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Chef Daniel Hoyer Offers Recipes for a Mayan Meal

Posted on 19 December 2012

Red, black and green recado from Daniel Hoyer’s “Mayan Cuisine: Recipes from the Yucatan Region.”

Chef Daniel Hoyer has selected a few recipes from his Mayan cookbook to make a meal worthy of any 12/21/12 gathering.

Sikil Pak (Pumpkinseed Dip)

A rich and satisfying appetizer, Sikil-Pak embodies some of the basic Maya flavors: pumpkinseeds, tomatoes and chiles. Technically Sikil-Pak is a salsa, but Hoyer also uses it to garnish grilled meats, in tacos and on top of tamales. You can regulate the heat by your choice of chile.


1 pound ripe tomatoes, well charred

1 habanero chile, 2 to 3 jalapeño or serrano chiles, poblano, New Mexican green, Anaheim, etc., charred, stemmed and seeded

1 medium white or red onion, peeled, quartered and pan-roast

2 cups pumpkinseeds, toasted and ground fine

1/8 cup chopped cilantro

Water as needed

Salt, to taste

Makes 2 cups


1. Purée the tomatoes, chile and onion in a blender until smooth.

2. Mix with the ground pumpkinseeds and cilantro and enough water to

make a smooth, yet thick paste.

3. Add salt to taste and serve.


NOTE: Sikil-Pak will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.


Photos 197 & 198

Mac-Cum de Pescado (Fish Baked in a Pot)

This cooking method for fish has endured since pre-Columbian days but has richer, more complex flavors in its contemporary versions. In Campeche, the fish is wrapped in banana leaves after the spices are added and then placed in a clay pot or “Mac-Cum” and cooked on top of the fire. Here, Hoyer uses the oven since the heat is more uniform and most of us do not have the proper pot for the original method. Either way produces a savory and moist fish that presents well.

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons Recado Colorado (see recipe below)

1/4 cup lime juice

3 tablespoons mild vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

6 cloves garlic, pan-roasted and peeled

1 medium white onion, peeled, sliced in 3 rounds and pan-roasted

Banana leaves or foil to wrap

Salt, to taste

2 to 2 1/2 pounds fresh fish filets (grouper, snapper, pompano, etc.) cut into 2-inch-wide strips

2 sweet peppers (green, red, yellow or mixed) charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips

3 to 4 gueros, yellow hot chiles or 1 habanero, charred and left intact

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges each

4 bay leaves, toasted

1 red onion, quartered, pan-toasted, then peeled and cut into 1/2- inch-wide strips

4 to 5 sprigs parsley or cilantro

2 to 3 sprigs epazote, oregano or mar- joram

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil


1. Puree the recado with the lime juice, vinegar, cumin, oregano, black pep- per, cloves, roasted garlic and roasted white onion.

2. If using banana leaves, toast to make pliable. Line a heavy casserole or roasting pan with the banana leaves or foil, place 1/2 of the recado mixture on the leaves in the center. Salt the fish filets, arrange on the recado and spread the remaining marinade on the top of the fish.

3. Place the roasted peppers, chiles, tomatoes, bay leaves and red onion on top along with the parsley and epazote. Drizzle with the oil and cover with more banana leaves or foil to make a sealed package.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes to steam before opening the package. This dish goes well with any rice dish or Budin de Chayote and Frijoles Yucatecos.

You may leave the dish intact and let your guests serve themselves in traditional Mayan style, or you may carefully remove the fish filets and then spoon some of the vegetables and juices over the top for individual servings


Photo page 30

Recado Colorado

Red Seasoning Paste (goes with Fish recipe above)

Recado Colorado is the most commonly used recados in Maya cooking. It is used to season meats, poultry and seafood before cooking and as a flavoring and colorant for sauces and tamales. Many recipes in this book call for it. Achiote paste is readily available in markets and groceries in both the United States and Mexico, and the store-bought version, usually labeled Condimento de Achiote, is quite serviceable (Hoyer uses it a lot), but at times it is gratifying to create the distinct flavors of the home-made variety and to control the subtle tastes oneself. The annatto seeds are pretty tough. If you do not have a molcajete or a very powerful spice grinder, Hoyer recommend using pre-ground annatto seeds or just stick to the commercially prepared recado.

Makes about 8 ounces

1?2 cup annatto seeds (achiote) or 1?3 cup ground annatto seeds

2 tablespoons, plus more as needed, apple cider vinegar

8 whole allspice berries, lightly toasted

1?2 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional), lightly toasted

2 teaspoons whole black pepper

1?2 teaspoon cumin seed, lightly toasted (optional)

4 to 5 whole cloves (optional)

12 to 14 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled

1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, lightly toasted

11?2 teaspoons salt

1. Mix the annatto seeds with the 2 tablespoons of vinegar and soak for several hours (if using pre-ground seeds, proceed to the next step without the soaking).

2. Finely grind all of the ingredients in a molcajete or durable spice grinder.

3. Mix until a smooth, stiff paste is formed, adding more vinegar as needed.

4. Form into a block or in circular discs, wrap well and refrigerate to store.


(No photo) 

Rice and Beans

This recipe comes from the Mayan-inhabited areas of the Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Guatemala. The name is usually listed in English even on menus otherwise written entirely in Spanish. The reason for this is that several years ago, many Mayan people fled to English-speaking Belize to escape persecution in their homeland. While there, they assimilated many of the foods from Belize into their repertoire of cooking. This style of cooking the beans and rice together remained popular as an inexpensive main course upon their return to their native soil. As a side dish, this is perfect to go along with grilled entrees and with the addition of bacon, ham hocks or smoked pig’s feet it makes for a hearty casual main dish.

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish

1 cup dry red or black beans (2 well-drained cans of cooked beans may be substituted)

4 cups water (to cook the beans)

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons chopped white onion

1/4 cup chopped sweet red or green pepper

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño or serrano chile OR 1 whole habanero chile (do not break the skin of the chile or it will make the dish way too hot)

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1 1/4 cup long-grained rice (not converted)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup water

Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. Cook the dry beans in 4 cups of water until completely cooked through. Drain.

2. In a preheated, heavy saucepan, Dutch oven or deep skillet, add the oil, then fry the onion, peppers, chile and garlic for 1 minute, stirring well. Add the rice and continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. When the rice has begun to turn opaque with a little browning, add the thyme, salt, pepper, coconut milk and 1/2 cup water.

3. Bring to a boil and add the beans, stirring to mix.

4. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to simmer and cook 15 minute more. Remove from the heat, leave the lid on and steam for 15 minutes more. Stir gently to mix and serve. Add cilantro as garnish.


Torta de Cielo

Heavenly Almond Torte

12 ounces blanched, peeled almonds 2 tablespoons sugar 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

10 eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 tablespoon dark rum or brandy 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

This is a celebration cake in the Yucatan. It utilizes ground almonds rather than flour for its structure and is not usually iced or filled. The torta is rich from the almonds yet relatively low fat, is not cloyingly sweet and keeps for several days.

Serves 8 to 10

1. Grind the almonds very fine with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Mix well with the flour, salt and baking powder.

2. Beat the egg yolks with the 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and creamy. Add the extracts, rum and flour-almond mixture and beat until smooth.

3. Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until medium-stiff peaks are formed.

4. By hand, gently beat in 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk-almond- flour batter to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until they are just mixed in; do not over mix.

5. Well grease a 9- or 10-inch-diameter springform pan and pour the batter in. 6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown

and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

7. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes, remove from the pan and garnish with powdered sugar, toasted almonds and fruit, like sliced strawberries or mango.

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