Sunday, October 23

Our NYC Culinary Group does it again: delicious Mexican fare served up with style

October
is our
NYC Culinary Group's
Pot Luck Dinner Party

I'm en route to our Culinary Group's dinner with friends. 
I love this collaboration and we take turns
hosting and of course we learn something new each event
Hop in a taxi with me and join us for a
 Mexican Fiesta!  
after stewing my
Tortilla Soup,
I had my contribution all packed up and ready to go share an evening
with some of the best cooks I know.

When I think of Mexican food the words spicy, fresh and colorful come to mind.  Of course with a good amount of heat and lots of love mixed in for good measure.  We arrived to our host's home as Diana was in the throes of mixing up batches of Chile Relleno - a labor intensive Mexican recipe but well worth the effort.  This dish can be made many ways but basically it is a stuffed Poblano Chile -- one of Mexican's favored dishes. 
Hosts Enrique and Diana
Chile Relleno has a long history in Mexico, dating back to the 16th century and is even linked to the country's cultural identity. Enrique shared with us an interesting story that ties the dishes' ingredients and colors to Mexico's independence from Spain. The Chile En Nogada is the version known for its patriotic color scheme. Here's the legendary tale, excerpt below taken from
 ehow.com's History of Chile Rellenos 

 
"According to legend, Agustin de Iturbide, the one-time royalist who engineered the final defeat of the Spanish army in Mexico, decided to celebrate the day of his patron saint, San Agustin, in Puebla on Aug. 28, 1821. He was on his way back to Mexico City from the state of Veracruz after having just signed the Treaty of Cordoba granting Mexico independence from Spain.
The celebration was held at a local convent, where nuns created a special dish for the occasion: a chile relleno covered in nogada, a walnut-cream sauce that takes its name from the Spanish word nogal, meaning walnut tree. On top of the white sauce they sprinkled green parsley and red pomegranate seeds, giving the dish the red-white-and-green color scheme of the Mexican flag. And thus was born a patriotic culinary tradition".
check out this quick video: words
from Diana about her Mexican Pottery

 all great parties have a couple of key ingredients: 
First on the list for a successful evening is create an inviting and festive bar, even if a corner, but a place where guests can congregate.  Enrique made us salty and sweet margaritas to start the night on a celebratory note.



 menu:
margaritas
malbec wine
fresh made guacamole and chips
tortilla soup with avocado and lime
chile rellenos w/walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds
cheesy chicken enchiladas
rice
delicious creamy flan with caramel glaze
almost-flourless mini chipolte chocolate cakes with creme anglaise
My Tortilla Soup was the first course:

I assembled my tortilla soup with sprinkle of shredded Cojita cheese, freshly fried tortilla strips, and chopped avocado in each serving bowl. Next I poured in a good-size ladle of this fresh, flavorful soup with a lime wedge on the side and dollop of sour cream on top.  This soup is hearty with fresh flavors of cilantro and lime. This recipe for Tortilla Soup is closest to my version. 


 Randal and I prepared (well he generously shopped the ingredients for me, while I cooked the dish) a Classic Tortilla Soup, complete with fried corn tortilla strips to add to the mix
It was a a collaboration for certain and the Bustamante's Guacamole is legendary amongst our friends. The lime and cilantro bring it all together. Another guest, Frannie, prepared it for us and was taught on the job how to best assemble this amazing dip. 

An important tip -- remember after cutting the avocado to add the pit to the bowl to assure the dip stays green. Guacamole must be prepared on the spot and served immediately. Use yellow-skinned limes for the best juice.

every great cook I know has strong feelings about making guacamole:  use special kinds of avocados, limes not lemons, fresh cilantro, maybe only a little bit of tomato, never puree the avocado and never ever put any dairy products (such as sour cream) in the recipe...Diana has passed on many of these sentiments to me as well and since her guacamole is truly the best I've ever had see the recipe above I found online that seems to echo these sentiments...for me, personally, I prefer very little tomato if any. 



as with any successful dinner party,
the tone is set with a creative table

 I love the Wow factor of this colorful tablesetting --
the Mexican pottery,
coral, pink, blue and yellow colored table linen
 and vibrant flowers all
set the tone for a
warm, festive evening.






after cocktails, guacamole and soup
we had a combination of shared dishes served on one plate


 Melissa and Barry's unique creamy chicken enchiladas. 
When I think of enchiladas I'm reminded of a rich dish, and these were cheesey and delicious but also light and almost crepe-like in consistency. 




a platter of steaming rice


 
Diana and Enrique's Chile Relleno:
Mexican food is derived from a medley of Spanish and indigenous customs. The chile relleno is a roasted poblano chile stuffed with cheese or meats and covered in an egg batter and seems a fusion of cultures and influences


topped with creamy walnut cheese sauce and a few fresh pomegranate seeds 

Another important tip when entertaining is offer up a colorful plate. 
note:  I'm a fan of name cards because there's never any shuffling of seats and confusion.  It adds a special touch to find your name written upon a placesetting, even in a casual setting 
Let's not forget dessert.
We had two equally delicious authentic sweets,
and of course we all tried both

Irene and Rob's flourless
individual chipolte chocolate cake with creme anglaise sauce
the almost flourless (less than a few TBS of flour) cake was light, rich chocolate flavor and of course the topping puts it over the top
note:  cake recipe from a favored blog Cook, Eat Love


Gail and Brian's
 creamy homemade flan
(Gail has a wonderful recipe she adapted from celebrity chefs Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Fenichr of the Border Grill inside Mandalay Bay - hosts of Two Hot Tamats)
complete with a caramelized sauce drizzled on top.

Lots of egg,
a good amount of stirring 
and a penchant for great timing
makes a perfect Flan --
and this was the best one I have ever had!

we enjoyed 
an evening of fun and celebration,
and of course,
it wasn't long before we were planning our next soiree...

Stop back soon 
to read about our next
 Culinary Club's dinner:  
Madmen Theme 
it will be fun and kitschy
to
 celebrate Classic American fare
from the 1950s and 1960s...

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