Saturday, December 22, 2012
chicken with a flair
I love food.
Of life's pleasures, it is undoubtedly my favorite. But you already know that. Or you could figure it out from the number of words I write on the topic of eating.
You would probably assume then that I an one of those people who moved to Mexico for -- and then gushes about -- The Food. But you would be wrong.
I like Mexican food. That includes the meals in The States that passes for Mexican food. Even though the Mexican food in Melaque is something quite different. The most obvious example is the taco.
The problem with Mexican food is its uniformity. After about a week of combining tortillas, chicken, vegetables, and salsa in different combinations, the culinary adventure sours.
And it doesn't matter which region I am in. Certainly, the cuisine of Michoacán is more interesting than Jalisco's. But everything is ruined by repetition.
Until recently, there was only one way to break the tortilla chain. Cook for yourself at home. And I enjoy doing that.
But we have had some additional choices recently here in the Melaque area. During the biggest tourist seasons of the year (when the highland Mexicans migrate our way). most of the restaurants serve the usual Mexican fare.
The only exceptions are during the few winter months when flocks of northerners head south. And need to be fed.
Most of them are looking for a filling meal at a low price. And we have a few restaurants that are essentially Denny's (or Appleee's) knockoffs.
And then there are the good restaurants. One of my favorites is La Rana. The eatery around the corner from my house.
The menu there had been somewhat the same since I have been living in Villa Obregon. Mexican classics mixed in with a few northern favorites.
This year the menu is delightfully different, The daughter of the owner has been attending chef courses in Manzanillo. And this year's offerings prove she has learned her stuff well.
The chicken section is proof enough. Italian chicken. Marengo chicken. Chicken piccata.
But my favorite is illustrated at the top of this post. Chicken jamaica.
A sautéed chicken breast, stuffed with goat cheese and walnuts, tied with a sprig of lemon grass. Set off by a tangy hibiscus sauce -- the southern equivalent of a pomegranate reduction.
The tastes are a perfect blend. The fresh breast has the pungent taste that only fresh chicken can provide. And the smooth tang of the goat cheese mixes perfectly with the acidic crunchiness of the walnuts.
I could not eat it every night. But it is certainly a pleasant weekly diversion for the winter months.
At 90 pesos (about $7 US), it is not the least expensive meal in town. But a similar meal in Salem at a tarted-up hotel coffee shop would run about $25 to $30. And it would not be as fresh.
It almost makes me wish I could take La Rana with me when I head north on Wednesday.