It seems like just yesterday I swore I would have a monthly dinner party but I haven't been doing so well on that project. But recently I did have three old pals over for dinner. The payoff of getting older is you have good friends like these. We all met in the early 1980s and food, booze and music have been constant themes.
As I was preparing and cooking, I thought that there isn't much better in life than a good plan and a free day to cook for your friends. I managed to fit in a quick swim (it was during a heatwave.)
I've been reading recently about cooking cactus paddles (nopales) in copper so I brought out my special carnitas pan and cooked them in that, along with some onion and tomatillo husks. This supposedly cuts down on the goo but I don't know. I'm glad to use the pan.
I think it's key to have a little something to drink and eat the second your guests arrive. Then they're more forgiving of your little mistakes. A tray full of goodies for tequila and several bottles of the good stuff is always inviting.
I also had beer, water and an agua fresca made from cucumbers.
I'd almost forgotten about these chile rellenos from Diana Kennedy's My Mexico. The marinated poblanos are stuffed with potatoes and sardines and then smothered in leftover marinade. I've written about them before but they're really worth remembering, especially since you can make them earlier in the day.
The cactus salad was nopalitos, tomatoes, onion, queso fresco and cilantro tossed in a vinaigrette made from my homemade pineaple vinegar. Oddly, this was my favorite dish of the evening.
The "star" of the evening was rabbit in a chile sauce. I used anchos and pasillas because that's what I had but I think some guajillos would have been better. Still, it was pretty great. Rabbits release a lot of water so you want to start with a fairly thick sauce right off the bat.
The rabbits and cucumber were from my neighbor, the other vegetables were from the farmers market and the nopales were from my back yard so it was a pretty local dinner.
I won't tell you about the bad dessert. Dessert never inspires me. Do you have a suggestion? I'd like a simple thing I could do without thinking that still has a little drama.