Monday, March 8, 2010

And the award goes to...

For the Oscars, we decided to really class it up, go all-out glitz and glamour. In my mind, it doesn’t get much more couture than Coronas and carnitas—the absolute height of red-carpet sophistication and style. That’s right, I’m talking about the TacOscars.

The TacOscars, now in their first year, are a little mid-afternoon, happy-hour style, lazy Sunday Oscar watching fiesta... with delicious fixins for shrimp and pork tacos, chips, salsa, a pot of black beans, and lots of Mexican beer. And, really…is there a classier way to watch the Oscars than drinking beer and eating street-food style Mexican cuisine off of paper plates!? I think not. A group of about 10 or so friends came over for delicious feasting and hilarious fun.

We aren’t that serious about the awards. I mean, we watched, we cheered, we sneered… but we certainly weren’t checking a score sheet or debating the merits of the winners. We loved Jeff Bridges speech the most. We trash talked the crazy dresses, even though our red carpet best ran the gamut from UW sweatpants (Mike), to an old high school relic of a prom dress (Amanda). Our crowd, collectively, had maybe seen half the movies. Really… we weren’t in it for the prestigious awards… we were in it for the friends, the laughs, and most importantly, the delicious, comforting, and anything-but-prestigious eats.

The award definitely goes to the food. The winner for best shredded meat: carnitas served in a warm corn tortilla and topped with thin sliced radishes, Amanda’s pico de gallo, guac, and sour cream! An academy favorite, for sure. To make the pork (sorry, I didn’t write down measurements as I went) I coated large chunks of pork in a spice mix of cinnamon, chili powder, chipotle powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and black pepper, then topped it with chopped onions and garlic, and cooked it low and slow in water and liquid smoke for hours. About an hour before the party, I shredded it and popped it in a hot oven to get crispy edges, and then served in its juices to stay tender. The pork was so flavorful and juicy, with just the right amount of contrasting texture. The crowd went wild.

The award for best grilled taco filling goes to… skewered garlic prawns! Brushed with cumin-garlic butter, barbequed to perfection, and served in tortillas with BBQ’d limes, pico, and Baja sauce, the prawns were sweet and delicious. I’d like to thank the Ev-acadamy for the expert grilling and skewering of this show stopper!

For best supporting role, the black beans definitely had it in the bag. Or the pot, as the case may be. Believe it or not, this was my first pot of black beans. And delicious were they ever! Simply flavored with onions, garlic, cumin, and cilantro, and topped with crumbly, salty cotija cheese, the beans were the perfect side to the two kinds of tacos. Thick and just a tad saucy, they would also be a perfect meal on their own. Or with a topped with a fried egg. Like I had this morning for breakfast.

And finally, to round out the night…for best sweet, spicy, and salty short, the winner is… mango on a stick dusted with chili powder and salt! I’ve been hearing about this street food favorite for awhile now, but as a mango lover, I was a little nervous about tainting the pure sweet flavor of a fruit I love so much. I’m glad I gave it a try, though! The chili powder and sea salt added depth and complexity… creating an interesting flavor play with something as a simple as a piece of fruit on a stick.

Now that's how you throw a real red carpet affair!

Oscar Nominated Black Beans

1 lb dried black beans- rinsed and picked through
Olive oil
1 large yellow onion-diced
4 cloves garlic- minced
Sprinkle cumin seeds
1 can (about 2 cups) chicken broth
1 bunch cilantro (about 1/4th cup)-chopped
Salt (a few teaspoons…to taste)

Soak beans in water overnight (6-8 hrs).

Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften. Add 2 cloves of garlic and cumin seeds. Cook, stirring, about one minute. Add the beans and soaking water, plus can of chicken broth and a splash of olive oil. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer one hour.

Add the salt, 2 cloves garlic and cilantro (or epazote, which is said to reduce the negative effects of beans… so THAT’s how they’re able to eat beans all day down there!). Continue to simmer another hour to hour and a half. To thicken, scoop out about a cup and a half of beans, and blend or mash, add back in. Or, use an immersion blender.
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