Friday, May 27, 2011

The Ultimate Taco Project - Holy Horchata!

It's hard to believe The Ultimate Burger Project of 2009 began almost 2 years ago. The project was based upon building the best burger from scratch - bun, condiments and freshly ground beef. I had really hoped for a follow up project last year but nothing inspired me and then last winter it came to me - tacos. We love Mexican food and experiment with a lot of different types so this is the perfect topic.

My project began months back with hand made corn tortillas. Successful, delicious and pretty straight forward, the perfect place to start. Shortly thereafter, I pursued horchata. Again thinking it would be easy, too I found that it took a bit of research to find the horchata of my dreams.

Many years ago, I was taken to a Mexican joint in the city, off Division if memory serves. I was too young to really appreciate how great the food probably was, but what I do remember was the horchata. It was dipped out of a big rectangular cooler with a cup and poured into the cup I would eventually drink from - gross. It sort of skeeved me out but then I tasted it - I couldn't be rude - it was wonderful. Sweet with a slight cinnamon essence and the perfect cooling refreshment with spicy food. This horchata has been the earmark for all other.

The recipe calls for rice flour or ground raw rice. After a few seconds of grinding in the VitaMix - rice flour. Technically, I wouldn't call what I made flour, it was a bit more coarse than that. After my first experimentation though, I found too finely ground, it wound up as gritty sediment in the glass. Some texture is good, too gritty is icky.

Other ingredients, include milk, sugar, cinnamon sticks and vanilla extract.

I think what gives this rice milk great flavor and body is the cow's milk reduced over low heat by half. Since I tend to be a bit neurotic. I like to mark a skewer before adding the flame so I can see when it's reduced enough by checking the skewer. Clever or crazy?

Water, reduced milk and cinnamon sticks are brought to a boil and allow to set while the cinnamon infuses the mix. Add in the sugar, rice flour and vanilla to the mix and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

It's delicious and just what I was searching for - what are the chances the second recipe would hit the mark? I like to think it comes from many years of recipe reading.

The last time I served horchata one recipe was gone within the hour.

This time I doubled the batch. They all asked why I made so much.

Maybe I should sell some from a cooler....

Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger (remember the Two Hot Tamales?)

1 quart non-fat milk
2 quarts water
4 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup rice flour or 1/3 cup raw white rice crushed to a powder in a blender
3/4 cup sugar
1 T. vanilla extract

Pour the milk into a wide skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced by half. Strain into a large saucepan and add the water and cinnamon sticks.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks and reserve.

Combine the rice flour, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. Pour the milk mixture and whisk to incorporate well. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Then pour the liquid into a pitcher, discarding the sediment that has settled on the bottom of the bowl. Serve cold over ice with cinnamon sticks at stirrers.

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