This blog post is dedicated to a dear man who left us too soon on July 18th, 2011. Guillermo Castro, a Birmingham restauranteur and all around amazing guy changed the face of Latin cuisine in the city with the opening of his restaurant, Sol y Luna in 1998. He continued to innovate by opening Los Angeles, a restaurant that included influences from Latin and Caribbean cultures, and later, Cantina Tortilla Grill, which celebrates street food. Guillermo was also integral to the Dia De Los Muertos festival, a non-profit festival held in Downtown Birmingham as well as a multitude of other local community and charity events. The list of his vast accomplishments goes on and on. He was someone who left an indelible impression on the city–he was someone who we fondly called a friend. *(featured image courtesy of al.com)
I started going to Sol y Luna when it first opened. I was barely twenty and it seemed exotic and glamorous to me at the time (it still does). More often than not, my just about life-long friend, April and I would go together. Her parents were very close to Guillermo and introduced us to him. We’ve celebrated just about every birthday at Sol y Luna or Cantina, countless girls nights and dates, engagement celebrations, baby showers, New Years Eve Celebrations and Cinco de Mayo. My husband and I even had our rehearsal dinner at Cantina because, well, we couldn’t imagine having it anywhere else. And Guillermo was always a there with a hug, a kiss on each cheek, and a kind word (okay, and maybe a shot or two of tequila). I can’t imagine him not being there.
When Guillermo and I were looking over the menu for our rehearsal dinner, I asked him for a recommendation of where to go for our honeymoon. We knew we wanted to go to Mexico and Guillermo, being a native of Guadalajara had some savvy recommendations. We went to all of the wonderful places he spoke to me about and made priceless memories. It is his influence on our special trip that helped me choose just what to cook for this “In Memory” post.
While on the Puerto Vallarta leg of our honeymoon journey, we enjoyed a dish called, Chiles en Nogada–poblano peppers roasted, then stuffed with picadillo, served chilled with a sweet, creamy walnut sauce. When I recreated the dish for our one-year anniversary, I was inspired to use the leftover filling to make taquitos, and boy am I glad that I did! Simply delicious! I think Guillermo would approve.
Makes 12-15 taquitos
This could easily be a vegetarian dish. Just double your vegetables. Leftover picadillo freezes well and is great in stuffed peppers too!
3/4 pound ground beef or pork
1 cup of chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
1 stick of cinnamon and 1 bay leaf tied together with kitchen twine
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you can find it)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 zucchini, shredded
1 sweet potato, shredded
1 cup of shredded cabbage
1/2 cup Giardiniera or pickled mixed vegetables, finely chopped
4 ounces of blanched almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
Optional: 1/4 cup spanish olives, chopped
2 Tablespoons of honey
1/2 lemon, sliced paper thin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small sauce pan, dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar in 1/2 cup of water by stirring over medium heat. When sugar is dissolved, add lemon slices. Turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain lemon slices and finely chop. The remaining syrup is great in cocktails, over ice cream, or mixed with sparkling water. Meanwhile, Cook the ground beef/pork in a large saute pan on medium heat in 1 cup of broth with cinnamon stick/bay leaf and oregano (a bullion cube and some water would work here too) until browned, about 10 minutes, breaking the meat up with a spoon as it cooks. Add the chopped onion, shredded potato, carrot, zucchini, tomato, cabbage, chopped lemon, and giardiniera. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add almonds, raisins, olives (if using) and honey and simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove cinnamon stick/bay leaf. Remove from heat and cool.
Cooked Filling (see above)
1 Package of small corn tortillas
1 egg, beaten
Dampen a kitchen towel and wrap the tortillas in the towel. Microwave the wrapped tortillas for 1 minute. Check to see if tortillas are warm and pliable. If not, microwave for 30 more seconds. You might have to do this a couple of times as you assemble the taquitos if the tortillas cool and start to tear. Keep them wrapped in the warm towel as you work. Using a slotted spoon, place about 2 tablespoons of the picadillo in the center of the tortilla. Brush the edges with beaten egg. Tightly roll the tortilla and filling into a cigar shape, making sure the outer edge is sealed (see picture above). You want to make and fry these in batches. If they sit around for too long, the moisture in the filling will make the tortillas tear. To fry: heat about 2 inches of oil in a large sauce pan or skillet with high sides over medium high until it reaches about 350 degrees. The oil is ready when a small piece of tortilla instantly bubbles when you put it in the oil. Place a taquito on a slotted spoon and gently dunk into the oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry on the first side 1-2 minutes, or until golden then gently flip each taquito and fry for 1 more minute. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate or, if you are making a lot of these and want to keep them warm, Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a cookie sheet with a wire rack on top in the oven. Place cooked taquitos in the oven on the wire rack. Serve with Salsa Fresca (recipe below). Some queso fresco would be wonderful crumbled over this dish as well.
Makes 3 cups–this is literally one of the easiest things in the world to make
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 3 medium), seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 – 1 jalapeno (depending on how hot you like it), seeded, de-veined, and roughly chopped
a small handful of cilantro (about 1/2 c)
1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
juice of 2 limes (about 4 tablespoons)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Dump all of the ingredients in the food processor. Process until it looks like the salsa you get at the Mexican restaurant. You want it more saucy than chunky for this recipe–although if you are making it just for the heck of it, make it as chunky as you want.
Cheers, Guillermo! We miss you!