poblano

Oh, just stuff it!

Before I get to today’s regularly scheduled blog post, I have a little announcement! Thanks to the help of some very good friends and supporters, I’ve been able to register for the International Food Bloggers Convention in Seattle next month! Woot!

I’m super excited! I’ll have the opportunity to attend sessions about everything from how to build a brand and make the best use of social media to beef butchery to food photography, plus so much more. I’ll be blogging from there, of course, so prepare for me to pretty much just totally geek out all over you lovely people. 🙂

If you’re willing, able, and interested in doing so, I am still about $75 away from what I really need to make sure I can cover my flight. I’ll make it happen either way, but if you’re able to help out, the link to my GoFundMe page is right here.

And now… on with the show! erm. Post!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it previously, but I’m taking Latin Cuisine this quarter. We definitely covered Tex-Mex food last quarter in American Regional, but this quarter we’re moving past all those giant blobs of cheese and sour cream to food that is a lot more authentic to Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. I really like the chef who is teaching it, which helps tremendously in navigating all the complexity of Latin cooking.

Last week our main dish was Chiles en Nogada, or Chiles in Walnut Sauce.

blog_plate

As you can probably tell from the picture, it’s battered and fried, but don’t let that deter you if you’re trying to avoid such things. This isn’t State Fair food or anything. That outside coating can be as light as you need it to be, or even skip it altogether and just pan fry or oven roast these babies. They’ll still be good.

There are a LOT of ingredients to this one, so I’m not going to pretend it’s not labor intensive. However, if you’re looking for a special occasion dish to make for people who are worth the effort, this is a good recipe. You can also customize it pretty easily– leaving out the meat and/or replacing it with mushrooms, or using a different cooking method once the chile is stuffed.

Because there are so many ingredients, and I was afraid I’d miss one, I’m going to just give you the recipe straight from the book. It’s an image, so you won’t be able to copy/paste, but feel free to leave me a comment or email me at gonnacookthat@gmail.com and I’ll send you the recipe in Word format so you can print it out.

I’m going to make some recommendations about this recipe right up front. First, replace the fresh peaches and apples with their dried counterparts. Those two fruits seem to give off a LOT of liquid, and I think it muddied the flavors just a bit. I’m also going to recommend the that you add cumin, Mexican oregano, and some chili powder along with the coriander seeds. I felt like the filling was lacking that punch of flavor I was expecting until I doctored up the seasonings a bit, and that’s the combo (in any ratio you want) that seemed to work best. Also, make sure you’re seasoning after each major addition to the filling mixture with a little salt, to help build up the layers of flavor.

Equipment:
Deep frying pan (this is a lot of filling)
Large pot for frying, or if you’re going to oven roast these without the batter, a baking sheet
Knife and cutting board
Measuring cups and spoons
Large mixing bowl for steaming the roasted chiles
Two small mixing bowls for breading
Toothpicks
Pan or plate for holding the chiles once they’ve been fried
Stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or a balloon whisk if you’re going to mix the batter by hand
Paper towels
Plastic wrap
Spoon (to help peel the chiles after they’re roasted)
Blender
Small container for soaking the walnuts

Ingredients for the stuffed chiles:
blog_recipe

Plus, don’t forget the extra oil for deep frying, if that’s the way you’re going.

Roast (char) the chiles, steam (in your large bowl, covered tightly with plastic wrap), and peel off outer skin without removing the stems. This is where your little spoon comes in handy.

blog_blister
Make a lengthwise slit in each chile and remove the veins.  Note: This part is tricky. Just do your best. Make your slit toward the stem end of the chile, and use a small spoon to get out as many of the seeds as you want. It’s not necessary to get all the seeds out, especially if you want the chiles to keep a little bit of bite.
Optional: Soak in a salt water and vinegar solution for up to 2 hours to reduce the heat of the pepper.

Heat oil and brown the pork.
blog_pork
Remove and drain meat; leave fat in pan.
Cook onion and garlic until translucent. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Combine pork, apples, peaches, plantain, raisins, almonds, pine nuts, lemon zest, and chicken stock with onion mixture. Add spices (coriander, etc.) and season with salt and pepper. Cook over slow heat until almost dry. Allow to cool.

blog_filling

Stuff chiles with pork mixture. Reshape and secure openings with a toothpicks; chill for 30 minutes. See how I mangled mine? They look like they’re being tortured into submission. We didn’t have toothpicks, just these long, wooden skewers we had to break in half. “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

blog_stuffed
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Lightly beat the egg yolk and mix into whites.
Heat oil to 350°F (175°C) in a deep fryer or pan fry using enough oil so it comes up half the thickness of the chiles.
Dip the stuffed chiles in flour and then in the egg batter, and fry until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels and remove toothpicks.

Ingredients for the walnut sauce:

1 C Walnut Halves
1 C Milk
1 ounce white bread (sandwich bread is fine), torn in pieces
1 C Queso fresco or whole milk ricotta
1 C Heavy cream
1/2 tsp sugar

Soak walnuts in half the milk for 1 hour. Strain and reserve the milk. Rub walnuts in a clean towel to remove the skin.
Soak the bread in remaining milk for at least 30 minutes.
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

You can serve these however you’d like. Put the sauce on the bottom or the top, and do yourself a favor and buy a package of pomegranate seeds. Seeding a pomegranate isn’t difficult, but it can be messy, and your kitchen might end up looking like a homicide scene. Save yourself the clean up and take advantage of the convenience item in this case.

blog_head

Am I recommending this dish for a regular weeknight meal? Hmmm. Maybe not. But, you can definitely do everything up through stuffing the chiles ahead of time to make the “day of” service a little easier. The flavors will only get better overnight, and the walnut sauce will definitely hold in the fridge overnight. Just warm it up a little before you serve.

Veni Vidi Veggie

I came, I saw, I veggied. That’s how Latin works, right?

I am going to preface this whole thing by reassuring you all that I’m not going full on vegetarian. I could do that, but I could also walk into the path of an oncoming city bus. I might survive it, but the rest of my life wouldn’t be much fun afterwards, right? Same same.

However, sometimes I just don’t feel like standing in a hot kitchen and filling it with the smells of cooking meat. I mean, it’s sort of a commitment, you know? You’re deciding that this is what you want your apartment to smell like for the next three hours or more.

So, I decided to keep dinner last night really simple. It was kind of an experiment… a tiny seedling of a thought that sprouted into sustenance. But, it turned out pretty delicious so I thought I’d share.  This recipe would serve 4 people as a side dish, or two people as a main dish.

Equipment:
Saute pan
Pot to cook the rice
Spoon, spatula, whatever you have handy for stirring and whatnot
Measuring cup and spoons
Knife and cutting board

Ingredients:
1 poblano pepper, deseeded, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into slices
2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned of dirt and stems removed, sliced
1 T vegetable oil (canola or whatever you have is fine)
2 C cooked rice (I used brown rice. Brown rice takes forever to cook. If you want to use the boil in bag kind or the microwave kind, I will not judge. This is supposed to be easy, yeah?)
1/2 C of your favorite salsa (I used Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde)
1/3 C plain, non-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp some sort of Latin or Spanish spice blend. I used the paella spice blend I got in my June Hatchery box
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the salsa into the cooked rice. Set aside.

blog_salsarice

Mix the spice blend into the yogurt, and season with S & P to taste. Set aside.

Saute your mushrooms and peppers together until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and both ingredients have taken on some color. Season to taste with S & P.

blog_saute

Mound some of the salsa rice into the center of the plate. Arrange some mushrooms and peppers on top. Drizzle the whole thing with your yogurt sauce.

blog_plated

It really doesn’t get much easier than that unless you’re cooking from a box or something, yeah? The salsa really adds a ton of flavor to the rice without much effort at all, and that yogurt sauce gives it a nice, tangy finish.

You could jazz this up even further with some fresh corn, red peppers, maybe some jalapeno if you like it spicier. Much like life in general, it really all depends on how much effort you want to put into it.

What Isn’t Holiday Food? (An Ode to Soup)

Are The Holidays officially over yet? Please tell me they are. I really need to give my guts a break.

image

Don’t get me wrong.  From Halloween to New Years Day, I am a Holiday Food Goddess. I will kick out all the pumpkin flavoured, brown sugar covered, Christmas cookie’d, roasted stick of butter goodness you ask for, and I’ll keep doing it until everyone around me is simultaneously in a diabetic coma and lining up for double bypass. Come January 1st, however, I am ready for it all to stop. Actually, if we’re being honest I’d be ok with skipping straight to May, when rhubarb comes into season and tomatoes are right around the corner. This has nothing to do with the over indulging that inherently occurs during The Holidays…or maybe it does. All I know is that the chocolate dipped shortbread that sounded so flipping delicious on December 31st now makes me want to, pardon the unladylike expression, hurl. 

Folks, I’m not trying to write another one of those Holy Crap It’s A New Year So Let’s All Drink Kale Smoothies For The Next Month blog posts. The Interwebs will be filled with those, if that’s what you’re into. All I’m saying is that I’d really just like to have something that doesn’t require me to wait six hours before resuming normal human activity after eating it.

My answer to this… whatever it is I’m feeling… is soup. Delicious, layered with flavor, doesn’t make me feel like I’ve swallowed a bowling ball soup.  A soup kinda like this one…

Roasted Tomatillo-Poblano Soup

Ingredients
8 Tomatillos, husks removed
2 large Poblano peppers, deseeded to your liking (to control heat)
1 medium yellow onion, cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 T + 1 tsp olive oil
Kosher or Sea Salt

Equipment
Roasting pan
Large soup pot
Knife and Cutting Board
Measuring cups and spoons
Blender
Ladle

Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 375. Place the tomatillos, poblanos, and onions in a large roasting pan. Drizzle 1 1/2 T olive oil plus a generous sprinkle of salt over the veggies, and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a soup pot, and add two smashed garlic cloves. Cook on medium heat just until they become fragrant. Add the contents of the roasting pan and the cumin, then give everything a good stir. Make sure the tomatillos are smashed as you stir so they give off their juices. Add the chicken stock and allow everything to simmer for 15 minutes. 

Add the contents of the pot to your blender and puree. I like mine to be really smooth. If you like yours chunkier, just stop blending when you reach your desired consistency. Then, pour the blended soup back into your soup pot, check for seasoning (I usually add just a little more salt), and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream, sliced radishes, pepitas, or whatever else sounds good.

Poblanos aren’t really all that spicy, but the ones I bought did add just enough of a kick to wake up my taste buds. This soup makes enough so that you’ll probably have leftovers, and you can do a lot with them. It would make a great sauce for smothered nachos or burritos, or you could even make it heartier by adding potatoes and/or diced pork.

If you’re working through your own holiday food malaise, give this soup a chance. Or try your own soup!  I’ll bet if you check your fridge and your pantry right now, you’ll find five ingredients that would, with just a skosh of imagination, come together in a delicious, soul feeding soup that will put you well on your way to recovery.