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Posts Tagged ‘avocado’

As did more than 100 million other patriotic Americans, Beloved Spouse and I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. Since the game was going to cut right across our dinner hour, we knew we’d need some frivolous food to sustain us during the long session in front of the TV. I found just the thing in the previous week’s food section of the New York Times.

It had been a long time since I made a recipe from the Times. Several that I’d tried in the past were very unsatisfactory, and few since then have been of any interest to me. But my fancy was caught by an article about super-elaborate Loaded Nachos for Super Bowl snacking. Half a recipe’s worth looked like a full dinner for us.

Loaded the nachos certainly were: The recipe listed 25 ingredients. Happily, I had many of them on hand, so I had to buy only some of the fresh things: tortilla chips, ground beef, one of three cheeses, sour cream, tomatoes, an avocado, and a lime.

ingredients

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We started early in the afternoon by making the meat component. That involved sautéeing diced bacon, removing the bits and softening chopped onion in the bacon fat, then adding the ground beef and a big set of flavorings: garlic, chile powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, black pepper, salt, brown sugar, cornstarch, and hot red pepper flakes. When all that had simmered together for a while, I stirred in enough water to loosen the mixture and let it sit on the back of the stove until needed.

beef mixture

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Just before the game started, we shredded Romaine lettuce and the three cheeses, Monterey jack, sharp cheddar, and cotija (misspelled in the recipe as cojita); cut up pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, and a lime; and sliced an avocado. (In another blooper, the recipe never again mentioned the bacon bits after they came out of the sauté pan. I assumed they weren’t to be discarded, so I added them to the other ingredients.)

Here we’re ready for the assembly:

assembly ready

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That was a matter of making layers in a baking dish. One-third of the tortilla chips, of the beef mixture, the lettuce, the jalapeños, the bacon, the avocado, the jack and cheddar cheeses. Repeat twice. Sprinkle the cotija over the top. After I’d done all that I discovered I’d skipped the third set of avocado slices, so I arranged them around the sides of the dish. That worked all right.

nachos for baking

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The nachos went into a 400° oven for 10 minutes, just until the cheeses had melted. For serving, I topped the dish with cut-up tomatoes and dabs of sour cream. (The recipe calls for an additional topping of sliced radishes and chopped cilantro, but the amounts were so tiny I’d decided to forgo them.) Everything went together well, and we ate messily but enjoyably in the living room while watching the game.

dinner

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A squeeze of lime juice on each portion was nice, but the hot sauce wasn’t even needed; the beef mixture provided a good lively spiciness. To drink, Beloved Spouse dug into his wine lair to extricate a 10-year-old Pagani Ranch Zinfandel from Ridge Vineyards, which is almost the only California producer he’ll allow in the house. Both robust and elegant, the bottle matched beautifully with the assertive yet complex flavors of the nachos.

Good as these particular nachos were, this is the kind of recipe that can easily be modified for individual tastes. If I make it again – for next year’s Super Bowl? It could become a family tradition – I’m likely to give it a substantial layer of refried beans, less of the meat mixture, more jalapeños, and more cheese. I’d still skip the radishes, but maybe reinstate the cilantro. And maybe next year the Giants will make it all the way to the big game.

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This week’s recipes are a double-double feature. I made the guacamole, and Tom made the chili. Chili is one of his specialties, a dish often invented as he goes along. I’m the main recipe follower of the family, but he’ll consult one sometimes. So here you have the fruits of our dual labors for a recent dinner.

The way I usually make guacamole is based on a recipe of Diana Kennedy’s: a mashed avocado, mixed with chopped onion, tomato, serrano pepper, and cilantro, plus a little salt. Easy, tasty, zingy on tortilla chips. But I thought I’d try a little different approach this week, so I turned to Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican cookbook.

He starts his Chunky Guacamole with the usual chopped suspects – onion, serrano or jalapeño, tomato, and cilantro (the last two both optional, but I used them), plus garlic (which I don’t, but did this time). He puts these in a bowl and lets them get acquainted, then mixes them into the mashed avocado, along with salt and lime juice – the last also not one of my regular ingredients. Then, to serve it, Bayless suggests several additional garnitures: more chopped onion and cilantro, radish slices, the Mexican cheese queso fresco, and more lime juice. So I did all that too.

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It wasn’t too much different from my regular guacamole. Mine has proportionately more tomato and more hot pepper. Tom sees to that last item! The lime juice was nice on it, the garlic barely noticeable, and the cheese very bland. Nice for a change, but I’m likely to stay with my usual version.

For the chili, Tom chose a recipe called Fiery Chili with Red Beans from my giant recipe binder. The page it’s on is a photocopy so old that I can’t remember when or where I got it. Since the bottom of the paper says “Cuisine Economique,” online research suggests that the recipe may be from Jacques Pepin’s cookbook of that name, but it’s a book I’ve never owned. However that may be, I had the recipe, and now Tom has made it for the first time.

The beans he used were one of our favorites: Santa Maria Pinquitos, a lovely, smallish pink bean that we buy online from Rancho Gordo. The family chili-maven says they are the best beans for chili he’s ever encountered.

First, the beans are boiled in plain water until barely done.

Next is the meat mixture. One unusual ingredient in it is pork rind, cut small and rendered out. The chopped beef is browned in that rendered fat, along with onions, and then gets an addition of garlic, jalapeño, and tomatoes. Then comes the heavy stuff: chili powder, red pepper flakes, ground cumin and coriander, dry mustard, salt. That highly seasoned meat is stirred into the bean pot, which then simmers gently for an hour or more, perfuming the kitchen most appetizingly.

Here’s the chili as we served it, with plain rice and a few leaves of cilantro. We also had more chopped onion and some grated cheddar to stir in, and warm corn tortillas to scoop stuff up with.

And here’s Tom’s judgment on his creation:

It makes a decent chili, tasty enough, but hardly “fiery,” unless your palate is totally unused to spicy food. I’m not sure that the pork rind, coriander, or mustard added anything perceptible to the dish, though I always like a touch of cumin in a chili. I would have preferred more fresh chilis and less chili powder; I think you get a fresher, richer, and more complex flavor that way. For me, a good chili doesn’t sear, and it’s never simply hot.  It warms, yes, but it intrigues too.  This one was straightforward and one-dimensional: to my mind, a non-chili-maven’s idea of chili. Edible, for sure, but hardly worth doing again.

So, all in all, this was not a meal for the memory books, even though it made a pleasant enough dinner. One nice thing about recipes that aren’t quite as good as the ones you usually use: They make you appreciate your familiar ones more.

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