Anyone ever see the Food Network show, Mexican Made Easy? Check it out. Simple ingredients. Authentic preparations. Really great. I was tuned in one morning while the host, Marcela, was baking corn tortilla chips in the oven. I tried them (probably the same night) and was hooked! Crispy, delicious and addictive.
Yesterday morning, she was preparing a "surf-n-turf" dish for her family and I was "half-listening" as I was getting dressed for work. She grilled some chicken breast, some steak and some shrimp (scrimps, LOL), but the star of the show was the warm, homemade salsa. I loved the final presentation where she serves up all of the components of the dish, kind of hanging over the sides of a large molcajete and then pours the warm salsa into the middle. Beautiful!
So, of course, I headed to Pete's Fresh Market after work last night and purchased the items I needed to try my hand at this authentic Mexican meal. I was inspired and could not wait to make the sauce, grill some scallions and grill a round of Panela cheese. I was so inspired that I did all of my shopping directly after leaving my post at NSH, while wearing a pair of kick-ass high heeled sandals that were NOT made for grocery shopping. Yeah, my creaky right knee is whining like a _ _ _ _ _ this morning. A small sacrifice in the interest of preparing a great meal! Oh, did I mention that I could not wait to do these things . . . while drinking some homemade Sangria? Duh. Of course. I blew off the homemade Mexican rice, for some healthy greens, for the sake of time (and not really wanting to cook in the kitchen). It was a beautiful, crisp and breezy night. I wanted to cook outdoors.
So..... I began by making the salsa (I didn't feel the need for a recipe, so I was going by my morning's memory of the show). It's more of a method, ok? I heated and cleaned the grill. I heated my cast iron skillet, on the grill, adding a bit of olive oil. I added 4 whole plum tomatoes, 2 whole cloves of peeled garlic, 1 whole quartered onion and let everything "fry" in the skillet on medium heat. That skillet really gets hot and retains the heat on the grill. It's a great tool for your grill, my friends, anytime you don't want to cook your food directly on the grates. After everything became blistery, fragrant and a bit caramelized, I added cumin and dried oregano (homegrown, what can I say), along with 4 dried New Mexico chiles, which I had stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped. Toss and cook a bit, then add water. I think I made more than the amount called for on the show, so I added 2 cups of water. Leave it on the grill, let it come to a boil and continue to cook. Throw some cleaned scallions on the grill for a few minutes and in the meantime, prepare everything else. Once the sauce ingredients cook down a bit and everything is kind of brownish red, tender and fragrant, blend all ingredients with an immersion blender. I transferred the contents of the cast iron skillet into a deep pot in order to prevent splattering the entire neighborhood. Add a generous amount of kosher salt to taste. It will really elevate the flavor from bland to just right. Alternatively, blend in batches in your blender (P - I - T - A).
Let's get to grillin'. I only made one steak (truth be told, I actually grilled two steaks cuz I burned one which was flaming up while I was engrossed with blending the salsa - see, this s _ _ t happens to everyone, LOL), one chicken breast and a big handful of cleaned, deveined shrimp in the shell (maybe about 10). We already grilled the scallions, right? The only other thing you'll be grilling is the cheese and the tortillas.
Really quick preps: Drizzle a little olive oil on a chicken breast and sprinkle with salt, pepper and either chili powder or whatever the heck you like. Steak needs salt, pepper and whatever grill seasoning you're into. For the "scrimps", I tossed them with olive oil and Sriracha and tossed them onto the grill. They were downright succulent with just enough heat. The shell helps keep the grill flavor and the juiciness inside, in my humble opinion. Take one whole round of Panela cheese and drizzle it with olive oil (all sides). Grill everything up!
Assemble.....This dish is really versatile. I can think of a gazillion different things to add for garnishes, sides, swaps, color, flavor, etc. This may be a new KPK staple that we can change up every time we do it!
OK. So, once everything is grilled, they are each waiting for you to pay attention to them. Slice the chicken breast into strips. Same with the steak. The Panela should be grilled until a slight crust forms, or until there are grill marks, and then flipped for the same treatment, btw. Then, slice the cheese into thick strips. Cut an avocado into wedges. Cut a lime or lemon into wedges. Use your own flair to lay out all of that beauty onto (or into) your favorite platter. I used a fluted shallow bowl/platter with nice results. Once everything is arranged (it only takes a minute), pour in the warm and rustic homemade salsa.
Somewhere along the line (at the end), toss some corn tortillas (and flour, if you like) directly onto the grill, and warm until pliable. Flip once. Grill marks look nice but don't overcook because they will become dry.
Serve and enjoy!! Drink some Margaritas or Sangria or beer or whatever you're into!
Try this scrumptious Mexican meal. Change it up as you wish and make it your own!
Katie's Passion Kitchen
Katie, la Pasion Cocina