Sunday, February 27, 2005

Mexican dinner

With the exception of the occasional quesadilla, I havn't done much Mexican cooking in a while. I guess I was inspired by the recent opening of a new Latin American grocery in Bradenton. Whatever the case, I dug out my Rick Bayless book and browsed through it before going shopping at the Red Barn yesterday morning. What I came up with was a recipe for crema de elote--essentially a smooth cream of corn soup with roasted poblano chiles. Compared to some of the other recipes in the soup chapter, this one was a breeze. Unlike the spicy crab soup on the next page, I didn't need to begin by boiling, disassembling and picking the meat from eight blue crabs. Unlike the posole recipe, I needn't scrub and split a small ("roughly 4 lbs") pig's head. No, for this, all I had to do was start by roasting and choping some poblanos. I then cut the kernels off of three ears of corn, scraped the last bits of corn milk from the cobs, and tossed both into a blender with some water, corn starch, and a bit of minced onion and garlic that I'd sauted in butter. This mixture was pureed to a paste--liquified, according to my blender. This paste, which looked, not surprisingly, like creamed corn, was added to a pot with two more tablespoons of butter. It was allowed to thicken over the heat for a few minutes before being thinned again with two cups of whole milk. After simmering for another 20 minutes, I passed the soup through a strainer, and added it back a clean pot with a cup of heavy cream and the minced roasted poblanos. After simmering for another 10 minutes, I seasoned it with some salt and it was ready to serve with crumbled queso fresco and some chopped parsley. The latter sounded strange to me, but I usually try to follow a recipe exactly on the first try. It tasted alright, but it was a strange contrast in texture with the smooth soup.

Overall, I was very happy with the final product. Poblanos aren't incredibly spicy chiles to begin with, and they were further calmed by the roasting and the addition of all the dairy. Still, the soup had some heat to it, and that complimented the sweetness of the fresh corn very nicely. I must appologize that there's no picture of the soup. A rainy day is good for eating soup, but not for photographing it.

The photo you see above is shrimp fried with mashed garlic and sliced guajillo chiles. I fried them in vegetable oil with the shell on in order to get some of that toasted crustacean flavor. I achieved it on a few, but I should have cooked them in several smaller batches. Next time. The flavor was right on though, reminding me of shrimp I'd had in Merida as a kid.


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