¡Viva Mexico Pt 2 – Less-Than-Healthy!

While the rest of the week is business as usual and more balanced fare, Sundays are when we relax a little in more ways than one. We usually cook a good meal together, often take long walks in the park, and sometimes go to bed early. This past Sunday we did all three!

We began the day early at church since ours was holding church in person. When we got home we set about throwing together everything to reimagine the Roasted Chili Polenta with Shiitake Tomatillo Sauce from last week. The original recipe was good (no offense to Jax Lowell or Chef Bill Wavrin), but the title left me craving something more of what I imagined it should be. What I envisioned turned out to be pretty wonderful. It was one of those meals that I was excited about leftovers the next day for lunch!

Reimagined Recipe Ingredients:
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
3lb chuck roast
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
2c beef stock
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Chipotle pepper in adobo
2c fresh corn kernels
1c carrots, shredded
1tbsp bacon fat (or grapeseed oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1tsp ground cumin
1/4tsp red pepper flakes
4tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1c polenta
6-8oz Icelandic skyr or Greek yogurt
2c smoked Cheddar, shredded
2c Monterrey jack, shredded
2 red bell pepper, roasted, seeded, and sliced
1 Anaheim chili, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 Pasilla chili, roasted, peeled, and seeded
2 tomatillos, husked (sub green tomatoes if unavailable), and roasted

Reimagined Directions:
1) The night before (or morning of), line a slow-cooker with a liner and sprinkle the bottom of the insert with the onion. Pat the chuck roast dry with paper towels and generously salt & pepper all over. Place the roast on top the onions in the slow-cooker. In a 2c measuring cup, mix together the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Gently pour the broth mixture around the roast and place chipotle pepper in adobo on top of the roast. Cover and cook on low for 8hrs (or high for 4).
2) Season the corn & carrots in a cast iron with salt & pepper. Add the bacon fat and set the pan on the grill alongside the peppers, stirring occasionally. On a hot grill, roast the peppers and tomatillos over direct heat, turning occasionally until the skins are good and blistered.
3) While the peppers are roasting, divide beef drippings/broth equally between 1med & 1sm saucepan. Set the small saucepan over low heat and add the chipotle pepper in adobo. Bring the medium saucepan to a boil and whisk in polenta. As soon as the polenta is getting stiff, stir in the skyr and cheeses. Mix well and turn heat to low. When the peppers and tomatillos are roasted, remove the peppers to a cutting board, place tomatillos in small saucepan, and stir corn and carrots into polenta. Bring small saucepan to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.
4) Skin and seed peppers. Dice the roasted red peppers and stir one into polenta and one into small saucepan. Using an immersion blender (or transfer contents to a blender), carefully blend contents of small saucepan into a thin, smooth sauce. Slice remaining peppers into strips.
5) Scoop a generous portion of polenta onto a plate. Top with ribbons of roasted Anaheim & Pasilla pepper and shredded beef. Drizzle all with tomatillo sauce. Enjoy with fresh squeezed lime!

This dish was smoky and unctuous with a gentle sizzle. The tender chunks of falling-apart beef were just what I was craving to go with this dish. For the longest time I didn’t think I liked beef or heat. The problem was that I’d never had them prepared well until I got to college and started exploring Food Network and Top Chef! I learned to appreciate a deliciously tender, medium-rare steak (when I’d always had dry, tasteless well-done) and smoky heat (the kind that develops layers of flavors and doesn’t clumsily sting, numbing your tongue blocking flavors). I don’t see myself developing a Bobby Flay-esque repertoire of Southwestern cuisine, but sometimes I can appreciate well-developed Tex-Mex flavors. (By the way, stirring a chopped chipotle and some adobo into full-fat sour cream makes an amazing party dip!)

Many of these ingredients can be swapped or eliminated according to taste. Don’t like sweet onions? Red or white would stand in just as well. Don’t like too much heat, skip the chipotle pepper in adobo and red pepper flakes altogether. Prefer not to eat corn? Just make risotto your base and eliminate the grilled corn. Don’t like yogurt? Replace it with sour cream or cream cheese. Can’t find smoked Cheddar? Swap it with regular. Make it your own! If you do, come back and show me yours!

I think I would call my reimagined dish Cheesy 4-Pepper Polenta with Shredded Beef and Roasted Tomatillo Sauce. And if you’re wondering, we did take our walk after lunch, we relaxed outside in the backyard until it got dark, we drank a cup of Calm, and went to bed around 10. It was the ideal Sunday!

What does your ideal Sunday look like?

Reading: The Flipside of Feminism by Suzanne Venker

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