Sunday, February 23, 2014

Guest Chef- Slinging Mexican, Italian style, by an Irishman- this cannot go wrong !!

As you know, I LOVE sharing not only mine and the Chef's cooking, but highlighting friends and other foodies that are part of our lives. There are MANY. My friend-family includes such a diverse group of people you'd be amazed. The professional. The students. The attorney. The nurses. The doctor. The blue collar workers. The bums. The musicians. The stay home moms. Grandparents and new parents. I enjoy the company of many many people- it makes life interesting, and along with such a diverse group of friends is an extremely adventurous and varied menu of food items that I get to enjoy throughout the years.

For example, the friend whose goal right now is the launch of a fantastic grilled sandwich business. Believe me, as soon as that is up and serving, you will be the first to know !! Tasting shall commence! I have Asian friends who cook some of the most incredible food that I am totally useless at mastering. My friends include cookbook authors, bloggers, reviewers, restaurant critics and some of the best home cooks you will ever meet.

Every once in a while, someone will surprise you. As a human, we can't help but occasionally judge a book by it's cover. It happens. You wouldn't expect a glam/punk Irish rocker man to be an ace in the kitchen if he isn't belting out tunes in some raunchy punk club. You just wouldn't. But low and behold, I happen to know just such a person....... my good good friend Dizzy (whose real name is super secret and I'll never tell). Dizzy and I share two passions- music and food. Real food. Like me, dreams of being a chef have also been a part of his plan, and I'm always hoping he achieves that goal. I think he belongs on tv cooking, but....... he may not agree. I know he will make an impact on the culinary world when the time is right. He has too much talent to NOT.

Anyway, he often shares his kitchen masterpieces with the world on his blog, Gutbombs. Cooking, restaurant reviews, an interesting mix of all that makes up this complex character. Music selections that are so incredibly different it's like an education everyday. "What will Dizzy play for me today?" I often wonder. Just the other day he shared a picture of a recipe he had "thrown together" and it was just too good to NOT share with all of you guys. Familiar flavors, an interesting twist on a classic, it's something cooks of just about all skill level can make.

Sadly, my friend now lives far away and we won't be able to share the kitchen and cook this together, but he has shared  his idea and recipe with me and I am going to recreate it and hopefully, do it as well as the originator. So with that in mind....... let's get ready for the ...........drumroll please.............

Irishman's Mexican Lasagna

You are going to need:
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb chorizo
  • red and green onions
  • an ear or two of sweet corn (see note about corn)
  • canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • large can enchilada sauce
  • tomatoes and green chiles (Rotel- large can)
  • an "irresponsible and irrational amount of cheese" - yes he really said that
  • lasagna noodles (I am going with the no boil kind because they are easier)
  • salsa, sour cream , cilantro for finishing if desired
Before you start the big prep for this dish, we have a corn situation to deal with. Corn brings a unique texture and sweetness to dishes and fits PERFECTLY with this flavor profile. BUT- we don't want to just throw a can of Green Giant Niblets in there. Oh no. A Dizzy Dish is a masterpiece and has unexpected twists and turns to keep you wondering how that guy does it !! You're going to need to prep your corn, and this can be done in several different ways. The goal is roasted sweet corn with little browned and charred bits to add a smoky depth to the dish. You can do this lots of ways- fresh or frozen corn on the cob- brush with a little oil and broil it, turning often. Roast it over an open flame on your stovetop or grill. Use a grill pan or skillet. Any of those will work as long as you get a little bit of browning and caramelizing going on. If you have to use kernel corn, that's ok too- heat a little oil in a skillet and it'll serve just as well. Set that aside to cool so you can cut it off the cobs and then head on over to the meat.

Break up and brown the ground beef with about half of the chopped red onion. Add the chorizo as well. 

Now, depending on the TYPE of chorizo you have you will either be breaking it up like the burger OR dicing it into teeny cubes. Get that going so the chorizo browns up nicely.

Drain off any grease. Add beans, corn, enchilada sauce and Rotel to the pan, cover and simmer. Add about three big handfuls of cheese to sauce and mix in well.

At this point I'm going to talk about seasoning. Because of the addition of chorizo, and your own particular taste buds, you may or may not want to add something a little Mexicany here. I generally avoid commercial taco seasoning in favor of individual spices such as a dash of cumin or chili powder. This is up to you and consider who your serving as well. I've been known to throw a big blob of crushed ghost chile into dishes but then that rules out about 99% of my friends from trying it out. I added NOTHING extra as far as seasoning and the combo of spicy chorizo and Rotel was just perfect.

The rest is easy for anyone who has ever made a lasagna before- start building your dish. Sauce, noodles,  sauce, noodles,  etc until you have filled the pan or run out of sauce. Since this is Mexican inspired, for cheese I would go with a mix of Monterrey Jack, some mild cheddar, maybe queso fresco, maybe pepper jack..... if I'm really wanting some kick. The most important thing to remember is to make sure you END with sauce on top. For now anyway, especially if you're using the no boil noodles or you went crazy overboard and used tortillas (which would also be amazing in this dish). MAKE SURE you save a big pile of cheese for the top !!!!!

Cover the pan loosely with foil and pop in the oven. 350 degrees and an hour or so should get you thoroughly heated and bubbly if you have a typical 9x13 pan. If not, replace the foil and go a little longer. Once the lasagna is piping hot all through, remove foil, cover with a mountain of that insane amount of cheese that you reserved. Back into the oven, or pop under the broiler, to melt and brown up that cheese.

After you have removed from the oven, standing time is vitally important here. You didn't make those layers just to have to scoop it out like a sloppy lunch lady in a prison dining room. Let it rest and firm up just a bit before cutting and serving. You'll appreciate the view so much more.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, sliced green onions and the remaining red onion, and chopped fresh cilantro. I'm thinking a margarita alongside is pretty much a requirement but that's your call.

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