Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mexico Redux (part 1) and Chicken Parmesan

As many of you know, recently, I spent a week in Mexico. For the last five years one or both of my parents (Dad lived there for a short while before Mom moved down) have lived in Mexico, I have been fortunate enough to be able to take a few vacations to see them there and last week was one of those times. My visit started off on a Saturday afternoon (following a very early drive to San Antonio because they had the best fares), it was a pretty easy afternoon, we ran into Costco to get some steaks and went home to relax. Yup, that's right I said Costco, the big wholesale/warehouse stores are all the rage down there, both Sam's and Costco have outposts in the cities. Currently my parents live in Monterrey, where many more US chains exist but previously they lived in Torreon, not quite as American-ized but still interesting.

After our relaxing Saturday evening and a very good nights' rest we headed out to the MARCO, the Monterrey Museum of Art to catch the newly opened Pixar exhibit....the photo below should give you an idea of how packed the museum was.

Apparently we made the mistake of trying to go to the exhibit on 'free' day at the museum, needless to say we did not wait in the line (which wrapped around the block), instead we ate at the museum restaurant, which has a lovely buffet and then wandered around Barrio Antigua. There is a section of downtown Monterrey that has been turned into a pedestrian area, known as the Gran Plaza with sculptures and fountains that are beautiful. Here are a few shots of the Fuente de la Vida (Fountain of Life), it is anchored by Neptune and has many other bronzed figures through the fountain:

And one of my favorites, a picture of Mom taking a picture of one of the sculptures in the Explanada de los Heroes (Esplanade of the Heros):

From the Gran Plaza you can see a number of neat architectural elements as well as the Catedral Metropolitana (the metropolitan cathedral) of Monterrey.

After wandering the beautiful park and esplanade areas in Barrio Antigua we wandered through the flea-market style sale that takes place on Sundays in Barrio Antigua, there Mom purchased a very large matate, which is similar to a mocahete but is used for grinding corn and larger items. It was very heavy, maybe 80 lbs of stone but we managed to get it home and later Mom cleaned it up.

More on my Mexican adventures for some of the goodies I've made since I've returned home:

Thursday evening I was feeling an urge to cook and wanted something that I think of as comfort food. It was kind of damp and chilly that night so chicken parmesan sounded delicious, I raided the pantry and my herb stash and came up with this version of it.

Chicken Parmesan

2 28oz cans diced tomatoes
1 medium chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 1/2 cup parmesan
3 pounded chicken breasts, cut in 1/2
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 cups bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 lb whole wheat angel hair pasta

1. Saute onion, garlic and olive oil in a large pot for five minutes (or until tender), season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, basil and bay leaves to pot. Bring to a boil, season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
3. Reduce heat and simmer, stir in tomato paste. Allow sauce to reduce, approximately 30-45 minutes.
4. While sauce is simmering, pound chicken breasts to about 1/2 inches thick, cut in 1/2 to create 6 pieces of chicken.
5. Mix 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper into flour.
6. Crack eggs, mix up and set aside for use in battering chicken.
7. Batter chicken, drop into egg first, then dredge in seasoned flour, dip in egg again and then in bread crumbs, pan fry until golden brown on each side (appx 3 minutes per side).
8. Set pan fried chicken on papertowels to drain off excess oil.
9. Bring salted pasta water to a boil. Boil pasta until al dente. Drain, set aside.
10. Preheat oven to 350F.
11. Spray a 13x9 baking dish with PAM/Veggie Oil, then place pasta in the dish. Layer chicken breasts over pasta, then sauce over the chicken. Finally, top with 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese.
12. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cheese is browning on top. Serve!


Dee said...

Missed you so much once you flew away but I had a great time with you when you were here, especially when we played/cheated @ pool & cooked together...
Also, we made the mistake of trying to see the exhibit the weekend it opened. The free day is on Wednesdays at that Museo! There were almost as many when we went this last week. Great exhibit though. Hope it comes to Texas. Chicken looks delicious!

Chef E said...

Yes, the chicken looks and sounds delish. I debated over that yesterday, but I did okra and chicken instead...I have not been there in 17 years...when the kids were small...sounds like you have such a wonderful time and lovely family! I saw the stuffed peppers and told mom it gave me inspiration for other things1

Anonymous said...

Chicken parmesan looks really good! Sounds like you had such a fun time and thanks for sharing the pictures!

Reeni♥ said...

I'm happy to hear you had a great time. Chicken parm and comfort go hand in hand. Looks delicious!

Gloria Chadwick said...

I love chicken parmesan! I thought I was the only one who added cayenne; it was my "secret" ingredient. But I guess that all true Texans know this. :)

Tangled Noodle said...

Thank you for sharing your photos! How wonderful that you were able to spend time with your folks. The chicken parmesan looks delicious - I can see why it's so comforting! 8-) said...

Oh this looks delicious!! It sounds like you had a great trip -- how exciting! I always love visiting the parents!