I’m sorry that this update has been so long in coming. I was busy with a project all last week, plus I got a touch of something over the weekend that kept me from blogging and cooking. So I’m taking this past weekend off and playing catch-up. This challenge is actually from one week ago.
The challenge was to make a Mexican meal, but not to fall back on the usual suspects. That means no tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas — basically, nothing wrapped in a tortilla. I immediately decided that I wanted to make several small plates, like a tasting menu. Appetizers are often my favorite dishes in Mexican cooking, anyway, and that would give me a chance to try three or four new dishes.
For help, I turned to Rick Bayless, specifically his cookbooks Authentic Mexican and Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. You may know Rick Bayless from his stint on Top Chef Masters or from his restaurants in Chicago (which I have yet to visit, although my husband has been several times). I love his cookbooks because they make authentic Mexican cooking accessible to the home cook. He gives lots of helpful advice about ingredients, timing, and varying the recipes, and they usually turn out delicious. I won’t be reprinting any of his recipes here, so I urge you to check out his books for yourself.
Here is the resulting menu:
If you’ve never had jicama before, it’s a very refreshing starter. It’s crisp and cool like a cucumber, but the taste is closer to a very mild radish. Look for jicama in the grocery store; it’s a gigantic, waxy thing that looks like an oversized turnip, but it’s easy to peel and cut up into sticks. Marinate the sticks in a little lime juice and lemon juice, chopped mint leaves and salt. We were crunching on these all week long. This was my toddler’s favorite dish of the night.
Seviche is seafood that is “cooked” by marinating it for several hours in lime juice. I’ve never made seviche at home before, mostly because I was afraid of dealing with the uncooked fish. But we like tuna pretty rare anyway, so that seemed like a good fish to use for my first attempt. This was a very refreshing salad, especially because it’s combined with a fresh, vibrant tomato and avocado salsa. A little chopped serrano chile provides a hint of heat. My husband and I both enjoyed this one.
Melted queso with chorizo, roasted poblanos and tomatoes, served with corn chips for dipping.
This was my favorite dish of the night. I could probably have eaten it until I burst. I used chihuahua cheese, which has a wonderful mild but cheesy flavor. I melted the cubes of cheese in a metal pie plate to try to retain the heat. To the melted cheese I added roasted poblano pepper, crumbled chorizo, scallions and diced tomato. We just scooped it all up with corn chips. I think this mixture would work very well as a topping for nachos. We had about half left over, and it reheated nicely the next night in the same pie plate.
This was an intense, flavorful dish. Sharing one pepper was plenty for my husband and me. I had to modify the original recipe, which called for dried ancho peppers instead of fresh poblanos, so this is closer to a chile relleno. I stuffed it with a mixture of pan-fried chorizo and potatoes and sauced it with a spicy tomato-chipotle sauce. That’s parmesan sprinkled on top. It was hot, but not overwhelmingly so. This was my husband’s favorite dish due to the mouth-popping flavor combination.
And I made a delicious red wine sangria to accompany. I mixed cheap red wine with lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, and seltzer water over ice, and popped in a sprig of mint leaves. The result was way too drinkable!
My husband said that this was my most successful challenge yet, mainly because I stretched myself and made dishes that I wouldn’t normally cook at home. And because everything came out so deliciously. We stretched our stomachs too, as we ate way more than we should. This would make an awesome menu for a Mexican-themed party, especially held outside on the deck on a warm night.
I’m hoping to tackle the next challenge later this week. The challenge is to make a kid’s favorite dinner at home: chicken nuggets and fries. Since I don’t deep-fry, this will require some creativity. Look for the results next week.