Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Mexican Dinner Party

That’s my dinner party. Yes, it has a theme. I don’t know how it happened that the MDP became my go-to service, but it probably stems from Laurie Colwin’s cardinal rule of dinner partying: Don’t serve anything you haven’t made before.
That, and that the main dish in my menu is Mexican chicken soup, a product of my first Colwin-esque roast chicken that is easy, delicious, and keeps impressing people.  The soup itself starts the night before with a par-roasted chicken and a few hours of simmering to create a chicken broth base. To complete the soup, all I need to do night of is sauté an onion with some seasonings (chili powder, red pepper, and tomato paste) and add the cooked chicken and broth back in. Then the soup can sit for as long as I need to prepare toppings (grate cheese, toast tortilla strips, and dice avocado) and side dishes—qualities that make this a stress-free staple and allows for weeknight entertaining.
At my first MDP I served the chicken soup with a grated carrot and baby lettuce salad, alongside yellow rice and beans. Most recently it was the winning companion to a Mark Bittman–inspired roasted sweet potato and black bean salad in a garlic-lime vinaigrette.
Ay, caray.  Increasing our ease of weeknight entertaining has been a goal of mine for a while, so the MDP has been a keeper, and will continue in the rotation. Still, while I love my reliable cen-iesta, I’m feeling like a one-trick burro.
My new mixer helped spice up the rut this week, contributing a perfect on-theme dessert: Mexican chocolate meringues. Cinnamon adds richness to these light cookies, while a sprinkling of salt deepens the chocolate flavor.
The meringues were ridiculicious, as was the tried and true soup, however I’m working on an NDP—a new dinner party.  I’ve got to practice first, but rest assured, you’ll be hearing from me.

Mexican chocolate meringues

2 egg whites
Kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
6 ounces chocolate (we used what was one hand: half 70% cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate chips), melted and cooled to room temperature
½ tablespoon cinnamon        
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they make frothy peaks. Increase speed and slowly add in sugar, beating until the mixture is glossy and white. Stir cinnamon and vanilla into chocolate that has been melted over a double boiler. Mix cooled chocolate mixture into egg whites. Drop spoonfuls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, top with a sprinkling of salt. Bake 50 minutes in 200° oven. Turn oven off, propping it open slightly, and let the meringues sit until dry.


  1. Great shots. Love the meringue recipe, too. I might try it. The mixer seems to figure prominently in your DPs!

  2. Those meringues look so tasty. Too bad I live all the way over here!

  3. I want to make the roasted sweet potato and black bean salad in a garlic-lime vinaigrette! Love those meringues, though.