Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mexican Dinner

I'm going to be holding a cooking class for fellow employees in my department next month. The class will be putting together a typical Mexican dinner together from scratch as much as possible.

I cooked this dinner last weekend to prepare. Much of this was based on recipes from a variety of sources; books by Rick Bayless, Diana Kennedy, and some online.

First up was a roasted tomatillo salsa.

6 large tomatillos
3 serrano chiles
A handful of cilantro
1/2 diced white onion rinsed in a strainer under running water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Peal off the husk from the tomatillos and rinse them under running water rubbing off the stickiness. Dry them and place them on a pan lined with foil with the serranos and put 4-6 inches under a hot broiler. As the tops of the tomatillos and serranos scorch and darken, about 5 minutes, turn them over to cook on the other side. Remove from the broiler and allow to cool.

Put the cooked tomatillos and serrano into a blender and add any juices left on the foil along with the cilantro and salt. Blend to liquify then add about 1/4 cup of water and blend again. Pour into a bowl and mix in the onion.

Next up was my own guacamole.

A note that you should try to only use avocados at the peak of ripeness. That is, when you squeeze the avocado it should give a little bit but not be mushy. I'm lucky in California in summer as this is pretty easy to find in the right markets. If you can only find hard avocados, purchase them and allow to ripen a few days on a counter or in a basket. You don't want to refrigerate them.

4 large Haas avocados
2 serrano chiles
2 large whole cloves garlic unpeeled
1 fresh roma tomato chopped
1/2 diced white onion rinsed in a strainer under running water
Several sprigs fresh cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime

Heat a small iron skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the serranos and garlic cloves to darken evenly on all sides. Remove and once cooled, remove the peels from the garlic cloves.
Use a knife to half each of the avocados and remove the large stone pits. Use a spoon to scoop out all of the green meat from the cut avocados into a bowl then use a potato masher to make a paste of it.
Add half of the diced onion with the cilantro along with the cooked serranos and garlic and some salt into a large mortar and pound into a paste. You can also use a blender for this if you don't have a mortar but the mortar is far and away my preference for this step.
Once you have a paste add it to the bowl with the avocado mixing well. Stir the remaining onion with the chopped tomato into the bowl. Then mix in the lime juice and perhaps use a few sprigs of cilantro as a garnish. Please let me know if you've had a better guacamole as I don't think you have. But if I'm wrong I'd love to get that recipe!

The main part of the meal were rajas with grilled white onions sliced at 1/4" with roasted poblano peppers and arracherra. Arrachera is Mexican sliced skirt steak. I get mine at a Mi Tierra, a Mexican market in Berkeley where the butchers are experts in thinly slicing the meat so that it can be cooked quickly. I guess flank steak could be used a substitute but it would take a bit for me to do so myself. If you want to do this right, try to find a good Mexican butcher if you can.




As skirt steak has a fair amount of muscle, it's a good idea to marinate it with some acid to break down the tissue as the cooking time is very short and the meat is sliced very thinly.

Marinade:
1/2 white onion
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt

In a mortar, pound the cumin almost into a powder. Add the salt, onion, garlic, and lime juice and pound into a wet paste. In a casserole dish, lay the meat out flat and pour the marinade over it, making sure to coat completely. Roll the meat up and put into a large Ziplock then put that into a frig for at least an hour and up to all day.



I use the Big Green Egg to grill everything. I first roast the peppers, place them into a bag to steam, then after grilling the onions, peel the skins off of the peppers and cut into strips.
I then increase the heat to very hot, remove the meat from the marinade bag rubbing off the marinade, and put the meat onto the grill cooking about a minute a side. I remove the meat, cover in foil and allow to rest a few minutes before slicing into small pieces.


To serve, I prepared some refried beans and Mexican rice and served with the rajas, salsa, guacamole and fresh tortillas. I'll blog about the preparation for the beans, rice and tortillas on a later post.




Served with my favorite bottled beer, Negro Modelo.