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Cookbook Report #2: Cinco de Mayo/Mother's Day fiesta (long)

Carb Lover | May 9, 200502:09 PM

For those of you following my Rick Bayless "Mexican Kitchen" cookbook odyssey, I made a mother's day dinner for my MIL and SIL inspired by Cinco de Mayo. In short, it was very good and well-received and gave me more insights into Mexican cookery. I'm not going to go into every detail of the meal, but will list the menu (Spanish name in parentheses) w/ a few comments, offer a few impressions, and finally give one recipe for my favorite discovery from the book.

Classic Seviche Tostadas (tostadas de seviche): Great way to wake up the tastebuds before a meal! Will make it again for sure but will use shrimp or tuna instead of snapper next time.

Golden Squash Blossom Crema (crema de flores de calabaza): Basically a creamy, delicate squash blossom soup w/ corn and roasted poblanos. Wasn't sure if squash blossoms were in season at my farmer's market, but didn't get lucky, so like every prepared cook I went to plan B and just used regular green zucchini instead. Turned out great anyway, but can't wait to try it w/ blossoms.

Rustic Jicama Appetizer w/ red chile and lime (entremes de jicama): Picture and recipe below. Billed as an appetizer, but I served it as a salad and palate cleanser. Was the most delicious salad I've had using jicama and would complement many menus. A confetti of contrasting flavors, textures, and colors! Reminded me that I don't use jicama enough.

Smoky Peanut Mole (mole de cacahuate) w/ Grilled Pork: Supposed to be w/ quail, but recipe gave variations. This mole is probably the easiest one in the book. Good but not as great as more complex, time-consuming moles I've had. Will make this mole again but will serve w/ poultry, as pork wasn't best match.
Classic Mexican "Pot" Beans (frijoles de la Olla): fine but needed more flavor so I added some bacon and jalapeno.
Classic Red Tomato Rice (arroz a la Mexicana): After the jicama salad, my second favorite dish of the night. So, so simple to make but so delicious.

Vanilla Flan (from SF Chronicle cookbook): Made this several times now and is my favorite vanilla flan. Scraping up the caramel from the cake pan is the best! Served w/ organic strawberries from Swanton Berry Farm.

Wines: Started w/ a French white burgundy my in-laws brought from Costco. Light and dry; adequate w/ the starters. I wanted to buy a tempranillo from Trader Joe's but they were out, so got a 2002 Cline Red Zin which we know we like. Used some in the mole so it was a good match.

Overall impressions: Start and finish were great, but middle part (pork w/ mole, rice, beans) didn't fit as well and not as elegant as the rest of the meal. Grilled seafood would have been better. Love learning about different peppers. Roasted poblanos are wonderful. Major difference btwn. Mexican cookery vs. European-American: no use of black pepper in any dish so far; salt usually comes at end. Many dishes can be made days ahead and get better w/ age. This cookbook is well-written and user-friendly.


Rustic Jicama Appetizer w/ Red Chile & Lime
(Entremes de Jicama)
serves ~8 as snack, app, or salad

1 med (~1 lb.) jicama
2 small cucumbers *I used English ones
3 seedless oranges *I used navels
6 radishes, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes (~1/3 c.)
Salt, ~1/2 tsp.
~2 tsp. powdered dried hot chile, ancho or guajillo *I used pasilla
~2/3 c. pickled red onions (optional) *recipe is in book but I didn't add any; you can just use thinly sliced red onion if you like
~1/3 c. roughly chopped cilantro, plus few sprigs for garnish

Instructions paraphrased: Basically chop up all veggies so they are bite-sized. Peel orange w/ knife and segment or slice into rounds. Mix veggies (including raw onion if you're using) and oranges w/ lime juice in bowl and let sit for 20 min. then season w/ salt. Pile onto serving platter and drizzle w/ juices. Top w/ chile powder and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

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