Two Rick Bayless' recipes that just didn't work...

Tonight was just one of those nights. When I told Craig the planned menu, he commented, "Of course I try anything - once." That should have been a sign. I pulled out Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday this morning and was in the mood for fish, having OD'd on MEAT the last few days.

The Seared Salmon with Spinach and Creamy Roasted Peppers sounded tasty and healthy, and we had spinach from the Tower Grove winter market in the frig to use. Spanish rice sounded like a good accompaniment to soak up the sauce - okay so far. We have an old Bon Appetit recipe that uses chayote, and I decided on a salad based on such from the Bayless' cookbook, but I used his winter version with Roasted Guajillo Chile Dressing, red onions, and I diced fresh tomatoes. This is one of the worst things I've made. Ever. It.Was.Unedible. The chayote, which is microwaved, had a slimy texture, and the dressing was indescribably nasty. I was laughing so hard at how disgusting it was that Connor chastised me not to spit out the mouthful I had.
(Chayote Salad & Roasted Guajillo Dressing)
Seared Salmon with Spinach and Creamy Roasted Peppers - Connor and I really did like this, and Craig's issue was that I followed the recipe ("You never do that.") and the spinach leaves were steamed whole and in "big clumps". My instinct told me to blend the steamed spinach with the pepper sauce, which I should have done... It's like a smoky creamed spinach sauce, healthy since it can successfully made with skim milk, which Connor and I both love.

2 fresh poblano chiles
10 ounces cleaned spinach (about 10 cups)
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil **didn't measure, but used less
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 to 2 tablespoons masa harina (Mexican corn "flour" for making tortillas)
1 1/2 cups milk, plus a little more if needed **skim milk okay
4 4- to 5-ounce salmon fillets
Salt and ground black pepper

Roast the poblanos over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, 10 minutes for the broiler. Place in a brown paper bag, and let cool until handleable.

Place the spinach in a microwaveable bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the top and microwave on high (100%) until completely wilted, usually about 2 minutes and set aside.

Turn the oven on to its lowest setting. Heat the oil in a very large (12-inch) skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium. Add the garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the garlic into a blender. Set the skillet aside.

Rub the blackened skin off the chiles and pull out the stems and seed pods. Rinse the chiles to remove bits of skin and seeds. Roughly chop and add to the blender, along with the masa harina and milk. Blend until smooth.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the fish liberally with salt and pepper. Lay the fillets in the hot oil and cook until richly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the fillets, and cook until the fish barely flakes when pressed firmly with a finger or the back of a spoon (you want it slightly underdone), usually a couple of minutes longer for fish that's about 1 inch thick. Using the spatula, transfer the fish to an ovenproof plate and set in the oven.

With the skillet still over medium-high, pour in the poblano mixture and whisk until it comes to a boil and thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. If the sauce has thickened past the consistency of a cream soup, whisk in a little more milk. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon. Add the spinach to the sauce and stir until it is warm and well coated with sauce.

Divide the creamy spinach among four plates. Top each portion with a piece of seared fish. Serve without delay.

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