Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Si se puede, or MexiCAN!

On Sunday night the Cooking Club convened again, this time for a Mexican fiesta. Que bueno! Que rico! Que sabor (flavor)!
One of the wonderful lessons I've learned as an Angeleno is that Mexican cuisine is not comprised of boring, heavy bean and cheese "chimichangas" (not a real word, by the way). My exposure to la cocina Mexicano growing up was limited to the horrendous chain restaurant Chi-Chi's, which is about as authentic as the Olive Garden's "Italian" cooking, ugh. While eating the boring salty food my dad always insisted on wearing the kids menu on his head (designed to fold into a paper sombrero), oh the horror. I wanted to crawl under the table with my stale chips... bad food and public shame? I'm out.
When I moved to California I thought I didn't like Mexican food; turns out I'd never really tried it. Ten years, no embarrassing Dad-hats, and many gentle tamales made by abuelitas (grandmas), multicolored moles prepared by folks from Oaxaca, and $1 tacos in the middle of the night: today I'm a full-on convert. My dear friend Ray's gift with the puerco has been an inspiration too, gusta mucho!
So Sunday morning I prepared my excellent puerco verde stew. I seared, then slowly braised 3 pounds of pork shoulder in my awesome slow-cooker with a sauce of pureed tomatillos, onion, garlic, chiles, some white wine (not a legit component of this dish, but I think it makes it better), and my deliciously authentic sauce thickener: I toast a couple corn tortillas over a gas burner, rip them up and then whiz them with a half cup of chicken stock to make a corn slurry of sorts. Sprinkled in some Mexican oregano, cumin, and ground fennel and let it stew for 6 hours. Then I removed the pork, shredded it with forks, let the whole thing reduce a bit and served it as tacos with corn tortillas, crumbled queso fresca and snipped scallions, yum! Many folks asked to take leftovers home, always the best compliment.
On the menu also were delectable sopes (a cousin to Venezuela's arepas) see example to the right, buttery cheese tamales, machaca (eggs, shredded beef, onions and peppers, a real champion's breakfast), homemade red rice and beans, and two kinds of enchiladas. Wow. Nina, our resident Baking Goddess, made a Mexican-style chocolate bundt cake- the last slice will rock my afternoon, if I can wait that long!
Susan, ever the elegant hostess, made me a lovely margharita which I enjoyed for both of us as she is great with child, uhh, nino :)
Ahh, Mexico, mi amigo, mi plato grande... gracias! Muchas, muchas gracias! Que delicioso, mi amor.

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