Category Archives: mexican


Pulled Pork Enchilada Casserole (piece)

My friend Kelly moved from Seattle to Pasadena last weekend. I knew it was coming, of course, but I didn’t anticipate how much it would affect me. She showed up at our house last Friday, when we hosted a party for my husband’s graduate students, and handed me our house key. “We probably won’t need this anymore,” she said. Or something like that. Her little half smile.

We had a living room full of people. I took the key into my bedroom and burst into tears. More than anything, I was surprised—neither of us are big on goodbyes, and I assumed I’d give her a great big hug and trust I’d see her soon enough. No biggie. But all at once, in those few words, I conjured up this big crater in my life, a Kelly-shaped space where she used to fit so well. I imagined my dog, who has very few favorite people, pining after her, and started my own little moping session. No more midday Discovery Park walks. No more Battleship-style work sessions at the local coffee shop. No more, “Hey, I just tested some lamb. Want lunch?”

I met Kelly when our husbands were in graduate school together. The first time Kelly made me dinner, I think, was the time she made her mom’s taco casserole. Back then, we were still the hangers-on, the female counterparts to a relationship our now-husbands had already cultivated. You know how it is: the guys get along, so they figure the gals might, too. It doesn’t always work that way, but the more I hung out with Kelly, the more I liked being friends with her. Slowly, we started doing things together without the boys around. When she and her husband moved to Seattle a couple years ago for a post-doc, we were all thrilled.

But we knew it would be short-lived. Which is why, red and teary in front of all my husband’s colleagues, I was a little frustrated with myself. She’s not going away forever, silly, I thought. Much of her family still lives here. Somehow, in my own semi-private hallway crisis, it calmed me to think about the casserole. We’d come a long way since that night, maybe about 6 years ago now, and I figured that if I still remembered the first thing she made us—and Jim and I talk about it regularly, maybe once a month—she probably wouldn’t just up and disappear from my life altogether. A woman doesn’t make you a taco casserole unless she intends to stay in the picture, right?

It’s probably time to tell you about the dish itself. First, throw away any preconceptions you have about the word “casserole.” (Here are mine: Casseroles are for other families. They all start with a can of soup. They don’t taste good.)

Trashed? Okay.

Start with an empty pan. Layer it with corn tortillas, taco meat, cheese, maybe some salsa, and just enough sour cream to tip your nutritional barometer past the “unhealthy” mark. Then slide it into the oven, and say “bake at 350 degrees, until golden bubbly” with a Southern accent, the way Dolly Parton does in Steel Magnolias (only she’s talking about a dessert made out of canned fruit cocktail).

We loved it. I don’t think we put anything on it, really. It’s not just that you don’t need to adorn something like a taco casserole, it’s that it might even be wrong to garnish it. I often think of it when I cook dinner for people for the first time, because somehow, simply taking one single pan out of the oven, instead of juggling four of them and organizing the clean linens and getting out the good wine and turning on the right music, makes a house feel more like a home to me. A casserole is a sort of edible welcome mat, woven from a household’s history with the fibers of time, and care, and in most cases, calories. I clearly don’t make them enough. Kelly’s made me feel at home.

Earlier last week, my neighbor had come to me with a challenge. She’s cooking dinner for about 55 people in a couple weeks, for a Mexican-themed party. She needed an easy, tasty, make-ahead dish that would satisfy the stereotypical Mexican-American card without requiring any mid-meal work or attention. Ideally, she’d be able to make it a week ahead and freeze it. And ideally, it would stay hot for a long time.

There in the hallway, all streaky, it hit me that a slightly upscale version of Kelly’s taco casserole would fit the bill. The only problem? I’d mentioned the casserole to Kelly’s mom at her going away party, and her mom doesn’t remember it in the slightest. That’s the way it goes with these things, I suppose—one person’s legend is another person’s evanescence. Kelly didn’t seem to remember where the recipe came from, either, so I had no real starting point.

But pork. I had a gorgeous pork shoulder in the freezer. I thought of the neighbor. Fifty-five people. It needed to be easy, and she needed to both try it, to see if she liked it, and test it from frozen, to see how long it would take to reheat on the party day, so I needed two pans. I braised the pork, painfully simply, in two jars of store-bought salsa. I pulled it, and layered it into the pans with cheese, tortillas, sour cream, and an enchilada sauce made from combining the braising liquid, canned sauce, and canned tomatoes. (Okay, the truth here: In the middle of all this, I got a wicked case of food poisoning, let the pork sit in the fridge all cooked for 3 days, then asked our nanny, whose Texas roots qualify her as an almost professional pork puller, to shred the pork for me because when I started the project, I thought my stomach could handle it, but when I opened the pork, I realized I’d jumped the gun. Miraculously, I had a huge appetite for it when the casserole came out of the oven, and 5 days after the illness struck, it’s still the only meat I’ve been able to eat.)

It was perfect—browned and bubbling, moist and filling, interesting but kid-friendly, and irrepressibly homey. I scooped into it for lunch, and the neighbor came over to taste, and loved it. I had it again with a friend for dinner, and my sister stopped by unexpectedly, and there was enough for her, too. The last went to Graham, who shoved it into his mouth like a Neanderthal, then ceremoniously flung the leftovers onto the walls, windows, and curtains so a different neighbor would see that he’s a miniature taco casserole gladiator. For the record, this dish sticks to walls as well as it does to ribs.

The next time I see Kelly, possibly at my in-laws’ house in Maine this summer, possibly with other friends we don’t see often enough, I might make it again. I’ll drape the good carpets with plastic, when Graham’s eating, and tell stories about changing my mind, in the end, and making Dave and Kelly keep the house key after all, and about helping the neighbor make pulled pork enchilada casserole for 55, and I’ll probably forget that Kelly no longer lives in Seattle.

And for a short period, I’ll feel, deeply and completely, why some foods make people feel like they’re at home, no matter where they live.

(I’ll let you know how long to bake from frozen, in the comments section, as soon as my neighbor retests!)

Pulled Pork Enchilada Casserole 2

Pulled Pork Enchilada Casserole (PDF)
Alter the spiciness of this homey, cheese-crusted casserole—really a lazy way of making enchiladas—by using a hotter salsa. I used Trader Joe’s Double Roasted Salsa and mild enchilada sauce, and it had only a touch of heat, which hit the mark for serving a big crowd. You can always fancy it up with chopped scallions, cilantro, and avocado, too.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: Two 8”x8” casseroles, each serves 6

2 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder
2 (12-ounce) jars salsa
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14-ounce) can enchilada sauce
Vegetable oil spray
20 corn tortillas
1 cup sour cream
4 cups shredded Mexican-style cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the pork (with strings, if applicable) in a large ovenproof pot with a lid (such as a Dutch oven), pour the salsa over the top, and bake for 3 hours. (Yes, that’s all.) Let cool to room temperature. Remove any strings.

Transfer all the salsa and liquid to a food processor, and puree with the diced tomatoes and enchilada sauce. Pull the pork into bite-sized shreds and set aside, removing any large pieces of fat.

Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Spray two 8” square pans with the vegetable oil. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of each pan. Tear 5 corn tortillas in half, and arrange them in a couple layers in one pan, turning some of them so the flat sides touch the edges of the pan, then repeat for the second pan. Add half the pork to each, then divide the sour cream between the two pans, spreading it right over the pork. Add 1 cup shredded cheese, then 1 cup of the sauce, to each pan. Add another layer of 5 halved tortillas to each, then divide the remaining sauce between the two pans, and top each with another cup of shredded cheese.

Bake the casseroles for 45 minutes, until the cheese is melted and browned. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

You can also wrap casseroles first in foil, then in plastic, then freeze and reheat at 350 degrees in just the foil for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake until browned.


Filed under cheese, gluten-free, mexican, pork, recipe

A good fall project

whole kabocha squash

Some nights, it’s good to cook for a couple hours.

This kabocha squash sat on my mantle for three weeks, waiting. (Those little warts? You just bump them off with the back of your knife. And the whole thing’s edible, skin and all.)

I knew what it was meant for the moment I bought it – for stuffed peppers, the kind coated with a crisp crust, then baked, almost enchilada-style, under a blanket of bubbling cheese.

But in my book, stuffed peppers are a project. Dinner guest material, for sure. So it wasn’t until this week, when we planned to have guests for two consecutive nights, that I finally got the gumption (and made the time) to whack that hunky little squash up into pieces.

cutting kabocha

The second I started chopping, though, I realized I didn’t have to go full-on chiles rellenos style all the way. Didn’t have to roast the peppers from Sarah’s garden at high heat, and peel them until I was ready to scream. Didn’t have to make such a big goshdarn deal of it.

Sure, it took some time. But the squash and the peppers pretty much babysit themselves in the oven, and beans are happy simmering on the back of the stove.

And at dinner, when slicing into the softly spicy peppers rewarded me with an ooze of rich orange, goat cheese-infused squash filling, I was pretty happy I hadn’t made a 30-minute meal.

kabocha-stuffed poblano whole

Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Kabocha, Black Beans, and Goat Cheese (PDF)

Here’s a slightly simplified take on chiles rellenos that makes me want fall to stick around. The peppers are baked to soften, instead of roasted and painstakingly peeled. I use kabocha squash, which doesn’t require peeling either, and pan-fry the stuffed peppers in a simple egg and cornmeal coating, instead of deep-frying them.

If you’re pressed for time, you can substitute a drained can of black beans for the dried ones I used; if you have more time, make your own tomatillo salsa.

I made these in two batches, stuffing all the peppers the first night, and battering, frying, and baking half of them the first night, half the second. It worked well. I imagine the stuffed peppers could be frozen, well wrapped, and simply thawed overnight before finishing – do let us know if you try freezing.

TIME: 2 1/2 hours, start to finish (with plenty of inactive time)
MAKES: 8 servings

1 cup dried black or red beans (such as Rio Zape)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (3-pound) kabocha squash (green- or orange-skinned), scrubbed clean
8 poblano peppers (about 2 pounds total), left whole
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 (12-ounce) jars smooth green salsa (mild to hot, per your preference)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (or a pre-shredded Mexican blend)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the beans in a large pot with 5 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours or more, depending on the beans. (The beans are done when blowing on them causes the skins to curl up away from the flesh.) Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Cut the squash into four quarters with a large knife. Scrape the seeds out with an ice cream scoop. Place the squash on the baking sheet, along with the peppers, and roast: The squash should bake until the skin is completely soft and slightly puffy, and a skewer poked into the flesh goes all the way through without resistance, about 45 minutes. The peppers are done when the skins are wrinkled and the peppers begin to collapse, about 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a cutting board and set aside until cool enough to handle, and when the squash is soft, set aside to cool. Turn oven off.

While the vegetables cool, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, cook for a minute more, and remove from heat.

slicing open baked poblano

Working with one pepper at a time, use a small, sharp knife to make a 3” cut in the side of each pepper, starting near the stem. Using your fingers or the tip of the knife, carefully break the seed bunch off the stem (keeping the stem attached to the pepper, if possible), pull out all the seeds, and discard them. (Don’t worry if you don’t get every single seed.) Pour any liquid out of the pepper, and set aside.

Remove the squash’s tough stem and cut into roughly 1” pieces, skin and all – the squash will be mushy. Transfer the squash to a large mixing bowl, and add the drained beans, the reserved onion mixture, oregano, cumin, goat cheese, and 1/4 cup of the cream. Stir well to blend, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a small spoon, gently stuff peppers with the squash mixture, folding the peppers back up over the filling so you can’t see any orange.

Preheat oven again to 350 degrees. Whisk the remaining tablespoon cream with the eggs to blend in a small bowl, then pour the egg mixture into a rimmed plate or wide, shallow bowl. Place the flour and cornmeal into two additional rimmed plates, and season all three plates with salt and pepper.

frying styffed poblanos

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Working with one pepper at a time, roll the pepper first lightly in flour, then in the egg mixture, then in cornmeal, then add to the hot oil. Coat 3 more peppers and add to the pan. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until toasty brown all over, adjusting the heat as necessary. Transfer fried peppers to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and repeat with the remaining peppers.

kabocha-stuffed poblano without cheese 1

Spread the salsa in a 9” by 13” baking dish (or divide it between two smaller dishes). Arrange the peppers on top of the salsa, top each pepper with about 1/4 cup cheese, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately, with the salsa scooped on top.

(I didn’t have enough patience for good photography!)

kabocha-stuffed poblano


Filed under farmer's market, mexican, recipe, vegetables

Mmm. Turkey Burritos.

This is Tito’s idea of a fantasy dinner. He told me so. Mine too, actually. It turns out that when you mix it with salsa, leftover squash makes a delicious, earthy alternative to an enchilada-style sauce, and turkey’s moist, dark, flavorful leg meat is as much like carnitas as poultry can get (unless you’re making duck confit, I guess).

When you roll the burritos, don’t worry about tucking the ends in – the weight of the sauce will keep the burritos closed.

Ever wonder why some dinner plates say “ovenproof” on the bottom? This is why.

Turkey, Black Bean, and Squash Burrito

Wet Turkey and Black Bean Burritos with Squash Sauce (PDF)
Recipe 307 of 365

After sandwiches, my family always drifted toward using turkey leftovers for Mexican food – turkey quesadillas topped the list. But when I hosted my own Thanksgiving a few years ago, I was dismayed at how few of the actual leftovers (besides the turkey) we ate the following night.

Modeled after the kind of wet burrito one finds often at Mexican joints (rolled, smothered with sauce, and baked), here’s a delicious rendition that uses leftover pureed squash as a base for the sauce.

TIME: 10 minutes prep
MAKES: 2 big burritos

2 cups leftover pureed squash (preferably not sweetened)
1 cup hot salsa (the smooth kind)
1 cup chopped leftover turkey
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup leftover rice (white, brown or wild)
2 large (14”) flour tortillas
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix 1 cup of the squash with 1/2 cup of the salsa in a small bowl (or in the food processor, if your salsa is chunky), and set aside.

Place the remaining squash and salsa in a mixing bowl. Add the turkey, black beans, cheddar cheese, and rice, and mix to blend.

Place the tortillas on two large ovenproof plates. Divide the turkey mixture between the two tortillas, roll into burritos, and place them seam side-down on the plates. Cover the burritos with the squash-salsa mixture, and top with crumbled cotija.

Bake for 15 minutes, and serve hot – but careful with those plates.

Turkey, Black Bean, and Squash Burrito (Cut)


Filed under leftovers, mexican, recipe, vegetables

Trader Joe’s: Yay or nay?

I’ve had this box of Trader Joe’s Jalapeno Blue Cornbread Mix in my pantry for going on six months. I’ve wanted to make muffins or corn dogs or something different with it for ages, but every time I base a recipe on something from TJ’s, I get this little stab of wonder: how many of you really have access to these great (and usually “shortcut”) ingredients?

Do me a favor: Take a second and leave me a comment to let me know whether you shop at Trader Joe’s – just a yay or nay will do. I’m curious.

Blue Cheddar-Corn Muffins 2

Recipe 259 of 365: Blue Cheddar Corn Muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with vegetable oil spray, and set aside. Stir up a 15-ounce package of blue cornbread mix per the package instructions (mine requires 1 egg, 1/2 cup oil, and 3/4 cup milk), adding a generous cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese and a cup of corn kernels in at the end. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin tins. Top each muffin with a big pinch of grated cheese, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until puffed and firm in the center. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then run a small knife around the edge of each muffin to loosen, and enjoy warm.


Filed under bread, mexican, recipe

Boiled fingers and hot sauce

Slow cooked pork, just out of crock pot

I peel the mesh covering off the slow-cooked pork shoulder and place the pork on a cutting board. I’ve seared it good and brown, and it doesn’t take more than a nudge to get the meat to start flaking off in fat, juicy strips. My heart does that little pork dance, and I preheat the oven and set out corn tortillas and cheese in anticipation of a Top 10 Spicy Enchilada experience.

Slow-cooked pork

The pork has been braising all day in a mixture of various hot peppers, chicken stock, garlic, and limeade (work with me here, it was in the fridge), and the meaty, spicy scent had me checking the clock all morning long. After I take the pork out, I add a few peaches, for sweetness, and blend the whole thing into a greenish liquid with the consistency of tomato soup.

Then the night’s success screeches to a halt.

I try the sauce. It’s so spicy I can hardly breathe for a few minutes, like when you put your head under water in a too-cold lake and everything feels like it’s caving in in in. My capacity for spicy food is admittedly challenged, but this is – to me – unpalatable. My husband comes upstairs, so I hand him a soup spoon full of the stuff, which by now I’ve put on the stove to boil down, in the event that he can actually eat it. (If a food nearly kills me, I almost always immediately hand it to him. I realize this and wonder if it says something about us. Or just me.)

His eyes light up. “You made hot sauce!” he says. “That’s so cool!”

This is why I married you.

So the brilliant idea to reduce the braising liquid to make a green enchilada sauce sort of fizzles, because eating it would mean frying my taste buds and the majority of the soft tissue lining my throat. But I think it’s salvageable. I blend up a giant can’s worth of diced tomatoes, intending to add some of the green monster to the tomato puree until I get a flavorful, palatable concoction thick enough to use as enchilada sauce. But halfway through pouring a cup of the (now simmering) spicy stuff into the tomatoes, I zone out and pour liquid green magma across the top two sections of all four fingers on my right hand.

Instead of marching to the freezer right away for the trusty bag of peas I keep frozen just for moments like these, I muffle my scream and finish making a pretty good – for patchwork – enchilada sauce. Tito figures out that something is Not Right – because I’m still ignoring my hand but my body language must show I’m pissed – and begins to ask how he can help, grating cheese, etc. I manage to wrestle six too-dry corn tortillas around my random mixture of the pork, cheese, and some of the sauce, and plop them unceremoniously into a pan and top them with sauce and cheese before shoving it all in the oven, setting the timer, and heading for the peas.

Meanwhile, Tito senses my impending collapse, and finagles the remaining ingredients into another pan: He layers the tortillas, meat, cheese, and sauce into a sort of Mexican casserole, the way he’s seen Kelly do it when she makes her mom’s amazing Mexican Lasagne (which, for health purposes, should be avoided, simply because I really believe it’s made with equal parts meat, cheese, and sour cream, with perhaps a sauce or a tortilla somewhere in there as a garnish). He takes my ripped, sad-looking enchiladas out of the oven because he knows we don’t need both dishes, and because his dish looks better (though not much). He wraps them up properly for freezing (my, he’s learned some things), first with foil, then with plastic, then bustles about, reporting cheese melting, cheese bubbling, cheese browning, etcetera. I give up on reading, because I can’t hold the peas on my hand and hold my book at the same time, and I try to take a shower, but the water’s too hot for my hand to stay in long. I put on pajamas, and refuse to brush my wet hair. Crankiness spreads to every cell. I’m pouting over the sauce that could have been so beautiful, and my boiled fingers.

Then dinner is ready. I hobble to the table (somehow the burn on my fingers has affected my lower body as well), and the casserole is warm, perfectly spicy, and heinous to look at. But the meat is perfect, and there’s a giant pot of really good hot sauce on the stove.

And it occurs to me, with a surfable wave of relief, that we had planned to have company for dinner.

Today, I’m sprouting little blisters along the tops of my fingers, and a few of my knuckles actually appear bruised, which I can’t figure out. And we now have a healthy supply of hot sauce.

I’m not sure how to give you this recipe. The pork is delicious (and really only slightly spicy) on its own, but the intended enchilada sauce should probably not be used as such, as is. Below is what I actually did, so you can make pulled pork and homemade hot sauce – if you want to make enchilada sauce, combine a blended 35-ounce can of diced tomatoes with enough of the blended green sauce to give it the heat you like (but watch your hands). That should give you roughly enough sauce to make two (11×7 )pans of 6 enchiladas each, mixing them meat with a little of the sauce and a few big handfuls of shredded cheese for filling.

It’s clear that the slow cooker and I are not meant to be working together right now. More in cooler weather.

Pulled Pork lasagne

Pepper-Braised Pork and Homemade Hot Sauce (PDF)
(AKA Failed Spicy Slow-Cooked Pork Enchiladas)
Recipe 256 of 365

Pile juicy, moist pulled pork into sandwiches, burritos, or quesadillas with cheese and anything else that strikes your fancy, and serve with the hot sauce for dipping.

I used Newman’s Own limeade. (“Made with tart virgin limes,” it says. As opposed to what other kinds of limes?)

TIME: 45 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings, plus lots of hot sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (2 1/2 pound) pork shoulder roast, patted dry, tied with string (most come tied)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Anaheim chilies, tops cut off and cut into round slices (with seeds)
2 serrano chilies, tops cut off and cut into round slices (with seeds)
2 jalapeno chilies, tops cut off and cut into round slices (with seeds)
1 small red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups limeade
3 cups chicken broth
2 large peeled, pitted peaches, chopped

Heat a large, heavy pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Season the pork with salt and pepper, and cook the pork for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until well browned on all sides.

Transfer the pork to a slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients except the peaches, plus a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and cook on low heat for 8 hours, turning over once during cooking (not crucial, but preferred).

When done, transfer the meat to a cutting board, remove the string, and shred with a fork and knife. Use as desired.

To make the hot sauce, carefully puree the cooking liquid, along with the peaches, in a blender or food processor. (This is best done in batches, unless you have an immersion blender, in which case you can whirl everything together right in the slow cooker.) Transfer to a large saucepan, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken. Let cool to room temperature, then store in airtight containers in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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Filed under failure, kitchen adventure, mexican, pork, recipe

Sadness is being a Silpat

Roasting Veggies for sauce

Oh, I have done the unthinkable. I have ruined a Silpat, melted its magic silicon mixture into a disintegrating screen of mesh. I thought I was being clever by not using parchment paper when blackening tomatoes and peppers for salsa (I’ve made that mistake before), but it turns out I was only being slightly less stupid.

But really, who knew Silpats have a temperature limit? I thought they were bombproof. Heatproof. Meltproof. I was wrong. I thought it was just scarred at first, just a little darker than it had been before, but when I went to clean it, the little fibers along the edge just rolled up and melted away in my hands. (Thank goodness I didn’t scrape it into the food.) I took an X-ray, just to see how broken it was on the side I’d begun to clean:

Silpat X-ray

It’s broken. Goodbye, Silpat. (And also: can you recycle a Silpat? I guessed not.)

the silpat moves on

And yes, I touched my eyes after chopping the jalapeños. Again.

Grilled chipotle flank steak

Grilled Chipotle Flank Steak with Broiled Salsa (PDF)
Recipe 224 of 365

I don’t have such a hot reputation with the broiler – I tend to forget how hot it gets and burn things, which is exactly why salsa is perfect thing for me to use it for. Here, tomatoes, tomatillos, and bell and jalapeño peppers are roasted to a blackened crisp, peeled, blended, then “fried” over high heat on the stovetop to create a thick, spicy slather for tender, chipotle-rubbed, grilled flank steak. Eat the steak and salsa alone, or pile both into tacos.

This is a great recipe to prepare ahead (you can make the salsa up to 3 days ahead and marinate the steak the morning of), and throw on the grill when guests arrive.

TIME: 45 minutes active time, mostly 4 hours before serving
MAKES: 4 servings

For the steak:
2 large chipotle chilies (from a can, the kind in adobo sauce), finely chopped
Juice of 1 large lime
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 pounds flank steak

For the salsa:
1/2 pound Roma tomatoes
3/4 pound tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
3 small jalapeño peppers
1 red bell pepper
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

About four hours before grilling, marinate the steak in the wet rub: Mix the chilies, lime juice, garlic, oil, cumin, salt, and chili powder in a small bowl until blended.

Chipotle wet rub

Rub the mixture on both sides of the flank steak, and refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 12 hours.

Make the salsa: Preheat the broiler on its highest setting. Place the tomatoes, tomatillos, and all peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 10 to 20 minutes (this will really depend on your broiler), turning occasionally, or until all sides of all the vegetables are completely blackened. (You may need to leave the bell pepper in a little longer than the other vegetables.) Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and seal with plastic wrap, and let sit at least 15 minutes, or until cool. (The steam generated by the vegetables will lift their skins off and make them easier to peel.)

Peel and seed peppers, peel tomatoes and tomatillos (but keep seeds), and transfer them all to the work bowl of a food processor, along with the garlic. Process until smooth.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, then carefully pour in the salsa – it will splatter – and simmer, stirring, until the sauce darkens and thickens, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside or refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill at medium-high heat, and grill the steak to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes (this is a good time to reheat the salsa, if you want to serve it warm). Slice it across the grain, and serve with the salsa.

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Filed under Beef, mexican, recipe, vegetables

Tito’s Guac

If you’ve ever lived with someone, you know how certain tasks fall to certain hands. In our house, my husband almost always makes the coffee. I make salad dressing. He lights the grill. I make salsa, but he always chops the jalapeño peppers, because I can’t seem to do it without lighting my eyes on fire, no matter how cognizant I am of where I put my fingers.

The last time we made guacamole, I wanted something with good texture and a bit of spice, and my husband offered to make it using the ingredients I’d lined up on the counter. I raised my eyebrows: he’d never offered before.

“Missing something,” he announced when he was done. I passed him the salt and pepper. He added tomatoes. He still looked unhappy.

“You know what this needs?” he asked.

“No,” I said, “I don’t.”



This is why we can finish a whole bowl in one sitting:

Tito eating guac

Recipe for Tito’s Guacamole (PDF)
Recipe 220 of 365

TIME: 30 minutes, for Tito
MAKES: 4 servings

3 ripe avocados
1 small jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice of 1 large lime
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 tablespooons chopped fresh cilantro
1 ripe tomato, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mash the avocados in a small bowl, leaving some parts chunky. Stir in the remaining ingredients, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips and margaritas.

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Obsession admitted

Yes, quinoa is an obsession. My apologies. But it’s good for me, and I like it, and it’s easy, and . . .what else is important?

Mexican Quinoa Salad 2

Recipe for Mexican Quinoa Salad (PDF)
Recipe 218 of 365

Use this as a side dish for enchiladas or tacos for six, or make it a meal by garnishing with salsa, shredded cheese, avocado slices, and/or a dollop of sour cream.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken broth or water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh corn (cut from 2 small cobs)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine the quinoa, broth, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the grains have puffed up and absorbed all the liquid.

Transfer the cooked quinoa to a bowl, and stir in lime juice, olive oil, scallions, cilantro, tomatoes, corn, and black beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.


Filed under Lunch, mexican, recipe, side dish

Green chile pie

There’s a song by Boris McCutcheon, whose lyrics and melodies we learned to love on Cape Cod, called Fine Suede. Somewhere in the middle there, he sings:

First one up is Dulce she’s got a lazy eye
she wakes me up with bacon and eggs
and her green chile pie
she says life should be a simple thing
to build a house of mud and straw . . .

Giving you only a cross-section of his song is unfair to you and him both, but so be it. The point is that all his talk about green chile pie made my breakfastmonger of a husband so curious and jealous of the song’s narrator that I looked it up and figured out how to make it last summer. It’s essentially quiche, made using whole roasted green chilies for the crust, and it’s one of my husband’s favorite things. I love making it with collard greens, goat cheese, and bacon, but we haven’t yet had it the same way twice. There’s always the voice in the back of my head that says roast some poblanos, silly girl, but green chile pie invariably comes to mind when I least expect it, when comfort food calls, and I have always relied on canned chilies.

I made a “Mexican” version for Tito when he came home from Korea yesterday, battered by a sleepless trans-Pacific flight. Really, it’s like huevos rancheros, in pie form. We stuffed ourselves before the inevitable nap lassoed him and dragged him down for the count.

Green Chile-Black Bean Pie with salsa

Recipe for Green Chile-Black Bean Pie
Recipe 161 of 365

Canned green chilies make the crust for this fun take on quiche, which is a good one to make ahead for group breakfasts. Serve it with extra salsa and sour cream.

Jalapeno, chipotle, or bell peppers, corn, or chopped leftover meat would make great variations.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: 8 servings

Vegetable oil spray
About 10 whole canned green chilies (from two 7-ounce cans)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup salsa
8 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9” deep-dish pie plate liberally with the vegetable oil spray.

Using a small, sharp knife, make a slit up the length of one of the peppers so that it opens up into a triangle. Place it in the pie plate smooth side-down with the point toward the center of the plate, and repeat with the remaining peppers, so that the peppers form a “crust.” (You can add any remaining peppers to the center of the crust.)

Making Green Chile Pie

Scatter half the cheese into the pan on top of the peppers, then the beans, then the salsa, then the remaining cheese. If the weight of the beans causes the peppers to slump toward the center of the dish, gently pull them up so their edges reach the edge of the pie plate.

Whisk the eggs, salt, pepper, and cream together in a large bowl until completely combined. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pie plate.

Bake the pie for 40 to 50 minutes, or until puffed and golden and set in the center. Cool 10 minutes before serving, or cool completely and refrigerate, covered with foil, until ready to serve (up to 24 hours). Just before serving, reheat the covered pie in a 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.

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Filed under Breakfast, Lunch, mexican, recipe

And the nomination for Biggest Burrito goes to . . .

Gorditos burritos

I’ve lived here for almost 9 months, and it took me until yesterday to visit Gordito’s. (Shameful, I know.) Now, I’d heard the burritos were big, but didn’t realize my arms would get tired carrying a few of them home.

I used to pledge allegiance to Anna’s Taqueria in Boston (which has made it to Wikipedia, by the by). I do miss the Soup Nazi treatment there, because who doesn’t like being screamed at when you’re starving and just want some food? But really, Boston folks: have you ever left Anna’s thinking that despite the gastrointestinal shock, you could almost order another one?

Not an issue at Gordito’s. Rather than writhing in agony after eating the entire thing (which was my first instinct – where does it all go?), I followed my friend Katie’s experience-based example and cut my delicious fish burrito in half (which still yielded two more-than-sensible portions) and ate half last night and half just now. I rarely eat Mexican food without putting myself into a world of hurt, so going to bed pain-free was a big step.

But then, I thought, maybe I could get a third meal out of a burrito. This is America, right? Size matters.

Do you know of any Seattle burritos that are bigger?

For comparison, the second (smaller) half of my burrito weighed in at over 12 ounces, so I’m guessing the whole shebang was just shy of 2 pounds when I started.

Gordito's Healthy Mexican Food in Seattle


Filed under commentary, mexican, review

A New Mango Salsa

It’s Tito’s birthday weekend, so today I’m somewhere in the North Cascades, camping with Tito and the dog. But still, one for the project:

New Mango Salsa 1

Recipe for A New Mango Salsa
Recipe 147 of 365

This one has the sweetness of your typical chunky mango salsa, the one-two punch (from onions and jalapenos) of a good red salsa, and the fine texture of most green tomatillo salsas. Ideal for use in tacos, enchiladas, or used as a chutney on leftover Indian food. Add garlic, if you’d like.

TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: about 2 cups

2 large jalapeño peppers, split, seeded, and roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
1/4 packed cup fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 large mango, peeled and roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the peppers, onion, cilantro, and lime juice in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. Add the mango, and pulse a few times again, until there are no large orange chunks left. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

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Shake ‘n’ Fry

So yesterday, after much coercing from various readers, I set out to buy some Shake’n’Bake. Only my local store didn’t have it, and I was too stubborn to make a special trip to buy something I knew I probably shouldn’t be buying anyway. So the initiation shall wait. Here’s my version, which is more like Shake’n’Fry.

Corn-Crusted Tilapa Tacos with Avocado Cream

Recipe for Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Tacos with Spicy Avocado Cream
Recipe 129 of 365

Here’s a homemade version of Shake’n’Bake, or Shake’n’Fry, really. This dinner comes together surprisingly quickly – the sauce is just a few ingredients whirled in the food processor.

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

For the cream:
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 to 20 sliced jalapenos from a jar (to taste), plus 2 tablespoons liquid

For the tacos:
Corn tortillas or taco shells
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
4 large tilapia filets, about 1 1/2 pounds total, cut into 1” chunks
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 small cabbage or 1 large head fennel, very thinly sliced or shaved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First, make the cream: place all the cream ingredients in a small food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside.

Wrap the corn tortillas (12 4” tortillas or 8 6” tortillas) in foil and put them in the oven to warm.

Next, place the cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cumin in a large zip-top bag. Seal the bag and shake to mix. Add the fish pieces, close the bag, and shake to coat all the fish evenly.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom with about 1/4” of oil. When a small piece of fish sizzles when placed in the pan, the oil is ready. Carefully place about a third of the fish pieces into the oil. Fry for 2 minutes per side, or until browned and crisp, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining fish (you’ll probably need to do 3 batches), keeping the cooked fish covered with foil while the remaining batches cook.

While the fish cooks, place the avocado cream, tortillas, and shaved cabbage or fennel on a serving platter, and when the fish is done, serve ‘em up.


Filed under fish, mexican, recipe

Taco madness

Oh, I’ve made a most fabulous discovery, diverging from Eating Well’s recipe for homemade taco shells by cooking them right on the grill. (I posted the directions on Voracious.) Tonight we filled them with juicy, flavorful chunks of grilled pork tenderloin flavored with a cocoa-spiked rub, cheddar cheese, and green salsa.

I think I could eat tacos every day.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub

Recipe for Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub
Recipe 125 of 365

Spice rubs are a fast, easy way to give meat a lot of flavor with little additional fat. When the charismatic chocolate maker at Theo, Autumn, mentioned she’d been experimenting with a chocolate-tinged barbecue sauce for ribs, I immediately thought of rubbing pork with a little cocoa powder. My first attempt – a quick rub with a few spices, some unsweetened cocoa, and a bit of brown sugar – yielded pork with a hint of sweetness, a bit of spice, and a faint-but-detectable chocolate flavor.

Slice the pork and serve it as is, or pile it into burritos or tacos.

TIME: 5 minutes active time (really)
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon chili pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 small pork tenderloins, about 1 1/2 pounds total
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Preheat a grill over medium-high heat.

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder, spices, salt, and sugar with a fork until well blended. Pat the tenderloins dry, rub with the oil, and pat the rub mixture into the tenderloins on all sides. Let the meat sit while the grill heats, about 15 minutes.

Grill the tenderloins for about 5 minutes per side, or until nicely seared. Reduce the heat to medium-low (or move them to a cooler part of the grill) and continue to cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the meat registers about 140 to 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer when measured at the thickest part.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes, covered with foil, then slice and serve.

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Hot Stuff

On the topic of going grocery shopping in your own kitchen . . .I’ve found a few interesting things, all of which seem to be spicy.

There’s this jam, which my mother-in-law picked out for me at the Salish Lodge‘s gift shop, near Snoqualmie Falls:

Not for toast.

I’m not sure what to do with it, but I know a certain person (hint: I live with him) who will undoubtedly make a peanut butter sandwich with it.

I bought these fabulous travel-sized tabasco packets in Hawaii:

Mini Tabasco Packets

I’ll probably dole them out to my family members; I’m the least addicted to Tabasco of anyone in the three living generations, I think.

And then I had half a can of chipotle peppers, which I still had leftover from the smoky tomato soup I made for the Soup Swap. My mom’s been asking what to do with her leftover chipotles (actually, she asked me what to do with the sundried tomatoes in the spicy smoky sauce, but no matter), so I had a goal.

I also have two or three packages of wonton wrappers I bought in the fitful shopping panic that overtook me the last time I walked into Uwajimaya. I think growing up in Boise instilled me with a permanent instinct to buy good ethnic products the second I see them, lest they disappear altogether.

Gyoza are the Japanese equivalent of a pot sticker, traditionally made with round wrappers.

If you’ve never used a bamboo steamer before, or don’t have one, they’re cheap and easy to use, so this is your opportunity.

Chipotle Pork Gyoza

Recipe for Chipotle Pork Gyoza
Recipe 61 of 365

Dim sum wrappers don’t typically bring Mexican flavors to mind, but this is an unlikely combination that works well. If you can’t find prepackaged carnitas or pulled pork (or don’t feel like making any), pulled leftover chicken or steak would both work well.

The gyoza can be steamed as directed, or fried, or brushed with oil and baked in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. If you’re using a steamer, don’t forget (like I did this time) to buy some romaine lettuce or green cabbage to line the steamer.

TIME: 5 minutes to make filling, plus 30 to 45 minutes for forming and steaming
MAKES: 36 pieces

2 to 5 chipotle peppers from a can of chipotle en adobo (found in the Mexican food section of most large supermarkets), depending on desired spice level
1 (12-ounce) package traditional carnitas from Trader Joe’s, cut into 1” chunks
4 ounces finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons sour cream, plus more for dipping
1 (1 pound) package 3” round wonton wrappers (also called Suigow wraps)
Cabbage or lettuce, for lining the steamer, if using

Pulse the peppers and the pork in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, add the cheese, cilantro, and sour cream, and stir to combine. (You can do this up to 2 days ahead.)

Fill a small bowl with water, and find a clean, dry cutting board.

Working with a few wrappers at a time, scoop a tablespoon of the filling into the center of each wrapper. Dip a finger into the water, and draw a circle of water around the edge of each wrapper. Dry your fingers, and fold the wrappers onto themselves to form a half-moon shape, pressing out any excess air and pinching the edges together gently to form a seal. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers, transferring the gyoza to a wax paper-lined baking sheet as you go.

Making Gyoza

Line each level of a bamboo steamer with a single layer of cabbage or lettuce leaves. Arrange the gyoza on both levels of the basket, four or five per level, so that the gyoza don’t touch each other or the sides of the basket. Restack the baskets and secure the lid.

Arranging gyoza in a bamboo steamer

Place about a cup of water in a wok or skillet large enough to hold the steamer. The water should cover the bottom of the pan, but shouldn’t be so high as to filter through the bottom of the steamer when you set it in the pan.

Bring the water to a boil. Set the steamer in the pan, and steam gyoza for about six minutes, carefully switching the bottom and top levels of the steamer about halfway through. Repeat with remaining gyoza, adding more water to the pan as necessary and serving them when they’re hot, as soon as they come out of the steamer, dipped in sour cream.

Inside a chipotle pork gyoza


Note: The gyoza can be prepared and frozen directly on the baking sheet until firm. To store, repack them (already frozen) in an airtight plastic bag, and defrost overnight in the refrigerator before steaming, frying, or baking.

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Filed under appetizers, japanese, mexican, pork, recipe

Sunday morning trivia

One evening in Hawaii we had dinner at our hosts’ house. It was the sort of throw-together meal we all need now and then, using all that stuff a kitchen has that magically turns from “new produce from the farmer’s market” to “produce on its deathbed” in a matter of milliseconds, it seems. I envisioned a sort of combination between salsa, guacamole, and fruit salad for our salmon burgers, starring fresh mango and papaya and the giant avocado John had found on a bike ride a few days earlier. I had this image of a light, zippy salad, but their rental didn’t come equipped with the condiments I was looking for, so we ended up dressing it with juice from these tiny orange-skinned limes they bought at the Hanapepe farmer’s market and a little sriracha. It was better than it sounds.

But yesterday morning I made the version I’d imagined, with inferior fruit but plenty of fresh cilantro, sea salt, and black pepper. We piled it onto huevos rancheros and ate the leftovers straight from the bowl.

A little trivia, for your learning pleasure: the word for avocado (which is a fruit, by the way) comes from the Nahuatl word for “testicle,” for (now) obvious reasons. Imagine having two of those.

Hawaiian Fruit Salad

Recipe for Hawaiian Fruit Salad
Recipe 49 of 365

This is delicious as is (at any time of day), but would also be great for chips (in which case finely chopping the fruit would be best) or grilled fish. Add a squirt of sriracha, if you’d like.

TIME: 15 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 large avocado
1 large mango
1 small papaya
1 packed tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 large lime
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel, pit, and chop all the fruit. Place it in a mixing bowl, stir in the cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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Filed under Breakfast, mexican, recipe, salad, vegetables

Finding hominy

By definition, a good vacation is long enough that you have to eat all your produce before you go, which for me means coming back to a cold, condiment-studded oasis of a refrigerator. I invariably turn to pantry adventure.

Today I started with a can of hominy, which has a chewy texture I love. I can’t help but envision some poor yoga instructor with a speech impediment somewhere, urging her students to find hominy.

Anyway, I had lunch at Cafe Stellina on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago, and as I picked at my Rosemary Chicken Pot Pie, which lacked a believable rosemary punch and came not in a pot, but in an unsuccessfully microwaved bowl, I wished I’d ordered my neighbor’s hominy stew. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it looked comforting and spicy enough to warm, say, a body used to four days of 80+ degree weather.

Hominy and Sweet Potato Soup

Recipe for Hominy and Sweet Potato Soup
Recipe 44 of 365

This quick, simple soup is (gasp!) totally vegetarian, but feel free to make it with chicken stock, adding leftover chopped chicken, pulled pork, or cooked, crumbled bacon to the top. Any potato variety should work well here, too.

TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chilies (I used fire-roasted)
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 (29-ounce) can Mexican-style hominy, drained
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 cups vegetable broth or stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Sour cream, goat cheese, or queso fresco, for garnish

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the chilies, and cook a few more minutes, stirring. Add the sweet potatoes, hominy, tomato sauce, and broth, and stir to combine. Season again with salt and pepper, and simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are cooked through. Stir in the cilantro, if using.

Serve the soup hot, with plenty of sour cream and/or cheese.


Filed under Lunch, mexican, recipe, soup, vegetables

Fancy-pants rice and beans

It’s not so unusual to see a few teenaged lifeguards horsing around, but on Saturday I was a little surprised to see two sushi counter employees playing bumper cars with their shopping carts full of raw fish at a grocery store. There was the usual squealing and giggling from the girl, and I watched the guy perform some sort of flying hop over a produce employee’s potato crate. Nice.

Anyway. It was my fault for going to a grocery store at 4 p.m. the day before the SuperBowl. What’s worse, I chose that fateful hour for my maiden voyage into QFC, one of Seattle’s “regular” grocery stores. What was I thinking? I’m sure Whole Foods, which caters to a less NFL-centric clientele, to say the least, wasn’t as bad. It was bedlam. I cowered with my cart in the foreign foods aisle, making individual forays into other sections (gasp! the drinks aisle!) and returning to my rabbit hole, where I felt safe from the munchie makers.

On one such adventure, I passed the meat counter, and was surprised to see lamb shanks at something like $3.50 per pound. Lamb is sacred to me – not because I value it in a relgious way, but because it tends to cost so darn much (I tend to buy the organic stuff) that I only buy it when we’re celebrating, or when someone else is buying. (I’m sneaky like that.)

I’d never made lamb shanks – well, I’d made lamb osso bucco, but I’d never braised whole shanks. And since my dinner at Cremant, shanks have sort of haunted me, becuase I know I’ll never make them as meltingly tender as they did.

But as I looked at the price tag, it occurred to me that I could take home a couple lamb shanks for less than the price of chicken breasts, which somehow emancipated me from the fear of not braising them perfectly. I could experiment!

But oh, how the PETA and anti-lamb people screech when I say I’m “just experimenting” with a baby animal, undoubtedly cute enough in its short, probably not-so-sweet life to induce a forehead wrinkle and a sigh. I’m no fan of animal abuse, but be real, I say. We kill cute things for our meals every day. If lamb seems less humane to eat than, say, bacon, fine, don’t eat it.

So anyway, the goal: a lamb braise requiring really minimal fuss. The process: brown lamb, saute onions, pour in salsa, cook for 1 1/2 hours. The result: spicy tender lamb, ideal for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. I used mine for to top fancy rice and beans, with avocado, chopped bell pepper, sour cream, etc.

I braised the lamb in the morning and put it in the fridge to cool for the day. Before dinner, I scraped off the accumulated fat layer, reheated the meat, and then took it off the bone. YUM.

Not my best photo ever:

Salsa-Braised Lamb Shank

Recipe for Salsa-Braised Lamb Shanks
Recipe 37 of 365

Lamb isn’t usually a hot contender when it comes to taco fillings, but the tender, spicy shredded meat that comes off these shanks all but bleats “burrito!” Serve the braised meat on the bone as is on a bed of rice, with the sauce on top, or make shredded lamb enchiladas (the sauce is made!), tacos, or dressed-up rice and beans. You could also take the meat off the bones and shred it, and return it to the sauce with black beans, corn, tomatoes, and cooked rice, for a spicy lamb soup that would be great with sour cream and avocado.

Use a salsa that matches your taste for spice; I used the red “salsa autentica” from Trader Joe’s.

Note: If you’d like to serve the meat on the bone, ask your butcher to cut the shanks in half for you (so you have four pieces).

TIME: 20 minutes active time, plus cooking
MAKES: 4 servings

1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 lamb shanks (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (12-ounce) jars salsa

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the flour, salt, and pepper in a zip-top plastic bag and shake to combine. Add the lamb, seal the bag, and shake to coat all the pieces evenly.

Heat a large ovenproof pot with a lid, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, then add the floured lamb pieces. (Discard the remaining flour.) Sear the lamb pieces on all sides, about 15 minutes total, until all the surfaces are a deep golden brown. (You may have to regulate the heat to prevent the flour from burning.)

Transfer the browned lamb to a plate, add the onion, and cook the onion for a few minutes, stirring often, until soft. Place the lamb pieces on top of the onions, pour the salsa over the lamb, and cook the lamb for 1 1/2 hours, turning the lamb pieces once every 30 minutes.

Let the lamb cool in its liquid for about 20 minutes before serving, in whole pieces or shredded.

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Filed under Lamb, mexican, recipe

Naughty Breakfast

I just made eggs veracruz for breakfast. Huevos rancheros, really, except instead of using salsa, I made a riff on the veracruz sauce I love serving with fresh-caught fish in the summer. Here’s how our breakfast table conversation went, when we split this recipe between the two of us:

HIM: Is this Veracruz?
ME: Yes.
HIM: Naughty breakfast.
ME: Naughty? What makes it naughty?
HIM: Nothing.

Moment of silence.

HIM: Well actually, it really is sort of naughty. Eating 1,000 calories before you leave the house in the morning is naughty.

I’m so glad he’s here to help.

Huevos Veracruz

Recipe for Huevos Veracruz

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Filed under Breakfast, mexican, recipe, vegetables

Middletown Mexican

Middletown, Delaware is all I fear in America. To the casual observer, the town seems to have been conceived and built entirely by hired planners, with no actual people (just consumers) in mind: every cookie-cutter subdivision is stamped out within calculated proximity to the nearest grocery store, strip mall, gas station, and Wal-Mart. It is the opposite of charming.

It was surprising, then, that when hunger pains hit halfway through Middletown on our way up the eastern seaboard, we found great Mexican food in one such strip mall. Tequila’s, as it was so creatively named, had fresh salsa, swift service, mole with truly deep, dirty flavor, and real lardy refried beans. Next time you’re in the area (it’s close to where the New Jersey Turnpike terminates on the south side), give it a try.

Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant
431 East Main Street
Middletown, DE 19709

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Filed under mexican