Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fiesta Week: Day Four

And now, for the main course of our fiesta: flank steak and chicken fajitas served with sautéed peppers and onions. Everybody’s happy with fajitas: you roll up whatever you like inside of a tortilla and enjoy it bite for bite for all of its delicious simplicity. It’s like the Mexican equivalent of a hamburger. If I must say so myself, the marinade for the flank steak is awesome. The longer it sits the better. I let mine marinate for three days, but wouldn’t recommend any longer than that. As another option, I also prepared chicken gussied up a bit with tequila-lime marinade. The chicken really benefited from that little bit of tequila, but then again, what doesn’t? (Ha ha).

As a side, we had tomato rice with great flavor, thanks yet again to Rick Bayless. In addition to the rice, I fried up some plantains. Eating plantains in Mexico was one of my fondest gastronomical experiences, though I often found it difficult to try and replicate them. So it was much to my own delight that the plantains for the fiesta came out sweet. For a two ingredient recipe, making fried plantains can be pretty tricky if you don’t know about your ingredients.

The secret to obtaining all of the natural sweetness from the fruit is something I learned not too long ago: make sure they are super ripe—almost completely blackened, before you use them. I found this out at work when preparing to shop for our Latin Bistro class; one of the dishes called for black plantains and I realized I would have to buy them at least a week in advance so they would be ready in time. Some grocery stores such as those in largely Latin communities will sell them already black. That’s the convenient thing about working at culinary school. You learn as you go and pick up some tips for yourself. Last time I tried to make fried plantains, I did not know this tip and they did not come out so good! They definitely were not sweet in any sense of the word.

Flank Steak Marinade:
Yield: 1 ½- 2 pound flank steak

- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 ½ Tbs grated ginger
- 2 ½ Tbs fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbs honey
- Salt and pepper
• Mix all ingredients in a zip-top bag with steak. Close bag and distribute marinade all over steak. Refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 3 days. Grill and slice thinly to serve.

Tequila-Lime Marinated Chicken
Yield: 4 chicken breasts

- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- Juice from 3-4 limes
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbs tequila
- Salt and pepper

• Mix all ingredients in a zip-top bag with chicken. Close bag and distribute marinade all over the chicken. Refrigerate for a few hours or up to 24 hours.

Red Tomato Rice
Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time
Yield: 6 cups

- 12 ounces (2 medium-small round or 4-6 plum) very ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped OR one 15 oz can good-quality whole tomatoes in juice
- ½ small white onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 1 ¾ cups chicken broth or water
- Salt
- 1 ½ Tbs vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups white rice, preferably medium-grain
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch cubes
- Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 3 serranos or 2 jalapenos), a slit cut down the length of each one
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 ½ cups frozen peas or cooked fresh peas

• In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes with the onion and garlic. Blend to a smooth puree; you should have one generous cup. In a small saucepan, heat the broth or water until steaming; stir in salt. Cover and keep warm.
• In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium. When hot, add the raw rice and stir regularly until the grains have turned from translucent to milky white, 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and carrots and stir a couple of times, then let cook until any liquid is reduced and the mixture is somewhat dry-looking, 2-3 minutes. Add the warm broth/water, chiles and parsley, stir thoroughly and scrape down any rice grains clinging to the slide of the pan. Cover and cook over the lowest heat for 15 minutes—the temperature should be low enough that only the slightest hint of steam escapes from the lid.
• Remove pan from the heat and, uncover and quickly distribute the peas over the rice. Re-cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover and test a grain of rice: if it is still hard, re-cover pan and set over low heat for 5 minute; if the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is completely dry, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water before returning to the heat.
• When done, fluff rice to release steam and stop the cooking. Remove and discard chiles or use as decoration on top of the rice.

Fried Plantains
Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side

- 2 large very ripe plantains (black), peeled and sliced on a bias
- ¼ cup of butter
• Fry in two batches. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add plantains and cook until browned on each side.


Adelina said...

Thanks for your post! I love fajitas and love to get new recipes to try out.

Magic of Spice said...

I don't eat meat (I cook it though), but these are great recipes... I especially love the rice dish :)

Foodessa said...

Marisa...I'm certainly willing to give the Tequila and lime Marinated Chicken a try. I might make them with the thighs instead.
Thanks for sharing such interesting 'Fiesta' dishes ;o)

Have a great weekend and flavourful wishes,

Koci said...

This all looks great! I love fried plantains!