Tag Archives: mexican food

Kids in the Kitchen: Grilled Octopus and Shrimp in Escabeche, and Fried Plantains

brandan octopusAs it is often said, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. As was the case tonight.

This week was Brandan’s turn in the kitchen. Brandan is a foodie-in-training, with an intense desire to explore unique and adventurous foods – the more “bizarre” in his mind, the more he wants to try it! He chose Mexico as his country; one of my favorite cuisines. We started to discuss what he wished to make. Immediately, he exclaims “Octopus!” I knew octopus was consumed in Mexico; I just had to dig and find a suitable recipe. Luckily for me, Rick Bayless and his wonderful book Mexico – One Plate at a Time provided great inspiration. A recipe on page 249 – Seared Fish Fillets in Escabeche – had a variation that called for octopus. Brandan wished to grill the octopus, however. Not to worry, I knew that Peter at Kalofagas.ca posted a Greek grilled octopus recipe a while back that intrigued me. So Brandan and I set off to grill octopus and shrimp, and serve it with escabeche, Mexican white rice (also courtesy of Rick Bayless) and fried plantains.

grilled octopus, waiting to be served

grilled octopus, waiting to be served

Unfortunately, as much as both Brandan and I were excited about the idea of octopus, (Brandan had never tried octopus; I only ate it a time or two at a sushi restaurant) the end result was far from exciting. In fact, the dish was a big FAIL. I am unsure if it was as a result of my lack of knowledge on how to prepare octopus (I braised the octopus in its own liquid for about 50 minutes, until fork-tender, and then grilled it), or if our family just plain doesn’t like grilled octopus, but we ended up tossing most of the dish. I don’t blame Peter or Rick Bayless, of course, it’s likely my improvisation just came back to bite me on this one! (And on a side note, the escabeche portion of the dish was tasty.)

Brandan chopping up carrots for escabeche

Brandan chopping up carrots for escabeche

One part of the dish did shine, however. The fried plantains, which I’ve prepared numerous times, were delicious. Of course, fried plantains hardly need a recipe. Basically, you place about 2 tablespoons of oil in a hot pan (I used my trusty cast iron skillet), and once you bring it to medium-high heat, add 2-3 peeled and sliced plantains in a single layer. Allow to cook without moving for a minute or two, or until a golden crust forms on the plantain. Flip over and fry the other side of the plantain slices for 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle with a touch of salt, or if you really want to get fancy, sprinkle with some cotija cheese. That’s it. They are wonderfully crisp on the exterior, with a creamy-sweet interior. Quite addictive.

fried plantains

All in all, Brandan and I did learn something through our experience with the failed octopus dish. It never hurts to try something new, and it’s perfectly okay if it doesn’t turn out. We’re not discouraged, we’ll just try something new again next time!


Filed under Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Seafood, Side Dishes

Gorditas with Shredded Beef (Gorditas con Carne Deshebrada)


Have I told you before that I love Mexican food? Well, in case you didn’t hear…I love Mexican food. I could eat it every day. Around here, of course, the most abundant “Mexican” food is Tex-Mex. Gooey, cheesy enchiladas, crunchy tacos, chile con queso and lots of flour tortillas. Not that there’s anything wrong with that cuisine, but sometimes I want real Mexican food. When this craving hits, I often turn to my Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayless cookbooks.

This recipe was the result of one such craving. Didn’t know what I wanted, but I started thumbing through Rick Bayless’s Mexico One Plate At A Time, and stopped at this gorditas recipe. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to experience true gorditas (once or twice at a hole-in-the-wall place – of which I cannot remember the name – in Oak Cliff), but I knew I just had to make these. Crispy corn masa pockets, stuffed with a saucy shredded beef? What could be more wonderful than that?

Of course, this is not a quick recipe. Not for the weeknights when you want something on the table in a flash. (You could, however, make the beef ahead of time, and even go so far as pan-bake the gorditas and refrigerate until you were ready to fry up the gorditas.) However, if you have the time, I highly recommend making these…they are so worth it. The meat is saucy, with just a hint of heat, very savory. I substituted Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix for the flour, and the gorditas came out with a great, slightly chewy and crisp texture. As for the filling, feel free to experiment a bit. If you have leftover shredded pork or chicken, use that. (with a tomatillo salsa, perhaps?) I contemplated a grilled shrimp and cheese concoction, I might have to make that soon. Or you could go vegetarian, with some mushrooms, or a mix of sauteed poblanos and cheese…the possibilities are endless. If you do come up with a good idea (or two), tell me! I’d love to hear about it.

(Adapted From Rick Bayless’s Mexico: One Plate At A Time)

For the beef:

1 1/2 lbs boneless beef chuck steak, cut into 4 pieces

3 small white onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 T vegetable oil, plus oil to a depth of 1/2 inch for frying

1 28-0z can of good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped (I pureed them)

3 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

1 t chipotle chili powder

Salt to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the meat with 2 quarts salted water, about 1/3 of the onions and 1/2 the garlic. Simmer until meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Strain, reserving the broth for another use. When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into coarse strands with your fingers or two forks.

Wash and dry the saucepan, set over medium heat, and add the 1 tablespoon oil. When hot, add 1/2 of the remaining onions and cook until golden, about 6 minutes, then stir in the remaining garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, chiles, and chipotle powder and cook until most of the juice has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the meat and simmer for a few more minutes. Taste and season with salt as needed. Keep warm.

For the gorditas:

1 3/4 c powdered masa harina mixed with 1 c plus 2 T warm water

1/3 c Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 c grated Mexican queso anejo (can substitute grated Romano or Parmesan)

1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro

Heat a heavy cast-iron or other heavy nonstick griddle over medium. Knead the masa to make it pliable, adding a little water if necessary to achieve a soft-cookie-dough consistency. Knead in the Pamela’s baking mix, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Divide the dough into 10 portions and roll into balls; cover with plastic to keep from drying out.

Line a tortilla press with two pieces of plastic cut to fit the plates (a food storage bag works well for this). Gently press a ball of dough between the sheets of plastic to about 4 inches in diameter (about 1/4 inch thick). Peel off the top sheet of plastic, flip the gordita, uncovered side down, onto the fingers of one hand and gently peel off the second piece of plastic. In one flowing movement, roll the gordita off your hand and onto the heated skillet. Bake for 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and bake for 1 1/2 minutes on the other side. The gordita will be lightly browned and crusty on the top and bottom, but still a little uncooked on the sides. Remove and set on a plate. Repeat this process with the remaining gorditas.

In the cast-iron or other deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil over medium to medium-high until the oil is at about 350 degrees. One by one, fry the gorditas, turning them over after they have been in the oil about 15 seconds, and cooking them for a total of about 45 second, or until crisp but not hard. Most will have puffed up a little. Drain on paper towels.

Once the are all fried, use a knife to cut a slit in the thin edge of each one about halfway around its circumference, opening a pocket. Fill each gordita with about 1/4 cup shredded meat, a little onion, grated cheese, and cilantro.

Serves 10 as a snack, or 4-5 as a meal.


Filed under Appetizers, Beef, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes