This week I am planning a watching party for a television show's season premiere. One of my favorite fall shows, Ugly Betty, serves as the theme and centerpiece of the party. Since Betty Suarez's family is from Mexico, that region's authentic dishes will make up my menu. When my friends arrive I'll have large colorful bowls filled with classic tomato salsa, tomatillo guacamole, and blue corn chips. Later I'll remove a platter of queso fundido from the oven to serve with warmed tortillas and chicken in green sauce. Guests can make their own soft tacos by choosing from any of the aforementioned toppings and fillings. To get these recipes,

Roasted Tomatillo Guacamole
From Sunset magazine
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1 or 2 fresh Jalapeños, stems removed, and chiles halved and seeded
1/2 medium white onion, peeled
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tomatillo, papery skin removed
1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
At least 1 tablespoon lime juice
1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
At least 1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. In a large, unoiled frying pan over medium heat, pan-roast the Jalapeños, onion, garlic, and tomatillo on all sides, 20 to 25 minutes total.
  2. In a blender, whirl the vegetables with 1/4 cup water until blended but still chunky.
  3. Add avocado and lime juice; pulse until blended. Add cilantro and salt, pulse to combine, and add more salt and/or lime juice to taste.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

From Pedro Rosas, Chef at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista

5 large tomatoes
5 large jalapenos
1 small bunch cilantro
1 medium white onion
1 small lemon
salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, ground cumin to taste

  1. Roast the tomatoes and jalapenos till the skin is burned (do not remove the skin) and let it cool off for 2 hours
  2. After the tomatoes and jalapenos are cool, place it into the blender with 1 cup of water and mix together
  3. Chop the fresh cilantro and onion and add to the mix with all the remaining ingredients and with the lemon juice.

Makes 1-2 cups.

Queso Fundido
From Rick Bayless
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1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1 medium red onion, sliced
6 to 8 ounces full-flavored mushrooms, such as shiitakes, oysters or practically any wild variety, stemmed (discard woody stems or finely chop them) and sliced (you'll have about 2 generous cups)
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and thinly sliced
12 corn tortillas, the fresher the better (store-bought are okay, but homemade will really shine here)
8 ounces mozzarella, preferably whole-milk (but not "fresh" mozzarella, which will not melt) or Mexican quesillo, shredded (you'll have about 2 cups)
A generous 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or generous 1 teaspoon chopped fresh epazote
A little black pepper, preferably freshly ground

  1. Make the mushroom mixture: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large skillet (preferably nonstick), heat the oil over medium-high. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softening and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir nearly constantly until they have softened and any juice they release has evaporated, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the sliced chiles, then taste and season with salt, usually about 1/4 teaspoon. Transfer the mixture to a 9- or 10-inch shallow baking dish, Mexican cazuela or pie plate.
  3. Finishing the queso fundido: Very lightly dampen a clean kitchen towel. Check the tortillas to make sure none are stuck together. Wrap them in the towel, then in foil, sealing the edges tightly. Place in the oven and set the timer for 7 minutes.
  4. When the timer goes off, stir the shredded cheese into the warm mushroom mixture. Set in the oven alongside the tortillas and bake until the cheese is just melted, about 5 minutes longer.
  5. Sprinkle with the thyme or epazote and black pepper and serve without a moment's hesitation, accompanied by warm tortillas.

Serves 6-8.

Mayan Chicken With Green Sauce
From Mario Batali
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2 lbs chicken drumsticks and thighs
3 lbs tomatillos, husked
6 garlic cloves
2 serrano chiles
juice and zest of 3 limes, plus 1 more for garnish
1 bunch cilantro
chopped scallions, for garnish

  1. Remove the skin from the chicken. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot of boil water, place the tomatillos, garlic, and chiles. Boil for 2 minutes and drain.
  3. Fill a blender with the tomatillos, garlic, and chiles along with the lime juice and zest. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
  4. Add the sauce to a large saucepan with the raw chicken. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Season the sauce with the juice of a lime and add the chopped scallions.
  6. Serve with warm tortillas.

Serves 6-8.