Posts Tagged ‘Casa Mexico’
We wanted to prepare a festive end-of-year feast for Dan’s Aunt Amy, a native New Yorker visiting us here in Charlottesville. I knew Mama Mexico was one of her favorite Manhattan restaurants (she loved their freshly mashed guacamole and complimentary birthday tequila shots, straight to the mouth from the bottle). Sadly, Amy told us her Upper West Side haunt has just closed. But we managed to prepare a Mexican meal to rival the restaurant’s tonight.
To start, Dan made guacamole that’s hard to mess up, if you have ripe yet firm avocados on hand. Amy brought a marvelous, umami-sweet Cabot Creamery Clothbound Cheddar, with a granular, Parmegiano-Reggiano-like texture. I made this Stuffed Dates (with Stilton blue cheese and chopped pecans) recipe we saw in the Washington Post. Dates and cheese are a great appetizer pairing, but here the balsamic vinegar made the stuffing mixture look inappropriately like chopped liver. Still, it tasted good.
For our salad, I adapted the pomegranate-studded one we had made in our Seasons of My Heart cooking class while vacationing in Oaxaca in 2005. The dressing combines pomegranate molasses, fresh grapefruit juice, olive oil, garlic, of course salt and pepper, and I added a drop of my friend’s Weinsteiger Mustard. The salad consists of mixed greens, diced jicama, goat cheese, avocado, sliced radishes and ruby-like pomegranate seeds. Click here for a Baltimore blogger’s fine tutorial on how to de-seed a pomegranate.
For our main course, Debbie baked up some cheesy chicken enchiladas with red sauce. I made my dad’s famous green sauce with shrimp. Click here for his recipe, which I blogged about back in early September, when local peppers and tomatillos were still in season. To serve the dish, pile Spanish rice on a platter and top it with sliced lettuce and roasted or steamed shrimp, then ladle on the salsa verde and garnish with chopped cilantro and possibly sour cream or grated cheese if you wish. Delish! And you don’t need to buy Spanish rice in a box. All you do it fry some minced garlic in canola oil, add your desired white rice amount and sautee, add some saffron (optional), some red salsa, and possibly spices like cumin, Mexican oregano or chile powder, and then chicken broth or dissolved bouillon equal to the amount of water the rice requires to cook. Cover and simmer as directed. It’s that simple. Much more impressive than boring white rice!
This time of year, what you see at the market dictates what food you will prepare. At closing time Saturday, for the first time I noticed a vendor selling nothing but peppers. Deep green poblanos. Fiery anaheims. Bright red and yellow Italian (long and skinnier but just as sweet as bell) peppers. It was a pepper farmer from Coburg I hadn’t seen there before. To woo us, the stand fresh-roasted the peppers right there on the grill.
But I took them home to do myself. Some right on the gas burner, some under the broiler. Until they blister and turn black, then into a paper bag to steam for 10 minutes before slipping off the skins. It’s hard to get the timing just right. But better to overdue it slightly, to get that smokey roasted flavor, if you don’t mind them falling apart.
And fall apart they did as I tried to stuff the poblanos for Chiles Rellenos. Mark Bittman inspired the stuffing: grated Monterey Jack cheese, mixed with some fresh sweet corn and pumpkin seeds. Bittman also gave good tips for the batter: whip egg whites until stiff, then add flour and some beer to keep it airy. Ours didn’t quite have the right consistency because my husband is still learning how to separate the egg whites from the yolk. (Never-mind, I’ll just do it myself). But it was less eggy/omelette-like than the Rellenos my father, who worked in a Mexican restaurant throughout college, always makes.
His Mexican recipes are some of the most treasured in our family, as if that were our ancestry (oh wait: we do have Mexican cousins, stemming from the forty years my explorer-archaeologist-adventurer-cultural pirate great-great grandfather spent there). Most beloved is Dad’s famous Salsa Verde (green sauce). Here’s the recipe:
1 large onion
1 can green chiles (or roast your own anaheims or poblanos, of course)
2 cups chicken stock
1 lb. tomatillos
sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic, Mexican oregano, oil, cilantro is optional.
Saute the onions until translucent. Add all the other remaining ingredients except the sour cream. Simmer for 45 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender blender. Add sour cream to taste and blend til smooth.
And it freezes well to boot. I spooned the sauce over Chiles Rellenos but it is also excellent with camerones: just take steamed shrimp and place them atop a bed of Mexican rice and lettuce and top with the hot salsa verde.