This patatas bravas-inspired side dish with bacon and homemade lemon aioli will do the heavy lifting on your Thanksgiving table.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo of dish served with lemon aioli.

Mashed potatoes will be around every year, but this year needs a single dish that has it all, since you’ll most likely be doing the cooking yourself and won’t have the manpower (or the need) for a meal with a million different dishes. Inspired by the Spanish appetizer patatas bravas, this recipe has everything you could need for Thanksgiving: crispy bacon fat fried potatoes, Brussels sprouts, bacon bits, a tangy lemon aioli topping. …


Don’t worry — your turkey will still be juicy and full of flavor.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo of savory dry-brined turkey breast by the author.

Even in a normal year, making a whole turkey for Thanksgiving isn’t fun. It’s huge, takes forever to roast, and is almost always inconsistently cooked. The breast will cook faster than the thigh and leg meat, resulting in a dried out turkey breast that basically needs to be covered in gravy to be edible. And whoever came up with the idea of a wet brine? Truly ridiculous. No offense to whoever does the Thanksgiving cooking at your house, but wet-brining and roasting a whole bird just isn’t it. …


Recreating a recipe that died along with my great-grandmother.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo of croquetas de papa by the author.

As sugar skulls, papel picado, and other Día de Muertos decorations began to pop up in my neighborhood over the last few weeks, I started thinking about my relationship to the holiday and what I would do to celebrate this year. Día de Muertos is a two-day Latin American feast that honors loved ones who have passed away. It has a rich food history, with many people creating ofrendas, or altars, full of food that serves as an invitation for the dead to visit the realm of the living and enjoy tasty treats.

My family never truly celebrated Día de Muertos, aside from putting up a few photos of deceased family members and decorating them with cempasúchil (marigold) flowers. So, while I thought of writing about the traditional Día de Muertos food, pan de muerto, at first, I felt wrong laying claim to a dish that so many Mexican home cooks and bakers have made their whole lives, especially since my family doesn’t have a recipe for it (at least, not anymore). …


Learning the true cost of domestic labor made me realize I’m not cut out to be a homemaker.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by the author.

If you told me a year ago that at 22, I’d be fresh out of virtual college, unemployed, making dinner every night and folding a man’s underwear for him, I would have had a good laugh. But it’s not as funny when it’s reality.

When the pandemic hit New York City in early March, I was in my last semester of undergrad, about to graduate with a journalism and English literature degree from NYU. …


The beloved tomato-spiced noodle soup has roots in Italy and Spain.

Photo of sopa de fideo by author.
Photo of sopa de fideo by author.
Photo of sopa de fideo by author.

As soon as the first chilly day rolls around each year, my internal soup mode switches on. I love soup. I’ll scream it from the rooftops. And once I can acceptably eat it most days of the week? I’m in heaven (Although, if we’re being honest, I have been known to eat boiling hot soup in the dead of summer, too). Now that the leaves have started to change and we’re officially in the autumn months, it’s time to start making soup in my house.

The best types of soups, in my opinion, are the ones that are deeply flavorful but simple in ingredients and preparation. I’m a sucker for noodle soups — I’d gladly eat my weight in any spicy ramen, pho, or udon situation — but the noodle soup I grew up eating on a weekly basis, and therefore ranks number one in my heart, is sopa de fideo, or Mexican noodle soup. …


This Mexican-American dish has a rich history of exploitation and reclamation.

Photo of hard shell tacos by author. of hard shell tacos by author.
Photo of hard shell tacos by author. of hard shell tacos by author.
Photo of hard shell tacos by author.

We’re in the middle of Latinx Heritage Month, and this time of year always has me considering my Latinidad a little bit more thoughtfully than usual. I’ve started to think a lot about how, for many Mexican people in the United States, our food culture has evolved — and is invariably tied to this country. Mexican influences appeared on a national scale with the introduction of Mexican-American fast food chains like Chipotle and Taco Bell. …


This Mexican breakfast has been saving stale tortillas from the garbage can for hundreds of years

Image for post
Image for post

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to reduce my food and plastic waste. I shop at zero-waste stores when possible, and have swapped out a number of household items like dish brushes and shower loofahs for plastic-less alternatives that can be composted at the end of their life. I also compost all food scraps that come out of my kitchen.

This lifestyle change has made me realize how much Mexican culture unconsciously reduces waste. Mexican culture, at least in the way I was raised, leaned more toward environmental friendliness than typical American culture. When I was a child, my grandparents frequently reused butter or cool-whip containers as tupperware, giving single-use plastic an extended life. New meals weren’t cooked until all leftovers were eaten, and often, dishes would be centered around products we already had in the house, so every grocery item bought was used. When I’d visit my non-Mexican friends’ homes for dinner, I’d often see them scraping uneaten food from dinner into the trash. In my house, leftovers were eaten by another family member, saved to eat another day, or repurposed for new meals. Corn grilled one day as a side dish with carne asada would be used in calabacitas (a sauteed zucchini and corn dish that is covered in cheese) the next. A large pot of beans would be used for days — for quesadillas, burritos or tostadas. …


A love letter to Calle Olvera, Los Angeles summers, and the sweetness of agua fresca.

Photo of agua fresca by author.
Photo of agua fresca by author.
Photo of agua fresca by author.

Summer will tragically be coming to an end soon. I am not ready to face that reality yet, so until I come to terms with the changing of the seasons, I will be happily sunbathing in denial and sipping nothing but aguas frescas — specifically agua fresca de jamaica — all day long.

When steeped and sweetened, flores de jamaica (hibiscus flower, pronounced ha-may-kah) gives off intense fruit punch vibes. If you’ve ever had it, you know that it can easily be mistaken for a mixed berry drink like a cran-raspberry cocktail. …


This Mexican-American classic is the ultimate condiment.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jae Taurina Thomas.

The feeling I get while sitting down at a Mexican restaurant and being graced with unlimited baskets of tortilla chips and those little faux-molcajetes of salsa roja — or red salsa — comes second to none. I’ve completely stuffed myself on complimentary chips and salsa more times than I’d like to admit. This starter is the perfect balance of flavors — the grease of the tortilla chips is cut with the acidity of tomatoes and lime, and balanced by the brightness of fresh cilantro and the heat of jalapeño peppers. The combination makes for a truly perfect dish.

The popularity of tomato-based salsa in conjunction with tortilla chips is uniquely Mexican-American. In Mexico, it is somewhat unlikely to eat salsas in the sheer quantity that Americans eat them when served alongside a pile of chips. Instead, salsas act as a true condiment instead of a side dish, sprinkled over a taco or used alongside grilled meat dishes. In an interview for the New York Times in 2010, Oaxaca University student and aspiring chef Javier Olmedo said: “Watching someone shovel in salsa with tortilla chips is strange to Mexicans. Like how an American would feel watching someone drink salad dressing out of the bottle.” And while it may be considered more American than Mexican to guzzle salsa, I still consider drinking the spicy sauces one of my favorite pastimes. A little left in the bottom of the jar? I will happily swig it. Small takeout containers filled with tangy, saucy goodness? I will, unabashedly, take them like a shot. …


The Mexican staple is a dizzy mix of pop culture meme and slave trade history.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jae Taurina Thomas.

Why are Mexican home cooks always in panic over their beans? The TikTok trend that shows Mexican folks going about daily activities, before tripping over themselves in realization that the frijoles are burning, is a lighthearted nod to how frijoles, or beans, are almost always cooking in Mexican households. But a simmering pot of beans can take hours to fully cook, leaving plenty of time to forget it’s even sitting on the stove. …

About

Jae Taurina Thomas

Queer Latina/Asian journalist. Busy cooking, call back later.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store