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MARTIN

 

 
Recipes from Mexico
 

Tacos. Tortillas. Burritos. Enchiladas. Just mentioning Mexican food makes me salivate. So, I really looked forward to figuring out what I would discover for this section of my travels. And then I heard about a local story in Piedras Negras. I didn't think it could be true when I first heard it, but my new Mexican friends assured me that it was.

One night in 1943, after the old Victory Club had closed up for the evening, a few tourists showed up at the door. It had been a long day. The staff had already gone home for the evening. But, the chef Ignacio Anaya was still there and the people were really hungry. He just couldn't turn them away. But, what to feed them?

The man sliced up some corn tortillas, tossed them into a deep fryer, garnished them with cheese and jalapenos, and nachos were invented. Like I said, it's a great story. And if it is true, I'm fairly certain Ignacio never got a share of the profits that nachos generate at movie theaters around the globe. However, nachos are a claim to fame for Piedras Negras and the city has a festival to celebrate the treat.

As for the name nachos? Well, according to my research, in that part of Mexico, a nickname for someone named Ignacio is Nacho.

I'm not about to make my own tortillas or nachos. However, my mission was clear. My goal was to learn how to make picante salsa, guacamole and cheese dip for the nachos I do buy. So on my last afternoon in Mexico, after days of incredible Mexican food (is there any other kind?) I sat down with two of my hosts to gather the necessary recipes.

Salsa Picante
the right way, from the home of the Nachos

  5 big tomatoes   10 jalapeno peppers
  1 minced garlic   a bit of olive oil
   

This was so much simpler than I ever imagined when I learned it only had so few ingredients. Rub the tomatoes and peppers in oil. Grill them until they are a little soft and then turn them over. Depending on the flame, you'll need about ten to fifteen minutes a side.

My only concern about this is I'm not a griller. Never have been. The box with a grill sits in my garage gathering dust. I needed to know if you could fry them up in a pan. Well, yes, you could do that or even oven grill them. However, I was assured that it was "mas rico" (richer in flavor) if you used the grill. I must learn.

When everything is grilled properly, toss it into a blender (with the oil) and mix it up. That's it. Well, you might want to make sure the blender lid is secure.

Guacamole
again, the right way, from the home of the Nachos

       
  3 avocadoes 1 tomato
  onion dash of salt
       

I know there are lots of variations for guacamole. This one is tried, tested and so devoured all over Piedras Negras. I had it several times. And, once again, it is an easy recipe.

Peal your avocadoes. Then, dice them and smash them up. Use a potato masher and go for it. When it's as smashed up as it's going to get, add the diced tomato, very diced onion bits and a dash of salt. Devour quickly, as if you need to be told that!

Now, if you want a Texas twist to your guacamole, double the onions and add 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of sour cream and a diced jalapeno pepper. I'm salivating again. Keep napkins close by as you make this.

Cheese Dip
the real, authentic Mexican way

I wanted to know the exact cheese and procedures used by these women I met. I wanted to be sure to get it right. These women were amazing in the kitchen and I wanted to finally reveal the mystery. And, I got it.

If you want to enjoy your nachos with cheese the way Mexicans do, go to the store and buy your cheese dip. If it isn't hot enough, you can add some more jalapeno peppers, but there is no need for any more fuss than this. I love this recipe!

Now, if nachos don't "float your boat", well, you must be crazy. However, not to worry with your insanity. I had another new treat at a Mexican barbeque. It was grilled cactus. And, according the recipe I was told, it's a fairly easy process.

First, go out into the field and cut down some cactus. They really did prepare it this way. I'm told you can go to the store to buy your cactus, but mine was freshly cut down in the field for me. Then, you peel off the cactus spines with a knife. I'm not sure how that is done without a lot of pain in the process. If you are truly insane, I guess you could skip this step.

Squeeze lemon juice over the cactus and grill it. It's that simple. I was told it sort of tastes like fried green tomatoes. I can offer no opinion on that because I may eat cactus, but I'd never eat fried green tomatoes.

MARTIN
Copyright 2011 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.