Friday night is typically date night at our house, but it’s usually date night in. We hunker down at home together.
We either make something fun together that involves more effort than we’d put in for a weeknight or some kind of appetizers that we’ll eat while watching something on the T.V. Friday night in typically involves either Italian, Mexican or appetizers. Here’s some that we love.
(I’m limited to things I’ve photographed, which tends to be the most unhealthy of the lot.)
Fair warnings: I wrote this post under the influence of a Caribou mint-chocolate snowdrift, which I initially thought would be a wiser choice than more coffee. And instead, I was both jittery from this morning’s coffee and twitchy from a sugar rush. So as a result, the ridiculousness meter might be a little high today.
Okay. Confession time.
We own a deep fryer.
This and the chiles rellenos recipe further down make up the bulk of the reason why. Now we only break it out about 2 or 3 times a year, but oh my word, these recipes are both worth the mess.
I’ll be honest. Chimichangas fall into the “J’s problem” category. I’ll hang out in the kitchen, pull up a barstool at the counter and chat. I’m moral support.
These are J’s babies. And he is very good at them! I have no interest in adding to these to the bucket of things I’m good at, just like J has no interest in becoming the cookie master.
These aren’t particularly hard, but they do involve a myriad of steps (which is why these are “Friday-Night-Date-Night-In” food for us). Also, you’ll probably have some expletive moments as you figure out on the fly what works best to get the chimichangas in the deep fryer.
And be mentally prepared that one is just going to look weird. It’s going to unfold, and you’ll get some floaties in the fryer. Accept it, and don’t beat yourself up about it. It’ll still taste great.
The avocado cream sauce is the best part of the whole deal. Don’t skip it just because it involves breaking out the food processor or blender. I know. I hate washing those appliances, too. But, in this instance, it’s worth it.
J and I like differing amounts of the refried back beans. I like just the tiniest bit (enough to say I’m eating black beans, but not enough to really taste them), while J smears them on his. The real trick is remembering which chimichanga is the one with the mother load of beans. Everything looks the same once it goes in the deep fryer.
I skip the pickled jalapeno slices because sour and spicy is not my thing. But if it’s yours, by all means, have at it.
The chimichangas themselves are flaky-crisp and goey. They’re as good or better than anything I’ve ordered at a Mexican restaurant, and we have the benefit of not leaving the house.
In case I freaked you out with the labor intensive chimichangas, this tostacho offers similar flavors with a little less work. Plus, you don’t need a deep fryer for this recipe.
If you want to save on time, skip making your own salsa and pick up some pre-made pico de gallo from the grocery store. We go back and forth on making our own or buying it.
We also skip the pickled jalapenos the recipe calls for as those aren’t our thing.
These are pretty quick to whip up, particularly if you’ve got a helper. One person can deal with cooking the meat while the other makes the cheese sauce.
Don’t skip the frying of the tortillas, because the crispiness of the tortilla is fabulous. Also, getting them crisped only takes a couple of minutes.
These are my favorite chiles rellenos ever. When J and I made them, I finally understood what my dad had been talking about all these years. Oh my goodness. They’re delicious. The cheese oozes. The pepper is all melty, and the batter crisp. It’s a party of textures and flavors.
As these involve the deep fryer, they fall under J’s kitchen domain. J chars the poblano peppers right on the grates of our gas stove. He does it bare-handed; if I’m helping, I use tongs. I like having fingerprints.
You must char the chiles.
I know. It seems like a silly extra step. And most of the time, I’m like, “who really cares? I’m not doing that.”
In this case, charring the chiles is what makes them pliable for stuffing and sealing.
Also, char an extra pepper or two unless you’re already an expert at this whole stuffing chiles thing. Why? Because sometimes the stems get loose and fall out when you’re prepping the peppers for stuffing.
Speaking from experience, if you lose the poblano stem (and don’t borrow parts of another pepper to cover the resulting hole), all the cheese from your pepper will come floating right back out while it cooks. Sad pandas. The cheese is the best part. Having an extra poblano helps for patching holes in your peppers. Then, you can make some Franken-peppers with the ones that lose their stems.
There’s a reason J and I only make these about once a year (or less). They take some time and effort. And they require a lot of tooth picks. I hate cooking that involves strategic use of toothpicks; it’s like awful flashbacks to junior high wood shop class, which was one of the worst educational experiences for me.
We always skip the oregano the recipe calls for because we’re ambivalent about oregano.
The tomato sauce is incredibly simple and pairs so well with the chiles rellenos. You basically put the sauce on the stove and forget about it while you make everything else. (Well, after you puree it. I know. It’s another blender recipe. It’s so worth it. I promise.) If you’ve got leftover sauce, it works great as a base for a margarita pizza; all you need is pizza crust, basil and fresh mozzarella.
We made this grilled baba ghanoush the first time a few months ago before sitting to watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding; then we served multigrain pita wedges and cucumbers instead of peppers and pita. Cucumber was a better choice with this than the peppers. The little peppers and the eggplant in this photo came out of our garden.
If you’ve never heard of baba ghanoush, it’s like eggplant hummus. Instead of chickpeas, eggplant is processed with tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic and olive oil. It’s delightful! And now you can see we eat things that aren’t completely awful for us on some Friday nights too.
If you’re sensitive to garlic, be aware that the garlic doesn’t get cooked, so it will have a sharp bite. So, you may wish to adjust the amount of garlic you use accordingly.
Most recently we made this and the cheesy corn bites below for watching the Rio Olympics Opening Ceremonies in our basement.
Cheesy Corn Bites are our quick default appetizer. We made these for watching the Beijing Opening Ceremonies and again for watching the Rio Opening Ceremonies; they’ve become an Olympic tradition at our house.
They’re simple, and they make a bunch quickly. Word to the wise: halve the recipe unless you’re feeding a crowd. Why? They disappear before you realize how many you’ve eaten, and they’re addictive little things. Portion control starts before you even get these things in the oven.
Use good quality pepper jack. It makes a huge difference in the flavor since the cheese is the star ingredient here. I’m not able to handle hugely spicy things, but the cream cheese helps temper everything to a tasty and bearable level.
J overfills his because he likes more cheese per chip; I try to make the cheese stretch out further, so mine are less cheesy than his typically are. Filling these scoops is a misery loves company chore, so we require all hands on deck for this messy, filling enterprise.
We skip the chives/cilantro topping the recipe dictates; that seems like an unnecessary step that doesn’t offer much in the way of additional flavor.