Book: The Cuisines of Mexico
Author: Diana Kennedy
Dishes: chilaquiles, queso de Napoles
"The word chilaquiles comes from chil-a-quilitl, meaning 'herbs or greens in chili broth' -- colloquially, a 'broken up old sombrero,'" writes Kennedy in the introduction to her recipe for chilaquiles, a bubbling cauldron of which you can see above. This recipe -- "a real peasant version that resembles a tortilla soup and is wonderfully robust" -- came originally from her maid, Godileva, and is full of fatty chorizo, queso fresco, tortillas, and chile sauce, topped off with a generous cup of crema.
Kennedy says chilaquiles makes good hangover food, and I believe it; you don't have to think when you eat, just shovel. Unfortunately, what I most like about Mexican food is how you customize every bite, how you can mix cool things with hot things, spicy with mild and creamy. I like the tiny bit of thinking involved when you eat even a plate of Chevy's nachos. I don't know if hearty stewishness is true of all chilaquiles, or just Godileva's version. Bayless's chilaquiles recipes look totally different -- one includes Swiss chard. Maybe I'll try that one this week.
Dessert, not quite a disaster, but close.
This is queso de Napoles (Neapolitan cheese) which Kennedy describes thusly: "a white delicate flan with a spongy, nutty layer at the bottom."
It contained egg whites (no yolks), milk, sugar, almonds, a caramel coating for the dish, and it reminded me of those old-fashioned lemon puddings in which the pudding separates into a foamy layer and a creamy layer. Except this just wasn't right. For one thing, look at it; for another, no one objected when I suggested feeding the leftovers to the chickens.
Speaking of the menagerie, our alpha cat, Emily, has expressed extreme displeasure with the unnamed new cat, and that makes us all sad because Emily is a strong, beautiful queen who will look you in the eye for hours and purr, then go off and catch giant rats. Krazy Kat is totally fine with the new cat, possibly because he now has an ally against Emily, who barely tolerates him. Or possibly because he is an incurious dolt who would accept a coyote into the household.
I'm still pissed at myself for letting this happen. The cats were coming and going, mewing and growling and scratching all night. It was a delight.