Sunday, September 12, 2010

Who, why and the simple Torta.

I am competing in the Project Food Blog Challenge by Foodbuzz, for our first challenge, each competitor is asked to create a post that defines us as a food blogger. My blog was born out of Expat need to blog & therefore reach out to others from a quiet spot in a desert in Northern Mexico. Most of you read this in my previous "Blogiversary" post. That certainly doesn't describe the reasons phrases like demi-glace, stock, reduction or taste before you season have impact for me or have had meaning most of my life.

The main & simple reason can be narrowed down to a place & 2 people who have had profound effect at how I look at food. I lived as a child in a fabulous city which was & still is a cultural hodgepodge of sights & flavors. Most people who visit San Antonio Texas today have visited "El Mercado" in downtown San Antonio think of it as a fun touristy attraction which has restaurants & shops. It is now more commonly known by the gringo name of "Market Square". When I was a child it was the very encapsulation of food & where people actually shopped for vegetables, fruits & seasonings in a true farmer's market setting...long before farmer's markets were "trendy". There was even a wonderful shop in El Mercado which till the early 1980s still sold chili powders, cumino & other authentic Mexican seasonings as well as hierbas. We could also find the standard fare one would see in a Mercado south of the border in Mexico. El Mercado made a leap to prosperity at some point in the 1970s with Urban Renewal some of those more simple traditions by the wayside. I still enjoy going to El Mercado, the experience though never fails to dredge up memories of going there as a child even if I am partaking of those touristy margaritas & ogling the colorful pinatas. San Antonio for me is all about the food. San Antonio is a big part of my Food heritage.
My earliest memories as a child are of my Grandfather(check out the vintage photo of him serving customers at Ft. Sam in San Antonio, Texas, late 1940's). He worked most of his life in restaurant business in San Antonio Texas. He would have the entire family over for Sunday dinner. His meal repertoire was simple & yet truly wonderful. He would made an incredible Yankee pot roast, though I hardly think he called it that. As I grew older he told me how to reduce, thicken that roast gravy or even darken it with coffee if need be. He also made large pots of old school Italian Spaghetti Sauce much like the old fashioned Brown Sauces from the 1940s. My Grandfather would strain the sauce, correct the seasoning & then strain it again. Granddaddy was a very practical man but he always tossed out the bits & pieces we now keep in our contemporary Spaghetti sauces. Back then every process he used was like a slow, methodical dance step in the small kitchen. My mother on the other handmade made use of everything she had. She truly must have lived that phrase in the kitchen "waste not, want not". She used everything at her disposal, never throwing out a key ingredient, which created a continual feast. She made flavorful cornbread with grains of corn, jalapenos & cheese. That is common enough now but in the 1960s it was cutting edge & unique. She made frijoles & chilis which were legendary. When our family moved to Alaska she learned how people there lived off the richness of the land & cooked accordingly. As part of that experience our family would go out collecting mushrooms & berries where we learned what was ripe, flowering or non edible. We ate the best fish & game my father would bring home as is still commonplace in the 49th state. In this day it is rare when I am lucky enough to encounter a morel mushroom or a high bush cranberry but knowing the differences in such things at a young age made me the cook & food blogger I am today. The travel to or living in other countries as an adult has just been the cream on the coffee. Travel changes you, people touch you but it is the flavors which feed your soul.

To celebrate the start of Project blog I thought I'd post an easy recipe of a typical Mexican street food. Between Texas & Mexico so many of these foods could sum up who I am & my inner foodie philosophy. I love simple, hearty & food which make an impression on the palate. Those very impressions don't have to be expensive or extravagant to hit the mark. These simple sandwiches became very popular in Mexico around WWII. (I have checked this story out with several sources & all say the same thing) They are a very hearty sandwich which truly could keep a hungry working man or woman going for hours till the traditional late evening dinner hour in Mexico. While we lived in Mexico I marveled at how many varieties of these sandwiches I saw & how virtually any street corner might have a Torta vendor show up mid-day with a steady stream of customers well into the late afternoon. I am so glad I discovered the original "Belt-Buster" south of the border! Is there anything more portable or satisfying as a simple Sandwich?

How to make a Torta:

Use Bolillos Rolls found at a Latin American Market
2) Cut it in half, scoop out a little of the actual bread. (the roll can actually be toasted)
3) Spread the bottom half with a thin layer of refried beans
4) Layer sliced or shredded cold pork or beef. Leftover roast is perfect for this sandwich.
5) Use any or all of the following ingredients for the filling:garnishes such as guacamole, tomato, diced sweet white onion, jalapenos, chopped cilantro. lettuce.
To this squeeze lime & add a squeeze of mayo or Mexican. Give yourself time to finish this meal & plenty of napkins or share this generous sandwich.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Boom Boom Blog-i-versary

A Blogiversary seemed like a great occasion to ponder the past four years and roll out another meal featuring Boom Boom Enchiladas at the Texas to Mexico house.

I'm reflecting this week as I celebrate my 4 year Blogiversary of Texas to Mexico. Thanks to leaving Texas in 2006 & heading off to the arid, dusty desert of Mexico I can now look back at a 4 year Blogging adventure. Back then I desperately needed a way of letting friends & family know about our life south of the border. (That was also shortly before we had a voice over phone & were speaking on a daily basis to everyone back in the states) Little did I know back then posting photos, yammering on about things I saw on my daily travels I would truly broaden my horizons. In truth, taking photos & blogging exposed me to a whole new adventure which extended far beyond Texas & certainly Mexico. I was soon speaking with people in Europe, South Africa & the Middle East. It seemed I had more in common with those people than I had differences. In 4 years I have heard countless times from people who sought advice on making a cultural change or traveling through Mexico. Regardless of the Expatriate Assignment, the lifestyle is certain to change the way of viewing life. My viewpoint was forever changed. Back then as now as I toured the blogging world, I sought to broaden my horizons & expand my world. In 2006 I added a recipe here & there mostly discussing the life or people around me. My blog followers have been with me through astounding shopping experiences, visa & passport photo mishaps (exhibit below, yikes!! Those {bad hair, seƱora ninguna sonrisa} FM3 photos were awful.), dangerous border crossing incidents & horrifying hair coloring disasters which one can only appreciate fully once cyber friends say they understand it will all work out. For these things I want to say thank you. You have fed my soul & spirit from Mexico & back to Texas. In turn I hope I have done the same in Texas to Mexico.

To celebrate my 4 year Blogiversary I thought I would make a slight variation on one of my favorite Tex-Mex Enchiladas I have eaten many times at Chuy's. Chuy's is an Austin original restaurant which celebrates 2 things I can both appreciate & enjoy. Each year they celebrate Elvis Presley's Birthday (January 9) &
Green Chile Festival. Not only do they celebrate but they do it in wonderful style with an array of menu items on both occasions to make everyone a follower of either Green Chilis or Elvis (for any of those non fans...seriously??) I hope all the Texas to Mexico fans will be sure to try this recipe or drop into a Chuy's location near you to taste the original Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Enchiladas. One taste of that Boom Boom sauce & even non believers will be Green Chili fans.

Boom Boom Blogiversary enchiladas were great with Golden Corn Salad with Fresh Basil from Sept. 2010 Cooking Light check the recipe out here:

My variation on the familiar "Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom Recipe" involves little more than using jalapenos versus serranos & I made more of a filliing for the tortillas rather than using the chopped roasted chicken. The filling adds a little more moisture to this version.

Boom Boom Chicken Enchiladas (slight variation**)

12 white corn tortillas

1 1/4 lb chicken cooked, roasted, fork shredded

1/4 c. diced yellow onion

8 oz. cream cheese or queso panela (Mexican cheese)
1/4 tsp. ground cumino
salt, pepper to taste

Boom Boom Sauce ingredients
1/2 c vegetable broth

1/4 c water

1/4 T each salt and pepper

3/4 lb roasted Hatch Green Chilies

2 oz tomatillos
1 1/2 oz cilantro
1 oz green onions
3/4 oz minced jalapeno peppers

1/2 oz lime juice

1 1/4 lb American cheese

additional mixed shredded cheese for topping

In a saucepan, add vegetable broth, water and spices and place over a medium to high flame. Using a food processor, puree roasted green chilies, tomatillos, cilantro, green onions, jalapenos and lime juice. (This entire mixture also works well with an immersion blender or standard blender)

Add to saucepan, stirring in well. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Lower flame and slowly add American cheese, whipping as needed to remove clumps and make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. When the cheese is melted and mixed, remove from heat. Yields 1 Quart.

Prepare mixture for enchiladas filling: Roasted chicken, fork shredded, mix with queso panela (or cream cheese), 1/4 cup of onion, diced. To make enchiladas, fill a corn tortilla* with 3 Tbsp of cooked, roasted chicken mixture. Roll up and place in a lightly oiled baking dish (9X15). Top with mixed cheese, as needed. Warm in a hot oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted. *I steam the tortillas briefly so they will easily roll. Top with Boom-Boom Sauce.


***On a very personal note, our first assignment in Mexico seemed to be at the epicenter of extortion, kidnappings & gunfights following the election of President Calderon & his declaration of war on the drug cartels. While these things were gripping we never felt more at home or cared for among an entire group of warm & friendly people. We continue to miss & pray for our friends in Mexico each and every day.

And last it is with a well known quote that I leave a thought for my friends & family in Mexico:

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. -Thomas Jefferson