Monday, January 25, 2010

¡Finalmente! My cooking sweet spot: Cocina Mejicana

Ma, no te preocupes por mi. Yo puedo cocinar.

A three-course Mexican meal was on the board for today's culinary class, and I completed it comfortably, on time and with high praise from the chef for my flavors.

First up was a salad of roasted corn and chiles atop a bed of mixed greens and an orange-mustard vinaigrette. I've had a time with vinaigrettes in class, often not putting enough on the greens to satisfy the chef. My fear has been that I will drown the salad, something I have experienced all too often in restaurants. This time, Chef was pleased with both the flavor and the amount of vinaigrette.

Next came tortilla soup with shredded chicken. Slow, long cooking with herbs, spices and seasonings is the key to delivering this dish. My soup had a deeply flavorful caldo to accompany the chicken. I garnished with fried tortilla strips, a teaspoon of diced tomato and queso fresco. Another perfect score from Chef.

The entrée had some complexity to it. At the center was carnitas, marinated, diced, slow-cooked pork that turned into a flavorful stew. Accompanying it were black bean cakes, quenelles of guacamole and a pico de gallo garnish. That's chunky tmato and jalapeño salsa. Chef commented most positively on the flavors of everything on the plate. My one shortcoming was in the black bean cakes; they lost shape a bit on the plate, but still had good flavor.

A most satsfying and confidence-building day at the stovetop.

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