Welcome back for day two of Twelve Days of Oscar. Sometimes, food is central to the theme of a film. This is the case with Like Water for Chocolate, the 1992 film made from Laura Esquivel’s novel by the same name. The film falls into my “Honorable Mention” category, as it was never nominated for an Oscar, despite becoming the highest-grossing Spanish-language movie at the time. Yes, it is entirely in Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, it has handy subtitles that really do a great job of keeping up with the dialogue.
The film follows the love affair between Pedro and Tita. Tita is an accomplished cook, to the point that her emotions really translate into her dishes. Among the best scenes in the film is when Tita cries tears of sorrow into the batter for her sister’s wedding cake and all of the wedding guests begin to cry inconsolably and feel the pain of previous losses. In another scene, Tita makes champandongo, to be served at her engagement dinner. She makes it in a hurried fit, describing herself as “like water for chocolate,” or boiling mad. What happens after dinner is explosive, and well worth watching.
Champandongo is akin to Mexican lasagna, containing layers of meat, tortilla, and cheese. I was a little skeptical about the recipe for this (which is provided in the novel without measurements), when I saw that one of the seasonings for the beef and pork is sugar, and that it contains chopped nuts. I decided to try it out anyway and I’m so glad that I did. The seasonings make it so no one ingredient overpowers the entire dish and each bite is more delicious than the one before it. It really doesn’t require much effort to assemble and bakes up in just fifteen minutes, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner.
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
7 oz. walnuts, chopped finely (not ground)
7 oz. almonds, chopped finely (not ground)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup prepared mole sauce
1-2 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. sugar
1 lb. tortillas
1/4 cup cream
8 oz. manchengo cheese
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Add about 2 Tbs. oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
Add onion and saute until translucent.
Add the beef and pork to the skillet.
Sprinkle the beef mixture with the cumin and sugar. Cook, stirring until golden brown.
While the beef is browning, stir together the chicken broth and mole sauce.
When the beef mixture is golden brown, add the nuts and tomatoes.
Heat the tortillas in a non-stick skillet 1-2 minutes each.
To assemble, spread a small layer of cream on the bottom of a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.
Top the cream with a layer of tortillas.
Top the tortillas with the beef mixture.
Top the beef mixture with the mole mixture and then with a layer of cheese.
Repeat layering until all tortillas are used, ending with the cheese.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Cut and serve immediately.
Makes 12 servings.
Source: Hispanic Kitchen