Sunday, February 4, 2007


When I heard that the pot-luck Superbowl party I was attending would have a Mexican theme, I was nervous. Number one, would I be expected to perform my world famous rendition of Un Elefante Se Balanceaba? And number two, how unacceptable would it be to just bring a bag full of Taco Bell? What about with extra mild sauce?

I'd literally never cooked a single Mexican dish before in my life. I wanted my contributions to be worthy of what
would prove to be a life-changing halftime show (seriously, I'll never be the same), but I am just horribly inept when it comes to the caliente. What I wound up putting together involved no tortillas, cheese, or meat, and would probably have been of questionable authenticity to my companions had they not drowned it all in Corona.

I decided to make The Homesick Texan's Texas Caviar. This stuff is so good, and it only gets better the longer it sits in your fridge. I love me some black eyed peas, and I basically made it according to her recipe except that I added about 400 times the cilantro. I also love me some cilantro. I can get behind any recipe where the instructions are "mix everything together."

Of course, I also managed to zero in on the single appropriately-themed recipe in Martha's Baking Handbook: Mexican Wedding Cookies. I love love love wedding cookies. You know those Danish wedding cookies that come in the giant pink box? Ridiculous. At my own wedding someday, I am planning to serve those with a side of more of those, followed by a special dessert made of stacks of those with a cup of more and more and more of those. Anyway, these are like that, except more...Mexicany.

Finally, I deep-fried a bunch of buttery dough and then rolled it around in cinnamon sugar. I am told these are called "churros" in Mexico, but I call them "worth the triple bypass."


Texas caviar From the Homesick Texan

4 cups of cooked black-eyed peas (or 2 16-oz cans), drained and rinsed of all juice
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 canned or fresh jalapeño chiles, chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes or 1 ripe, chopped tomato
3/4 cup olive oil
Juice from one lime
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced

Mix everything together, chill for four hours. Serve with tortill
a or corn chips.

Churros Adapted from Food & Wine

2 sticks unsalted butter ( 1/2 pound)
Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup sugar
1 quart vegetable oil, for frying
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil with the butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove from the heat, add the flour and stir vigorously until incorporated. Return to moderate heat and cook, stirring, until the dough pulls away from the side, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the dough at low speed for 1 minute, just until slightly cooled. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat in the eggs and egg white, one at a time. Transfer the dough to a bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil to 375°. Set a rack on a large baking sheet and cover with paper towels. In a pie plate, combine the cup of sugar with the cinnamon. Scoop the dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
5. Working quickly, squeeze 6-inch lengths of the dough into the hot oil, cutting them off with a knife. Fry no more than 8 churros at a time; they expand a bit as they cook. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once or twice, until browned, about 8 minutes. Drain the churros on the rack for 2 minutes, then toss with the cinnamon sugar in the pie plate.

Mexican Wedding Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Makes 6 dozen

1 c. pecan halves
2 c. confectioners' sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350ºF, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a food processor, combine pecans with 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar; pulse until nuts are finely ground. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar-nut mixture, flour and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough just comes together.

Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls; place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until cookies are pale on top and lightly browned on the bottom, 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool. Place remaining confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl and roll cookies in it to coat completely.