Monday, April 10, 2006

A Birthday Bash

Californian’s have a real love affair with Mexican food. So what better way to celebrate our good friend Nelson’s birthday than with a Mexican feast of chili rellenos, Spanish rice and black beans. I had never made chili rellenos at home before, but Cath’s tomato sauce recipe inspired me. They turned out perfectly. The texture of the chilis was exactly what I hoped for and the flavor of the sauce was so good. If you like Mexican food but have never tried making these at home before, you might want to give these a shot. I found them to be easy, fun and so delicious. I can’t wait to make these for my sisters and parents, who like me, have been ordering chili rellenos at Mexican restaurants for as long as I can remember.

For birthday cake, we made a classic here in our house – Betto’s Carrot Cake. Betto is one of Pete’s aunts and is famous in the McAniff family for this cake. We don’t know where she found this recipe, but it’s far and away the best carrot cake recipe we have ever tried. It’s our standard birthday cake - so incredibly moist you’ll be sneaking bites out of your icebox through the week. Enjoy!

Chili Rellenos

3-4 small to medium sizes fresh tomatoes
1 can San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 - 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
3T butter
Red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper

Core the fresh tomatoes (but don’t remove skin).
Put all the ingredients in a pot and simmer 30-40 minutes.
Transfer to Cuisineart and process until smooth.
Transfer to wide bottom pot and adjust seasonings.
Take out any chunks and let simmer on low for as long as you have time for.

Chilis (although this sounds like alot of work, it’s fun and so good)
5-8 green pasilla or poblano chilis
5 eggs
Flour for dusting
Cheese for filling: any flavor you like that will melt, Monterey jack, queso fresco, goat …

Turn gas stove on and place 1-2 chilis directly on fire.
You want the outside skin of the chilis to char black.
Turn them over and on their side to char all sides of the chili.
When fully charred place in a plastic bag and close bag to steam.

When you’re done charring all the chilis, take a spoon to peel off black charred skin.
Smell. Oh my, the smoky chilis will smell so good you’ll want to eat them right then.
Peel off all black skin with the spoon and then make a slit in one side of the chili.
Use the spoon to scrape out all the seeds and vein.
Drop in a bowl of water for just a second and this allows all the seeds to fall out.
Fill the chilis with cheese or whatever else you might want to put in there.
Shrimp, scallops and crab are often used in chili rellenos (be sure to cook them first).
Put the chilis in the fridge until 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve.

To serve
Heat vegetable oil for frying in a wide pan.
Reheat sauce and keep on low while preparing chilis.
Separate egg whites from yolks.
Beat whites until stiff peaks form.
Fold in yolks and salt.
(I found this technique strange when I read about it but found it created exactly the texture you find when ordering these in a Mexican restaurant)

Put some flour in a dish and add salt/pepper/red pepper flakes.
Dust chili in flour and then cover generously in egg mixture.
Fry until both sides are golden brown.
Drain on paper towels for just a few seconds.
Then transfer to sauce and cover completely with sauce.

When done with all chilies, transfer to festive serving platter.
Be generous with the sauce.
I sprinkled some queso fresco and chopped cilantro.

Betto's Carrot Cake
4 eggs
2C sugar
1 1/2C Crisco oil
2t baking soda
1t salt
3T cinnamon
2C flour
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
3C finely grated carrots (about 1#)
1C chopped walnuts
Raisins and coconut if you like, we don’t add them

Cream eggs and sugar
Add oil, baking soda, salt, cinnamon
Stir in flour and pineapple (alternating)
Fold in carrots and walnuts
Bake at 325 in two cake rounds 30-45 minutes, until done in center

Frosting (I make two batches of this and frost very generously)
1 large Philly cream cheese box (please don’t try fat free)
1 box powdered sugar
1 stick sweet butter
1t – 1T vanilla (I’ve also used lemon extract and this is nice too)

Cream the cheese and butter.
Add in powdered sugar and vanilla.
Beat until consistency is just the way you like it.
Lick the bowl after you’re done frosting the cake.


Blogger Kate said...

These chillis sound incredible. Europe and for that matter Australia arent too good on Mexican restaurantes so I am not too familiar with the different dishes. Ive read a lovely book called the Secrets of The Tsil Cafe and your birthday bash reminded me of that.
I think I will have to give these chillies a try. So I dont know many of the mexican chillis and I doubt you could get them here but I presume they have to be large and smokey/sweet?

11 April, 2006 06:29  
Blogger Jer said...

Yes, the larger and sweeter ones like a pasilla. Not a green bell pepper though as the head's too wide and I think it would be dificult to fry properly. We really love Mexican food and hated how hard it was to find a good meal of it when we lived in New York.

That brings up a good question. What kinds of food, if any, are very common in Europe that we hardly get any of here in the US?

11 April, 2006 23:44  

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