Monday, February 23, 2009

Dinner en Mi Casa

I love cooking in the winter. I love the braises, the roasts and the pasta. But, I am getting a little tired of winter. I know, I really shouldn’t complain. Winter in northern California is mild, and we desperately need the rain that’s been falling for the last couple of weeks, but I did want to feel a glimmer of summer. So, what should I serve for a dinner party in the middle of February to make it feel like summer? Why, a Mexican fiesta of course!

The Menu
Queso Fundido with Chorizo
Pork Tacos with assorted toppings
New Style Black Beans
Green Onion Slaw
Tres Leche (Milk Cake)

Brian mixes a mean margarita, Tammy brought the Tres Leche cake and the sopapillas, and Paula, Sandy and Beth brought food and drinks for the kids. Thanks for the contributions!
I had made the Queso Fundido once before, and it is really delicious, but it does have a tendency to separate. The first time I made the dip, I had placed it in the fondue pot to keep it warm. But, the sterno ran out, so the dip did not get too hot. This time I warmed the dip, and put it in the fondue pot with a full can of sterno underneath it. I will not do this again. The dip became too hot, and separated into a stingy mass. The dip still tasted delicious, but the texture did not work well. I recommend you heat the dip, and heat the water under the fondue pot, then once you put the dip in the fondue pot, turn off the sterno. The dip should stay warm enough this way.

Queso Fundido with Chorizo
Adapted from Bon Appetit (7/07)

3 large poblano chiles
4 chorizo sausage links
3 cloves of garlic
12 green onions, chopped
1 ¼ cups chopped fresh cilantro
2 ½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 ½ cups grated whole milk mozzarella
1 ¼ tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup (or more) chicken broth
Tortilla Chips

Char the poblanos until blackened on all sides over a gas flame or under a broiler. Then enclose in a paper bag for 10 minutes. Peel, seed and coarsely chop the chiles.

Saute the sausage and garlic in a large skillet until browned, breaking the sausage into small pieces. Add the green onions and stir until wilted. Remove from the heat and mix in the cilantro and the poblanos.

In a bowl, toss both cheeses with the cornstarch. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in large pot, and add the cheese one cup at a time. Whisk after each addition until almost melted. Remove from heat and add the chorizo mixture. You can thin with more broth (¼ cup at a time) if the mixture is too thick. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl, and serve with tortilla chips. Serves 10.
My next trick was to mix in the winter cooking I love with my summer theme. The recipe for the pork tacos calls for braising the meat in a crock-pot, and the result was tender flavorful meat. I took the advise of the Food Network magazine and offered sliced radishes, cotija (a Mexican cheese salty like Feta, but without the sour flavor), sliced avocado, and limes. We would have had chopped mango if I had come home with a mango instead of a papaya, but no one seemed to mind. I also offered the Green Onion Slaw instead of plain sliced cabbage. I changed the Green Onion Slaw a bit by leaving out the sliced red onion this time. The green onions offered enough of an onion flavor. We piled the pork and all of these toppings onto warmed flour and corn tortillas.

Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos
I adapted this recipe from the Food Network Magazine.

3 whole dried California Chiles
3 whole dried New Mexico Chiles
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 to 3 chipotles in adobo sauce
½ medium white onion roughly chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
3 ¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (untrimmed), cut into chunks
Freshly ground pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
Corn and Flour tortillas
Assorted Toppings (see above)

Microwave the chiles and garlic until soft and pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Stem and seed the chiles and peel the garlic, and put them into a food processor or blender. Add the chipotles, onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil, honey, vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt and the oregano to the food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and add the chile sauce and fry until thick and fragrant about 8 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer until slightly thickened.

Cut the pork shoulder into large chunks, season all over with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the crock-pot, and add the cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or until tender. After the pork has finished cooking discard the bay leaves and the cinnamon stick, and shred the pork with two forks. Serve the pork in the tortillas with the assorted toppings. Serves 6-8
One of the joys of getting together with this group of friends is everyone is a really good cook, and we all like to share our new recipes with each other. This is a real treat as the hostess. Tammy brought not one but two desserts for the evening. She really outdid herself. She brought a tres leches (milk cake) and sopapillas.

Tres Leches Cake
Tammy got the recipe from, but she made some changes. She used Pillsbury Cake Flour and sifted it. She also used twice the amount of vanilla in both instances, and 1 pint of whipping cream.
Both Tammy and Brian both remember sopapillas from their childhoods in Colorado and Oklahoma respectively. Sopapillas are a deep fried donut type pastry you serve with cinnamon and sugar, honey or nutella (although I think the Nutella might not be traditional). Tammy used again for the sopapillas. She did recommend you roll the dough out thinner than the recipe calls for (about ¼ inch). She says they puff up better the thinner they are.

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