We wanted to take my mom out to a fancy restaurant for her birthday, but she asked us to cook instead. My mom is my biggest fan as a chef, which of course makes it even more fun for me. Lon and I decided on a Latin-inspired menu.

The menu:

  • Picadillo Phyllo Triangles
  • Baja Fish Taco Cups
  • Jicama and Orange Salad with Cumin Dressing
  • Paella
  • Triple Layer Devil’s Food Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

For the Picadillo Phyllo Triangles, Lon made the Picadillo. First he sauteed a large yellow onion (diced) and five diced garlic cloves in a third cup of olive oil plus plenty of kosher salt and black pepper. Once soft, he added the ground beef and six bay leaves, breaking up the meat as it cooked. Once the meat was almost cooked, he carmelized half a can of tomato paste, then deglazed with red wine vinegar. To finish he cooked it down (for about 30 minuites) with chopped capers (and brine), diced tomatoes, plenty of chili powder and cayenne powder.

I had some left over maduros and store-bought phyllo dough. To assemble, cut the phyllo into approximately 2-inch strips. Lay one strip down and brush with melted butter. Lay another strip on top and brush with butter. Lay the 3rd strip on top and then place a little piece of maduros and a little picadillo at one end. Fold over to make a triangle shape and roll triangle over triangle till you reach the end. Brush a little melted butter at the end to stick it to the triangle. I made the triangles the day before and froze them. To serve, bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes.

The Baja Fish Tacos is one of my favorite ideas ever. The presentation is adorable and all the ingredients can be prepared the day before and assembled before serving. Lon marinated swordfish (for about 90 minutes) in a dressing made of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice, olive oil, diced garlic, ground onion, salt, pepper, cayenne powder, and ancho chili powder. The fish is grilled, cooled, and cut into small dice. I made a Spicy Mango Salsa (1/2 the recipe) with only half the amount of ginger. We bought Tostitos Baked Scoops. To assemble, put a little fish in each cup and top with salsa, serve immediately.

The Jicama and Orange Salad was inspired by a recipe I saw in Rick Bayless’s cookbook, Mexican Kitchen. He makes a Jicama appetizer that sounds great but uses lime juice. My mom is allergic to lemon and lime so I decided to make a salad with most of the ingredients and make my own cumin dressing. The salad base was baby spinach, topped with jicama, mineola oranges, radishes, and cucumbers. My dressing (sorry I didn’t measure quantities) is made with white balsamic, minced garlic, whole grain mustard, cumin, and olive oil. The salad was very refreshing and almost a palate cleanser.

The paella, is loosely based on a recipe, but each time Lon makes it, it’s a bit different. We’ve written extensively about the recipe, and even provided tips. This time, we used a new chorizo brand, that we picked up from Murray’s Cheese Shop, it was from Rioja and was a bit smokier than most American-made chorizo. We also limited the seafood to clams and shrimp, and used more chicken and chorizo, to round out the balance of proteins.

The Triple Devil’s Food Cake recipe can be found in The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I used a recipe for the cream cheese frosting but reduced the sugar by almost 25%. The cake itself had a light, bouncy texture, which melted in our mouths. I pressed sliced almonds on to the side to decorate the cake — everyone loved it.

For more pictures of our fiesta, check our the Flickr set.

posted by jessica at 07:00 PM Filed under Un-Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.