Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Craving Mexican

It's still cold and rainy, which apparently means I'm still craving Mexican food, or at least Mexican flavors. Mexican flavors are awesome! Smokey and spicy tones, from peppers and spices add a ton of flavor without making dishes heavy or fattening (depending on what you make!), which I am always a fan of. I had wanted to make this Mexican lasagna again ever since the first time I made it because, yes, it was that dang good. My only issue with Mexican flavored food is the vegetables. I have a hard time thinking of good, creative side vegetables that compliment the main dish. I think I was somewhat on the money this time, though I wouldn't say I stuck with any kind of Mexican theme. And that's a-ok by me.

Ooey gooey Mexican lasagna
  • Mexican lasagna, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. My friend upon hearing about this dish described it kind of like enchiladas, which I think was right on. It's like enchiladas, but with more emphasis on the innards and light on the tortillas. And that's perfect for me because when I eat carb upon carb upon carb, it sends my metabolism into overdrive and I end up voraciously hungry in about 10 minutes. This unfortunately keeps me from most traditional Mexican food. Sad, but true. I wish I had taken a picture of a cut piece so you could see all the layers, but alas, I was too busy shoveling it in my mouth. Guess that means I'll just have to make it again sometime! I modified this recipe quite a bit, I'll try and make it presentable...
  • I replaced the processed starches with whole grain, so I used brown rice and whole wheat tortillas. There's so much flavor going on in this dish, it really wasn't a noticeable change, not that I would have minded the extra flavors. But if you're not into the taste of whole grain, I doubt you'll even notice the difference.
  • I halved the recipe (quartered the rice). I kind of eyeballed it while I was putting it together. I used a big roasting pan, just a tad bigger than a 9 x 13. I made it in my 9 x 13 last time I made it, so that would work too, but you really have to pack it down. This makes a ton of food, but don't worry, it'll disappear quicker than you think!
  • For the first layer I used, I think, about 1 1/2 cups cooked rice with 2 cans of black beans. Cooked in the onions and spices, it was some seriously delicious fare! I would reuse this Mexican rice recipe in other applications too.
  • For my cheese blend I used extra sharp cheddar and pepper jack. I've found sharp cheddar tends to be a bit lower calorie than other cheeses, but it packs a wallop of flavor, so I can also use less of it! I used, I think, a few ounces of the cheddar and a whole wedge of the pepper jack. In lasagna you can't skimp on cheese too much. I tried to be judicious.
  • Instead of beef I used shredded rotisserie chicken. I used the breast meat for the lasagna, and the dark thigh meat for another dish I'll be telling you about later. I think whatever meat you use, not a lot of the flavor will come through since there's so much else going on, so I went more for texture. The shredded chicken tasted great with it...err rather, a nice mouth feel? I hate that term. Ick.
  • I used one bag of frozen corn, as I try and stay away from the canned stuff.
  • I loved the addition of the cilantro on top. Don't skip this step if you can help it!
  • Whiskey glazed carrots, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. Another recipe I've made before (with the lasagna in fact). I thought it worked well last time, so I decided to try again. You may recall I had some issues with the uber-gobs of butter and sugar used, so I decided to try it my way this time. To the called for 2-3 pounds of carrots I added 2 tablespoons of butter. One tablespoon when I cooked the first batch of carrots, and another when I cooked the second. When it was time to bring the sauce together I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. And of course, I used the full amount of whiskey called for, since that part never offended me. I loved this dish. The taste of the carrots really came through in a light, but still really flavorful and homey sauce. Now that I don't fear what this dish could do to my waistline I'll have to add it to the repertoire for sure. And I was lame and didn't get a picture of the finished product, but just imagine sliced carrot rounds glistening with a light drizzle of sauce, and you'll get the picture.
Collard greens with andouille, sherry, and almonds

  • Spanish collards with andouille sausage, sherry, and almonds, courtesy of bitchincamero. Melissa's version originally called for chorizo, which ironically is what turned me onto this dish in the first place, but my wonderful hippie store didn't have encased chorizo, only the loose stuff, which I didn't think would really work. But they did have some really gorgeous chicken and turkey andouille sausage that I thought would do as a substitute. I have no idea how this dish tastes with chorizo, but with the andouille, I fell in love. If you can believe it, I had never cooked with collard greens before. I know! I had only eaten them once before, at a bbq place, and they were nasty and overly salted. But these collards tasted like a chard, but with a bite, not a limp mess like spinach. A wilted green you can chew...but in a good way! Man, it was good stuff. The sherry and almonds were an awesome flavor compliment. This is one of those dishes that is so simple, both in ingredients and preparation, but is so delicious! I would highly recommend you try this recipe. It may not be Mexican (especially minus the chorizo), but I thought it still went well with the rest of the food.

And now some housekeeping items. I've been adding a recipe here and there to Tasty Kitchen, the PW's community website. If you're interested in being friends or checking out my recipes there (which are the same ones I've posted here), I added a badge in the right-hand margin which should link you to my profile there. If you haven't checked the website out yet, it's pretty neat!

Not to get all mopey on you, but remember when I was in need of self pity muffins a few months ago? Well I managed to dodge the bullet for awhile, and...let's just say there's a recipe coming up for a little something called booze cake. Yeah, the situation is that bad. I've got lots of time this week, so let's not rush into anything. It's coming, though, don't worry. And it is boozey!


Kelly said...

I like your new header! I can barely keep up w/all your posts now haha. Everything looks so good!

I just joined Tasty Kitchen. Maybe I'll work up the guts to post something there someday :)

I hope your boozy cake situation gets better (can't wait to hear the recipe though!)

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