Friday, September 24, 2010

2010 Challenge: Kissing Cousins

We are well approaching the end of this year's Challenge. You are likely bored to tears with what appears to be nothing more than an exercise in how to take Asian flavors and apply them to American food. Unlike the Saints Super Bowl celebration, soon this will all be over.

But hey look for today's installment we are comparing a often beloved and poorly done Mexican dish with a beloved and often poorly done Italian dish. Whoopeeee! Or is it Andeleeee! Or should I just bid myself Ciao?

Lunch at the always good Taqueria D.F. A torta with beef cheeks, three tacos (they were out of tripe), and a big Mexican Coke. Our interest in Latin American food now piqued, Lindsay and I hustle over to a book store and sit down with about 15 cookbooks. We left with Seven Fires by Francis Mallman and Mexico: One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless.

The next day we made the enchiladas from Rick's book. Fairly straightforward recipe. You begin by roasting some chiles in a pan, until they blister, well like a blister. Then you puree them with a can of whole tomatoes. You add this to some sauteed onions, add chicken stock, and let it reduce. Stir in some crema and you are done. Then you take some cooked and shredded chicken, roll it in softened corn tortillas into cigars, arrange in a baking dish, top with the sauce and cheese and bake. Delicious. Especially with a little grilled corn salad studded with jalapenos and tomatoes, spiked with lime juice, and cilantro.

What does this sound like? To me, it sounds like a kissing cousin of lasagna. The following weekend, I made lasagna. From scratch. And the results were just as good.


You can use lasagna sheets or make your ow using Batali's pasta dough recipe.

For the filling I went new old School. I had a pork steak (a cross cut of what would be the ham) and cubed it. Then I sauteed this in oil until crusty, removed it, and added in an onion and some garlic. Then to this I added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and a whole bottle of zesty red wine (a Spanish blend was what I used, but a Chianti would be nice). Add the pork back in and let it all simmer until the pork is tender. Let it cool to room temperature.

Now this is where it gets slightly tricky. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Grease a baking dish. Add the pasta sheets one or two at a time to the water and cook for about 30 seconds. You really just want to slightly soften the pasta. Remove from water with a pair of tongs, drain and layer on bottom of pan. You need enough to cover the bottom of your dish. Then add a layer of the ragu and a sprinkling of good melting cheese (here scamorza). Repeat. Repeat again. You can top the dish with either any leftover sauce you may have or you can fat kid up with a mornay sauce. Then cover, bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 minutes. Let rest for another 20 and serve.

So are enchiladas and lasagna related? You be the family court judge.


Alex del Castillo said...

Bayless is the best.

Celeste said...

Seven Fires is fun, makes you want to fly off to South America. If you're chasing Mexico on the plate, check out Diana Kennedy's new "Oaxaca al Gusto"....ten years in the making, just out from U Texas Press.