Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ima Prickly Pear

When I was a little girl my mother had a nickname for me when I was grumpy: Prickly Pear.  My husband latched onto this rather fiercely, and I have regretted sharing this from time to time.  Imagine my delight to realize that the leaf of this cactus is a favorite ingredient of mine in several Mexican dishes ~ nopales!  I have friends that love it, friends that hate it, and friends that resemble Adam Corolla's character in The Hammer, "Cactus? It's good if you go down in the desert.  But not if you can walk to the supermarket."  

I love conquering a new ingredient.  A couple of years ago, I happened upon nopales paddles in a Mexican market and bought them on a whim.  I had no idea how to cook them.  I didn't know how to prepare them, or flavor them.  I just knew that they looked like something very different from what I'd ever made before, and I wanted to learn them.  I Googled it, cooked them, asked around for new ways to cook them next time....I had crossed that bridge and was proud.  Ever since, I order them when I can and learn new ways to flavor them.  Last night, a friend who falls somewhere between the "hate it", and the Adam Corolla character, brought me a bag of nopalitos from her mom...cringing as she handed it to me, her nose scrunched up like my daughter as I tell her to fold laundry, or hold a dirty diaper.  

Today I set out to make Tacos con Nopales, which I have never made.  Or eaten.  I just knew that it was different from before, and I might possibly learn something.  

I found a recipe by Rick Bayless that included steak in the tacos which sounded promising.  By that time in the morning I had read a blog post by Marx Foods (who I love-love) on a beef roast with a Spiced Tomato Crust.  I set out to combine the two....but I also had to chose a different cut of meat, and therefore a different cooking method, to accommodate my budget of about seven pennies.  So I ended with, well, this:

Nopales boiled for 10 minutes in salted water, then rinsed in cold water

Nopales boiled (((again))) for 10 minutes, then drained and rinsed in cold water.  Set aside

Top Round steak, rubbed with a puree of sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), ground coriander, red pepper flakes, chipotle powder, garlic, salt, olive oil

Seared in a cast iron skillet for 3 minutes per side, rested for 10, sliced thin & then chopped

Reserved nopales & beef combined

Blue corn tortilla, beef mixture, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro, crema, cotija cheese

Oopay ~ tell me it looks yucky.  Tell me.

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