Monday, May 22, 2017

"Rosa Mexicano- A Culinary Autobiography With Recipes" - Guacamole for Cinco de Mayo!

Date I made this recipe:  May 5, 2017 – Cinco de Mayo!

Rosa Mexicano – A Culinary Autobiography with 60 Recipes by Josefina Howard
Published by Viking
ISBN: 0-670-87047-9; © 1998
Recipe:  Guacamole En Molcajete –  ("Guacamole made in a molcajete," a Mexican mortar and pestle) – p. 127

Note:  Rosa Mexicano is a Mexican restaurant that originated in NYC.

I absolutely love the movie, When Harry Met Sally.  Love it.  One of the many scenes that cracks me up is – no, not the deli scene –when Harry and Sally are talking about reading books.  "When I die, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends." [Harry to Sally]

I always check out the last page first as well but not because I might die.  No, I read it (skim it actually) so I know if it's worth my time to read it.  Yes, I know, call me crazy, but that is how I roll.

And this is why I'm going to cut to the chase tell you how this recipe ended:  It. Was. Awesome!  Awesome!  I've made a lot of guacamole in my day, including a very good pomegranate "guac," but this one was the best of the bunch.

It was so good that Andy keep exclaiming (with his mouth full) "This is so good!  This is just so good!"  He finally had to stop himself from eating the entire bowl because yes, it was that good.

The best thing about this dish though, was that it was so damned easy and when you see the ingredient list you'll say "Of course," but you know, some guacamole recipes have gotten so out of hand that this recipe is a good reminder to keep it simple.  Here's what it in it:  white onion, serrano chiles, cilantro, salt, avocado, tomato, the end.

And now, dear reader, let's see how we got here.

Although I have not long owned this cookbook, I have been aware of the Rosa Mexicano restaurant for some time.  In fact, as I was writing this blog post, I wondered (and not for the first time), whether this was the same Mexican restaurant I and a friend dined at in NYC many years ago (as in 20 years ago), but after doing my due diligence, I'm going to have to say "no."

Here's the thing:  The friend that I dined with has always lived on the Upper West Side, usually in the "80's" and so we usually crawl around that neighborhood when it comes to dining out.  Of the restaurant's four locations, only one is within spitting distance and that is the one at Lincoln Center but Lincoln Center is in the 60's whereas we definitely dined further uptown. It's important to note that in "NYC-speak," the "60's," means that the address is somewhere between 60th Street and 69th Street and not today's high temperature.  Further, when you give an address, you then add things like "between Broadway and Amsterdam," or "at Columbus Circle" so that people know approximately where it is without having to get all the specifics.  And so in conclusion, her restaurant's Lincoln Center address is several  blocks south or where we normally dine and that is why I ruled it out. 

Then there's the decor and while I realize that most restaurants do some kind of redecorating over the course of time, the interior photos on her website look absolutely nothing like the place I remembered so that made me suspicious.

Then there's the menu which I checked out online, and again, even accounting for the time lapse between now and then, nothing rang a bell.  I remember distinctly that wherever it was we dined had pozole on the menu and I ordered it (first time ever – I was intrigued) but didn't like it.  Hominy is like a giant corn kernel only not and it just didn't do anything for me.  This cookbook contains a recipe for Pozole on p. 101, but no way was I going to make recipe because when you see that you are to start making the broth with 1 pig's head and 6 pig's feet, you know you have bigger problems that the size of your corn kernels!

At any rate, based on the above evidence (such as it is), I concluded that I did not in fact dine in a Rosa Mexicano restaurant in NYC some 20 years ago.  Nor did I dine at the one that opened (and then closed) in Minneapolis.  Too many restaurants, not enough time.

Happily, many restaurant owners these days publish cookbooks so that we rank amateur chefs can have at it at home.  I tend to stick to easy recipes with ingredients that I hope we all, wherever we live, can acquire easily, and that don't take up too much prep or cooking time.

This is why I hate to say that while I appreciate good Mexican food, I don't often make it at home because it often requires more work or more ingredients than I a comfortable handling. 

Take for example, the recipe for "Black Mole Xico with Chicken" (p. 262) that called for 30 ingredients including 2 types of chiles and 3 kinds of nuts.  While the recipe looked fantastic, I was fatigued just looking at it and so passed on that.

I considered also both Mexican red rice and green rice but whereas the mole was very involved, these were almost too basic.  I mean anybody and everybody can make these dishes, si?  Si!

For the longest time, "Grits with Pork and Tomatoes" (p. 38) was on deck but then I read through it again and discovered that I was to "reserve the pork for another use."  What?  I love pork and just couldn't see using it elsewhere so that was out.  Also?  What "other use" could there possibly be for cooked pork except to eat it with the recipe in question!  Even funnier?  Once you make the sauce and the grits, you are to serve it with shredded chicken.  Ha!  Hahahahaha, stop it, "you're killing me!"

After considering a few other recipes that look good and that didn't require hours in the kitchen or millions of dollars worth of ingredients, I decided to "Kiss" (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and "make up" with the guacamole recipe and I am glad I did.  I know some people do not like avocado or cilantro but if you do like them, and we do, then this is the recipe for you.

Before I get to the recipe details, let me remind you that this cookbook is really an autobiography that includes some recipes and so rather than review the Table of Contents with you like I often do, I'll just endorse the cookbook as I think you are bound to find something you like even if it isn't the guacamole.

And on that note, and several weeks after Cinco de Mayo, here we go:  Rosa Mexicano's [Holy!] Guacamole En Molcajete!

Guacamole En Molcajete – serves 2
Ann's Note:  a molcajete is a stone mortar and pestle that is used to grind and mix the ingredients.  I do not have one so I skipped that part and the earth did not open to swallow me up so there you go.
3 tablespoons chopped white onion
½ teaspoon chopped serrano chiles (Ann's Note:  I had several frozen jalapeno chiles on hand so used that instead of serrano)
1 ½ teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
1 ripe Hass avocado
1 small vine-ripened tomato sliced in half, horizontally.  Cut out the stem, scoop out the seeds and center with a spoon, and chop

In a small bowl, thoroughly mash 1 tablespoon chopped onion, the serrano chiles, ½ teaspoon cilantro, and salt with the back of a wooden spoon until it is a juicy paste.  Ann's Note:  I whirled this around in my mini-food processor. Although it didn't quite make a paste as we know it, it diced and mixed the ingredients into tiny pieces and that is what you are aiming for.

Ann's Note:  The next step is to peel then chop the avocado.  You can follow the instructions below, or you can buy yourself an Avocado Slicer made by Trudeau and your life will be so much easier.  This lone tool allows you to slice the avocado open, remove the pit, and remove and slice the avocado "meat" inside.  It's perfect and far less messy than doing it by hand.  But if you are a purist then: Holding the avocado in the palm of your hand, cut the avocado in the palm of your hand, cut the avocado in half lengthwise around the pit with a paring knife.  Twist the top half of the avocado to separate the halves.  Carefully hit the pit with the edge of a sharp knife and twist to remove the see.  Slice it lengthwise into approximately ¼-inch strips and then across to form a grid.  Scoop the avocado out with a spoon next to the skin.  Place in a bowl with the paste.

Stir thoroughly to coat with the paste.  Add the remaining onion, remaining cilantro, and the tomato, and gently fold to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add more chopped serrano chiles and salt to taste.

Serve with freshly made tortilla chips or corn tortillas.

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