Six years ago… Mando’s cousin Ampelio buys us tickets for the bullfights in Mexicali, BC. I find myself in a dusty, dirt-filled arena surrounded by testosterone-fueled men wearing big sombreros, shit-kicking cowboy boots, their best blue jeans and crisply ironed white button-downs. I believe Karla (Ampelio’s wife) and I are 2 out of 20 women to be counted at this event. Outside of the arena, music is heard every 50 feet with a new set of mariachis giving their best gritos (yells) and singing as if their lives depended on it. Sweet confections made of either coconut or pumpkin are sold next to trinkets that light up to encourage a cheering crowd. At this point I’m liking the bullfights, walking amongst the locals and embracing their view.
Once inside, we walk through narrow white corridors that lead us to our box seats, where a man wearing a Tecate t-shirt immediately arrives with a large metal bucket filled with tons of ice, beer, salt, chile, lemons, limes and very few non-alcoholic beverages. He also brings along a platter of corn tortilla quesadillas with all the fixings on the side to build your own…it was marvelous. The Tecate t-shirt man reappears every half hour on the dot to replenish anything that has gone missing out of the bucket….sometimes he brings big red roses too. Everything is going smoothly…it’s the perfect weather, people are jovial, I probably have some big piece of cheese stuck in my mouth, and you can still hear the music bleeding from the outside making its way through the tunnels…then the nightmare begins! Each bull gets slaughtered by the coward in his tight hot pink outfit riding high on a horse. With each passing minute I feel all happiness leaving my body! I’m rooting for the bull. I want to see the punk in his sorry hot pink stockings go down! It’s so unfair and hopeless, hardly a fight. I start to sob, and I’m trying to control myself because I really want to scream out in complete horror and cry at the top of my lungs. Then, before I allow myself to go there, I feel Mando in his true down low style whisper in my ear, “Stop crying. My cousin paid a lot of money for these tickets so pull yourself together!” Trying to be nice, I wipe my eyes and breathe in the sassy me and exhale the vulnerable me, only to turn around and find Karla in the same exact state with her black mascara running down her face…she makes a cute raccoon. We look at each other and start laughing. Meanwhile Mando and Ampelio are screaming in Spanish and in between breaths, downing as many beers as they can pour down their throats.
At the end of the evening, I convince the man who kept the bucket nicely well stocked to sell me his Tecate t-shirt because Mando loved it so much……then off into the sunset we ride with dirt in our hair and delicious quesadillas on my mind.
Ingredients for Rajas con Crema:
4 – tablespoon olive oil
4 – pasilla chile (Roasted, peeled, and cut)
2 – yellow bell pepper (deseed, and slice)
1 – large onion (sliced)
2 – teaspoon salt
1/2 – teaspoon garlic powder
4 – tablespoon water
16 – ounces sour cream (I use Knudsen)
2 – teaspoon vegetable bouillon (I use Knorr)
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small dish, with a pastry brush generously brush pasilla chiles with olive oil to coat. Then place oil coated pasilla chiles on an open medium high flame. Burn the skin of the entire chile. It will take about 5 to 7 minutes.
Once chiles are completely charred, place them in an air tight ziplock bag for 1 hour. This step will allow chiles to steam in their own heat and will make peeling charred skin off much easier. It’s an essential step.
Once chiles have steamed, remove from ziplock and place under a slow stream of water from faucet. With your fingers slowly and carefully peel charred skin off of chile, until all burned skin is removed.
Remove stems and deseed skinned pasilla chiles. Then slice into long strips 1/4 of an inch thick. Now slice onion and yellow bell peppers too.
Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a big frying pan over medium flame, allow to heat for two minutes. Then add in sliced onions and sliced yellow bell pepper. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring every so often.
Then add in sliced pasilla chile, along with salt, and garlic powder. Mix to combine and allow to saute for 15 to 20 minutes or until all peppers and onion are limp and soft. Then add in 4 tablespoons of water, and vegetable bouillon. Give it a good stir and let cook for another minute or so.
Now for the final step, add sour cream and stir in well, cook for 3 minutes. Then place in bowl.
10 – corn tortillas (I use Guerrero, king size)
12 – ounces queso fresco (I use Cacique’s Ranchero)
6 – ounces monterey jack (grated) (I use Tillamook)
Warm tortillas over an open flame for 20 seconds on each side
Then fill with a slice of queso fresco and a little handful of monterey jack cheese. Fold in half.
In a large pan or comal, heat over a medium flame. Place folded corn tortilla stuffed with cheese in pan and heat on each side for 2 – 3 minutes. You want the outside to be slightly hard and the inside to be soft and melted.
Side Dishes for Quesadillas:
1 – cup red cabbage (sliced thin)
1/2 – cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 – cup salsa (refer to my “salsa for the ages” recipe, posted on 03/09/11)
2 – avocado (either sliced or mashed)
1 – bowl of rajas con crema
Take your quesadilla and fill with a little of each side dish.
Mmmmm Quesadillas… “Que Chaka!”
My fiance’ Mando, Me, Karla, and Ampelio at a local bar after the bullfights.