Sunday, August 26, 2007

I Miss REAL Mexican Food

I was born and raised in California and I love REAL Mexican food.

Tom and I lived in San Diego County before moving to Arkansas 14 years ago. It was a tremendous culture shock. I remember the first time I bought a can of artichoke hearts and the grocery clerk nearly gagged because she thought they were hearts from an animal! Or the time I bought a bunch of cilantro and the grocery clerk couldn't spell or pronounce it so she just charged me for "parsley." And, even just recently a grocery clerk had to ask me what that odd looking root was... it was ginger.

We still don't go out to eat Mexican food because there isn't any. It is all Tex-Mex. After eating Fish Tacos at Roberto’s in Encinitas, Chili Rellenos at Anita's in Oceanside, street tacos in Tijuana, ceviche in Ensanada and Camerones al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) Rosarito Beach, I just don't have a taste for Tex-Mex, particularly Arkansas-style.

After we moved here, I wasn't able to find all the ingredients to cook the dishes I used to until just recently when one of our grocery stores started carrying some of the items I had been accustom to buying in California, thanks to the recent influx of Latinos to this part of the country. So when I saw Valli’s (More Than Burnt Toast) recipe for Tortilla Crusted Chicken Rellenos with Cilantro Sauce, I had to try it.

Tom and I went shopping yesterday afternoon, and wouldn't you know it, Kroger did not have poblano peppers. So off to Walmart (UGGG! Hate Walmart) we go, where we scored on the peppers. I love poblano peppers! My son, Chris, makes the most awesome Roasted Cream of Poblano Soup.... but, another time for that.

So, Tom made the Chicken Rellenos, I made the Cilantro Sauce and the Rice. We both changed Valli's recipes a little (which I have noted), but dinner was absolutely delicious. When Tom was browning the chicken,the kitchen smelled wonderful from the cumin and crushed tortilla chips.

Tortilla Crusted Chicken Rellenos with Cilantro Sauce

For the Cilantro Sauce

2/3 cup dairy sour cream (I used "light" sour cream)
1/3 cup mayonnaise(instead of mayonnaise, I used about 1/2 cup of guacamole that was leftover from the night before ~ 3 mashed avocados, a teaspoon of minced garlic, 1/4 cup of salsa, 2 tablespoons grated onion, 2 teaspoons of minced jalapeno peppers, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, salt & pepper)
4 green onions, chopped finely, green tops included
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced (we had one roasted poblano pepper leftover, so I used that instead)
3 Tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients well, cover, refrigerate and serve with Chicken Rellenos.

For the Tortilla Crusted Chicken Rellenos

4 chicken breast halves
4 small poblano peppers
6 oz. Pepper Jack cheese, cut into strips 1-1/2 oz. each (we just used jack cheese)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup finely crushed tortillas chips (Tom used Mission pre-fried Red Tortillas, hence the bright colored crust)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Roast whole poblano peppers over hot grill, under broiler or over gas flame of stove. Turn frequently to ensure even roasting and cook until skin is charred and blistering. Place roasted peppers in plastic bag to steam (we used a paper bag). When cool enough to handle, cut a vertical slit in peppers and remove seeds and stem ends. Remove skin by gently scraping with a knife. Rinse, pat dry with paper towels, and stuff each pepper with cheese stick. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375F. Place chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap and flatten with meat mallet to 1/4-inch thickness. Place cheese filled pepper in the center of each breast. Fold sides over and roll up, enclosing the pepper completely. Secure with wooden toothpicks. Place the buttermilk in a shallow bowl. Place crushed tortillas in a separate dish and add seasonings, stirring to blend. One by one, dip stuffed chicken in buttermilk and roll in tortilla mixture, pressing lightly to coat all sides. Set aside.

Place oil in large non-stick skillet and heat on medium heat. Place chicken in hot skillet and carefully saute about 3 to 5 minutes per side until lightly browned. Remove chicken to baking sheet coated with baking spray. Bake in preheated overn 20 - 25 minutes until chicken is done and temperature on meat thermometer is 160F.

To serve, remove toothpicks, placing on serving plate and serve with Cilantro Sauce.

Mexican Rice (or Sopa Seca De Arroz ~ Rice "Dry Soup)

I would never eat so-called "Mexican or Spanish Rice" because I just never liked it. It never seemed to have any flavor, except when I ate in at a restaurant in Mexico. When I was perusing this cookbook (first published in 1969 and my edition is from 1972), I found a recipe for Rice "Dry Soup." It was exactly what I was looking for. It is delicious, even by itself. We always have leftovers because there is only the two of us. Lucky for me because I love having it for lunch, warmed with a little cheddar cheese on top. Yum!!

I have added ingredients that I particularly like to the original recipe, but it is adapted from this book.

1-1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can Rotel Tomatoes & Green Chilis, drained but liquid reserved
Liquid from Rotel, plus enough chicken broth to make 2 cups of liquid.
1 can of corn, drained
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives (optional)
1/2 cup cilantro chopped
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

Brown rice lightly in oil. Add onion, garlic and Rotel tomatoes & chilis and cook for 2 or 3 minutes; add all of the remaining ingredients, including the chicken broth/Rotel liquid.

Cover and simmer on the top of the stove over low heat for about 20 minutes. Do not remove lid. Turn off the heat and allow to sit, covered, for 10 more minutes. Remove lid, pour into large bowl and mix gently. There should be no liquid remaining when the rice is done.

Makes 6 servings.


Valli said...

Great job guys. I love the use of the red tortilla chips!!! We have several Mexican restaurants here that are not really authentic Mexican. I have seen the menu at a place in Penticton that I will have to try that is more like the real thing. Where my brother lives there is a very tiny, little hole in the wall that is truly authentic. The food was fabulous!!!!But, I would have to travel 3 days to get there!!!

Terri said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe. It was so delicious.

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