I had grand plans tonight to make Carne en su Jego (Meat in it’s own Juices) with homemade gorditas and guacamole, but by the time I get home from battling the crowds at the store I am ready to sit down and enjoy a stiff drink. However, with a hungry mouth to feed and a grumbling stomach I tear into my shopping bags. I still plan to make my original dish later this week, so I start looking for something I can make with whatever I have in the cupboards and fridge. Thankfully I had gotten double the steak at the store (buy-one-get-one is not only the steal of the century but is also a broke girl’s lifesaver) and extra bell peppers. I also decide to do a test run of the gorditas before pairing them with a dish I am really looking forward to. This is probably one of the best pieces of cooking wisdom I have learned: do a test run! Even people who seemingly do no wrong in the kitchen have brought dishes to the table or a dinner party that, well, were a flop. If you learn nothing from this article, take this piece of advice with you: Test run any new dish before the big day!
Ok, phew, got a little worked up there. Back to dinner…
I already have some chopped red bell pepper and onion from pasta the other night, so I start brainstorming. I make myself a margarita in pint glass and decide on Mexican. Since I am doing a test run on the gorditas I decide to make fajitas but with a little something extra. I don’t know when the first time I made a cream salsa, but I do know it was on a backpack trip somewhere in the North East. It can be made with canned items and does not require any milk so it is an ideal on-the-trail dinner. Tonight though, I am using fresh veggies along with a can of Cream of Mushroom soup. I finish gathering my ingredients for my main dish: the can of soup, a tomato, Serrano peppers, garlic, ground cumin, oregano (I’m out of Mexican oregano, but who isn’t these days), and dried cilantro. Next I need to dig out my gordita recipe from the bottom of my bag and figure out how to make them.
I have never made anything with corn mesa and had no idea where to find it in the store. I tried the flour area, no go; next I try the Hispanic isle, and still nothing. My last option is the “natural foods” section. Corn mesa would be gluten free, and probably as natural as you can get in the grocery store, so I headed that way. Success! I found corn flour, which looked something like corn meal, but I really didn’t think about it that much. I pull everything out that I need for the gorditas: corn flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt and shortening. Here is where I start getting concerned about my choice at the store… corn mesa.. corn flour… Hmmm…
I take a sip of my very tasty margarita and put my doubts out of my mind. On to gorditas! I start making the dough and am really happy about the way it is turning out; it is mixing well with a fork and is the correct consistency. I turn to my scribbled recipe and realized I left out some important information. I wrote, “once dough is made, toast and fry in hot oil.” Helpful, right? Not so much. At this point my hands are covered in sticky dough so I don’t want to pick up my phone, but I vaguely remember a direction on some website saying to crisp the outside on a griddle and then fry in oil until puffy and cooked through, so I decide to give that a shot.
My dough seems too runny so I add some more corn flour and start patting out my rounds. The dough is sticky but not elastic and forms really well but is sticking to everything. I start getting frustrated and decide to form the dough into roughly the shape I want and then press it out on the griddle. This seemed to work just fine, I am not looking for perfect circles or uniform thickness, and so I counted it as a small win. I treated them like pancakes, cooked them until they were stiff and then set them aside for the last fry while I get my fajitas and cream salsa ready.
FAJITAS WITH SPICY CREAM SALSA…
Here is the easy part, fajitas and cream salsa. I already have chopped onion and red bell pepper so I make short work out of the green bell pepper and Serrano peppers while my steak is cooking with cumin and oregano in the cast iron. Here is where my dish deviates from a traditional fajita dish. This is a one-dish meal so I pull my steak out of the pan, drain the liquid and toss in my veggies with a touch of oil. I toss oregano, and cilantro in with the veggies, sauté them and then mix in the garlic. A splash of red wine vinegar finishes off the sauté and I’m ready for the salsa.
The sauce is so easy it is ridiculous. I take a moment to refresh myself with some margarita and then add the condensed soup and water to my veggies. I carefully mix my liquids into the vegetables and bring to a boil. I realize that I put way too much water in my mix so I’ll need to boil it down before adding the finishing touches, but that’s OK since I still have to fry up my gorditas.
The gorditas are simple to fry up: hot oil, tongs, paper towels, done. One small problem: my gorditas aren’t getting puffy. I check my recipe and everything looks fine, except my non-puffy gorditas. Huh. I think I toasted them for too long on the griddle and ended up cooking them all the way through. In order for them to puff I think they will need to cook while in the oil, not on the griddle. I try the smallest of the finished ones and it is OK, not great, not fantastic, but not bad… needs some work. See the importance of the test run?
By the time I have fried up my gordiats, the salsa is ready to finish. I toss in the steak and a handful of diced tomatoes. I don’t want to make a tomato-based salsa, but still want some tomato chunks so I add them at the very end and heated them through before serving. My salsa is still thin but if I reduce it any more I’m afraid that it will get too salty so I grab some bowls and serve up dinner. A sprinkling of lettuce, shredded cheddar and a dollop of cilantro sour cream (mix dried cilantro in sour cream) finish off dinner.
ENJOYING MY TASTY DINNER…
I am very satisfied with my thrown together dinner. It is creamy and spicy and hearty and fresh all at the same time. The veggies are crisp and the meat is tender and flavorful. My only issues with the main dish are how runny the salsa turned out and the size of the steak pieces (they needed to be smaller). Those are easy fixes though; I don’t need to do any major overhauls on flavor. I wish I could say the same for my gorditas…
Although I wasn’t exactly pleased with my first stab at the gorditas, I do know what I need to do to fix them. The corn flour I got is not the same thing as corn mesa. Whoever put “corn flour” on the label needs a good talking to; whatever it was (I’m pretty sure it was corn meal) was not what I needed. Ah well, it was a mistake and I can use what I have left as a pan lining for pizza. Moving on I should only use the griddle to crisp the outside so they don’t fall apart when they go into the frying oil. Under no circumstances should they cook through before going in the oil. Until I find the correct corn mesa, I don’t know what other fixes need to be made. Stay tuned.
Steak Fajitas in Spicy Cream Salsa
1 lb sirloin steak cut into strips
1/2 each red bell pepper and green bell pepper
1/2 small yellow onion – roughly cut
Minced garlic to taste
Red wine vinegar
1 10.75 oz can Cream of Mushroom condensed soup
3/4 cup water
Diced tomatoes (drain them if you used canned)
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add steak strips. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and oregano to taste. Cook until almost done, remove steak and drain the liquid.
2. Toss veggies in oil and sauté in the same skillet used to cook the meat. Season with oregano and cilantro. Sautee for about 5 min and add garlic and a splash of red wine vinegar. Sautee another minute.
3. Gently mix in soup and water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 5-10 min or until desired consistency is reached.
4. Stir in steak and tomatoes and heat through. At this point you can sprinkle some paprika on top if you want to.
Top with shredded cheddar and cilantro sour cream. Serve with tortillas (or gorditas!) or over rice and garnish with shredded lettuce, avocado, and lime juice.