The homebase of the group is the Restaurant Cha Cha Cha, where co-owner Rick Davis serves the group a notable breakfast, buffet style. On alternate Tuesdays, the group meets at a different restaurant. This is usually a good plan, as it allows for some variety and change, but it is not without its risks. A few months ago, we met at a place popular for its lunches, but it turned out to be undesirable for both the food and the "networking ambience." I will not name it here.
Afterwards, I thought, "With a little help, I can do this far better myself." Some time passed, but Ricardo Lo Giudice, the informal "Jefe" of the group. was enthusiastic. We made our plans for Tuesday, February 27, 2007.
Here are some preliminary comments that I made on the Lonelyplanet.com Thorn Tree, Get Stuffed Branch:
This is the menu in general, and it's now set, except for small additions such as freshly squeezed orange juice.
Southern Style Meets Mexican Style
Angel Buttermilk Biscuits
Milk Gravy with homemade breakfast sausage
Scrambled eggs estilo N.O.t.B. with choice of red or green salsas
Real Southern Grits
Oven Roasted Potatoes
Thick-sliced, hickory smoked Wright's Bacon
Ambrosia Tropical Fruit Bowl
Real butter, jams and jellies.
Fried Apples, maybe...
Coffee 'Marat' of Coatepec, Veracruz
Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
I will have our neighbors and Mrs. Anon (Susan) to help me. The preparation already began last week, when I bought 3 kilos of custom-ground pork at a local carnicería, seasoning it back in my kitchen with my Secret Blend of Herbs and Spices. (So secret, that I can't remember what they were. It's safer that way.)
I bought 10 dozen eggs. Do you think that will be enough? (I just calculated, based on 3 eggs each, plus those I need for baking, and I know I should buy more.)
Today I'll buy the potatoes, the fruits and any last minute stuff.
I'm also making 3-4 loaves of Oatmeal 3-Seed Bread, just to have it on hand.*
I'm hoping that one of our neighbors can take pictures during the event, between squeezing oranges, cutting up fruit, and making coffee. We will be serving buffet style, on better quality disposable "china", etc. The tables are already set up in our semi-outdoor entryway/"porch".
*The bread went unused.
All you care to eat, $70 Mexican Pesos.
Now it's Thursday, and the event is past. We are still eating and putting away leftovers. Looking back, it was a tremendous success. All the attendees were appreciative and they stayed longer than usual, schmoozing over their coffee, tea or juice.
The last hours were crucial to the operations. I arose at 12:30 a.m, made a pot of coffee, and was at work by 1:00 a.m, mixing 2 batches of cinnamon rolls, turning sausage and bacon drippings (sausage had been cooked the day before) into a huge Le Creuset pot of milk gravy
and cutting up and seasoning parboiled potatoes, for chipotle, orégano and cumin seasoned oven roasted potatoes with onions.
The Angel Biscuits had been mixed and stored as a dry mix two days before, then moistened with buttermilk the previous day, to be stored in plastic bags in the fridge, slowly maturing to tangy goodness. The day before I'd made two salsas, a coarse green salsa of tomatillos and a more finely textured red salsa, both of oven roasted fresh vegetables. In an insane moment on Tuesday morning, I'd also made a chunky salsa fresca of fresh tomatoes, chiles, diced avocadoes and radishes, seasoned with lime and orange juices. (We are still trying to consume that, as the texture becomes less crisp and much less attractive. The salsa roja and the salsa verde will keep longer, but need to be frozen for future enjoyment.)
Wright's Hickory Smoked Thick Slice Bacon, our favorite store bought brand, was panned up on parchment paper covering baker's half sheet pans. That was slowly cooked in the oven, two sheets at a time to "almost done", then removed to a paper towel lined deep quarter "hotel pan". Four dozen eggs were cracked, two at a time, beaten with a whisk, and poured into a half gallon plastic Rubber Maid bottle then refrigerated.
About 8 apples were cored and sliced, and placed in a bowl of acidulated water. Later, they'd be slowly fried in butter, sprinkled with light brown sugar and a squirt of lime juice.
(There is more, but I fear that it may become tedious to list everything.)
At 7:45, Geni and Larry arrived, bringing chairs, a beautiful bowl of Tropical Ambrosia (bananas, oranges, mangos, pineapple, Maraschino cherries, and topped with pecans and toasted coconut), PLUS, a half gallon of freshly squeezed OJ.
The staffers squeezed in a quick breakfast at about 8:45, and the crew was motivated in part by the thoughts of the Sangrita Marías that awaited us when we cleaned up afterwards.
Butter was put into ramekins, the paper Chinet plates were set out alongside the plastic tableware, jams and jellies, honey and napkins, salt and peper, all the salsas were on the dining tables or the sideboard.
The first guests arrived at 9:10. We encouraged them to have coffee and a cinnamon roll. I had the biscuits rolled out and panned on the half sheets, taking the place of the bacon.
Into the oven. Poof! They started rising magnificently within a moment. (Photo "lifted" from an unknown Web source.)
I got busy cooking scrambled eggs in two non stick skillets. This was actually the least time consuming and challenging part of the operations. I lagged behind two or three minutes, but once caught up, everyone was served.
I went out to the chowhounds during a lull, and proposed a toast: "To Mel O'Hara—who first showed us this beautiful place. Here's to you, Mel!"
The cooking dwindled to a stop, but the work continued. We were putting away surpluses and cleaning pans and utensils. The group stayed on, and I went out and sold them home made cookies (peanut butter, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin) as a charity fund raiser, I also decided to sell off what I could of surplus cinnamon rolls for the same community causes."
At 11:00 o'clock, the last guest had left. We continued cleaning and putting away. Then I made a pitcher of Sangrita Marías. Here's the recipe:
For four hearty kitchen staffers:
Three, well chilled, 12-oz cans of Mexican V-8 Juice
Juice of 6 small Mexican or Key limes
1 cup of Tequila, nearly frozen in the freezer
Salsa picante, such as Salsa Tampico, Valentina, Búfalo or Tabasco, to taste
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, to taste
A dash or two of Pickapeppa Sauce (optional)
Salt, or as here, Chipotle Salt, made by finely grinding a stemmed, but not seeded dried chipotle chile with a tablespoon of coarse sea salt, to taste.
Ice cubes. Strain into glasses, drink.
Below, the Chef in his cups.
Link to PicasaWeb Album Photos