Friday, September 15, 2017

blurry Mexican lunch

Sorry for the blur. My phone camera sucks, and/or I suck at operating it.

Front and center, looking like a cigar: my coworker M's flauta (from the Spanish word for "flute"). A flauta is a tightly rolled-up cousin of a taquito (last time I was in the States, you could buy cheap taquitos at 7-Eleven); the difference is that taquitos are usually made with corn tortillas, and flautas are made with flour tortillas.

Foreground and right: red-sauce and green-sauce enchiladas by yours truly. One coworker declared the green-sauce enchiladas to be her favorite of all the food out there. Very nice of her. When I was making the red and green sauces this morning, I thought I had nailed it with the red sauce, which was the perfect taste for enchiladas. Later on, every single person at work raved about the green sauce, which startled me. When I had finished making the green sauce and had tasted it, I didn't have the same "Nailed it!" feeling that I'd had with the red sauce. In part, this was because I was using an approach that didn't include tomatillos: it concentrated on chili peppers, onions, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. The other night, I had bought a bottled version of standard salsa verde; when I smelled and tasted it, I could sense the tomatillos, but the sauce was dominated by the jalapeños, so I chose some online recipes that followed that pattern, then synthesized everything I'd learned to create my own salsa verde. Apparently, I'd gotten it right. I'm still shaking my head.

Top, at about 11 o'clock: a chunk of chicken from coworker C's amazing fajitas. The fajitas were my favorite part of today's lunch. C used chicken breast, which I also favor in chicken dishes despite all the hate that breast meat gets.* She had prepped the ingredients at home, along with an amazing and very old-school guacamole (crush the avocado flesh with a fork—don't purée!) that was one of the best guac I've ever had.

We got a bit silly when it came to toasting the tortillas for the fajitas. At first, C wanted to do the old "toast the tortillas barehanded directly over the gas-range flame" trick. A few of us tried that trick, with only R, my Aussie coworker, succeeding in toasting his tortilla until it had acquired a few small black spots. We all eventually switched to the safer "toast the tortillas on a frying pan" technique.

In the end, we all ate more than we should have. The flautas were totally destroyed; C's fajitas were about 90% gone, as were the enchiladas I had placed on the table (I'd held two baking dishes in reserve; my boss took care of one of those, and another employee took care of most of the second). Coworker J brought a mound of dessert: cake, bread, and even churros from a French(!) bakery close to where she lives. The boss brought a fluffy, Korean-style cheesecake that no one ate because there was simply too much food. But as luncheons go, this one was gloriously successful, and it left everyone in the office both full and smiling. I had planned to prep and bring quesadillas, but the time crunch this morning meant that I had to sacrifice them. I've promised the coworkers that I'll bring the quesadillas on Tuesday. Perhaps I'll have a less blurry photo to show you then.

*Critics grouse that breast meat is relatively flavorless, and it's easy to ruin: boil it too long, and it dries up. Fry or grill it too long, and it dries up. While all of this is true, I find breast meat to be, when cooked right, the part of the chicken with the absolute best texture. Its nondescript taste is, in fact, the perfect canvas upon which an imaginative cook can paint layer upon layer of flavor.

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