator. Working with wet hands to keep the mixture from sticking, form 20 balls, about 1 3/4 ounces each. One at a time, flatten the balls in the palm of your hand, shaping into an oval that measures approximately 2 3/4 inches long and 2 inches wide. Place approximately 1 tablespoon of the cooked meat filling in the center of the oval. Carefully close the kibi mixture around the filling, sealing to avoid leakage during cooking. Cup your hands to shape the kibi into an elongated egg shape. Pinch each end to form a gentle point and place the finished kibis on a tray. Continue until you have used all of the kibi mixture and the filling. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Fill a deep skillet with 2 inches vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat until a thermometer reads 375. Working in batches to avoid crowding, fry the kibis until golden brown, turning once, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

To serve

Serve 2 kibis per person with a choice of salsas. Diners crack open the kibis and spoon on salsas to taste.

Per serving: 368 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 22 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 25 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 59 milligrams cholesterol, 147 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling.

Recado Para Todo

Hands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes Makes: 1 ½ ounces

Most of the Spice Island flavorings can be found in this great all-purpose seasoning.

4 tablespoons dried whole Mexican oregano, lightly tosted

3 tablespoons black peppercorns

1 teapoon ground Mexican cinnamon

1 teaspooon cumin seed

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon allspice berries

½ teaspoon achiote seeds

Working in batches, if necessary, place spices in a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind until very fine. Strain the powder over a fine mesh sieve, toss to mix, and store in an airtight container.

Adapted from “Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling.

Helado de Chocolate Maya Chocolate Frozen Custard With Achiote, Vanilla, Allspice, and Chile

Hands on: 1 hour Total time: 1 hour, plus at least 6 hours to cool custard base and 2-3 hours to freeze.

Makes: Approximately 1 1/2 quarts

This rich ice cream is a reminder of what the Mayas must have experienced when they were spiritually transported by chocolate. The formula is based on Maya and, later, Aztec recipes for the chocolate beverage, which at times included various combinations of chile, vanilla, allspice, and achiote.

Prepare the custard base a day in advance in order to chill thoroughly before freezing. After processing, the ice cream keeps well frozen for 1 week.

For the custard base

2 cups Mexican crema, crème fraîche, or whipping cream

3 tablespoons recado rojo, sometimes labeled achiote paste, available in Mexican markets

2 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon Mexican or other vanilla extract

1/4 cup honey

3/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder, or to taste

5 large egg yolks

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

To prepare the custard base

In a heavy saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the egg yolks and chocolate. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring constantly, 3–4 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot. Do not allow to boil.

Using a hand-held electric mixer or a whisk, beat the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl until light and fluffy. Still beating, very gradually add about 1 cup of the warm milk mixture to the eggs and beat thoroughly; repeat 2–3 times to gently heat the eggs. With the beater running in the saucepan, very slowly stream the egg mixture back into the hot milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon 3–4 minutes, or until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon; a candy thermometer should read 180. Do not allow to boil or the eggs may scramble.

To finish ice cream and freeze

Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add the chocolate. Stir briefly to melt then beat with the electric mixer until the chocolate is thoroughly incorporated into the custard mixture, about 1 minute. Allow the mixture to cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or, preferably, overnight. The resulting base will be thick and mousse-like after refrigeration.

Process the custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place the finished ice cream in a covered container and freeze to set 2–3 hours before serving.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 370 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 5 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 28 grams fat (16 grams saturated), 146 milligrams cholesterol, 131 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition” by David Sterling.