I can now report that my Mexican Layer Dip is a success on two continents. It’s very easy: a layer of bean dip (9 oz can), a layer of sour cream dip (16 oz sour cream mixed with 2 Tbsp taco seasoning), a layer of grated cheese (Cheddar or Mexican), chopped tomatoes on top. You can add olives, jalapenos, cilantro or parsley if you happen to have it, or add guacamole between the bean dip and the sour cream mixture if you happen to like it (I don’t). I’ve never taken it to a party where it didn’t get compliments and more importantly where it didn’t get eaten up.
Last night we had a party at my boss’s house, where everyone was supposed to bring a dish. I decided to try my old standby if I could find ingredients. Normal groceries here don’t carry our cream, not even the Carrefour hypermarket. I knew the Sogo department store downtown has a marketin the 3rd basement level with lots of imported foods, so I headed there. Even getting there was an adventure, since I got the only cabdriver in the city who didn’t know where Sogo was, or the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station next to it. In a year here, this was the first time I’ve had had to call a colleague to translate to a cab driver – at least it was while I was on an errand said colleague would benefit from. I felt sorry for the guy; he wasn’t a very good cabdriver either. Normally cabbies here drive, er, a bit aggressively; this one had a death grip on the wheel at all times and seemed uncomfortable with the whole business. When we finally got there (the long way around) he did charge me less than the meter read. Going home we went the long way too, but this was because of an enormous protest march that prevent us from taking a left turn near the store. They were protesting the KMT (ruling party – it was sponsored by the opposition DPP) and its strategy of forming closer ties with China; one inflatable float had huge scary reindeer, with evil eyes and sharp teeth, pulling a sled with a giant milk bottle with poison symbols on it (because of the recent issues with melamine-tainted milk powder imported from China).
I was able to find my sour cream, but no bean dip. They did have refried beans, though (3 or 4 brands!) so I hoped I could convert that into bean dip. Some research into internet recipes convinced me the two were pretty similar, so I just mixed the frijoles with a little Tabasco and some finely diced onion. The other thing I realized on the way home was that one thing I don’t have here is the glass pie dish I always use for the layer dip. Oops. (The market has a large hoursewares section, so no doubt I could have found one.) The only glass dish I have is a rectangular casserole, a good 30 sq in bigger. Ted and I looked at the local hypermarket for a dish but couldn’t find anything quite right. so I did end up using the bigger dish. I had more bean dip than usual (16 oz can vs 9 oz I usually use) but if I’d thought this out in time I’d have doubled the sour cream. As I said, though, it was a huge success. There wasn’t enough left to bother bringing it home, and when my boss was going to scrape out the dish to clean it for me to take home, his wife told him to save that little bit because she liked it so much.
Today’s adventure was a bit more … adventurous. I’ve roasted a fair few chickens in my time, so when I saw a cute little whole chicken in the store on Saturday, I didn’t hesitate to buy it for Sunday night’s dinner. I could see that it had its black lower legs still on, but figured I could deal with that. (Makes sense, since people eat chicken feet here.) What I hadn’t realized until I unwrapped it was that it still had a head, too. Ulp. This is not the first time I’ve been thankful for how complete The Joy of Cooking is, but I think I achieved new levels of gratitude.
I think it must have been partially prepared; the Joy warns that when cutting off the head you need to hold and bind the two tubes immediately, but there didn’t seem to be any, or they were empty. The legs were actually a harder challenge; it turns out that chickens have rather a lot of leg tendons attaching the lower leg, and it took a lot of muscle to get them out. Oddly, though, there were no giblets, heart, or lungs in the chicken at all.
It’s in the oven now, so the taste test still remains. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a bird this tiny – only 4 lbs, according to the little scale I normally use for weighing yarn. From the size, and since the label was all in Chinese, I might otherwise have wondered if it were really a chicken and not, say, a quail, but having seen the head in all its gory detail, it’s definitely a chicken.