modern Mexican

carne asada and tamales

The theme for our latest supper club was “modern Mexican.” It was another remarkable meal, made up of a series of composed small plates and some amazing flavors.

evening on the bay

It didn’t hurt that the weather was gorgeous that day, and dinner was held at a house right on the water. It set the tone nicely for a very summery meal.

margarita fixings

tamarind margarita

We started out with tamarind margaritas. I love tamarind-based drinks, it gives a tartness that’s very distinctive.


Jenise made a batch of ceviche for us to nibble on while we set up for dinner. I know there was shrimp, halibut, corn, green olives and peppers, and it was one of the best ceviches I’ve ever had. It was hard to resist filling up before we even sat down.

avocado soup

Jon and I brought several dishes to share. The first of these was a chilled avocado soup garnished with pepitas. I liked the flavor of this, but it was extremely rich and creamy. If I ever make this again I think we’ll just serve it in tiny portions, like a shooter glass. The pepitas were toasted and tossed with ground chipotle pepper, which gave them a nice smokiness.

scallops in agavero sauce

Roger contributed the next course, based on a dish from a favorite restaurant. Sea scallops in an agavero butter sauce with capers, rolled into flour tortillas. This was fantastic, and I’d never even heard of agavero before, so it was a new flavor experience.


Next came our chalupas (little “boats” made of masa, toasted on a griddle, molded by hand, then fried), topped with hot vinegary Mexican chorizo, sauteed pineapple, and a dab of tomatillo-chipotle salsa. We were going to add crema, chopped onion and cilantro but we sort of ran out of room – each of these was only about two bites. I liked the chalupas a lot, but they were best fresh out of the pan; the few that were left over we ate the next day, and they had really hardened up. The chorizo was a huge success – we used to be able to buy locally-made chorizo at our neighborhood grocer but couldn’t get it this time, so we made our own and it was fabulous. The recipe is from a nifty little cookbook called Antojitos, and I’ve reprinted it at the bottom of this post. Adding pineapple was an inspiration we got from Calle, a lovely Mexican restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon – they top their chorizo tacos with grilled pineapple and I’ve really liked it.

duck pomegranate tacos

Linda and Mike brought duck tacos with pomegranate seed salsa, pickled cabbage, a peanut-arbol salsa, and charred corn tortillas. This was just beautiful. I particularly loved the crunch of the pomegranate seeds with the tender duck meat.

tamales and salsa

Jenise and Bob cured flank steak with salt, sugar and hibiscus flowers and then grilled it, and Jenise made two kinds of tamales: black truffle and goat cheese/mint. The tomatillo salsa went with everything.

lime ice

Georgiann’s lime ice, totally refreshing, with mint and strawberries.

Mexican chocolate pots de creme

Pots de creme infused with Mexican chocolate and cinnamon. I made this from a Thomas Keller recipe, adding pulverized Ibarra chocolate and a stick of cinnamon to the warming milk and cream. It was the reverse of refreshing: rich and deadly.

There was also plenty of Mexican beer and a selection of wines that went surprisingly well with the food. I think we did very well with this theme!



From Antojitos: Festive and Flavorful Mexican Appetizers by Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy

This makes a very potent chorizo, spicy and vinegary. It works best as a seasoning, rather than a main dish, as a little goes a long way (we made tacos from the leftovers and they were very hot and rich). Yes, there is a ton of ground cloves in this, but don’t skimp!

  • 3 dried arbol chiles
  • 7 dried guajillo chiles (we substitued puya chiles, which are very similar)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground pork

Layer the chiles, onion and garlic, add the bay leaf, and pour the vinegar over. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for one hour.

Discard the bay leaf. Put the mixture in a blender and process to a rough paste. Add water to thin if necessary. Scrape out into a bowl.

Mix the chile paste with the salt, cumin, oregano, cloves and pepper. Add the pork and mix thoroughly.

Put a dab of the sausage into a skillet and cook to check seasonings, adjusting as necessary. Refrigerate the sausage for at least 12 hours or up to 5 days. To cook, heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and add the sausage, stirring until the meat is cooked through.

If adding pineapple: dice about a cup of pineapple finely. Put in a nonstick skillet and fry until the liquid cooks off and the pineapple starts to brown. Add the cooked chorizo to the pineapple and stir them together until everything is hot.

puya chiles

homemade chorizo



4 thoughts on “modern Mexican

  1. How fun! My Cookbook Club’s latest meeting was Mexican as well, based on Rick Bayless’s “Authentic Mexican” (from which I contributed a total fail of a rice pudding — but everything else was delicious).

    I’d love to attempt tamales, but they intimidate me! This spread looks fantastic.

    1. What went wrong with the rice pudding? I’ve made stiff ones and soupy ones, but they’ve always been tasty, at least.

      I’ve never tried tamales myself, but I really enjoyed making the chalupas. Maybe I’ll branch out.

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