Friday, August 27, 2010

Thai Red Curry Chicken with Lime Scented Coconut Rice

I really do need to think about better photos - this doesn't look as appetizing as it could.

I love when meals come together.  You know, those last minute ones, where you've been out of the co untry for five weeks and you get home and there is nothing fresh in the house - you might be lucky and have some frozen chicken and some rice, and waaaaay in the back of the pantry. . . . what's this?  A jar of Trader Joe's Red Curry Sauces?  Hmph.  Now seems like a good time to check that out.  I call the mister to see if he can grab it seems that  me a lime and a can of coconut milk because I am struck by inspiration.

Now, I have a confession to make here.  Rice and I?  Not the best of buddies.  I used to make a lot of what I called Spanish rice when I lived in Australia (tomatoes, chorizo, green onions, scrambled egg), but a lot of the time, regular old rice turns out too goopy (let's be honest, my Spanish rice was almost always too goopy - more risotto than anything else) or too dry.

My five weeks in Mexico have given me a new confidence and interest in rice, so I figured I'd go for it.  Now, I can't take all the credit here - seems I'm not the only one that has had great luck with the TJ's red curry, (and what's this?  it's not horrible for you?!  hot damn!!) so I highly recommend you grab a bottle and keep it on hand.  Plus, this only took me as long as it took the rice to cook - about 20 minutes or so.

Thai Red Curry Chicken with Lime Scented Coconut Rice
2 chicken breasts (the ones I had were nice and thin and not gargantuan monstrosities)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
olive oil
1/2 of a large white onion - 1/4 cup finely diced, the rest roughly chopped
2 cups of frozen broccoli (or fresh if you have it!)
TJ's red curry sauce
1 cup of rice
light coconut milk - 1 to 1 1/2 cups
water - 1 cup
lime zest - 1 tbsp or so

Nuke your frozen broccoli, or cook it til just tender if you're using fresh and set aside.
Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Put 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and heat over medium high and cook about 4-5 minutes on each side til lovely and golden brown and cooked through.  If it was a teeny tiny bit pink in the middle, that would be okay - just set it aside.
While the chicken is searing, get the rice going - In a pot, add 1 tbsp olive oil to heat over medium high and then add the finely diced onions and let them start to get translucent; you don't want them to brown.  Once ready, add the cup of rice and sort of dry fry it with the onions for a few minutes.  You can let it go until it's translucent as well, but I had people in the kitchen that I hadn't seen in a while, so I really didn't pay much attention to how far I let it go.
Add the cup of coconut milk and the cup of water.  Allow to boil, turn down to simmer, cover and allow to cook until done.  Check on the rice to see if it needs more liquid - if so, you can add more milk or water; I added another 1/2 cup of milk.
In the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, add the roughly chopped onions and a little more oil if necessary.  Sautee until just starting to get soft, then add the jar of curry sauce and broccoli.  Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, add to the sauce, and allow to simmer over low.
If you're lucky, your chicken mixture and rice will be ready around the same time.  Just before serving the rice, stir the lime zest in.
Awww, look at the cute little green flecks!
Spoon up some of the rice, and cover with yummy curry and eat it up!  It was enough for three people.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oh Thank God

Smitten Kitchen has gotten around to blueberry muffins.  I LOVE blueberry muffins.  Of course, I'll probably ruin all of her hard work by trying to "healthify" the damn things, but such is life.  And her recipe is a take on  Cook's Illustrated's anyway, so I feel justified.

Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 9 to 10 standard muffins
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces or 71 grams) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces or 191 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces or 105 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well, then yogurt and zest. Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of dry ingredients over batter. Mix until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into batter and mix just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries. The dough will be quite thick (and even thicker, if you used a full-fat Greek-style yogurt), closer to a cookie dough, which is why an ice cream scoop is a great tool to fill your muffin cups. You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full, nothing more, so you might only need 9 instead of 10 cups. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean (you know, except for blueberry goo). Let cool on rack (ha), or you know, serve with a generous pat of butter.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cocktails from The

I don't know if any of you subscribe to Snooth, or their sister publication The, but if you like to drink, you should.  I do, but I almost never ever ever have time to actually read them so they pile up in my inbox (I currently have over 1700 emails from various mailing lists that I have not yet filed away or dealt with).  Then, every once in a while, when you've been in Mexico for an eternity, and your boyfriend is still asleep but you are dreadfully awake, you can find the time and space needed to deal with some of those things.  Here I bring you some of the more fun cocktails The Spirit has sent over (I think these cosmo thingies or something similar might be showing up at Halloween. . . maybe a layered shot as well. . . )

Edible Cosmopolitans
1 cup Cranberry juice
1 cup Vodka
1/4 cup Lime juice
1 Tsp Simple syrup
1/4 cup Cointreau
2 1/2 packages of Knox Gelatine 

In a medium saucepan, combine cranberry and lime juice, and simple syrup (add additional syrup to taste). Stir in gelatin. Place over low heat, stirring rapidly, until gelatin fully dissolves. Stir in Cointreau and vodka. Remove from heat. Pour mixture into a parchment-lined pan or individual cups (depending on the desire depth of the completed edible cocktail). Chill overnight. To serve, cut into small cubes. Garnish with coarse sugar or lime zest.

Tip: You can turn just about any single spirit or cocktail recipe into a shot by combining one package of Knox gelatine (7 grams) to every 8 oz of liquid spirit or mixture.

Green Tea Infused Vodka
Combine 1 teaspoon organic green tea leaves or 1 tea bag of organic green tea with 1 cup organic vodka and let steep for two hours. Strain or remove the tea bag; the vodka will keep in an airtight container in a cool place or the fridge for up to 6 months.

Pear Tea Martini
2 oz Green tea-infused organic vodka
2 oz Pear cider
1 slice Pear, unpeeled
Combine the infused vodka and cider in an ice-cube filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, then strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass. Gently drop in the pear slice.

Earl Grey Infused Rum
Combine 1 tea bag Earl Grey tea and 8 oz of rum and let steep for 1 hour. Remove the tea bag, then pour the mixture into an airtight container. The infused rum can be stored in a cool place or refrigerated for up to 6 months.

Earl Grey Boxcar
1 1/2 oz Earl Grey infused Rum
1/2 oz Punt e Mes Italian vermouth
1/2 oz fresh organic pineapple juice
1/2 oz freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
1/2 oz freshly squeezed organic lime juice
1/4 oz apricot brandy
Dash of Angostura bitters
1 thin slice of organic lemon
Pour the infused rum, vermouth, fruit juices, brandy, and bitters into an ice cube-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, then strain the mixture into a martini glass and garnish with the lemon slice.

Green Tea Simple Syrup

1/2 cup Jasmine green tea
1/2 cup Organic sugar 

Brew the Jasmine green tea. In a small saucepan, combine the tea with the sugar, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer until sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container.

I know some folks that'll probably be getting this for Christmas this year. . . 
Coffee Liqueur (aka homemade Kahlua)
4 cups Water
4 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Instant coffee
1 quart vodka
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half.
Place water and sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat, boil until dissolved. Stir in instant coffee. Remove from heat. Add vodka and vanilla bean. Pour into individual bottles and leave in a dark place (a closet works nicely) for three weeks.   

Cucumber Gimlet
Adapted from Epicurious
2 large cucumbers
1/2 cup gin
4 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup
Lime wedges, for garnish
Peel and cut cucumbers, place in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Mix 1 cup cucumber juice, lime juice, and simple sugar in a shaker filed 3/4 with cracked ice. Shake vigorously, double strain into chilled cocktail glasses.

Basil Gimlet

2 oz gin
4 pieces fresh basil
2/3 oz fresh lime juice
Cracked ice
In a mixing glass, muddle basil in lime juice. Add ice and gin. Shake vigorously, strain into chilled cocktail glasses.

Ginger Gimlet
Adapted from Ming Tsai
3 oz vodka
2 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz ginger syrup
Cracked ice
In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake vigorously, strain into chilled cocktail glasses. To make your own ginger syrup, combine two parts raw sugar and one part water. Grate a piece of fresh ginger into the mix (to taste), and boil for 2 minutes. Lower heat and simmer for 3 minutes, then cool. Reserve the fresh ginger, it can be grated directly into the drink, or sliced as a garnish. 

The Sake’d Saint
4 star fruit slices
2 lemon wheels
Ice cubes
3 oz Junmai or extra dry sake
3 oz St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
1. Add 2 star fruit slices and the lemon wheels to a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler or a wooden tiger, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the sake, St-Germain, and apricot brandy. Shake extra well.
3. Strain equally into 2 cocktail glasses. Garnish each with a star fruit slice and serve.

The Gong

Ice cubes
5 oz sake
3 oz pomegranate liqueur
Chilled ginger ale
2 orange slices for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the sake and pomegranate liqueur. Shake well (as if you feared being gonged).
2. Fill two highball or comparable glasses with ice cubes. Strain the sake-pomegranate mixture over the ice into the glasses (carefully, again as if you feared gonging).
3. Top off each glass with ginger ale, filling the glass almost to the top. Stir briefly with a thin mallet or long spoon. Garnish each with an orange slice and serve.

The B52

1/2 oz Coffee liqueur
1/2 oz Irish cream
1/2 oz Grand Marnier

In a shot glass, layer the coffee liqueur, Irish cream, and Grand Marnier in that order.

I sense a little Mexican (tequila) twist on sangria for my homecoming from Mexico party could be in order:

1800 Tequila Sunrise Sangria

1 Orange
1 Lime
1 full bottle of Prosecco
1 cup Tequila
2 cups Ginger ale
1/2 pint Raspberries
Slice half the oranges and limes into circles, then slice in half to form half moons. Squeeze the other halves of both fruits into a large pitcher filled with ice. Add the Prosecco, ginger ale, and tequila. Stir, adding whole raspberries and remaining orange and lemon pieces. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Enchiladas Verdes (de Gabriel)

the master at work
While I think I can whip up a pretty tasty guera-lada, we had an ACTUAL MEXICAN teach us the way yesterday.  One of the guys I met here has started up his own "I come to your house and teach you how to cook" type businesses - so if you're ever in SMA, give him a shout.  Also, if you're incredibly wealthy and would like to fly him to where you live, I bet he'd be game. 
This preparation of enchiladas is totally different than what I was used to; what with the frying of the tortillas.  Thanks Gabriel!!  Tus enchiladas son muy deliciosos.  That sounds dirty.

the masterpiece
Enchiladas de Gabrielserves 3 people - 4 enchiladas per person

20 tomatillos
3 chiles serranos (or to taste; be careful, some chiles are hotter than others - if you're a wimp, start with one or two and add more later)
1 handful of cilantro
1/2 white onion - thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic
12 or so corn tortillas
sour cream
queso fresco
salt & pepper
olive oil

Crumble or grate the cheese and thinly slice the onions - set both aside. 
Peel the skins off and wash the tomatillos to remove the sticky stuff (which can make your salsa bitter; you might even want to use a little soap to help, just be sure you rinse the tomatillos well).
Boil the clean tomatillos with the chiles and the garlic in enough water to cover them.
Once done (the tomatillos go from bright green to olive green; 15-20 minutes), remove the veggies using a slotted spoon and transfer to the blender or food processor.  Use a little bit of the cooking water (1/4 - 1/2 cup) to thin the salsa.  Add a generous pinch of salt and half of the cilantro (save some for garnish).  Puree until smooth.
Pour the salsa back into the pot you boiled the veggies in; add a little bit of chicken broth or stock to desired consistency, and let simmer.
In another pan, heat enough olive oil to submerge the tortillas.  Once ready, place a tortilla into the oil and flip - the idea is just to cook them a little bit, NOT to get them crispy.  Maybe 5 seconds per side is good.  When lifting out, allow the excess oil to drain back into the pan.  From the oil, place tortilla directly into the salsa verde and submerge.  Remove the tortilla to a plate; fill with some of the queso (maybe 4 tablespoons or so), and either roll or fold the tortilla closed.
Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
Once you have finished making the enchiladas, plate them up separately.  Arrange four on each plate and cover generously with remaining salsa.  Dollop a bit of sour cream onto each, and sprinkle with cilantro and sliced onions.
Serve with rice and or beans if you like.

And for those of you that would prefer it in Gabriel's words, here is his receta.  (Gabe/Gab - si tengo algo mal, que me haga saber!  Gracias por compartir tu receta.)

Las Enchiladas Verdes 
(2 porciones)

20 tomatillos
3 chiles serranos

1 manojo cilantro
1/2 cebolla
2 dientes de ajo
Crema espesa
Queso fresco o panela
Pimienta y sal
Aceite de oliva


Ralle el queso y corte rodajas de cebolla.

Limpie los tomatillos retirando el papel, y lavando con agua y jabón, enjuague.

Hierva los tomatillos junto con los chiles y los dientes de ajo.
Agregue en el vaso de la licuadora junto con unas ramitas de cilantro y un poco de sal.

En un sartén con aceite caliente agregue el puré y sazone. Agregue un poco del caldo de
pollo hasta lograr la consistencia deseada (ligeramente espesa)

En otro sartén caliente aceite suficiente para sumergir una tortilla.

Caliente la tortilla previamente, y rápidamente pásela por el aceite. Cuidando no tostarla.
Después de pasarla por el aceite sumerja cuidadosamente en la salsa verde y sáquela.
Coloque la tortilla abierta y enchilada en un plato chico, agregue queso rallado y cierre en
forma de quesadilla. Repita 4 veces.

Al tener las 4 enchiladas en el plato, tome más salsa verde y bañe las enchiladas.
Ponga un poco de crema y rodajas de cebolla encima. Adorne con hojas de cilantro.

Tamales and enchiladas and salsas, oh my!

Tamales are labor intensive guys.  That's why I usually just buy them.  In fact, most everyone just buys them.  Here in Mexico, there are a few women that make their business of selling them, because no one else wants to spent that dang much time.  However, to each their own, and if you're into it, I thought this recipe looked pretty good (though not lard free; I'm sure that's a change I'll make if ever I feel so inspired).  Plus, I love me some slow cooker recipes.  Extra bonus - now YOU don't have to stalk some poor woman through your local "international market."

1 1/4 pounds pork loin
1 large onion, halved
1 clove garlic
4 dried California chile pods
2 cups water
2 cups masa harina
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard
1 (8 ounce) package dried corn husks
1 cup sour cream 

Place pork into a Dutch oven with onion and garlic, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meat is cooked through, about 2 hours.  OR - put this bad boy in your slow cooker on low for a full day (put it on before you go to bed and be ready for it the next evening).  You can add additional spices if you so choose - like cumin, coriander seed, seasoning salt - whatever you've got that you think might be good.

Use rubber gloves to remove stems and seeds from the chile pods. Place chiles in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. Transfer the chiles and water to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture, stir in salt, and set aside. Shred the cooked meat and mix in one cup of the chile sauce.   If you've spent all that time slow cooking your meat in the crock pot - why not use some of that delicious broth instead of water in your salsa?  You can also make salsa verde for this if you'd like your tamales in green sauce instead of red.

Soak the corn husks in a bowl of warm water. In a large bowl, beat the lard (or whatever you're using that is NOT lard) with a tablespoon of the broth until fluffy. Combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt; stir into the lard mixture, adding more broth as necessary to form a spongy dough. 

Spread the dough out over the corn husks to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Place one tablespoon of the meat filling into the center (one tablespoon?!  psssshhh. . . ). Fold the sides of the husks in toward the center and place in a steamer. Steam for 1 hour. 

Remove tamales from husks and drizzle remaining chile sauce over. Top with sour cream. For a creamy sauce, mix sour cream into the chile sauce.

I really think it's a better idea to make the meat and salsa one day, then you can work on the masa and the steaming the next day so you're not ready to die of exhaustion by the time dinner is ready.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas Suizas

When I was oh, 18 or so, my dad got me my first REAL cook book.  The gold standard for "just starting out cooks" - The Better Homes & Gardens, red and white checkered tome.  I have no idea which edition it is, but it definitely helped me develop my love of cooking - especially with recipes like their Chicken Enchiladas Suizas.  I don't even know if that's what they call the recipe in the book, but that's what it is.  I loved this recipe so much, that at some point, I removed the page from the handy dandy three ring binder, and promptly lost it.  I made it so often, that for a while it didn't matter that the recipe was gone.  That was years ago unfortunately, and I have been missing it ever since.  Today, oh frabjous day, I found the recipe online.  I have searched high and low for this one - coming up upon many false contenders that CLAIMED to be the BH&G enchiladas but WERE NOT (though I don't remember my version using the coriander - I'll give it a whirl).  Hallelujah.  Guera-ladas will be back on the menu once again!!

8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup Chopped onion
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
2 tablespoons Margarine or butter
3 tablespoons All-purpose flour
1 8-ounce Carton sour cream
2 cups Chicken broth
1 4-ounce can diced
Green chili peppers, drained
1 cup Shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups Chopped cooked chicken or
Sliced pitted ripe olives (optional)
Chopped tomatoes (optional)
Sliced green onions
Wrap tortillas in foil. Heat in a 350° oven for 10 to 15 minutes or till softened.
For sauce, in a saucepan cook onion, garlic, coriander, and pepper in margarine or butter till onion is tender. Stir flour into sour cream; add to onion mixture. Stir in broth and chili peppers all at once. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.
For filling, stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into chicken. Place about 1/4 cup filling atop each tortilla; roll up. Arrange rolls, seam side down, in a lightly greased 12x71/2x2-inch baking dish. Top with remaining sauce. Bake, covered, in a 350° oven about 35 minutes or till heated through.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or till cheese melts. If desired, sprinkle with olives, tomatoes, and green onions. Let stand 10 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Atole.  It's all I've been hearing about lately.  I swear, my teacher gets an idea in her head, and we talk about it for days.  Luckily, her topics tend to be food based.  Also fun, but probably meaningless to you unless you're Andrea or Karen, neither of whom read this blog:
Salvadoran varieties include atol shuco ("dirty" atol, a reference to its darker color), particularly popular in the Cabañas region. The Nicaraguan homologue is pinolillo. In some parts of Honduras, fresh corn is ground and the expressed liquid is used as the base (instead of masa flour).

Figures that the Salvadorian one would be dirty. . .   man, it's less fun to tease when I know she won't see it.

In any case, Elvira is all about atole with aveno (oatmeal) - screw that masa noise.  And I must admit - the idea of drinking some sort of slurry just sounds more appealing when it's oatmeal, which is kind of slurry-y anyway, instead of flour slurry, which as far as I know is for thickening sauces.  The fun part is you can add all sorts of tasty flavors - chocolate, strawberry and pine nut are popular, and Elvira loves it with guyaba (guava) and her husband Francisco prefers manzana (apple).  Another tradition that I think will fit right in around Christmas.

I am definitely dragging my dad around in search of this while he's here - especially since it's typically served with tamales.  That's a lot of masa in one meal, but it's worth a shot!  

Atole de Elvira - enough for two people to have two cups
I wish there were some way to capture gestures here so I could show you how much she shows me to use - instead I'll use some of the many recipes floating around out there to help me along. 

* a handful of oatmeal - probably about half a cup
* water or milk (see now, not helpful - she says some in a pot and some in the licuadora with the oatmeal.  I say start with less, you can always add more if it's too thick) - let's say 4 cups in the blender
* brown sugar (or white sugar, whatever you have; the piloncillos if you can find them!) to taste - figure about 1 tbsp for each cup, so 4-5 tbsp total
* vanilla extract - 1 tsp

If you want to do fruit, just leave out the cinnamon and vanilla.  Although, I think the cinnamon would be great with apples.  If you're using apples, you'll need four, I know that much.  If you're using another fruit, start out with a small amount and add more if you think it needs it.  You quarter, decore, and parboil the apples to soften them a bit first; but I don't think that's necessary with softer fruit.  

Put the oatmeal, water or milk (and here Elvira doesn't recommend using milk as it makes it harder to strain, but doesn't milk just sound better?), cinnamon, sugar, and fruit/nuts/Mexican chocolate, whatever you might be using; into the blender.  Puree until super smooth.  Pour through a strainer (to remove any chunky bits of oatmeal, cinnamon or whatever else might be lurking in there) into a pot to heat.
You don't need to boil it, it doesn't need to be THAT hot (thinking of YOU McDonald's coffee in the lap lady)- which by the way, holy crap, I had no idea she got third degree burns, that IS some damn hot coffee. . . .), but if it starts to boil, no biggie, just turn off the flame.

Voila.  Atole.
Also, I totally want a molinillo for whisking my chocolate atole, or champurrado.  I totally think I'm Mexican now.
(for those that don't know me, I actually am a bit Mexican, fyi, but I'd classify myself as guera over latina . . .)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chiles Rellenos de Elvira

World's least attractive chile relleno photo.
One of my maestras de espanol, Elvira, was sweet enough to invite me over to learn how to make chiles rellenos.  I'm guessing she has students over quite often, in addition to those private lessons she holds in her home.  I don't think she was as prepared for me to be as hands on as I was, but hey, if you let me start doing stuff from the beginning, you can't think I'm going to stand by and watch later!!  I totally should've taken photos along the way, but I didn't.  Sorry.  I'm sure someone else has though.
It was the weirdest thing - as I ate the first one, I thought, "this tastes like Christmas."  I can't put my finger on why as the recipe features only a minute amount of cinnamon, but guess what kids?  I sense a new Christmas tradition in the Romo household.

Elvira's Chiles Rellenos
poblano chiles with nice long stems (I'm guessing we used about a million - okay, maybe only 10)
harina (flour - we used whole wheat.. South Beach!)
jitomates (red tomatoes - the ratio is about 1 tomato to every pepper, but may need to be adjusted based on the tomatoes)
juevos (we ended up using about 8, in two batches - separated)
queso ranchero, tipo casero (make your own!  yeah right; or see below for an online resource if you can't find it in your store, however if you have a decent sized Mexican population in your area, you'll find this somewhere)
aceite (oil)
pimienta (whole peppercorns - about 1 tbsp)
canela (whole stick cinnamon - about 3")
cebolla (onion - we used one small white onion sliced into rings, but I may up that amount at home)
ajo (garlic - we did NOT use garlic, but I betcha I'm gonna)
sal (salt - to taste)
azucar (sugar - to taste; we didn't use any)

First things first - Open your windows and turn on a fan.  Unless of course you want your home to smell like fried food for the next few days.  If this is for a dinner party, you might want to do this before you're wearing your party clothes because you're gonna smell like Colonel Sanders.

Put the tomatoes in a pot with enough water to cover them; put to high heat and allow to boil.
Roast the chiles over your burners if you have a gas stove, or under the broiler if you don't.  Once the skin is blistered and bubbly, put them in a plastic bag and close it up.  Allow the chiles to sit in the bag for 10-15 minutes.
By now your tomatoes should be boiling; turn off the heat, and remove the tomatoes from the water.  Set aside.
Once your chiles are ready to peel, remove them from the bag and begin rubbing the blackened skin off; it should come away easily.  Make a small slit in the chile with your finger - 3-4 inches or so; you don't want to slit the entire length of the chili like I did.  Reach in to pull out the seeds; use running water to help you get them out and remove any last bits of skin from the outside.

** helpful hint: LOOK AWAY!!!!  Omg, I was sneezing and coughing and holy crap, it's easy to forget that just because they're not spicy they're still chiles.  The running water also helps with this.

** helpful hint #2: they are chiles.  Don't rub your eyes.  If you have cuts on your hands, you might want to wear gloves because it may not burn right then, but it will.  Oh, it will.  Again, don't rub your eyes.  Please don't rub your eyes.

Slice the queso thinly (as it comes in a large round) or crumble in your hand to make it easier to stuff the chiles without tearing them.  We stuffed an insane amount of cheese into each chile - you decide how much you want.  Once stuffed, set aside on a clean towel to hang out.

Put your tomatoes into a food processor or blender (it's the Mexican way!) and liquify.  You can do this in batches.  However, in one of these batches, you want to add your bit of cinnamon, your pepper, and a good tablespoon or two of salt and puree that up as well.
If your tomatoes aren't offering up a lot of liquid, you can use some of the water you used to boil them.
Now it's up to you whether you strain the sauce of the seeds, skin, etc., or if you just use it as is.  Totally up to you.  We did strain it, and I think I'll stick to that when I make these at home.

In a large pot, put a couple of tablespoons of oil and sautee the onions  I'm considering putting the onions into the blender with the tomatoes, maybe roasting them first, but it's also fine to just sautee them here (with the garlic that you're probably going to use even though the recipe doesn't call for it because garlic is delicious).  Once they're translucent, add the tomato sauce and stir, then taste for seasoning.  Now is the time to tweak the levels of salt, sugar and acid by adding salt, sugar or vinegar as needed.  We only added salt.  Allow to come to a boil then turn off heat.

In another large pan (or handy dandy deep fryer if you have one - lucky), put about half a liter of oil to fry up the chiles.  Heat over medium high.  The oil is ready when a drop of batter bubbles and starts to turn golden brown.  Pour some flour into a dish or onto a large plate.

While the oil is heating and the sauce is coming to a boil, separate your egg yolks from your egg whites; don't throw anything away, you need both yolks and whites (la clara).Now get someone started on whisking the whites - your boyfriend or your husband Francsico.  Because your student has weak little girl arms and this is hard.  I think I'll use a mixer thanks.  You need to whip the whites until they form stiff peaks.  Then you can gently mix the yolks into the whites.

By now your sauce should've come to a boil and your oil should be ready.  Take the sauce off the heat and be careful of the oil; if it's smoking already it's too hot).

For the following steps an assembly line and a helper if you can get one seem helpful:
Squeeze any excess liquid out of your peppers using a kitchen towel - you want to squeeze firmly, but you don't want to tear your pepper. Then cover the pepper in a thin layer of flour.  Don't mess with it too much here - too much handling heats up the pepper and can cause it to tear.
Put the pepper into the whipped eggs to cover.  Don't lift the pepper up out of the batter, take the whole shebang over to the oil so you don't have to worry about your pepper ripping under the weight.  You can grab it by the stem if it has nice long ones, or use a fork or spoon to lift it out.

CAREFULLY lay the pepper into the oil, starting with the tip and laying it down AWAY from yourself in case it spatters.  It should begin bubbling and sizzling right away - if it doesn't, your oil is too cold; if it smokes your oil is too hot and this pepper might not come out very well.  Total first pancake syndrome.  You can test your oil first if you're unsure.
Once you've got the pepper in the oil, you want to gently splash some oil on top of the pepper to help get the batter on top a little bit cooked so it doesn't fall apart.  Sound dangerous?  Yes.  You might want to consider using a spoon instead of flicking hot oil around as Elvira did.  Flip once ready to do so.

Once the chiles are golden brown on all sides, remove from the oil and set aside - either on a cooking rack or on some kitchen towel/paper towel to hang out.  At this point, the chiles can be refrigerated for up to a week until you're ready to use them.  If that time is now, put the sauce back onto the heat and plunk your chiles into it.  If you're doing a large batch, you may not be able to do this all at once.  Another option is to put the sauce and chiles into a baking dish and heat them up in the oven - probably a great option when you're reheating or using cold chiles.

Once the chile is heated through, eat the heck out of it - nom.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chiles en Nogada

Chiles en Nogada from the local San Miguel restaurant, Bugambilia.
In honor of Mexican National Independence on September 16 (not to be confused with the American Cinco de Mayo celebration which is not the same thing), I thought there no better way to celebrate than with the nation's most patriotic dish, Chiles en Nogada (check out the proud red, white and green color scheme).  I had never even heard of this dish before this trip down to San Miguel when one of my maestras recommended a local restaurant to me as THE place in town to get chiles rellenos.  I was a bit thrown - the flavors are almost Moroccan or Middle Eastern - the mince meat with dried fruit and cinnamon idea.  Plus, these aren't served hot - the chiles themselves were room temperature, but the sauce was warm.  Definitely NOT what I think of as Mexican food!

Chiles en Nogada
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium apple, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 medium pear, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 ounces blanched almonds, slivered
2 ounces raisins, soaked until soft, then drained
1 stick cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

For the chiles:
8 large poblano chiles, prepared for stuffing (See Note)
4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
Oil for frying

For the sauce:
1 quart unsweetened heavy cream
4 ounces walnut meat, soaked in milk, drained and chopped

For the garnish:
2 pomegranates, peeled and separated into seeds
4 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped fine
    After preparing chiles as described in the note below, pat them dry and set them aside while you make the filling. The batter will not adhere to them properly if the chiles are not dry.
    Melt the lard or oil in a large skillet; saute beef, pork, garlic, onion, apple, pear, almonds, raisins and cinnamon stick until the meat has lost its pink color. Remove the cinnamon stick, add salt and pepper to taste and allow the filling to cool to room temperature. When cool, fill the chiles, dividing the mixture evenly.
    You will have fluffier and more uniform coating if you make the egg batter and fry the chiles in two batches. Beat two of the egg whites al punto de turron - that is, until they stand up in peaks, stiff but not dry. Lightly beat two yolks and half the salt together; fold them gently into the beaten egg whites. Dip each of four filled chiles into the mixture, turning them gently to coat evenly. Place each one immediately into a large skillet with hot oil. Fry them until golden on the bottom side (lift gently with a spatula to check) then turn and fry on the other side. Repeat this process with the rest of the chiles and the other two eggs. Remove and drain on paper towels before placing on serving dish.
    Put the cream and the walnuts in a blender or food processor and puree untill smooth. Pour over the chiles, and decorate with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
    NOTE: The chiles are prepared for stuffing by roasting over a gas flame or under a broiler until charred all over. They are then placed in a plastic bag for 10-15 minutes. Peel by rubbing them gently, using rubber gloves, under a stream of running water. (Stems are not removed, but can be trimmed beforehand if very long.) After the chiles have been roasted and cleaned, make a lengthwise slit up one side of each and carefully remove the seed sac and any loose seeds. Avoid over-handling the chiles.

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Cocinar en la cocina mexicana

    While in Mexico, I was lucky enough to have a new friend ask la dama at the B&B where she is staying if she would be willing to teach me to cook.  What a fantastic opportunity: to see a local B&B, to kick it with a Mexican family and speak Spanish for a few hours, to learn how to cook some favorites, and to eat said favorites.
    Sra. Garcia and I agreed upon $400 pesos ($32US), and I headed over after class.  We made arroz verde, salsa verde (roasted tomatillo salsa), salsa de aguacate, milanesas de cerdo, and a salad of pepino y yerba buena (cucumbers and mint).   When I mentioned how our entire meal was green; la dama added some jitomates to the ensalada.
    Se una comida muy sabroso.  Se sirven con tortillas de maize, por supuesto.

    I realize my recipes don't use exact amounts and well, you can just get over it, or check out the links that I include with each recipe for similar recipes that I found on the interwebs.  And no, these aren't my photos; click on them to whisk yourself off to the triple dub from whence they came.
    Something I am finding out as I cook here; Mexicans LOVE their liquedoras.  Love love love.  How they ever managed with solamente molcajetes I will never know.  So if you want to get cooking Mexican style, you might want to invest in a decent liquedora.  Every dish I have made here has used one.

    our rice was nowhere near this green - I think this image is arroz con espinacas
    Arroz Verde
    rice - enough to serve 10 people, 4 cups maybe?
    chicken stock or water
    pasilla pepper
    crema (sour cream) or leche (milk)

    Put your rice in a bowl of hot water and let sit for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
    In the meantime, you can heat up your pot and add some oil.
    Drain the rice in a colander and add to the hot oil in the pot.  Stir fry until the rice is no longer opaque, but has started to become translucent.  You only need to stir occasionally to ensure the rice isn't burning onto the bottom of the pan.  You do NOT want to let the rice become golden for arroz blanco, or arroz verde though, so keep an eye on it.  (for arroz blanco, you just omit the pepper from the puree, and then you can add peas and/or carrots toward the end of cooking for color)
    While the rice is cooking, pull the seeds out of your chile and chuck it in una liquedora (a blender or food processor) with about 1/4 c onion, 1 clove of garlic, and about 1 cup of water.  Puree until smooth.
    Once the rice is ready, pour in the veggie puree and stir.  Now you need to add enough liquid to cook.  Follow the 1 cup of rice = 2 cups of liquid idea, and add as much water as you think you need (you can add more as it cooks if it needs it, so don't go overboard).  La dama used powdered chicken bouillon, but you could also use chicken broth or stock instead of water and bouillon. 
    Taste for seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.
    Add crema or leche; maybe 1/4 cup.
    Stir again, cover, and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes until rice is done.  Stir occasionally so the green bits don't just sit on top, and to check liquid levels.  We did end up adding more water part way through.
    Fluff up and serve with more crema on top.

    Arroz verde can also be made with broccoli, spinach, or asparagus.  You can add peas or carrots as you wish.   We didn't.
    milanesas cerdo relleno imagen
    Milanesas de Cerdo
    thin cut pork cutlets - you may have to pound yours out if you cannot find them superthin
    lots of pepper
    2 eggs

    Scramble the eggs.
    Pour the breadcrumbs onto a plate and season generously with pepper, and less generously with salt.  Stir to combine.
    Heat a skillet over medium high and add oil.
    Dip the pork into the eggs, then into the breadcrumb mixture and then place into the hot oil and cook on both sides until done (about 3 minutes per side).  
    Basically like this, but with less stuff.

    Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, aka Salsa Verde
    a bunch of tomatillos - maybe 1 to 1 1/2 lbs; papery skins removed (it's easier to do this under water - the tomatillos, not you)
    serrano chiles - the quantity depends on you, and the chiles; sometimes the chiles are hotter than others and sometimes people like things spicier than others.  I will recommend starting with two, and you can always add another one later if you like it mas picante.  I think we actually used something similar to these costeno amarillos chiles; but I can't be positive.  If you can find those amarillos, you can use 4-5 since they are not as spicy.  We just cut off the stems and used them seeds and all.
    salt - to taste
    garlic - 1 clove
    cilantro - 2 tbsp
    water - about 1 cup
    optional: white onion - 1/4 c

    Char the tomatillos and peppers a la plancha, or in the oven; turning frequently so all sides get some color.  As the tomates and chiles are finished, remove them from the heat and stick in a bowl of cold water.  Once they're cool to the touch, you can pull off the darkest spots of skin, (as well as the thicker skin off the chiles) so your salsa stays nice and bright green.
    Put them in your blender or food processor with the garlic clove, cilantro, water and salt; and the onion if you're using it.  Whir away.  Taste for heat level and salt; now is the time to add another pepper or more salt if necessary.  Done.
    Or try this.

    Salsa de Aguacate
    1 avocado
    8-10 tomates (tomatillos)
    cilantro - 2 tbsp chopped
    salt to taste
    water - about 1 cup
    serrano chiles - same deal as above; start with 2 and taste; you can always add another one later.  Cut off stems, but use seeds and all.
    again, onion is optional, as is garlic - we used neither

    Cut the tomatillos in quarters if they're large, half if they're small, and chuck into your blender/food processor with the cilantro, salt, avocado and water.  Puree away.  Done.
    Or, try this.  Or this if you're a visual learner.

    When I made this at home, I roasted all of the veggies on the grill, and yes, I used about half of a white onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic.  I also used an anaheim chile along with the serranos.  So yeah, it was basically a mix of the two salsas and it was FAB.