Thursday, May 07, 2015

Tostadas, May 5, 2015

I am not a huge fan of the way Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated in the United States. For one thing, most of the people who are celebrating have no idea what it is they're celebrating. They tend to assume they're celebrating Mexican Independence Day. 

Well, that isn't actually until September. Cinco de Mayo is in remembrance and celebration of the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It wasn't the battle that finally threw off the French occupiers, but it gave the Mexican troops a huge morale boost. Anyway, in Mexico, it tends to be celebrated mostly in Puebla. 

It's unfortunate that this holiday seems to have devolved, in the U.S. at least, into an excuse to go get wasted on margaritas and Mexican beer. Mind you, I have nothing against either margaritas or Mexican beer, but it's a shame to "celebrate" a cultural holiday this way when you could be learning about Mexican history, reading Mexican novels, listening to music by Mexican artists, going to an exhibit of Mexican art (Yo, Detroiters! Get thee to the Frida & Diego exhibit!), learning about issues around immigration justice, preparing authentic Mexican dishes. 

I celebrated this year by making tostadas, Frida Kahlo's potatoes in green sauce, and a Southwest salad I picked up pre-prepped at the grocery. I had guacamole (mash an avocado with some lime juice and garlic salt) & chips waiting for Jeannene when she came home from work. The potatoes come from a cookbook called Frida's Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo, which I got at the Detroit Institute of Art's special, temporary Frida & Diego gift shop. It's by Frida's stepdaughter, Guadalupe Rivera, and Marie-Pierre Colle. This collection of Frida's recipes and Lupe's stories is a delight to read for any Kahlo aficionado, even non-cooks. For us cooks, it's great fun to try our hands at food Frida loved.

I am a lazy cook, for sure, and I am also a bit of a squeamish eater, in that I tend to shy away from things like offal and feet. Thus, while I took inspiration from Frida's tostadas, I did not use the pig's feet called for in the recipe and I took a number of shortcuts and liberties I suspect most Mexican chefs would disdain. They were, however, very good.

Tostadas Perezosos (Lazy Tostadas)
Tostadas, pre-made from the grocery
Refried beans, from a can
Green sauce, from a jar or from the potatoes, if you're making those
Shredded romaine
Cooked, shredded, sliced, or chunked chicken breast
Chorizo, crumbled and browned
Sliced tomato
Sliced avocado
Sour cream
Crumbled queso fresco
Pickled or fresh sliced jalapeños, if you like them

Top tostadas with the rest of the ingredients & eat. I like mine either chicken or chorizo. My wife likes both at once. If you put the beans on first, they help to hold everything else on the tostadas. 

My food squeamishness extends to hot peppers and cilantro and my laziness means I'd just as soon sub olive oil for lard in most recipes. So, this potato recipe is not really authentically Frida's, but it is tasty. The potatoes themselves turned out to be a lot sweeter than I'd expected, which made for some interesting taste contrast, but I definitely recommend giving this recipe a whirl. 

Papas en Salsa Verde (Potatoes in Green Sauce)
1 lb. baby new potatoes, peeled
1 lb. tomatillos, peeled
1/2 c. water
1 serrano chile, minced (I remove the membranes & seeds to reduce the heat; leave them & add more chiles, if you like it hot)
Salt and pepper
3/4 c. ch. cilantro (if you like it; sub parsley or omit, if not)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. onion, finely chopped

Parboil the potatoes for a couple minutes. Drain and set aside. Simmer tomatillos, water, chile, salt, and pepper until tomatillos are tender. Cool slightly, then add cilantro and puree. I actually used an immersion blender, to good effect. Heat the oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add to tomatillos and cook another 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes. Serves 4. 

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