Monday, February 2, 2009

A Super Bowl with Super Eats

A stone, cold groove, is what our friend calls it. Good times with great friends would be another way to put it. But any way you say it, it's what makes life worth living, or at least a heck of a lot more fun. As we jostled for seats around the large wall-mounted TV, some of us were entertained by the sport, and some were watching just for the commercials. Whoops, laughter and even jeers peppered the loud and often rambunctious crowd. New friends mingled with old ones in conversations that lasted well past the trophy ceremony, and the huge buffet of food took us through two mealtimes and managed to feed about eighteen hungry kids and their parents (well, the brownies disappeared pretty fast).

With Mexican being the official theme of this pot-luck gathering, I decided on a recipe I had spied in the Los Angeles Times' Food section the week beforehand; Chicharrones de queso with radish tomatillo salsa. Chicharrones are those huge sheets of crispy fried pork cracklings that can be found in Mexican markets, but the chicharrones of this recipe are made from cheese, cooked in a skillet until crisp. My kids agreed that they did taste an awful lot like bacon and couldn't believe that I had made these huge curled chips out of cheese. But that is exactly what they's like the cheese that oozes out of a grilled cheese sandwich that I eat out of the pan after it has become brown and crisp.

My in laws, once both on the Atkins Diet, avoided carbohydrates for quite a long time, and my mother-in-law used to buy the most amazing chips made entirely out of Parmasan cheese. Although not low in fat, they had zero carbs and were quite delicious. These are much like those, although they are made from jack cheese and served with the most interesting and fresh tasting salsa I have ever tasted. Wrapped up in a corn tortilla and topped with the salsa, these cheese chips were not low carb or low fat, but what the heck! It was Superbowl Sunday!

Chicharrones de Queso
adapted from LA Times Food

2 pounds jack cheese, grated with a food processor or the large holes on a box grater

Grease a large non-stick skillet or griddle (I used both, they were both cast iron). Place a loose 1/2 C of grated cheese onto a hot griddle. Cook on low heat, spreading gently with a spatula to create a 5-6 inch disk, for about 6 minutes or until cheese begins to turn golden. Gently pat dry with a paper towel, and cook for about another minute or so. When golden all the way across, run a spatula underneath to loosen and lift off the griddle so that half of the cheese disk is on the spatula and half is hanging over the edge. Quickly grab it with a paper towel and pinch into a loose, free-form triangle or pyramid shape. Alternately the cheese can be draped over a rolling pin to make a rounded shape. Work quickly, because the cheese will harden once off the heat. The shape doesn't matter at all, it is meant to be kind of rustic looking. Place all your chicharrones on a large tray, lined with paper towels to finish drying. Serve with radish tomatillo salsa and warm corn tortillas.

Radish Tomatillo Salsa
This salsa is so chunky and rich with vegetables that it tastes like a chopped salad. Everything should be diced to be about the same size.

1 bunch of radishes (I like the Easter egg variety), diced
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and de-veined and diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
5 tomatillos, husked, washed well and diced
1/2 C fresh cilantro, minced
zest and juice from 2 limes
2 t olive oil
1 t kosher salt
dash of cayenne pepper

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop. Tastes great with the chicharrones, but would also be fantastic in a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs.

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