After a few moments' hesitation about what to make my very hungry and over-studied cohabiter, I settled on mexican. Now, before you get too excited, this isn't Diana Kennedy, from-under-the-adobe-flap Mexican (though I love Kennedy's cookbooks, especially this one, and need to make some of her recipes soon!). This is Americanized Mexican food with just a few twists to make it more authentic. And you know what? It's pretty damn good. Because we're kosher, we do either the meat inside or the cheese on top. But please, don't hold back. A little cotija cheese and sour cream never hurt anyone.
Whether you're cooking for an army of hungry people or just a few grumbling stomachs, make a mexican buffet, and you'll be sure to please the folks around your table.
**I'm sorry that my pictures only show some of the featured items (no chicken or guac); I wasn't much in a chicken mood (especially since they were boneless breasts, which I don't so love), and didn't want to make D wait to eat while I photographed. I like to think I'm at least considerate enough to not stand between D and food.
Here's my spread -- and feel more than free to vary these dishes according to your eaters' picky habits.
Flour tortillas (I like spinach flavor) Hot, Tangy Chicken Spanish Rice Smoky Refried Beans Guacamole Salsa Salsa Verde
Hot, Tangy Chicken
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, sliced into strips
- salt and pepper
- or 1 tsp. coriander (dried)
- 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
- marinate all ingredients for at least 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Put 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and turn the heat on medium-high.
- Scoop marinated chicken into pan, reserving liquid.
- Saute for 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through and browned.
- Add liquid to the pan and cook until reduced to 1/3, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer to an oven-safe pan and leave, covered, in the oven, to keep warm.
- 2 cups basmati rice (can be brown)
- 2 3/4 cups water
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (be careful!)
- 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 4 Tbsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. coriander
- 1 tsp. salt
- Put 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add diced onions, jalapeno, and garlic, and sweat (until translucent), about 2 minutes.
- Add spices and bell pepper, and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add 2 1/2 cups water, turn the heat to high, cover pan, and bring to a boil.
- When water is boiling, add rice, and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- If after 15 minutes most of the liquid has evaporated, add an extra 1/4 cup and cook, stirring constantly.
- After most of the liquid has evaporated, cover pot, turn off the heat, and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Then fluff rice with a fork.
Smoky Refried Beans
- 2 cans black beans
- 1/8 cup water
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. pimenton, or smoked spanish paprika
- 1 tsp. salt
- cotija cheese, optional
- Drain beans and rinse through a few times.
- Blend beans and 1/8 cup water in food processor or blender until mostly smooth (though some little bits won't hurt).
- Add oil, pimenton, and salt; pulse a few more seconds til blended.
- Add more water if needed; you're looking for a smooth consistency that's not overly thick, but not runny either.
- Put bean mixture in an oven- or microwave-safe dish and cover.
- Bake in the oven at 350 until warmed through (about 15-20 minutes), or nuke in the microwave for ten-ish minutes until hot.
- Top with crumbled or grated cotija cheese and a bit of hot sauce, if you wish.
- 4 avocados, halved and scooped into a bowl.
- 1 lime
- 2 cloves garlic, mashed or chopped
- 2 Tbsp. onion, chopped or mashed
- 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 a jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (more or less to taste)
- Are there really instructions to this "recipe?"
- Mash avocados, garlic, and onions in a big bowl (best to mash with a mortar and pestle, but I don't have one...).
- add tomatoes.
- add salt to taste.
- add lime to taste.
- add jalapeno....you get the drift.
- Mix it all up and EAT!
I bought both salsa and salsa verde, but each is made relatively easily when you have the time: try this recipe from Simply Recipes, this one from Good Eats, or this salsa verde recipe, also from the much-abhored but also-very-useful Food Network.
A couple tips on serving this feast:
- Tortillas can be heated inside tin foil so that they stay soft and warm, then used as wraps to make burritos.
- Alternatively, cut each into quarters, and toast them in a dry frying pan until they crisp up a bit, then use them as you would nan with indian food, to scoop up some rice, beans, chicken and sauce.
- One last possibility is to fill them in advance, roll them, line them side by side in a pan, top with salsa and cheese, and bake, enchilada style. The possibilities are endless!