Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine's Day and Anniversary

So, one post every three months, eh Internet? And I still owe you like ten posts about our amaaaazing Mexico vacation, I know. Kinda thinking that's not going to happen at this point - but I have related food news to share! Good enough? No?

I think it's a testament to the incredible teachers at Mexican Home Cooking school that we have cooked half a dozen recipes from our dandy little books since returning home, and enjoyed every one. We have a jar of preserved chipotles in the fridge, ready to be chopped and mixed with cream cheese at the first sign of company. Josh's incredible grandma Sylvia's 90th birthday was a couple weeks ago, and we took the day off and drove North with bubbling pots of arroz con pérejil (parsley rice), frijoles negros (black beans), and pipián rojo con pollo (chicken in a mild red sauce with cinnamon and clove), plus tortillas and suspiros de novia (sighs of the bride, fried flour cakes soaked in lime syrup. Dinner with Bum (funny nickname, I know!) and Josh's parents was lovely, and everyone seemed to like the food.

Then came our anniversary, and the one restaurant we actually wanted to try was closed - for the whole week of Valentine's Day! Who does that?! So since it was a weeknight we decided to cook in. I headed to Central Market for the fixins of a quick, but luxurious weeknight meal: scallops (thanks for the tips, and freebies, Seafood Guy!), Swiss chard, chocolate truffles, and BACON! Here's how it went down: Josh cooked bacon bits while I seared off the scallops and put a salad together. Then he took the bacon out of the pan and I added the clean chard, dressed the salad with homemade ranch, and we set the table together - including a bottle of the wine we drank at our wedding four years before.

The food was delicious, if I do say so...scallops cooked perfectly, simple chard with bacon bits, and a salad that tasted like a BLT. But there was something else, too, something about being in our house, in the Northwest, in the U.S.A., with no plans to move any time soon - this was the first time we've had that in our marriage. It felt settled and lovely and calm, and was definitely the best anniversary we've had yet.

Three days later comes Valentine's Day, like clockwork. We decided to avoid the restaurant crush (well, I reluctantly agreed when Josh promised to make my Mom's famous key lime cheesecake for me) and eat in. It being a long weekend, and a special day, we decided to make mole poblano.

Mole poblano. moh-leh-poh-blah-noh.'ve had this, right? This sweet and spicy, deep dark meat-in-sauce Mexican tradition, complete with a bar of abuelita chocolate? Holy majoley. It was one of the best dishes we made and ate in Tlaxcala, and hey - meat and chiles and chocolate? Perfect for Valentine's Day.

Thing is, those flavors are complex because they're made of a zillion ingredients, each requiring its own step in cooking. Here's a smattering:
*wipe down, cut open, seed and flay fourteen dried chiles
*fry each of the following, individually and quickly, in the same oil: plantain slices, raisins, toasted sesame seeds (you did remember to toast those, didn't you?), cumin, anise, clove, cinnamon, peanuts, almonds, and more..
*puree those with toasted tortillas and bread, then fry the puree and stir constantly for half an hour
*puree the chiles in stock and stir it into the other puree, then stir for half an hour
*stir some other crap in there and stir for six days
*add the chocolate and repeat

Okay, so it's not six days. But while Josh occupied himself otherwise, I did end up standing at the stove, stirring, for the better part of two hours. But Internet? It was worth it.I can't describe the deliciousness. It's not the easiest dish to photograph, but the combination of those quick-fried and long-simmered nuts, seeds, and spices with the delicate heat from ancho and mulatto chiles and the depth of the chocolate - all we added was a little shredded lettuce and a corn tortilla, and our Valentine's luuurve was doing a little simmering of its own.

And the cheesecake? We shall not speak of the cheesecake. Suffice to say that it is NOT Mexican, it is NOT healthy, and it is NOT in the house anymore since we ate every last crumb of it almost immediately.

Salud, people.