Heyyy… ¡Chilaquiles!

Posted by Anita on 03.27.05 10:54 PM

Was sitting here, jonesing for Mexican food — even though I have dinner already prepped to go in the oven in a few hours — and I thought of my friend Jaymes’ quicky chilaquiles. Boy, am I glad I did! They’ve been the subject of some serious “more Mexican than the Mexicanos” backchat on Mouthfuls, as they’re made in the microwave with storebought ingredients.

I just have one word for the naysayers: Yum.

Salsa verde (tomatilla sauce); torn tortilla chips; queso manchego (or asadero, or ranchero, or fresco, or any other Mexican white cheese that you like); and sour cream.

In bottom of microwaveable dish, spread a little tomatilla sauce, then layer of tostadas or Fritos, then more sauce, then sour cream, then “bastante queso.” Repeat, until dish is full or ingredients are all used up, finishing with cheese. Microwave one minute, or till chilaquiles are heated through and cheese is melted. You’ll probably have to experiment a time or two in order to get all of the proportions just right. Use as much salsa verde as you wish in order to get it as ‘wet’ as you like.

I used a small rectangular pyrex dish (I’d say 5 x 7″), half a cup of the salsa, three handfuls of chips, and two or three tablespoons of the faux-crema. It took about 2-1/2 minutes, all together, for the cheese to melt and the chips to soften a bit. These quantities made a nice snack for two.

I wasn’t planning to share, but Cam came in and said “Mmm, that smells good” so I gave him half, and still ended up having plenty. (Of course, he has a batch of shortbread cooling on the counter right now, so I know which side my bread is buttered on!) For a full meal, I might try making about 2/3 this much and eating it with an egg. Hmm, that’s a good idea for breakfast tomorrow. I can only imagine how good it would be with the right cheese and homemade salsa…!

I had a bag of going-stale blue corn tortilla chips in the pantry, along with a small can of Embasa salsa verde. Good cultured sour cream (which I thinned a bit with half-and-half) in the fridge; alas, no Mexican cheese, so I had to make due with mild cheddar for this try.

Muchas gracias, Jaymes. It’d never occured to me to try doing chilaquiles the shortcut way, and now I can see this becoming a house favorite.

cooking, food boards, Mexican
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Perfect day in Seattle

Posted by Anita on 03.26.05 11:04 PM

Originally posted on Mouthfuls’ Perfect Seattle Food Day thread

PikePlaceMarket (c)2005 AECMy perfect day would have to be a weekday (Tue-Fri) because it would involve lunch at Salumi. But if we’re talking about weekend-days, here are two itineraries we’ve done numerous times:

Down to the market, brunch at Cafe Campagne. Spend the middle of the day shopping for dinner fixings, then return to the car and stash the perishables in the cooler (or the chilly car, in winter). Wander around Belltown and the Market area — sorry, I just can’t type ‘West Edge’ with a straight face — browsing and grazing as we go. Perhaps stop by Beecher’s for some mac-n-cheese for late lunch. Wind up for an aperitif at Zig Zag right when they open, then back to the car and home to cook. If we’re having too much fun, they we end up hanging out for another drink (or two), and thn taking a taxi to Palace or walking to a nearby restaurant, and leaving the foraged items for Sunday dinner.

Another variation on this theme: We go to Essential for a great latte and something from the pastry case for a light breakfast, then back home for menu planning, with the entire dining room table buried by cookbooks and magazines. Then we spend mid-day shopping for dinner stuff, and ingredients for the rest of the week’s meals. In the right season, the first stop would be the U District farmers’ market to get the majority of the produce and anything else we can get find there; this time of year, it’s either Whole Paycheck, Uwajimaya, or Central Market, depending on what else we need to get — WF has good cheese, CM has better deli meats, etc. Lunch is grabbed when we start to feel peckish; a recent favorite has been splitting a cheesesteak and an order of fries at Philadelphia Fevre, or each of us going our own way at the Uwajimaya food court. A new find I’m looking forward to adding to this plan: If we’ve got a Mutual Fish (aka ‘Smoochable Fish’) stop planned, I’ll agitate for lunch at the taco bus, El Asadero on Rainier, before heading home to prep dinner.

There’s usually a cheese plate or some other nibbles on the counter while we’re chopping, dicing, fileting, etc. Lately our weekend meals have been big, multi-hour projects: the latest mexican cooking project from the Mexico forum, Cam’s newfound love of wok-frying whole fish on the turkey-fryer burner outside, etc. It’s comforting to me to have a homey project to fill a winter afternoon. I know when summer comes, the meals will be simpler, less constructed… which I am also looking forward to, in its own way.

There aren’t any particularly surprising finds in these ideas, I’m afraid. Still, reading them over pleases me. We’re actually going to do an abridged version of #1 today, so it was fresh in my mind.

bar culture, drinks, farmers markets, restaurants, Seattle, shopping, travel
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Soup of the Fortnight: Beef

Posted by Anita on 03.23.05 3:37 PM

We made the broth for our beef soup yesterday. It’s chillin’ (along with half of the beef used to make it) in the downstairs fridge now, ready to have its fat layer peeled away. I think it’s destined for Beef Barley later in the week, unless I change my mind again.

Update: We finished making our beef-barley soup last night. The photo was kinda dodgy, so I don’t think it will add much to the story.

We tried Pam Anderson‘s recipe, since we’d always wondered if it was good, using the “2 pounds marrow bones plus 4 pounds chuck meat” option — there were no beef shanks to be found in the area without ordering them. The rest of the ingredients couldn’t be simpler: carrot, onion, 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes, a bit of barley, and some fresh thyme.

The broth was good and beefy, though I don’t know if it was worth using 6 pounds of meat and bones to get it! Unlike Anderson’s chicken broth, you do end up with usable meat at the end of the process. And since the recipe itself only calls for half of the meat, I used some of the rest for the picadillo project, and expect to make some sort of italian stew with the remainder. But all in all, I don’t think it was much better than what I’ve made in the past with beef stock, and it was a lot more trouble. And it also made a LOT more than then 6 servings she said it would, so we’ve got about 4 servings in the freezer, even after setting aside 3 lunches.

cooking, recipes, Soup o' the Fortnight
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Seattle Eastside Mini-Crawl

Posted by Anita on 03.15.05 11:15 PM

So, I did a mini-crawl today (help, I’m eating tacos and I can’t stop!), hitting the two taco trucks in the Bel-Red zone. The first was Tacos San Clemente, on the northeast corner of Bel-Red and 140th in a service station lot, across the street from the Safeway gas station. Tacos are $1 plus tax, as are sodas. Excellent (tied with Asador) carnitas, pretty good pollo, lightly toasted toritillas, nice selection of squirt-bottle salsas, no garnish except 1 lime and 1 radish. The cashier was nice enough. Two tables with plastic chairs, in the shade of the wagon’s awning… probably seating for 10 or 12, all together.

I didn’t see Rancho Bravo Tacos — the PI says it’s on the northwest corner of 140th and Bel-Red Road at Bel-Red 76 Auto Service, but unless I am totally mistaken, that’s where the Safeway is, and the Union 76 is (a) where I was and (b) on the northeast corner of said intersection.

From there, I proceeded to Taqueria Guadalajara — aka the Microsoft Taco Truck — at the northwest corner of 148th Ave and 24th Street (another Union 76). Tacos here came in 2 sizes: $1.25 and $1.50, and all they had was Asada, Pastor (like all the others this weekend, this was pork adobada, not mexican-style pastor), Pollo, and Lengua. I had a pastor and a pollo, both were merely OK. The pork was tiny bits, nicely spiced but needing salt; the pollo also lacked salt, but was nice and juicy. They did toast the tortillas, but they still fell apart. The people weren’t very pleasant here. Only garnish was a lime and a radish, again, plus a not-good red salsa and a passable green one. Seating was at a bar built into the side of the truck itself, maybe 5 or 6 seats.

On the way back to the office, I had to satisfy my curiosity to see if the Bellevue El Rinconsito’s carnitas were really bad, or if it was just a fluke when Jan and I went. Nope, still really bad — the worst of all of ‘em over the past 3 days: simmered pulled pork, no spice at all, lots of chunks of fat. Ick. I actually threw out the taco, having eaten enough. The cashier here, like all the previous times I visited, was curt and unsmiling.

Both of the trucks were crawl-worthy, but I’d skip El Rinconsito when we do this for real.

Mexican, Seattle
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Soup of the Fortnight: Chicken

Posted by Anita on 03.15.05 3:32 PM

chicken soup (c)2006 AECI made a pot of Pam Anderson’s chicken soup from The Perfect Recipe. I don’t think my batch came out as good as Cameron’s usually does — he is the designated chicken souper of our clan — but I compensated by adding my own homemade farfalle pasta.

I love this soup because it doesn’t deplete my stock stash: you use a whole chicken, cutting all but the breast into tiny bits to make broth, then add breast meat poached in the broth, and veggies sauteed in the chicken fat. It turns out really chicken-y, even more than you’d expect from such a reasonably quick preparation.

cooking, recipes, Soup o' the Fortnight
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Seattle Taco Crawl

Posted by Anita on 03.14.05 6:02 PM

(Excerpted from the MouthfulsFood Taco Truck thread)

tacos (c)2006 AECAnother fabuloso day of taco-ness…

Cam and I had our tamales from Carniceria El Paisano for breakfast this morning… mmmm! Then we headed down Rainier and met up with Lauren and Rocky at the first taco truck on Rainier, Taqueria Dos Hermanos. Once again, I kept things simple and had a carnitas taco at every stop. Lauren stuck mostly with pork adobada / al pastor for the day; Cam was cabeza-boy; Rocky had lengua, substituting buche when available. (I had nibbles of lots of things, but I’ll let the others give you the round-up on their choices.) The carnitas at Dos Hermanos were good, not great. Tacos came in at $1, good mexican soda selection, super-hot (but flavorful) pickled peppers and carrots.

The next stop, the taco bus called El Asadero, was the best of show for me today, probably tied for best carnitas with El Milagro (the market next to Oberto — thanks for remembering, Rocky!). They weren’t quite as crispy or salty, but they were shreds rather than tiny cubes, which makes a difference to me. Asadero wins high marks for its garnish bar (rather than the standard 1 lime, 1 carrot, 1 chile that you get at most places) and for a good assortment of beverages. The imported Mexican coke and pepsi were expensive ($1.50, I think) but at least they had them. The oddball thing about this place was they didn’t include tax in the prices, so a taco comes out to $1.09. huh.gif

Our next stop was supposed to be Gorditos II, but they weren’t open (my fault, I see now that the P-I list says “Monday through Saturday”), so we proceeded to Malena’s in Ballard. As Lauren said when we were discussing it later, it feels odd to call something that costs $2.79 ‘expensive’, but there you have it. Malena’s had very limited taco choices (pork, fish, and I think chicken), they were more than twice the price of any others, they were made with standard supermarket corn tortillas, and loaded up with not-good guacamole, pallid pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce. Carnitas were slightly crispy but totally flavorless. The place was empty, not surprisingly. Another Seattle sacred cow bites the dust for me…

Onward to Taqueria Tequila in Greenwood. Nice selection of tacos, various prices from $0.99 to $1.50-ish depending on the filling. Carnitas were good but unremarkable; other items ranged from just OK to very nice. (I think Rocky liked the lengua and Lauren liked the chorizo, which I agree was tasty.)

We met up with Jan (SeaGal) and her husband Gary at Pancho Villa — the menu now says “Mr. Villa”, but otherwise it remains as I remember it. We’d earned our cervezas by this point, so we took a load off and ate there. Even though it’s a sit-down place, you can order just a single taco, if you like; I think they were $1.50 each. Carnitas were flavorful and slightly crisp, still good. Nice handmade tortillas, lightly griddled. I also couldn’t resist trying a chile relleno, which was tasty but needed more sauce.

Our last stop was the taco truck at Northgate and I-5, which we now know is called La Pasadita. A few folks opted for tortas here, which were huge ($4); I stuck with my program and had a carnitas taco (I think they were $1). These were probably the worst of the trip… even Rinconsito’s yesterday were better. The pork was flavorful, but the taco was probably half-filled with unrendered fat blobs and not a hint of golden crispiness was to be found. I believe the lengua was spoken of highly here, by Rocky and Gary.

Thanks to everyone for a great day. We’re definitely going to have to do another crawl to get the rest of the south end under our belts (literally!), and there was talk of a combined Eastside/Northside crawl, too.

food boards, Mexican, Seattle
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Seattle South-End Taco Crawl

Posted by Anita on 03.13.05 6:01 PM

(Excerpted from the MouthfulsFood Taco Truck thread)

carnitas taco (c)2006 AECMan oh man…

What a great day we had! Jan and Rocky and I even got to bust out with our spanish at a couple of stops where there wasn’t much english goin’ on.

The best thing I learned today: Ambaum Avenue is taqueria central. On the way from Zacatecas in ‘downtown’ Burien to the taco truck in White Center (Fondita II) we passed no less than 6 taquerias — including one with an outdoor parilla — plus a taco bus, and a mexican bakery. The saddest thing was passing them by!

Second best thing I learned today: chicharron doesn’t always mean just fried pork rind. There’s a meaty kind that they sell at Carniceria El Paisano that’s like the best carnitas you ever had. Oh, man. I am regretting not waiting in line to buy some. As it is, we’re looking lovingly at the two tamales in the fridge, waiting to get hungry again…

Here are my votes…
Best carnitas: the ones at the market in Kent, next to the Oberto Factory Outlet
Best tortillas: Zacatecas, where they make them fresh
Favorite overall experience: La Fondita II (“with two, you get garnish!”)
Saddest slide into mediocrity: El Rinconsito
Best thing I put in my mouth this month: Chicharron at El Paisano

Sue, you have to post all of the names of the places we went to, since we did so many substituions.

We definitely need to do another southside crawl: We hardly touched the P-I’s list of trucks, and we literally could do a crawl up and down Ambaum (with a 2-block detour over to 15th for chicharron and tamales at El Paisano).

I’m looking forward to seeing the crew at 11 tomorrow at the first stop on the Seattle tour. We’ll wait there until 11:15 or so in case of stragglers, but if we’ve gone, you can just meet up with us at the next stop.

food boards, Mexican, Seattle
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Yo quiero PIG

Posted by Anita on 03.01.05 11:21 PM

Excerpted from Mouthfuls’ Mexican Cooking Project #2: Cochinita Pibil

Cameron and I made cochinita pibil last night, using a hybrid of two Rick Bayless recipes: we used the small batch from Mexican Kitchen, but cooked it in the grill a la One Plate at a Time. We also made his habanero salsa — just a drop per taco was enough! — plus pickled onions and homemade tortillas.

We used a whole pork shoulder, and had plenty of meat. Ours took about 4-4.5 hours for a bone-in roast about 3.5 pounds and 4 inches thick on our gas grill that we kept at around 325 degrees F. The marinade didn’t completely dry up, but we did add about a cup of chicken stock to it to deglaze the pan, and then simmered that down to reduce back to the right consistency. We didn’t lift the wrapped roast up off the bottom of the dutch oven, nor did we cover it.

I’ve never had cochinita before, and I loved it. The achiote and the banana leaf gave it the most ethereal scent and taste. I had 2 tacos this morning for breakfast, and another 2 with some leftover black beans for lunch today. Man! It’s a good thing I have another project planned for dinner, or else I would eat it again!

cookbooks, cooking, food boards, meat, Mexican
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