Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rocket Man

Some of my salads that I enjoy use a green, called Rocket, or in this continent Arugula.

Our last trip to London, they had tons of salads made with Rocket. Rocket?

I wonder why it's called Rocket, Maybe I'll look it up and let you know......................

Anyway it is not easy to find, so just grow your own. It's really easy, it grows as quick as weeds.

Seeds are easy to get, and please do not buy the seeds in a hardware store!

You will pay like you won't believe $2.89 for 2.5 grams, but if you go to a farm supply you can get 100 times that for $3.00

After all, could you imaging a farmer paying 2 bucks for 2 grams, I don't think so, and even then for 3 bucks it is probably cheaper if I was purchasing several pounds of seed. Here is a package that costs 3 bucks.........This package will last me a year or two, enough to share, enough to have them grow like weeds!

Anyway, I grow my Arugula in a box I made, especially for growing lettuces and leaf stuff for salads. The idea is to grow them in long thin boxes so you can pick at will as the leaves get to the size you want for your fresh salads. The boxes I built are also cheap, take 3, 6 or 8 ft long boards , like fence boards, the thickness can be from 3/4 of an inch .
Nail or screw the 3 boards to form a U, so you have two boards on the sides with one on the bottom.
The nail the ends on them, fill with dirt and that's it. I fill it with a dirt and sand mix, so it's is easy to germinate the seeds.
I am able to plant two rows, spaced about 3 inches apart lengthwise.

I would suggest planting about 1 to 2 feet every two weeks, this way you will always have emerging small plants ready to get picked!

If you can't find the seeds, have friends who live near a farm supply purchase them for your and send them to you. The hardware store packages contain about 100 seeds which is enough for one planting.

Great vinaigrette for Arugula salad:

Put the Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and acid (lemon juice or vinegar) into a medium bowl. Pour in the oil while whisking the whole time until combined. Take about two tablespoons and put into a new bowl, toss in the Arugula and toss and coat, plate and eat!

Stuff you will need;

1/2 tea Kosher Salt
1/4 tea fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice or your favorite vinegar, like sherry or red wine vinegar
2/3 cup oil, like peanut oil or corn oil. Olive oil is to strong of a flavor, although you could use half olive oil and half peanut oil.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A different Bread Pudding not Capirotada

The main difference between regular bread pudding and Capirotada is that in the Capirotada it is often done with cheeses and nuts, sometimes even piloncillos.

This one is not.

This is more of the traditional old standard that is super easy to make.
It's also great for large crowds. I catered a "New Orleans" style picnic a few years ago for about a 100 people and this was one easy fix ahead dish.

In catering you try and do stuff that you can do ahead of time and just heat up or do one last thing on site and the result will make you appear to be a master!

The secret, oh oh, I am giving my secret away, which is different from all other bread pudding recipes is this.

You have to promise to to tell anyone about it, and you too will have some great accolades to this dish. ( send cash in unmarked bills to secret address)

The secret is to use day or two day old pastries instead of stale old bread. Not that you can't make a good bread pudding with stale bread, this makes it unique to the point where people will ask what the secret is.

The hardest part is finding day or two day old stuff you can use. I usually will go to my local bakery that has pastries and buy their "on sale" items. What you buy is not as important so just buy halfway decent stuff.
A mix of doughnuts, bear claws, cream filled or jam filled snails or danishes are great.
Old raisin or cinnamon bread is also fine, the more diverse the items the better it will be.
In a pinch if no old stuff is available I will buy croissants, muffins, banana bread, almost anything that has some flavor. I wouldn't mix stuff like Jalapeno bread or Rosemary Ciabatta for this dessert. Once you get the hang of these recipe you can experiment with lots of other stuff like throwing in tart apple slices or even peaches. Once I made it with bananas and instead of the vanilla extract I used Banana extract, it turned out really good.

To start.

You will need to make a custard mix, which is pretty easy, take the eggs, cream, (or milk) cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and beat together until all is homogenized. add the milk, your slurry should look like thick egg nog.

Take the pastry and break apart by hand into 1 inch chunks or pieces. Place the bread into a 1/2 hotel pan or a pan about 12x12x3inch casserole dish, cover with the custard mix, be sure all the bread is wet and soggy, let soak for about 1/2 hour, just before placing in the oven take your butter and toss the butter pats all over the bread mixture, then place into a 350 oven and cook for about 45 minutes.
While cooking the bread will puff up, check it after about 35 minutes, stick a wooden matchstick or skewer into the middle and see if it comes out clean. if it does, pull it out and let cool, if not, leave in the oven for another 10 minutes and check again. I would not leave in the oven longer than one hour, even if it is a little under set, it will still have moisture, better than all dried up!

Stuff you will need:

8 large eggs. Beaten
10 to 12 cups pulled apart old pastries
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract or Almond extract
1 teas ground cinnamon
1/2 tea ground nutmeg
1.5 cups sugar
3 cups milk or half and half
1 cup raisins ( for better flavor soak in rum overnight)
1 stick of butter

Whiskey Sauce.

I would omit this if you are trying to stick to some kind of a health diet or don't want a heart attack after eating this. This sauce on top of old cardboard would make it taste great!

2 sticks of salted butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (or so) bourbon whiskey ( or rum if you like the taste of rum better)
1/4 cup whipping cream

Melt butter, add the sugar and mix until all melted and mixed, add the cinnamon and cream, mix and then add the bourbon, you MUST keep this warm otherwise it will harden and turn into a glop.( A tasty glop but still a glop)

Serve the bread pudding then ladle a spoon of the sauce on top of the bread pudding.....Not too much it is very rich. If it cools simply warm up again in an oven or double boiler.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hot Dessert, not Mexican though....

Lots of people ask what my favorite dessert is. Well I have a few. I love fresh fruit. Any kind, but hey it's winter, and I am not a fan of paying high prices just to have something flown in from Australia or Chile. Remember not that long ago you only got seasonal fruit.It was trucked in that week, and it tasted a hell of a lot better than the stuff they sell to you now.

OK, here are my favorites, in order. Fresh Fruit, Cheese Cakes, Tiramisu, Cremes, like Flan and Creme Brulee and lastly, fried dessert.

Now almost anything you fry is going to be good and bad. The taste will be good, but the calories or fat will be bad.

But as Julia Child said, Everything in moderation is good! That's my girl, Julia!

That's why I only have Foie Gras two or three times a year...............

Here is one of my favorite "bad" desserts, simply because it is easy, Sopaipillas are made from a pressed dough, like a Tortilla, made of flour, baking powder, salt. and fat .

Although I think these were more from New Mexico and Texas, they are not too popular in Mexico for some reason.

The dough is deep fried, just like a donut. the baking powder causes it to puff up, and then freeze in a puffy condition, becoming crisp with a void inside ready to pour your best yummy concoction like honey or creme anglaise.

Now, in New Mexico they even use these for lunch and fill them with stuff like re fried beans, cheese, chili or even meats like hamburger or even shredded chicken.

We Ruskies have a similar item that are called Piroshki.

Piroshkis are filled with ground meat, onions and dill.

The Polish have their Pirogis, The Salvadorians have Pupusas, etc....

This one is for sweet stuff. Sopaipillas are usually for sweet stuff. Usually.

To Start.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. stir until totally mixed.
Stir in oil, cream, and water.
Knead to make a soft dough then turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead lightly. Dough will be a bit sticky. Cover with moist dish cloth or plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

Ready to fry?

Heat about 3 inches of oil in a heavy saucepan or deep fryer to 375 degrees.

Roll dough into a rectangle , you want the end result to be about 1/8 of an inch thick.
Cut into 3-inch squares. Carefully place the dough into hot oil, 2 or 3 at a time. Be sure and press them down into the oil so they'll puff.
Fry until golden brown, turning once.
Remove carefully without deflating them and place on either a paper towel or drip rack to drain.

To serve, you have a couple of options.
You can use confectioners sugar to sprinkle on them and you will almost have the New Orleans treat the beignets from Cafe Du Monde, otherwise use some cinnamon sugar on top,or honey or I sometime will take one end off and pour either honey or a sweet cream inside.
That's it!

Stuff you will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • cinnamon sugar
  • honey
  • oil for frying ( corn oil or lard)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nothing better than Soup! Tortilla Soup.

I have always enjoyed soup because it is so easy to make.
Same basic ingredients to start.
This one is easy to make especially if you top it with avocados, it will look even better.

Saute in a large pot the onions until translucent. Add the celery cook for 5 minutes more over medium heat. Toss in the garlic & tomatoes and salt. When the other items are soft toss in the tomato puree, combine, take the chicken stock and slowly add the Maseca. Add the chicken base or the chicken bouillon cubes.
Be sure and stir so that no dry pieces remain and that it is all incorporated otherwise you will have lumps...Lumps are bad....
Stir.Toss in the Pasilla Chili, and let cook for about 20 minutes, on very low heat. Let simmer, it should thicken up a bit.


In a separate pan, add the vegetable oil and put on medium high heat.
Take the corn tortillas and stack one of top of each other.
With a sharp knife, chop 1/4 inch strips so that you end up with about 30 or 40 thin ribbon strips of tortillas.
Take about half a tortillas' worth and toss into the hot oil, cook until crisp, remove and drain on a paper towel, cook the rest the same way.
To serve...
Put in individual bowls, take and place two avocado slices on top of the soup, take some sour cream or creama about a tablespoon dollop and place on the top of the soup in the bowl, then take about 8 to 10 fried tortilla strips and place on the top. You also could grate some cheese on the top. Enjoy.

Here is a trick to make the soup look like it was made in a very expensive restaurant.
Take a squeeze bottle, the kind that you see in hot dog stands, you know, the yellow one for mustard and a red one for ketchup. They sell them in the kitchen departments. Fill it with the creama or sour cream. They you can use it to make a zig zag decoration on top of the soup, instead of the dollop.
That's why they charge more in a restaurant......

Things you will need:

1/2 cup chopped white onion or leek
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped Roma tomatoes or 1/2 of a 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups tomato sauce or 1 cup puree with 1 additional cup of stock
3 corn tortillas to cut 1/4 inch strips for frying
1/2 cup Meseca
1 cup sour cream or creama for topping
1 garlic clove smashed and minced
1 Pasilla chili
1 avocado cut into 1/8ths, lengthwise.
1 cup vegetable oil or lard in which to fry the tortilla strips
Shredded cheese like Monterey Jack or Chihuahua (optional for topping)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The next best, man's best friend

Yes the Olla(crock pot) is suppose to be the best thing since sliced whole bread, and if you maintain a traditional oven outside fed with logs and stuff it probably is. I however grudgingly pay the price to CFE to generate enough power to fuel my Sunbeam Crock Pot.

What I like about the crock pot is that is mirrors my twisted life. "Set it and forget it" or "Low Maintenance"

I started using the damn thing years ago, when I wanted a decent meal without having to come home early and fool around in the kitchen. After hours of toil in the office and in the field (not the wheat fields) the last thing I wanted was to stand for an hour creating something to eat for the two of us.

Enter the crock pot.

You can toss almost anything, in any order, put the top on and walk away only to return to a house smelling of a delicious concoction worthy of freezing and eating at another no labor meal.
Now I cherish the leftovers which are plucked from the thick clay pot. Now I enjoy throwing the thick plastic envelope into a cauldron of boiling water, waiting about 7 or 8 minutes to cut open a warmed up lunch or dinner that I know took hours to prepare.

So here is a quick and easy meal.
I'll do a couple of them for you, you can then do others on your own./....It's really easy after the first one or two.

Peel the onion , and then toss into the bottom of the pot. Rinse and paper dry the meat. Add a tablespoon of oil into a cast iron skillet and heat to medium high. When the oil starts shimmering put in the meat and let brown for 3 to 4 minutes a side.
Place the meat on top of the onions in the pot, toss in the veggies. toss in the onion soup mix, add the wine, cover with spices, put the whole dried chili ancho one top of that and put the top on, turn the pot to low, go away for 4 to 8 hours.

Upon returning, take a big spoon and stir the pot, remove the meat and a couple of the larger pieces of potato and carrots. Take the chili out with a slotted spoon, cool remove the seeds and finely chop, return to the stew.
Take you immersion blender and whirl away until all is smooth.
taste and fix the seasoning by adding additional salt and pepper to taste.

take the meat and cut it up into serving size.
Grab some pasta or rice, top the starch with the meat, ladle on 4 oz of the sauce
sit down and eat.

Things that you will need.

One Large White Onion, chopped
2 Large potatoes cut into 1 inch chunks or
10 or 12 small potatoes, like fingerling or baby potatoes
1 envelope of Onion Soup Mix
2 or 3 Large carrots, pealed and chopped into 1" pieces
2 or 3 stalks of celery cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 to 8 ripe Roma tomatoes crushed, or one 24 oz can of stewed tomotoes.
1 cup of cut mushrooms (optional)
One or two ancho chilis
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine
salt and pepper
herbs de province

Friday, December 19, 2008

Need a Hot Toddy?

One of the things I enjoy about winter is having a hot toddy on a cold night by the fireplace!

Forget the TV, get a book, your reading glasses, a comfy chair and a nice glass with your favorite drink.

Here are a couple of my warm ones..................

Irish Coffee

  • 1 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey
  • Hot Coffee

Pour whiskey into a mug rimmed with sugar. Fill 3/4 of the way with coffee. Fill the rest of the mug with whipped cream until it is even with the rim. Now one neat thing in Mexico is the Cream that is called Crema para Batir. It is so much better than the stuff sold in the US, It is close to Manufacturers Cream that is sold for restaurants and bakeries etc. It is supper rich and a small amount goes a long way. It make a great topping for that Irish Coffee.....

Mexican Coffee

1 oz. Dark Rum or Tequila your choice
1 oz Kahlua
Sugar to Taste

In a footed mug add the rum, Kahlua and sugar. Fill with coffee and stir gently. Top with a bit of whipped cream if you have sweet tooth.

If you think it will keep you up then: How about a Hot Brandy

Hot Brandy

  • 1 cube Sugar
  • 1 piece Orange Peel
  • 2 oz Brandy ( my Fav is E&J) but use a good one!
  • 1 oz Boiling water

Fill glass with hot water, add sugar, add brandy , twist the orange or lemon, stir with spoon for a few seconds, and enjoy.

The Hot Brandy does wonders for a lot of ailments. It seems to help my sore throats, and flu symptoms. Or at least after one or two, I don't seem to care that it's cold outside...................

And for a traditional group punch bowl drink,

Egg Nog

3 Cups Gold Rum
1 Cup Dark Rum
2 Quarts Half & Half
1 Cup Sugar
12 Eggs
4 tsp. Vanilla Extract

In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs until light.
Add the sugar, then the half & half, rums, and vanilla. Cover and chill over night.

Take out of fridge about 1/2 hour before serving.

Serves 20

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pico de Gallo with Avocado Salad

Getting good varieties of lettuce is somewhat difficult down here, but growing your own is not!
Have some friends pick up a mesculin mix in the states and bring it down for you.
Instead of buying a 1/16 oz of seed in a small envelope for 2 bucks, you can buy 1 or 2 oz for 3 dollars if you go to a farm and feed supply store.
I purchase enough seed to equip a small army for dollars instead of hundreds...unless you absolutely positively can only get them in that size.
I grow both Romaine, butter and two or three other varieties all year round. They sprout in about 1 week and I pick them off as they get to 5 or 6 inches high.
I will usually plant a batch once a month, that way there is always a new batch ready to pick almost any time.
Here is a nice quick throw together salad.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and the olive oil.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, cilantro and pico de gallo.

Toss in the salt and pepper into the dressing. Take a couple of firm to medium avocados and cut them in half, remove the pits.

There is an easy way to remove the pit, be careful unless you understand the concept. With a sharp knife with the middle of the sharp blade edge, whip it downward into the middle of the pit. The idea here is to have the knife blade enter the pit, in the middle and set itself into the pit deep enough. Once the blade is in, then with your hand that you were holding the avocado with, twist it while holding pressure against the blade until the pit turns, once it turns then you can pull out the pit, if you did everything correctly the pit will pull out stuck in to the knife edge. The simply give it a reverse swing and throw it off the blade. (Again please be care full or if you have any hesitation about this or do not understand the mechanics of this, do not do it!)

Once you have 4 halves of the avocado, you can take a small paring knife or even a butter knife and cris-cross lines up and down into the halved portions of the avocado to form 1/2 inch cubes, once you have run the lines up and down, then you can tale a spoon and scoop out the cut pieces, (This takes a little practice but it is easier than cutting it out of the shell)

Once you have the avocado cut into small dice, toss into the bowl with the lettuce, dressing and service immediately.

If you have other greens like watercress (berro) or baby spinach leaves, you can also toss them in, use any non bitter leaves, they are all good!

Stuff you will need

2 Ripe large avocados

¼ cup juice from lemons
¼ cup olive oil or peanut oil
2 large heads boston bibb lettuce, shredded or combination of arugula, (rocket) or romaine.
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh pico de gallo or your favorite home made salsa
salt and pepper to taste

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cheap eats! Ground Beef with Refried Beans, Salsa and Grilled Zucchini

I don't know about you, but I get tired quite often about sort of getting into a rut of making tacos with leftovers. Some time I'll make a soup, and the trick is to extend the food and not toss it away.

Occasionally I'll throw something together that I want to make from scratch and not have the same stuff morphed from something earlier on in the week.

This is cheap, fast and different.

Preheat your grill, and toss the cut zucchini in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with some salt and fresh ground pepper. Then throw on the grill on opposing grill rails otherwise some of them will fall through the grate. (waste of product and oil)

Grill over moderate heat for about 4 or 5 minutes until soft and tender.

Add oil to 10 or 12 inch pan over medium hot heat, throw in the ground beef.

Add some salt and more pepper, cook and break up any clumps of meat so that it is separated as much as possible. When cooked through add the refried beans, salsa and chicken stock. Mix so that everything is combined and bubbling hot and everything is cooked and homogenized.

Grab some tortillas and prepare the way you like, either frying in some oil, then bending them to form a pocket, drain, then stuff or toss in some hot oil to moisten the tortilla to heat and bubble up, then remove when hot and soft, then load the filling.

To finish, load the grilled zucchini on the middle of the tortilla, 4 or 5 of them then top with the rest of the filling.

That's could top with some chopped cilantro, white onion , lettuce , chopped tomato , creama, sour cream, guacamole, etc,etc,

or not.

Stuff you will need:

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 zucchini, cut into strips 1/3 in thick lengthwise

salt and pepper to taste

1 ½ pounds ground beef, Do not use super lean beef, don't forget the flavor is in the fat!

2 cups refried beans (you do know how to make refried beans don't you?)

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 Cups salsa fresca or fresh salsa of choice

6 large tortilla shells, or fresh tortillas to warm etc.

Makes 6 generous portions

Empanadas De Platano Banana Empanadas

Almost every nationality has a pocket filled with stuff!
Russians have delicious one called Peroski, which is filled with meat, and was the cause of my girth for many years. Now I make them about twice a year......
These are with a sweet filling, but you can make them with chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, almost anything you can make and put into a folded piece of dough.

Here is a quick way to make a nice dessert if you use some cream or even as an appetizer if you omit the cream toppings. (You can also add a lot of different fillings etc)

The best and easy way is if you can get your hands on puff pastry. We are able to get it at the local bakery in Morelia (Trico) it is the stuff they use to make Orejas. The bakeries should be able to sell it to you by the kilo, otherwise it is available in the states as Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets, or other brands also.
Making Puff Pastry is a very time consuming job, and unless you have one of those super duper machines, it is not worth the effort. BELIEVE ME!

In a real pinch you could use a pasta machine, but it would only allow you 6 inch sheets, which for most recipes is not wide enough.

In a medium bowl, combine the banana, walnuts, the sour cream/heavy cream (crema ), and white sugar. Set aside go have a glass of wine for a minute or two.

If you have a frozen sheet take it out and let sit for at least 20 minutes so that it is workable without breaking.

On a cutting board, unfold one of the puff pastry sheets.

Using 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 4 circles from sheet.

Brush each with a beaten egg.

Slightly off center of each circle, spoon 1 tablespoon of banana mixture.

Fold one side over the filling and crimp the edges together to seal.

Place on a sheet of waxed paper and repeat with remaining filling and circles.

In a deep saucepan, heat 3 to 4 inches of oil until it registers 350 degrees F on a deep fat frying thermometer.

Working in batches, fry the empanadas, turning them over so that they will cook evenly during the cooking time, until crisp and golden brown (5 to 10 minutes).

With a slotted spoon or spider, transfer empanadas to a rack over paper towels to drain. (I use a paper bag (kraft paper type) which actually absorbs residual grease better than a paper towel)

If you want a lower grease alternative, you could bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. Be sure and place them on some parchment paper on the sheet pan.

Stuff you will need:

1 banana, peeled and sliced thinly
1/8 cup walnuts chopped
1 teaspoon crema (or sour cream mixed with heavy cream, see below) or even yogurt
1/4 teaspoon white sugar
1 package puff pastry, thawed
1 large eggs, lightly beaten

Topping to spoon on top of, you can also use some ice cream if you like.

creme fraiche or heavy cream/sour cream mixed
shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted
raspberry sauce - Pureed Frozen Strawberries
coconut ice cream 4 fresh strawberries, halved

use to top the unit after you let it cool for awhile. be careful do not bite into it unless it has cooled.

You can dust the top of them with raw sugar or turbinado sugar, if you brush the outside with the egg wash then throw the sugar on top.

This makes 4 empanadas, per sheet. The box usually comes with 3 sheets and I make a bigger batch, just triple the stuff above.

Spinach makes you live long! Or Not?

Popeye Died today, survived by his beloved Olive Oil
upon news of the tragic loss Miss Olive Oil wept in sorrow stating ,
"He's strong to the finish because he eats his spinach"

Popeye was loved and adored by millions around the world,
memorial services being held this Friday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chipotle Corn Bread

One of the items that I miss down here is a variety of breads. Both artisan and normal types.

I've tried to make the French Style baguettes with mixed results and also bagels. I have to do special things to compensate for the high elevation here. But breads like corn bread are easy and pretty simple, never having had one fail yet! And it's pretty easy to make.

I love making corn bread because you can toss a lot of different stuff into it to have a variety of outcomes for all occasions. This one is nice to use with dinner when cooking the Steak Recipe with chili from the ranch cookbook.

First find a suitable vessel either a Pyrex pan or even a cazuela that is about 2 or 3 inch high. Butter the sides and have at it.

To start preheat your oven to about 375F. Or 190 C.

Use the middle rack of the oven.

Mix the cornmeal, sugar, flour, baking soda and power and salt in a large bowl. Next stir in the Chihuahua cheese, in another bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, crema, melted butter and chopped chipotles.

When mixed well, combine it to the dry ingredients and stir just enough to blend. The less you mix the better it will be.

Throw the mix into the buttered pan.

Put it into the oven.

Go make yourself a cup of coffee or a margarita.

Return to the oven in about 25 minutes and find yourself a wooden match or I use a wooden kabob skewer. You can also use a wooden toothpick or whatever you have around.

Jab it into the thickest part of the pan (not the pan actually but the corn bread mix that's baking in the pan)

If it comes out clean, the bread is done.

IF it comes out with bits of mix on the sides of the wood, put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes, then repeat the test until it comes out free of residual cornbread mix. (oven temperatures may be different, so an average is about 30 minutes.)

Let is sit around to cool for at least 1/2 hour.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, just to be sure. You can either cut it into serving pieces in the pan or turn the pan over and see if the bread drops out on to the counter. If it does you are ready to serve it.

Stuff you will need.

1 cup cornmeal or polenta.

1 cup all purpose flour

¼ cup brown sugar

2tea baking powder

1tea baking soda

1tea salt

½ cup grated Chihuahua cheese

½ cup whole milk

½ cup crema

5 TBS melted butter

2 seeded and then chopped fine chipotle chilies (without adobo)

3 eggs

Also this is one of the recipes that you can add stuff and experiment. Like, raisins, corn kernels, chopped dates or nuts, this is also great with pine nuts, (toast first) other items like chopped pimentos or red bell peppers, dried onion bits, bacon bits, chocolate bits, scallions,etc.

Now, if you have left over Chipotle Corn soup, you could add that instead of the milk, but still keep the creama. IT will taste even better!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Emergency Dessert Torte - Chocolate

We were having some company come over and my mind was vacant of any ideas for dessert that I had not done before. I always enjoy making a Tiramisu, which is pretty easy and has great end results.
I didn't have any Mascarpone cheese and besides I think that the visitors have been subjected to my Kahlua version prior.
What can I do with what I have.
Banana Foster? No I know they had that, and I didn't have the vanilla ice cream.
Maybe a frozen dessert?
No too much effort to clean out the machine and besides it makes a lot of noise. Maybe next time when I find some really go over ripe fruit.

How a bout a chocolate torte? Everyone always like one of those.
There was an old Russian recipe that my Grandmother made for me that I always liked. It was thin layers of a flat bread layers of filling interspersed. Yeah! that's it! I'll make a twist on that!

Flat bread........Tortillas!.....that's it!

Start by melting some chocolate.

Take the chocolate and melt either in the microwave or just throw it in a mixing bowl, put in the oven or leave in the car while with the windows rolled up. ( Always worked before)

Add 6 to 8 oz of either sour cream or the creama like we get down here. Mix the chocolate together with 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Place the first tortilla on the plate, take a spatula and spread a even coat of the chocolate mix on the top. Run the cream all the way out to the sides. ( dole out about 20% of the total mix, so you won't run out)
Stack the next tortilla , spread the chocolate evenly then stack the next one, continue until you have 4 or 5 tortillas high. (depends on how much chocolate you have left and how thick you were laying it on).
Leave the chocolate off the top, of the last top tortilla. Take the remaining cream add the Kahlua and sugar, mix well. This will be the topping.

Use the Kahlua cream to frost the top of the top tortilla, take your vegetable peeler and scrape long curls off of the chocolate bar, to the top of the cream top.

Put it in the refer for 4 hours.

Before serving, remove and use a serrated knife dipped in hot water to cut, or if you have a sharp long chef's knife, place the knife on the top and chop downward in even cuts.

The only thing to watch is that you don't have a sharp knife you may dislodge the layers. Another reason to have sharp knives around!

That's it!

Things that you will need.

2 Cups, sour cream or heavy creama. ( You could substitute yogurt ) Do not use the real runny, soupy one. If you don't find it use Whipping Cream , Sour cream or Yogurt.
8 oz semi sweet chocolate. Save a little for the top or just use a new one, eat the rest!
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 TBS fine sugar
2 TBS Kahlua
5, 8 to 10 inch flour tortillas. 8 or 9 inch diameter.

And if you feel like getting out of your comfort zone:

Add various flavors to the cream mix, you can do stuff like Mint, or Banana liqueur, any berry cordial,
You can also top the tort with berries, strawberries, black berries, blue berries, I would omit the Kahlua if your go the berry route, to confusing of flavors.
Also you could slice bananas real thin and place them in between the layers, or mix dried banana chips into the cream mix, you can add nuts.
Or to the cream add some almond or vanilla extract, tad more sugar, soak some raisins in rum or brandy mix them into the cream inside the layers. You could use some broken or smashed cookies for the coating on the side of it or sprinkle them on the top instead of the chocolate.
You also could soak the tortillas in rum, or brandy, before stacking them......ummmmm I like that one. ( non more than about 2 minutes)
You also could bake the tortillas for about 20 minutes in a 350 oven, to dry them out, this will give a completely different texture to the torte!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's Chocolate Time-- Ibarra Mousse Pie

Mexico is know for it's deep chocolate history. What better use of the tasty Ibarra chocolate than to make a rich deep dark mousse pie.
You've seen, well I hope you've seen the Ibarra chocolate on the store shelves, haven't you?

It comes in a a funny yellow octagon round package with 4 or 5 round paper wrapped disks of hard chocolate. Anyway, the chocolate has a distinctive flavor that is synonymous with Mexican hot chocolate drinks. It is pretty sweet and already has cinnamon in it so you will not need to add may other spices into the mix. I mix regular dark semisweet or bittersweet chocolate otherwise the texture of the Ibarra is very coarse.

I usually will spend a few teaspoons testing the mix just right, no, I think it needs a little more sugar, then taste, well maybe a tad more, another taste.......huuumm Ok, just right, but I better be sure just in case.........

You will need a spring form pan, the kind you use for making cheesecakes. You do make cheesecakes don't you? (very easy) by the way, so if you don't buy a pan it will make it a lot easier to unmold the pies and cheesecakes...( I'll give you some easy cheesecake recipes later). Now, if you don't have a spring form pan, don't fret. You can make this in a regular pie pan either glass or metal, but you will have to adjust the ingredients to compensate for the quantity. This recipe will have more stuff than what a glass pan will accommodate, you actually can probably make two pies since the glass pan is only about 1/1/2 high and a spring form pan runs up about 3 inches. So make two and give one away!

Lightly oil the sides of a 10 inch spring form pan. Throw the cookies into a food processor and pulse a few short times until the crumbs are about the size of small peas. Kind of like, about 1/8 of an inch particles. This will make it easy to mold the crust into the pan.

Next throw in the melted butter and the crumbs into a mixing bowl and combine , toss into the springform pan and press into the bottom and sides (up about 3/4 of the up, if you can get it up all the way (no pun intended) do so, that will be even better.
Gently press all the sides and bottom, the more even you get it the better the end result will be.

Gently put the pan full of pressed cookie crumbs into the fridge.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over hot but not boiling water, stir to be sure all of it melts. This may take a little time depending on how hot your water is. Some times I will put the pan into a warm oven 150 degrees before to get it going.

If you do not have a double boiler you can take a regular pan of water, like a 3 or 4 quart pot fill it with about a inch of water and then find a stainless steel bowl that will rest on the pan so that the steam from the boiling water will warm the bowl. Be sure that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the pan.

While the chocolate is melting, whip 2 cups of cream combined with 3/4 cup of powdered sugar. When the chocolate is all melted, remove from the heat and add two whole eggs and 5 yolks. Mix this very well. And be sure that your chocolate is not too hot otherwise it will scramble the eggs. Not good for mousse pie.....
Take the whipped cream and fold in the cream into the chocolate mixture.

Beat up the egg whites and fold them into the chocolate mixture now. Do not beat it in, FOLD it other wise it will not make this light. ( and collapse the whites)
Pour this mixture into the chilled and eagerly waiting crust. Put back into the fridge and chill out!

You're almost done!

Leave in the fridge overnight or at least 5 hours.

Whip up the rest of the cream and sugar, with the Kahlua and spread about half of the whipped cream on top of the pie.

Carefully unmold the pie.

The best way is like attention.........

Take a thin knife. Something very thin, and dip it into some very hot water to warm it up!
Jam the knife between the pan and the cookie crust and carefully run it around the inside rim of the pie. Then carefully release the spring on the pan............

Now if you want to be fancy and have a pastry piping bag, you can fill the bag with the remaining cream put on a star tip and pipe the remaining cream around the edge .

If you don't own one , why not?

Ok, take a zip lock bag, put all the rest of the whipped cream inside the bag, and cut the bottom corner of the bag, about 1/4 inch, curl up the bag so that you are putting pressure on the bag and the cream is squirting out the hole. Take the squiring bag of cream and make some foolish designs or swirls, curly cues, write your name, your pets name whatever makes you happy!

The last thing to do before eating it.

Grab some regular sweet chocolate or semisweet bar chocolate and take your potato peeler. Scrape chocolate shavings all over the top of the pie. Eat the rest of the bar or save it for the weekend.

Cut the pie with a hot knife. After every cup dip the knife into the hot water and wipe off any excess. ( This will allow the cut pieces a nice clean cut edge)


Stuff you will need:

1 or 2 packages of Nabisco chocolate wafers, or take the Oreo cookies separate and scrape of the icing, use that as the cookie base. You can also use pretty much any chocolate cookie that is a hard cookie to make the crumbs. You will need at least 3 cups of crumbs to make the pie.
4 cups whipping cream
5 eggs, separated
1 cup powdered or confectioners sugar
1/4 cup Kahlua
2 whole eggs
5 oz butter
1/2 lb Ibarra chocolate
1/2 bittersweet chocolate

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Roasted Corn and Chipotle Soup

I love this time of year when it starts getting nippy. It allows me to make soups and stews. After all it's a little hard to make a nice hearty soup when the sun is out and its 85 degrees most of the day. But when you smell the smoke from the fireplace and you hear the popping of the wood as it spews embers on to your area rugs that you place too close to the hearth, it just brings a nice warm fuzzy feeling to enjoy some homemade soup!

Soup is one of the easiest things to make! Period!

Once you learn the basics, you can add any and many items to it with delicious results. You always need couple of basic items.

Water, an onion or two, salt and pepper, some butter or oil.
The your flavoring stuff.
And that's it!

If you have a soup base or stock that will make it even better.

Here is a quick recipe for chicken stock.

1 Put the leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a large stock pot (8 quart) and cover with cold water. Add veggies like celery, onion, carrots, parsley. The quantiy of veggies is not that important. The more you use the better it will taste. You can even use parts of the veggies that you would discard. Like onion tops, celery leaves and tops, carrot ends etc. If you absolutely need a quantity to make this work, then start with a cup of celery, onion, and chopped carrots, and a 1/2 cup of parsley.

2 Add salt and pepper, about 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper.

3 Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer.

4 Simmer uncovered at least 4 hours, occasionally skimming off the foam that comes to the surface.

5 Remove the bones and strain the stock.

6 If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce the stock by simmering a few hours longer to make it more concentrated and easier to store.

7 I usually will take and freeze the stock into a zip lock bag. This way it lays sort of flat in the freezer and I can take it out, 1 quart bag out at a time as I need it. Some people just use ice cube trays and freeze them as cubes, then place them in a zip lock bag to avoid getting freezer smell etc.

8 You can make beef stock the same basic way. Then you can use this stock as your soup base.

9 If you think this is too much trouble and you want a easy way to get stock almost as good, you can buy dried soup base, like Knorr bouillon cubes or jars of Caldo de Pollo etc.

10 Or if you have access to a restaurant supply store you can get small tubs of soup bases. They come in all flavors such as ; beef, chicken, clam, ham, vegetable, tomato, lobster, shrimp and crab.

The only problem that you will have with commercial stock bases is that they are usually contain quite a bit of salt, whereas your own home made stock would not.

Back to the soup........

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F

Then remove the husks from 3 or 4 ears of corn, lightly coat the ears with some vegetable oil and place on a piece of foil into a moderately hot oven (400 degrees.)
Let the corn roast until light brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the corn, let cool so you can touch it and work with it.
Then take the browned corn off the cob, either by scraping a knife down the cob or just cutting downward keeping the kernels whole as much as possible.
Put into a small dish and hold for awhile.

Then find a nice vessel, pot or kettle something that will hold enough so that you can throw it all in and not spill stuff over the side.
If I am making it for a couple of people and want to have left overs then a 4 to 8 quart pot is ideal.

take the onion and chop it to a reasonable size, this depends on if you are going to puree the soup later or leave it sort of chunky. That's up to you. Usually about 1/2 inch dice is fine.

Put some butter or oil into the pot and toss in the chopped onion.
Mix it around so the oil ( or butter) coats it, put on medium heat and cook it for about 10 minutes or until the onion gets translucent or just starting to brown.
Add the chopped garlic.
Add the pureed tomatoes or better yet if you can find the stewed tomatoes that's better.
Add the salt and pepper and stock, bring to a simmer.
Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add the roasted corn and chipotle chilies, simmer for 10 minutes , taste and serve.

That's it!
Pretty easy.

OK, now here's another lesson.

Instead of where you added the tomatoes and stuff, you have the makings of a basic soup base. You can add stuff like: More onions or leeks, potatoes and make a potato leek soup if you blend it and add some cream.
You can make it a vegetable soup if you add, some squash like zucchini or yellow squash, or other root vegetables. You can roast eggplant instead of the corn, less the tomatoes and make a great eggplant soup. Or add chicken and some small pasta and make a great chicken noodle soup. mushrooms and have a mushroom soup. then also you can add shellfish, etc, etc, etc. You can just experiment with the main flavors when you add them to the water, onion, salt and pepper and a soup base or stock and you have it!

Stuff you will need:

2 cups fresh corn kernels (from the 3 or 4 ears of roasted corn, removed)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or melted butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 large can or 28 oz of tomato puree
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper ( use white so it looks better, if you have it)
4 cups chicken stock
2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped fine, (to taste depending on your heat tolerance) you can also add the adobo if you like but be careful and add a tiny bit first, stir, then taste.

( Mexican corn is not as sweet as corn in the US, but you can find it. If not, you can sweeten up the soup and still have the great corn flavor by adding some honey to taste. Usually about 1 to 2 TBS.)

Once you get the program down on how easy it is to make soups, you can do wonders with them. For example, you make a vegetable soup one day, with the left overs you can them add meat to it or noodles and have a completely different soup.
Make a potato leek soup one day, couple of days later you can add shrimp or prawns to it with a touch shrimp base and you have a great shrimp chowder. Or clams, etc etc......

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Garlic Poblano Rack of Lamb & Provance

It has been difficult if almost impossible to get decent lamb down here.
When you were able to get it you would get a minuscule rack that looked like it came from a malnourished animal.

But now we have the scourge of box stores, Costco in Morelia carries pretty decent racks.
Not as good as CK Lamb that in California has.
They have the Sonoma raised lamb that Wolfgang Puck buys to supply his eateries. If you are in the states they ship overnight! It's great for a special dinner etc.

The trick to good lamb is not to overcook it and to infuse some flavors into it.
One common recipe is to chop up garlic, rosemary and make a covering using day old bread saturated with Olive Oil. The simply roast it until it is medium rare. 140 degrees.

This recipe is nice because it imparts a subtle chili flavor and still retains some good garlic flavor.

Take the rack and remove the skin that covers the back of rack. Not the top with the fat but the bottom. You may need some kitchen pliers to help you pull the skin off. If it has a lot of fat on the top you could trim some of it off but careful not to take too much off. Leave at least 1/4 inch on the top.

Score the bottom of the rack with a knife with 1/4 inch cross ward cuts.

Make the coating, it should be the constancy of gloppy oatmeal, not too runny.

Massage the coating into the rack especially on the bottom where you made the cuts.
Coat the top and sides with the coating, place in a shallow pan, cover with plastic and let rest in your refrigerator overnight.

Next day remove from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or until it comes up to room temperature. (this is done so that the rack will cook evenly when it is placed in the oven)

Pre heat your oven to 450 degrees.

take the plastic off the rack place into shallow Pyrex or other type roasting dish.
If the coating has fallen off, take a spoon and slap it back on, you could use your fingers too if you like.

When the oven is hot, place the dish in the middle rack. ( with the lamb in it)
Close the oven door, reduce the heat to 400.
Go read a magazine for 10 minutes or fix the dinner table so it looks real nice, eh?

Now, how do you tell when it is done?
If your oven temp is accurate, pull it out in 12 minutes for medium rare.
If your oven is not, then you better have an instant read thermometer!
13-14 minutes for medium.

Two ways. If you have an instant read thermometer, which you can pickup cheap at Walmart or other place, you jab it carefully into the middle of the rack, avoiding thrusting it into your hand at the same time (just kidding) and see what it says.
You should be sure that the end of the probe is in the center of the meat and not hitting the bottom of the pan.
If it reads 135 then pull it out, place a little roof of aluminum foil on top of it to trap the residual heat while you open a bottle of wine , get the table ready and eat your salad. The second way to tell is to look at how much the meat has receded from around the rib bones. It should be coming back about 1 inch or so, if they are Frenched ( separated and meat removed between the bones) and when you push on the top of the meat it should offer just a little resistance. If your oven is accurate, about
The meat needs to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Why? I want to eat it now!
OK,, cut it and ruin your rack!

Ken's lesson #688 All roasted meat like, roasts, leg of lambs, prime rib anything that has some volume to it, including roasted chickens, ducks, etc,etc,etc, needs time to stop cooking and redistribute the juices back inside the volume of the meat. Believe me! OK if you don't do this. Buy two identical roasts, ( Beef preferably because it is more expensive and you may learn better when you waste a lot of money) Cook them for the normal time until the thermometer registers 130 degrees for rare, 135 for medium rare. Take both out, place both on a cutting board, tent one and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the other one immediately up and leave the cut meat on the board. On the other side of the board, cut the other after it has rested. See all the juices that have run OUT of the one that didn't rest? See less of the juice running out of the one that did rest? If you want a tough dry, tasteless piece of meat, guess which one it is? OK, so now you know!

Back to the rack........
After it has rested, go ahead and cut it into serving pieces. I like to cut it into individual chops and fan them out on the plate on top of a seasoned rice or other grains.
You could cut the rack in half and provide mini racks for two people.
You can cut it any way you like and be rewarded with a delicious rack of lamb. And it is pretty easy to do.
I have also wrapped racks in puff pastry, and made mini lamb wellingtons, also tasty.

Stuff you will need:

One full rack of lamb ( feeds 2 to 3 people)
1 Ancho or Poblano chili, soaked overnight, the chopped in a blender with 1/4 cut of chicken stock.
1 Full Chopotle chili thrown into the blender at the same time ( if you don't like the heat, eliminate this step)
3 two day old Bolillios, smashed up to the constancy of mush
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine.
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper
2 TBS of stone ground mustard

Place in large mixing bowl, use your hands to mix all the ingredients into a oatmeal mush consistency. It needs to be firm enough to stick to the rack but not to dry to keep falling off. You can taste the mix at this time to see if you want to add anything more to it. ie, cumin or more hot pepper, etc.
After mix is done, cake the mix onto the rack, cover and hold in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours before cooking.
Roasting is best, you could grill it, bu the a lot of the coating will fall of that way.

I had a couple of emails asking for some more info on the rack of lamb. Some people didn't want lamb with Latin flavors, so here is one that is more Italian, (which is sort of Latin). Enjoy.

Make the Make the bread coating with the following ingredients then mold it around the rack. Also if you like and you or you guests are really hungry you can cut the rack in half so each portion will be 4 bones, it will also take the breading easier.

5 or 6 pealed cloves or garlic
4 TBS herbs de Provence
3 to 4 bagels, bolillios, or slices of bread. cut into small pieces, 1 inch or so.
1/4c to 1/2c olive oil./
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh basil leaves or 2 TBS dried basil

(now if you put in rosemary and omit the Herbs de Provence it will be another recipe.)

Ist put the garlic into a food processor and pulse until chopped. Next put in the basil, and bread , salt and pepper and herbs, pulse until the bread is the size by half. Continue to pulse while you add the oil, try not to over process. The idea is to make a dry paste kind of mix , something that is moist enough so that when you pinch it, it will hold the form. If it falls apart you need to add more oil to moisten it. If you are using fresh basil , the moisture will help bind the breading also.
Of you add too much oil it will be too runny,ad some more bread to it.

Once you have the breading the right consistency, season the racks with a little salt and pepper, then lay down a pad of the breading the same size as the rack and press the rack into the bread. Then take the rest of the breading and coat the sides and back.
Gently place onto a cooking pan, any breading that has fallen off just press back on to the lamb. The whole idea here is that it needs to have enough moisture to keep it's own form around the rack. I also then spray some cooking oil like PAM etc, to help coat the breading after it is on the lamb to help keep it moist.
Let rest for 10 minutes then put into a hot oven 450 for about 10 minutes then reduce to 400 until the instant read thermometer reads 135. for medium rare, pull , tent with foil and let rest, for at least 8 minutes then serve!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Camarones con Tequila

Muy Sabroso!

I guess my mentioning that I had a recipe for Tequila Prawns brought out a couple of emails asking for what my twist on this was. So here it is, it is pretty forgiving, and if you understood the way I cook, you can get pretty creative and interpret the basics pretty easy without fail.

Remember that cooking is easy, all you have to do is look at the big picture and imagine the end product and that's about it!

Clean the shrimp and devein if you like, I find that the sand some times detracts from the dish and besides your guest will figure out that you didn't want to take the time to clean them, if you are cooking for yourself than you could eliminate the step but get in the habit if doing the best you can at all times and you will not be disappointed. ( ken's rule for the day)

Clean the shrimp, mince half the garlic and chop the rest. take 1/3 cup olive oil and put on low heat throw in the garlic and let it steep for about 1/2 hour, be sure and keep the heat low so they do not turn brown or get cooked, burnt garlic is muy malo, since it will impart a bitter aftertaste.

Then strain the oil, reserve the garlic bits for later. (this is also a very good way to make some garlic infused oil, which you can keep around for all other recipes)

Take a couple of shallots and dice fine, if you can't find shallots, take a 1/4 of a sweet white onion and mince that.

Take some Italian Parsley about a large hand full and chop finely, take the same amount of cilantro and do the same.

If you are using culantro, reduce the amount by 1/2, since it is much stronger.
Heat a large skillet 12" to medium high heat(you can use the same pan if you like with the reserved oil) when the oil starts to shimmer, you know it is ready.

Toss in the prawns, be sure and do not over crowd them otherwise they will steam and you don't want that. If you have to do it in two batches. Cook each side for about 2 minutes, turn and cook the other side until pink.
Then toss in the chopped parsley and cilantro, use a wooden spoon and mix totally, toss in the butter, swirl the pan to incorportate and NOW


If you are careless, clumsy or just not a great coordinated person, you can just remove the skillet and toss in the Tequila, away from the flame, for about on minute.

Then you can bring it back to the flame and gently kick the pan so that the flame touches the edge of the pan to ignite, or (use a lighter)

and whoosh, your running around the kitchen in a massive fireball...............
Just kidding.

The alcohol should have been cooked off after one minute so the flambe will not be spectacular, unless you are doing thing to impress some friends. If thats the case then you should practice this, a couple of time so that you look like you have complete control and not screaming that the pan is on fire!

Once the flame has diminished, add the butter, salt and pepper and serve immediately. If you like squeeze some fresh lime or lemon on top.(optional)

Things you can add to improve the flavor:
Chipotle pepper flakes
Chili Powder
Coriander (ground)
Brandy or Rum

Play with it and have fun, once you get the drift, you can do some nice Flambe desserts like Bananas Foster....recipe to follow.

Stuff you will need:

1 to 2 lbs of prawns. 16-20's or 21-30's work the best, head off, shell removed.
6 cloves of garlic, half chopped, half minced
1 hand full of Italian Parsley
Two small shallots minced or 1/2 small white onion
1 hand full of cilantro
1/2 cup of good tequila. If you won't drink it, don use it to cook with.
3 tbs of butter
salt and pepper

Y0u can serve this on top of a saffroned rice or buttered pasta noodles like linguine or fettuccine.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Green Chili Steak al la parrila

Green Chili Steak

Want something a little tastier than just tossing a steak on the grill? Perfect grill marks only go so far….. This easy recipe make great steak taste better and mediocre meat taste better.

You start with a couple of New York cut steaks, trim or don’t trim the fat, (don’t forget there is a lot of flavor in some of the side fat). Coat with some of the chopped garlic and olive oil, pepper and place in a zip lock bad then place in the refrigerator for a day or two.

The day of cooking, remove from the refrigerator and let sit to get to room temperature. (This allows better even cooking on the grill )

In a skillet, place the butter and oil, then toss in the chopped onion and chili. Cook until totally limp and reduced. (10-20 minutes) moderate to low heat.

In a second skillet, put in the butter and add ¼ of the mushrooms at a time, so as not to crowd the pan, otherwise they will steam themselves. Add the rest, little by little until all have been in there for awhile and reduce to minimum and are dark brown. (Do this on low heat since all you want to do is sweat the mushrooms and reduce them to intensify their flavor with the butter)

At the end, throw in a pinch of salt and pepper, and hold until serving.

Heat the grill to very hot, let the grill get hot, when ready place the steaks on the grill and watch……..for about 30 seconds, then turn the meat 90 degrees on the same side for that perfect grill mark.

Keep watch for another 3 to 4 minutes on this side.

Then, flip the meat over and do the exact same thing except for the last 3 to 4 minutes.

Depending on the heat of the grill the finish may be as short as 2 minutes or longer depending on the grill. For medium rare, probably around 4 minutes will be average, for medium about 5, for well done 6 to 7 minutes. (You really should not do well done, if you want any kind of flavor from the meat)

Then ……you should have the dinner plate all ready, place the cooked meat on the center of the plate and immediately top with the mushrooms and onion chili mixture. Top with Chopped Cilantro and Present to the table and that’s about it!

Stuff you will need;

Steaks, New York or Rib Eye, cut about ½ to ¾ inch thickness (2, 3, or 4 depending on the # of servings you need)

Two or three garlic cloves, chopped fine.
One Large White onion, chopped.
Two green chilies, your choice depending on your heat tolerance. ( I often purchase the green chilies en escabiche and remove the chilies and chop them up tossing out the other stuff.
One chipotle chili, chopped fine with seeds.
Salt, pepper, butter, olive oil.
1 cup chopped Cilantro.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chicken you can eat without the need of Salsas

I don't know why people overcook chicken. Must be because unless you cook it until it is one step before jerky you can't be sure that it will kill all. Yes you can be sure it will kill all, all the flavor, the taste the moisture and any possible hint at fantastic nuances of delicious chicken that actually is better than the birds in the US.

The nice golden yellow birds here in Mexico are loaded with flavor. Please don't cook the hell of of them. It is a little tricky to cook them, but with your understanding and skill the end result will greatly be appreciated by not only you but your guests! Assuming you have invited guest to savor your new recipe!

First of all, if you purchase a chicken, whole (entero) you will need to cut it up into pieces. The easiest way is to chop off the little wings, use the wing tips for stock or take the wings of and freeze them until you have a couple of dozen of them so you can make buffalo wings, or you can cook them if you like but take them off early. ( because they are small and don't cook at the same time)

Cut the thighs and drumsticks off the bird, then take some kitchen sheers and cut the back out, save for stock, then what is left is the breast. Take a sharp knife and thrust it into the breast bone and cut that in half. (unless you want to debone the breast, thats another lesson) Besides, the bones add a special flavor to the meat that is noticeable.

So now you have a cut up chicken, right?

Make a brine.

Whats a brine?
A brine is a water solution that you will let the chicken swim in for from 2 to 20 hours. What it does is allows the flavor of the brine to permeate into the meat cells and add not only moisture but flavor.
This is especially good with dry tasteless Turkeys.....thats another lesson also.

Take one quart, (4 cups of water, add 3/4 cups of salt and 1.5 cups of sugar, dissolve and mix until all is absorbed. Get youself either a couple of plastic zip lock bags or a vessel of some sort to let the chicken swim in. Place the chicken in there, submerge and let it sit in the refrigerator for the time.

At this point you can if you wish, you can add stuff to the brine.

Stuff? Like what?

What every you would like to have a hint of the flavor in the bird. ( this is optional)

Something like: Liquid smoke, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, basil leaves, epasote and oregano, tomato sauce or smashed garlic cloves, whatever, this is your time to experiment as much as you want or not at all. Don't be intimidated, this stuff is not rocket science!

Ok, next THE FIRE

IF you have a charcoal grill or gas grill you will need to do the following. Separate the cooking area into at least two or three levels of heat.

Because I said so.

Chicken pieces cook at different times, the thighs cook differently than breast parts, so if you want the whole chicken to be done more or less at the same time you have to do this!

Trust Me!

Drain and dry the chicken. Paper towels will work best, don't use a hair drier, there are too noisy. ( if you don't drain and dry the chicken will not have crispy skin, and you want crispy skin don't you. Other wise it will sort of steam cook, .....bad )

Ok, Back to the bird.

Make the fire in three areas, since the breasts have varied thickness they will take the longest to cook. All other pieces are about average.

Take an place all the pieces over the hottest part of the grill, to sear until you see some darkening of the skin, you don't really want to burn the meat since burnt meat tastes bitter, do you?

Once you have made nice grill marks and browned the pieces, (anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes) go ahead and move all the pieces over to the medium area. Keep an eye ( not really just look at it now and then) to be sure that your fire is not too hot so that you don't have a 3rd alarm blaze under the chicken.
If you do, just move it to the colder part of the grill. Or pick up the phone and summon the fire department. Then you will need more chicken because they are usually very hungry!

Take the pieces after3 or 5 minutes and turn them, let them sit there for about the same time, then move all of them over to the area where either there is no coal or the flame on the gas is at it's lowest and you do not have any flare up.

Go find yourself an aluminum pie plate, and place it on top of the two breast pieces, and finish cooking.

That can take anywhere from about 5 to 15 minutes depending on the heat level and if you have a top to the grill.

Do not coat the meat with any sauces while they are cooking, they will just burn and not taste too good.

The last 3 or 4 minutes is the time if you are going to suffocate the meat with your special secret sauce. Or some nice salt and pepper will do nicely at this point.

To test the chicken for doneness, take a small sharp steak knife and stab it into the breast. ( I 've always wanted to say that) and see if the meat is all white, there should be no hint of rojo (red) and the juice will escape should be clear, not cloudy (rain tomorrow) .

The other way restaurants do, is to grab the meat off the grill after the initial searing , grill marks and smoke etc, then they place the meat into a dish and throw it into a 350 degree(F) oven for holding. It can hold there for 10 minutes if you need.

You will have to experiment with your grill, obviously one that you have placed 20 kilos of carbon will cook faster than one with 4 twigs of ocote, so be reasonable here, it's not really rocket science.

With this recipe you will have consistent good chicken, but be sure and do not give the secret of the brining, let's keep that our secret.

Happy Cooking!
Chef Ken

Yes, Ken can cook!
I have heard it before!

Stuff you will need.

3/4 cup of sugar , just plain sugar, not raw, not confectionery, not sweet and low. Sugar!
1.5 cups table salt. I don't know what they call it table either.
One or two chickens, you will have to cut them up or ask the market guy to do it. (chicken)
One quart of water.
couple or one zip lock bag.
misc herbs and spices ( if you want)
salt and pepper--Always on almost everything.
Time, we have plenty of that here.
Charcoal or gas.....

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