29 April 2010

The best Mexican restaurant in town

Last Saturday J & I had some old friends and their kids over for dinner - we hadn't seem them in ages and I was excited to have some adventurous eaters over so I could cook with some gusto. So I'd planned the meal for ages and was excited to once again dive into the Rick Bayliss-inspired Mexican.

A few weeks ago I made some tamales that were okay but I used the wrong corn masa so despite not really wanting to have another bag of ground corn in the cupboard, I did bite the bullet and buy the right one for tamales - it has a coarser grain - which made all the difference. I made green chile chicken tamales. Now I don't want to toot my horn, but they were fantastic!! We ate the whole lot of them (save one tiny little one that made it as a lunch snack the next day).

The filling was really easy. I whipped up some tomatillo salsa (a can of tomatillos, one roasted jalepeno, few cloves of garlic, half a white onion, big handful of cilantro all wazzed up in the blender). Then put it all in a pot, added about a tablespoon of masa harina and thickened up the sauce a bit and then just mixed it with some shredded cooked chicken.

The corn husks were boiled for a few minutes and then left to sit soaking in the water for about an hour. I just followed the instructions on the tamale masa package for making the dough.

Now I don't have any type of steamer so I jerry-rigged this one last time that is essentially a big colander set in the top of our biggest pot and then filled with tamales, covered it up with leftover corn husks and the lid and steamed it all for about an hour and a half. Presto, delicioso. Time consuming, for sure, but I sure do like seeing all the little soldiers standing up ready to be counted in the steamer.

The other main dish I made was one of the first Mexican dishes I found: braised short ribs with poblano peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. Ordinarily this would take forever to braise in the oven but I used the fabulous and fast pressure cooker and the whole thing cooked in 15 minutes.

I can't say enough about the pressure cooker's efficiency. Let it cool for a few minutes and you have fall-off-the bone meat and saucy deliciousness ready to be wrapped in a tortilla!! The poblanos give it an extra taste dimension that's less spicy than chiles but also just a bit more fortified than bell peppers.

The meal was rounded out with a few salsas: quick tomato-chipotle that had quite a bit of bite, classic semi-pickled onions and cilantro, and a crunchy tomatillo avocado salsa that was just a slightly different take on the beautiful avocado than the regular guacamole. Refried beans and rice rounded out the offerings.

I would like to report that our guests said the tamales were some of the best they've ever had. The kids were gung ho and got stuck into everything and a great time was had by all.

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