Maya cuisine has attracted the attention of great foodies and chefs in the world due to its distinctive flavors. If you’re interested in learning and cooking Maya cuisine, you have to pass an important step and it’s to understand and master recados.
Recados are uses as marinades and seasoning rubs for tamales, and typically to flavor soups, stews and sauces. While recados can mean many things in Spanish, like safekeeping and messenger, in the Maya regions, it almost always means seasoning pastes used daily and for special events like festivals.
The Maya have been using recado seasoning for millions of years. The arrival of the Spanish added to the ingredients of the seasoning and achieved a diversity in flavors.
Maya of the Yucatan and the gulf coast of Campeche used Recados as a convenience food. These premade, flavorful mixtures are typical to Mexican cuisine.
Most recado seasonings are mixtures of spices, herbs and other seasonings, often with the brick-red achiote or annatto seeds included. They are usually made beforehand and thereby the cooking process is simplified. If wrapped well, most recados will last up to one year in the refrigerator or they may even be frozen. It’s interesting to see how unlimited number of recados can be made and used in most Maya recipes. There is a lot of resemblance between several of the recados. The good thing about these various seasonings is that you can use any of them you have at hand that resembles with what is called for in a recipe, aned the result will always be great.
Recado Chicken Legs
Recado chicken legs are a Maya comfort food and one of the standards of the Yucatan.
- 8 whole chicken legs
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups water
- Maya Mountain Recado Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 lime, halved for garnishing
If you’ll be using a grill, prepare it for medium-high heat. If you’ll be using an oven, preheat it to 400°F.
Season the chicken legs with pepper and salt. Oil the grill grate and grill the chicken with skin side down till the skin gets color and marks of grill. This will take around 8 minutes. There is no need to flip as you just have to color only on one side. So, now remove it from the grill.
Now dissolve some of the Maya Mountain Recado Spice Blend in water and add vinegar. Now place the chicken legs with their grill marks up in a shallow baking pan. Pour the mixture of spice, vinegar and water into the pan and use an aluminum foil to cover it tightly.
Place the baking pan in the oven and cook the chicken for 45 minutes or until done. Remove the foil and place it back again in the oven to cook for 10-15 minutes more so as to allow the skin to crisp up.
Serve with lime and braising liquid. You can even add some grilled onion.
Chilmole (Mexican Turkey with Recado)
Chilmole is a traditional yummy Mexican dish eaten all through the Yucatan peninsula, particularly around Christmas and New Year, when there is abundant leftover holiday turkey.
- 6 cups of leftover turkey, boned and skinned
- 8 cups of turkey or chicken broth
- 2 oz. Maya Mountain Recado Spice Blend
- 2 hardboiled eggs, sliced
Add the recado with some broth to dissolve it. Add it to the turkey and remaining broth. Cook to a desired consistency. Garnish with slices of hard-boiled eggs and serve in bowls. Another garnishing option is slices of homemade pork sausages. But the dish looks and tastes rich enough even without them. To add more oomph, serve it with a lot of tortillas.
Shrimp Yucatan is a quick and easy recipe that uses the recado perfectly to bring out the juicy flavor of shrimp. It’s traditionally served with many other foods to make it even more delicious and healthier.
- 1.25 lbs. large shrimp, peeled, tail-on, deveined
- Maya Mountain Recado Spice Blend
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 handful of cilantro, chopped (optional)
Although shrimp Yucatan is traditionally made from raw shrimp, pre-cooked shrimp can also be used if you have it at hand.
To start with, thaw the shrimp in a colander (slow) or a bowl of water (fast). Next pour the Maya Mountain Recado Spice Blend marinade over the shrimp and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. Take them out and set aside for some time.
Add oil to a large pan and heat it on a medium heat. Add the marinated shrimp to the pan and stir-fry for 2 minutes per side or till fully done. Remove shrimp and take it on a plate. Pour the remaining recado marinade in the hot pan and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Shrimp can be grilled or broiled too to achieve a bit of smoky flavor. If you choose to grill them, make sure you cook the Maya Mountain Recado Spice Blend marinade for 3-4 minutes on medium heat (or till it starts boiling) before you use it as a sauce to top the shrimp.
While serving the shrimp Yucatan, spoon the cooked recado over the top and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Pair it with the sides typical to tropical Mexico, viz. fresh, sliced fruits like avocado or mangoes, refried rice and/or beans, fried plantains, or scrumptious homemade red onion pickle, to make it a typical Caribbean meal.
Have you started planning to enjoy these authentic Mexican dishes with the yummy recado?