Sunday, August 21, 2011

A house is nacho home

I didn't mean to let this blog get clogged for a week; in fact, I have a half-completed entry about heirloom tomatoes that is working its way through the pipeline. I've just been a little busy because Jeff and I just threw a housewarming this weekend and at no point in the last week did I find myself sitting around thinking, "There is nothing that I could be doing right now that is more important than blogging about heirloom tomatoes."

And that was a good thing, because our housewarming turned out fantastically well, even though we were still hanging pictures and vacuuming floors mere minutes before our first guests walked in the door. Sixty people showed up. Sixty! I didn't know we had sixty friends. Apparently a lot of people show up to your party when you send them an e-mail about the fifteen pounds of pork butt that you just bought in anticipation of their arrival. Luckily, these sixty friends, old and new ones, had all conferred earlier in the day and devised a schedule for coming to our party in waves, so that things always felt pretty happening, but never too crowded. The festivities went on from 4 PM until we kicked everyone out at midnight, and over those eight hours we accumulated only one broken picture frame, one wine spill on the carpet, and five bottles of champagne. Yet no sloppy drunks and no broken glasses. What more can you ask for?

So I kind of regret not getting any pictures from the housewarming or its preparations because Jeff and I made a lot--I mean, a lot--of food that would have been really excellent to foodblog about:

1. Carnitas tacos with pickled red onions and creme fraiche
2. Chicken liver mousse on crostini
3. Three-bean salad with a padron pepper vinaigrette
4. Melon and heirloom tomato salad
5. Smoky corn and jalapeno dip
6. Guacamole with roasted corn
7. Warm chocolate chip cookies

And it would be so great to describe in detail how I slightly overcooked the carnitas, but then saved them by reducing their drippings, emulsifying those back with the rendered pork fat and pouring it over the meat. Or how I brought out the real essence of celery in the three-bean salad by quick-pickling it in a little salt and sugar half an hour before the party. Or how Jeff made both homemade mayonnaise and homemade creme fraiche for his extraordinarily popular corn dip.

I have to confess that in all the hustle and bustle of setting up and hosting the party, I didn't have any time to take pictures. And it's always more fun when you can show, rather than tell. So maybe I can just show you a picture of the out-of-this-world nachos that we made with all the leftovers.

So, here we go: leftover tortilla chips. A few scoops of beans that never made it into the three bean dip. Giant purple-black tomatoes, hidden in the bedroom closet during the party lest a drunken tomato fight break out. A few hot and sweet peppers from Jeff's mystery box. Carnitas crisped up in the oven. Some extra shredded cheddar from the corn dip. We put that in a cast-iron skillet and baked it for a while, then piled carnitas on top and sprinkled with extra cheese. Broiled that until it was golden brown, then threw pickled red onions on top and drizzled some padron vinaigrette all over. The only thing that was maybe missing was some guacamole, which was regrettable but foreseeable, because if there is one thing I have learned from throwing parties, it's this: no matter what other food you are serving or how many people are coming, you have never, ever made enough guacamole.

I usually think of nachos as kind of a gestalt: you order nachos and you are eating nachos. Every bite tastes like nachos, regardless of whether it has a little more cheese or an extra black olive or whatever. Nachos can be good, but in the end they're always nachos.

With these nachos you could take any constituent element and eat it separately and you'd get to enjoy a really delicious incarnation of that particular food. The deep chestnut flavor of the christmas lima beans. The earthy sweet vegetable crunch of the peppers, concentrated in the heat of the oven. The carnitas redolent of cinnamon, bay, orange, and oregano (a combination I repeated ten times to curious party guests). The kick of the pickled red onions, the bitter, creamy padron vinaigrette.

But if you eat them all together? They're still nachos. Yes.

No comments:

Post a Comment