Monday, November 11, 2013


I was absolutely terrified.  I thought my husband would never speak to me again.   It was as if someone had just rang the bell for the start of the Food Network's Chopped challenge.  Not exactly our idea of a relaxing vacation cooking class.

Sharp knives and hot pots were swirling all around us, and participants were already forming alliances with each other.  "We'll take the pork.  You take the chicken. Go!"

I didn't understand what the rush was all about.  Perhaps the romanticism of reality cooking shows had overtaken their emotions.  We had plenty of time - at least three hours to create four different fillings for tacos.

The term too many cooks in the kitchen came to mind.  Quickly I shouted, "I'll take the veggie dish."  Good thing because my husband had already started working on it with Patty, the rock climber, from San Diego.

I dove into my role and began chopping an onion for the tomatillo and avocado salsa.  The kitchen at the Santa Fe School of Cooking was rocking.  Others seemed undaunted by the frenzy, but perhaps I am just used to cooking in my own kitchen.

After completing the salsa and taking a deep breath, we began our next culinary creation - potato, poblano chile and spinach taco filling.  It's sinfully rich as it is finished with heavy cream and Fontina cheese. Get the recipes below.

Me adding the finishing touches

Others in the group made Hot and Smoky Shrimp, Pork al Pastor and Chicken al Carbon. All of which turned out quite tasty.  Toward the end of class, we got a chance to make our own flour and corn tortillas. Feeling adventurous I grabbed the spatula and took command over the tortilla griddle imitating a cook in a Mexican Taqueria.

Learning how to make tortillas

Despite all of the chaos around us, we realized we were having a really good time with some fun folks from all over the country.

It was a good day after all with delicious food, but don't count on me to audition for Chopped any time soon.
Fresh Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa
Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

1 dozen tomatillos, soaked in warm water and husked
(We roasted ours for more flavor)
1 medium white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
2 or 3 fresh Serrano chiles, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 large ripe avocado, cubed
Juice from 2 or 3 limes
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste (We used honey instead to cut the acidity from the limes)
Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Quarter the tomatillos and place in the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to a course puree. Place the tomatillos, onion, garlic, chilies and cilantro in a bowl and stir to combine.  Add the avocado.  Season with lime juice, salt, sugar and drizzles of olive oil.  Let stand 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Potato, Poblano Chile and Spinach Tacos
Potato, Poblano Chile and Spinach Tacos
4 or 5 red or white potatoes
1 large white onion, diced
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bunches fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or marjoram
4 fresh Poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled and cut into quarter-inch strips
1 cup heavy cream or Mexican cream
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
Salt to taste
Corn tortillas

Peel potatoes and dice.  Cook in boiling water until potatoes are soft but not falling apart, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Heat oil in a medium-hot skillet.  Lightly brown onions.  Add garlic and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes more.  Add spinach a handful at a time, stirring with tongs to wilt.  When greens are wilted, add herbs, chiles and cream.
Cook on low boil, stirring constantly, until liquid is reduced by a third.  Stir in cheese and continue cooking until smooth and thick.  Add salt if needed.
Place in a serving dish along with a basket  of warm, corn tortillas. 


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