Saturday, June 4, 2011

Round 1, in which we learn about the importance of visual appeal

I went shopping, and started cooking, taking all these ideas with me.

I did a trial run of the beef, the avocado and orange salsa, and a green sauce. I skipped the taco strips and the queso fresco for this round.

Here is what I came up with:

Taco Beef

  • 1 ½ lb. cross rib roast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 largo tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup full bodied dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chimayo chile powder
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  1. Rub salt and pepper into the meat. Brown it well on all sides, using a bit of the oil.
  2. Add water to pot, cover and turn heat down to a low simmer.
  3. Braise 2 ½ hours or until very tender.
  4. Let cool in braising liquid.
  5. Shred the meat and fat into the braising liquid.
  6. Heat the rest of the oil and saute onions and garlic just until onions turn clear.
  7. Add the meat and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered until liquid has nearly evaporated, 20 – 30 minutes, stirring periodically so meat doesn’t scorch.
  8. Refrigerate overnight to develop flavor.
  9. Reheat, remove bay leaves and serve.

Avocado Orange Salsa

  • 3 small firm avocados, medium dice
  • 2 medium oranges, sectioned and diced, juice saved
  • 1 cup jicama, cut into large matchsticks
  • 1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients, including the juice released from sectioning the oranges. Toss well to coat the avocado with orange juice.

Salsa Verde

  • 5 green tomatillos, husks removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, packed
  • 1 jalepeno, chopped fine
  • 2 to 3 T. lime juice
  • salt to taste
  1. Place the tomatillos in a saucepan with a little water to keep them from burning.
  2. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until they are soft.
  3. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.
  4. Puree sauce.

¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped.

The result was perfectly tasty, though not beautiful. Here is what it looked like. Not very attractive is it. The salsa verde, like all salsa verdes I’ve had, tasted wonderful, but was an unappetizing shade of brownish green. The Christmas plate I ate it on didn’t help either, I admit. I brought my taco fixings to work to eat for lunch and it was the only plate I could find. Overall, it needed brighter, more vibrant colors. I was also looking for brighter, more vibrant flavors.

The butcher was out of cross rib roast. Round was all I could get. I decide it would be good enough. It was not. As subsequent attempts have taught me, stick with cross rib roast. There is no substitute.

The cocoa and the tomatoes combined to make rich, earthy flavored taco meat. Tasted alone, it needed something to brighten it, but that, I hoped, is where the toppings would come in. They didn’t. I mean, they were bright and acidic, but the meat still tasted too heavy for this dish. It would need some adjustment.

We hadn’t originally discussed using tomatillos, they were a last minute inspiration in the grocery store. We really liked the flavor they added, but were less fond of the color. Time to explore alternatives for that as well.

The avocado orange salsa tasted great, but the chunks were a little large to go with the meat. Smaller dice next time. Also, the pepper didn’t seem to add much, or rather, as I, umm, ran out of pepper after grinding only ¼ tsp. we discovered it was just fine without it.

The olives were great.

Back to the kitchen to try again...