Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Second Verse Same as the First

And a bowl again the next day. This time with Turkey Kielbasa and tomatoes added to the already made leftovers of Mac and Peas with Spinach.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All Together Now (Altogether Now)

I've talked about 'bowls' before. Vessels for leftover bits to form a full meal. Separately they are not sufficient enough to satisfy but put them all together and its a banquet fit for a queen monkey. I took my leftover Mac and Peas, added a full serving of spinach and a piece of cut up baked chicken thigh. Yes, with the skin. I know. But it feels like a sin to throw it out, my goodness it's the best part! Sumptuous!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Killing Me Softly

I'm thankful I made this delicious creamy two-potato soup before I read about potatoes being one of the most heavily pesticide ridden vegetables out there. I remember reading you should go sweet potatoes if you can't afford organic but they make the regular brands so cheap and big and available that I just grabbed 'em.

Instead of leeks this time I used 3 large sweet onions, celery, carrot and garlic saute for the base before adding the potatoes and chicken stock.

I used New Red and Russet potatoes, skins on. That used to be a good thing too. Although the more you read now it seems the skins are not a source of fiber at all but filled with toxic compounds. But if you peel the potatoes you lose a lot of the vitamin C when you boil. You can't freakin' win these days with food, you just have to pick the lesser of the evils it seems to me. Girls on a budget. We need a break out here I tell you what.

When the potatoes were tender I took half the soup and blended it adding a little bit of non-fat, non-organic milk (ahem) then added it back to the pot, a little nutmeg, salt and white pepper.

As a topper I browned up some turkey sausage and cut them in tiny chunks and garnished with some dried jalapenos and lots of fresh cracked black pepper.

A smooth, luscious, and now apparently lethal brew.

Got To Get You Into My Life

I love getting exciting about a new food especially when it contains peppers! Southwestern and Mexican ingredients are simple and few but sometimes something comes along and its as if you're looking at those same elements through a prism. When I heard my sister R talking about green chile sauce with pork on my trip to Colorado I was intrigued. We ordered a dish from a local Italian slash Mexican restaurant named Victorio's they called Mexican Lasagna where this sauce was laid over the dish. They used ground pork. Hmmm...sounded strange but upon tasting I sort of fell in love. And the look was different than anything I'd eaten out here in NY or in San Francisco.

When I returned home I began to do research and it seems that that area became very famous for it's green chile's especially down in Hatch, New Mexico and then something happened with the crops and others started growing similar peppers in Pueblo etc. They also experimented and grew several varieties out there, hybrids, its intense. Well this mild to hot chili had a great distinct flavor when roasted and folks did some cool things with it out in Pueblo.
Then you get into the Green Chile Sauce versus Green Chili to which there are tons of various recipes but these are two disconnected dishes. Anywho, I was looking for this gravy like sauce that included pork and red tomatoes, nothing like a green chili or even pork chile verde. Then I discovered the 'Slopper', which is a now famous burger covered with this pork infused green chile sauce that was featured on the Travel Channel's Food Wars in 2010. This was it, the sauce! It originated in Pueblo it seems.
It wasn't that easy finding a recipe but reading several of them, you see its a simple sauce and the main difference is that it starts with a roux. You don't have to spice it up too much, mainly garlic and cumin and you let the flavor of the roasted pepper do the main work here. A good, rich chicken stock also is key to bringing the magic as the pork stews in the stock to become tender and also adds its own rich flavor. I worked with this because it sounded closest to what I had tasted in Colorado City. My sister said what we had wasn't even the best she'd had at all, so I had to imagine the flavors much deeper. And I could. Oh yeah, I could imagine deeper richer, pork, gravy, ooooooooh.......
It took a bit but I found good peppers from Met Food on Smith because all their produce guys are Mexican and they always have fresh tomatillos, and several varieties of peppers, the best cilantro. Whoever the buyer is, he knows what he's doing. These were hotter than I expected and there is a chance they come from New Jersey but I had to work with them. I added a couple of Poblano's because I know their roasted taste is close. These peppers are a bit more work to roast and peel as they are skinnier and you use a lot of them. I can see why many people buy them frozen and ready to go in and around Pueblo.
I sauteed the onions and garlic, then added the flour and spices for the roux, let that darken and become cooked. I slowly added the chicken stock until smooth then the diced, seeded, peeled, roasted peppers and Rotel tomatoes with chiles. The pork I browned in batches before adding to the sauce. Brought this to a boil then simmered until the pork was tender and all the parts became one.
This is something to try folks, no kiddin'. You think you've heard it all but man then here comes this skinny green chili that has a lot to say. This sauce would be amazing poured over your dirty socks people! I made some crisped chicken and zucchini tacos and just poured that sauce right on over. P said words like Damn! and Holy shit! so I knew I wasn't nuts. This is going in regular rotation and even though I'm all the way out here in New York City no where near the West, I now have this emotional connection to this pepper and will continue with the spirit of the West, experimenting and hopefully creating new traditions.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bits and Pieces

A fun little side tonight of mac and peas! Started with a quick roux, chicken stock and a bit of milk, then added my bits and pieces of leftover cheeses, bleu, white sharp cheddar, and monterey jack. I also chopped up some leftover mushrooms and added frozen peas, a little cayenne and nutmeg and had me a kicky little side to go with my baked pork chop.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

One of a Kind (Love Affair)

There is something about Mexican soups that reach deep within. A true love. Maybe its the bit of heat along with the restorative broth. Maybe its the spice combinations along with homey ingredients. I'm not sure.
Today I made Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup. I took my time. I thought about each step. I poached the chicken thighs so I could make the homemade broth. The usual suspects, celery, peppercorns, onion, garlic, cilantro stems. I even threw in the baked chicken carcass from last night and later took the meat off of that.

The broth was super rich.
I roasted my roma tomatoes, jalapenos, onion and garlic for a quick salsa. I used the canned chipotle peppers with some of the adobo sauce. That is going to give the stock all the makeover she needs for her big night.

After the salsa, sweet corn, diced potatoes, mushrooms, fire roasted tomatoes and carrots were added to the potage as well as the shredded chicken.
Fresh corn tortillas were sliced thin and toasted in a bit of oil then drained on paper towels. Next to ready the toppers. Shredded Monterey Jack, cilantro sprigs, thinly sliced radish and lime wedges.

On top of all the specialness of other Mexican soups, having the crunchy corn strips to have your way with is like a little toy prize given with Tortilla Soup. You can scrunch them all inside the brew and let them get soft and fluffy or leave them crisp and grab a little with each bite. Everyone likes it their own way. And your way you may have it. Si Senor!

Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

I received a pizza stone as a gift. I figured it was as good a time as any to try it out. I'll never turn down pizza. Among many other people, I have a 5 year old that lives inside my brain that constantly wants pizza and spaghetti. I try to please everyone (inside my head) but also try to keep the calories, fat and cholesterol down. Oy vey! It's not easy. I mean, on one hand we have but one life to live, right? We could go tomorrow, we must live for today, go for it! and all that. But...there is a balance. That, I can agree on.

I used a store bought crust but I stretched it out into two pies by pulling it out onto the pans. This gives a thin-crunchy crust. I went for a misting of olive oil with loads of garlic as the base. Topped that with a generous layer of broccoli florets, loads of mushrooms, then turkey kielbasa, onions, tomatoes, green olives, dried tomatoes, and a light sprinkling of mozzerella cheese.

Hey, speaking of living for the day...Being a product of the 70's I completely forgot to actually use my pizza stone and used my old sheet pans instead. We chalk that up to the price of doing business...monkey business that is. This gives me another instant reason to make another pizza! The word pizza alone is exciting, seeing the pies, the melted cheese. That's all one needs to feel satiated in many ways. This was a much healthier version then from a pizza parlor but I got my fix and I also got my veggies. We all win.

These Dreams Go On When I Close My Eyes

Allegedly Townes Van Zandt wrote If I Needed You in his sleep while dreaming. I have occasionally come up with the best jokes that way but when I wake up they end up being utter nonsense. In my dream they're hysterical.

But last night I dreamt of this amazing baked apple slice. So I rushed home after work to roast up some lemon chicken and for the side I was to recreate this vision.

I first dunked the apple slices in orange juice, then dipped them in a combination of panko bread crumbs, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest. After they were coated, I dotted some butter on the tops and baked them for about 25 minutes.

These ended up being a really great side dish. Not too sweet. Such a refreshing taste to pick one up and have the warm crunch, the slight carmelization, the actual baked apple taste and guess what? Refrigerated and eaten as a snack the next day, Awesome! These will be invited back.

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me

Chicken and rice with zucchini and corn. My sister R will have to remind me of its real name. This is somehow different then Arros Con Pollo. Sister if you're out there reading let me know how you see it. As I recall this was much richer, velvety. And the vegetables really sang out. My mother put in little corn cob chunks and they absorbed the sauce and had juicy tomato'y flavor. I used frozen but in the summer it pays to break real sweet corn cobs into pieces. I'm tellin' ya, you'll be sucking on them little cobs grrrrrl. The two vegetables are the real shiners in this dish.

I must have done something right this week because the food gods have been shining down on my dishes. I always screw up my Mexican rice somehow. But this time I used Basmati rice. I soaked it first and then put it along with the zucchini and corn in the pot with the chicken and broth in the oven, lid on, for about 15 minutes at the very end and it was perfect! The rice absorbed all the stock and tomato flavor. The zucchini was tender and not overcooked.

I braised my chicken legs before adding stock, jalapenos, tomatoes, cumin, garlic, cilantro and onion. My mom left the chicken on the bone to allow the deep flavors to penetrate the stock. The meat just falls off. I have to say this is one dish where I leave much of the fat in the stock because that is what gives the rice a silky texture in my opinion. But if you wanted to be a stick in the mud you could take it all out before adding the veggies.
I hope this good luck with cooking lasts.

My Heros Have Always Been Cowboys

I call these dry chilaquiles but since I've been here in NY I've grown to know them as Tex-Mex migas ala Lobo Restaurant on Court Street. I also call it cowboy cooking because I often fantasize about being on the trail with my horse and black iron skillet. I have to stop for the night by the stream. This might be a dish I'd rustle up upon waking for breakfast. Strips of corn torts and onions fried up quickly in a hot pan then heat lowered and eggs scrambled in. It is always surprising to me how great corn tortillas taste heated in oil. Very rustic and earthy. Good all on its own. I put peas in this mornings migas to add some color. If you have it, nice soft chorizo is perfect.
In reading more and more about traditional chilaquiles it seems the difference is those are made with salsa. You cook the corn tort strips in the salsa to get a little softened. That's how they serve them at Pequena in Fort Greene. Super good, with salsa verde and chicken!
My dad's from Texas but I grew up in the Fort, Wayne that is, Indiana. Who knows how these recipes get passed down. Even on my end, we're talking eating these when I was around 7 or so, so I don't even know how they were made. I'm just going on taste memory.
Whatever you call them they're delicious, fast and special.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Help Me Make It Through the Night

The situation: I got off late from work. P is going out this night drinking with friends and is leaving soon. I have half an hour to get sufficient amounts of food in P's belly to combat the irresponsibly large quantities of beer he will consume and then try to ride his bike back home.
My solution: Half hour chili with beans. I browned the beef while frantically chopping the celery, onion and peppers. I got it all in the pot with seasonings and added the canned tomatoes, black beans and chicken stock. Dinner accomplished.

I have no control over circumstance but at least I'll know that I did my best to counter the effects of the damage done tonight.
And don't you know after all that, this son of a so and so says to me that he doesn't want chili because it may mess with his stomach! DOH! Oh right because 20 beers and shots of whiskey are like a milky coating....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Corn in the USA

Corn is so good cooked in a hot pan with some butter, salt and pepper until it sort of caramelizes. Add small diced sweet onions and jalapeno pepper slices along with Cojita and monterey jack cheese and you have yourself a very good filler for a quesadilla. Perhaps the best meatless filler. So as a Mexican tribute to the grilled cheese and tomato soup combo I served it along with a bowl of bean with bacon soup. ¡Estupendo

You Gotta Love the One You're With

There might not be a tostada I don't like. There is a restaurant called the V Spot here in Brooklyn that has been known to serve a very tasty vegetarian tostada brunch. Today I had to recreate that soft velvetty dream atop its hard shell for myself or go mad trying.

Canned black beans smashed with a little Greek yogurt, cumin, salt to start. Smashed avocados with lemon juice, salt. Freshly made crispy fried corn tortillas. Cold lettuce, onions, and tomatoes and I was ready to build. First a nice painting of the avocado mash, a generous slathering of the beans, chopped fresh onions, lettuce and then tomato with some cilantro and sliced jalapeno.

No cheese just the incredibly cool and creamy flavors mixed with the crunchy flat base. Today I'm convinced there is nothing better than this tostada.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'm Sick of Love, But I'm in the Thick of It

Valentine's Day in New York! Hundreds of young men flocking to their local bodegas after work with their wallets out. Its as though they've all been given the exact same list and one by one they're mindlessly checking it off. The dozen red roses, the ugly metallic balloons, the box of heart shaped chocolates. This equals romance and I love you? Or does it?

To me its a little unoriginal and lazy, even though it probably takes a lot of effort. C'mon this is a day to honor your love for your friend and partner. Put a little thought into it! You know, I believe someone could come along and completely reinvent this holiday and sentiment and make it fresh again. The actual idea of celebrating your romance is a great idea.

I have no room to talk. In my youth, I had always despised this particular holiday. Couples looking adoringly at each other. Yuck! And instead of concentrating on what I could do differently, I've just been like the grinch sneering down on all the Who's in Whoville. So at the last minute I thought to do a little creative honoring of my own this year. Something small and thoughtful. I raced out to get Chinese Take Out, Hunan Beef for P, Cashew Nut Chicken for me - two shrimp rolls. I got a few small items that P'd mentioned he needed and put them around the house for him to find, simple little drug store items, nothing elaborate. Just something to let him know I was thinking of him this day.
It's Tuesday night and I know what P wants. And it has nothing to do with romance and the best gift I can give him is to let him be. So we ate at separate times because we're on different schedules and I kept his dish warm in the oven. I let him do what he likes to do on Tuesday nights and I enjoyed a nice dinner myself.