recipe

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. ūüôā

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.

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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:
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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!”

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Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Lightly beat the egg yolk and mix into whites.
Heat oil to 350¬įF (175¬įC) 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.

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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.

Squashed Like a Tart

If you’re as big a fan of impromptu get togethers as I am, you probably already have a stable of “go to” recipes for party food at your disposal. You might even be more prepared than I will ever be and have stuff in your freezer that can be ¬†popped into the oven when company drops by without much notice. Knowing this about you, I also suspect you’re always on the lookout for new recipes to add to your repertoire. So… here ya go!

This squash tart is super easy, totally customizeable, and can definitely be made with stuff you might even keep on hand. In fact, there’s no rule that says you have to use squash. I got my inspiration from this recipe on the BBC Good Food website. It’s basically some sort of crust, with some sort of creamy cheese that’s been flavored with whatever you like, and then topped with… something. Once I give you the original recipe, I’ll also give some suggestions on variations.

Equipment:
sheet pan
knife and cutting board
spoon
mixing bowl
parchment paper
saute pan & spatula of some sort plate or bowl to hold the cooked squash for assembly

Ingredients:
1 sheet of puff pastry, chilled (not frozen)
1/2 C Ricotta
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 yellow squash and 1 zucchini
2 tsp vegetable oil salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350¬į. Cut the sheet of pastry in half. Fold the edges of each half in to form an edge about 1/2 an inch wide and lay on the parchment lined sheet pan. Put the pastry in the fridge to stay cool while you make the filling.

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Thinly slice both squashes. Don’t stress yourself over trying to get them paper thin. Just try to keep them to about 1/4 inch or thinner. Add 1 tsp of the oil to the saute pan over medium low heat. Add 1/2 the sliced squash and season with salt and pepper. You want the squash to basically just cook through, but not brown. Remove the first batch of squash to a plate or bowl and cook the 2nd batch the same way. Set aside.

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Mix the lemon zest, juice and dried thyme into the ricotta, along with salt and pepper to taste.

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Get your pastry out of the fridge. Spread 1/4 C of the ricotta mixture onto each tart, then layer the squash over it. You might have extra squash left over. I did, but I just added it to some leftover brown rice with some other random leftover veggies later in the week and it made a really yummy lunch. Pop the tarts into the oven for about 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes and cut into slices when you’re ready to serve.

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This one is delicious. I love recipes that follow a formula rather than demanding that you use specific ingredients, and this is definitely one of those recipes. You could keep everything the same and just change how you season the ricotta and get a whole new flavor profile. Maybe use some whipped goat cheese instead of ricotta. Or keep the filling the same and use tomatoes, roasted asparagus, or sauteed wild mushrooms, or even throw some pepperoni or Serrano ham on there, with or without a veggie.  You could embellish with a little crunch from pine nuts, like in the original recipe, or any other kind of lightly toasted nut, or even some grated Parmesan or Manchego. And those are just the savory options! Imagine mixing some maple syrup or brown sugar and a little orange zest into the ricotta, and topping the whole thing with roasted strawberries or peaches.

See where I’m going with this? Get the basic method down, and the only limit to the possible flavor combinations¬†is your imagination. That’s also nice because instead of having that one thing you whip up or bring to every party, you can make it something totally different from the last time, but without all the stress of learning a whole new recipe. Neat, yes?

If you’re looking for other party food ideas, give these two a try. I tested them out at a little shindig the roomie and I threw at my place a couple weekends ago, and they were a big hit.

Chocolate Dipped Potato Chips: I know it sounds a little weird, but trust me, these are kind of life changing.  Just melt some semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave, then dip the chips and let them set in the fridge. I like Wavy Lays vs. Ruffles.

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Mini Polenta Pizzas: Inspired by this recipe over at A House in the Hills. Again, this is one that could be topped with all sorts of things, although the ones in her recipe are pretty darn tasty!

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Go forth and party, my lovelies! We have all summer.

I’m about to get jalapeno business!

So, I was going to just do a post later this weekend, but I had the best week in the kitchen at school (it was Tex-Mex week and despite my initial misgivings, it was SO MUCH FUN!) and I had to share this with you all because it was so easy and delicious and you just have to try it. Did you hear me? HAVE. TO.

I only have one picture, but here it is. It’s not the chili you need to be looking at, it’s that lovely jalapeno shaped thing on the side.

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That’s not just your typical jalapeno popper. It’s a jalapeno full of cornbread. Yes, the cornbread goes INSIDE the jalapeno, and then you cover it with cheese and you bake it for 20 minutes and it’s just really effing delicious. I won’t blame you at all if you skip the pretense of garnishing a bowl of chili or soup or something, and just make yourself a tray of these and binge watch The West Wing on Netflix tonight. Maybe treat yourself to some really good beer, too. You deserve it.

I wish I could claim all the credit for this genius invention, but I actually got the idea from Oh Bite It!¬†They provide you a perfectly good cornbread recipe over there, but I’ll also give you the one we used in class.

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Customize it however you like. Or instead of stuffing jalapenos, go big and stuff the poblanos, instead. Use a different cheese. ¬†No matter how you do it, you are not going to be disappointed. Bring a buncha these to one of those Memorial Day cook-out things that social people with lives like to attend. If people aren’t bringing you beers and just generally being extra nice to you after trying one of these, you need to get new friends because those people are dumb-dumbs.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, ya’ll!

Damn, Herbs… You is fiiiiiiiiiiine!

There are French chefs rolling in their well buttered graves right now over that joke. I’M NOT SORRY!

It’s poaching and braising week at school. We’re cooking a lot of chicken. So. Much. Chicken. Both nights of our practical? Chicken. We made a beef dish once, during roasting week, and it was beautiful. I’m looking forward to taking American Regional next quarter, because I’m pretty sure we’ll get to do things with other kinds of meat. Meat that is not chicken.

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But I digress. We’re gonna dance with what brung us, and this week, it’s chicken. Chicken in Fine Herb Sauce, to be exact. It’s actually a really yummy dish, and not TOO much effort, really. You can serve it with rice and something green or orange or yellow and it will be a wonderful meal with all food groups represented and whatnot. Or something. I dunno.

Equipment:
1 medium saute pan
measuring cups and spoons
1 large sheet of parchment paper to make a parchment paper lid (instructions here)
tongs
cutting board and knife
whisk
cheesecloth
small plate or other type of container for holding the chicken while you make the sauce
piece of foil large enough to cover said container
fine mesh strainer and a bowl into which you will strain the poaching liquid (optional)

Ingredients:
4 (4-5 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 oz. cold butter
2 oz minced shallots
2 oz white wine
8 oz chicken stock
Salt and White Pepper (or regular pepper, since you’re probably just cooking this for home and not some snooty food critic who is going to be completely scandalized if they can actually see the pepper in your sauce.)
1 oz all purpose flour
6 oz heavy cream
2 T each finely chopped fresh parsley, chives and dill

Preheat the oven to 325¬į.

Mix the flour and 1 ounce of butter together to form a paste. This is called a beurre mani√©¬†or “raw roux.” It will be used to thicken your sauce to a napp√© consistency, which basically just means it is still pourable, but should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Mince all your herbs, and collect them in a large square of cheesecloth (or you can just ¬†use a mesh strainer, or a coffee filter). If you’re using cheesecloth, tie it up into a little bundle. Rinse the herbs under cold water, wringing the water out periodically until it runs mostly clear. ¬†Lay your rinsed herbs out on a paper plate or something flat to let them dry.

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Why are you doing this? Because all those herbs contain chlorophyll, the stuff that makes them green. By rinsing out some of that chlorophyll, you’ll help ensure that your lovely sauce doesn’t become discolored. I’d say you could skip this step if you really felt lazy, but honestly, when done right this simple little sauce kind of makes the dish. Maybe the people you’re feeding won’t know the difference if your sauce is a little green, but if I’m going to be a stickler about one thing, it’s this step. Just do it. You’ll feel better. Or I will feel better, and it’s all about my needs, dammit! ¬†(Just kidding. Sort of. Ha!)

Season the chicken breasts with the S & P.

Cover the bottom and sides of the saute pan with 1/2 oz of the butter. Sprinkle the minced shallots on top of the butter. Place the chicken on top of the shallots, then add enough wine and stock to come about halfway up the sides of the chicken.

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Place the pan on the stove over medium heat just until you see bubbles start to appear. Cover with your parchment lid (it’s called a cartouche. isn’t that fun? carrtoooooooooooosh!), and pop the whole thing in the oven until the chicken is just cooked through.

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I used two large breasts instead of four smaller ones, and it took about 15 minutes. You probably also noticed that I poached the chicken¬†with the skins on. ¬†That’s what our recipe said to do, but that’s just stupid. You can’t eat the skin after you poach it because it’s all rubbery and disgusting, so just buy the skinless ones to start or remove the skin before you poach.

Once the chicken is poached through, remove it from the pan to your holding container. Cover it very loosely with foil to keep it warm. Don’t cover it so tightly that the steam can’t escape, because you’re not trying to steam away that beautiful poaching job you just did, right?

Now it’s time to make the sauce, and the question becomes… to strain or not to strain? Again, if you were cooking for some food critic who was going to have a conniption over little pieces of shallot in their sauce, you’d strain it. If this is just for dinner at home, feel free to skip that step. If it was me and I was cooking for company, I’d probably go ahead and strain, but that would really depend on how much I was trying to impress them. Chances are good that I would find some way to completely invalidate any impression that I was Lady Smooth McSmoothington by tripping over air or having a large piece of parsley stuck in my teeth so it’s kind of a moot point, but A for effort, right?

Anyhoots, for the sake of argument, strain the liquid into a bowl, then pour the strained liquid back into your saute pan. Reduce the liquid by about 25%, then add the cream and reduce again by about 25%.

Over medium low heat, whisk the sauce while adding the beurre mani√© a little bit at a time until your sauce reaches the right consistency. You probably won’t use all of it. Conversely, if your sauce is getting a little too thick, you can just whisk in a little warm stock until it’s thinned out to the right consistency. MAGIC!

Just before you’re ready to serve, stir/whisk in the herbs. Give the sauce a final taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

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Plate up your chicken and whatever sides you’re serving with it, and drizzle about 1 oz of sauce over the chicken. It doesn’t take a ton of work to make a pretty plate with this recipe.

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Ta da!

This post really takes the cake.

Note: I realize this is usually where we’d have a Kitchen 101, but I’m putting together something kinda comprehensive for you and it’s taking just a bit longer than I thought. It’ll be here next Tuesday! Here’s a little hint– it’s a basic kitchen skill that will save you money on chicken.

So, every month I get the new issue of Bon App√©tit and I get all excited about it. I get big plans to read it through and try out at least five recipes and maybe even make the time to cook the cover. Does that happen? Noooooooooo. Because I have class, and work, and homework, and blah blah blah and while I do generally get the whole thing read while on the train and the bus, I don’t make the time to cook from it.

This month, I decided that was going to change. Baby steps are better than no steps at all, and I was determined to make at least one recipe from the March issue in March. Within the article on how to use buttermilk in desserts, I found this little gem. That’s right, it’s a Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake. Nom nom nom.

Now, we all know I’m not much of a baker. I’m impatient. I don’t like having to follow recipes. But I already had most of the ingredients I needed, so after a quick trip to the store for coconut, I was ready to get down to business. Except, you know me, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.

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You can read the full, original recipe by clicking the link I gave you up yonder. I’ll give you my version, with the tweaks.

Equipment:
8 in x 4 in loaf pan
2 mixing bowls (One for dry ingredients, one for the wet. If they aren’t the same size, the wet ingredient bowl should be the bigger one.)
electric mixer
measuring spoons and cups

Ingredients:
1/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a combination of 1/4 C black onyx cocoa powder and 1/4 C regular dutch process cocoa)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (I used sea salt because that’s what I keep around)
1/2 C virgin coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 C sugar (I used 1 C white sugar and 1/2 C brown sugar)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C buttermilk
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat your oven to 325¬į.

Spray your loaf pan generously with cooking spray. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In the 2nd (largest) bowl, beat the butter, coconut oil, and sugars together until pale and fluffy.

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Now you’re going to alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Add about a third of the dry mixture and mix on low to incorporate. Then 1/3 C of the buttermilk, then another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

If you’ve ever made a quick bread batter (like pumpkin or banana bread), your batter will be just a tiny bit thicker than that.

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Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan. Make a little channel down the middle and sprinkle about a tablespoon more of white sugar into it. Then top the whole she-bang with the coconut flakes.

I wish I had a good picture of this for you, but I got shmutz on the camera phone lens (one day, I’ll be a grown up with a real camera) and I didn’t realize it until after. All the pictures are hazy, as though I dreamed that step, and dream sequences in the middle of recipes are just so hokey, right?

Hopefully you’ll get the idea from this picture of the final product:

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Kinda pretty, no?

One word of caution. The BA recipe says this thing should bake for 70-80 minutes. I baked mine for 70, and I thought it came out just a little drier than I would have preferred. I think I probably could have pulled it out right at an hour and let the carry-over cooking take care of the rest, but that’s just me. I read a couple of comments on the BA site, and both of those folks said theirs were slightly underdone at 70 minutes and sunk a bit in the middle. Maybe it’s an altitude thing? I don’t claim to be ¬†a food scientist, so I’ll just say stick a tester in around the hour mark, and if it’s not done enough for you give it the extra 10 or 20 minutes.

I will tell you that I’m the only one who felt the way I did about the the lack of moisture. I took it to work and got some pretty rave reviews. It was gobbled up well before lunch time, so maybe it’s just a personal preference thing. Other than that, I really liked the flavor of this cake. It was rich and very chocolaty, and that coconut oil really gives it that little something extra.

Just a little friendly reminder that the “An Edible Mosaic” cookbook giveaway is still going on until Saturday. All you need to do to enter is go like the I’m Gonna Cook That! Facebook page, OR follow me on Twitter, then come back over here and leave a comment on this post to let me know. Piece of cake, yeah?