13 August, 2012

Beach Bum with I Heart Cooking Club

For those that know me I practically worship the sun.  I am like a cat hunting sunbeams.  I relish in the warmth, draw energy from the suns' rays... and still cannot get a tan!  Being a California Valley Girl I never got to the beach as often as I would have liked, especially since I lived in Northern California.  I know that many people believe that all Californians surf and spend every waking second on the beach.  The fact is the beach is 3+ hours away from where most people live and in the North of California the beach is very rocky, cold and socked in with Fog most of the time. 

San Francisco, California
When I lived in Sonoma County I was a lot closer to the Ocean but the beaches were not the kind that you would want to lay out on.  Every now and then when my friends and I had a random day off (normally mid week) from the wineries where we worked we would rush off to the beach.  The rule was if it was foggy in the valley it was sunny-ish at the beach.  So we would grab a bottle of wine, some salami and cheese, crackers or french bread, whatever fresh fruit we had on hand and rush to the beach to try and beat the fog.

Doesn't this make you want to run to the beach?
But for those of us in wine country in CA this is the sign to grab a quick picnic and dash for the coast


Obviously Northern California beaches are not what one dreams of when they think of Sunny California.  Although the beaches are gorgeous in their own way, have lots of tide pools to explore and fantastic places to hike, I think the majority of people want white sand, lots of sun and splashing in the warm waters. When I think of that my picnic menu changes drastically.  I want something flavorful and fresh to get the salt water taste out of my mouth.  Then I want something quick and easy to grab, nothing that requires much assembly on the beach when your hands are sticky and full of sand.  Not to mention you want to spend your time splashing around in the water and less time trying to get something to eat.  I like small nibbly things that way you have sustenance but nothing to cause you to beach yourself completely after a heavy meal or sink in the first wave.

Boca del Rio, Veracruz
Pescado A La Veracruzana, Savory Rich Sauce Wrapped around a delicate Filet
Veracruz
Rick Bayless has some fantastic ideas on his website for quick and light meals.  Tostadas, Quesadillas, Ceviche... all are fresh, light and flavorful but do not quite meet my hands off requirement.  For my Beach Day Menu: I love his Mexican "Crudute" Platter with Chamoy Dipping Sauce.  Quick and easy to assemble on your way out the door or the night before and it is something you can easily snack on.  The second nibble dish I like for the beach is his Modern Mexican Bruschetta.  Since the topping is thick and not very runny you could even pre-spread the topping on the toasts and not have to worry about them turning into soggy messes, or serve the topping in a bowl with the toasts on the side.  

But what to do for a main dish?  Something warm while the sun is setting and the camp fire is roaring.  After splashing around in the sun all day you need some serious protein to recover your strength.  Weither you stay on the beach and cook it over the fire or prepare it in advance and warm it when you get home bundles of meat are the protein source you need. Mixiotes is what I am talking about!  Packages of flavorful, juicy, tender meat that come from Mexico City.  I have just recently discovered these and they are my new favorite!



Now there are no recipes for Mixiotes in English on YouTube.  But I wanted you to be able to see the whole process.  Below I have translated the ingredients for you and the basic idea for the recipe. Rick Bayless has a beautiful recipe for Mushroom Mixiotes on his website...but I want Chicken!  You could use any type of meat, traditional Mixiotes is made with Ram which is incredibly hearty, but I imagine most people will not be able to purchase that at the grocery store.

Mixiotes de Pollo
Ingredients:
3 Chicken Thighs
3 Legs
Parchment Paper (soaked in water)
String or twine for tying the bundles

Salsa Ingredients:
3 Dried Ancho Chilies
1 Dried Mulato Chili
1 Dried Pasilla Chili
*Soak the chilies in hot water like Rick has taught us and reserve 1 cup of the Chili Liquid
1/2 Xoconostle (since many will not be able to find that add 1/4 cup of white vinegar)
1/2 tsp Knorr Swisa Chicken Broth Powder
1 pinch each (she says to use 3 fingers when pinching) cumin, oregano and ground cinnamon

Puree the Salsa Ingredients and then coat and marinate the chicken in the salsa (save some salsa for the packages).  Marinate outside of the fridge for 2 hours.

Take a soaked piece of parchment paper and add a piece of the chicken and a splash of the reserved salsa.  Feel free to add slices of mushrooms, epazote, pieces of Xoconostle (if you have it).  Do not overfill, you want the focus to be on the meat.  Pull up the edges of the parchment making a liquid tight bundle and tie off with a piece of string or twine.  Cut off the top excess of the parchment.

Steam the bundles for 2 hours.  Serve with rice, nopal salad and lots of tortillas.




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