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Tag Archives: Mexican cooking

Hot and Spicy


I was going to write about the Balls of Suriname today, but I was so pleased with last night’s dinner that I’m putting the balls off until tomorrow. I think that’s what’s called a teaser.  I am a little uncomfortable with the juxtaposition of heat, spice, balls and teasing…it’s definitely time to move on to talking about meat.

Oh dear.

Last night was supposed to have been the last meal this week from The Bad Cookbook. It was to have been a Cajun Potroast, for which I had purchased 2 smallish chuck roasts because I couldn’t find one that was 3-4 pounds as called for by the recipe. They looked a lot like thick steaks, and I knew they were tough, and would require low and slow cooking if they were to be edible. I also knew that none of us had received nearly enough counselling yet to eat another Bad recipe. I rummaged in the fridge and found a bag of fresh Serrano peppers, a bag of corn tortillas and some shredded cheese, and an idea formed in the vast empty landscape that is my mind. It was a veritable tumbling tumbleweed of a thought. It wasn’t really all that novel; I have slow-cooked and shredded many a beast. There was just something about the flavor of this particular version that was satisfying and wonderful.

I removed the two hunks o’ meat from their packages, and rubbed all four sides with Chipotle chile powder and brown sugar. There was not much  measuring involved; I just sprinkled an attractive zig-zag pattern of chile powder, and then used a 1/4 cup measure to scoop out brown sugar and pour that over the chile powder. I massaged the seasonings into one side, flipped the Hunk and repeated the process on the other side. Using my beautiful, new 2-ton square cast iron pan (and no oil of any kind) I seared the meat on both sides until it was brown, and while it was searing I sliced two medium yellow onions and diced 3 of the Serrano chiles. Once the meat was nice and brown (and the house smelled like a cross between Heaven and Amarillo) I put it in the slow cooker, covered it with onions and peppers, turned it to “low,” and went about my business.

About 8 hours later, the meat was tender enough to shred with two forks; I did this, and then left it for another half an hour so that the shreds could absorb as much juice as possible. The onions and peppers had melted into the juice, and there were beautiful, dark, flavorful pieces of meat from the earlier searing. I heated oil for the tortillas, tasted the meat again and decided it could use a little more kick (although it was plenty kicky for many folks) and added about 3 tablespoons of Rooster Sauce. I fried the tortillas,  and we spooned the meat onto them and topped them with cheese and (in Rob’s case) more diced Serranos. A little Queso Fresco or Crema, and some chopped Cilantro would have made what was very good into something involving a chorus of angels.

That’s it; that’s the recipe. I think two chunks of meat worked better than one larger roast, because it provided more surface area for many flavor boosters including the seasonings and the searing. You could certainly use any kind of chile powder you had in the house, Jalapenos instead or Serranos (or no fresh peppers if you like things milder), more onion, sweet onion, flour tortillas…it’s pretty adaptable. You could also make this in your oven instead of a slow cooker, if you covered it tightly, had the oven on VERY low heat and checked in every couple of hours to be sure that the meat was not drying out.

Finally, I will address the regrettable issue of calories. As I prepared it, this dish was lethal. You could use leaner cuts of meat, but the slow cooking with the fat is part of where both flavor and tenderness come from. It’s a hassle, but you could prepare it a day ahead, refrigerate it, remove the solidified fat, and reheat it before serving.  You could also save lots of calories by baking your tortillas, or frying them in “Pam” instead of frying them in oil, and using 2% cheese. This “recipe” may also work well with leaner proteins like pork tenderloins or chicken breasts; try it out and let me know what you think.

P.S. Did I mention that this was also really, really economical if one already has chile powder, cheese and onions in the house (which one should)? Cheap cuts of meat, cheap tortillas, cheap peppers….lots of hot, spicy meat and, in our case, enough leftovers to make a batch of beef nachos.


Fit for Man and Beast


I have always wanted to cook short ribs, but for a number of reasons, I have never tried. They are expensive enough that if I really screwed them up, I would be wretched. I have also been pretty sure that they’d be too wierd for the kids. (Note to people with nonexistent or exceptionally game children: this potential aversion to eating strange foods is not in any way the result of my failure to introduce foods other than chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches. It is a form of subtle and vicious mind control practiced by the small and weak in order to control the large and powerful).

I have eaten short ribs in restaurants and at the odd dinner party for years and marveled at their flavor, texture and versatility, but not until my recent cooking renaissance did I decide to throw caution to the winds and try them at home. I have a little tweaking to do, but I am mostly pleased by the results of grabbing life by the short ribs. They were tender, the sauce was perfectly spiced (although I would make it hotter next time) and the brightness added by the cilantro and a bit of lime was money. The meat was too fatty for my taste, but I think I’ve found a solution to that problem for next time.

I served the ribs with grits, which proved excellent for soaking up the glorious sauce, and a Mexican salad which was a tarted-up version of one of my mother’s old standbys.  Do try this at home.

Beef Short Ribs in Chipotle and Green Chile Sauce

(Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook)

[Note: my adaptation makes this a two-day recipe. Plan to start the day or night before you want to eat this dish]

  1. 1 teaspoon salt
  2. i teaspoon ground black pepper
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  4. 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  6. 8 3-inch-long meaty beef short ribs
  7. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  8. 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  9. 6 garlic cloves, minced
  10. 1 14-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
  11. 1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
  12. 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  13. 1 1/2 tablespoons canned chopped chipotle chiles (I doubled this)
  14. 3 large, fresh Anaheim chiles stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick-rings
  15. Chopped fresh cilantro
  16. Lime wedges

Mix salt and next four ingredients in bowl; all over short ribs. (If you want to get good coverage, plan to do this in two layers, sprinkling half of the spice mixture on a large side of 4 ribs at a time). Place ribs on a plate and cover; refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add half of the ribs and brown on all sides, about 9 minutes; transfer to plate. Repeat with remaining ribs. reduce heat to medium. Add onion and garlic to same pot; cover and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add broth and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add tomatoes, lime juice and chipotle chiles. Return ribs to pot, meaty side down, in a single layer. Bring to a boil, cover and cook until ribs are just tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove pot from oven. Tilt pot and spoon off fat. (I did not find this effective – keep reading for my alternative suggestion). place pot over medium heat and simmer uncovered until sauce coats spoon and ribs are very tender, about 25 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. (Okay, this is where my genius idea comes in: at this point, I would refrigerate the meat and sauce overnight so that the fat solidified and I could easily remove it all before proceeding. I found that attempting to de-fat as the recipe suggests caused me to remove some of thge broth mixture, but not all of the fat, which left me with not enough sauce and too much grease in the sauce I had left).

(Remove pot from refrigerator) and bring to a simmer over medium heat; add chile rings. Simmer until chiles soften, about 10 minutes. Transfer ribs and sauce to large bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro; garnish with lime wedges and serve.

For Your Beasts

Our dogs got the bones from the short ribs, and enjoyed them tremendously. I don’t think they are dangerous and splinter-y; if you know otherwise, please let me know before I do this again!


Mexican Salad

I started to follow a recipe for this salad before realizing that it was one of my mom’s standards. Here’s how we do it:

  1. 1 head red leaf lettuce (or any leaf lettuce
  2. 1/2 red onion cut in half and sliced into thin rings
  3. 2 seedless oranges or tangerines, peeled and sectioned (if using oranges, cut sections in half)
  4. 1 avocado peeled and cut into slices or cubes
  5. red wine vinaigrette

Place first four items in a salad bowl. Dress to taste, toss and serve.

Which Came First: The Chicken or the Eggs?


Last night I played with fire for dinner, and it was so good that I did it again today. I served boneless, skinless chicken breasts and rice with black beans and corn, topped generously with a more picante version of the Roasted Chile Verde Sauce from Isabel Cruz’s first cookbook, Isabel’s Cantina. The sauce is labor-intensive, but absolutely fabulous in terms of flavor, flexibility and healthiness. I made it blow-your-head-off hot, but the original recipe calls for the removal of most of the chiles’ seeds, so it could actually be quite a bit milder. I also had to use winter-pallid plum tomatoes, but I think this will be even better in the summer when I get fresh, locally grown produce.

There was sauce left over, so for lunch today I scrambled eggs with white Mexican cheese and poured the remaining Chile Verde over the top. Honestly, it was so damned good that for a minute I genuinely believed that I could whip up some mole, make some tortillas from scratch, and challenge Rick Bayless to a throw-down.

Restored to my senses, I offer you the recipe for the Chile Verde sauce. As Cruz notes in her book, it would also be good with pork, or simply served with tortilla chips. I’d also like it over burritos, I think. If you are serving it with chicken, try it over grilled or sauteed breasts, or even roast chicken parts. If eggs are your pleasure, try this over a creamy plate of scrambled specimens or atop two fried or over-easy on a heated tortilla.


Roasted Chile Verde Sauce

(Adapted from Isabels’ Cantina by Isabel Cruz)


  1. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  3. 5 garlic cloves, minced ( I used big garlic cloves; if you end up with the tiny ones I’d use 6 or 7)
  4. 4 Anaheim chiles, roasted and chopped
  5. 2 Poblano chiles, roasted and chopped
  6. 1 pound tomatillos, roasted and pureed
  7. 3 plum tomatoes, diced
  8. Kosher salt


  1. To roast chiles and tomatillos: cook over the flame of a gas grill or other fire source until skin turns black and begins to blister and peel. Place in a brown paper bag and leave for 15-20 minutes. Remove chiles and tomatillos from bag and remove skin with the bag or a paper towel or kitchen towel.
  2. To prepare chiles: Cut off stem ends and split in half lengthwise. (WEAR GLOVES and if you don’t wash hands very thoroughly before touching your eyes or other tender parts of your body). The heat is in the seeds, and Cruz’s original recipe calls for “removing and discarding the seeds,” easily done with a knife blade. If you remove the seeds, the sauce will be flavorful but quite mild. I left all of them in, which made the sauce extremely hot. You could also remove any other percentage of seeds and adjust the heat to your liking. Once you have removed the desired amount of seedage, roughly chop the chiles.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook onions and garlic for about 3 minutes. Add the chiles, tomatillo puree and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup cold water and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes or until thickened, and season with salt. (Note: the original recipe calls for adding 1 cup of water, but I found that at the end of 30 minutes the sauce was still very watery and had to be cooked over higher heat to evaporate some of the excess liquid. In future, I’ll start with the half cup, watch the sauce and add a little more water if it seems to be too chunky).
  5. Serve hot; sauce will keep in the refrigerator for three days.