"Why do you cook on your day off?" is the question frequently asked whilst cooking a meal for guests, hopefully the answer will appear on their palate, as we all know practice makes perfect. But it is never laborious to cook, always a joy to meet new people, learn new stories and introduce my dog to new smells. So onto the party...
Mexico was the theme of the night and guests at this culinary adventure were from Louisiana, Michigan, Peru, France, and Houston. With a Latin country's theme, and Peruvians on the guest list it was important to flex my gringo Latin gastronomic muscles. It was easy to flex, as we were able to procure fresh chili's, limes, and bay leaves from an urban garden in the riverbend. Here is what we came up with...
Sunshine Enchiladas...Bouef, Cochon, Pollo
Seared Filet Carpaccio w/ cilantro and lime
Pico De Gallo
Lemon Meringue Pie
Frenchified Apple Crisp
The enchiladas are a steadfast recipe in my repertoire. It is simple. The meal started with the brine. Toasted cumin seeds, rosemary, thyme was met with sugar, salt, oregano, fresh New Mexican chili powder, and peppercorns. Once you can smell the spices, they have started to release the oils on their surface, add water until all are dissolved in the liquid. Add ice to cool down mixture and marinate meat for grilling. Sunshine enchiladas get their name from the sauce, it is a Californian's Bechamel. Make a blond roux, add onions and chili's, whisk in milk until proper consistency, add cilantro stems and simmer for twenty minutes. Place mixture in blender with the cilantro tops and blend smooth. Grill the meat, shred or slice into the desired size. Blanch corn tortillas in a little oil, fill with meat, cheese and raw onion. Place sauce in bottom of oven dish, line up enchiladas, pour sauce on top and place in the oven.
The seared filet carpaccio was left to stay at room temperature. A spice blend of chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper coated the outside of the meat. Olive oil in the skillet was left until almost smoking, the filet went in and stayed untouched and unshaken for three minutes, then flipped and poullet meat with cilantro, butter and garlic. Rested for fifteen minutes, sliced and finished with lime zest and sea salt.
Pico de gallo was skillfully cut by a Michigan guests and devoured with chips alongside a few libations. The ever flavorful juice from the vegetables in the pico were mixed with grilled corn, fresh tomatoes, red onion, basil, and chili powder. The corn relish went sensually well with the seared filet, adding texture and freshness to a robustly flavorful dish. Jessie's friojles was a combination of innovation and tradition. Using the pork bone from the enchilada pork meat, and peppered bacon, a quick smoky pork stock allowed the beans to simmer delightfully with sauteed onions, grilled peppers, garlic and cilantro stems. Squash was fresh and marinated in oil, oregano, pepper and salt, then grilled and covered in previous marinate to allow the flavors to permeate back into the warm vegetables. Rice was pilafed and finished with fresh oregano and cilantro. Dessert was provided by a slightly sweet refreshing lemon custard below a hardened sweet meringue.
Chicken Liver Pate w/ Plums, Apples and Leeks (Sake Plum Wine)
Hock Stocked Rice w/ Hock Meat and Leeks
Garlic, Rosemary, Plum Stuffed Pork Butt
Peruvian Bread Pudding
Berry Salad w/ Creme Anglaise
In purchasing all of the ingredients for a leisure day off meal, one must ensure the frugality of the day by spending more money on wine than on food. Holding true to this theory, the main protein of the meal came in at a whopping thirteen dollars and the hocks only add a few dollars more. Once the pork butt made its way into the kitchen, the marinade/stuffing needed to be made in order for the flavors to commingle amongst themselves. Crushed garlic, rosemary, flat leaf parsley, white pepper, salt, nut meg, clove and all spice where place together in a bowl and bound with olive oil. After taking out the bone out, the butt was butterflied into about one inch thickness. Spreading the mixture on the inside of the meat, then placing sliced plums on top of the pork, made it a happy little pig. Once the pig was tied, a vegetable rack was made out of fennel, onion, celery, bay leaf, and thyme. The roast was placed on top of the veggie rack and covered with plum sake. Placed in an over at 200F until it is ready, it was an uphill battle trying not to peak in and take a look, but the longer the door is shut, the better the food...Patience. The hock stock was simple. Rinsed off the hocks, placed in cold water with onion, thyme, garlic, leek tops, celery and allowed to gently simmer until all of the delicious porked smokiness was released into the water. After a few hours of hanging out in the pot, the vegetables and hocks had given away all the flavor they could and it was time to strain. The liquid was used in two different ways. First, medium grained rice was allowed to cook in the stock along with scalloped leeks, the hock meat was then added back providing more texture and smokiness to the rice. Second, a small bit of stock was reduced along with pan drippings from the oven into a glace, which was deglazed with the plum sake and garnished with sliced plums, and cilantro. I had almost forgotten about the chicken liver pate, it was simple. Brown butter, chicken livers until golden, vegetables, deglaze with plum sake, emulsify in blender with heavy cream, garnish with sliced fruit and blanched leeks, refrigerate and serve on house made bread. The salade was composed of Romaine spears, cabbage, chiffonade of Romaine, creole tomatoes, and an Italian style garlic vinaigrette. Dessert was brought by some of the guests; bread pudding was warmed and topped with Short Street Honey(from the neighbor), and a berry and fruit salad mixed with creme anglaise gave a nice goodnight kiss to the palate. All and all it was another gastronomic adventure with food being the glue, binding together people from different places, and holding there attention while life stories are swapped.