Friday, April 29, 2005

Awesome Chicken Tacos with mango/roasted corn salsa

You'll need to invite some friends over. This makes rather a lot. Delegate the margarita-making to someone with whom you don't mind sharing counter-space.


a couple, three, ears of fresh sweet corn
two or three fresh limes
a fistful of fresh cilantro
a couple or three ripe mangos
at least one fresh jalepeno pepper
a couple of fresh anaheim chile peppers
a medium red onion
a couple of small ripe tomatoes
a couple of cloves of fresh garlic
sea salt

In a big black skillet, or a wok, or whatever you have handy, roast the kernels of corn you've managed to save from falling all over the floor while you were slicing them off the ears. Send someone out for more ears of corn, if needed.

Just heat your pan with a little good olive oil. Before the oil starts smoking, toss in the corn. You want to roast it fairly hot, so it just begins to carmelize, but the kernels are still crisp. Have a margarita while you're working. Have two. Roasting corn while everyone else is out on the deck is hot and thankless work.

Take the corn up and let it cool, while you chop all the other stuff--you want it all chopped fairly fine, but not teeny-tiny. Holding back the cilantro, sea salt, and limes--chop up all the mangos, peppers, onions and tomatoes and put 'em in your biggest bowl. Add the corn. Then juice the limes and add the juice a bit at a time, until the mix starts to take on a salsa-ish texture. Add the cilantro according to taste. I like quite a lot. Sprinkle the whole thing with a bit of salt to bring out the flavors, then clear off the top shelf in your fridge until the bowl fits. Cover it with plastic or something. Have another margarita, if you want one.

fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced across the grain into strips about 1/2" wide
1/2 cup of decent tequila
2-3 limes
2-3 cloves fresh garlic

toss the strips into a big bowl with three or four shots of good tequila, the juice from two or three limes, and a couple of cloves of finely chopped garlic, marinate for an hour or two.

Pour off the marinade and toss the chicken into the big black skillet, or wok, or whatever you cooked the corn in. (You've cleverly cleaned it up so that the chicken doesn't stick like crazy.) Cook it fairly hot, with a little more olive oil, so that it browns nicely. Salt as needed.

Set that off on the back of the stove, while you grill some nice corn tortillas. You want to cook them just a bit past "hot" but stop well short of "crispy". I like 'em just a little toughened, so they don't fall apart when you fill them.

Have another margarita.

Grate a bunch of Monterey-Jack cheese.

Serve with either plain yogurt (for the low-cal, low-fat contingent) or sour cream. Either tastes pretty good. Chicken, salsa, cheese, sour cream, in the grilled corn tortillas. Have more margaritas, as needed.

You'll probably have enough salsa left over to go on top of omelettes in the morning, too.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Musing on Heroes and Warriors

On the Warrior Ethos, From the Army National Guard Recruitment page:

"In the face of a rapidly changing theater of operations, General Schoomaker, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, has personally called for a return to this most fundamental of creeds. The modern Guard, active now on battlefields around the world must be prepared for battle at all times. There is no such place as “behind the lines” any more. Our enemy will strike at us whenever and wherever they can. And we must be, we will be prepared to meet them and destroy them. And we will accomplish this mission by adhering to the Warrior Ethos:

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade."

Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, April 4th, 2005. The accounts that I've read of his heroism and sacrifice clearly describe this man as both a hero and a warrior. You don't have to agree with the motives behind the Iraq War and you don't have to like the ideology that keeps America in the conflict in order to feel a surge of admiration and respect for a man who voluntarily laysdown his own life to protect the lives of his comrades.

Then I found myself thinking about heroes, warriors, and how we value them.

I spent some time perusing the Congressional Medal of Honor page, and the stories of the recipients of the medal. It was an education for a would-be writer of fiction.

There is a certain kind of valor, a level of heroism remarkable in its purity, that seems to transcend ordinary human nature. Perhaps that is why the more cynical souls among us seek to diminish the weight of such acts. I suppose it would be more fashionable, at least among my most radical pc friends, if I were to write and think about Sgt. Smith's medal as a story told by the government at a time when this war badly needs some positive publicity.

I refuse to do that. I can't bring myself to diminish Sgt. Smith's valor that way.

I do want to think about it in terms of stories, though. I want to think about this act in terms of the stuff of heroism. This story is all the more poignant because of the accompanying pictures of the sergeant and his surviving loved ones--the human face. And I wonder if we need to recognize the face of the hero, to love him. If, in knowing and accepting his all-to-human failings, we recognize all the more the power of his transformation.

Our most revered medals aren't awarded for killing the most enemy combatants, like some real-life video-game--God save us all, if our culture ever comes to that.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

This ethos seems to me to be about selflessness, about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. An effective fictitious hero/warrior must be recognizeably human--and still must embody selflessness.

The tension of the struggle between those two states of being is where the story lives.

Friday, April 01, 2005


I'm struck by the quiet dignity accompanied by international vigils surrounding the Pope in his last hours. In comparison, the lunatic hysteria surrounding poor--purportedly Catholic--Terry Schiavo seems even more ghastly.

Godspeed to them both.