Friday, January 13, 2012

In Guera's Kitchen Lately 1/13/12

So its been two weeks. I didn’t intend to take a break so soon after vowing to keep this blog up and running…but Christmas/New Years has a way of making you really tired of talking about food. Especially Mexican food if you live in our house. I wont want another tamal until Easter.

Also, I have been crazy busy. Lucky for my blogging aspirations, I have been busy partially because of food. Our kids are in 4H, and I am the leader of the cooking class. Last weekend, we had our “Festive Food Faire”, complete with an optional “Iron Chef Competition”. The kids in our club decided before I did that we were participating and yours truly would be the coach of one of the teams.

It sounded harmless at first. Secret ingredient, two hours to cook it, and parents/coaches cant touch…only coach from the sidelines. I can do that! What you don't consider, however, is that there are no sinks, you are cooking outside, and you have to haul in everything you might possibly need for any given situation.

I can do that? I think?

I was told last year the ingredient was whole chickens. The year before? Buffalo. I hoped we would be so lucky. I pondered packing up my entire pantry…planning for any and every meat they could throw our way…and it was far too draining to even think about. It was at this point that I made a decision. There is only one type of food that can be made from just about any kind of meat, can be made quickly and easily with just a few ingredients, and could be cooked on hot rocks if necessary. Mexican Food. Bonus points for the fact that I had everything on hand and didn’t have to grocery shop for a one day cook-off! La Guera began planning.

We were allowed to take side dishes. We could bring whatever we wanted, as long as we finished our two dishes in under two hours, and the theme ingredient was the centerpiece of the dish. The kids all came to my house the night before. We made beans, rice, cilantro dressing (think pollo loco), homemade flour tortillas, and packed everything up for the next day. My biggest fear was that they would give us lamb. I don’t like lamb, so I never cook it. I was prepared, however. If they had given us lamb, we were going to grind it up, and make lamb burgers al pastor style. I had pineapple just in case.

The big reveal relieved us. Pork Roast. We can do that! The catch? Pear-apples had to be used in one of the two dishes.

Here is what we came up with:

Dish one: Cheese and bbq-d pork quesadillas (on homemade flour tortillas mind you!) with a pear-apple/jalapeno sauce inside. The sauce was simply peeled and cored pear apples, jalapenos, a bit of lemon juice, and salt. The kids cooked it down a bit on a camp stove, and then put a pat of butter in to make it creamy. We put a little on the side for dipping. We served it with an organic greens and cilantro salad with dyed and fried corn tortilla bits and cilantro dressing.

Dish two: The rest of the roast was boiled down in onion, salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin in my cast iron dutch oven on a camp stove. We cooked it down in water until it was easily sliced (about 1.5 hours). We then chopped this ( picadillo style) and soaked it quickly in the same spices used to cook it, and fried it up in a bit of lard. We then took bolillos, spread some mayo and a sun dried tomato spread one of the kids made from scratch, and grilled them on the bbq. Inside the grilled bolillos went the meat, cilantro salad greens that were leftover from our first dish, and a fresh salsa they whipped up in my food processor. We called them "taco truck tortas" and served them with homemade beans and rice.

Every year, the judges take a little of the plate for tasting, and then send the rest out for everyone to sample. We knew we were doing well when our plates came out empty.

The verdict? We took first place, and had a blast. One judge said we got bonus points just for knowing what a torta was, lol! I guess when La Guera is your coach, you don't have a choice but to learn a thing or two about taco truck cuisine. I was grateful for a great team of kids that soaked up everything I had to teach them. They did great.

Yeah, I'm still sick of tamales, and I haven't made a single Mexican dish in about a week, but I never tire of sharing Mexican recipes and flavors. I have beans soaking today, so I guess we are back on track.

It’s all good, as long as it's not lamb.