Landing in Northern California for college, five hours away from a satisfying Mexican meal and 12 from a homemade one, Castillo realized that to mend the chile-relleno shaped hole in his heart, he'd have to take matters into his own hands. A call home yielded neither definitive instructions nor ingredients (“hechale un poquito de esto y del’ otro,” or “add a little of this and a little of that”), but despite his lack of clarity and kitchen know-how, Castillo was surprised to find how naturally it all fell together:
I got into the kitchen that afternoon, intimidated but hopeful, and with a little prayer to la virgencita, a miracle happened—it felt like I had made chiles rellenos before. The motions felt familiar, natural. I knew just how long to blister the chiles, how much salt to add to my batter, and my hands knew just which ingredients to reach for to create a rich and smoky salsa on which to rest the chiles. It was like I, too, had gone on autopilot while I was cooking, and before I knew it I was about to fry these beautiful little cheesy envelopes covered in fluffy egg whites.
Soon after, Chicano Eats—Castillo’s blog chronicling his kitchen adventures back into his childhood—was born.
Common to the American immigrant experience, food—rather, teasing memories of—keeps us tethered to our home cultures, especially when unable to visit. Written and photographed by Castillo, Chicano Eats is a beautiful collection of treasured family recipes (his grandma’s Tacos de Papa, grandpa’s Tacos de Adobada, mom’s Frijoles Puercos) as well as his own inventive mash-ups (Mac and Queso Fundido, Michelada Ribs, and a magical Chocoflan Cake, to name a few).
What other recipes exemplify peak summer to you? Tell us about it in the comments!
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Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga.
When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.