Mexico: More Chiles

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The Spicebox Supperclub has been celebrating the wonderful flavors of Mexico in our latest series.  See our menu overview to see what we enjoyed.  We started with cocktails, then had a tour of chiles.  This week, we enter the realm of main courses, still exploring the variety of chiles and other flavors used in Mexican cuisine.

Spicy Pasilla Mushroom Tacos

Ingredients

8 garlic cloves

6 large pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

¼ spoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ cup chicken broth

4 cups sliced woodland mushrooms (shitake)

¼ cup thinly sliced epazote

12 corn tortillas

½ cup finely diced onion

1/3 cup diced queso anejo

12 corn tortillas

Directions

Pasilla Paste

  1. Roast unpeeled garlic. Toast chiles in skillet, then rehydrate for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve 1/3 cup of the soaking fluid.
  2. Combine chiles, soaking liquid, garlic, oregano, pepper and cumin. Blend to a smooth puree. Strain through a medium mesh strainer.

Mushrooms

  1. Heat oil in a medium pot, once hot enough to sizzle seasonings, add all of pasilla paste. Stir for 5 minutes. Stir in broth, then add mushrooms and epazote. Partially cover, simmer over medium-low until mushrooms are soft and sauce reduced, about 15 minutes.
  2. Season with salt. Sprinkle with queso and garnish with epazote. Serve with tacos on bed of shredded cabbage. 

Corona Bean Soup with Ancho Chile and Mint

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Ingredients

1 pound corona beans

8 cups chicken broth

6 garlic cloves

1 large white onion

3 medium-large tomatoes (9-12 plum tomatoes)

6 medium ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

2 ½ teaspoons salt

½ cup loosely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped mint

½ cup queso anejo

Directions

Soup

  1. Soak beans for several hours. Drain and place in 8 cups of broth and simmer for 3-4 hours.
  2. Roast garlic unpeeled. Roast tomatoes, discard skins, keep juices. Chop.
  3. Add garlic, onion, tomatoes to beans, cook until ready.

Chiles

Cut chiles into 1/8th inch slivers. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add chiles and stir for a minutes. Remove from heat, and add vinegar, 3 tablespoons water, oregano and a ½ teaspoon of salt. Let stand for ½ hour, stirring occasionally.

Finishing Soup

Remove some whole beans from soup. Reserve. Blend remaining soup until smooth but with some consistency. Stir in mint and cilantro. In bowls add a few whole beans, chile, and then pour soup over ingredients. Sprinkle crumbled cheese over soup.

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Sandia Ice with Tequila

IMG_9005Directions

Take cubes of frozen watermelon (no seeds), place in freezer for an hour, mix, and freeze again.

Blend and add small amount of good quality tequila.

Serve in cognac glass with salt sprinkled. 

Chicken with Nutty Queretaro Green Mole (Mole Verde Queretaro)

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Ingredients

½ pound (3 medium-large) poblano chiles

12 ounces (8-9 medium) tomatillos

½ cup sesame seeds, some extra for garnish

½ cup whole blanches almonds

1 small soft plantain, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick

1 corn tortilla torn into pieces

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup roasted skinless peanuts

1 large leaf of romaine lettuce

8 good sized sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

½ teaspoon cinnamon, preferably fresh ground Mexican

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon freshly ground aniseed

big pinch of freshly ground cloves

5 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt, about 2 teaspoons

8 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions

Roasting, Toasting, Browning

  1. Roast chiles directly over a gas flame, about 5 minutes. Cover with kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. Peel, pull out stem, and seed. Rinse. Roughly chop.
  2. Roast tomatillos on a baking dish 6 inches below the broiler until softened, about 3 minutes. Then turn over and roast other side. Transfer tomatillos, along with juices, to bowl with chiles.
  3. Heat small skillet over medium and add sesame seeds. Stir continually until aromatic and golden, about 2-4 minutes. Scrape into the chiles, and then do the same with the almonds.

Finishing the Mole

  1. To the bowl, add the remaining ingredients (plantain, tortilla, garlic, raisins, peanuts, romaine, parlsey, cinnamon, pepper, aniseed, cloves). Stir in 2 cups of the broth, and in blender, in batches, puree to a smooth consistency. Pass through a medium mesh strainer.
  2. Medium sized pot over medium heat and add oil. Once oil is hot enough to sizzle a drop of the mole, add all at once. Stir for 3-4 minutes. Add another 3 cups of the broth, partially cover pot and gently simmer over medium low, stiring regularly, for 30 minutes. Sauce should have consistency of a thick cream soup. Season to taste with salt, about 2 teaspoons.

Chicken

  1. Oven to 350 degrees. Coat bottom of a 13×9 baking dish with mole, lay in chicken breasts in a single layer, then ladle remaining sauce over. Bake until chicken is done, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a warm platter. Slice the chicken. Add the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Seared Corn (Esquites Dorados)

Ingredients

5 large ears of corn

hot green chiles (3 serranos, or 2 small jalapenos) stemmed, sliced crosswise

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons chopped epazote (or ¼ cup chopped cilantro)

Directions

  1. Cut kernels from corn. Cook chiles and kernels in nonstick skillet (5-10 minutes), until kernels were browned.
  2. In a cup, combine ¼ cup water, salt, and lime juice. Sprinke cilantro over corn and drizzle on liquid, let stand covered for several minutes. Add more salt as needed. Serve with lime wedges.

Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients

1 small red onion, peeled, sliced 1/8 inch thick

¼ teaspoon black peppercorns

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon Mexican oregano

2 garlic cloves, peeled, and halved

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Parboil onion by blanching in boiling salted water for 45 seconds, drain and place in a bowl.
  2. Coarsely grind peppercorns and cumin in a mortar and add to onions. Add remaining ingredients plus enough water to barely cover. Stir well, and let stand for several hours until onions are bright pink (covered and refrigerated, onions last several weeks).

Topolo ‘Ceasar’ Salad (Ensalada Estilo Topolobampo)

Ingredients

Romaine lettuce

Olive oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, serrano chile, egg

Tortilla chips

Directions

  1. Make dressing
  2. Combine with lettuce, cheese, and tortillas

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Oh, did you remember to save room for dessert? Don’t worry, we’ll give you a week to recover.  See you next time! 

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Mexico Cocktail Hour: micheladas y margaritas

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We opened the night with micheladas, the Mexican beer and tomato juice cocktail.  With a rim of celery salt, this was a great palate teaser to open our tastebuds to the spicy menu to come.  And what’s a Mexican fiesta without margaritas? Peter stirred up his specialty cocktail using the perfect recipe out there, Rick Bayless’ perfect margarita.

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Michelada

from Food52 The Flying Foodie http://food52.com/recipes/420-michelada-a-k-a-bloody-beer

Serves 4

Ingredients

Lime wedges, for garnish

Celery salt or plain salt, for garnish

1 6oz can tomato juice
2 limes, juiced (about 1/3 cup juice)
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 -1/2 teaspoons Tabasco or preferred hot sauce
2 12oz bottles or cans of beer (Modelo is ideal)
Several handfuls of ice cubes

Technique

1. Prepare the glasses: rub the rims of four tall glasses with the lime wedges then coat the rims with either celery or plain salt.

2.  In a bowl or measuring cup, combine the tomato juice, lime juice, celery salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco (or desired hot sauce) and mix well. Adjust seasoning to taste.

3.  Add a handful of ice to each of the prepared glasses, then divide the tomato juice mixture between them (each should have approximately 4 tbsp/60ml of juice).

4.  Top up the glasses with half a bottle of beer each, then garnish with a lime wedge.

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Rick Bayless’ Perfect Margarita

http://www.fronterafiesta.com/cook/drinks/187-pure-and-simple-margaritas

Makes: 4 generous drinks

Ingredients

1 cup tequila, preferably a young silver or reposado 100% agave tequila
½ cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1/3 cup fresh lime juice, plus a little extra for moistening the rim of the glasses
A little sugar if necessary
About 1/3 cup coarse (Kosher) salt for crusting the rim of the glasses
About 3 cups medium ice cubes

Technique

1.  In a small pitcher, combine the tequila, orange liqueur and lime. Taste and decide if you think the mixture needs to be a little sweeter or a little tangier (keep in mind that it will taste a little tangier once it’s been shaken). Add a bit more lime or a touch of sugar, if necessary.

2.  Spread out the salt onto a small plate. Moisten the rim of four 6-ounce martini glasses with a little lime juice (if you have a cut lime, even an already-squeezed one, moisten the rims by running it around them). One by one, turn the glasses over and dip them lightly in the salt, creating a thin, even crust all around the rim.

3.  Pour half of the margarita mixture into a cocktail shaker, add half of the ice cubes. Shake vigorously for about 15 seconds (this is important to achieve the perfect strength—some of the ice needs to melt into the margarita—and the right degree of frostiness). Strain into the prepared glasses, then repeat with the remaining margarita mixture. Relax and enjoy.

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Thanks for coming to our fiesta! To see the amazing menu Chef Nalin prepared to follow, come back next week!

Spicebox Supperclub: Mexico

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It’s been embarrassingly long since the last Spicebox Supperclub update! But we’re back! We’ve actually had two Supperclubs since our last foray to Eastern Europe.  Without further ado, here’s an overview of Supperclub #5: Mexico, which was on November 22, 2014.

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Hosts: Heather and Nalin

Executive Chef: Nalin

Bartender: Peter

Sommelier: Chris

Pastry Chef: Dave

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Menu

Cocktails:

The Perfect Margarita

Michlelada

Amuse Bouche:

Pico de Gallo-stuffed cherry tomato with cilantro purée

Starter:

Shrimp with guajillo salsa

Amalaya Torrotnes Riesline 2012 Argentina

Palate Cleanser:

Tricolor of radish in apple cider vinegar, jicama in lime juice and cucumber in lemon juice

Courses:

Taco with shiitake and beech mushrooms with pastas, red cabbage, onion and quest anejo

Crisopa Albariño 2011 Spain

Corona bean soup with roasted tomato and ancho chiles

Muga Rioja Rose 2013 Spain

Palate Cleanser:

Watermelon ice with tequila and salt

Chicken with green carretero mole dusted with smoked ground clove

Pickled red onion

Corn with bell pepper and lime

Romaine with topolobampo

Villa Montefiori Cabernet-Sangiovese Mexico 2009

Purple Angel Chile 2011

Desserts:

Rick Bayless’ Pineapple Flan with Lime Zest

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mango Dipped in Cayenne and Dark Chocolate

Tequila Pineapple

Raventos i Blanc Cava

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The setting was stunning.  Hosts Heather and Nalin have spent the year getting their house remodeled, so this fiesta was held in their super swanky Telegraph Hill rental.  The luxurious furnishings and to-die-for views of San Francisco added to the convivial atmosphere.

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Up next: cocktail hour! Come back soon to savor mixmaster Peter’s Mexican themed cocktails.

Comida Porteño: Postres (Desserts) Part Two– Tres Leches Cake

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Several weeks ago, I got overexcited and posted our first dessert, the classic Argentine alfajores.  If you missed it, please check it out— you can’t leave alfajores out of any discussion of Argentine food.  Several courses later, we’re now ready for tres leches cake.

“Tres Leches” means three types of milk, which evokes a comforting, childhood dessert.  This is what makes this a classic confection enjoyed throughout Latin America.  The three milks include condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, the combination of which are used to soak and cover a sponge cake.

I used a simple recipe from Fine Cooking, and garnished with some fresh raspberries.

Classic Vanilla Tres Leches Cake

by Fany Gerson from Fine Cooking, Issue 117

Serves 12 to 16

For the cake:

Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the soaking liquid:

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt
For the topping:

2-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Bake the cake:

1) Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

2) Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch Pyrex baking dish or a nonreactive metal pan. Line the bottom of the baking dish or pan with parchment and lightly butter the parchment.

3) Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

4) Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a medium bowl and the yolks in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined, 1 minute more.

5) Clean and dry the beaters and then beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed to high, until they reach soft peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to beat on high, until you reach firm but not dry peaks, 1 to 2 minutes more. Whisk a third of the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in a third of the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and egg whites, alternately, in two more batches each, until fully incorporated.

6) Pour the batter into the prepared dish or pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

7) Return the cake to the baking dish or pan (the cake will soak up more of the liquid if returned to the pan it was baked in), or invert it onto a rimmed platter.

Soak the cake:

1) In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and salt until the condensed milk is well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring to avoid scorching, until it begins to bubble around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof 4-cup measuring cup.

2) With a toothpick, prick the cake to the bottom in 1/2-inch intervals. Pour the soaking liquid slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Top the cake:

1) In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, slowly add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat just until it holds firm peaks, 3 to 4 minutes (be careful not to overbeat). Spread the whipped cream all over the top of the cake and serve.

Make Ahead Tips:

You can soak the cake in the milk mixture up to a day ahead and top it up to 2 hours ahead

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This post is the sweet ending to the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  ¡Muchas gracias! for joining us on this tour of Buenos Aires through food.  Ciao!

Comida Porteño: Parrilla– Bife de Ojo (Rib Eye) y Entraña (Skirt Steak) con Chimichurri Argentino

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Chef Chris is sharing our final course of our evening of comida porteño with the piece de resistance (wrong language): more meat.  Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?

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Parrillas are Argentinian steakhouses that specialize in grilled meats. Barbeque, or Asado, typically consists of beef cooked on a grill (parrilla) with an open flame.  Common cuts of beef used in parrillas include lomo (filet), ojo de bife (rib eye) or bife de chorizo (sirloin) as well as chorizo (sausage). The steaks are huge but relatively cheap by U.S. prices, usually for half or one-third the cost. The meat is simply seasoned with salt and pepper. No marinade is used so that nothing masks the flavor of the meat. The beef is cooked fairly slowly over medium heat. Argentines prefer their chargrilled meats to be a punto (medium). Side dishes are also simple and usually consist of a simple green salad and steak fries. We also had grilled provolone cheese (provoleta – a reflection of the Italian influence in Argentine cuisine) at a parrilla in Buenos Aires.

Recipe:

Serves 8

2 lbs rib eye steak

1.5 lbs skirt steak

Season meat with salt and pepper.

Fire up your grill so that all the burners/coals give off an even medium temperature. You want all your meat to be well browned and slightly crispy, but NOT blackened.

Cook rib eye for about 5 minutes per side depending on thickness. Skirt steak is thinner and will cook faster so needs about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from heat and let rest uncovered for 5 minutes.

Serve with chimichurri (see previous recipe) and a nice red wine such as a delicious Argentine malbec.

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This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Come back next week for the final recipe from our menu from Argentina!

Comida Porteño: Tarta Pascualina (Spinach Tart)

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What, vegetables? Si, our traditional Argentine meal has been authentically meat-heavy.  Pero Chef Chris surprised us towards us at the end with a lovely spinach and chard torta, with a delicate filling lusciously enrobed in golden flaky pastry.  Look what a fresh and lovely contrast it is to the assertive and equally lovely steak (coming next time!), which is keeping those green vegetables at a neighborly distance on their shared plate.

This is what Chef Chris had to say:

Tarta Pascualina– Spinach Ricotta Pie

Adapted from recipe on From Argentina with Love. In her blog, Rebecca states that Pascua is the word for Easter, so Tarta Pascualina literally means ‘Eastertime Tart’. What makes this dish extra-special is that under the crust, little wells have been made in the filling, and eggs are cracked into each well. When the Pascualina is served, each slice has a cross-sectioned hard-cooked egg in it.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

We used a combination of chard and spinach, about  a 50/50 split.

2 tarta shells or pie crusts (we purchased La Saltena at Evergreen Market in the Mission District, San Francisco. Look for hojaldrades style which makes a flakier crust)

1 bunch each of fresh spinach and chard, deveined and chopped into large pieces. (you can also use 2 packets of 9 oz. frozen spinach instead)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons milk

6-8 eggs

butter, for greasing pan

Technique

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Wash spinach/chard thoroughly. Steam in pot for a few minutes until just tender. Drain water and let cool. (or, defrost frozen spinach by heating in the microwave or in a pot on the stove top over medium heat.  Heat the spinach to defrost, but do not heat it up too hot.  Let cool before handling. Place the spinach in a linen towel, and squeeze out to drain the moisture from the spinach.  Not until it’s totally dry, leave a little moisture).

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the spinach/chard, crushed garlic, ricotta, and the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.  Season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper, and mix well to combine.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk, and add the milk mixture to the spinach and cheese mixture and stir well until incorporated.

4.  Traditionally, Tarta Pascualina  is made using a spring-form pan.  However, a regular pie plate also works fine.  Grease the bottom of your pie pan or spring form pan with butter.  Line the bottom of your pie plate or spring-form pan with one of the tarta shells.  Put the filling into the shell.  Make 6-8 indentations in the filling (about one inch apart, and one inch from the edge of the pan) and crack an egg into each indentation.

5.  Cover the pie with the other tarta crust.  Seal the edges by pinching together the two shells with your thumb and forefinger making an indentation, as you would seal an emapanada.  Slice a few vents in the top of the pie.  Optional: brush the top of the crust with beaten egg to give it shine.

6.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust has turned a golden brown on top.  Make sure not to undercook otherwise the crust will not be flaky.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

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This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Come back next week for another delicioso recipe from Argentina!

Comida Porteño: Choripan y Chimichurri

choripanOh, that locro was ¡que rico! But there was much more.  Chef Chris moved us quickly along to the heart and soul of Argentine cuisine: meat.  Up first, some sausages.  The Argentines have perfected the condiment which brings out the best in their wonderful meat dishes, the equally deliciously named chimichurri (which has an intriguing etymology, see below).  Hungry? Me, too.  Read on…

Choripan

Choripan is a sandwich with chorizo sausage and bread (pan = bread in Spanish), hence the name. We had choripan as an appetizer with asado (grilled meats) at several parrillas, the ubiquitous “steak houses” throughout Buenos Aires. It reminds me of really good Italian sausages I have had outside Fenway Park before a Red Sox game, but without the peppers and onions or mustard.  Similarly, choripan is eaten at Argentine football (or soccer) games. Argentine chorizo is normally made of pork or beef. Chorizo is often thought of as spicy but Argentine chorizo isn’t. Instead, red spicy chorizo is Spanish or Mexican chorizo.

Chorizo is cooked on an open flame grill and split down the middle lengthwise (butterflied). The high heat of the grill chars the meat and fat to delicious effect.  It is served on a grilled (toasted) soft and chewy roll, sort of a cross between a hot dog bun or dinner roll. In general, the bread we had in BA was excellent and this was no different. The typical accompaniment  is chimichurri which can be added sparingly or generously….very tasty! Chimichurri is made with garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar. The typical green chimichurri we see in the U.S. gets its color from an abundance of finely chopped parsley. The chimichurri we had in BA was often reddish from addition of minced red bell pepper.

Choripan

Serves 6-8

2 lbs uncooked Argentine chorizo sausage (we found at a local San Francisco grocery catering to Argentine products, Evergreen Market.)

8-12 rolls or hot dog style buns (we used dinner rolls from Acme Bread Co. purchased fresh at the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, CA)

Chimichurri sauce (we brought back packets of dried chimichurri spices that we received on our Parrilla Tour in Buenos Aires and reconstituted with olive oil and vinegar).

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Chimichurri

If you want to make from scratch here is a recipe from the blog Inside Buenos Aires posted by the Fierro Hotel Staff. They say that chimichurri is a traditional sauce made from herbs, garlic and vinegar that is used on meat at asados.  It is said that the name of the sauce comes from the British. Allegedly, the English men associated the spice-based sauce with curry, so when they wanted it they said “give me curry” which was locally understood as chimichurri.

Ingredients:

1 cup water

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 Tbsp coarse salt

1 Tbsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp thyme

1 Tbsp ground chili pepper

1 Bay leaf

Fresh parsley

5 garlic cloves, chopped

Preparation:

Heat the water, vinegar and salt until they boil.

Mix all the other ingredients except for the oil and incorporate them to the water mixture.

Allow to cool at room temperature.

Add the oil.

Store covered in a glass jar. Make it a few days ahead to enhance the flavor.

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This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Come back next week for another delicioso recipe from Argentina!