Last night Mr. Pea and I intended to go out to dinner. Last Saturday we drove all over to have dinner out, only to find clogged parking lots and one place (I kid you not) that was already out of food at 6:30p. That’s a new one. Not feeling like any place in particular and not necessarily even feeling like spending the night out, I suggested we splurge a little on ingredients for a really spectacular dinner. I’d say this almost made that cut–it was pretty darn good. With Mr. Pea’s help (I get overwhelmed trying to make several new recipes at once!) we made chicken and poblano tacos, mashed beans, and a Tex-Mex rice, as well as a mock guacamole. Nearly all the recipes came from (or were riffs on) the interwebs.
I usually dislike guacamole. I’m not a fan of avocado. I find it a little flavorless. I’ve been told many, many times that I’m wrong on this account. Mr. Pea loves avocado, though, so I thought he might like a little guacamole to eat with chips as we waited for dinner. I simply mashed the ripe avocado with a couple of tablespoons of green salsa, a few chopped onions, and a squeeze of lime. I hated to admit it, but I really liked it. We ate 99% of it while cooking, and Mr. Pea insisted on saving the remainder for today.
The beans were based on a recipe at Simply Recipes for refried beans. Hers are more elaborate, in that she starts with dried beans (something I advocate, but had no time for). I began by chopping half an onion and sauteeing it in bacon fat. That’s right, bacon fat. Holy cow, what a difference this made. I saved some when I cooked bacon a week or so ago for something, and man, was I glad I did. I used a couple of teaspoons in a medium pan, added the onion, and cooked it for 7 or so minutes until soft and browning. Then I added a drained can of pinto beans and a few tablespoons of chicken broth and mashed away until they were warmed, well blended with the onions, and the right texture. You can add more or less broth (or water) to get the consistency you want. These were smoky and delicious. Sure, you could use olive or canola oil, but you won’t be sorry if you use bacon fat. Yum.
The rice was based on a recipe at Homesick Texan. I intended to make it as written, but realized I only had brown rice in the house, which made it take longer. The rice simmers in broth as you cook up some onions with tomato paste and cumin, which eventually gets added to the rice. I accidentally added waaay too much tomato paste to my skillet, and only ended up using some of the paste/onion/cumin mix. Whatever. It was tasty, but didn’t look as good as hers, and was my least favorite part of the fiesta. No doubt this is due to user error! Here’s her recipe.
Finally, we made chicken and poblano tacos. These were smashing. Tasty. Yummy. They came from a Rick Bayless recipe and were fairly easy to make. You begin by roasting poblano peppers under the broiler, something I’ve never done but always wanted to try. The poblanos, peeled and sliced, are added to sauteed onions, kept warm while you cook chicken breasts then coated in lime and garlic. They’re a little spicy, but pretty good. Here’s the recipe.
Overall, while we spent more than usual to make a single meal, it satisfied my craving for Mexican food, fed us for lunch today, and was a heck of a lot cheaper than eating out. Mexican food here is generally pretty pricey–there’s only one tiny hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint and I’m not crazy over it, so what’s left are tasty places with expensive food. Looking at it that way, we saved money. Plus we cooked together, which is always fun, and a nice way to spend a Saturday night.