Last week was our third week cooking from a random cookbook – this time we chose Mexican: Healthy Ways with a Favorite Cuisine by Jane Milton. First off, after cooking from this book for a week, I disagree quite a bit with the title – the fat (in the form of lard or butter) that is added to many of these recipes makes this far from healthy in my opinion. I made many changes to the recipes throughout the week.
We started off with shaken Tequila Sunrises (pg. 233 – see image above) made from fresh-squeezed orange juice. To start, I made homemade (shallow-fried) tortilla chips (pg. 118) from white corn tortillas and chiles rellenos (pg. 100). I pan-fried the chiles instead of deep-frying them. However, I think that the coating would have stayed on better had they been battered instead of dredged, since most of the covering fell right off in the pan! They were delicious, but quite spicy. Usually, when we buy poblanos, they are only a little spicy, but these brought tears to my eyes even though I had completely removed the seeds and ribs. If I made them again, I’d be more likely to grill them instead of frying.
The main dish was pork carnitas (pg. 138). It called for almost 1 cup of lard (ahhh!!!), but I added just a splash of olive oil to get the pork rendering started. The most interesting ingredient for this dish was the orange — I supremed the segments then squeezed the juice right into the pan. I made the carnitas in a Dutch oven, which made for really tender, shred-able bites of savory pork.
I served the carnitas on warm flour tortillas with a spoonful of fresh, bright homemade salsa. The photo does not do the carnitas justice… They were SO tasty, and I used the leftovers as a base for other dishes later in the week.
For Tuesday’s dinner, I used some of Monday’s carnitas as a base for tamales. I used the recipe on pg. 142 as a reference, but did not add anything to the pork. For the corn masa, I did not follow the recipe – it called for 2 cups of lard, but I make my corn masa dough with only a splash of olive oil, the Maseca, a little Adobo seasoning, and cool water. I think masa dough can have lots of flavor without adding too much fat – it’s all about the seasoning and what you use to fill the tamales. For each tamale, I used 3 rounded spoonfuls of masa dough, broke up a few pieces of carnitas, and added a spoonful of my homemade salsa. I wrapped the tamales in double layers of tin foil – the way I learned from José of Cosmen & Keiless – and steamed the tamales in a rice-cooker. I’ve never used that method of steaming before, but the results were fantastic. The rice cooker kept the heat even throughout the cooking process and I didn’t have to worry about running out of water in the pot.
On Wednesday, we had tacos made with shrimp in garlic butter (pg. 168). Like the other recipes this week, I thought there was way too much fat in the recipe – it called for 1/2 cup butter! So I cut that down by more than a quarter and got to work. The freshness of the dish comes from the lime juice and fresh cilantro that get added to the dish right at the end. Again, I served the shrimp with warm tortillas and some more homemade salsa (are you seeing theme here? – we love our salsa around here).
On Thursday, we did round #2 of Tuesday’s tamales – I used the same ingredients, but this time made the tamales about twice as big and rolled them into more of a cylinder shape instead of a square. They tasted the same, but took about 1/2 as much effort in prep.
Thursday’s tamales were served with a zesty onion relish (pg. 86) that I made on Monday. It’s made with a red fresno chile, which packs a punch like a bee-sting if you eat it fresh. I experienced this myself on Monday while cooking, so instead of serving it right away, I let the chile sit with the vinegar (and a little added lime juice) and get mellow for a couple days. By the time we ate it on Thursday with the tamales, the relish was more tangy than spicy, which was fine with me.
Best Dish of the Week?
Given that we made tamales twice this week, they were clearly the favorite. We’ll be making these again – no question!
Other posts featuring tamales: Noche Vieja in Madrid
Other posts featuring Mexican food:
Two years ago today: Grilled Shrimp & Linguiça Tapa