Friday, October 12, 2007

Regina Schrambling's Salpicón

This was one of those confusing weather weeks where I found myself wearing flip flops and short sleeves and socks and sweaters on the same day. I stared blankly into my closet each morning hoping that I could find something to wear that would be comfortable throughout a busy day, but not leave me sweltering or shivering at any given moment.

Likewise, at this time of year I also stare blankly into my refrigerator hoping for some meal inspiration – something that is substantial enough for a crisp October evening, yet still leaves me with the feeling that I didn’t overindulge.

With that dilemma on my mind, I was thrilled to see Regina Schrambling’s article on pot luck dinners in the L.A. Times (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, October 3, 2007) and especially intrigued by her recipe for Salpicón – “A Mexican classic not often seen outside of El Paso, TX.” As a lifelong Californian, I consider myself fairly fluent in the realm of Mexican food, but this was a dish I had never seen listed on a menu. Some quick internet research revealed that Salpicón is a salad that originated in Chile, but I found variations from several Latin American countries.

Off to the market I went to buy my first chuck roast of the season. I seasoned it according to the recipe and popped it into the oven for the long slow braising process. As it cooked I continued the never ending process of sorting piles in the garage and each time I came back into the house I was greeted by the most glorious scent of beef roasting with onions, cumin and oregano.

While the roast cooled down enough for me to shred it, I chopped the last of the summer season’s beautiful tomatoes along with cucumbers, cheese, avocados and cilantro. As I stirred together the dressing ingredients, I was pleased that the last time I bought a can of chipotles in adobo sauce (and only needed two of them) I had decided to divide the remaining chiles into baggies and freeze them.

My husband warmed some corn tortillas on the stove while I assembled the salad and the kids set the table. We all enjoyed the Salpicón soft-taco style first and then ventured off into our own specialized method. Besides the original way, my favorite was using one of the lettuce leaves to make a wrap.

The next day for lunch, I scooped some over lettuce and added fresh avocado to make a salad. My husband warmed up the mixture in the microwave and stuffed the it into a heated a tortilla with fabulous results. As you would imagine, the heat really perked up the flavors and the melted cheese added another tasty dimension to an already yummy dish.

All in all, Salpicón was the perfect answer to my seasonal dinner dilemma, but I still don’t know what to wear.

Regina Schrambling’s Salpicón
Los Angeles Times – October 3, 2007

3 pounds beef brisket
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef broth
Juice of 3 limes, divided
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
1/3 cup corn oil
3 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 ounces Colby Longhorn cheese, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 large bunch green onions, green part only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and finely diced
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
1 head leaf lettuce such as Boston or red leaf, washed

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Season the brisket all over with salt to taste, cumin and oregano.

2. Lay the onion into a baking dish large enough to hold the meat. Add the peppercorns and bay leaf. Lay the brisket on top. Pour the beef broth around it. Cover the pan and bake until the meat is very tender and shreds easily, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove from the pan to a cutting board and let stand until the meat is cool enough to handle.

3. Combine the juice from 2 1/2 limes with the chipotles and corn oil in a bowl and whisk to blend.

4. Cut the brisket crosswise into strips 1 inch wide. Remove the extra fat. Using two forks, or your fingers, separate the meat into thin shreds. Place in a large bowl and pour the lime mixture over the meat. Toss to coat. Add the jalapenos, cucumber, cheese, green onions, cilantro and tomato. Toss to combine. Season with salt, to taste. Refrigerate if not serving the salpicón immediately.

5. Just before serving, gently mix in the diced avocados. Season to taste, and add additional lime juice if desired. Serve in a large bowl lined with lettuce leaves.

Each of 10 servings: 409 calories; 36 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 26 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 80 mg. cholesterol; 191 mg. sodium.

Total time: About 4 hours
Servings: 8 to 10

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