Yesterday, Louie was fixated on having Mexican flavors for dinner. Earlier in the week he had gone to the local market and came back with beef shanks, corn on the cob, carrots, cilantro, potatoes, and other veggies. I assumed he would be making his famous “cocido” – Mexican beef stew. But that wasn’t so. We bought Japanese take-out the night before. The night before that, I broiled chicken, and the night before that Louie made a gorgeous pot of Frijoles de la Olla – pinto beans.
So, a few hours before dinner he went to the Mexican supermarket, bought thinly sliced carne asada, corn tortillas, vegetables, and crunchy – low-carb -- pork cracklings.
When the chef is quiet, make way. Louie was so focused he hardly spoke. Practically floating around the kitchen, he placed the thinly sliced beef in a big pot and topped them with sliced red onions and cilantro. “I’m just making up my marinade as I go along,” he said.
“It’s going to taste wonderful,” I told him. “…because you are happy!”
And as the meat marinated, he asked me to bring out two corn cobs. I wondered how he was going to use them. He started shaving the kernels off the cob. Then he asked for two more cobs. “Do we have zucchini?” he asked. I pulled out two.
Ah ha! He’s making succotash, a popular Southern dish that I discovered while on story assignment in Branson, Missouri. At the harvest festival, an iron skillet the size of a roulette table was overflowing with a mound of corn, lima beans, okra, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, onions, and bell peppers. A young saleswoman at a store in town couldn’t say enough that it was her favorite dish. She wasn’t kidding. I couldn’t wait to make it when I returned home, and it has been a family favorite ever since.
He hadn’t planned to make succotash but remembered the corn in the fridge. And because we didn’t have all the traditional ingredients, Louie called it “Mexican Succotash.”
The beef grilling in the iron skillet sizzled and smelled divine. He had me taste a bite. Then he asked me to taste the succotash. “Beautiful!” I replied, “…just add a tad more salt.”
Finally, he warmed the leftover beans and flour tortillas. Louie’s comfort meal was complete, accompanied with a bottle of sparkling wine that we didn’t finish the night before. Scooping up every bite with a piece of tortilla, he took a breath and sat back in the chair.
“These are exactly the flavors I was craving!” Then he got all “sentido” (Spanish for sensitive).
“It makes me happy to see you happy eating what I made.”