A core value of the Southern Foodways Alliance is to sing the unsung. To that end, we are honored to celebrate these behind-the-kitchen-door heroes each week. This piece first appeared in issue #55 of our Gravy quarterly.
The Dish: Churros with Dulce de Leche
The Inspiration: Gabby Mejía and Carla Mejía
I hired Carla in 2008, when I was working at La Pietra Cucina. She didn’t speak much English when she came in to apply for the job. I spoke decent Spanish, and during the interview I learned that Carla’s mother was a baker in her native Guatemala. We needed someone to make pastas, ciabatta, and grisini. Carla had worked with bread dough before, so I figured she’d be a natural with pasta dough. And she was. I could show her how the dough should feel, and she could replicate it.
About a year later LPC had expanded and gotten substantially busier. We needed another pasta maker, and Carla brought in her sister, Gabby. When Carla took time off to stay home with her first child, Gabby kept making the pastas.
Carla and Gabby have trained everyone who has made pasta for me over the past five years. They are great at managing schedules and taking ownership of their responsibilities. And they have a feel for any dough. Our twenty-yolk tagliatelle is a great example. It’s very eggy and technically difficult to get right. Carla and Gabby turn out egg-based doughs that are consistently exceptional.
Over the years, Carla and Gabby have often brought in sweets from their neighborhood bodega for us to share in the kitchen. So for New South Family Supper, we decided to prepare churros in their honor [….] We’ll serve the churros with a dulce de leche sauce. And colorful sprinkles, because they remind me of Gabby and Carla.
-Chef Bruce Logue, BoccaLupo
Guatemalan Churros with Dulce de Leche & Sprinkles
Makes approximately 6 dozen churros
Dulce de leche:
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
Pour the milk into a stianless steel bowl and cook over a double broiler, stirring occasionally until it reaches a light brown color and has a nutty flavor, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours. You may cook longer if you prefer a deeper level of caramelization.
1/2 cup sugar * 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon * 1/2 tsp. salt * 2 Tbsp. rainbow sprinkles
Mix together in a bowl large enough to toss the finished churros
Peanut oil, for frying * 2 cups whole milk * 1 cup butter * 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour * 1 cup semolina * 4 Tbsp. sugar * 1/2 tsp. salt * 6 whole eggs * zest of 2 lemons * 1 tsp. grated nutmeg
Heat 1 to 2 inches of peanut oil to 365 degrees F in a large, heavy pot or deep fryer.
Place the milk in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the sugar, salt, semolina, and flour, and whisk until combined. Switch to a wooden spoon and beat for 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add eggs one at a time, followed by the lemon zest and nutmeg. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Allow the mixture to coll slightly, then transfer to a piping bag with a large star tip. Pipe 10-12 (3-inch) pieces of batter into the oil and cut with scissors. Fry until dark brown and crispy, approximately 3 minutes. Drain slightly then toss in spice mixture.
Serve warm churros with a drizzle of dulce de leche or serve dulce de leche on the side for dipping.