Curry Chicken Salad

Image of curry chicken salad on half an avocadoParty Time
In our lives, we will attend many celebrations. (I know…such amazing insight!) There will be birthdays, holidays, and graduations. There will be happy celebrations and sad. What is interesting to me is the type of celebrations you attend in a lot of ways depends on your age and where you are in your life. Let me explain…

Not too long ago my husband and I were sitting around talking about how we really wanted to go to a wedding. It had been years since we attended a wedding and the two of us were kind of in the mood for a good party. The only problem is, at this point in our time on earth, all our friends are married and their kids as well as ours aren’t even close to thinking about marriage let alone doing it. So, alas, no party.

Same thing is true with bachelorette parties, wedding showers, and baby showers, though I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive a bachelorette party at this point (It hurts just thinking about it.), I haven’t been to a shower other than the wet and soapy kind for almost 20 years. This is nuts because for about a five-year period of time it seemed like I was hosting or attending a shower of some variety at least once a month.

It got to the point that my sister and I became masters of the baby/bridal shower—mostly because my sister is just good that way. But, we got it down to a science. And, as long as the guest list was different, you just went with the same process, menu, and setup. Different colors of course. We were a well-oiled machine.

Our menu of choice included this Curry Chicken Salad that we served in a fresh papaya boat. But, you could also do it with half an avocado if you wanted to go smaller. The recipe came from a Junior League Cookbook of my mother’s that has given us several family favorites. The recipe below is the original. But, if I had to make this recipe today, 20 years later, I would make a few changes as my personal tastes and eating habits have changed significantly. I’ve noted them in parentheses in case you feel the same.

Curry Chicken Salad
Adapted from the Private Collection: The Junior League of Palo Alto Cookbook
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Chili con Queso

Image of a bowl of Chili con Queso with tortilla chipsSay Cheese
My sister is a foodie just like me. Weekends are planned around baking schedules. Excuses to have a get-together are whipped up so that a certain cookbook can be taken for a test drive. Entire international vacation itineraries revolve around restaurants and the foods of far-off lands. We love good food. It is because of this love of all things culinary that she gets a rather large dose of ridicule for her love of queso.

You can call it queso, cheese sauce, or even cheese dip. But, no matter what you call it if there is a tray of semi-fresh tortilla chips with bright orange cheese sauce you bet my sister is all over them. The more bright orange and weird the queso, the better. So, it should come as no surprise that at a recent get-together there was a small, gently bubbling crockpot of queso.

The good news is that this wasn’t the queso that you pump onto chips at the ballpark. This was a different animal. This was queso that she made. And, fresh queso is a totally different experience. Yes, you might have to get past the fact that it is indeed still made with Velveeta—a product my mother only bought to put in our emergency earthquake kit. But, the results are worth it.

Real queso does not have that plasticky sheen and/or texture. Real queso is actually quite good and I will bet anyone that the loudest naysayers will be the same people who park themselves by the bowl and can’t stop eating it. (Guilty)

This is the recipe she made and it comes adapted from my favorite cookbook and restaurant Tacolicious. It’s one of their most popular items on the menu. Give it a try for Cinco de Mayo and see what you think…

Chili con Queso
Yields 12 servings
Recipe adapted from Tacolicious by Sara Deseran Read more…

Beef Birria Tacos

Photo of Beef Birria Tacos with broth for dippingThe Humble Taco
Life is good at keeping you humble in big and small ways. My latest karmic reminder that I’m not as cool and all-knowing as I thought I was, came in the form of a taco.

I think I have made it obvious over the many years that I have been writing these posts that I am a big fan of Mexican cuisine. So much so that I felt confident that I had a better than average knowledge of regions, techniques, and any number of popular recipes. Imagine my surprise a few months back when I was introduced to Birria Tacos.

For something that is as ubiquitous and widely revered as Birria Tacos, you would think that someone for whom Mexican food is life would have come across it early on in the love affair. You would be wrong. And, since my introduction, I see them everywhere.

In case you are also one of those souls who is ignorant of the beauty of a Birria taco, they are essentially the taco version of a French dip. You start by making a rich and flavorful stew that you can eat as is. Or you can take the meat out, chop it up, fry up some tortillas, fill them with the chopped meat and some cheese, then grill them. To eat you dip the taco in the consume which is simply the broth from the stew and enjoy.

If you are wanting to try them yourself, I would first recommend doing a search for a local taqueria that makes them. Making your own is a bit of a process (as you might imagine) since they have to cook slow and low for a number of hours. Also, most recipes, like ours listed below, make enough for at least 8 people. If you are cool freezing some of it, then you are set. But, this might be better saved for a weekend get-together. The traditional meat used for this dish is goat. But, beef is just as popular. And, you can make Birria Tacos with lamb or pork if you want to be a rebel.

No matter which method you choose, I strongly encourage you to give these a try. Your mouth will be very happy you did…

Beef Birria Tacos
Recipe adapted from House of Yumm
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita PibilHome Plate
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting my sons’ baseball team for dinner. Twenty or so 16–18-year-olds invaded my kitchen…and mass hysteria ensued. Team dinners are a long-standing tradition that rotates from house to house each week. Since the dinner the week prior to my hosting the event served tri-tip, and the week after is going with a pasta feed, I had to come up with something that the boys would like, that I could make a lot of, and wouldn’t break the bank.

After much deliberation and a suggestion from one of my boys, we went with tacos.

Tacos are always a good idea. I have never met a person who didn’t like tacos. (Although I am sure there is someone somewhere.) I could have made things super easy and had the whole party catered. But, my inner Abuela wouldn’t allow it. That’s just not how I roll. To save at least some of my sanity I did order large amounts of beans, rice, and salsa from my favorite taqueria—as well as a mountain of freshly-made tortillas. As it turned out I didn’t order enough.

I did make all the fillings. There was Pollo Asada, Carne Asada, and last but not least, Cochinita Pibil which is similar to Carnitas—except that instead of cooking the pork shoulder in lard you slow-cook it in a marinade with achiote paste and citrus juice. Alas, I did not dig a hole in my backyard and cook it in banana leaves as is traditional. I figured that might be just one step too far.

The Cochinita Pibil was so good. It was very hard not to keep stealing some for a snack throughout the day because I was worried about having enough. And, it turns out I should have been worried (and perhaps afraid).

Twenty-two boys showed up at my house after practice that evening and consumed 12 pounds of Carne Asada, 10 pounds of Pollo Asada, 10 pounds of the Cochinita Pibil, 4 quarts of rice, 3 quarts of beans, and about a dozen avocados worth of guacamole. It was like a swarm of locusts blew through. There was nothing left except for a few sad tortillas. It was a staggering display of teenage calorie consumption. How they still had room for ice cream after is astonishing. One of my sons ate himself to the point of pain. So, I guess it was tasty. He rallied the next day to head off to school no worse for wear.

I am hosting the team again at the end of the month since I have two kids on the team. I’m not sure what to have yet. But, I am more prepared now. And, I understand that even though I may think I have enough, it’s a good idea to add a little more just in case…

Cochinita Pibil Recipe
Yields about 16 tacos
Recipe adapted from Tacolicious by Sara Deseran  Read more…