I’m lucky in that I don’t have to encourage my son to take an active role in food choices around the house. His favorite past-time (next to playing with Lego’s) is hanging out in the kitchen. He’s happy to do the most menial chores provided it somehow pertains to preparing a meal. Grocery shopping, such a labor when he was younger, has become an almost hilarious experience as the now eight year old browses the produce and meat selections, asking questions and combining flavors in his head prompting regular outbursts like “Oh Daddy, I bet these would taste great together!”. Coupled with the fact that he’s met few foods he doesn’t like or won’t try at least once, it’s a pretty simple exercise to turn him in an active participant in cooking. My challenge to him lately has been to pick at least one recipe from our cookbook library each weekend. He takes his job to heart, and will if allowed come up with a whole menu instead.
Recently he pulled down two Rick Bayless cookbooks, announcing as he did “These look good”, and proceeded to construct our dinner plans almost single-handedly. The Saturday afternoon trek to the grocery followed, and then two of us – man and boy, father and son – settled into the kitchen to prepare dinner. For the salad dressing I elected to hop out of the Rick Bayless books and went with one of my favorite Bobby Flay recipes, knowing as I did that I was risking the culinary equivalent of “crossing the streams” by intertwining Chefs Bayless & Flay on the same menu. Well, I thought, Iron Chef America survived the two of them. Why not my kitchen?
Slightly abbreviated recipes are below, refer the to the cookbooks cited for full instructions.
Chipotle Beef Tacos with Caramelized Onions (from Rick Bayless Mexican Everyday, 2005)
- One 7 ounce can of chipotle chiles en adobo
- 1 pound skirt or flank steak
- 3 T vegetable oil
- 2 medium white onions (I used a combination of white and red onions)
- 12 warm corn tortillas
Puree the chipotles until smooth and brush the steak with the sauce. Heat oil in a pan and saute the onions until caramelized but still a little crunchy. Remove onions and set aside. In the same pan, brown steak on both sides (3-5 minutes depending on thickness of steak). Remove from heat and place pan with the steak in oven to rest for 5-10 minutes. Once the steak has rested, slice and toss with onions. Season with salt if desired and serve on corn tortillas with more chipotle sauce.
Quick Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic (from Rick Bayless Mexico One Plate At A Time, 2000)
- 3/4 C peeled garlic cloves
- 1 C good quality olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and cut into thin strips.
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- 2 lbs medium-large shrimp
- 3 T fresh chopped cilantro
Chop the garlic into 1/8″ bits, toss into pan with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and simmer for about 30 minutes, making sure to keep the heat low so as not to burn the garlic. Add lime juice to the pan and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Stir in the chipotles. taste, season with salt if desired, and keep over very low heat until shrimp are ready.
In separate pan at 1-1/2 T of oil from the garlic preparation (but none of the garlic bits themselves), heat to medium-high and cook the shrimp in batches until done, adding a little more oil if necessary. When the shrimp are cooked, use a slotted spoon to scoop the garlic bits from the pan with the oil and sprinkle over the shrimp. Any remaining oil will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Lime-Ancho Dressing (from Bobby Flay Boy Gets Grill, 2004)
- 1/2 C fresh lime juice
- 2 T rice vinegar
- 2 T ancho chile powder
- 2 T honey (I used Blue Agave Nectar instead)
- 1/2 C canola oil
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
Whisk lime juice, vinegar, ancho chile powder and honey together in a bowl. Whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper. The dressing can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before using.