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September 24, 2007
Surprise, they say, is the key element of war. Launch an attack where
your enemy doesn’t think you will, and more often than not, you can
expect to seize the high ground.
It is a good thing to draw something from this, to think of certain
dining engagements as a kind of warfare. This is especially true if you
have guests. The secret of the dinner party is that it is low intensity
warfare, and the battlefield is interpersonal politics.
Perhaps no weapon is better in this regard than the simple tortilla. It
might appear to be nothing more than a sheet of flour, but it also holds
out tremendous potential for culinary surprise attacks.
Here is how this works. A dinner guest calls up to RSVP and asks what is
for dinner. You say, winking to no one in particular, that you plan to
serve chicken burritos. Because none of your friends have money, they
will accept, happy to not have to spend money on at least one meal.
To begin your warfare, poach a chicken breast and shred it.
This is where you hit him with a sucker punch: brown onion, garlic and
zucchini until the onion is translucent and the squash is soft. Add a
couple of chopped tomatoes and the chicken, and oregano, thyme and
crushed rosemary. Allow the sauce to build as the tomatoes release their
juices, and then allow to cook down. You would not be doing yourself any
disservice by adding a little tomato paste to thicken things up.
Here, now, you must fight the urge to cook pasta, because your enemies –
guests, as some call them – would expect this kind of thing to be
spooned over pasta. Instead, you must soften some tortillas.
There are two schools of thought to this – microwaving them in paper
towels, wrapping them in aluminum foil and baking them for a few moments
at 350 degrees or warming them on a hot skillet.
The key is to make sure they are very soft, which is why you wrap them.
Exposure to heat without retaining moisture will turn a tortilla hard,
brittle and more acceptable as something to be dipped in beans than
stuffed with Italian-style chicken.
It is now time to fill your Trojan Horse. Lay the tortilla flat on a
skillet, and cover it with mozzarella cheese. Once it begins to melt,
spoon some of your Italian-style chicken over it, and make a burrito by
first folding in the ends and then rolling from one side. Allow it to
heat a little on each side, especially to make sure the outer flap of
the tortilla fuses shut, which prevents leakage.
On the side of this, consider serving some Cannellini beans with fresh
sage leaves. If your guests become suspicious, tell them that white is
the new black, and that these are black beans. This is likely to so
baffle them that they won’t know the difference until you’ve launched
your surprise attack on their taste buds.
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