The Santa Fe Experiment

Recently I had opportunity to travel to Albequerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. To me it seems like the entire state smells amazing, and especially the farmer’s market that I visited in Santa Fe. The smells of sage, chili powder, piñons and fry bread wafted through the air like a savory air freshener, as I walked through sampling any and everything I could find!

When I returned it only made sense to try one of the “edible souvenirs” that I brought back with me. (Those also cost me an extra 20mins and an extra bag search at airport security.)

Posole mixes were abundant at the farmer’s market and after looking over all the choices I selected one that looked fool-proof for a gringo like me to make. Posole is a Mexican (or probably more accurately Aztec in origin) pork and hominy stew. The mix contained dried hominy and several over dried beans/seeds/legumes that I really have no idea what they were. It also came with a spice packet and recipe.

I followed the instructions exactly except for 2 things. I decided to use the slow cooker as one change to the recipe and since I have a smaller slow cooker, I only used 2.5 quarts water, figuring I could always add water. I was glad I used the slow cooker since it took longer then 3 hours on high – I actually ended up leaving on it overnight on low after the first 3 hours on high. And I never need to add the extra 1/2 quart of water.

Here is the recipes in pictures with one notation…after trimming the pork meat from the bones I tied up the bones in cheesecloth to add to the stew for flavor. Remove the bundle before serving. (click on the slide show below to enlarge)

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In full disclosure, I added a generous amount of salt and pepper to this as well as a healthy tablespoon of mild New Mexico red chile powder that I also obtained at the farmer’s market and made it through security at the airport. Without that and the fresh toppings, the stew would have been actually kinda bland. I am not experienced to know if the stew is supposed to be just a rich broth with a somewhat mellow flavor to allow the fresh toppings to shine? ( kinda like vietnamese Pho)

Or maybe I was supposed to season/brine the pork first? And perhaps even brown it first? I do know that it is common practice to add green or red chile to the stew and so I felt justified in adding some red chile to mine.

And while my version turned out pretty good – but not amazing – next time I would get even more elaborate on the fresh toppings… sliced radishes, avocado, thin sliced cabbage to name just a few more.

Here is a nice source for seeds if you want to grow your own chile peppers: https://www.sandiaseed.com/pages/about-us

 

 

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January Is “Tostada Month”

Only (and unofficially) in my house anyway. There must be something about the cold, snowy month of January that has me craving food from warmer regions. Because when I went back to look at my other posting on Tostadas I noticed it was January of last year. That version was a wonderful light, bright spicy combination of chicken, tomatoes and golden beets. You can see that here.

This is the brand i use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

This is the brand I use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

The word “tostada” [tosˈtaða] means ‘toasted” in Spanish but usually refers to a particular dish made with a crisp fried corn tortilla on the bottom with yummy, spicy ingredients piled on top. There are many regional varieties.

You can get your tortilla maker out, along with your fry-daddy junior and knock yourself out making them from scratch or you can just buy the corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil in a large pan or better yet get your hands on some already done for you like I do!

This time around I used some re-fried beans to make them a little more ‘filling.” I also marinated some chicken strips in a quick marinade of oil, lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and a little dry BBQ seasoning and ground cumin. I reserved some of the marinade to use as a base for a pineapple, avocado and sweet onion salsa to put on top.

The chicken only was in the marinade for an hour or so and then I quickly cooked it in a hot skillet, to order, for each couple of tostadas. They cook really quick because they were thinly cut but, you could certainly do this ahead in a large batch.

Assembly just consisted of: Tosada on bottom, a smear of re-fried beans, the hot chicken with a few bits of sweet onion thrown in the skillet to cook too. Fresh salsa on top and some fresh minced cilantro leaves. ( or parsley if you hate cilantro) Shake on additional hot sauce as you wish!

chicken tostada

#1720

….That is how many hits come up when you search the term “mexican orzo.”

And this post will make #1721!

I have to say I thought maybe I had an original on my hands one night, when I decided to make “mexican rice” and used orzo pasta instead of actual rice. But it looks like I was beat out of the gate.

These are the kinda friends to have hanging around your kitchen for easy weeknight dinners!

These are the kinda friends to have hanging around your kitchen for easy weeknight dinners!

That’s okay – because I still think mine was easiest!

Of course I had a little help from my friends——————->

To be honest, I had rice on hand – several kinds. I could have gone all healthy and high-brow using brown rice. But the truth is…(by the way isn’t that the name of some new internet facebook thing the kids are all doing these days?)…I had two boxes of orzo in the pantry to use up and I thought “why not?”

So I cooked the pasta (stopping it at very al dente) and poured it into a sprayed casserole dish and mixed in: 1 can ro*tel ( 10 oz -mild or hot) 1 can (80z) tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp +/- ground cumin, 1/2 tsp +/- seasoned salt, black pepper to taste, 1 medium onion that had been diced and sautéed in a little butter. You can also spice this up by adding more of any of the above ingredients, some of your favorite hot sauce or even sliced jalapenos. Not everybody in my house loves spicy so I kept it conservative.

Bake in the oven, covered in foil, for 25-30 mins on 350 degrees. Pull out, remove foil and add as much shredded cheese on top as you dare and bake another 5-10 mins until cheese bubbly and brown.

Tip: This can be made ahead, cooled and refrigerated and re-heated when it is time for the party! Or make it Gluten free by using the rice instead of the orzo pasta.

Serve with some “old standbys” like grilled chicken and fresh avocado salsa.

mexican-orzo      tex-mex dinner

Meatloaf # 354

We couldn’t possibly go too long without another meatloaf variation so here it is…

“Mexican Meatloaf!”

mexican meatloaf

Mexican spiced meatloaf served with Spanish rice and a black bean/onion/ sweet bell pepper sautéed side dish. Garnish with fresh lime and crema.

In general, my meatloaf always seems to be on the “tender” side. I have trouble with the ratios of liquid to non-liguid, so although these experiments are often tasty – they are always falling apart soft. And because I LOVE the combination of tomato and beef my meatloaf experiments almost always involve a small can of tomato paste. Because of this, the meatloaf has a red color and I use a meat thermometer to be sure everything is fully cooked.

The other thing about this particular meatloaf was the use of Mexican style “crema” – it tastes like a “less-sour” sour cream and looks a bit like mayonnaise. Truth be told it was actually more specifically a “Crema Salvadorena.”  Here in the Boston area, items like this are grocery-store staples, but in a less ethnic area you could probably find this in a dairy cooler with other specialty items. If you are feeling fancy and you happen to have some “creme fraiche” lying about, use that. But really you could just use American sour cream. (If you would like a short but fun side trip on the internet discussing in great detail the nuances between all these products;  here is a link to that)

So to conclude…

Just take your favorite meatloaf recipe – the basic one that uses breadcrumbs, egg and meat- and substitute out the milk or water for more interesting liquids like crema or tomato paste (or both!) and use spices that tickle your fancy. (cumin, taco seasoning and Ancho chili powder in this one!)

…and Olé! …or Voilà! … or Ecco! …or…well you get the idea!