Archive for June, 2010

The Nicest Thing

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Sunday morning, we were greeted with very jolly “Holas” from our neighbors, Maria & Dominic.

Maria had decided that I needed further tamale education….so she prepared her native Nacatamales (Nicaraguan) on Saturday.   Totally, totally from scratch…including the masa [corn] dumplings.


As a tamale lover (and a neophyte tamale maker)…I can tell you, they are a labor of love.  It takes hours and hours and hours, preparing the filling, the dough (and I cheat and use MaSeCa, kind of like the Wonder Flour of masa), and the wrappings.  Maria prepared her masa from scratch, starting with corn, and then grinding it.  The flavor was incredible.

As you can see, Maria used banana leaf wrappers (my preference, too, the Mexican style corn husks are a nuisance).  Maria’s tamales were big and fat and absolutely beautiful (check out her banana ties making an attractive Christmas present like bundle).  Her filling was a scrumcious mix of rice, vegetables, and delicious meat.   One tamale was more than a meal, a huge steaming package of delicousness….eat your heart out, Bobby Flay!

You can get an idea of the size of these tamales by the sunglasses in this pic (not great thinking on my part, obviously, and sorry for the medium size of the pics, the trusty Panasonic is truly DOA and I’m now using the HD video camera for stills, much work to be done).

Foodie Heaven

I was incredibly touched by Maria’s wonderful, lovely gesture.   She gave me a bit of her heart and her heritage, a gift which I treasure more than I can put into words.   Maria is a most amazing lady, I am going to miss her terribly when we leave here.   Maria & Dominic have made this part of our trip more special than I can ever describe….I wish I could wrap them up and bring them home with us.

Thank you two, for a life highlight. 

~ Blonde Gator

Alas, far far behind…but hoping for redemption!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

In the form of a new camera battery….we hope that will fix the dead camera problem.  Quien sabe?

However, in the interim, we have been totally enjoying the scenery here at the casa….(if we can ever learn how to turn the HD videos into something viewable on the intertubes…you’ll be the first to see them).

We have become stalkers of the wild iguanas…big ones, little ones, baby ones…they are everywhere.  We are having a blast watching their premordial behaviour.

And then the birds….Iguana Man shouted the other day about a “huge red bird”…after looking through the bird book, and seeing the fly-by a few more times, we identified it as a “squirrel cuckoo“.  I don’t have any photos, but I did find a few links.  The bird is large, about 18” long.

The ones we see here are more like the third link, but the first two make you understand that “rofous”, in bird terms, means really red, but maybe rusty brown.

Cuckoo 1, Cuckoo 2, and Cuckoo 3.  They are called a squirrel cuckoo because they dart around the trees like a squirrel.  From what I’ve seen, that hunting strategy is extremely successful.  The underside of the bird, as you can see in the pics, is quite extravagant as well. 

Cool stuff, huh? 

~ Blonde Gator

Dinner Party was Great Fun! (Bonus ~ Pork Enchilada Recipe)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

We had a fabulous time Saturday night…since the monsoon has ceased, it has been quite lovely.  I never even turned on the AC during the heat of the day while I was cooking…I’d guess it is in the low 80’s during the day, maybe high 70’s at night.  The stars looked as if long arms could pluck them from above the hill out yonder…and the (just past) full moon arose about 9:00 p.m.  In all, a lovely evening.

Raves for the pork enchiladas, thankfully (cooking for two restaurant owners and a world traveller had me a tad nervous).  I used my own secret enchilada recipe, which I shall share with you.  Serves 10 – 12 people.


Pork Butt (Boston Butt works great, the front shoulder)…10 lbs or better, don’t trim excess fat; New Mexico Red Chili Concentrate (3rd recipe down, make a double batch); 2 large onions; 6 cloves garlic; 23 New Mexico Red Peppers; 2 Ancho Peppers (optional); 2 Chipotle Peppers (optional); 2 cans chicken broth; Badia Adobo Seasoning (or other seasoning, such as Fajita seasoning); fresh cracked pepper; 3 tbsp. Beef Bullion Crystals (or 2 tbsp Beef Base); 2 bags of large flour tortillas (you can use corn tortillas, but they don’t hold up as well); 1 1/2 lbs. white cheddar, grated; butter; flour; olive oil; 1 tbsp. ground cumin; sour cream; guacamole.

Pulled Pork:

Peel onions and cut into quarters.  Peel and smash garlic cloves.  Remove the stems and most of the seeds from the dried New Mexico chilis, and the stems from the ancho and chipotle peppers.  Liberally season the pork butt on all sides w/the Adobo seasoning and cracked pepper.  Place pork into a large (coverable ovenproof) roasting pan, fat side up.  Surround pork butt w/onions, garlic, peppers, add chicken stock and beef bullion crystals.  Cover and bake at 375 degrees for an hour.  Reduce heat to 275 and slow roast for another three to five  hours, until the pork is falling off the bone.  Check periodically, and add water as the level goes down. (You want to end up with yummy juice).

Remove the pork butt, let cool until you can handle it without burning yourself,  and “pull” the pork with two forks, discard any remaining fat and bone.  Put the cooking liquid, including veggies, in the freezer (use a large pitcher if you have room)…when the pork fat solidifies, scrape it off the top and reserve the fat for tamales (I use banana leaves instead of corn wrappers….any internet recipe should work fine).  Put the cooking juices in the Cuisinart, including all cooked veggies, and process.  I then put this liquid in a large plastic coke bottle…and use it for lots of stuff.  At this point, you can use the pulled pork for sandwiches (make BBQ sauce w/your favorite recipe, using lots of the roasting juice, I personally love the East North Carolina BBQ recipes, lots of vinegar), tamales, huevos rancheros, etc. etc.  I can think of a zillion things to do with delicious roast pork, including eating it with Cuban style beans and rice, yucca, and some lime!  You’ll only need about half the pulled pork for the enchiladas, so freeze the rest for another day.

Make your chili concentrate sauce (Enchilada sauce) from the linked recipe, using the 20 remaining New Mexico Red peppers.


First make the sauce.  In a large pan, melt 3 – 4 tbsp. butter, add an equivalent amount of flour and make a roux.   Thin this sauce with the reserved and de-fatted pork juice.  Whisk until creamy and the consistency of a nice thick turkey gravy.   Add 1 tbsp. ground cumin, stir.   Add about half of pulled pork, and 3/4 cup of the enchilada sauce.   Stir.  Add more pork juice if necessary, all of the meat should be moistened with “sauce”, but not soupy.

Use a large lasagna pan to assemble the enchiladas.  Spread some of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan.  On a large plate, place a tortilla.  Place about 1/2 cup of the pork mixture, about 2″ thick, down the left/center of the tortilla to within about 1/2 inch on either end.  Be sure there is a bit of juice.  Add a sprinkling of grated cheddar to cover the meat.  Roll into an enchilada and place into the lasagna pan.  Repeat until the pan is full (usually about 10 – 11 in length and  1 1/2 across).   Continue in a second, smaller pan if necessary until all of the meat mixture is used up.  Pour the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas (keep a little in reserve to serve as sauce on the table), and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.  Bake at 325 for about 25 minutes.   Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator