Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chili with chipotles

A really top-notch batch of homemade chili involves roasting, soaking and blending of the chilies, which can be time consuming. Today I wanted to try a dry blend. I used anchos, chipotles and chile de arbol, among other things. In the past I have removed the seeds from the dried chilies, resulting in a flavorful but mellow final product. This time, not only did I include chipotle and arbol, but I left in the seeds. The result was chili with a nice blend of flavoes and a bit of a kick.

The Spice Blend:
1oz anchos
2/3 oz dried chipotles
1/3 oz chile de arbol
3/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp beef bouillon

The Rest:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
4 cups water
1 15 oz. can tomatoes
2 15 oz cans pinto beans, drained

For the spice blend, remove stems from chilies and grind as finely as possible in a spice grinder. Add the rest of the ingredients a little at a time, and grind as finely as possible. Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed pot, sauté onion and garlic in oil until onion is soft. Add meat and brown, breaking it up into chunks as it cooks. Drain, leaving a little residual oil in the pot.

Return meat mixture to the pan over medium high heat and add the spice blend. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add one cup of water. Continue cooking and stirring as water evaporates and mixture thickens. Be warned: this is the tear gas stage.

Add the rest of the water and the can of tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to barely a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about two hours, or until mixture has achieved desired consistency. Toward the end of the cooking time, add the beans.

Serve with sour cream and shredded cheese. I also like eating mine with warmed up corn tortillas.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cauliflower, Chard and Leek Gratin


Gazing at my garden today I realized I had Swiss Chard ready to harvest. A glance at the veggie drawer in my fridge revealed cauliflower, leek and scallions. Some dish ought to be doable from these ingredients, I thought. A quick Google search turned up this recipe from a site called Small Farm Central.

I had to make do with the cheese on hand; some might consider a package of pre-shredded “Mexican blend” cheese to be a poor substitute for Grana Padano and Parmesan, but it is what it is. By the way, instead of steaming the cauliflower, I nuked it in a covered Pyrex bowl for six minutes.

Here is the recipe as it appears on the Small Farm Central site:

1 medium head of cauliflower, florets only
1 bunch of chard, cleaned, stem removed and chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts only, washed well and chopped
1/4 cup chopped shallot
1 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour
1/4 cup cream
1-3/4 cup 2 percent milk
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Steam the cauliflower until tender crisp, about 10 minutes. Set aside.Heat the olive oil in a large pan, saute the leek and shallot for a few minutes until just starting to turn golden. Add the chard and saute until just wilted.Mix with the cauliflower in a roasting pan.

Make the bechamel. Start by melting the butter in a sauce pan. Add the flour and whisk until it begins to turn golden and smells "nutty" and no longer like raw flour. Add the cream and milk slowly, whisking as you go to keep it smooth. Add the nutmeg. Whisk over low heat until it thickens. Add the Grana Padano cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce evenly over the cauliflower mixture. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until the top turns golden and it is heated through. You can also do this with broccoli.

Chicken with Pomegranate Barbecue Sauce

Pomegranate-glazed chicken.
Also pictured, Cauliflower, Swiss Chard
and Leek Gratin.
Erika scored some pomegranates from a friend the other day. We seeded and juiced them and made a really good, tangy barbecue sauce. The recipe is from Pomegranates, by Ann Kleinberg.

One drawback: If you’re using this to sauce meat over direct heat (which we did the other day with ribs) you may get flare-ups. Today we used it to glaze a chicken, which we roasted whole over indirect heat on our gas grill. I’m on the lookout for a sauce that doesn’t include oil.

4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup pomegranate syrup (**see below)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tapatío chili sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.

** To make syrup, take 4 cups of fresh pomegranate juice and reduce in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until you get the desired consistency. You’ll end up with less than 2 cups. Kleinberg says it will keep in the refrigerator for six months.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Casserole

The words "Irish food" do not automatically bring to mind fine dining. But the boy and his mother were browsing around through a cookbook called Best of Ireland and found this dish that really turned out to be very good. You braise a whole chicken with bacon and leeks, and finish it off with a cream sauce. And that's basically it. Wife and child had it with mashed potatoes on the side, while I enjoyed mine with puréed cauliflower. The recipe comes from Best of Ireland, by Matthew Drennan.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small chicken
8 ounces bacon, chopped
1 pound leeks, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat the oil and butter in a large casserole. Add the chicken and cook it, breast side down, for five minutes, until golden. Remove from the casserole.

Add the bacon to the casserole. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until golden. Then add the leeks to the bacon and cook for five minutes until the leeks begin to brown. Put the chicken on top of the bacon and leeks. Cover and cook in the oven for one and half hours.

Remove the chicken, bacon and leeks from the casserole. Skim the fat from the juices. Poor in the broth and the cream and bring to a boil. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly reduced and thickened.

Stir in the tarragon and season to taste. Slice the chicken and serve with the bacon, leeks and a little sauce.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sautéed Scallops and Onions

Our neighbor Jerome acquired a couple pounds of sea scallops and offered to share them with us as long as I would cook them. I decided to use this recipe from Delicioso by Penelope Casas, and it turned out really really good.

1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
4 tablespoons minced parsley
A few strands of saffron
4 tablespoons diced prosciutto
5 tablespoons dry white wine
Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sprinkle the scallops with salt. In a skillet, heat the oil to the smoking point. Brown the scallops quickly over high heat, shaking the pan frequently, for about 1 min. Remove the scallops to a warm platter (they will cook more later). Return the skillet to the flame and sauté the onion until wilted. Stir in the parsley and saffron, then return the scallops to the pan and add the ham and wine. Cook briefly until the scallops are done, about 2 to 3 min. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini, Andalusian Style

Adapted from The Heritage of Spanish Cooking, by Alicia Rios and Lourdes March

This turned out to be really good, but once I ran it through the carb calculator I found that the carb count is a little high (roughly 28g per serving). I think the amount of flour I used was minimal, but I'm sure the raisins and the vino are what sent the carbs over the top. I'm thinking the recipe would work just fine with a tomato-based sauce, though.

The main challenge was the onion cap, which ended up being a strip of onion, which I inserted into the zucchini cavity, folded over, and reinserted.

All in all, pretty satisfying. I put my comments in italics. Serves 4.

Ingredients for the zucchini:
3/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (I left this out)
Whole onion layers to use as caps
3-1/2 oz. ground pork (I used sausage today)
1/3 cup green olives, chopped
1/3 cup raisins, chopped
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
4 medium-small zucchini (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and cut in half horizontally
1 tablespoon flour (for dredging)
2 large eggs, beaten

Ingredients for the sauce:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup beef broth (I used chicken)
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons ground almonds

Instructions
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and gently fry half the finely chopped onion. When it colors, add the ground pork, season with salt and brown. Remove from the heat and add the olives, raisins and chopped hard cooked eggs.

Scoop out the zucchini flesh from one end only, then stuff with the pork mixture. Top each piece with a cap made from the outer layer of a whole onion. This ended up being easier said than done, since the recipe was not specific on how to do it. I ended up cutting strips of onion, tapered at both ends, which I inserted into the open ends of the zucchini. Must still play around with this. Coat with flour and beaten egg, then fry in the rest of the oil, which should be very hot. Transfer to a heatproof casserole and set aside.

Make the sauce by frying the chopped onion in the olive oil. When it starts to brown, add the flour, stir, then add the white wine and broth. Cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time, and add salt if necessary. Strain through a fine sieve and pour over the zucchini. (This is a good idea; I skipped that step but it would have been better strained). Add the almonds and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until the zucchini are soft. The recipe calls for it to be cooked on the stove, but I opted to use a Pyrex baking dish in the oven, and it worked fine. Transfer carefully to a serving platter and pour the sauce over the top.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Creole Chicken and Shrimp

This turned out really good. I did not have any half-and-half, so I used cream, and it was awesome. Since I'm low-carbing it these days, using cream didn't bother me. For myself (but not for my long suffering wife and child) I used cauliflower "rice" instead of rice. (Note: here's an easy method for cauliflower rice, but it calls for way too much salt. I suggest using only half the amount of salt called for, if that.) This recipe comes from The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook, by Barbara C. Jones.

Ingredients
1 tbsp pickling spice
1 1/2 pound shrimp, shelled
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (half breasts, technically)
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
8 ounces tomato sauce
3 tbsps snipped parsley
1 cup half and half
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Instructions
Fill a large pot three-fourths full with water and bring to a boil. Add pickling spice and shrimp and cook until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp, drain and chill.

In a large skillet, heat oil and brown chicken on both sides and sautee until centers are no longer pink. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towel. Cool and cut into bite-size pieces.

Put onion, celery, and peppers in the skillet and sautee until onion is translucent. Add chicken to skillet and stir in tomato sauce, white wine, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Pour into a 4 quart baking dish and bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove chicken dish and stir in shrimp and half-and-half. Bake until heated throughout. Serve over rice. Serves 4-6.