One week ago today, I made the worst dinner I have ever cooked. The horror stories of this dinner are so bad I wont share them all here. (I poorly washed the arugula and Cassie had to spit tiny rocks out of her mouth.) While I disastrously screwed the evening up, but my heart was in the right place, I’m trying to learn to make really good Mexican food.

Lately Mexican food has been on my mind more and more, so I just suddenly decided I wanted to be really good at making it. Of course I’ve made Mexican food before, food that was pretty good actually, but I want to make REALLY GOOD Mexican food. My last name is Spanish, I have ancestors from Mexico, I should be able to make really good Mexican food.

Getting Inspired by a White Chef from Oklahoma

In learning something new I often have success with imitating a person of inspiration. Oddly enough I turned to a fellow pale person from Oklahoma, Rick Bayless. This was an easy choice as it was a sandwich from one of his restaurants, Tortas Frontera (in the Chicago O’Hare airport of all places) that help set off my latest Mexican food obsession. Rick Bayless also just has so many resources available for learning to cook Mexican food. The first two things I did was order his Mexican Everyday cook book, and subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

Here’s what I made.

Recipe #1

After the disaster dish, I decided to start simple, make a simple salsa recipe. It was a simple smokey Chipotle Tomatillo salsa. Basically roast some tomatillos and garlic, then blend with two canned chipotle chiles and salt. Perhaps the easiest recipe possible but I needed an ego boost and boy did this deliver. I’ve never made better salsa.

Recipe #2

Guacamole, I added some of the salsa I made to an skinned avocado and mushed it all together. This was some delicious guacamole, but I ate it all and Cassie didn’t get any. To make more guacamole, rather than expend more salsa that I made, I grabbed a backup jar of Frontera guacamole mix (Rick Bayless has many things regularly available at stores, I bought mine at Giant Foods). This was also very good.

Recipe #3

Having boosted my ego I wanted to see if I could redeem myself in the eyes of Cassie. I decided to keep it simple with something I knew we already liked, carnitas. I turned to Rick’s youtube channel and made the recipe form this video. Yeah it’s actually just as easy as the video makes it out to be. The hardest part was finding a store that sold lard.

Here’s Cassie’s thoughts on the carnitas dinner:

The carnitas were delicious, but what really made the meal amazing was the combination of flavors: the savory, crispy pork combined with the creaminess of the guacamole, the tang of the salsa, the wonderful corn flavor of the tortillas, and finally the slightly salty queso fresco. The result was what I call “head-shaking good”, which is what happens when a dish turns out so well that you can’t quite believe it.

carnitas dinner

So the ups and downs of this week’s meals ended on a high note. I’m excited to try two more recipes in week two.

More food photos here.