Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How much was lunch?

Will we ever know how much this lunch really cost America?

Date: January 12, 2009
Time: Noon
Place: Mexican Cultural Institute, Washington, DC
Menu: Tortilla Soup
Who: Presidente Felipe Calderon and President-elect Barack Obama

Just what did they discuss? Well, Obama planned to congratulate Calderon for the bloodbath of a drug war he is waging in Mexico. (Better there than here I suppose.) And he probably gave Felipe some warm and fuzzies about future US funding. The Merida initiatives were signed last year and payments have already started to flow. Bush promised a couple years of more of the same.

And I’m sure Obama is comfortable with the notion that we are going to do something about US weapons being smuggled into Mexico. Any kind of gun control resonates with the Dems.

As for NAFTA, it was likely an interesting conversation. Obama campaigned all over the place with the message that we ought to do more manufacturing here in the USA. That surely worried Calderon.

In fact, he threatened to send more illegals to the United States if NAFTA gets weakened to protect our own jobs.

Oil? Well, we have something of a Mexican Standoff (sorry!) on that issue. We need their oil and they need our refining capacity. Without us making gasoline out of their oil Mexico has a significant shortage. So, it is a win-win.

(On that note, the next time the oil companies raise our gas prices because we have a lack of refining capacity we ought to bring that up, don’t you think?)

Now, the big enchilada…amnesty/guest workers.

A Virginia professor/expert on Mexico, George Grayson, told the AP that things weren’t looking good for immigration reform. He said, "The chance of having immigration reform is like having it snow in the dessert (sic). With the unemployment rate surging in the United States and the economy expected to shrink this year, it is not a hospitable time to invite more workers into the country."

Assuming the AP really meant “desert” that would mean it is a long shot. Then again, there has already been snow in Vegas this season. And the Nevada senator from Searchlight seems to think immigration reform is a done deal this year. I’m guessing Reid will make a serious run at it in honor of Ted Kennedy.

Now, Tortilla Soup:
1/2 cup each 1/2-inch diced vegetables: yellow onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, and tomato
1/2 cup roasted green chile, cut into a small dice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground comino (cumin)
2 cups Enchilada Chicken, recipe follows
6 each white corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
6 each blue corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Chopped cilantro leaves, as needed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt, as needed
1 cup crushed corn tortilla chips
Begin with a large pot. Saute the vegetables and chile briefly in about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. When the vegetables are limp, add the broth and add the garlic and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add chicken, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile (or beforehand), fry the corn tortilla strips in 350 degree F oil for 2 minutes until crispy. Drain well on paper towels. At the Blue Corn Cafe, we always have tons of chips around so we used crushed ones for garnish on the bottom of the soup bowl...the strips are added at the top. We, of course, use white and blue corn tortillas. If for some reason the blue variety are not available where you live, I suggest you immediately draft a letter to your Congressman! Yes, you can use all white or yellow tortillas.

To finish the soup, you've got to make some slurry. Yep...this will add just a little body to the soup. With the cornstarch in a cup-sized container, mix as little cold water as possible to form a thin paste. This stuff feels and looks like...well, slurry. Bring the soup back up to a boil; stir with 1 hand and pour the slurry in slowly with the other. Continue to cook on high heat for a minute, then reduce to low. The soup will look cloudy at first but will clear up and thicken slightly. Remove from heat.

Add cilantro and lime juice. Fill 8 to 12 cups or bowls about 1/4 full of crushed tortilla chips. Ladle soup on top. Place a handful of strips on top of each and serve. This soup (without the tortillas) keeps well for 3 to 4 days refrigerated. Tortillas will also keep well for a few days if sealed well and stored at room temperature. In moist climates they may require re-crisping in a 350 degree F oven for a few minutes.

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