July 05, 2009

Tortillas, carnitas and salsa, oh my!

For Canada Day, we went out for British pub food. For America Day, we stayed in and made Mexican food. It seemed strangely appropriate.I really like Mexican food. There's even (finally) a few places in town where you can get the good stuff, if you know where to look. Don't get me wrong, I like Tex-Mex and Cali-Mex quite a bit, too, but real Mexican food is in a class of its own, and is pretty darn amazing.

I've been meaning to try making flour tortillas for some time. I had made corn tortillas once before, to intermediate success (I didn't have a tortilla press, and ended up using my cast iron frying pan to squish them flat), but I hadn't ventured into the realm of flour tortillas. This weekend, I decided that it was time.

I had bookmarked a Tortilla recipe on Orangette some time ago, and so I dusted it off (so to speak) and got going. I don't generally use vegetable shortening, but I would have used lard...except that I was fresh out. Lard is incredibly hard to source in my neighbourhood, so after a quick attempt to secure some, I decided to use the duck fat that I had standing by in the freezer. They turned out surprisingly well, and were as e asy as Molly (Orangette) suggested they would be. I think that next time, I might use a little less fat, as my other tortilla recipes are a bit leaner, and these ones were (deliciously) quite rich.

So, with a pile of fresh tortillas soon to be had, I needed to come up with a game plan for what to serve them with. I considered making tacos al pastor, since I have some fresh pineapple in the fridge, but lacked some of the other ingredients. I settled on carnitas, and chose David Lebovitz's recipe as my guideline. I note that I removed the cinnamon stick about half-way through the cooking process, because I didn't want it to overwhelm. It takes a while to make, but I was planning to be in the house attending to other matters most of the afternoon, so it worked out pretty well, timing wise.

For salsa, we went with a simple green salsa of garlic, cilantro, serrano chiles, and lime juice, with
just a touch of salt. Quick blitz in the mini-prep, and it was good to go, and hot as hell. You can find the inspiration for the green salsa in Brandon's comment on the Tortillas recipe link.
Finally, I figured a salad was in order. I combined roughly equal amounts of diced red pepper, radishes and avocado with corn kernels, a sprinkling of cilantro and the juice of a lime. A little salt was added at the table, to keep it from sogging out the dish, and to allow for individual tastes. It was remarkably good, and I intend to remember it the next time I'm wanting a salad for a potluck or picnic or barbeque-type event. Or, you know, the next time I'm making Mexican food.

To top things off, we had a little cocktail called the Capitan, which is essentially a Manhattan made with Pisco instead of bourbon. Lovely, really.

The very end of the evening, when we were lying around in a carnitas-induced coma, we dragged out the tiny bottle of Xtabentun, a fermented honey and anise liqueur that we brought back from our trip to the Yucatan in February. If only we had checked our baggage, we could have brought back more...