After spending time in all the border states (and the food capital of the U.S., NYC), I’m convinced that the best Mexican food outside of Mexico is, hands down, Arizona. I used to think that also included Mexico, but two trips to Cancún quickly refuted that foolishness. Yup, the same state that brings us backwards bigoted governors and racial profiling, also gives us the best Mexican food outside of Mexico. Ironic, isn’t it?
I’m sometimes ashamed to admit I’m from Arizona (not born but definitely raised) but, then again, I left, so I have that going for me. I do have family and friends there so I visit from time to time. Every Phoenix visit there’s one stop I have to make: San Carlos Bay restaurant. Their Sea of Cortez-style Mexican food makes my mouth water just thinking about it. My entrée of choice: Camerones Culichi, which is shrimp swimming in a creamy mild green pepper sauce baked in a dish with a layer of melted cheese. It’s served with fresh tortillas for scooping up the cheesy, poblano peppery goodness.
I definitely had to figure out how to make this dish. Being far away from Phoenix, it has not been easy to reverse engineer the sauce that is its heart and soul. I found one recipe online but it didn’t quite capture the magic. I experimented and, with some tips from a friend who grew up in Nogales, I finally figured out how the sauce was made.