>> Thursday, January 31, 2008
Growing up here on the east coast I never had an appreciation for Mexican food. Other than those Old El Paso shells that came from a box I never really knew what Mexican food was. Don't get me wrong, tacos with the ground beef, crispy shells, and all the fixins is still one of my favorite childhood meals and one I fondly remember sharing with my brother and cousins. But it certainly isn't the only thing on my Mexican food list anymore. Guacamole- how did I live with out you for so long? Mole sauce - heaven on a plate. Fresh tortillas that have not come from a box- Oh my god! Where have you been all my life???
Cyndee, who grew up in New Mexico from the age of 14, was definitely an integral part of my discovery and love of these foods. I had never heard of a green chile, or even red chile for that matter. I had no idea the flavor a spicy pepper could bring to a dish. Not that I eat it as hot as those crazy New Mexicans nor do I put green chile on everything I can get my hands on. But I do appreciate the food and the culture and the cooking more so than ever, all thanks to meeting Cyndee.
Here are a couple of our favorite recipes. Now, I am not saying these are authentic Mexican recipes, Mexican food varies from region to region, but I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Shredded Pork Tacos
adapted from Martha Stewart
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
1 lg. onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 boneless pork shoulder about 3 lbs or 1 pork shoulder with the bone 4-5 lbs.
1 large can whole tomatoes
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced (from small can which can be found in ethnic section of grocery store)
corn tortillas or flour tortillas
guacamole (recipe follows)
salsa (recipe follows)
Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent and it starts to smell really good, about five minutes. Add tomato paste and whole tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up as go. Place pork on top along with chipotle chile, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat and simmer about 2 to 3 hours.
At this point the meat should be very tender. Take meat out of pot and let sit until cool enough to shred (you can either use a couple of forks or if it is real cool I like to use my hands). Discard any large pieces of fat or gristle. Return the shredded meat to the pot and simmer, uncovered, for about 30-45 minutes.
You want the sauce to be nice and thick. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. If using corn tortillas heat in a dry frying pan, one by one until they start to brown. If using flour tortillas you can wrap a stack in foil in and warm in the oven. Serve with your favorite toppings. I like to use guacamole, salsa, shredded lettuce, monterey jack cheese, and sour cream.Guacamole
I learned to make guacamole from Cyndee's family. It is very easy and really you can change it to suit your own tastes. The key to guacamole is to get avocados that are just ripe. If they are not ripe enough (and hard as rocks) then they won’t turn into a beautiful creamy consistency. When buying avocados I always press with my thumb and make sure it gives just a little. If it gives a lot then it is probably over ripe and brown on the inside.
2 ripe avocados
juice from half a lemon (or you can use lime juice)
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
chopped tomato or fresh cilantro (optional)
Cut open avocadoes and remove pit. Scoop out avocado with spoon into small bowl, mash with a fork. You can also cube the avocado instead of mashing if you want a chunkier guacamole. Add garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix until combined. If using, mix in tomato and or cilantro. If not using right away put plastic wrap directly on guacamole so it doesn't turn brown.
It’s best to make this salsa when tomatoes are locally available. But I do make it in the winter months using either grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. This salsa is very simple to throw together and the amounts of ingredients used are really to suit your taste. So if you want a little more of something, just add it.
2-3 lbs tomatoes, diced
half a large red onion, chopped
1 red, yellow, orange or green bell pepper (or a combination)
3 garlic cloves, minced
minced fresh jalapeno, to taste (I don’t add this when I am making it for the kids)
juice of 1/2 - 1 whole lemon, or juice of 2 limes
handful of fresh basil or cilantro leaves (which ever you prefer)
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in bowl and let sit on counter so flavors can blend. I usually use lemon juice with fresh basil and lime juice when I am using fresh cilantro.