28 January, 2012

Green Chiles and Corn Tortillas

Anyone who has known Ben for 5 seconds, knows what is his favorite food.

Take a second.

Think about it.

You know you know.

Where was the boy born?

Yes, his favorite food is Tex-Mex.

I enjoy Tex-Mex, but I don't LOVE it the way Ben does. However, I must confess I do miss it here. There are a couple of Freebirds-type Mexican restaurants in the area, but it's not quite the same.

We are hosting a Tex-Mex party for our fellow team-members in a week and I am determined to be as authentic as possible. To make food so good that Ben does not miss Avila's in Dallas.

I am white. VERY white. I have no natural rhythm to speak of and my forays into ethnic cooking have, at times, gone awry. I refuse to try making curry ever again (a fact which I have not told Ben for fear of crushing him because he loves Indian food too), because my last 2 attempts have resulted in inedible yellowish mush.

However, I'm hoping that 10 years in Texas will have rubbed off at least a little bit. My hope stems purely from the fact that I once had a student tell me, "Miss, you're not white, you're Mexican!" I'm really not sure where that comment came from, but strengthens me to attempt:


In Texas, you go to the store, buy corn tortillas and enchilada sauce, and it is a relatively easy recipe to throw together. In Budapest, there is no enchilada sauce, cheddar cheese is outrageously expensive, you can find corn tortillas at only one store, and there are NO green chiles. After writing this post, I have a faint hope that one of our teammates will read this and say, "Oh! They have green chiles EVERYWHERE! You just have to ask for, 'such and such.'"

My enchilada making journey begins here: corn tortillas.

Corn tortillas essentially consist of masa harina, salt, and water. Easy, right? The recipe, yes. The equipment, no. It was cheaper to buy a tortilla maker from Amazon Germany than to buy a cast iron skillet. So we did.

It arrived in the mail today and I excitedly got to work. First thing I realized, the instructions are in German! So, Ben sat down and used Google to help translate while I mixed up the dough. In the end, trial-and-error worked better than trying to translate the German directions. The first few tortillas looked like they exploded, the next was only half exploded, and the last 2 turned out perfectly! However, I forgot to cover them with a towel, so we ended up with some very tasty tortilla CHIPS!

I am encouraged and intend to make many more of my own tortillas! The next thing to try will be the enchilada sauce.

After almost 2 months here, I am feeling a lot braver than I ever have in my entire life. It is necessary. We finished a 3-week intensive language course yesterday and had our class over for a party. I wanted to make some Texan food and one of my favorites is country style ribs.

Getting unique cuts of meat is different here than in the States. Some things like chicken breasts and ground meat are in a reach in cooler that you can get for yourself. Ribs are not. You have to ask for those. So I armed myself with some basic animal anatomy and went to the old covered market on the Pest side of the city. I proceeded to wander until I found a booth that looked to have what I wanted and a butcher with a good disposition. It went like this (in Hungarian):

Me: Good day! I speak very little Hungarian.
Butcher: You don't speak Hungarian. What do you speak?
Me: English.
Butcher: Oh, no I don't speak English.
Me: (In my head) Crap.

What followed involved my limited Hungarian, a lot of pantomiming, and showing the guy pictures on my cell phone of the part of the animal I wanted (the ribs were not difficult to describe, but the chuck roast was challenging). There was also a lot of laughing and him incredulously asking why on earth I wanted 6 kilos (13 lbs) of ribs!

A few minutes later, I had what I wanted and began the trek home carrying 8 kilos of meat. It felt really good to have been able to do that.

The party last night was amazing! We had a wonderful group of people and the diversity of language was phenomenal. German, English, Korean, and Hungarian were all spoken last night. Everyone had a great time, ate a lot, and laughed even more. By the end of the evening, my heart was full of joy and singing the praises of the the One that sent us here.

I'm hoping to post pictures a little later, but I had to write something because I feel I have shortchanged you all in failing to write for a month.

My best friend arrives today! This is our first trip out to the airport on our own!