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Mexico, One Plate at a Time: Starters, Snacks, and Light Meals

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November 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the starters, snacks, and light meals chapter of Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Creamy Enchiladas with Chicken, Tomatoes and Green Chile

    Okay - I am very happy that I made this. Not because I loved the finished product, but because of the sauce and I discovered how to make crema mexicana...

    1. Homemade crema. I think this step is worthwhile - the crema, just on its own, is delicious. I used the cultured buttermilk and it just transformed the cream!

    2. The sauce: Used canned tomatoes and 2 1/2 serranos. While the tomato puree and onions are cooking together, you really do have to stir the pot constantly because the tomato will leap out of the pan if you don't. I did this for a full 15 minutes and then I turned the heat down to low and let it slowly simmer on its own for a bit longer. The finished sauce (after adding the broth, and then the crema) is sensational. I am now on a quest to find many uses for this sauce. Delicious. I kept eating this straight out of the pot.

    3. Assembling the Enchiladas. I do admit that I took a shortcut and did not lightly oil the corn tortillas and warm them before assembling (my husband was getting very impatient to eat), but the tortillas were pliable enough not to break apart when rolled. For the filling, I used a shredded rotisserie chicken. Used a 9x13 pan. Sprinkled with Monterey Jack. Put in oven for about 20 minutes.

    4. Final product: We ate immediately, as he instructs, and it was tasty, but not as great as I was expecting. He warns that it softens to near mush after 15 minutes, but I feel that it was at mush stage right out of the oven... So, I will not make these again, but will definitely be making the sauce and the crema. If anyone has some creative ideas for using the sauce, let me know.

    Served with Mexican Beans from the Pot and Classic Mexican White Rice

    18 Replies
    1. re: akp

      akp, thx for mentioning the buttermilk/crema thing
      I hadn't read that part of the book and I have some buttermilk in the fridge . . . good crema without preservatives can be hard to find at the grocery store.

      1. re: akp

        I agree with many of akp's comments above. I used a combination of hot cherry peppers and jalepenos (still picking them from the garden).

        1. This was easy and great. I wrote a huge post it note on my oven to remind myself that the crema was resting in the oven.

        2). Loved the sauce. Hated how much the sauce jumped out of the pot. Even constant stirring didn't alleviate the mess. But, it was absolutely delicious. I would have liked extra sauce for the enchiladas because the leftovers were a little drier than I would have liked.

        3). I did take the step to oil and warm the tortillas. I think I used too much oil. Admittedly, I was very stressed during this step because I was worried about the impending sogginess. I think oiling and warming helped to prevent it. I used the leftover rotisserie chicken from the chile rellenos that I made a few days prior.

        My quibble with this recipe and cookbook are as follows. For all of the text and supposed testing ideas within the cookbook, nowhere in the cookbook were there directions on how to assemble the enchiladas. Meaning, which way were the tortillas to be rolled, etc. I couldn't get the finished product to fit in the dish so I staggered them. Which worked great except for actually serving it. Since they weren't lined up I ended up breaking them upon serving. I tucked both ends of the tortillas under each other and placed them down. It worked ok, but it was slightly awkward. Also, there was no guidance as to how much meat, other than to roll the chicken into it. I ran out of chicken and had to use the leftover chicken meat from the rellenos to fill it up. I found it annoying that one recipe had too much and the other had too little.

        4. Final product - it was good. It actually grew on me. When I first ate it, I didn't think it was worth the effort. The re-heated leftovers had a better flavor. I think this is a good recipe but I would mix up the fillings.

        I served this with mexican white rice.

        http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

        http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

        1. re: beetlebug

          Wow, looks like ooey-gooey comfort food to me! I know what you mean about missing details. I find myself having several pauses w/ each recipe due to lack of details. Does seem like it was rushed to print and not combed over enough. I've found Mexican Kitchen to be more thorough...

          1. re: Carb Lover

            interesting - I never got Mexican Kitchen because I already have Diana Kennedy's books . . . thoughts?
            Bayless OPAAT fills the shortcut/contemporary slot for me.

          2. re: beetlebug

            I did find, as well, that I enjoyed the re-heated leftovers better! I think that the flavors of the sauce just had to have some time to permeate the entire dish.

          3. re: akp

            I made these enchiladas last night and agree that the crema step was great! I made my crema from sour cream, but the buttermilk idea sounds very good. Hubby and I loved the sauce, although I think we are still cleaning up tomato stains from the kitchen wall! I used asadero cheese on top, which melted very easily.

            Hubby's only complaint was that the dish overall seemed kinda sweet. I tended to agree and would like a little bit of lime or tequila or something in it to take away the sweetness.

            I am glad I made this dish and look forward to cutting a little bit of the sweet out maybe with some lime or something.

            1. re: akp

              Creamy Enchiladas...
              akp, totally agree with your comments.
              I made this 2 nights ago & liked the sauce and the crema, but the resulting baked mush was not pleasant. Won't make this again but good to know how to make the sauce & cream. I also served them straight out of the oven and it didn't help the texture, also it was overall lacking in flavor.

              1. re: morebubbles

                The only way to have Enchiladas is straight from the Griddle / Frying Pan.... never baked... all successful Enchiladas in Mexico are created on the spot.

                Given that... I cannot recommend Chilaquiles enough for a similar but more convenient product (that most people really, really like for its al dente pasta like quality). If you haven't made them before...

                > Cut up some Tortillas into quarters or thick strips & let them get stale... the more the stale, the better

                > Pan Fry them in good Corn Oil (not Mazola... but true, unrefined Corn Oil which you can find at Whole Foods & other Gourmet shops) or Lard

                > Once they are golden, crisp add them to the sauce (in the pan or a casserole... cover & simmer for 5 minutes or so)

                > Plate... then serve with raw onion, queso fresco, cilantro & your favorite protein (Refritos, Fried Egg, Grilled Chicken, Steak, Shrimp etc.,)

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Thank you so much for that 'refresher', EN! I haven't made them but I remember my grandmother used to make chilaquiles & I couldn't remember what they were exactly (I was going to ask you, but you read my mind!)
                  We're talking homemade tortillas here, right? Fry them, into the sauce, then serve with the stuff you mentioned on top on each serving, correct? A further question please: How would you season the protein, say chicken or shrimp, or does it need much of it? Thank you! More al dente, sounds better already...

                  1. re: morebubbles

                    Well you could use homemade tortillas... but honestly, you will not notice much difference relative to decent commercial tortillas.

                    As far as seasoning the protein... you will not go wrong if you just salt & pepper... maybe marinade in Garlic Oil. Otherwise... if you save some of the Sauce (before adding Crema) that would make a good finishing sauce.

                    If you want to get daring... you could season in Garam Masala or another traditional Indian seasoning mix... to play on the similarity of the Sauce with an Indian dish that puts Chicken in a Tomato-Saffron cream sauce.

                    Another idea would be to marinade the Shrimp / Chicken in vanilla to give the dish a particular Aztec focus (Tomato, Serranos & Vanilla were key, go to seasonings in their cuisine).

                    Another dimension would be Pre-Hispanic herbs... maybe an oil infusion of Mexican Oregano & Spearmint for the marinade... then place the Shrimp / Chicken over Avocado leaves wrapped in Hoja Santa then grill.

                    Please let me know how it turns out!

                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                      wow, I don't know how this happened, but I had lunch (and dessrt) but I'm hungry all over again reading your descriptions! ok, then, will try again but in a different way, thanks! (I like the Indian seasoning idea as well, great! odd how I'm more familiar with those seasonings--will do research on Aztec seasonings too, brilliant)

                    2. re: morebubbles

                      Oh & yes... you have the process down.

                    3. re: Eat_Nopal

                      Eat_Nopal, I'm letting you know how it went with chilaquiles etc.
                      Sat. I made the tomato/chile( used 1 poblano & 1 jalapeno) salsa from the book & made tortillas. I served my portion this way: a tortilla, a few Tbls salsa, shredded chicken, cheese & cilantro. Fried beans on the side (I cooked them in 1 Tbls bacon grease with 1 Tbls olive oil and added half a chopped chipotle). Also served pickled peppers en escabeche. It was good!
                      Now for the fun part. I saved some tortillas to make them go stale. This morning I had the most amazing breakfast--I did as you suggested: heated up the salsa and placed my stale tortilla (I cut it in two) into it, let it cook some (OK I just realized I was suppossed to fry it--oh well). Fried an egg. Then I layered the tortilla with salsa, the fried egg, cilantro; served with some leftover fried beans on the side and sprinkled all with grated hard cheese. It was magnificent!! Spicy, flavorful, the tortilla texture just right (like you said, al dente)! The sauce also improved with sitting for 2 days, thicker, darker and overall better flavor. Thank you so much for the tips! It was worth it, glad I didn't give up entirely.

                      1. re: morebubbles

                        I'm beginning to think that Eat_Nopal's suggestions for using leftovers are better than the original recipes. My favorite meal this month may have been from one of EN's recommendations on what to do with leftover soup beans.

                        Your handmade tortilla photo is inspiring, morebubbles. You did that from harina, not fresh masa, right? Some day I'll try it. Right now it's time to give Mexican a rest.

                        1. re: JoanN

                          thnx Joan! yes, from dried masa harina, I can't get fresh masa here OR masa harina for tamales. I'm resting now too, after I make a salsa with tomatillos & pepper I have left. Your beans do look good and tasty! I agree that EN's suggestions yielded better results

                  2. re: akp

                    I know this is a little late in the game to be asking, but could someone paraphrase the homemade crema recipe cited above, I think it is on p. 133. I can't get a copy of it anywhere and I really want to try this recipe.

                    1. re: dkennedy

                      Here you go!

                      1 cup heavy whipping cream
                      1/4 cup good-quality commercial sour cream with active cultures OR 2 TB buttermilk with active cultures

                      Heat the cream in a small saucepan just enough to "take the chill off"/body temperature (about 100 degrees). Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream or buttermilk. Pour into glass jar, set lid on loosely, and place in a warm place (not over 90 degrees). It should thicken in 12 hours. Tighten lid and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. It should last a week in the refrigerator.

                      1. re: Rubee

                        Thank you so so so much!!!!

                  3. Shrimp Ceviche "Cocktail"
                    Made this tonight. It was terrific. I halved the recipe, served 2 generously (had is as an appetizer/salad). Looks pretty and tastes fresh and nice. Wouldn't change anything (the tortilla chip was purely decorative, because the cocktail is so satisfying it doesn't need anything else).
                    That creamy enchilada recipe looks great to me too, I want to try it.

                    1. Forgot to say that I'd like extra points for having used Mexican avocadoes (from Michoacan)! :)

                      1. Classic Guacamole
                        Made this this evening. It was just OK. I'm used to making it my way, in which I add more flavoring/spices. I fixed it up by adding a bit more tomato, lime juice, tabasco, cayenne, etc. Guess I wouldn't make this recipe again altough it's not horrible or anything! I didn't add cilantro which prob. made a difference.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: morebubbles

                          cilantro=big difference
                          even if you don't think you like it (or are partnered with someone who claims to hate it...)
                          I think it's worth making at least part of whatever with the cilantro
                          (I converted that way)
                          cheers!

                          1. re: pitu

                            Cheers right back! There seems to be a large community of cilantro haters out there. Amazing! I like it, so next time, you're right, I'll have to try the cilantro on half of the guacamole, or other dish.

                            I'm into trying the crema as well, it's hard finding Mexican ingredients here so at least that's one item I can make myself.

                        2. Griddle-Baked Squash Blossom Quesadillas

                          I've always wanted to make something with squash blossoms ever since seeing them at the farmers' markets here. So last Saturday, I bought a bunch and then went in search of the other ingredients for this recipe. I'm lucky that here in the SF Bay Area many of the ingredients are available: I was able to find asadero cheese and, in one small market, fresh ground masa that was still warm when they weighed it out for me. Ran out of juice looking for epazote, so I substituted cilantro instead.

                          This recipe was tasty but not as good as it could have been-- and it was my fault. YOu're supposed to have a tortilla press to roll out the masa into a thin tortilla: I just did this with a rolling pin and waxed paper. As a result, my quesadillas weren't perfectly round, which made them more difficult to stuff with the cheese and squash blossoms. The cheese kept leaking out, so I didn't cook them as long as Rick recommends (6-7 minutes!). Still, they were yummy in a general quesadilla sort of way. The squash blossoms didn't really have a distinctive taste, I felt.

                          I was trying to cook four dishes that night (pork loin in tomatillo sauce, classic white rice, this, and mac and cheese for my toddler), so I didn't give this dish the attention it deserved. It could be lovely in the hands of a better cook. I'll try it again some other night when I'm not so harried-- I think it's definitely worth another try.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: redwood2bay

                            That's interesting... there's a local Mexican restaurant that we frequent that has squash blossom quesadillas and I find them to have a very distinct taste... almost nutty!

                            1. re: redwood2bay

                              Next time if the cheese leaks out... let it, it will toast to a declicious golden brown... which in Mexico is intentionally produced and sold as Cheese Chicharron.

                            2. Gorditas (Corn Masa Pockets) w/ classic shredded beef (Gorditas con Carne Deshebrada)--p. 42

                              Online version of recipe here:
                              http://recipecircus.com/recipes/Net_S...

                              So there's been some discussion on another thread about how Rick Bayless's recipes haven't received as much praise as previous cookbooks of the month; trust me, this one is rave-worthy!!! I was stunned at how delicious it was after each component came together to form one cohesive, balanced, and tantalizing snack treat. The only thing that would have made it better would be sipping his classic margarita or a cold cerveza...

                              Things didn't even go as according to planned, and all concern went out the window after I sat down to taste. First off, I'm beginning to realize the extent to which I'm unfamiliar w/ the "dance" of Mexican cooking. Whereas I can gracefully and efficiently waltz around the kitchen when working w/ other cuisines, I feel like I have two left feet as far as Mexican food is concerned. My rhythm is terrible and my movements are all disjointed; I find myself having to read the instructions three times before progressing. I'm glad no one was watching me. :-

                              )

                              Secondly, I've never worked w/ fresh masa before. Bought it from the market "preparada", but I don't have a tortilla press and wasn't prepared for how sticky it would be. Since gorditas are meant to be thicker than tortillas, I found that a rolling pin worked fine. I had several goofs in the process of the first cooking since the rolled out dough clung to my hands, but learned that generously flouring my hands helped them to get into the pan smoothly.

                              Thirdly, I should have known that all masa isn't created equal. I grabbed the smallest bag (7 lbs!) at the store thinking that they were all the same; however, I realized that this bag was labeled "para tamales" after I returned home. The one for tamales has a coarser grind than the one for tortillas/gorditas, but I figured it would be ok since I like texture. Other differences?

                              Photo of my 7-lb. bag of masa:
                              http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                              Fourthly, my gorditas didn't puff up like Rick described. I halved the dough recipe but used almost the full amount of baking powder. Maybe it's time to refresh my baking powder. I tried to split them in half to create a pocket, but it didn't work. So I just piled the meat on top like a tostada.

                              Here's a photo of the finished dish:
                              http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                              Here's a close-up food porn shot:
                              http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                              Those of you who are shy about frying might be hesitant to try this, but it only calls for a 1/2 inch of oil, doesn't sputter at all, and doesn't require much time in the oil. It's a good entry into the world of frying.

                              Photo of mutant gordita (looks like a cell splitting) frying:
                              http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

                              Like I said, it tasted amazing! The shredded beef was flavorful and succulent, and I ended up using Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes to add some depth. The meat doesn't simmer in the sauce for very long after it's shredded, so I might increase that simmering time to enhance complexity. Those of you who don't want to make gorditas can make the meat alone to use in tacos, burritos, etc. We started eating these w/ fork and knife like tostadas but then graduated to picking them up and eating them like tacos. My husband couldn't stop raving. He was so happy that he sprung up to do the dishes afterwards.

                              The masa shell tasted incredible. The toasty corn flavor really came through and matched perfectly w/ the beef. I was afraid it might be a little tough or chewy, but it was very light and crispy. The anejo cheese added a nice bitter-salty pungency. For some reason, I thought that I had read that he recommended a salsa for this so I made a shortcut one w/ fire-roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, and salt in the blender. I liked the freshness this gave, although it's not really in the recipe.

                              Overall, I would def. make this again. It would be impressive for a party, but getting it out hot for a crowd is tricky. As in the chicken w/ pumpkin seed sauce recipe, I found some details lacking and some instructions that didn't quite work (ie, temp. and time being a little off). However, I'm already starting to feel more comfortable w/ improvising and following my gut. Maybe, just maybe, I'm getting into the groove. More masa adventures to come...

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                Thanks so much for this review. This was the first recipe I tried when I bought the book, and mine didn't go as well as yours. I used masa harina and know now that I made them too dry (cracked around the edges, etc). I did, however, pick up a tortilla press in Texas the next time I visited, so am really hoping to have a chance this month to tackle this again - especially after your report! Also, mine didn't puff up either, so that makes me feel better. ;). Maybe I'll post on the Boston board if there's a place I can find some fresh masa.

                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                  You've also inspired me. This recipe wasn't on my too try list, but it is now. Thanks for taking one for the team. I'm going to wait for Rubee's responses on where to buy fresh masa and tag team her.

                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                    Glad to hear you're inspired to try this. I've already been thinking of ways to fine tune for my tastes next time. While the deshebrada was tasty, I think it lacked a little flavor/fat from being stewed in the water. Next time, I'm going to add a bit of the cooking liquid into the shredded beef and tomato mixture and let it simmer a little longer.

                                    I'm going to try the sopas next...

                                  2. re: Carb Lover

                                    Wonderful reportage as usual CL. The part about getting hot gorditas to a crowd at a party reminded me of a Julia Child show on omelettes. She made about 6 different kinds and kept saying how easy it'd be (since each om. took only a few moments to cook) to serve a crowd. She gets all worked up and says that 4 family members all making omelettes could feed a crowd of 300 (or something like that). She never took into consideration that you'd have to be standing there flipping omelettes for extended periods of time

                                    I've been too busy making Bittman Bread (twice since Friday morning) to get into Bayless.

                                  3. Cheese and Mushroom Quesadillas or Quesadillas de Queso y Hongos(p. 54).

                                    This was a delicious meal along with the side and some salsas! I used "La Banderita" corn tortillas, Monterey Jack, and sliced cremini mushrooms. I sauteed the sliced mushrooms in extra-virgin olive oil with 3 sliced fresh serranos, and added some salt and chopped cilantro. I cooked the quesadillas on a flat cast iron pan (a round fajita pan). The tortilla is brushed with a little oil, then put onto the pan. Grated cheese is placed on top, along with the mushroom mixture. When the cheese starts to melt, fold the quesadilla in half, and flip the quesadilla a few times until both sides are nice and crispy. This was a great dinner, simple but tasty. The flavors of the meal really came together. I served it with the "Seared Corn with Green Chiles", cilantro, and lime from "Mexican Kitchen". I also served the quesadillas with a little crema, and two types of salsas - the left-over Tomato and Roasted Green Chile Salsa (Salsa de Molcajete), and the Green Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde). Hmmmm. I think I'll go heat one up for lunch.

                                    Picture:

                                    http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                    Oh, and the Cranberry Margarita from this December's Bon Appetit was EXCELLENT with this Mexican meal. ;

                                    )

                                    http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Rubee

                                      Lunch:

                                      http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                    2. Green Tomatillo Salsa (p.60).

                                      This is my first time making a salsa verde, but not my last! Tangy, bright, and lots of heat, this was really delicious on the above quesadillas, and easy too. I used the roasted method - blackening one jalapeno and a bunch of tomatillos under the broiler, and then let cool. Blend with fresh cilantro and a little water in a blender. Add some finely chopped onion, and salt.

                                      http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                      1. Potato Chorizo Tacos with Simple Avocado Salsa (pg. 96)

                                        This was great. Loved it. It was also a fast recipe to throw together for dinner on a weeknight.

                                        I took the casings off two chorizos (bought from Cambridge Formaggio, they stuff their own) and sauteed them with an onion. I mashed everything up until the crumbed up sausages were cooked (about 10 minutes). I added two cubed up cooked yukon gold potatoes and stirred and mashed them up until the potatoes browned (about 8 minutes).

                                        Meanwhile, I threw into the food processor, a couple of tomatillos, a hot cherry pepper, a jalepeno pepper and 1 garlic clove. Whirled that up until they were blended. Then I added an avocado and gave it another whirl.

                                        The tacos and salsa were delicious together. I would like to use this filling for enchiladas too. I think this would also taste great with the tomato sauce.

                                        http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

                                        http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv...

                                        1. Beautiful pictures so far guys ... I'm just back from Idaho where the Mexican food (both at restaurants and at chowmom's) were great. I'm dying to jump into this book and cook with you.

                                          1. Red Chile Enchiladas, Street Style

                                            I made the recipe as written but with ingredients I could find and one big mistake. On the ingredients front, I used Mexican Original brand corn tortillas for enchiladas that come in a plastic bag. I had bought these from Fairway a couple of months ago when friends from Guatemala were coming to visit, never used them, and they’ve been sitting in the freezer ever since. They were a little dried out. Okay. Maybe they were a lot dried out. And Fairway didn’t have queso anejo, so I used Parmesan as suggested.

                                            Made the sauce. Bayless says it should be the consistency of canned tomato sauce. It wasn’t. More like tomato soup. He says to use a “medium-mesh” strainer. I used the available strainer. Maybe it wasn’t medium mesh. Doubt it made a difference.

                                            Got all the rest of the ingredients ready (thinly sliced onion, grated cheese, sliced romaine dressed with a bit of cider vinegar), including shredding some leftover BBQ chicken breast, and turned on the oven.

                                            You turn the enchiladas in the sauce and then fry them for 20 seconds a side in a tablespoon of oil or “rich-tasting pork lard.” Guess which one I used. The first one stuck badly to my heavy-weight stainless skillet so I switched to a Calphalon non-stick. Worked better. And the tortillas did seem to soften up quite a bit during the frying. But I still had to, as he notes, wipe out the pan and add more oil for every third tortilla. Bit of a pain. The tortillas get folded in half in overlapping groups of three on a baking sheet. When all are fried, they get reheated in the oven for five minutes.

                                            Big mistake: When I turned on the oven, I forgot to turn it down to 350 F. and ended up “warming” the enchiladas in a 500-degree oven.

                                            So the texture was a bit more tostada than enchilada, but they were still quite tasty. Good toasty chile flavor without too much heat. But the prep was both time and utensil heavy for what is supposed to be “casual fare.” The kitchen ended up looking like I’d prepared a dinner for six rather than a late lunch for myself. I kept thinking about Carb Lover’s Dance of the Mexican Kitchen as I tripped over my feet and stubbed my toes. Although I liked the end result, it’s too much of a last-minute to do for company. And forget leftovers. Bayless makes a point of saying that once prepared they can “wait for no one.” So since I’m more often than not cooking for one, I doubt I’ll try these again. But as I said, they sure were tasty and couldn’t help but be even better with good tortillas.

                                            Served them with refritos made from the Smoky Chipotle Beans I did the other night. Now THOSE I’ll do again.

                                            http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v73...

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Despite their cheap availability (albeit most places make a mediocre product) making Enchiladas is not easy you really have no wiggle room & they are laborious... I would highly recommend making Chilaquiles instead as a similar meal... particularly for guests.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                Red Chile Enchiladas, Street-Style – p. 122

                                                I don’t know why I didn’t remember this book was a COTM before making these for my Cinco de Mayo party but if I’d seen Joan’s review and No Pal’s response first, I do know I’d never had chosen an “entertaining event” to make these for the first time. Indeed they are absolutely delicious but also quite labour intensive and as Rick points out “These wait for no one” so you need to work fast and really make them to order which means keeping your cool while your hungry guests stand around watching your every move!! Nonetheless, I believe they were worth the effort and it was rewarding learning a new cooking method. Would I make them again for company….not so much!! No Pal, I definitely appreciate your suggestion of Chilaquiles, I’ve never made those either but will consider them for company instead as you say.

                                                So when it came to prep, I decided to roast my own chicken for the topping so I stuffed it with lemon and some chilis then created my own Mexican-inspired rub. mr bc was kind enough to do the shredding! I saw Joan’s note about the texture of the sauce however mine seemed to be fine, though I did puree it for about 5 mins in my blender on high and, I didn’t bother straining as the texture was good. FYI, I did double up on the garlic as well (as usual!!). I was also very fortunate to be able to get freshly made corn tortillas. We have a Tortilleria in Toronto and they make the most wonderful tortillas and nacho chips fresh daily. That said, where Joan’s first tortilla was forfeited to the not-so-non-stick cast iron pan, my first tortilla was forfeited to the “let’s see if we can’t use tongs instead of the spatula Rick recommends” mistake I made. My poor tortilla just fell apart in the clutches of the metal tongs!

                                                We loved the flavour of the warm, super-soft, sauce-coated corn tortillas and the toppings Rick suggests of grated cheese (mine was queso Duro Viejo), sliced onion, shredded chicken and the slivered romaine tossed in cider vinegar were absolutely wonderful. I’m not sure what the traditional plating would be and wondered whether I was supposed to open up the tortillas I’d folded but in the end I decided just to serve them folded as they came out of the oven. This was a big hit with our guests. I’m delighted to have lots of the sauce leftover as I’ll freeze it for future use. More photos of this dish and our Cinco de Mayo fiesta here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8463...

                                                 
                                                 
                                              2. Green Chili Chicken Tamales--page 74
                                                Very pleased with 1st effort at tamales, very comfortable with the book and will try more recipes.
                                                Rather than mix masa with Crisco, I'm glad to have had his (simple)instructions to make pork lard--important taste difference, I think. (I just used fat from pork chops.)
                                                The cooking method for assembled tamales is steaming--the masa batter did not pull away cleanly from the cornhusks as nicely as it could have, after the steaming. I'd have to experiment with the batter to fix this, but of course that did not affect the taste--
                                                Taste was FINE-- I couldn't believe that smell was coming from my kitchen, not a plate in front of me at a restaurant!
                                                We like NOT hot in my house, so the chicken mixture in thick tomatillo sauce, one lonely jalapeno, and a tiny taste of cilantro was perfect. Used homemade chicken broth, for a little extra nice flavor. My SO inhaled every morsel, topped with some "queso fresca" I bought on impulse. It's a Mexican version of fresh mozzarella, pretty close.
                                                Also (hooray!)-- almost EVERYTHING can be done the day before, and tastes better after cooling and reheating.
                                                There is a recipe a little further ahead in the book for a tamale *casserole*--same flavors, I hope, but a little less involved. Still, I am pleased to have "done" tamales, would not hesitate to make them for company!

                                                1. Tortillas de Maiz

                                                  I said I wasn't going to make the Red Chile Enchiladas again. But I'm a stubborn SOB, I had leftover toppings, and I had saved the enchilada sauce. Also, I had decided that the reason the dish didn't turn out as I'd expected it to was because I used packaged, too-long-frozen tortillas. So I went out and bought some Bob's Red Mill Golden Corn Masa Harina (available also in white corn; are they the same thing other than the color?) to make my own. My first mistake was to follow the water/flour proportions on the package not in the book (just because I was lazy and the package proportions were easier to divide by two to make a half recipe). My second mistake was to read about making tortillas in Authentic Mexican only after I'd already finished them. In AM he goes into great detail on just how soft the dough should be; in OPAAT he doesn't address the issue of dough consistency at all, at least not that I saw. So my dough was too stiff, although I found it quite easy to roll with a rolling pin between plastic after first pressing down on the dough ball with my small cast-iron skillet. And the cooking process went smoothly as well. My tortillas even puffed up a bit so I figured I must be doing something right.

                                                  But the resulting tortillas weren't soft. Are they supposed to be soft? The only ones I've ever had, other than chips, have been. And in the finished dish, these tortillas were, if anything, even more tostata-like than the frozen ones (even though this time I remembered to set the oven to 350). And, I must also say, not a whole lot tastier. I still liked the Red Chile Enchiladas, still a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. But I don't think that what was on my plate was what this dish is supposed to be.

                                                  Here's a shot of my tortillas. (The finished dish the second time around looked pretty much the same as the one I posted above.)

                                                  http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v73...

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Thanks for your report, JoanN. I admire your perseverance! I'm just getting familiar w/ masa myself, so I'm sorry that I can't be of much help. Your dough does look very dry though.

                                                    I've been using my bag of fresh masa, which I hear is better than the masa harina stuff. I accidently bought masa for tamales which I'm pretty sure has lard in it; the feel in my hand is moist and slightly greasy. I haven't tried making fresh tortillas w/ it yet, but I will soon. Not only does lard give great flavor, but I'm hoping it will make the tortillas softer. We'll see...

                                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                                      I'll be eager to hear how your tortillas turn out using the fresh masa. Someone just told me about a Mexican grocery in Manahattan that might possibly have fresh masa. I'm going to check it out tomorrow. Sure hope that if they do they sell it in smaller than 7-pound quantities! I really like Mexican food, but damn! this learning curve is a steep one!

                                                    2. re: JoanN

                                                      I am glad you posted the picture... the main problem is that Bob's is using Yellow corn which has higher a fiber content & courser grind than White corn. You can still use the Yellow corn (it has a nice earthy flavor to it), by adding Rice or Potato flour to lighten it up (I would say 1 part Rice/Potato to 3 parts Yellow corn would do it).

                                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                        Thanks, EN. Bob's does sell a white corn masa harina, but in my ignorance I thought corn=yellow so perhaps grabbed the wrong bag. I don't have either rice or potato flour and am loath to add to my alarmingly-expanding collection of specialty flours. Any chance something else might do the trick?

                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                          You could use plain old refined wheat flour & perhaps add a whipped egg white? to try to lighten it up. I guess you don't get much non Yellow corn in your corner of the world?

                                                    3. Roasted Poblano Guacamole with Garlic and Parsley (guacamole de chile poblano asado) p.6.

                                                      This was really good! I thought I would miss the cilantro in this guacamole, but the roasted garlic and poblano peppers really add nice flavor and depth to this tasty appetizer. Other ingredients were roasted tomatoes, chopped parsley, lime juice and salt. I served this with freshly fried tortilla chips.

                                                      Picture:

                                                      http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                      Recipe:

                                                      http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/spe...

                                                      1. Grilled Skirt Steak Tacos with Roasted Poblano Rajas (tacos de arachera al carbon con rajas). p. 92

                                                        Another nice simple supper - these were not only good with just a squeeze of lime juice, but were also very tasty with the poblano guacamole and left-over salsa verde. Skirt steak is marinated in a puree of onion, lime, garlic, cumin, and salt. Instead of a grill, I cooked the steak and the onions on a hot flat cast iron pan, and served them in store-bought corn tortillas ("La Banderita"). The arachera came out juicy and flavorful from the tangy marinade. Rajas ("strips") of onion and roasted poblano peppers completes the dish, though I think I prefer his rajas recipe in "Mexican Kitchen", where he adds chopped garlic and dried Mexican oregano to the peppers and onions.

                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                        http://im1.shutterfly.com/procserv/47...

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                          Those do look good, Rubee. And I have a skirt steak in the freezer. Did you do the steak whole and then slice? I'm guessing so, or it it wouldn't have come out so perfectly medium-rare. I don't have Mexican Kitchen. Is the addition of garlic and oregano to the onions and peppers the only difference between the two?

                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                            Hi Joan!

                                                            Yes, I cooked them whole and then sliced. I marinated for about 5 hours. Mexican Kitchen has only the recipe for rajas. That one calls for roasting and peeling the peppers (6), cutting one onion in 1/4-inch slices and sauteeing in a TB olive or vegetable oil, and then adding some finely chopped garlic (3 cloves) and 1/2 tsp of dried Mexican oregano and 1/4 tsp of dried thyme. Cook for a minute, then add chiles to heat through, and salt to taste. It's not a big difference, but I like the addition of the garlic and dried herbs in the rajas as the tacos above are fairly simple. He also mentions in MK to make rajas tacos, which I've done and those are good too. Add a little heavy cream or crema to the rajas, and they make a nice taco filling, sprinkled with queso fresco or other cheese. Now I'm hungry for one but have no tortillas left..hmmm..I may heat up the steak, and serve the creamy rajas as a sauce over it.

                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                              Thanks for the details, Rubee. Think I'll try the MK variation. As far as I'm concerned, damned few dishes aren't improved by the addition of garlic.

                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                Amen!

                                                        2. Rubee, these look very good, congrats! It's also good to know Mexican Kitchen recipe is better.

                                                          1. Melted Cheese Casserole with Mexican Sausage and Roasted Chiles (Sort of)

                                                            Using up ingredients here to clean the fridge for T’giving, so I doubled the amount of fresh chorizo (made in New Jersey, bought at Fairway), used toasted anchos instead of fresh poblanos, and sprinkled with fresh epazote just because I had it and he uses it for a garnish in another queso fundido. And I had some (made in Brooklyn) Oaxacan string cheese.

                                                            This is very good high-fat, high-cholesterol comfort food. I’d never go out and buy the ingredients especially for it, but if I had them hanging around again I’d certainly make it again. There was a hint of inappropriate sweetness—I assume from the ancho chiles—that probably wouldn’t have been there if I’d used the poblanos. And a better, spicier chorizo would have given it more flavor as well as a welcome kick.

                                                            In the photo, the cheese doesn’t look as melted as it was. He says to bake just until cheese begins to melt, and that’s what I did.

                                                            http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v73...

                                                            I scooped it up with a spoon, dumped it onto warm corn tortillas, and tried not to let the grease run down my forearms. Light meal? Hah!

                                                            (Is this the appropriate place to request that our Cookbooks of the Month for January, February, and March be limited to Weight Watchers titles? Three months of this and my jeans are beginning to scream at me.)

                                                            1. Re my post of today, seen above,on chilaquiles etc. & thanking EN profusely :)
                                                              This photo shows how I shape tortillas without a tortilla press. I just keep rotating the piece of masa while flattening it out, then place on tea towel for final pressing into shape. In case it's of any interest.
                                                              http://flickr.com/photos/morebubbles

                                                              1. It's almost the end of the month and I realized I haven't posted any of my pics from our Bayless book. I will confess I didn't cook as much from it as I would have liked, since I got hung up on getting old and new recipes going for turkey day. I enjoyed reading all of your posts---and also will make more recipes from this book in the following months.
                                                                Melted Mozzarella Casserole with Mushrooms and smoky chipotle chile.
                                                                I've made this recipe many times over the years and it's always been a fav. during the football season. I make it with whatever mushrooms are available and also use mozzarella cheese if I don't have time to go to the Mexican market for the cheese Rick recs. You can make it really spicy by just increasing the amount of chipotles you add. I serve homemade toastada chips with it and pretty much follow the recipe. The great thing about the recipe is that it's made with what I almost always have on hand which is wonderful if you need a quick,great tasting app.

                                                                1. Magnificent suggestions and dishes they sound all brilliant now i will go and make a meal of my own just picked out some excellent spices and jalepenos bye...

                                                                  1. Classic Ceviche, p. 14

                                                                    I made this recipe almost exactly as written. Used a mixture of halibut, scallops and tuna. Delicious, refreshing and everyone raved:) It is a little involved and not for a weeknight treat but during the weekend it comes together nicely with a bit of planning.

                                                                    Cut the fish into bite-size peices along with an onion cut in 1/4-inch dice. Place in non-reactive bowl and pour enough lime juice so that the fish is "swimming". Leave in the fridge for 4 hours (mine was in for 3 hours and "cooked" well enough). Drain the lime juice and mix with flavourings: finely chopped tomatos, chiles, cilantro and olives. Add OJ, salt and avocado and serve. I omitted olives and avocado, did not use oil and thown out some onions from the original "cooking" in lime juice.

                                                                    Highly recommended!