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.

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