I get my inspiration from all sorts of places. Since the husbandman and I are on the cheap these days, I usually peruse the menus of Boston’s finer restaurants, looking for what they’re serving which I can replicate at home. But that’s my high-brow approach; sometimes, it’s better to be influenced by popular culture. For example: Chickenhawk’s Chicken and Beans, one of my most popular posts, was inspired by this ditty on the new Looney Tunes show. Tonight’s meal crawled into my imagination thanks to Sean and Gus from USA’s Psych; a silly show, to be sure, but one that makes me laugh every time I watch it. On their 100th episode, Sean – with his customary wit – celebrates a verbal mashup of Yiddish and Spanish by coining the term “Matzohdilla”, which Gus thinks “sounds delicious”. So did I, dear readers – so did I. The concept of a quesadilla made with matzohs instead of tortillas just lit me on fire! My mind immediately conjured a delectable vision of crusty pressed unleavened flat-grilled crackers stuffed with gooey cheese and savory meat, served Mexican style with some guac and sour cream for garnish. I ran pell-mell to Whole Foods to make my dream a reality.
Braised Shortrib Matzohdilla
1lb boneless short ribs
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 qt beef broth
3 slices bacon
1 can black beans
1 bottle dark beer
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb cheddar cheese
6oz cream cheese
1 small red onion
3-4 tablespoons minced cilantro
4-5 tablespoons diced tomatoes
garlic powder, red chile powder, ground cumin, black pepper, sea salt, smoked paprika, onion powder, EVOO
My original idea was to make carnitas for this meal, but I figured I was already slapping kosher in the face with the inclusion of cheese and cream cheese in my recipe; pork would just be cruelly insensitive. (Of course, I ended up using bacon in my beans (see below), but bacon doesn’t count, right?) Instead, I chose some lovely beef short ribs; I rubbed them down with a nice healthy blend of my dry spices (salt, pepper, cumin, garlic & onion powder, paprika, chile powder), and dusted them with flour before searing them thoroughly in hot EVOO in a large pan deep enough to submerge them in braising liquids.
Apparently, I can’t avoid pork. I tried – I really did. But before I even knew my auto-pilot had kicked in, I’d done gone and fried up a few slices to include in my beans. What can I say? I’m a degenerate.
After my bacon crisped, I dumped in my beans and a few scoopfuls of the braising liquid from the shortribs, and my bottle of beer. I let these simmer on medium heat until most of the liquid had burned off, then I mash up everything with a fork to give them a nice, spreadable texture.
I very carefully lay my matzohdilla in the pan, pressing down gingerly to flatten. I made two of these – one for me, and one for El Husbandious; I sort of snapped one, but I am happy to say they stayed together pretty well, enough so that none of the filling leached out. As the matzohs heated in the oil, they became slightly pliable – but without losing their crunch!
The trick to an excellent grilled cheese anything is time. The heat should be set at a relatively low level, or else the outside can burn before the inside melts. With constant gentle pressure, it took about 5 minutes on each side for these babies to cook up, and for all the cheddar cheese inside to melt and ooze. Since I only had one pan large enough, I had to make these in shifts; I placed the cooked one on a sheet in a low oven to stay warm while I grilled up the other one.
In a separate bowl, I whip up a quick guacamole: mashed avocado, diced tomato, diced red onion, minced garlic and cilantro, paprika, salt, pepper, and chile powder. Mix that all up, and you’re good to go.
My cultural mash-up is complete! I can’t really express how good this was: the matzohs stayed crispy and crackly, but they didn’t fall apart or crumble under the pressure of my teeth; the cream cheese/cheddar cheese blend was rich and creamy, with the cheese stretching from bite to bite like a most excellent pizza; the savory beans and tender, shredded meat were hot, flavorful, and delicious. I admit, Clayton and I rather laughed our way through the whole meal. It was freaking amazing, but I’d never seen or heard anything quite like it before (and I searched the internet for recipes – to no avail!), and it just seemed so silly to have been inspired by a cast-off quote from a TV show. But, in this case, silly was super-delicious. I wonder what other mash-ups I can come up with? Chicken Tikka Chow Fun? Caribbean Cassoulet? Pad Thai Pizza? Suggestions are welcome!