08 June 2012

Further Adventures in Mexican-Inspired Cuisine

Just a few odds and ends from recent cooking adventures as I seek to further learn and develop skills in the cuisines south of the U.S. border...

Armed with several dozen blue corn tortillas, I grilled an inexpensive sirloin seasoned with salt, pepper, and lime juice and sliced it nice and thin. I added griddled shallots, baby kale, and a dash of Mexican crema.

Yes, the tortillas were first properly warmed up in the cast iron skillet. I don't have a comal yet, but I will soon. I've made tortillas from scratch in the past but am mostly happy with the offerings of the local international market.

The result was delicious, with a little more earthiness in the tortilla and a good combination of savory, bitter, and sweet elements. Sautéed shallots are really amazing and provided a nice additional flavor to the rare beef.

That weekend I completed my first salsa in the molcajete. I started with Campari tomatoes that I steamed, skinned, cored, and chopped. Next I toasted cumin with a little pepper and set it aside. Earlier in the day I had toasted dried guajillo and ancho peppers (then left to soak in a glass of water), and fire-roasted a fresh serrano. Garlic was smashed, a shallot was minced, cilantro was chopped, a lime was juiced, and I was ready for Señor Puerco.

I started with the dry spices and salt, and then tossed in the tomatoes. Having chopped up the tougher ingredients, I added it all to the molcajete and the whole salsa just came together in a few minutes. Not as fast as a blender or food processor, but I had way more control over the desired texture (I'll grind a little here but leave some chunks over here, etc.). It tasted quite good at first, but I knew it would need a day to develop.

And it was out of this world. A little too hot--I can handle a lot of heat, but the salsa was a little out of balance. I blame the serrano, which was hotter than I expected. I could have diluted it with more tomatoes, but didn't want to sacrifice any of the other flavors. Regardless, it's the best salsa I've ever made, and I'm about ready to do some fun stuff with tomatillos.

Later on I was able to combine various leftovers to make the decadent treat known as duck tacos. Frankly I've always thought that beef and chicken were boring options for tacos or tamales or enchiladas. Oh, they can be made properly, but I crave the pork, goat, organ meat, and other interesting proteins. I'd never had duck with Mexican cuisine, but obviously it exists like with my recent experiment with roast duck in a pumpkin seed sauce.

I sliced up the leftover breast meat and a bit of the fatty skin and added kale again, thin shavings of Naked Goat cheese, and a little drizzle of my salsa. Really, truly wonderful. Loads of deep, rustic flavors with the bright fruit and acidity of the salsa. A little crunch from the kale and rivulets of rich duck grease melding with the hard cheese and tomato juices... Sorry, started drooling a bit. I think I might have stashed a little extra duck in the freezer...


fredric koeppel said...

have mercy!

Benito said...


I'm going by the mantra, "The less it looks like Taco Bell, the better."