Monday, January 28, 2013

Tex Mex Cooking Competition

Hello Friends...How was your weekend??

I went to a Tex-Mex cooking competition on Saturday Night and had so much fun!!  It was through a group on MeetUp.com - and my first event with them, but not my last!! We were split into two teams, put in two separate kitchens - had 1 1/2 hours to cook 4 dishes...and were judged by a chef.  Well, we ended up all needing an extra 1/2 hour - so it was two hours of cooking...but I will say my team were troopers!  We had a plan before we walked into the kitchen - we executed it (mostly) flawlessly...and the efforts paid off - we won!  (be it by only one point...)

Either way - all the food was delicious, the evening was a blast and I can't wait until the next one!!

So let me tell you how I started my experiments before the competition... I spent some time working with ingredients that I had never, ever used before!  I highly recommend you do the same!! 

It was so much fun to experience the senses with things I've never cooked with before...(and let me tell you - you do use at least 4 of the five senses when learning about a new food ingredient!)  So, I was cooking with: Chayote, Yuca, Mango, Papaya, Tomatillos and Plantains. 

Sight: They say you eat with your eyes...and if that is so, I can't ever imagine how someone thought to pick up Yuca and eat it... an ugly brown root that in any normal situation I'd just walk by and not even think about...
But, being I had to prepare this for the Challenge - I bought some and played with a recipe:

3 large Yuca (that I peeled off the brown husks, cut into 3" sections)
Put the Yuca into a pot and fill with enough cold water to cover it by 1"
Bring the water to boil and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until it is fork tender, remove and let cool
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cut the Yuca lengthwise into 3/4" wedges (you'll discard the thin, woody fibers that are the core)

I then tossed them into a bowl with olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and cumin.

Spread into a single layer, cover, and bake for 8 minutes...then uncover and bake for 7 minutes more.

They were delicious!  Flavorful, spicy and a great 'chip' for snacking...  Unfortunately they got 86'd from the competition due to time...but they were just an accent or garnish either way.

Touch:  The most interesting feel from these ingredients were the Tomatillos..
Looking like little green tomatoes, but with a husk on them that as you peel it off - leaves the fruit sticky!  It needs a through washing before you use it in any capacity.  We had this lovely fruit two ways on Saturday - one in a Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde (I don't have the recipe, but will get it) and it was LUSCIOUS!  Simply amazing - and a great accompaniment to just about any Tex-Mex dish!!

But the recipe I made was (of course!) Fried Green Tomatillos!
1 lb fresh tomatillo
1 cup milk (I used 1/2 c milk and 1/2 cup of Heavy Cream) for soaking
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon of the sauce from the Chilies in Adobo can
1/4 cup of flour
3/4 cup Masa - or finely ground yellow corn meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 (or to taste) teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons oil for frying

Remove the papery husks and stems from the tomatillos.  Under warm running water, gently rub the tomatillos using your fingers to remove the sticky residue.  Pat dry and cut up into 1/4" slices.

In a shallow bow, mix together the milk, eggs, lime juice, adobo sauce and cayenne - then add the tomatillos.  Soak the tomatillos in this mixture for 30 minutes.

On a piece of waxed or parchment paper, stir together the flour, Masa, Salt and Pepper - set aside.

In a skillet, heat the oil.  Remove one slice of tomatillo from the milk mixture then dredge each slice in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess and add to pan.  Fry the slices on each side for 5 minutes or until crispy.  Do not crowd the tomatillos.  Transfer to a paper towel to soak up the grease.
Season with salt to taste.

Yum..I'll be making these again for sure!!


Taste and Smell:
I think taste is the scariest, as having never had it before - you're not sure what to expect (well, except for the Mango and Chayote - I've had them before)... But my final dish was several ingredients I've never had before...and all of which I hadn't cooked with!


Chayote - a squash that has in many cases doubled as
potatoes AND apples!

 Chayote doesn't have much of a smell, but taste is slightly sweet, slightly starchy - hence it can be used as sweet or savory.  Look it up online, there are so many versatile recipes for this squash!  The first time I had chayote was in St. Lucia on our honeymoon - they called it christophenes  - and it was made into a gratin, similar to a potato gratin - so delicious and with so many less calories!


Papaya
Papaya - to me has a very unusual...sweet, followed by a "something I can't describe" scent - and taste, the best way to describe it (to me...as apparently, many people think it tastes like something different) like a cross between a melon and a cucumber.  I don't think I'd eat it by itself, but mixed with these other ingredients it was fine.

Yellow Plantain - Looks like a Banana, but just a little bit bigger...however the taste is much different.  There is a sweet smell to the yellow plantain, but it is very much overpowered by the starchiness.  And I'd say it does taste just like it smells, a touch of sweet with starch. It has to be cooked, and then with the right flavors to compliment, I really enjoyed plantain.

Sweet Yellow Plantain

Mangos, to me have a very sweet smell, and a sweet taste.  So sweet, that it warrants either lime juice, jalapeno or both!  It is delightful - and I can easily picture having this in a summer fruit salad, as the textures are very similar to melons too.
Mangos
The last dish I made using these ingredients was Sweet Plantain Empenada...so easy!  You'll need:

3 Yellow sweet Plantains
1 ripe mango
2 chayote
1/2 (if its Large - or 1 small) Papaya
2 limes
1 egg
Heavy Cream
Olive Oil

Cut each plantain into three pieces and drop into boiling water - boil until fork tender then remove and let cool.

Peel and small dice the Mango, Chayote and Papaya - and place in a bowl.
* Mango has a pit in the middle that is extremely difficult to cut into - you'll use your knife to follow the line of the pit, to remove the flesh from the fruit
** Chayote has a core, but you can quarter it and remove it easily (like an apple)
*** Papaya has seeds, just half it and remove the seeds with a spoon

Put 1 tbs of olive oil into a skillet to heat... Add the juice and zest of one lime to the fruit, mix and throw into the skillet.  You'll saute this for about 10 - 14 minutes until tender, but still has texture.  Set aside.  (*** Note - in the competition, I couldn't use anything like sugar or cinnamon, and these were delicious - but you can add them to taste <though you may not need much sugar!> as you see fit).

Remove the skins from the plantains and put into the food processor.  Add the egg and about 1/4 cup of heavy cream...pulse until everything is combine and forming a dough.  If the mixture is too dry, add more heavy cream in very small batches.  The plantain dough should be slightly dry and able to form balls out of.

You will form 12 balls from this dough of equal size...place each ball onto parchment or wax paper and flatten to about 1/4 " round.  Fill the round with about a tablespoon of the fruit mixture and using the parchment paper to fold over into half moon shapes and seal the edges.
Place on lightly greased baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

We served this with a Mexican chocolate sauce...melting chocolate with heavy cream and adding cayenne to taste.

Below are pictures of the dishes (along with the others that my team made) as well as a final table with all the dishes from both teams... <sorry about the quality...I was so tired after the cooking that my hands were shaking!>

Same as left - but reversed to see it better

Our dishes - Sweet Plantains, Chorizo and
Squash Panecillos with Mango/Papaya Salsa,
Mexican Egg Rolls, Chipotle Guacamole,
Cilantro Crema and the Mini Fritattas
with Fried Green Tomatillos and a trio of sauces
 (roasted tomatillo salsa Verde, chipotle crema
and cliantro crema).



Final Table Presentation - Our Team on the left, the other
on the right...  They  made: Nacho Trio, Mexican Pork Dumplings,
Chorizo Fundito with Chips, and Fried Plantain with Two Sauces
As a side note:  I did also make the mini frittatas - but didn't really include them above as I've made these 1000 times and 1000 different ways before... These were good with chorizo, jalapeno, onion and queso fresco!   Soon we'll have a quiche/fritatta post as I make them all the time!

OK - enough for now, don't you think??  I'm sure you're just about running out the door to buy the ingredients for some of these most fabulous dishes!

Up coming...I've really no clue - so you'll be as surprised as I am!!

Until Next Time...
EAT

1 comment:

  1. Everyday African CookingFebruary 9, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Very informative post. Really had a great time cooking with you and the food was delicious!!!

    ReplyDelete