Saturday, February 16, 2008
Authentic Mexican with Rick Bayless's Help
For another project, I recently had to go visit a few muy mexicano supermarkets. I wandered the aisles and was enticed..and frankly, aren't we all just a little bit tired of fajitas? We get it already: sizzle plate, greasy meat, veggies to fill you up and enough sour cream and cheese to hide any ..."sub-par" ingredients.
Rick Bayless, who owns Frontera Grill in Chicago (among others), has really become an authority on authentic Mexican tastes. I have long owned one of his original books, Authentic Mexican--Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, but I picked up Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen the other day, a Julia Child Book of the Year Award winner-which I bought when I couldn't find his most recent book, Mexican Everyday. (you can find all of his books here.) Bayless still goes straight for the heart of Mexican flavors, but he also clues people in to making adjustments for their own American kitchen, little subsections he titles "Simple Ideas from My American Home." These are little twists on the authentic, original recipe.
I couldn't wait to try somthing, so I opted for a simple-sounding Tacos of Tomatillo Chicken with wilted greens and fresh cheese. Here in South Florida, these ingredients are readily available in my local, non-specialty supermarket (it's Publix for me). Roast the tomatillos, blend them (using my favorite immersion blender from Kitchenaid), then add sauteed onions and garlic, blend a bit more. Cook this down with some broth--add greens (I cheated--I was tired, cooking this up around 8 p.m., and hungry, so I used 1/2 package of frozen spinach) to the sauce and stir in 1 1/3 cups shredded, cooked chicken (my single complaint so far: I'd rather see him use weight measurements there...)...Steam a few small corn tortillas (the soft, pliable kind that are only about 4 inches across)...fill each with a heaping tablespoon of the chicken and greens mixture, top with crumbled queso fresco. The result was a fresh, tasty and satifsying dish--three tacos almost filled me up, so I had a fourth. He suggests a party meal of a bunch of these tacos paired with black bean soup, a casual, delicious, fun way to go, I would agree.
I only wish I'd read his suggestion in the notes preceeding the recipe: "I encourage you to make a double or triple batch of sauce, so you can freeze the extra for another meal." I need to pay more attention, because I would SO like to have this in my freezer as a quick meal. You cook it until the step where you add the greens and the chicken, although I think the greens would probably freeze well, too. A great way to use up the second day of a roast chicken, don't you think?