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February 1998 Issue
Three International Classics: A Mexican Full Course Meal
by Philip R. Gantt
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Seasoned Cooking has invited me to present this monthly column, sharing my recipes and diverse cooking styles for the benefit of readers. Each month a new topic will be selected and presented for the reader’s culinary education. Please feel free to comments, requests and suggestions for future columns. Most of the information and recipes that will be presented in this column are taken from my yet to be published cookbook, Phil's Family and Friends Cookbook.

I intend to present much information in this forum, covering not only recipes of regional and international origin, but also cooking techniques, methods for preparing fish and game, smoking and grilling foods, a variety of main courses, side dishes, an occasional desert, and recipes of seasonal interest.

For this first issue of Seasoned Cooking, I am presenting a complete authentic Mexican style dinner menu. Each of these recipes has been handed down through the family chain. Although some of the recipes here are stand alone, combined they provide an impressive full course dinner suitable for serving family and guests.

Mexican Full Course Meal

Tortilla Chips
Salsa
Guacamole
Albondigas
Enchiladas
Refried Beans
Spanish Rice

 

Tortilla Chips

Tortilla chips are a favorite snack which can be eaten alone or served with guacamole, salsa, melted cheese (nachos), or bean dip. They are easy to make and good to eat.
  • Corn tortillas
  • Salt
  • Oil for frying (peanut oil preferred)
Heat the oil in a large skillet or a wok for frying. Cut the tortillas into pie shaped sections, first quartering, then halving the quarters. Drop the sliced tortillas carefully into the hot oil and fry them until crisp. Remove and drain them on paper towels or in a clean paper bag. Salt to taste and serve with guacamole, salsa, or a preferred dip.
  • Serves: Unlimited
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes plus 10 minutes per dozen
 

 

Salsa

Salsa literally means salad. This salsa is traditionally served as an accompaniment to other dishes or served as an appetizer with chips. I use this salsa with chips, to make guacamole, and even as a topping for grilled cheeseburgers. Use your imagination. Eat it with chips, steak, burritos, or whatever else comes to mind.
  • 4 tomatoes or one large can whole tomatoes, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 can (4 oz.) Ortega diced green chilies
  • 4 to 6 large cloves fresh garlic, finely diced
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Finely diced jalapeño peppers (optional, to taste)
Mix the diced ingredients in a bowl, refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes
 

 

Guacamole

Guacamole is a Mexican type avocado sauce used to compliment many Mexican foods. It is frequently used as a dip or as a topping to many dishes. Here is my favorite guacamole recipe passed down the family tree.
  • 2 large ripe avocados (Fuertes or Haas)
  • 2 T. salsa (see above)
  • 4 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Juice from 1 lemon or lime
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Carefully cut the avocado lengthwise down to the seed and pull the two halves apart by twisting slightly. Remove the seeds and save one of them. Scoop the avocado meat out from the peeling with a spoon and place the meat into a bowl. Discard the peelings. Mix the salsa and liquid ingredients into the avocado and mix well with a fork. Add the salt and pepper to taste and then mix in the grated cheese. Return one of the avocado seeds to the mixture to keep it from turning brown. Serve with chips or use in burritos and as a garnish to other Mexican dishes.
  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
 

 

Albondigas

This is a traditional Mexican soup which may be termed "meatball soup". This soup is a meal in itself, but may be served with other dishes as a first course in a large meal.
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 6 quarts water
  • 5 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 lb. ground round
  • 1 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 lb. rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 zucchini (diced)
  • 2 carrots (grated)
Sauté the tomatoes and onion in a pot for 5 minutes with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the water and bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the meatballs. Thoroughly mix the chopped garlic and cilantro with the rice and ground round. Form the meat mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter and drop them into the pot. After all of the meatballs are into the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 1 hour. Finally, add the diced zucchini and grated carrots. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and serve.
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
 

 

Enchiladas

What is presented here is the basic cheese enchilada. There are several variations upon this theme. One can incorporate cooked shredded beef, chicken, pork, crab meat, or any other cooked meat into this recipe for a change of flavor. In fact, making enchiladas is an excellent way to use that leftover turkey, or other meats. This dish is very compatible with Spanish rice and refried beans.
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas
  • 2 T. flour
  • 12 diced green onions
  • 2 T. bacon grease
  • 1-1/2 lb. grated jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1 can chopped black olives
  • 1 large can Las Palmas Red Enchilada Sauce
  • Other fillings as desired
Prepare the chili by melting two tablespoons of bacon grease in a skillet and adding 3 tablespoons of flour to thicken. Heat until the flour browns, stirring frequently. Add the chili sauce slowly while stirring to eliminate lumps. Allow the chili to simmer while preparing the other ingredients.

Have a large baking pan ready, approximately 9 x 13 inches, and about 2 to 3 inches deep. The enchiladas will be placed in this pan side by side until finished, and the entire dish will be baked in the oven.

Prepare each of the enchiladas as follows: take one tortilla and dip it with tongs into the hot chili to soften. Make sure both sides are covered and saturated. Place the tortilla into the baking pan and fill with cheese (or other meat stuffing), green onion and chopped olives. Roll the tortilla into a cylinder and arrange in the baking pan.

When all of the tortillas are prepared, take the remaining olives, green onions and cheese and sprinkle over the "casserole". Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Allow to cool for 3 or 4 minutes before serving.

  • Makes: 12
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes
 

 

Refried Beans

This dish is probably the most popular Mexican side dish ever conceived. Most people think beans are beans. This recipe is passed down from my grandmother. What makes grandma's beans better? I think this may be one of those recipes where burning the ingredients is essential to obtaining that superior flavor which cannot be found in the canned varieties or even in the best of Mexican restaurants. I don't know if this discovery was one of grandma's "accidents", or a deliberate method learned from someone else. Whatever the case, this recipe is the favorite of everyone in the family, and that reputation is well deserved. Try this one if you want to be a hit with your family and friends! These beans will complement any Mexican dish, steak, or can be used with a tortilla as a snack (bean burrito).
  • 2 large cans cooked pinto beans (not the refried variety!) -- An alternate to the canned variety of cooked pinto beans is to pressure cook dried pinto beans, or soak dried beans for 24 hours in water, then boil the beans in just enough water to cover for 1 hour. You will need 1 lb. dried beans if you choose this method.
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease (or lard)
  • 2 dried New Mexico chilies
  • 2 dried California chilies
  • Sharp cheddar and jack cheese
Melt bacon grease (preferred over lard as it has more flavor) in an 8 quart pot over medium heat. Cut onion into rings, smash and peel garlic, and put them into bacon grease. Fry the onion and garlic until it turns black. Yes, until it is just about burnt! At this point, remove the garlic and onions from the bacon grease and discard. Have the dried chilies prepared by soaking them in water, breaking the stems off, and opening them to removing the seeds. Put the chilies into the hot bacon grease and simmer until they are almost crisp. Then add the beans, with their liquid, to the bacon grease and chilies.

Simmer the beans at medium-low heat for 1 hour. Finally, remove the chilies with a slotted spoon or tongs. At this point you have the makings for another favorite dish, PINTO BEAN SOUP, an excellent appetizer or first course! Bean soup can be served instead of Albondigas in a traditional Mexican style dinner. To make bean soup, simply scoop some beans and a bit of the liquid into a bowl, add a spoonful of salsa, stir and enjoy! I usually end up doubling the quantity of beans that I am preparing in order to provide bean soup for family and guests. Invariably, half of my beans get eaten before they ever get to the table!

If you only want the refried beans, smash the beans with a potato masher until a thicker consistency is obtained, and add chunks of cheese just prior to serving. You may garnish the beans with grated cheese as you serve, for appearance.

  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
 

 

Spanish Rice

This recipe stems from my grandmother and was one of the basic courses in the meals she prepared. This dish can be used to supplement many of the main Mexican main courses, used in tostadas, burritos, or many other Mexican dishes. Prepare and enjoy.
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 T. oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can water
  • 3 sprigs cilantro
Sauté the rice and garlic in the oil in a pot until slightly browned. Add the carrot, tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes and remove from heat. Serve as an accompaniment to enchiladas or other Mexican main courses.
  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes
 



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