April 24, 2008

fiesta mexicana

Ok, so I'm on a Mexican kick and it's not a coincidence. I am preparing for a trip out to Las Vegas to visit my dad (he lives there and no, not on the Strip). And when I'm in Vegas the only thing I want to eat is Mexican food. Maybe because I grew up eating my grandmother's authentic food at my family's Mexican restaurant, Viva Zapata. Mmmmm... those flavors are a distant memory now, but there are still a LOT of great places to eat Mexican food in L.V. and I can't WAIT to get there, eat in them and then tell you about it. Yep, right here, direct from Sin City, I will be posting once or twice from my dad's house. So stay tuned.

But in the meantime, I had to tide myself over for a couple of days and ready the appetite. It just so happened that I had these ingredients on hand:

And these too...

What would YOU do? Tacos y margaritas. Hombre. (the good kind, with fresh limes, no sugary mixes).

I started by chopping my condiments: radishes, cilantro and arugula (it had to get used), onion and one jalapeno pepper.

I then made a quick salsa verde by sauteeing the onions and peppers, then added one large fresh chopped tomato and a can of old el paso green chiles. Yes, I am Mexican and I wouldn't normally use chiles from a can, but these had been in my pantry a while and I needed them - pronto. I let that cook for a bit and the spicy, sweet aroma filled the house. It would be just the tangy heat needed to flavor the meat.

I did make Daniel run to the store for two organic chicken breasts, more limes, and a bag of chips. The corn tortillas were given to me by my friend and co-worker, Rocio. She's from Veracruz, Mex. and is the cutest, smallest person in the world. And she gave me the pepper too. I asked her where she'd bought them and she said "al mercado chino" (the chinese market). I took that to mean K&S World Market. The tortillas were of a much better quality than the kind I see in my usual yuppy stores.

I like to heat my tortillas (always corn) one at a time in a skillet with NO oil. Just to brown them a little and warm them. They can be wrapped in foil and kept warm in a 150 degree oven until you're ready to eat.

I seasoned the chicken breasts and squeezed a lime on them before putting them on the grill. They were done in no time. I let them sit and when I could touch them, I shredded the chicken into small strips. I served everything at the table separately and we made our own tacos, filling them exactly as we wanted them.

I topped mine with homemade creme fraiche. I may use green chiles from a can, but I make my own sour cream. So there.

And lest you think I slacked off on dessert, I made one of my favorite things my granny used to make for a treat: arroz con leche. If you've never made rice pudding I don't know why. It's so easy and so delicious. The recipe for this one is from an old book that I cherish that belonged to my parents. It's from 1967 and it's called The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz. Its tattered edges and lack of photography make me love it even more. It has things in there like nopales (cactus) con queso, cochinita pibil (barbecued suckling pig yucantan style) and budin de pina (pineapple pudding). It is a jewel in my collection. And this rice pudding is all you need to know.

arroz con leche

1/2 c raisins
1/4 c sherry
1/2 c rice
lemon rind
pinch of salt
4 c milk
1 c sugar
1 egg yolks, beaten
toasted almonds

Cook the rice in 1 c water with lemon rind and salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook until water is evaporated. Remove the rind; add the milk, sugar, cinnamon to taste and cook uncovered over low heat until all the milk has been absorbed. When rice is cooked, stir in egg yolks and raisins and cook a few minuted longer. Sprinkle with almonds and serve cold.


  1. Such beautiful food... You make it look so easy! Thank you especially for the rice pudding recipe. I must try it -- 's been too long since I've made rice pudding, and I was never really happy with my rendition of it.

  2. it's 11:25 am and i've yet to eat today but i am on my wau into the kitchen now to try and make something mexicanish... i have peppers and onions and tortillas and oh, i'll figure it out...

    but so BEAUTIFUL. eat for me in vegas, ok? and we will all see you at IRON FORK !!!

  3. Hey Joy,
    That looks so good. And the rice pudding. Get outta town, already!!
    I know what we're having for dinner tonight.
    Have a blast in Vegas!