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Special Menu for Special Holiday

December 14, 1989|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER and Hansen, a Times food writer, is author of "Mexican Cookery," published by HP Books. and

Christmas and the end of year are a time to bring families and friends together for dinners that promote the seasonal feeling of good cheer. The food should be as special as the occasion, and the following menu fills that need.

Enchiladas dress up for the holidays with a bright topping of pomegranate seeds, almonds and parsley. The filling is a ground meat mixture-- picadillo-- that also contains raisins, nuts and olives. The tomato sauce is seasoned with cinnamon and cloves but no chiles, making this a dish to please all palates.

The menu starts with a shrimp and avocado cocktail. Suggested accompaniments for the enchiladas are bowls of black beans in the broth produced while they simmer and potatoes with green chile strips and onion. Boil the potatoes until barely tender and cut them into chunks or thick slices. Cook the chiles and sliced onion in a little oil in a skillet, then add the cooked potatoes and brown them lightly.

Dinner ends with a dramatic molded pudding flavored with coffee liqueur and surrounded by sliced bananas drizzled with additional liqueur.

A HOLIDAY DINNER

Shrimp and avocado cocktail

Picadillo enchiladas with tomato sauce

Whole black beans in their broth

Diced potatoes with onion and green chiles

Mocha creme with bananas

PICADILLO ENCHILADAS

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 small green pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

3/4 pound ground pork

1/2 cup raisins

1/3 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons sherry

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt, pepper

18 corn tortillas

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Cinnamon Tomato Sauce

Sour cream

Pomegranate seeds

Whole blanched almonds

Parsley sprigs

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add onion, green pepper and garlic and cook until tender but not browned. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add beef and pork to skillet and cook until meat is no longer pink, stirring to crumble. Add onion mixture, raisins, slivered almonds, olives, capers, sherry, vinegar, sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer until meat is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Cool slightly.

Heat vegetable oil in small skillet. Add tortillas one at a time and cook a few seconds to soften, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Place 3 to 4 tablespoons filling on each tortilla and roll to enclose. Arrange in single layer in 2 rectangular baking dishes. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes, or until heated through. To serve, top enchiladas with tomato sauce, then sour cream. Decorate with pomegranate seeds, almonds and parsley sprigs. Makes 18 enchiladas.

CINNAMON TOMATO SAUCE

3 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 1/2 cups canned tomato sauce

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 stick cinnamon

4 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

Salt, pepper

Heat oil in saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender but not browned. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

MOCHA CREME WITH BANANAS

1 envelope plus 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1/3 cup Mexican coffee liqueur

1 teaspoon chocolate extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream

2 bananas, sliced

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small saucepan. Let stand 1 minute. Add milk and place over low heat. Beat egg yolks lightly and stir into gelatin mixture. Add coffee granules and cook and stir over very low heat about 5 minutes until gelatin dissolves and mixture coats the spoon. Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur and chocolate extract. Cool, stirring often, until mixture just begins to thicken. Beat egg whites with salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in sugar, continuing to beat to form a soft meringue. Using same beater, whip cream to soft peaks. Fold egg whites and whipped cream into gelatin mixture. Turn into oiled 5-cup mold and chill until firm. Unmold onto serving plate. Surround with sliced bananas drizzled with additional coffee liqueur. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Food styling by Minnie Bernardino and Donna Deane

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