This is the tale of two women. Two women from different parts of the world (ok, so not really one lives in Tennessee the other in Florida). Two women who were inspired by the movie Julie and Julia to start really flexing their cooking muscles. Two women who, this weekend spent their Saturdays shopping for items that are not standard fare in their fridges. Then these two women set out on Sunday to cook their way through a wondrous and luscious journey – one cooking French and the other cooking Mexican; both using the recipes of geniuses. That is our tale today.
The French-Chef hails from Lakeland, Florida and goes affectionately for me by Mrs. House of Flying Monkeys (Melissah) for short. She set out to make more recipes from Julia Child’s iconic book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. She apparently purchased the book after seeing Julie and Julia and initially made her own boeuf bourguignon, which she affectionately called beef fauxguignon. When she did this, she twittered about the journey. Her twittering caught the attention of one of the reporters from the NY Times and she was interviewed (see it HERE), about her experience cooking as the Julia Child cookbook has seen a huge resurgence in sales and my copy still hasn’t shipped yet from Amazon.com! So after the interview, the Lakeland Ledger (where she is a current resident), picked up on the story and decided to give her a challenge – they wanted to see her cooking in action. Melissah, not one to let a challenge go, took the bait, picked out her apron and planned her menu. On deck was Potage Parmentier (Potato and Leek Soup), Salade Jardinere au Vinaigrette (Green Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing), Galettes au Fromage (Cheese Biscuits), and Gateau a L’Fraises et Framboises (Butter Spongecake with Strawberries and Raspberries). How amazing does that sound?! Ah to be there and taste it…I just read her tweets and the reporter has left, the photographer has left and she has been successful. I’m sure she will enjoy dining of the fruits of her labours, I know I would love to be there to help!
I, on the other hand, still waiting for my French cookbook, decided to learn a few things from the new Top Chef Master himself, Rick Bayless. While at McKay’s, I found his cookbook “Mexico: One Plate at a Time”. I couldn’t wait to get to the checkout! I’m working on a personal self-improvement project called Anna101 and learning to be a better cook is one of my goals for the next 365 days (I’m a good cook, but I want to become more adventurous as a cook). So, what better way then to learn to cook real Mexican food that is not from a box labeled “Ortega” or in a bag from “Taco Bell”. I picked what I considered to be a Mexican standard dish, Enchiladas Suiza and I wanted to go by his rules and recipe exactly. Also on my menu for the day is homemade guacamole (something I’m pretty good at already, Spanish Rice and corn – oh and tortilla chips, naturally). It all started out with the best of plans, I would shop on Saturday and cook on Sunday. I invited friends over to try my experiment and 3 took the bait, my husband is a captive audience member already. So, question is…how’d it go?
Well, it started out with an effort to find all my ingredients. I struggled with finding plum tomatoes so I had to settle for the standard large Grainger County variety. I also couldn’t locate any of the original cheeses that Rick Bayless suggested (one of them was called something like Chiuahuah – um, huh?); so I settled for his fall-back, Monterey Jack. In addition, I needed to find sour cream with ACTIVE cultures. Unless you’re buying an organic one as I did, no active cultures appear present in the standard store variety of pasteurized pleasures. My plan was to make CREMA that was suggested as the ideal situation for one of the ingredients of the enchilada sauced, however I chickened out. It involved mixing heavy whipping cream with active cultures sour cream and letting it sit (unrefrigerated), for 12 hours. I just used one of his “cheats” he suggested. So, that was Saturday.
Sunday, I woke up and went to work. Roasted the tomatoes and jalapenos. Let me just say that roasted tomatoes are JUICY as all get out and I used a lot of paper towels to soak up the rest of the liquid that didn’t make it into the blender. We put the chicken in the Ronco Rotisserie, and I began the process of reducing my sauce. I had to do it in a saucepan since I don’t (as of yet), own a dutch oven – I do, however, covet one from Le Cruset. I think it would have reduced faster if I had one. Still, I reduced it, added the chicken stock and we took a taste. First thing we noticed – HEAT. Rick Bayless likes his Mexican food hot! Adding the cream definitely helped calm it though; but I cannot imagine how much we would have suffered if I bought Serrano peppers over the jalapenos. Whew! I shredded the chicken by hand, and the cheese…nearer to showtime I fired up the Spanish Rice, Corn and made fresh guacamole using Frontera Guac Mix (I like my own recipe for fresh guac better). I softened the corn tortillas, rolled them and set them to bake. The friends arrived and voila…Mexico on my table!
It was DELICIOUS but I will say, I made a few mental notes of things I may adjust or change for my next go round. Still, I feel wonderfully more confident making a true-to-form, fresh Mexican classic for my friends/family. Now, to decide the next adventure!
BTW…I have decided to only do 1 main culinary adventure dish each month as the cost of this meal was kinda steep and I really can’t afford to do this every weekend. I will do other adventure smaller dishes (sides, vegetables, etc.), for the remainder of each month. PICTURE COMING SOON.