Sunday, September 23, 2012

Viva Mexico! The Results and Modified Recipes

Check out this recipe on my new and improved website:

The Process:
Since I only gave myself two days to memorize these recipes, I was (naturally) nervous as I set everything up. However, as I reviewed all of my recipes after the fact, I did a pretty nice job remembering the key components. I still have my blender on loan with a friend, so the pureeing of the prickly pear actually consisted of my roommate and me smooshing the pulp and juice through a fine mesh sieve (I have some battle wounds on my knuckles to prove it!). Needless to say, I recommend using a real blender or food processor.

The tortillas are a hit for the members of the group who want to get their hands a little dirty but aren't into cooking. Once the dough was prepared, I demonstrated one tortilla and let them go crazy with the rest. The more people, the better, but keep in mind that each person needs something heavy, cylindrical, and not likely to break in order to roll the tortillas. I used a rolling pin and a big jar of mayonnaise. What do you have in your kitchen that can double as a rolling pin? You may need it one of these days!

The Verdict:
The tortillas, as usual, were delicious. There's a sweet spot between to thin and too thick, too burnt and too raw, and I think we nailed it on all of them. I used my stovetop cast iron griddle/grill, which gave us plenty of room to cook three tortillas at once. The only down side was that it left some pretty nasty burn marks on the stovetop. Next time, I will cover the burners in foil.

The taco filling was a hit (I used my own recipe for the marinade, which I have written below).  The beauty of tacos is that you can use any meat or no meat. Beans on the side (refried, if you want them to be true border-Mex beans) pack a protein punch as well. I grill some chopped onions in a little vegetable oil, then add the canned beans and some cheddar cheese to make things more interesting.

Finally, the sorbet. For me, a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar in the simple syrup was far too sweet.  I know that's the definition of a simple syrup, but I would make it even simpler--2:1 water to sugar-- and up the lime juice. Prickly pears are already very saccharine, and to pour in more sugar just made me feel like I was eating pink syrup. However, a little sprinkle of normal table salt tempered the sweetness without tasting the least bit salty (add even more salt for a prickly pear frozen margarita sorbet!). And as one reader noted in my original recipe, the dessert may not be completely authentic, but it is a super sexy. What is more alluring that that gorgeous fuchsia color accented with a bright green sprig of mint or wedge of lime?

These recipes make so much food that your guests won't feel shy taking seconds and thirds

My Recipe: Tequila Chicken & Shrimp Taco Filling
Yield: 12 servings (3 tacos per serving)

  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast and 2 lbs shrimp (or the meat/tofu of your choice)
  • 1 orange
  • 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 4 sprigs of cilantro
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • In a liquid measuring cup or mixing bowl, squeeze the juice of the orange and limes and add the tequila.
  • Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper, and stir.
  • Cut up the chicken breast into 2-inch cubes and make sure the shrimp is peeled, cleaned, and deveined.
  • Put the meats in a shallow bowl (separate them if that is important to you) and pour the marinade over the meat, covering it the best you can.
  • Cut each garlic clove into quarters and wedge the pieces of garlic deep in between the pieces of meat. Do the same with the cilantro sprigs. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Before cooking, remove the garlic and cilantro sprigs.
  • Drain the marinade from both of the meats and save in a separate bowl.
  • Heat vegetable oil in 2 separate large pans (2 tbsp in each).
  • Put the meat in the pan and cook until the meat is cooked through (times will vary depending on the meat). If the meat is not cooked but is starting to dry up in the pan, add some of the leftover marinade. Be aware that the marinade includes raw meat liquids, so it will need to cook down as well to be safe.
  • Stuff inside tortillas and top with cabbage.

Keeping tortillas in a clean cloth towel will help them stay warm, moist, and fresh
The Unmodified Recipe: Flour Tortillas, from Blanca Díaz
Yield: 18 tortillas
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 oz vegetable shortening (or 7 tbsp vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup very hot water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Put all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the shortening (cut in very small pieces) or oil and the hot water.
  • Mix by hand until a pasty dough forms and all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Knead the dough for 3 minutes.
  • Let the dough sit covered at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Separate the dough into portions of about 1.5 oz and form into balls. Keep the dough covered as you form balls out of the entire batch of dough.
  • To form a tortilla, take one ball and place on a hard, flat, dry, and clean surface (I am a fan of a lightly floured countertop). Press down gently to flatten the ball into a patty. With a rolling pin, roll the tortilla into a small oval. Turn the oval 45° and roll some more. Then turn 45° a final time and roll until the tortilla is round.
  • Get a dry griddle or pan very hot. Place the tortilla in the pan, cook, and flip when air bubbles start to form.
  • Gently press out the air pockets that form with the back of a spatula. Flip again.
  • After about 30 seconds, remove the tortilla from the heat. Wrap in a clean cloth and keep somewhere warm until you are ready to serve.
This vibrant color looks even more beautiful when you know it's all natural

The Modified Recipe: Prickly Pear Lime Sorbet, adapted from Fossil Foods
Yield: 8 servings
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 1 cup prickly pear juice and pulp (5 small fruits worth)
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tequila
  • pinch of salt
  • Heat the sugar, water, mint, and lime zest in a medium saucepan until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool and strain out mint and lime zest.
  • Puree the prickly pears and separate the pulp and juice from the seeds.
  • Put the prickly pear juice, simple syrup, lime juice, and salt into a bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 1 hour.
  • When ready to put the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker, mix in the tequila. Process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the ice cream maker directions. Transfer mixture to a plastic storage container and freeze in your freezer until firm, at least 6 hours.


  1. Oh yum! I want to come to your house for dinner! The sorbet looks amazing as do the tacos!

  2. My mouth is watering as I read this! Yum-O!