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Salbutes

24 Nov

This is one of my absolute favourite Belizean dishes to make. I first tried them years ago when J’s mom made them for dinner. Instantly hooked. As with many local specialties, everyone makes them just a bit differently and everyone claims their (or their mom’s) way is best. The basics, though: crunchy fried tortillas topped with shredded chicken or pork. The toppings and sauces are totally up to the cook: pickled onions, salsa verde, avocado, shredded cheese, sour cream, green onion, sliced jalapeno, and cilantro are all popular options. We do ours with thinly sliced avocado, shredded chicken simmered in salsa verde, sour cream, green onion, cilantro and a bit of hot sauce. You can include or omit just about any of the ingredients listed above: it’s truly about your own personal taste. We usually roast a whole chicken so we have leftovers for the rest of the week and shred both wings, a thigh and a breast. (Tip: take the skin off and save it to add when you’re dressing the tortillas. You want it to be crispy.) You could also poach chicken breasts in spice-tinged water – salt, pepper and oregano would be a nice combo.

This recipe makes 10. Two of us can polish that off but we are very full afterward.

Ingredients

10 tostadas (or 10 tortillas, fried)
2 chicken breasts or equivalent, cooked & shredded
1 c salsa verde
2 avocados, sliced
salt & pepper
lime juice
3 green onions, sliced
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
sour cream
hot sauce, optional

Directions

1. Warm up your tostadas in the oven at a low temp. They have a high oil content, so make sure you keep an eye on them ensuring they don’t burn.
2. Heat up the salsa in a sauce pan til it simmers. Add in the chicken and stir. Allow chicken to warm through, 5-8 minutes.
3. Divide the avocado slices evenly among the warmed tostadas then season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Layer on the chicken, sprinkle with green onions and cilantro. Top with dollops of sour cream and, if you wish, dabs of hot sauce.

photo

Distillery District’s Mexican Fare: El Catrin

2 Aug

I had the pleasure to attend the opening night of El Catrin, the new restaurant replacing The Boiler House in Toronto’s Distillery District. The massive space has been transformed into a fabulous south-of-the-border(s) venue with a massive mural taking up the entire north wall. It has to be seen in person to be believed, but here’s a shot from my perch at one of the high-tops:

mural

The Mexico City-born chef, Olivier de Calvez, and his team prepared an eight-course tasting menu for the launch, each item paired with an impressive cocktail. We started off with fresh tortillas and table-side guacamole with three salsas ranging from mild to hot and nueces picante: mixed roasted nuts rubbed with Mexican spices.  The peanuts and walnuts were a big hit at the table, with many of us squirrelling them away in our bags to snack on later. Accompanying this course was the enormous traditional margarita. In all honesty, tequila and I are not amigos so I am not a great judge of a good margarita; however, those who like them reported back that it was excellent.

Evil margarita.

Evil margarita.

The second course of the night had what I considered one of the best dishes we had that night: ceviche de atun. The beautiful ahi tuna ceviche was done up simply with lime juice, olive oil, watermelon and habanero. It was light, refreshing and I would have been thrilled to eat five or six more servings of it. It was served with a pepino diablo, a tequila-based drink traditionally made with cucumber, jalapeno, pineapple juice and basil. The glass was rimmed with spiced salt and the tequila was not overpowering. Along with those five or six additional ceviche dishes, I could have had as many of this drink. Happily.

Ahi tuna ceviche

Ahi tuna ceviche

Pepino diablo

Pepino diablo

Next up were the Mexican staple tacos al pastor: shredded pork marinated in pineapple and axiote topped with cilantro and chopped onion. It paired nicely with the fuego sandia, a popular drink at our table made with watermelon, tequila and some heat. Nicely balanced, this was my second favourite drink of the evening. Brought out shortly after the pork tacos was my absolute hands-down winner of the evening: tostada de higado de pato. Seared foie gras placed on top of a freshly-made tostada and served with a mezcal mango syrup, poblano and pickled red onion. By turn sumptuous, crunchy, spicy and rich, this was a stand out of the night. I was not as big a fan of the accompanying drink, however, the hibisco rosa. Unfortunately, all I could taste was the rosewater which gave the drink a soapy taste. Some people quite liked it; I couldn’t do more than a couple of sips.

Foie gras tostada

Foie gras tostada

Fuego sandia

Fuego sandia

A lovely, light cactus salad followed and then camarones al ajillo, jumbo shrimp sautéed with guajillo pepper, garlic, lime juice, white wine served over red rice, black bean purée and guacamole. The shrimp was plump and beautifully cooked but the guacamole needed more salt and a little more lime juice.

Shrimp

Shrimp

Our final main was a gorgeous braised short rib with black mole sauce, sweet potato purée and sugar snap peas. The meat was incredibly tender and the mole was lovely and complex with the warm, rich flavours you should expect of the complex, multi-ingredient sauce.

Braised short rib

Braised short rib

Topping off the indulgent evening were two desserts: the classic churros and a barra de chocolat, which is best described as a Mexican Nanaimo bar. It was spiced and smoked with hazelnuts and chocolate and I was in love after one bite. The heat sneaks up on you after a couple of bites which is fine by me. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you might want to stick with the churros and their chocolate, cajeta and strawberry sauces.

Churros and Mexican chocolate bars.

Churros and Mexican chocolate bars.

No doubt, El Catrin will do well in its spot in the Distillery. There is a fabulous, sprawling patio with separate bars and a fire pit for chilly fall evenings.  There is a separate room for private parties and the bar itself is quite lovely. There was a great buzz in the air at the launch, and not just due to the copious tequila- and rum-based beverages. Should you go – and you should – do not miss the ceviche, the short rib or the foie gras tostada.

Mexican Pot Roast Tacos!

4 Nov

I finally got around to buying a Dutch oven, something I’ve been promising myself for months. (Yes, I promise myself kitchen toys.) The great thing about Dutch ovens is that they function like a giant cast iron pan: they retain heat beautifully. You can get them nice and hot so you can sear your meat properly, but then you can turn the heat way down and make all sorts of tasty meals in just one pot. I lugged that sucker home and picked up beautiful beef blade roast from a wonderful butcher just a few blocks from the house. (Royal Beef – check ’em out if you’re in the neighbourhood!) This is a great cut of meat for low-‘n’-slow cooking and so it was perfect for these tacos. I adapted the recipe from Tyler Florence, a foodNURD fave, and it was delicious as usual. We had enough leftover for snacks the next day, always a bonus!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

1lb shoulder/blade beef roast
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tb chile powder
2 tb cayenne pepper
2 tb cumin
3 bay leaves
2 dashes hot sauce, optional

Directions

1. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the beef.
2. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven (or heavy duty pot with a tight lid) on high. Add in the garlic and sear the beef, getting a nice crust on all sides.
3. Toss in the onions and cook til they’re softened and lightly browned, roughly 3-4 minutes.
4. Add in the tomatoes, 1 can of water, spices and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add in enough water (again) to cover the beef.

Happily simmering away…

5. Cover the pot, lower the heat and let simmer for 3-4 hours, until the beef is tender. Allow the beef to cool in the liquid.
6. Shred with a fork and serve with warm tortillas, guacamole, cilantro, pickled red onions and salsa.

Ready to be eaten!

Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce

22 Jul

I’ve had a hankering for seafood lately and decided this would be a good weekend to make an old classic (mango over soba noodles) and try out a new variation on a sauce for tasty, briny mussels. Normally, I opt for either Italian or Thai flavours with mussels but I came across a can of chipotles and decided I’d go Latin instead.

Fixin’s!

That’s the great thing about mussels: you can pretty much use anything that inspires you to make a delicious dinner!

Serves 2.

Ingredients

3 tb canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 c crushed tomatoes
2 chipotle peppers, diced
1 ts salt
1 ts black pepper
1 ts cumin
1 ts chili flakes
1/2 ts chili powder
1/2 ts oregano
2 lbs mussels, cleaned
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions

1. In a large (and wide, if you have it) pot, heat the oil to medium and add the onion and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes.
2. Add in the tomatoes, chiptoles, salt, pepper, cumin, chili flakes, chili powder and oregano. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add in 3/4 of the cilantro. Taste and adjust as necessary. Simmer another 15 minutes.

Simmering away

4. Turn up the heat to medium and add in the mussels. Cover and let the mussels steam for 7-9 minutes. Shake the pot a couple of times, ensuring the lid stays on so no steam escapes.
5. Plate the mussels and sauce, discarding any mussels that did not open. Top with remaining cilantro and serve with crusty bread.

Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Cochinita Pibil (Slow-Roasted Pork)

23 May

This one is all on Eat St. I was at home watching it and one of the food trucks had their version of cochinita pibil, a traditional Mexican shredded pork dish. For me, shopping for the ingredients was as much fun as making it. I headed off to Wychwood Barns on Saturday to get the pork from my fave farmers at Marvellous Edibles. (Best. Bacon. Ever. Go try it, people.)  Then it was off to St. Clair West to La Tortilleria for fresh tortillas and the achiote paste. It is imperative that you not substitute the achiote paste for anything else:  it is the dominant flavour in the dish. If you can get your hands on banana leaves, so much the better as the pork is traditionally cooked in them. Having said that, foil will work.

Best to get this started the day before you want to cook it. The pork should marinate in the fridge for 6-24 hours, but no more than 24 hours as the enzymes in the citrus juices will break down the meat too far and give it an unpleasant texture. It also takes 3 – 4 hours to cook, so ensure you’ve left yourself enough time to cook it!

Serves 4.

Ingredients

3lb pork shoulder, cut into 2″ pieces (do not trim fat)
1c orange juice
1/2c lime juice, (4-5 limes)
1 ts salt
3 oz of red achiote paste (also called “annato paste”)
Pickled red onions (optional), for garnish
1c cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions

1. Blend together the paste, salt, orange and lime juices in a blender. (Make sure you rinse out your blender quickly as the paste will stain.) In a non-reactive bowl, combine the marinade and the pork pieces. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 6 – 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large casserole with a triple layer of regular foil – you want a good seal. Pour in the pork and the marinade and close the foil tightly. Put the casserole in the oven and bake 3.5 hours. At this point, remove from the oven and check to see if the meat is falling apart. If so, you’re done! If you think it could use a little more time, put it back in for 30 minutes.
3. When the pork is tender, take it out of the oven and open the foil. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl, then shred it with two forks.  If necessary, pour some of the remaining sauce over the pork to make sure it’s juicy.
4. Serve with either fresh tortillas or rice. For garnish, add lime wedges, cheese, avocado, cilantro and/or pickled onions.

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foodNURD is Officially on Vacation!

18 Feb

Hey, all! I’m off on vacation for a couple of weeks, so foodNURD won’t have any updates for a while. J and I are off to Belize for the second time in two years. Spectacular country with amazing people and, importantly, delectable fresh food. Looking forward to getting my fill of fresh seafood: conch and shrimp ceviche, grouper, red snapper…it goes on. Not to mention excellent, homemade Latin American faves like panades, salbutes and garnachas! And let’s not forget the $2.50 Belikin beers…

I’ve posted a few pics below for you to feast your eyes on. Many more to come upon my return!

Chicken, Mango & Brie Quesadillas

28 Jun

I came across this recipe while surfing the net and knew I had to try it out. I was already planning to do a roast chicken over the weekend, so I knew I’d have some leftovers that I could use. But even if you don’t have any chicken already cooked up, you could just buy a couple of chicken breasts and poach them for 20 minutes or so. Let ’em cool and pull them apart – easy peasy!

Serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients

4 large tortillas
1/2 cooked chicken, shredded
1 mango, sliced
125g brie, cut into small pieces
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
3 tb picked jalapenos (or fresh – up to you), diced
1/4 c sour cream
zest & juice of 1 lime

 

 

Prepping!

Directions

Lime Dip

1. Heat a non-stick surface to medium-high. (I used my Griddler, but a non-stick pan, sprayed with oil, will work!)
2. Place one tortilla on the heated surface. On half of the tortilla, place 1/4 of the chicken, mango, brie,  jalapeno & cilantro.
3. Fold the tortilla in half over the ingredients. If using a Griddler, lower the top half and press. Leave for 4 minutes. If using  a pan, cook for 2 minutes per side. Repeat process for remaining three tortillas, keeping the cooked quesadillas in a warm oven.
4. Meanwhile, mix together the lime zest, juice & sour cream. Season with a little salt & pepper to taste.
5. When all the quesadillas are ready, cut the halves into quarters and serve with the dip!

 

Finito!

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