La cena para las sobrinas y el sobrino

My in-town nieces and nephew are all scattering to the winds (maybe one is staying) and we had a group meal before they flee for various parts of the country. 

There were 2 kinds of homemade, or homemade-ish, salsa. House-made guacamole (my sister Peggy’s recipe), burritos or enchiladas, I’m not sure which they were more like, so they qualify as more Mexican-ish than technically Mexican. Plus grilled chicken tacos, salad, tostones and chocolate bread pudding.

In the frantic preparations, nothing is ever easy, I didn’t really stop to take pictures. 

The burrito/enchilada things were pulled pork, peppers and jack cheese. Of course, I have to shred my own cheese but then resorted to bottled taco sauce. I wasn’t really even sure what that stuff was—I will have to work on that. I poured the sauce over the top and then covered it with more jack and cotija cheese. I may have tossed in a little provolone left over from a recent pizza excursion. 

I dry rubbed the bnls sknls (I always like that abbreviation on chicken packaging) chicken thighs with taco seasonings. From an envelope. I know. But I had it so I used it. But I added some miracle chili powder (only Spice House, the best, thank you very much) and nonfat dry milk. I gleaned this tip from my hours of Cook’s Complicated, er, Illustrated TV viewing. It makes for a good Maillard reaction. And then grilled them. This is the first time I’ve done that and it really works well. Served it with corn tortillas.

The salad, no pic, was shredded lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, onion, corn, olives, pickled jalapeños and cotija cheese tossed with lime vinaigrette. And it was perfect on the grilled chicken on corn-tortilla taco, all topped with Mexican crema.

There were also the tostones. And then for dessert, wait for it, chocolate bread pudding. This doesn’t sound that Mexican, though chocolate is as Mexican as it gets, I used coconut milk in the custard and served it with caramelized bananas in caramel sauce and topped that with vanilla mascarpone crema. OK, that’s Italian but but it was over the top delicious. Sobre la parte superior deliciosa. This does not translate as nicely as one might like.


I made tostones in my restaurant. Actually, I never made them. Someone else did but I was very aware that they were pain in the ass. Peeling the plantains is bad enough. They don’t peel like bananas even when they’re ripe. So they have to be peeled. And they are sticky. Then they have to be deep fried in chunks, and then crushed and refried. It’s a freaking rigmarole. I have no idea who would ever have thought to do this in the first place.

But the in-town nieces and nephew were coming over for dinner so I had to go all out. A Mexican meal with tostones. No one doesn’t like them. And why not when someone else is making them.

We served them on black beans like they do at Antigua Real in Mukwonago but instead of the chocolate mole sauce, I put chocolate in the beans. I can’t say they were as good as Antigua Real, but they were good.

There were dollops of Mexican crema on them for the extra deliciousness factor.

The first Key Lime pie of the season

Actually it’s Atlantic City pie since I used a soda cracker crust but everything else is the same. I made this for my in-town nieces and nephew. For a recent get together. And it was awesome. If I do say so myself. But then, there is no magic in key lime pie. There is only one way to make it.

Vegetarian lasagna

I made vegetarian lasagna as one of the Christmas options. (There was also a chicken and a mixed meat, respectively.) I made one end of the vegetarian lasagna vegan. If that sort of thing is legal in a vegan world. My vegan niece, Bridget, did not complain, in any event. Although she is not a complainer anyway.

Her sister, Maureen, the vegetarian, shared the other, real cheese part and while she is not a complainer either, I know she does not like mushrooms which I realized just 2 seconds after I had sliced and tossed about 2 or 3 into the artichoke-spinach filling. I have to think of something to do with the ones that I sliced but that didn’t make it onto the pot.

And if she hit one of the 3 or 4 slices of mushroom in there she didn’t mention it.