Posts tagged ‘salsa verde’

July 22nd, 2011

Dora’s enchiladas

Until recently, the only Mexican dishes I knew were burritos and tacos.  Whenever I would see a commercial for Mexican fast food on TV (and there are a lot in Los Angeles), I’d ask my husband “What is a quesadilla?” “What are flautas?” “What’s the difference between a chalupa and a tostada?”  By now, I’ve probably asked at least 3 times about each dish.  They’re hard to tell apart for someone who hasn’t grown up with them since their descriptions seem pretty much the same on the surface.  But, I was soon to learn about one Mexican dish, intimately.

One day, we were at my sister-in-law’s house eating a buffet style dinner. My husband pointed at one of the dishes on the counter and told me “That’s an enchilada.”  Although I had to say, “Tell me again what an enchilada is?” I tried it and LOVED it!   It was light, moist, and little spicy with a very unique flavor.  It wasn’t anything like my pre-conceived image of  Mexican food, which to me, seemed dense from beans, cheese, and sour cream, drenched in heavy sauces.

One of my hobbies is to try to duplicate restaurant dishes that I enjoy.  My husband always jokes that he can see the wheels turning in my brain as I take each bite, analyzing, rating and comparing flavors and textures.  With that in mind, I think you can understand what was coming next… I HAD to duplicate that enchilada.  For starters, the ingredients: They weren’t overwhelming in number, just chicken, sour cream, tortillas and my mother-in-law’s green sauce,  however the recipe turned out to be more complex than I had imagined, as I learned after my first few unsuccessful attempts. What went wrong? Well, I managed to capture the lightness, but for some reason, not the moistness.

I had to go to the expert, my mother-in-law, for advice.  It turns out that the fantastic flavor of the dish comes from not just adding the green sauce externally, but internally as well.  She told me I needed to soak the tortillas in the green sauce to give the dish that extra bit of flavor.  Thanks to that tip, I finally have a perfectly light and moist green chicken enchilada recipe, in my arsenal, that wins my husband’s approval.  Even more importantly, I have taken one more step in the incredibly challenging quest of introducing Mexican flavors to a discriminating Japanese palate.

July 13th, 2011

Lina’s green sauce

My mother-in-law, Lina, makes the best salsa verde!  It is so good in fact, it was  one of the main reasons I began to change my opinion on Mexican food.  Like I have mentioned before, Mexican food had always been at the bottom of my list of cravings, but once I married my husband, it became a necessity to find a way to bring it into my life; he grew up with it, and more importantly, he loves it.  Also, living in Los Angeles, home to one of the largest Mexican populations in America, why not expose myself to the culture?  Ongoing trial and error tastings have led me to a few fantastic foods.  Lina’s “green sauce”, as my husband calls it, is one of my favorite discoveries.I didn’t know anything about salsa or Mexican food before I came to America in the late 80’s.  This is how my (American) Mexican food knowledge progressed.  The first traditional Mexican ‘dish’ I was exposed to was tortilla chips; the building block of my newly discovered favorite snack, nachos.  These were not the good restaurant style nachos though, but rather their disgusting dorm cousin, made with microwaved cheese.  I remember being so excited to be a part of the nacho culture, that when I went home for the summer, I brought a jar of Tostitos salsa with me so that my Japanese friends could taste a part of what they were missing.  Their response, “Interesting…” Until about 5 years ago, I thought all salsa was red and came in a jar.  Now, thanks to my mother-in-law, my world has expanded, and I can make both red AND green salsa.

The main ingredients in Lina’s green sauce are tomatillos–lots of them.  I had never eaten a tomatillo, so when I first tried this sauce, it was a multi-sensory experience.  Visually, it is a beautiful green color, and the cilantro gives it a fresh from the garden aroma.  And the taste–Tomatillos retain their crunchness, so a little heat and garlic turns them almost into a spicy soup.  As a matter of fact, my first few times trying it, I ate a half bowl of pure sauce, like soup, with nothing in it, just trying to figure out what made it so good.  When Lina makes her sauce, it’s usually in a big batch, and we are always lucky enough to get one or two Tupperware containers full.  Even though it’s good with pretty much everything, my husband uses it almost exclusively on eggs; replacing his normal ketchup.  As for me, I still like eating it as a soup.  Lina giving me her recipe was a delicious way of welcoming me into the family!  Thanks Lina!