Ten years ago, there was no way to find ingredients like fresh chorizo, chipotle chiles, tomatillos or blood oranges at your local market. Now, however, grocery stores across the country carry prickly pears, palmettos and purple Peruvian potatoes, making the possibilities for home-cooked cuisine practically infinite — and not just in New York. One sunny morning in downtown Denver, I found myself navigating the bountiful aisles of Wild Oats, a reputable market (that has since been bought out by the Whole Foods empire). In under an hour, my cart was piled high with Mexican cheese, fresh corn tortillas, organic brown eggs, an assortment of chiles, deeply colored spice mixtures, sweet baby shrimp and much, much more.
At home awaited a houseful of hungover twenty-somethings, lying semi-comatose on various too-small couches. I thought to wake them up with the smell of fried chorizo and garlic intermingled with fresh brewing Mexican coffee. Sure enough, the alcohol-sodden post-adolescents rose from their stupor and made their way to the kitchen. On the grill were onions and peppers, husked tomatillos and tomatoes. On the stove was a cast-iron pot stewing with black beans and chorizo and another filled with a colorful combination of potatoes. In a small clay vessel was a citrus salad, made with blood oranges, navel oranges, grapefruits, red onion and a touch of fresh habanero. "Where did I find these ingredients?" they asked. "How did I know what to do with them?" ‘Ah youth,’ I thought to myself, and smiled.
A Morning Meal in the Mountains
1/2 pound chorizo
4 cloves garlic
1 can black beans
2 poblano peppers
1 tablespoon cold butter
Fresh ground pepper
2 pounds tomatillos, husked and washed
1 red onion, minced
1 serano chile
2 avocados, flesh removed and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds mixed potatoes (purple, red skinned, yellow), cut in bite-size pieces
12 organic brown eggs
10 fresh corn tortillas
1 package soft Mexican white cheese (queso fresco)
1 small container sour cream
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously. Plop the potatoes in. Cook until fork tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté two cloves minced garlic. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil and then let brown on all sides, moving occasionally. Add a pinch of the chipotle spice and salt and pepper to taste. On a grill or cast-iron pot, dry cook the poblanos, tomatillos, serano and red onion until they blister and soften. Dice the poblano and the onion. Quarter the tomatillos and seed the serano. In a medium saucepan, cook chorizo. Add two cloves minced garlic and sauté until tender. Add the beans and cook for a half hour. Add the diced poblano, butter, a pinch of the chipotle spice and salt and pepper to taste. In a blender, add the tomatillos, juice of half of a lime, one seeded serano, the red onion, salt and pepper. Once it looks like salsa, remove from the blender and mix in the avocado. Heat the tortillas in the oven, encased in tin foil. Cook the eggs, sunny side up in a large non-stick frying pan with plenty of butter, six at a time. On each plate, set down two tortillas, two eggs, a spoonful of beans, a stream of salsa, a dollop of sour cream and smattering of cheese.