Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An unexpected dinner party

My 18-year old niece was in town from Pennsylvania to visit a friend in Manhattan. Because they are both broke, they asked if they could come over for dinner to our apartment in Brooklyn instead of going out to Lucky Cheng's--the karaoke, drag-show dinner theatre we wanted to take them to. This was Saturday morning, so I had to whip up a plan. I overplanned, and overcooked, as always, but it was fun. This spread is a little time-consuming, but I think worth the effort.

Make-Your-Own Chicken Tacos (for four)

Olive oil
Two medium onions
1 clove of garlic
2 large chicken breasts
1 avocado
3 medium-sized tomatoes
1 cup of uncooked black beans
1 cup of uncooked brown rice
4 spinach tortillas
1 portobello mushroom
1/2 cup of pepper jack cheese
1/2 cup of yogurt
4 Tbsp cilantro
2 Tbsp parsley
1 can of tomato sauce
One lemon

Soak the black beans and the brown rice for a few hours. When they are ready to cook (I soak mine for about 6 hours), measure the rice and make sure you put twice as much water in its pot with a little bit of oil. Boil. Same with the black beans, except instead of adding oil, add the small can of tomato paste. Dice one of the onions, and saute in a pan with olive oil and one diced garlic clove. Set aside. Dice the other two onions, and put it in a bowl.

Slice the portobello mushrooms into 1/2 inch strips. Slice the onion so that they are 1/2 inch thin pieces to match the onions. Saute them both until tender and deep brown in a cast-iron pan.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. When the rice and beans are cooking, spray or spread olive oil in a baking dish. Place the breasts in the dish, and cut about four slits in each breast, spread or spray them with a bit of olive oil, and season the breasts with salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Slice about four rings of lemon and place them on top of the breasts. Place the seasoned chicken breasts in the oven.

Make some guac. Cut the avocado in half, scoop out the avocado and lightly mush. Add half of the diced onion, chop and add 2 Tbsp of cilantro, sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, a bit of cumin to taste, and squeeze the rest of the lemon on top. Stir gently so that the guac is nice and chunky.

Remember to keep stirring the beans so they don't stick to the pan! At some point before they are completely soft, add 1/2 of the sauteed onion/garlic mixture each to the rice and to the beans. Stir, stir, stir.

Dice the tomatoes.

Chop up the parsley and remainder of cilantro.

Mix 1/2 cup of yogurt with 2 Tbsp of cilantro, a healthy pinch of cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Should be nice and spicy. You can add as much cumin as you want, just keep tasting it.

When the chicken is cooked, the beans and rice should be nearly done. Take out the chicken, and when it is cool enough to shred, do so, and toss with parsely until coated.

Shred the cheese!

Warm the tortillas (either in a toaster oven or right on a gas-stove flame) and place in a dish covered with a napkin. Place all the things you've created in their own little bowls and arrange on a table.

Tell your guests to come and get it! Make their own tortillas.

Suggestion: I like to put two large pinches of cheese on the warm tortilla, then add the chicken, beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes, fold, and then put the guac, yogurt sauce, and rice on the side. (I don't like the raw onions!)

If you're having dinner with kids, of course you shouldn't include Margaritas . . . .

No comments: