Spice up Cinco de Mayo

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

When we had del Rio in Carson City, circumstances dictated that we move three different times before finally ending up in Virginia City. Be it fire, leases or landlords, three times we had to start over, and each time people would say "how unfortunate." But not really. There's something exciting about moving into some new digs and fixing them up. For all those times you said, "if I had it to do over ... ," here's your chance.

It was in that spirit that we decided to liven up this economic wake by refurbishing a couple of the rooms in the old boarding house that used to occupy the second floor of our building and turn them into a private dining room. Seemed like a simple enough endeavor " a little drywall and paint, sand the floors, run some electricity. But for anyone who has experienced the unforeseen of remodeling a bathroom or kitchen, the surprises increase exponentially in a 140-year-old building.

More often than not the discover, discussion and disposition of these unforeseen takes place in the middle of cooking lunch. It's a lot like Ray Liota in the Mafia movie, "Goodfellas" where he's frantically preparing veal scaloppini while simultaneously organizing this huge drug deal. Unlike the movie, my life doesn't depend on it, but it does tend to get a little anxious.

The good news is that Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner and we can get back to what we came here for: cooking food.

Virginia City among other things that weekend (May 2-3), will be hosting the ICS qualifying chili cookoff for the serious chili cooks. For those of us without the ICS pedigree, there will be a People's Choice cookoff with less rules but no less contested. Two years ago I lost to an 11-year-old girl. It's taken me this long to get back into the ring. You can find out more at www.visitvirginiacitynv.com.

Our dish for today takes an interesting twist on the traditional red enchilada sauce with the addition of chopped peanuts and smoky chipotle chilis. Sometimes you will see a recipe for red enchilada sauce that has a little smooth peanut butter added to it for the nut flavor " kind of a cheap but effective trick. Traditionally, however, this nutty flavor is achieved by browning whole garlic in some oil, removing the cloves then adding flour to the flavored oil. This roux is then cooked until dark brown resulting in a nutty flavor before adding it to the sauce.

When we make this dish at the restaurant, we start with our own red sauce, so I've included that in the recipe. However, if you don't want to go to the trouble of buying, rehydrating and pureeing chilis, use some canned red enchilada sauce. It's been done before, trust me.

As for when our new banquet room will be ready to party, the word in constuctionese is "twoweeks." It has no basis in real time. It's just the word they use. Hopefully for us it means the beginning of June.

- Brian Shaw and his wife Ardie own Cafe Del Rio in Virginia City.


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