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Morel Madness and the Audacious Soufflé

23 Apr Morel, Wild Ramp & Goat Cheese Souffle

This week I have the extraordinary opportunity to be a participant in the Marx Foods 4th Annual Blogger Morel Recipe Challenge.  This is an annual contest open to bloggers like me or, to coin a phrase, “morelnauts”, to help celebrate the Morel mushroom, which comes into season in a few short weeks. I simply offered up my interest, and was dutifully accepted!  So, having received my free sample of dried morels, it was time to suit up.

Dried Morels

My first thought, after consulting with my wife, was to make a fresh ramp and morel quiche, but I really wanted to put some sizzle into my entry. So after pondering it for a bit, I thought, “Fortune favors the audacious”, I instantly said, SOUFFLÉ! Problem number 1; I had never made a soufflé before! I had all the flavor affinities in my head, the eggs, the morels, the ramps, the goat cheese. I just needed to learn how to make the vehicle! So on Saturday, I went about my research and even took a test drive and made a Mexican Chocolate Soufflé! I soon learned that a savory soufflé is nothing more than an enriched bechamel sauce with some egg whites folded in! I can make a bechamel with my eyes shut, so this should be fun!

Morels have a unique earthy flavor and a musty aroma that pairs quite well with the pungent, garlicky-onion flavor of the fresh ramps. They are both at their prime in the spring, so why not use them together! I was able to find some fresh ramps at a local purveyor this weekend, and I thought why not deepen that earthy flavor with the deep smoky flavor of the poblano chile and toss in some rich, tangy goat cheese.  Finally I added a bit of freshness with the chopped cilantro plus,  I cannot be too far away from my Mexican flavors!

Fresh Ramps!

Fresh Ramps!

 

Well, here it is, my entry into the Marx Foods 4th Annual Blogger Morel Recipe Challenge! Enjoy…

The lucious Morel Soufflé

The lucious Morel Soufflé

Morel, Wild Ramp, Poblano & Goat Cheese Soufflé

  • 2 oz. dried morels
  • 2 chile poblanos
  • 4 oz. fresh ramps
  • 2 oz. fresh goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Take 4 – 8 oz. souflee cups and grease with some butter.
  3. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, drain and dry very well with some paper towels.
  5. Roast the Poblanos in the oven, then peel, remove the seeds and de-vein. Chop to a nice dice and set aside.
  6. Wash the fresh ramps and remove the roots and the greens
  7. In a food processor, place the morels and the ramps and pulse several times to a nice coarse chop.
  8. In a medium sautee pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Then saute the ramps and morels for about 3-4 minutes, ensuring that any liquid is cooked off.
  9. Add the chopped poblanos and the dried thyme and continue to sautee for another 2 minutes to incorporate all the flavors. Then set aside.
  10. For the bechamel, heat 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  11. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook until the mixture has a slightly golden color and smells a bit nutty, about 3 minutes.
  12. Take the milk and add it a bit at a time, continuously whisking as you add the milk. I usually add it in 1/4 cup portions. Make sure to whisk out any lumps!
  13. Once all the milk is added, add the goat cheese and season the bechamel with white pepper and salt.
  14. Now, incorporate the mushroom, ramp, and poblano sautee, and the chopped cilantro, mix well.
  15. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  16. Separate your yolks and whites, whisk the egg yolks until they are a pale yellow.
  17. Take about a large spoonful of the bechamel and temper the yolks so they do not cook once you add them to the bechamel.
  18. Once they have been tempered, add them to the bechamel and mix well. Cover the pan with some plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the sauce.
  19. Take the egg whites and whisk until the have hard peaks (I take the bowl and invert it over my head, if they do not fall out and hit me, the whites are ready!) TIP: For greater lift make sure you use egg whites that are at ROOM TEMPERATURE!
  20. Now fold the whites into the sauce in 3 different stages. Simply divide the whites into thirds and fold each section separately.
  21. Take your greased souflee cups and spoon the sauce into each one a little more than 3/4 of the way up each one.
  22. Place in the center of your oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
  23. Quick!!! Serve immediately before they deflate!

Morel, Wild Ramp & Goat Cheese Souffle

Mixotes de Pollo

5 Apr Mixotes de Pollo

I love waking up in Mexico City… Each morning in my suegra’s house is to awaken every sense in one’s body. The first to awake is sound; you can hear the commotion of the city, car horns going off, the sounds of the street workers yelling “Glooooobos” or the occasional “Tamales Oaxacaños” recording. The next is sight; the bright sun of the Valle de México shining through your eyelids, kick starting your brain. Then comes smell; there is nothing quite like the aroma of my suegra‘s kitchen wafting up the stairs and into the bedroom. It often brings me back to the old cartoons, where the aromas were like hands, grabbing the antagonist and leading them to their savory desires.  Finally, there is touch; to walk downstairs, sit down and take a fresh corn tortilla, a cup of café de olla, and a plate of  freshly prepared mixotes is the final step to waking up in Mexico City!

Mixotes de Pollo

Mixotes de Pollo

Among all the delicious dishes my suegra makes, one of my Top 5 favorites is Mixotes.  Mixotes is a dish typical of central Mexico and the name derives from what I believe to be the method (traditionally the meat is wrapped in the leaves of the Maguey cactus the ‘Mix’ ) and the cooking technique ( the ‘otl’ part or the ‘otes’ plural) , but I am not a Nahuatl expert so don’t quote me as the source of this linguistic synopsis. I digress, Mixotes can be made with almost any type of meat. I have had ram, lamb, and of course in the case of this recipe, chicken. The traditional way is to season the meat with a chile paste and wrap in the leaves of the Maguey, very similar to barbacoa, add a scoop of nopales, and to pit roast the packages for several hours. The modern preparation is to prepare En Papillote  and steam the packages. In this case, we use foil instead of parchment paper. The chipotles used in this dish smell particularly delicious because of the smoky, earthy flavor that dried chipotles bring to the party. Those smells are the little hands that bring me down those stairs in the morning!

The final result is a wonderful spicy dish in plenty of chipotle flavored broth, tender cactus, and succulent chicken. I open up that package, close my eyes, and I am transported back to my suegra’s kitchen! Enjoy!

 

 

Mixotes de Pollo

  • 6-7 Chicken Quarters (Legs & Thighs)
  • 12-13 Dried Chipotles Moras
  • 1 cup cilantro leafs, loosely packed
  • 6-7 Nopales (cactus paddles)
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Put the chipotles in a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  2. While the chipotles are boiling, clean the nopales and cut into thin 1 inch or less strips.
  3. Place the nopales in a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 3-5 minutes. Then drain and rinse with cold water, and let drain.
  4. Take the chicken and remove the skin, rinse well and pat dry. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Slice the onion thin using a mandolin and combine with the chicken in the mixing bowl.
  6. Add the nopales to the mixing bowl.
  7. Wash the cilantro and remove the stems, add to the mixing bowl.
  8. Once the chipotles are tender, put on some food service gloves and remove the stems and seeds, place in a blender with the clove of garlic and about 1/4 cup of the liquid you boiled the chipoltes in. Puree the mixture well and add to the mixing bowl.
  9. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the chicken time to marinate in the chile mixture.
  10. Grab some aluminum foil and make 6 sheets, make them large enough to wrap two pieces of chicken and some of the chile & vegetable mixture.
  11. With a large spoon, scoop out two pieces of chicken and some of the vegetables, place in the center of the foil and fold up the package, do this until all the chicken is wrapped into individual foil pouches.
  12. Place the pouches in a large pot with about 1.5 inches of water, you can place a bowl inverted in the bottom and then place the packages on top of and around the bowl, this will allow the packages to steam. OR you can use a spaghetti cooker (the one with the strainer insert).
  13. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and steam the packages for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, take out a package and check the chicken to ensure it is fully cooked.
  14. Serve with Saffron Rice or Frijoles de Olla.
Mixotes de Pollo

Mixotes de Pollo

Bacalao en Cilantro

28 Mar Bacalao con Cilantro

If you ever get to travel to Mexico’s Gulf Coast, you will find that Mexicans really know their fish; it’s not all just about tacos and Ceviche!  Bacaloa en Cilantro

I had some fresh Haddock filets that I wanted to cook and my family does not particularly like the standard approach New Englanders take to their seafood; often deep-fried in heavy breading, or baked, drowned in butter and topped with crackers. Sometimes, there is nothing better than whipping up some beer-batter, deep-fry those filets, and have yourself some luscious Baja Fish Tacos, but were looking for something a bit more healthy! As I went through the recipe Rolodex in my head, I remembered a recipe that I once read in Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cusines of Mexico for Pescado en Cilantro. In her version she uses snapper, but I had no access to fresh snapper, so I improvised and used the haddock instead!

 What I really like about this dish is the sauce. The chile, onion, and cilantro flavors combined with the fiery juice from the can of chiles make for a unique combination. To accompany this dish, I decided on using my go-to recipe of Saffron Rice. I just love the flavor of saffron with seafood.

You can go about the preperation two different ways. You can make the sauce and add the sauce to the casserole dish halfway through cooking, or you can simply drizzle it on the fish once you plate. I, out of sheer forgetfulleness (I wanted to cook the fish in the sauce to add the flavors of the fish and lime), ended up drizzling the sauce around the rice. It all turned out well in the end, the acidity and heat of the cilantro sauce complimented well with the fish and rice. After all, the taste of the sea, the chiles, cilantro, and saffron seem to be a match hard to beat!

 

Bacalao en Cilantro

(Baked Haddock in a cilantro sauce)

  • 2-3 pounds haddock or cod, cut into 6 ounce portions.
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 Jalepeños em escabeche
  • 1 cup of cilantro, packed
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons juice from the chile can
  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Cut the fish into 6 ounce portions
  3. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a saute pan and saute the onions over medium high heat for about 5-6 minutes.
  4. In a casserole dish pour the lime juice and lay down half the onions.
  5. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place the fish on the bed of lime juice and onions, drizzle 2 tablespoons of oilve oil and place the rest of the onions on the fish
  6. Cover with foil and bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
  7. Take a clove of garlic, the jalepeños, the juice from the chile can and the cilantro and place into a 3 cup food processor, drizzle in the remaining olive oil with the motor running.
  8. When the fish is cooked, serve by laying down the saffron rice, top the rice with onions and a piece of the fish. At this point you can drizzle on the sauce or spoon it along the circumference of the rice. Top with chopped cilantro and serve!

    Bacalao con Cilantro

    Bacalao con Cilantro

Saffron Rice

  • 1 1/2  cups white jasmine or basmati rice
  • 1/4 white onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Saffron threads
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  1. Place the water, saffron, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then turn off to let the saffron steep.
  2. Heat oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  3. Add onion, rice, and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes
  4. Add the saffron mixture and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
  6. Let rice stand, covered, off heat 5 minutes
  7. Fluff with a fork and serve with your fish!

2012 Rochester Electronics Chili Cook-off

20 Mar Rochester Electronics Chili-Cookooff

What do tortilla chips and semiconductor chips have in common? Well, really, nothing at all, but they both go great with CHILI!Rochester Electronics Chili-Cookooff

Not only is Rochester Electronics the world’s most comprehensive solution for mature and end-of-life semiconductors, they also hold great food events. On March 15, they held their 3rd Annual Chili Cook-off at its corporate headquarters in Newburyport, Massachusetts. This year, 17 different entries, a record number, came to Rochester Electronics, all with the same desire to brew the best pot of chili in the Seacoast and bring home the coveted Presidents trophy.

The entries ranged from the sweet “Suga Mama’s Sweet N’ Spicy Chili”, which was sweetened with what seemed to be sweet pickle relish, to the high-octane heat of habenero chili in the “Kickin’ It Up A Notch Chili”. The event was also catered by American Barbeque, of Beverly, Massachusetts, with pulled pork, mashed potatoes and cornbread, but this was all about the chili! The judging was by secret ballot, with each person who attended the event voting for their favorite chili. I personally tried every entry with a separate bowl and spoon for each one. I can truly say that there was not a bad chili to be had at the cook-off!

The Chili Cooks

My entry featured fresh handmade Mexican Chorizo, Pancetta, Tri-tip, Pozole, and my own special blend chili powder; you can find the recipe below. In the end, the guests choose first timer Nick Rabbit as the overall best, his chili featured hot Italian sausage, hamburger, and a touch of barbeque sauce.

 
 
2012 Rochester Electronics Chili Cook-Off Official Results
1. That Jane From Maine Chili – Nick Rabbit – 2012 Champion!
2. Dago Reds Old #77 – Chris DelGrosso
3. Sweet Joppa Heat, A Clipper City Favorite – Keith Maguire & Chris Mele
4. Suga Mama’s Sweet N’ Spicy Chili – Erik Corkern
5T. Barnyard Chili – Karen Quarantiello 
5T. Chilly Chili – Pablo Lora 
5T. Kickin’ It Up A Notch Chili – Mike Smith of Boston Carnival Village
6T. Screamin’ Banshee Chili – Jamie Vatcher
6T. Kickin’ Chili – Crystal Vitale
7. 4 Watt Chili – Brian Thibeau
8T. Meaghan’s Fabulous Chili – Meaghan Meredith
8T. Authentic Mexican Chili – Heather Brogna
8T. Burning Saddle Chili – Jay Chapin
8T. No Name Chicken Chili – Bob “Wiles Thing” Wiles
8T. Sweet Cajun Chili – Loren Krott
9T. Turkey Chili – Jason Lemieux
9T. Kate’s Pot of Gold – Kate Mageary

Now for the winning recipes, we have the top two finishers recipes for you…

Top 2 Chili Cooks

The Top 2 Chili Cooks

 

That Jane from Maine Chili

(Recipe Courtesy of Nick Rabbit)

  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes with their juice (chopped)
  • 2 14 oz cans Dark red kidney beans
  • 1 Medium onion (chopped)
  • ½ cup of green pepper (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons barbeque sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 Hot or Sweet Italian Sausages
  • 1 lb of Hamburger
  1. Brown 6 links of hot Italian sausage and cut into coin shapes prick sausage while they cook to drain fat (Add to le creuset pot)
  2. In one tablespoon of the fat, sauté 1 medium onion dice, 1/2 cup or more diced green pepper remove and add to le creuset pot
  3. Brown ¾ to 1 lb ground beef drain off all fat add to chili pot
  4. Add all ingredients and bring to a boil reduce to simmer and cook 1 hour

 

Dago Red Old #77 Chili

  • 7-8 ounces of Pancetta or Guanciale, finely diced
  • 1.5 lbs. Fresh Mexican Chorizo
  • 2 lbs. Tri-Tip or Sirloin Tips, cubed
  • 1 large Vidalia Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 28 oz. Can of San Maranzano Plum Tomatoes
  • 3 Chili Poblanos, roasted, peeled, seeded, and deveined
  • 15 oz. Frijoles de Olla
  • 15 oz. Pozole (Corn Hominy)
  • 3 tblsp Fresh Chili Powder (see recipe below)
  • 1 tblsp. Brown Sugar
  • 3 tblsp. Tequila (Anejo or Reposado) – I used Don Julio
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • Salt
  1. In a separate skillet, cook the chorizo off until done, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, render down the Pancetta until it is somewhat crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until the onion is translucent and the garlic is aromatic, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cubed sirloin tips and then add the chili powder, cook until the meat is not pink anymore on the outside, about 5-6 minutes.
  5. Deglaze with the tequila and continue to cook until the liquid reduces by half.
  6. Now add the chorizo and mix well to incorporate.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, crush the tomatoes with a potato masher or by hand (I use my hands!)
  8. Add the tomatoes to the pot and mix well, reduce the heat to medium and bring to a nice boil. Add some salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  9. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and then add the chopped chili poblano.
  10. Continue to simmer on low heat for about 2 more hours. I recommend putting the chili in a crock-pot or slow cooker for about 8 hours on low. In the last 30-45 minutes, add the pozole and the beans.
  11. Serve with some fresh Chipotle-Cheddar Scones!

  

Dago Red Old #77

The Dago Red Old #77 on display

DelGrosso’s Fresh Chili Powder 

  • 2 Dried Chile Guajillos
  • 2 Dried Chile Anchos
  • 2 Dried Chile Pasilla
  • 2 Dried Chile Chipotles
  • 3 Dried Chile de Arbol
  • 1 tblsp. Dried Mexican Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Cumin Seed
  • 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp. Whole Black Peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  1. Take the dried chiles and remove the stems, empty the seeds and break them apart into small pieces, I sliced them and separated the seeds.
  2. Place all the chile pieces, cumin, and peppercorns in a skillet over medium high heat and toast them until they become aromatic, DO NOT BURN THEM OR THEY WILL TASTE BITTER!
  3. Let them cool and place the oregano, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and half of the toasted chiles in a spice grinder and grind until fine. Wait about a minute for the dust to settle, then add the rest of the chiles, grind once again until a nice fine powder.
  4. Store in a airtight container.

    Me with the "Secret Weapon"

    Me & the "Secret Weapon"

Pozole Verde

13 Mar

This is a recipe that tugs right at my heartstrings. I love Pozole and this recipe for verde from Karen at The Back Road Journal does this traditional dish proud! Viva Pozole!

Corned Beef and Colcannon

12 Mar Home Cured Corned Beef and Colcannon

This weekend was the first “official” road race of the spring running season up here in New England, the St. Paddy’s Five Miler, in Portsmouth, NH, where your’s truly ran an uninspired 45:30… One can almost smell spring in the air and with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I thought it was time to post my first Irish recipe. Here in America, when we think of St. Patrick’s Day, we think of parades, Guinness, and Corned Beef and Cabbage.Home Cured Corned Beef and Colcannon

So what does corned beef have to do with MexItalian cuisine? Well, absolutely nothing, but I have always wanted to “corn” my own beef.  Now, the process of “corning” beef refers to the treatment of the meat with “corns” of salt and without going into the menusha of wet-cured meats, gives the cheaper, tougher cut of brisket suppleness and tenderness. There are several advantages to corning your own beef. The first being that is so extraordinarily simple, why would you not do it yourself. Another reason is that you are in complete control the ingredients that you are using in the curing process and you have ownership of the flavors and nutritional value of the finished product. I am specifically talking about the use of sodium nitrite, or Pink Salt. There have been numerous studies on the use and consumption of nitrites, but to make it simple, I tend to shy away from any food additive that is lethal to humans in larger quantities. One only needs a few simple ingredients, a corning technique, and 5 days (it takes 5 days to cure the beef prior to cooking so start NOW!).

For my St. Patrick’s Day feast I decided to serve my home cured corned beef not simply with the traditional cabbage and potato, but with another dish that combines both the cabbage AND the potato; Colcannon! For those of you who have never heard of, or eaten colcannon, it is another delicious traditional Irish dish that is made by combining mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale.Colcannon

So now that I had my menu, I started by putting my meat to brine on Tuesday morning so that it would be ready for my post-race Sunday meal. I submerged the brisket in a stockpot and made some room for it on the top rack of my refrigerator and turned the brisket each night. On Sunday I simply rinsed the brisket, placed it in another stockpot, covered it with water, added a bit more pickling spice, and simmered the brisket for 3 1/2 hours. I then added the potatoes to the pot and cooked them WITH the beef in the same broth, I think that this really brings both dishes together!

As I always say, if it is worth eating, then it is worth doing right! Forget that packaged corned beef loaded with cancerous nitrites. This corned beef is made from 100% grass-feed beef, crystal clear spring water, and hand toasted pickling spices. Serve that up with a hearty serving of colcannon and you can have a St. Patrick’s Day feast you can be proud to serve!

What is your St. Patrick’s day meal? If you are Irish, what are your traditions?

Home-Cured Corned Beef

(Adapted from Micheal Ruhlman’s Corned Beef : How to Cure Your Own)

  • 1 5-pound beef brisket
  • 1-1/2 cups kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons pickling spice (see below)
  • 1 tsp pulverized celery seed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in two
  1. In pot large enough to hold brisket, combine 1 gallon of water with kosher salt, brown sugar, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the pickling spice and the crushed celery seed.
  2. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.
  4. Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover. Refrigerate for 5 days.
  5. Remove brisket from brine and rinse thoroughly.
  6. Place in a pot just large enough to hold it. Cover with water and add remaining pickling spice, carrot, onion.
  7. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer gently until brisket is fork-tender, about 3.5 hours, adding water if needed to cover brisket.
Corned Beef and Colcannon

Corned Beef and Colcannon

 

Pickling Spice

  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon ground mace
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
  • 2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger.
  1. Combine peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry pan.
  2. Place over medium heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to burn them.
  3. Crack peppercorns and seeds in a molcajete (mortar and pestal!) I knew I could add a Mexican twist to this!!
  4. Combine with other spices, mix and put in a tightly sealed plastic or glass container.

 

Colcannon

  • 8 large red potatoes
  • 1 head of Savoy Cabbage chopped
  • 6 scallions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup Fat-Free   milk
  • 2/3 cups Fat-Free Sour Cream
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  1. Peel the potatoes rather lightly, it is ok to leave some of the skin on.
  2. Quarter them and place them in the stockpot cooking with the corned beef. Cook until fork tender, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large sautee pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of the butter.
  4. When all the butter is melted, add the cabbage and sautee until just wilting and then reduce heat to low and continue to cook until tender about 8 minutes, stirring often. (Take special care not to burn the cabbage). Turn off the heat and cover.
  5. Once the potatoes are done, remove from the stockpot with a slotted spoon and drain them well in a colander.
  6. Combine the milk and the sour cream in a bowl by simply whisking in the sour cream.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, mash the potatoes well, combining the remaining butter and the milk and cream mixture. Continue to mash and stir until you get the desired texture that you like. (I like them a bit rustic and lumpy)
  8. Fold in the cabbage and add the scallions.
  9. Serve with the corned beef and a pint of Guiness!
Colcannon

Colcannon

Las Posadas

12 Dec Pozole Rojo

Christmas is such a magical time or year, no more so than in Mexico, where Christmas time means Las Posadas!  Las Posadas is a time-honored tradition in Mexico, actually throughout Latin America, which celebrates the journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place of shelter from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Traditionally, a Posada is arranged throughout a neighborhood, with a different house holding the celebration each night, starting on the 16th of December and finishing on the 24th. My family in Mexico celebrates it amongst the entire extended family, usually assigning a day to each relative. It is typically a 9 day festival, called a novena, which represents the 9 months of Mary’s pregnancy.  The hosts of the Posada act as the innkeepers, and the children and adults attending the Posada act as the peregrinos (the pilgrims), who have to request lodging by going up to the house and singing a traditional song asking for shelter.  The innkeepers respond to the pilgrims in song as well. either denying, or allowing the pilgrims to enter the house.  Once inside a great festival ensues, where there is further singing, some pray the rosary, the children break piñatas, and my favorite part, the eating!

This year we decided to hold our own Posada at the DelGrosso household.  So we invited some friends, planned the menu, and started cooking!  

In Mexico, the traditional dish for the holidays is Pozole. Pozole is, like most dishes in Mexico, derived from Aztec tradition. The word pozole is Aztec (Nahuatl) in origin and means “foamy” as the Aztecs believed hominy resembled a foamy froth.  It had a religious significance in Pre-Colombian Mexico as corn was a sacred plant to the Aztecs; therefore, it was only made on special occasions.  After the Spanish conquest, some of the ingredients changed, but the corn and the tradition remained.

Pozole Rojo

Pozole Rojo

So our Posada, being a special occasion, called for Pozole! We planned to serve Pozole Rojo, which is the version of Pozole typically made in my wife’s family. And we also planned to serve Sopes…

Sopes are small antojitos or appetizers which are essentially a slightly thick tortilla with the sides pinched in to form what I call a “boat”. They are then fried and then topped with refried beans and crumbled cheese, lettuce, onions, red or green salsa. There are countless number of different variations to sopes all throughout Mexico.  Sometimes other ingredients (mostly meat) are also added to create different tastes and styles of sopes. We have a standard sope we make in our family, which is simply refried black beans garnished with diced onion, shredded lettuce, cheese, and salsa.

Sopes con Frijol

Sopes with beans, onion, lettuce, and queso fresco.

 The recipes below have been modified a bit for smaller yields. We obviously scaled up our recipe to serve 10 to 12 guests. 

Basic Chicken Stock for Pozole

  • 1 whole free-range chicken
  • 1 medium white onion, quartered
  • ½ head of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • Stems from a bunch of Cilantro
  • About 3 quarts water
  1. Take the stems and tie them together with some butchers twine.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a large stockpot together with the water.
  3. Bring to a boil on medium heat then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Simmer for about an hour, or until the chicken is done and the legs pull from the rest of the chicken.
  5. Take the chicken from the pot and strain the stock with a medium mesh sieve.
  6. Once the chicken is cool, shred the meat from the chicken by hand and reserve.
  7. Use immediately or cool and store in refrigerator for up to 4 days, or freeze.


Pozole Rojo

The Soup

  • 2 cans (2 lbs.) of Pozole (Corn Hominy)
  • 10-12 Chile Guajillos
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/8 of a medium white onion
  • Chicken Stock (from recipe above)
  • Shredded Chicken reserved from Chicken Stock recipe

The Garnishes

  • Sliced radish
  • Shredded lettuce.
  • Diced Onion
  • Dried Mexican Oregano
  1. Rinse and clean the Pozole by hand, removing the “seed” or hard kernel from each piece of hominy.
  2. Toast the guajillos on a griddle similar to method described in Barbacoa recipe.
  3. Once the guajillos are roasted, place the chiles in hot water and let sit, covered for 30 minutes.
  4. While the guajillos soak, place the chicken stock and corn together in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil on medium-low heat until the corn “blooms” or opens up. This should take about 10 or 15 minutes.
  5. Take the guajillos and clean the chiles by removing the stems, seeds and viens.
  6. Place the chiles in a blender with a clove of garlic, about 1/8 of the onion, and about 3 cups of chicken stock.
  7. Puree the chiles and force through a medium mesh sieve once the corn has “bloomed”.
  8. Continue to simmer the pozole for about 5 minutes to incorporate the flavors of the chile.
  9. Salt to taste. It is important to salt AFTER the corn has “bloomed”. Salt will inhibit this process.
  10. Serve with shredded shredded chicken, finely minced onion, sliced radish, shredded lettuce, and a pinch of dried Mexican oregano.

    Pozole Rojo

    Pozole Rojo


Frijoles de Olla

  • 1 cup of beans
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ of a white onion
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 quart of water
  1. Clean and sort the beans, removing any stones, broken beans, bad beans, etc.
  2. Place all ingredients in the Olla and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 90 minutes or until beans are very tender, adding more water if necessary.

    La Olla

    La Olla – My Olla.


Sopes “Boats”

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Mix the masa harina and the salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the water to the flour, make sure that the water is warm.
  3. Press the dough with your fingers and the palms of your hands as if you were kneading bread dough. If at any point through the tortilla making process the dough seems too dry or too wet, add a little more water or masa to the dough.
  4. Take a piece of the masa dough and shape it into a ball the size of a plum, or slightly large golf ball. Make about 16-18 balls from the dough.
  5. Take two pieces plastic from a ziploc type plastic bag and cut them to the shape of the surface of the tortilla press. Open the tortilla press and lay one piece on the press. Place the masa ball in the center. Place another piece over the masa ball. Gently close the press and press down lightly, until the dough has spread to a diameter of 4 or 5 inches. You want the circle to be a little bit smaller and thicker than a tortilla, as you will be pinching up the sides.
  6. Heat a griddle or a large skillet on high heat. Working one at a time, hold a tortilla in your hand, carefully removing the plastic on each side. Allow the tortilla to rest half on your hand, and half hanging down, and gently lay the tortilla down on to the skillet. Cook the tortilla on the hot pan for 30 seconds to a minute on the first side.  Gently flip the tortilla over for about 10 seconds.
  7. After 10 seconds take the tortilla from the griddle and place on your work surface. Place the fully cooked side up.
  8. Using your thumb, index finger and your middle finger, gently and carefully pinch in the sides all the way around the tortilla to form the “boat”.
  9. Once your sope is formed, place it back on the griddle to cook a bit more, about 30 seconds on each side.
  10. Repeat the process with each ball of dough until you have about 16 or 18 boats.

    The Sope "Boats"

    My Sope “Boats”


Sopecitos de Frijol

  • 16 to 18 Sopes “boats”
  • 1 cup of Frijoles de Olla

Garnishes

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Queso fresco (crumbled)
  • Diced White Onion
  1. Place a medium sauté pan on high heat with about a tablespoon of corn oil.
  2. Take about a tablespoon of the white onion and cook until onion begins to become translucent.
  3. Put the beans in the pan with about ¼ cup of the bean broth.
  4. Cook for a few minutes and bring the beans to a slight boil.
  5. Begin mashing the beans with a potato masher and mash them until the beans are nice and creamy.
  6. Remove the beans from the heat.
  7. Put your skillet or griddle on the stove and put it on high heat.
  8.  Once it comes to temperature. Take some corn oil (I put it in a squeeze bottle) and put about a tablespoon on the cooking surface. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, work in batches and fry each boat in the oil until they are crisp (but not browned), put a little more oil on the cooking surface when needed.
  9. Once your boats are all crisped, you start assembling the sopes. Take a rubber spatula and spread some of the beans on each sope and place on a serving platter.
  10. Then take a pinch of diced onion, a pinch of shredded lettuce, and a pinch of queso freso and place on each sope. When I say a pinch, you can use your own judgment here. Put as much as you want on each sope!
  11. Finish with dollop of fresh salsa.

    Sopes con Frijol

    Sopes con Frijol

Supper Simply

27 Oct

Now I usually take all week to dream up some creation to share with all of you on Monday, but I just could not resist this evening. Tonight was fish night, so I stopped by my friendly neighborhood fish monger, Taylor’s Lobster, and picked out a nice 1 pound portion of fresh halibut fillet.

Chipotle Baisted Halibut

So how did I know the fish I was buying was fresh? Let me tell you how to

make sure the fish you are buying is fresh. First look at the fillet, as a fish sits around, its flesh will of course, decay, so look at the flesh of the fish, the color will begin to fade. Salmon will become less red and vibrant, whitefish such as cod or in our case, halibut, will become more dull and faded, not the bright fresh white that you want to see. Next, if your fish monger lets you (any quality fish guy or gal will let you), ask to hold the fillet, and then smell it. It should of course smell like the sea, but it should not have any pungent aromas. Finally, touch the fish, press it with your finger, the flesh should be responsive and spring back. If your fingerprint remains, then it is not a fresh piece of fish. Now that we know the halibut I had was fresh, let me tell you how I prepared it, what I served it with, and how I BOTCHED the plating!

So take that 1 pound of beautiful fish, rinse it under cold water, pat it dry with some paper towel, take a sharp chef’s knife and divide it up into 3 portions (smoke coming from my head as I take 16 ounces and divide it by three). Squeeze some grapefruit juice (about 1 tablespoon) over the fish, and lightly salt the fish. Take a non-reactive mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel or glass, and take 1/8 of a cup of adobo sauce (just strain the entire can) from a can of chipotles (La Costena of course!), another tablespoon of grapefruit juice into the bowl, and 1 finely minced clove of garlic. Then slowly whisk in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into the bowl. Now you have your basting sauce.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush a bit of the chipotle sauce on a baking pan, then place the halibut on top of the sauce so it will not stick to the pan. Brush a generous portion of basting sauce on top of the fish and put it in the oven. Now the general rule of thumb with fish is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. So my fillet is about 1 inch thick, I am going to set a timer for 5 minutes. Why am I going to set a timer for 5 minutes? Halibut is not an oily fish, so it will dry out if cooked without any type of oil or butter. So halfway through, I am going to baste the fish with the basting sauce. Wonderfully simple!

While the fish is in the oven, I am bringing about 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan for the couscous. I have added a pinch of kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil instead of butter for health reasons. Once that comes to a boil, I stir in about 2/3 of a cup of whole wheat couscous, cover it, and remove from the heat. Just before plating, I am going to add a bit of lemon zest, then fluff the couscous with a fork.

I now hear my timer going off on the oven for the second time. I check the fish… How do we know when the fish is done? One could simply take a thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of the flesh, when it reads nearly 145F, it is mere seconds from being done. Fish transitions from done to overdone VERY quickly, so I would recommend to watch it closely! I usually use a stoneware baking dish, so the dish holds a tremendous amount of heat after I pull it from the oven and my fish will continue to cook a bit out of the oven. I usually pull it just a smidge early knowing this, but I do need to work quickly. I take a rather hot sauté pan, spray it with some canola cooking spray and sauté off my baby spinach. With a hot pan, it will cook quickly, once all the spinach is nice and wilted, it is done.

So now I can tell you my story on the plating. I wanted to take a nice, haute, photo to put up here so certain eyes see it and become impressed with my plating techniques (you know who you are). But being me, Mr. A.D.D., I simply forgot to pay attention to detail. I placed a bed of sautéed Baby Spinach on the plate, took my circular food mold and scooped in my couscous. I placed a nice portion of fish on top of the bed of couscous, garnished it with a sprig of cilantro and a slice of lime and called it a day! DOH! Once I took the photo and dined on the fish, I rememebered that I had a bit of chipotle basting sauce left that I was going to drizzle around the fish! Yet another lesson learned!

So now after about no more than 30 minutes, we have supper! Open up a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio (I like The Houge from the Yakima Valley for halibut) and pour a glass for you and your significant other! I hope you enjoy this recipe!