With either the Mayan-predicted end of the world, or the beginning of a new age of enlightenment fast approaching, a day of furious cooking led to the (almost) completion of the planned Mayan menu. We were ready for the 13th B'ak'tun Bacchanalia.
Attending our little soirée at Rancho Winslow were El Lotto Bionico (me), Chris (AKA “CBoy”), Princess Di, Winslow spawn Sarah (who jetted in from Ft. Lauderdale), Jules, Rob “Empty Leg” Abraham, Phillip and Miss Loretta, Wally and Debbie, and Dr. Phil and the charming Cookie; a frisky and exuberant group ready to celebrate.
The bar was stocked with Bohemia, Noche Buena, and Indio (all excellent Mexican beers) and all the fixins to make batches of a mixology-oriented La Paloma cocktail, made with Herradura Blanco, a grapefruit-infused agave simple syrup, Bitterman’s Grapefruit Bitters, tart Key lime juice, Ruby Red grapefruit juice, and Topo Chico Agua Mineral con Gas (the bubbliest of all seltzers). Dr. Phil showed up with a bottle of Herradura Añejo, which we tapped late into the night, for a sip-and-chat session. Rob served ably as group bartender, and everyone got reasonably snockered.
For an appetizer, I had made a big bowl of Sikil P'aak, an ancient Mayan dip of roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and fire-charred tomatoes, tomatillos, serranos, garlic, and onion, all blended with sour orange juice and chicken stock. I backed off the chicken stock called-for because I was worried it would thin it out too much and subbed some Caldo de Pollo bouillon powder by Knorr. This dip was the ancient precursor of the pumpkin and squash seed-based pepian mole sauces to follow. I had never made it before and didn’t really know what to expect, but when I tasted it, it seemed like a really delicious Mayan hummus. We ate it with the tostados (actually known as totopos in Mexico) that we got from Tortilleria Rio Grande II on Wm. Cannon, just east of S. First. They are the best totopos in ATX, and Cookie, who grew up in Laredo and should know these things, agreed. The entire large bowl vanished. Everybody loved this dip and it will be made many more times.
The delectable Sopa de Lima con Pavo soup was made using the frame of the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and I simmered the rich stock for three hours. One tiny habanero heated up the huge pot, but it was rich, loaded with vegetables (including chayote), and tart from the Mexican lime juice. I had planned on making a batch of chilmole - AKA recado negro, otherwise known as “burnt” chile paste - but the soup was already near the limits of what most of the diners could handle spice-wise.
Along with the fresh tortillas from TRG II, there were three condiments and two salads. I made a batch of the obligatory cebollas encurtados, Yucatecan pickled red onions with sour orange juice, garlic, allspice, clove, Mexican oregano, pepper, and vinegar; essential in balancing the richness of cochinita pibil. I also made a batch of xnipec (aka “Dog's Nose” Salsa), a fresh salsa of homegrown tomato, red onion, garlic, güero and habanero chiles, sour orange juice, cilantro, a splash of vinegar, pinch of sugar, and salt. This stuff is great on anything. I bought a bottle of El Yucateco’s K'uut Bi Ik Salsa, made from pounded dried habanero and ancho chiles, charred onion and garlic, water, salt, and a pinch of sugar; very spicy and fantastic.
The salads were ensalada zek, with Mandarin orange segments and diced jicama, cucumber, sour orange juice, olive oil, and garlic, and we had a bottle of Tajin Classico seasoning to sprinkle over it, made from pequin chile powder, dehydrated lime peel and salt. Very tasty and surprisingly, several of the folks had never eaten jicama, that tuber with the crispness of raw potato and a slight apple flavor. Zic de carne is a Mayan salad of braised, shredded skirt steak braised in an aromatic broth with scallion, garlic, chiles, green olives, radish, and cilantro, dressed with sour orange juice; it’s called a salpicón in Mexico, and can be eaten as a salad, a taco, or a snack. Mayans eat really good food.
The pork shoulder for the cochinita pibil was marinated in achiote paste (made from annatto seeds), sour orange juice, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, güero and habanero chiles and wrapped in fresh banana leaves that had been softened over the fire. It was all wrapped up and baked until tender, and then Wally did the honor of shredding the tasty meat for the tacos.
On the side was a big pot of lentejas Yucatecas, lentils made with vegetables, chicken stock, bacon, and pork (and a little chile, of course), and arroz verde, rice which gets sautéed before it gets steamed with fire-roasted poblanos and garlic, scallions, cilantro, parsley, lime zest, and chicken stock. Two yummy sides appropriate for the feast.
The buffet was set and the feeding frenzy commenced, and I got quite a few hurrahs from the crowd. We stayed up until 2am waiting for the end of the world, nipping straight añejo tequila and brandy (not mixed together), and after witnessing neither a new awakening nor an apocalypse, we went off to slumber with bellies full of Mayan fare and spirit.
We still had the pobre caballero to do, and Di decided after the dinner that she would make it the next morning for brunch. The recipe calls for slices of baguette to be soaked like French bread, dipped in beaten egg white, like a chile relleno, and then fried. This produces the best French bread ever, and it’s a technique that should be adopted by all.
Once it is fried, the slices get layered into a casserole and then drizzled with syrup made from piloncillo (Mexican cane sugar), spices, brandy, and pecans. The syrup seemed like twice too much the required volume, so we only used half of it (recipe has been edited to reduce the volume). It bakes and then gets drizzled with a brandy butter sauce, which we decided we didn’t need for breakfast. I expected heavy, syrup-laden soggy bread, but we loved this dessert, finding it not too sweet, and much lighter than we expected. Highly recommended.
All in all, it was a really fun party and I’m fairly certain that everyone loved the food and drink. I was pretty sure that the world wasn’t going to end, and that proved to be correct, but hopefully the other prediction will come true: the birth of a new age of enlightenment as we plunge into the beginning of the 14th B’ak’tun of the Mayan calendar.
For the complete menu and recipes, go here.
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