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Home plate: South of the border

 There’s nothing like a trip south to shorten winter, and reintroduce the taste buds to the marvels of Mexican-inspired food, replete with spices and veggies aplenty.

Ronaldo’s Beef Carnitas  Serve this in flour tortillas with guacamole and salsa. It also freezes well  4 pounds chuck roast  1 (4 ounce) can green chile peppers, chopped  2 tablespoons chili powder  1/2 teaspoon dried oregano  1/2 teaspoon ground cumin  2 cloves garlic, minced  salt to taste  Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).  Place roast on heavy foil large enough to enclose the meat. In a small bowl, combine the green chile peppers, chili powder, oregano, cumin, garlic and salt to taste. Mix well and rub over the meat.  Totally wrap the meat in the foil and place in a roasting pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until the roast just falls apart with a fork. Remove from oven and shred using two forks.  This can be made in a slow cooker; use a liner to make cleanup easier.

Cuban Mojo Chicken with Mango Avocado Salsa  1 teaspoon cumin seed  3 cloves garlic, chopped  1 fresh red chile pepper, chopped  1/4 teaspoon salt  2 tablespoons olive oil  5 teaspoons orange juice  5 teaspoons lemon juice  2 (8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves  2 tablespoons olive oil  1/2 cup orange juice  1 teaspoon lime zest  1 teaspoon honey  1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce  1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces  1/2 cup diced mango  1/2 avocado  chopped fresh cilantro to taste  chopped fresh parsley to taste Toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Place the cumin seeds, garlic, chile pepper, salt, olive oil, orange juice, and lemon juice into the bowl of a blender; grind to a coarse paste. Toss the chicken with the marinade, then place into the refrigerator, and allow to marinate for about 2 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until browned. Place into the oven, and cook until the juices run clear, about 8 minutes. When the chicken is done, remove, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 3 to 5 minutes. While the chicken is in the oven, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, lime zest, honey, and soy sauce in a skillet over medium-high heat. Simmer until the orange juice has reduced to 1/3 of original volume and is beginning to get thick and syrupy. Once thick, remove from heat, and whisk in the butter pieces one at a time until melted; set aside. To serve, place chicken on the plate and sprinkle with mango and avocado. Drizzle with the sauce, and garnish with cilantro and parsley.

Slow Cooker Machaca  Beef and pork cooked in a slow cooker overnight creates the most tender Mexican meat filling you’ll ever have. Serve with tortillas, cheese, and sour cream  3 pounds beef rump roast  3 pounds pork loin roast  2 teaspoons salt  1 teaspoon ground black pepper      2 (14.5 ounce) cans green enchilada sauce      2 (4 ounce) cans diced green chiles Season beef roast and pork loin with the salt and pepper. Place seasoned beef and pork in a slow cooker. Set slow cooker to Low. Cover, and cook overnight or 8 to 10 hours. Drain the juices and shred the meat into strands. Return the meat to the slow cooker; pour the enchilada sauce and green chiles in with the shredded meat and cook on Low another 4 to 8 hours.

Pico De Gallo  1 medium tomato, diced    1 onion, finely chopped  1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped 2 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped 1 onion, finely chopped 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped 2 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped   1 green onion, finely chopped  1/2 teaspoon garlic powder  1/8 teaspoon salt  1/8 teaspoon pepper  In a medium bowl, combine tomato, onion, jalapeno pepper (to taste,) cilantro and green onion. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir until evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

City Ceviche  1/2 pound sea scallops  1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined  1/2 cup fresh lime juice  2 tablespoons fresh orange juice  1 tablespoon grated orange zest  1/2 cup halved, thinly sliced red onion  1 finely chopped red bell pepper  1 finely chopped yellow bell pepper  1 cup diced seeded tomato  1 small serrano chile pepper, seeded and minced  1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro  kosher salt to taste  1/8 teaspoon ground cumin  1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)  1 avocado, diced  1 tablespoon olive oil  Remove the tough side muscles from scallops, if necessary; slice scallops in half horizontally.  Fill a 1-quart saucepan 3/4 full with salted water and bring it to a boil. Add scallops and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Poach scallops until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the scallops to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  Return the water to a boil and poach shrimp in the same manner, transferring them to a bowl of ice water after they become opaque inside and turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes.  Drain the scallops and shrimp well and pat dry; place them in a glass or ceramic bowl and pour in lime juice and orange juice. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Pour off most of the juice from the seafood (just leave it moist) and mix in orange zest, red onion, red and yellow bell peppers, tomato, chile pepper, cilantro, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Refrigerate an additional 30 minutes. Just before serving, gently mix in avocado and drizzle the ceviche with olive oil. Serve in martini glasses or stemmed margarita glasses.

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