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Delectable dining and a gentle education at 7 Hermanos

Mystery Diner • Oct 27, 2017 at 10:53 AM

I am not ashamed to admit that I am still in the learning stage when it comes to the various methods used to prepare food for human consumption. My most recent tutoring session occurred courtesy of the kitchen at Johnson City’s 7 Hermanos Mexican Restaurant. 7 Hermanos means “Seven Brothers” to us Anglos.

Now, I have spoken elsewhere of the ongoing “Revolucion Mexicanos” that is underway in our region, and am getting a gentle education that what I formerly considered Mexican cuisine is better recognized as “Texas style” or “Tex-Mex.” I am finding out that there is no one type-cast “Mexican” cuisine, but rather a multitude of intensely different regional cuisines, all based on locally available ingredients as well as different methods of preparation. For me, appreciating the cookery, the texture, the aroma bouquet and the savoring of each dish is a most enjoyable learning experience.

My recent tutoring session began with a supper meeting with my dining partner and the rest of the dine-around bunch. Both my dining partner, the Retiree and the Carnivore each decided to order 7 Hermanos’ signature Pollo Cancun platter, ($11.99) while the Dieter chose the Arroz con Pollo (also known as “ACP”) with pineapple ($8.25.)

I was feeling adventurous. Asking our server about an entry labeled “Aguachiles estillo Guadalajara,” I was told it was a shrimp dish prepared “Guadalajara-style.” That sounded good, so I ordered some as my entrée ($9.59).

While waiting, the dine-around bunch decided to check out 7 Hermanos’ renowned salsa bar. My dining partner and the Retiree liked 7 Hermanos’ white salsa, saying it was good with both tortilla chips and as a salad dressing. The Dieter was of two minds about whether the jalapeno and tomato salsa, or the pico de gallo was the best. I told her the jalapeno-based salsa would have a sharper taste due to the use of pickled jalapeno, but the pico de gallo’s lingering heat would be a better match for the pineapple in her arroz con pollo entrée.

The Carnivore and I decided we’d each get some of the habanero salsa. I wanted mine as an accompaniment for my entrée. My friend got some just because he likes habanero peppers.

“Why the habaneros here are just cute little orange parings that wouldn’t hurt anyone,” said my friend with a broad, crocodile smile.

Our entrees arrived in about 15 minutes. The Pollo Cancun being enjoyed by the Carnivore, the Retiree and my dining partner was a mixed grill of sliced chicken breast, some finger-thick shrimp, broccoli, onion and zucchini, tossed with a spicy ranchera sauce, layered onto some fluffy white rice and covered with melted queso fresca cheese dip. Add a side order of refried beans and some flour tortillas to wrap it in, and my friends were three very pleased diners.

The Dieter’s Arroz con Pollo entrée had grilled chicken served with diced pineapple on a bed of Spanish rice and covered with the cheese dip. The Dieter said it was just OK until I suggested she add some of her pico de gallo salsa to the dish and see if that helped. She did, and was very pleased with the result, saying that the pico’s sharpness and pungency of the onion offset the tropical sweetness of the pineapple in an agreeable way.

Meanwhile, I was confronting a bowl of emerald green soup that had a number of white objects floating in it. This was my Aguachiles estillo Guadalajara entrée and I admit its appearance caused initial concern around the table:

“Are you going to eat that? Really?” whispered my dining partner.

I took a tentative, trembling spoonful, and then another.

And another.

Aguachiles is prepared by crushing peeled and cored jalapeno peppers into a paste using a molcajete, a Mexican mortar and pestle. Adding in enough water to make the paste liquid it is mixed with lime juice, cilantro and a pinch of salt. You then take some nice-sized (20-30 count) shrimp, remove the head, peel, de-vein and then butterfly the raw shrimp with a very sharp knife. You then spread out the shrimp on a low dish, cover with the aguachiles marinade, and refrigerate. Aguachiles estillo Guadalajara is essentially a shrimp ceviche dish where the lime juice and the jalapeno mixture both marinates and “cooks” the shrimp. Check on them after 15 minutes. If the shrimp are white and opaque, they are ready, as mine were.

How did they taste? The shrimp were completely “cooked” through by the marinade, which imparted a remarkable delicacy and tenderness to the shrimp flesh. The aguachiles marinade also gave the shrimp an excellent sour tang and a nice lingering jalapeno heat note that both complemented and enhanced the clean, fresh taste of the shrimp itself. Altogether a delightful, delectable experience, which the dine-around bunch each confirmed after trying some, after some gentle coaxing on my part.

If you are in the mood for some out-of-the-ordinary Mexican cuisine, and a further broadening of your culinary knowledge base, why not give 7 Hermanos a try?

New classes begin every day at 11 a.m. and can fit any busy schedule.

7 Hermanos

3101 West Market Street

Johnson City

328-3475

Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Sun 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Available on Facebook

Credit cards accepted

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