That was a yummy meetup. Even if you couldn't attend, here are the recipes of what we made that evening. Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional explanations if you want to make some of these dishes.
Our menu for the evening consisted of:
Quesadillas with Refried Beans -
Pico de Gallo
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Tres Leches Cake
1 pound pinto beans
2 bay leaves
3 slices of bacon
Water for soaking and then cooking
1/2 cup lard (approximately)
2 cups chopped yellow onions (one large)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 minced, seeded jalapeno
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2-3 teaspoons salt or more as needed
1 teaspoon chopped or crushed dried oregano
Wash the pintos and place them in a pot covered with water. Let them soak overnight or for about 6 hours. Pour off the soaking liquid, rinse the beans, put them back in the pot and add water so that they are just covered. Add bay leaves and bacon. Bring to a boil - then reduce heat to a simmer and cook the beans uncovered until they are very tender. You should be able to squash a bean between your fingers easily. Discard bay and bacon. Let the beans cool in the liquid.
When the beans are cooled off – or at least not screaming hot – add a teaspoon or so of salt and start pureeing them in the blender with the cooking liquid. You might have to work it a little because as they puree, they become somewhat thick. Add water if you need to. Remove pureed beans to a bowl and reserve. You can also smash the beans with the back of a wooden spoon, but that takes hours and is very cumbersome.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tbsp of lard over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove this mixture from the pan and melt the rest of the lard.
Add the mashed beans in batches, stirring and frying slowly to fry the starches in the beans. Add more beans and continue stirring and frying while integrating the lard. Add the oregano and some salt and stir to combine. Then add the onion mixture back in. Cook, stirring with a heavy wooden spoon, until the mixture forms a thick paste, 5 to 10 minutes, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time if it gets too dry. Taste for salt – beans need a lot of salt.
Now you can use these refried beans as a dip with tortilla chips or for bean quesadillas like we did at our meetup.
Refried Bean Quesadillas
Makes 6 quesadillas, feeding about 12 people as appetizer or 6 as entrée.
Batch of Refried beans
12 Flour Tortillas – whole wheat is best
2 cups grated mozzarella
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Generously oil 2 baking sheets.
Spread a generous amount of beans evenly over a tortilla. Sprinkle with chopped green onions and red peppers. Sprinkle with cheese. Place another tortilla on top. Press down a little to merge everything. Place the whole thing on the baking sheet and brush the top with oil. Proceed with the next quesadilla until the baking sheet is full – 3 will fit per pan.
Pop both sheets into the oven for about 20 minutes – or until the tortillas are browned and the cheese is melted. Rotate sheets after 10 minutes – top to bottom and bottom to top. Remove quesadillas from baking sheet and cut each into four wedges which you place on a platter.
Serve with Pico de Gallo and roasted tomatillo salsa.
Pico de Gallo
Halve 5 tomatoes and squeeze over garbage bowl to remove some or all seeds if they are loose and watery. Chop remaining tomato.
Chop 1 white onion
Press lots of garlic – 4-5 cloves
Cut out seeds and ribs of 3-4 jalapenos and chop fine
Chop ½ bunch cilantro
Mix tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro and put them into the salsa processor in batches – pulse until desired consistency. Add about 1 tsp salt and pulse to combine.
Place salsa into the designated bowl and add the juice of one or two limes and some salt to taste. Let it sit for a bit and then enjoy!
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
2 pounds tomatillos
1 medium white onion
4 large cloves of garlic
4 jalapeno peppers
1/2 bunch of cilantro
2 tsp salt (approximately)
Juice of one or two limes
Heat the broiler.
The tomatillos are surrounded by a papery skin. Peel it off and wash tomatillos well. Pat dry and place stem side down in a baking pan. Place pan under the broiler until the tomatillos are brown on top, and the juices start to flow. Place roasted tomatillos and any juice the blender.
Peel onion, cut it in half and slice into thin slices. Pull the onion rings apart, place onto a baking pan, sprinkle lightly with salt and place under the broiler until the onions are starting to brown. They might look dry and unevenly browned – but not to worry. Add the onions to the tomatillos in the blender.
Wash the jalapenos and pat them dry. Rub the garlic cloves until all loose skin has been discarded, but leave the cloves intact with the skins on. Place both jalapenos and garlic cloves in a dry frying pan. Over medium heat, jiggle the pan frequently to toast/roast the garlic and peppers fairly evenly. This will take about 10 minutes. You may have to turn the garlic by hand. The peppers should have a light char on several sides. The garlic should have browning on the skin.
When the peppers and garlic cloves are cool enough to touch, peel the garlic and remove the seeds and stem from the peppers. Toss garlic cloves and peppers into the blender.
Now add about 1 tsp salt. First pulse then blend the mixture until well combined. The tomatillos will liquefy, and the salsa will be fairly thin.
Cut off the big, course stems from the bottom of cilantro. Place the whole bunch, along with smaller stems, into the blender and pulse until incorporated but you can still see pieces of cilantro leaves.
Pour the salsa into a container and check for salt – you will probably have to add more. Once seasoning is balanced, add the lime juice. Stir and refrigerate until ready to eat.
This next recipe is for the enchilada sauce - and it is somewhat involved. However, the flavor is totally worth it. You could make this sauce one day when you have extra time, portion and freeze it, and have some on hand when you want to make enchiladas - or anything else that would benefit from this killer sauce.
• 2 cups water
• 12 whole dried ancho chiles
• 3 Tbsp vegetable oil and then more as needed
• 1 onion, coarsely chopped
• 4 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 4 cups chicken broth
• salt to taste
• 1 tablespoon agave syrup, or to taste
• 1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
• 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
• 2/3 cup peanuts
• 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
• 1 large can tomatoes
1. Tear out the stems and cores of the ancho chiles and tear open the chiles to make them flat. Scrape out seeds and veins, leaving the flesh intact.
2. Place the ancho pieces into a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and toast, pressing down with a spatula, until the chiles are fragrant and show browned spots, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove chiles, place in pot, cover with the water and bring to a boil. Turn heat off and let the chiles rehydrate for about 10 minutes.
4. In a Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onions, jalapenos and garlic slowly. Add ½ tsp salt while sautéing. Remove onions and garlic from the pan, reserving whatever oil you can in the pot.
5. In a small separate skillet over medium heat, toast the ground cumin just until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Watch carefully, the cumin will burn easily.
6. Drain the ancho chiles and place them into a blender. Add just enough chicken stock to puree the chiles. Then pass them through a strainer, reserving the pulp and discarding the skins.
7. Heat a bit more oil in the Dutch oven and add the chile puree. It should sizzle. Stir continuously until the chile mixture becomes darker and somewhat reduced. Add onions, garlic, jalapenos, toasted cumin and stir. Add peanuts. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and combine. Stir in agave syrup and oregano – stir stir stir until it bubbles and boils. Add the rest of the chicken stock. Taste for salt.
8. Let this mixture cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the lid and allow to cool for a moment. Place the sauce into a blender – only filling the blender half full. Cover lid with a towel and pulse carefully first, then blend until everything is pureed. Pass through a strainer into a bowl. Discard any solids and proceed with more batches until all the sauce is blended and strained. Don't skip this process.
9. Add the sauce back into the pot and heat slowly. If the sauce is too thin, bring to a boil and reduce. Turn off heat, add lime juice. The sauce is now ready to use.
This recipe makes enough for about 12 people. It will fill two 8x12 Pyrex baking dishes.
4 pounds of cooked chicken thighs and legs – up to you how you want to cook it. Or get two rotisserie chickens from the grocery store.
Approximately 24 (blue – if you can find them) corn tortillas
Enchilada Sauce – a batch as described above
8 oz – or more of aged white cheddar cheese - grated
Oil for frying
½ cup chopped green onions
Crema (recipe follows)
1. Take the skin off the chicken, shred the cooked meat and reserve in a container. Discard skin and bones.
2. Grate cheese – keep cold
3. In a skillet, heat about ½ inch of vegetable oil. When the oil is ripply but not smoking, add a corn tortilla and fry for about 15 seconds – it should sizzle somewhat. With tongs, turn the tortilla and fry another few seconds on the other side. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Repeat with other tortillas, layering them with paper towels to drain.
4. To prepare the enchilada dishes, oil two baking dishes and then ladle some enchilada sauce in the bottom. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
5. Pour some enchilada sauce into a shallow dish. Grab a fried tortilla with tongs and drag it through the sauce so it is coated lightly on both sides. You don’t want to have it sodden with sauce, just coated.
6. Add some shredded chicken, layering the shreds all in the same direction. Sprinkle on a tad of cheese. Roll up and place seam down in the prepared enchilada baking dish. Proceed with more enchiladas, moistening with sauce, filling with chicken and cheese and rolling them up. Once your dish is full, fill the next one.
7. Ladle some enchilada sauce over the finished enchiladas and sprinkle lightly with cheese
8. Put both pans in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes.
9. Chop the green onions
10. When the enchiladas come out of the oven, sprinkle with green onions and serve with crema.
1 pint container sour cream
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes
1 finely chopped green onion – white and green parts
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
3/4 tsp salt
Stir everything together and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Our dessert was tres leches cake - three milk cake. It's really a Cuban dish, but it's eaten in Mexico, too - plus it's really good. And at the end of this meal and 42 bottles of wine - who cared?
Tres Leches Cake
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 (14-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons light rum
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup Water
1 cup Light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and lightly flour a 9 x 13 baking dish. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together.
Separate the egg yolks and whites. Beat the whites until very foamy and frothy. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract with an electric mixer.
Continue mixing and slowly add the milk. Then start adding the flour mixture, a little at a time, until all the flour is incorporated and the batter is smooth. Finally, use a spatula to gently fold in the beaten egg whites until completely mixed.
Pour batter into a greased and lightly floured 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Allow cake to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
Now it's time to get fancy. Invert the cake onto a jelly roll pan or a baking tray with a raised edge on it -- something to catch the syrup! Use a fork to repeatedly pierce the top of the cake.
Milk Syrup Preparation:
Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and rum in a mixing bowl, until well blended. Pour syrup over the cake a little at a time, until it soaks through. This is a cake that demands patience! Pour the milk syrup slowly and let it soak in. Use your fork to help it along a bit, piercing here and there through the syrup until it soaks in. Keep doing this until most of the milk syrup is absorbed. Don’t worry if there is still a pool of syrup around the bottom of the cake, it will gradually soak in.
Cover the now syrup-drenched cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours before frosting.
Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks. Set aside. In a separate pan, mix the water, sugar, and corn syrup. Cook over a high heat, stirring constantly until a candy thermometer reads 230°F. Remove from heat. While beating the egg whites with an electric mixer, immediately pour the hot syrup into the egg whites; continue beating for about five minutes. Let frosting cool in refrigerator. With a wet spatula, spread a thick layer of the frosting on the cake. To serve, cut individual squares and pair with sliced, fresh strawberries. YUM
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