Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen



Chicken Tortilla Soup 0

Posted on December 19, 2014 by Sahar

As I sit here on this rainy & chilly day, my mind and appetite turn to soup.

This recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup is a hearty soup that is quick (especially if you use leftover or store-bought rotisserie chicken) and can be easily be made either ahead or after a day at work. Or, almost better yet, what to feed your family the day before a big holiday (hint, hint); this recipe can easily be doubled.

This soup is certainly a recipe that shouts TexMex at you. It  is certainly more Tex than Mex – mainly because Mexican cuisine doesn’t use blended chili powders. If any chile powders are used at all, they are of a single chile (i.e. ancho, guajillo).

This soup can also easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth and omitting the chicken. If you want the added protein, you can add beans, extra-firm tofu, seitan, tempeh, or even simply extra hominy in place of the chicken.

 

The ingredients (chicken broth not shown)

The ingredients (chicken broth not shown)

The hominy. I like to use both yellow and white. It's simply a personal preference. There's absolutely no difference in the flavor.

The hominy. I like to use both yellow and white. It’s simply a personal preference. There’s absolutely no difference in the flavor. For a brief explanation of what exactly hominy is, go here.

From top:

From top: grapeseed oil, cumin, Mexican oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, San Antonio chili powder

 

2 tbsp. vegetable oil (you can also use grapeseed or canola oil)

1 small onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small (4 oz.) can diced green chiles (hot or mild)

-or-

1 small  (7 oz.) can salsa verde

1 tbsp. chili powder (I like San Antonio blend)

1 tsp. Mexican oregano

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. salt, more to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, more to taste

2 cans hominy, drained

1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

4 c. chicken broth

4 c. cooked, shredded chicken

Lime juice, to taste

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

 

Vegetable oil for frying

 

The condiments

The condiments

 

Shredded Cabbage

Chopped Green Onion

Crispy Tortilla Strips

Lime Wedges

Sour Cream

 

 

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

Add the chiles or salsa verde and saute for another 2-3 minutes.

Adding the salsa verde. I used salsa in this recipe because it's what I had at home.

Adding the salsa verde. I used salsa in this recipe because it’s what I had at home. if you are using salsa, be sure to let it cook down by at least half.

2.  Add the chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Saute for 1-2 minutes or until the fragrance comes up.

Adding the spices. be sure to stir pretty much constantly; you want the spices to have a scent (this means the oils are cooking). You want to take care not to burn them.

Adding the spices. Be sure to stir pretty much constantly; you want the spices to have a scent (this means the oils are cooking). You want to take care not to burn them.

Add the hominy and tomatoes and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Adding the tomatoes and hominy.

Adding the tomatoes and hominy.

3.  Add the chicken broth.

Adding the chicken broth. Once the soup is cooking, be sure to stir frequently to keep the hominy from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Adding the chicken broth. Once the soup is cooking, be sure to stir frequently to keep the hominy from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Cover the saucepan and bring the broth to a boil. Uncover, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

After 30 minutes. The soup should be somewhat thickened from the hominy.

After 30 minutes. The soup should be somewhat thickened from the hominy.

4.  While the soup is cooking, make the tortilla strips.  Take 6-8 tortillas and cut them into roughly 1/4-inch wide strips.

Tortilla strips. Be sure to use a very sharp knife so you can get even strips without tearing up the tortillas.

Tortilla strips. Be sure to use a very sharp knife so you can get even strips without tearing up the tortillas.

Be sure to separate them.  Heat a medium (9-inch) skillet with about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Test the oil by dropping a strip in the oil; it should immediately sizzle. Fry the strips in small batches until they are crispy.

Frying the strips. Be sure to keep them as separated as possible and fry in small batches. Frying the strips should take no more than 60 - 90 seconds per batch.

Frying the strips. Be sure to keep them as separated as possible and fry in small batches. Frying the strips should take no more than 60 – 90 seconds per batch.

Drain the strips on paper towels. (Alternately, you can simply serve the whole tortillas or tortilla chips on the side.)

The finished strips.

The finished strips.

5.  After the initial cooking time, add the chicken, lime juice, and cilantro.  Cook for a further 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Adding the chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. At this point you're simply heating the chicken through. Be sure to taste for seasoning.

Adding the chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. At this point you’re simply heating the chicken through. Be sure to taste for seasoning.

6.  Serve the soup with the tortilla strips, cabbage, green onion, extra lime wedges, and sour cream.

The finished soup. Pretty, huh?

The naked finished soup. it’s great just like this.

The fully dressed soup. Perfect for a chilly, rainy night.

The fully dressed soup. Perfect for a chilly, rainy night.

Enjoy!

Bean & Lamb Stew (Fasoulia فاصوليا) 2

Posted on December 13, 2013 by Sahar

As comfort foods go, Fasoulia was another one my sisters & I were rewarded with as we grew up.  It is a delightful stew consisting of (at least in the Palestinian tradition) of lamb, tomatoes, and green beans.

In fact, the word “fasoulia” in Arabic literally means “bean”.

Fasoulia is a dish that is found in several versions throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North & Sub-Saharan Africa, and southern Europe. There are versions that use white beans (Syria & Lebanon), red beans (Lebanon), with carrots (Ethiopia), and with olives and greens  (Greece).

The version I’m making is the one we grew up with (and the one I learned from my mom – who makes the best Fasoulia I’ve ever had, by the way).  It’s in the Palestinian style, with lots of tomatoes.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish vegetarian/vegan by simply omitting the meat and using vegetable broth.

2.  This dish is always served over rice.  I like to serve over saffron rice (because that was the way my sisters & I grew up eating it).  However, if you want to use plain white rice, or even brown rice (especially if you’re making the vegetarian version), go for it.

3.  If you don’t like or can’t find lamb, you can use beef.  Use chuck.  It’s meant for stewing and braising.

4.  Use regular, fresh green beans for this dish.  Don’t use frozen or haricot vert (French green beans).  They won’t hold up to the cooking time.

5.  This is generally served with browned pine nuts sprinkled over the top as garnish.  However, if you don’t want to go to the expense of or can’t find pine nuts, browned slivered almonds are an excellent substitute.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat.  Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat. Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The beans. Use regular green bean; not haricot vert or frozen. They won't stand up to the cooking.

The beans. Use regular green beans; not haricot vert or frozen. They won’t stand up to the cooking.

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

 

1 med. onion, finely chopped

2 lbs. lamb, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ to 1 1/2″ pieces

3 tbsp. olive oil or clarified butter

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (try to buy without basil; if you do get basil, pick out the leaves)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. allspice

2 c. beef or chicken broth

 

1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and cook, in batches if needed,  until it is browned.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

2.  Add the onions to the saucepan and cook until they are softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the onions.

Adding the onions.

3.  Add the beans and cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

And now for the beans.

And now for the beans.

4.  Add the tomatoes, spices, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.  Taste for seasoning.

With the tomaotes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

With the tomatoes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

5.  Serve with rice with a few browned pine nuts or slivered almonds on top.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

 

Sahtein!

Mole Poblano 1

Posted on November 07, 2013 by Sahar

Once again, the weather has taken its temporary turn towards cool & comfortable here in Central Texas.  The perfect excuse to break out the mole.  Again.

I’ve made mole twice before on this blog –  Mole Verde (Oct. 9, 2012: http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1120) and Mole Rojo (Oct. 30. 2012: http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1170).

The mole I’m making this time is probably the best known as well as the original: Mole Poblano.

Legend has it that in the 16th Century this  dish was invented in desperation by the nuns of the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla de los Angeles.  They were an impoverished order expecting a visit from the Archbishop and they really had nothing to feed him.  So, they basically threw together what they had: day-old bread, chocolate, some chiles, nuts, an old turkey.  The results were, shall we say, heavenly.  Apparently, the Archbishop loved the meal. And a masterpiece was created.

*******************

For the last mole I made for you, Mole Rojo, I used exclusively chili powders.  This was to demonstrate that they could be used as a substitution for the dried chiles and makes the preparation much easier.  In this recipe, I do things the more traditional way, with dried chiles.  It takes longer, most definitely.  But, for mole purists, I hope I have redeemed myself with you.

A few notes:

1.  When using the dried chiles, make sure they are fresh-looking and pliable (a contradiction, I know).  If the chiles break apart when you try to bend them, it simply means they are too old and dried out (and possibly infested).  You want the chilies to have retained their essential oils.  That’s what gives them their flavor and aroma.

2.  The best place to find the chiles (and all the ingredients for this recipe) is at a market that caters to the Hispanic community. (Here in Austin, my favorite is El Rancho Supermercado.)  If they don’t have it, it’s pretty unlikely anyone else will.  Besides, it’s a great place to go to just explore and try new things. Plus I get to practice my limited Spanish.

3.  I used a 4-lb bone-in turkey breast for this example.  You can use leftover turkey and skip step 1.  However, be sure to use chicken or turkey broth instead of water.  Otherwise, you won’t get the flavor you’re looking for.

4.  This recipe makes a lot.  You can serve up to 8.  But, it does freeze beautifully.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Sesame and Anise Seeds

Sesame and Anise Seeds

Clockwise:

Clockwise: Brown Sugar, ground Cloves, ground Cinnamon

Clockwise: raw Almonds, Pecans, Raisins

Clockwise: raw Almonds, Pecans, Raisins

Masa

Masa

 

Onion, Garlic, Romas, Tomatillos

Onion, Garlic, Romas, Tomatillos

 

Mexican Chocolate disks

Mexican Chocolate disks

 

Chiles, left to right: Chipotle, Pasilla, Ancho, Mulatto

Chiles, left to right: Chipotle, Pasilla, Ancho, Mulato

 

Chipotle - smoked and dried Jalapeño

Chipotle – smoked and dried Jalapeño

 

Pasilla Chilie: dried Chilaca pepper.

Pasilla Chilie – dried Chilaca pepper.

Ancho Chile - dried Poblano Pepper

Ancho Chile – dried Poblano Pepper

Mulato Chile - dried Mulato Pepper

Mulato Chile – dried Mulato Pepper

 

4 c. chicken broth, turkey broth, or water

4 lbs. turkey

 

8 ea. mulato chiles

-or-

4 tbsp. mulato chile powder

 

6 ea. ancho chiles

-or-

3 tbsp. ancho chile powder

 

4 ea. pasilla chiles

-or-

2 tbsp. chile powder

 

1 ea. chipotle chile

-or-

1 tsp. chipotle chile powder

 

1 lg. white onion, peeled and cut into 1/4’s, stem left on

6 cloves garlic, peeled, stem removed

3 ea. tomatillos, papery skin removed and rinsed

4 ea. Roma tomatoes, rinsed

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1/2 tsp. anise seeds

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1/2 c. raw almonds

1/2 c. pecans

1/2 c. raisins

1/4 c. masa

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 ground cinnamon (canela)

2 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 disks Mexican chocolate, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

Additional sesame seeds for garnish

 

1.  Place the turkey and stock or water to a large stockpot and heat over medium-high heat.  Once the stock has come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the meat is cooked, about 30 – 45 minutes.  Once the turkey is done, take it from the stock and set aside until cool enough to shred.  Turn the heat off under the stock until all the other ingredients are ready.

2.  If you’re using whole chiles, remove the stems and cut the chiles open to remove the seeds.

Cutting open the chile. Using gloves is highly recommended. Tis not only keeps your hands from getting stained and sticky, it keeps the chile oils off your hands.

Cutting the stem off  the chile. Using gloves is highly recommended. This not only keeps your hands from getting stained and sticky, it keeps the chile oils off your hands. A pair of sharp kitchen shears helps, too.

Cutting open the chile.

Cutting open the chile.

The insides. You want to get rid of as many seeds and veins as possible.  They'll make the final mole bitter if you don't.

The insides. You want to get rid of as many seeds and veins as possible. They’ll make the final mole bitter if you don’t.

Removing the seeds and veins.  If you have a good dried chile, there will be some oil residue inside. This is a good thing.  And, again, the gloves are a very good idea.

Removing the seeds and veins. If you have a good dried chile, there will be some oil residue inside. This is a good thing. And, again, the gloves are a very good idea.

Dry roast the chiles in a heavy skillet over high heat for a few seconds on each side to soften slightly.

Toasting the chiles. This not only helps to soften them up a bit, but it also starts to cook the oils and enhance the flavor.

Toasting the chiles. This not only helps to soften them up a bit, but it also starts to cook the oils and enhance the flavor.

Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for 30 minutes. (It’s OK if they sit a little longer.)

Soaking the chiles.  I like to put a small plate on top to keep them under water.

Soaking the chiles. I like to put a small plate on top to keep them under water.

Drain the chiles and discard the water.

The chiles after soaking for 30 minutes.  They'll increase in size and become lighter in color.

The chiles after soaking for 30 minutes. They’ll increase in size and become lighter in color. (The water hasn’t been drained off in this photo. Be sure to drain it.)

Puree the chiles in a food processor or blender (you’ll need to do this in batches) until you make a paste.  Set aside.

The pureed chiles.

The pureed chiles.

3.  If you’re using the chile powders, dry roast them over high heat in a heavy skillet until they just begin to release a scent.  Stir constantly to be sure the powders don’t burn.  Pour the powder onto a plate or another flat surface and spread it out to help it cool. (Basically, skip step 2 all together.)

4.  While the chiles are soaking, wipe out the pan.  Dry roast the onion quarters, garlic, tomatillos, and tomato.  You want black spots, but you don’t want to over-brown the vegetables.

Browning the fresh stuff: Starting with garlic.  You just want a few brown spots; don't over-brown.

Browning the fresh stuff: Starting with garlic. You just want a few brown spots; don’t over-brown.

Browning the onion quarters. Once these are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem ends.

Browning the onion quarters. Once these are cool enough to handle, cut off the stem ends.

 

The tomatillos.  Be sure they don't burst in the skillet.

The tomatillos. Be sure they don’t burst in the skillet.

The Romas. be sure they don't burst in the skillet. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off as much of the skin as you can, cut off the stem end, cut into quarters, and remove the seeds.

The Romas. Be sure they don’t burst in the skillet. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off as much of the skin as you can, cut off the stem end, cut into quarters, and remove the seeds.

Once you’ve roasted the tomatoes, peel and seed them.  Cut the stems off the onion quarters.  Set the vegetables aside.

5.  Take the skillet off the heat and let cool slightly.  Add the sesame seeds and anise seeds.  Quickly roast until the seeds are toasted.  Pour onto a small plate and set aside.

Toasting the sesame and anise seeds.  You want them to have an aroma and begin to "jump" in the skillet.  Immediately take them off the heat and pour onto a flat surface and spread out to cool.

Toasting the sesame and anise seeds. You want them to have an aroma and begin to “jump” in the skillet. Immediately take them off the heat and pour onto a flat surface and spread out to cool.

6.  Add the oil to the skillet.  Lightly fry the almonds and pecans.  Drain on paper towels and let cool slightly.

Frying the pecans and almonds.  You just want to do this until they begin to take on some extra color.

Frying the pecans and almonds. You just want to do this until they begin to take on some extra color.

Grind the almonds, pecans, sesame seeds, and anise seeds together.  Set aside.

The ground nuts and seeds.  This smells amazing.

The ground nuts and seeds. This smells amazing.

7.  Lightly fry the raisins until they just begin to puff.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Frying the raisins.

Frying the raisins.

8.  Turn off the heat under the oil.  Add the masa and make a roux (don’t let it get too dark).  Pour the roux into a small bowl and set aside.

Making a roux with now a rather flavorful oil.

Making a roux with now a rather flavorful oil.

9.  Turn the heat back on under the stockpot with the broth to medium-high.  Add in the chile paste or powder, onion, garlic, tomatillos, tomatoes, ground nut & spice mix, raisins, tomato paste, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.

Almost everything in the pot with the chicken/turkey stock.

Almost everything in the pot with the chicken/turkey stock.

10.  Meanwhile, shred the turkey.  Discard any bone, skin, and gristle.  Set the turkey aside.

Shredded turkey.  In this recipe, I used turkey breast; but, you can use whatever you prefer. If you have leftover turkey, use both dark and white meat.

Shredded turkey. In this recipe, I used turkey breast; however, use whatever you prefer.

11.  After 45 minutes, remove the stockpot from the heat and let cool slightly.

After 45 minutes.  The vegetables have softened and the ground nuts have helped to thicken the sauce.

After 45 minutes. The vegetables have softened and the ground nuts have helped to thicken the sauce.

Puree the mole with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor.  If you want a super-smooth mole, after you’ve pureed it, you can pass it through a strainer.

Thoroughly puree the mole. Make sure the blender isn't running when you pull it out of the hot liquid. Bless whoever invented the immersion blender.

Thoroughly puree the mole. Make sure the blender isn’t running when you pull it out of the hot liquid.
Bless whoever invented the immersion blender.

12.  Put the mole back on the heat and add the masa roux and the chocolate.

Adding the masa roux and chocolate. They just melt right on in.

Adding the masa roux and chocolate. They just melt right on in.

Cook for 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.  Add the turkey and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stirring in the turkey.  Almost there.

Stirring in the turkey.
Almost there.

13.  Serve the mole with rice and corn tortillas.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish.

The ultimate reward for all your hard work.

The ultimate reward for all your hard work.

 

Buen Apetito!

 

 

A Take On Low-Country Shrimp & Grits 0

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Sahar

Shrimp & Grits. For most Southerners, this sounds like ambrosia. It’s almost a religion. For everyone else, an odd combination at best.

Now, some people are wondering, what exactly are grits?  Here’s an excellent quick explanation from http://whatscookingamerica.net:

“Grits (or hominy) were one of the first truly American foods. The Native Americans ate a mush made of softened corn or maize. In 1584, during their reconnaissance party of what is now Roanoke, North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men met and dined with the local Indians. Having no language in common, the two groups quickly resorted to food and drink. One of Raleigh’s men, Arthur Barlowe, recorded notes on the foods of the Indians. He mad a special not of corn, which he found “very white, faire, and well tasted.” He also wrote about being served a boiled corn or hominy.

When the colonists came ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the Indians offered them bowls of this boiled corn substance. The Indians called it “rockahomine,” which was later shortened to “hominy” by the colonists. The Indians taught the colonists how to thresh the hulls from dried yellow corn. Corn was a year-round staple and each tribe called it by a different name.”

Shrimp & Grits started off as a breakfast staple among the fisherman of South Carolina’s coastal low country during shrimp season (May – December).  It was a simple dish called “breakfast shrimp” that was usually cooked in bacon grease or butter. In recent years, however, it’s been “fancified” and is now seen in restaurants all across the South and is eaten at any time of day.

Now, on to the recipe:

******************************

Now, admittedly, my recipe differs from traditional style Shrimp & Grits in that I use cornmeal, cheese, and parsley.  It’s one of those “fancified” versions.

A few notes:

1.  It’s important that you don’t use instant or quick-cooking grits.  They don’t have the flavor or texture of slow cooked grits.

2.  If you can’t find grits, then you can use stone-ground cornmeal.  In fact, that’s what I use in this recipe.

3.  For my readers who don’t eat pork, you can substitute turkey bacon.  Just add 2 tablespoons oil or butter to the pan. The bacon will flavor the oil or butter which in turn will flavor the shrimp.

4.  The cheese in the grits wouldn’t have been found in the earliest recipes.  It’s a more modern addition.  If you don’t want to add the cheese, feel free to omit it.

5.  Use large or (insert oxymoron here) jumbo shrimp.  They are just better in this recipe.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

4 c. water, chicken or shrimp stock

2 c. whole milk or half & half

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 1/2 c. grits (not instant or quick-cooking) or stone-ground cornmeal

2 tbsp. butter

2 c. sharp cheddar cheese

 

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into roughly 1/2″ pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 lb. large shrimp, peeled & deveined

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 tbsp. or juice of 1 lemon

1/4 c. parsley, minced

 

1.  Make the grits:  Bring the water or broth, and half & half to a boil.  Add the salt and pepper.  Whisk in the grits or cornmeal 1/2 cup at a time.

Whisking in the cornmeal.

Whisking in the cornmeal.

It’s very important to keep whisking as you add the grits or cornmeal until they come back to the boil; otherwise, they’ll become lumpy and no amount of whisking will fix it.

All the cornmeal in the pot and whisking until it comes back to a boil.

All the cornmeal in the pot and whisking until it comes back to a boil.

When the all the grits are added and come back to a boil, lower the heat to low.  (Be careful, there will be some splatter.  This should calm down as you lower the heat and the mixture thickens.)  Stir often.

The boiling cauldron.

The boiling cauldron.

Continue cooking until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture becomes very thick, about 20 – 25 minutes.

 

After about 20 minutes.

After about 20 minutes.

Remove the grits from the heat. Stir in the butter and cheese.

Stirring in the butter.

Adding the butter.

 

Adding the cheese.

Adding the cheese.

Once the butter and cheese have been mixed in, cover the saucepan and set the grits aside.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until browned.

Cooking the bacon.

Cooking the bacon.

Once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the garlic.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

Cooking the garlic. Be sure not to let it become too brown.

Cooking the garlic. Be sure not to let it become too brown.

Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, about 5 minutes.

 

Cooking the shrimp. You just want them to turn pink at this point.

Cooking the shrimp. You just want them to turn pink at this point.

Add the scallions and cook another 1 – 2 minutes.

Adding the scallions.

Adding the scallions.

Add the lemon juice and cook another minute.  Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the parsley and reserved bacon.

Adding the parsley and bacon.

Adding the parsley and bacon.

3.  Serve the grits with a generous helping of the shrimp on top.

Anytime meal. Yum.

Anytime meal. Yum.

 

Enjoy!

 

p.s.  One of the great things about leftover grits (regular or cornmeal) is when, when cooked properly, they solidify as they cool.  While to the uninitiated, it sounds unappetizing, for a Southerner, it’s great.

Take any leftover grits and put them into a small loaf pan or in a square or rectangular container and make as even as possible.  The next day, take the “loaf” and cut it into pieces about 1/2-inch thick.  Fry in oil or butter until browned on both sides (they will soften a bit).  Take off the heat, and serve with some syrup or jam.

Oh. Yeah.

 

 

 

 

Chicken Chile Verde 0

Posted on April 30, 2013 by Sahar

I’m about to say something that will send some chili aficionados into a wall-eyed fit: green chili is a good thing.

Now, being from Texas, I know that’s not necessarily a popular sentiment.  Unless you’re close to the New Mexico border.  In fact, at the best-known chili cookoff in Terlingua, Texas, there’s not even a green chili category.

However, I do like it.  I find it’s generally easier to make than traditional chili (if you’d like the recipe, see my post [Chili… Or, Them’s Fightin’ Words] from Feb. 14, 2012), it’s just as versatile, and mostly, it’s delicious.

So, off I go.  On to the recipe:

********************************

A couple of notes:

1.  Using canned Hatch chiles will save time and mess.  But, if you have Hatch chiles from last year in the freezer, use them.

2.  I’ve also used, in place of the thighs, a whole chicken from the deli.  This will save time also and make this a reasonably quick after-work meal.

3.  You can use pork instead or make the chili vegetarian.  In place of chicken or pork, you can use beans.  Yes… Beans.  Also, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

4.  Admittedly, my chili is not green, per se.  I call it green because I don’t use any tomatoes or red meat.  However, if you want a fully green chili, you can use green chili powder (usually ground jalapeno, hatch, or poblano chiles.)  However, you will want to experiment and check the spice level and adjust the recipe accordingly.

5.  Taste the chili before adding the lime juice.  I like more citrus than most people, so I enjoy the added tartness.  However, you may not.

The ingredients

The ingredients

Clockwise from top: Mexican Oregano, Black Pepper, Salt, ground Cumin, Chili Powder

Clockwise from top: Mexican Oregano, Black Pepper, Salt, ground Cumin, Chili Powder

3 lbs. chicken thighs

4 c. water or chicken broth

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 cl. garlic, minced

1 med. onion, diced

2 serranos, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed if you prefer

1 c. roasted, seeded,  peeled , and chipped Anaheim, Poblano, or Hatch Chilies (roughly 4 – 6 chiles)

-or-

2 small cans chopped Hatch chilies

1 1/2 lbs. tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed, leave whole

2 tsp. dried Mexican Oregano

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

juice of 1 lime

2 tbsp. masa

Queso fresco or Jack cheese and Tortillas for serving

 

1.  Put the chicken thighs and stock or water in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Cover and bring the stock to a boil over medium heat.  Once the liquid has started boiling , uncover, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue cooking until the thighs are cooked.

2.  Place a large strainer or colander over a large bowl and drain the thighs.  Reserve the stock and set the thighs aside to cool.

**If you’re using a pre-cooked chicken, you can skip steps 1 & 2.** 

3.  While the thighs are cooling, turn the heat on the stove back up to medium-high.  Add the oil.  Once the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic,  Saute until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

Sauteing the onions and garlic.

4.  Add the serranos.  Saute another 2 – 3 minutes.

How I prep the serranos. I leave the stem on and cut the serrano almost in half.

How I prep the serranos. I leave the stem on and cut the serrano almost in half.

Sauteeing the peppers with the onions and garlic.

Sauteing the peppers with the onions and garlic.

Add the chiles and saute another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the chiles.

Adding the chiles.

 

Add the tomatillos and mix them in well.

The perfect tomatillo.

The perfect tomatillo.

Choose tomatillos that are firm and the outer husk peels away easily.  You don’t want tomatillos that are too small for the husk.  They’re generally old and dehydrated.  The tomatillo will be sticky when you peel off the husk, so be sure to wear gloves.

Adding the tomatilos to the saucepan.

Adding the tomatilos to the saucepan.

5.  Add the spices and cook until they begin to have a scent.  About another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the spices.

Adding the spices.

6.  Add the reserved stock back into the pan.

Adding the broth.

Adding the broth.

Cover and bring to a boil.  Uncover the saucepan, lower the heat to medium, and continue to cook until the tomatillos have softened, about 20 – 30 minutes.

Bringing the broth to a boil.

Boiling the tomatillos.

7.  Meanwhile, skin, bone, and shred the chicken.  Set aside.

The shredded chicken.

The shredded chicken. Not pretty. But delicious.

8.  Make a slurry.  Take the masa and add 2 – 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid or water.  Mix together until smooth.  Set aside.

9.  Once the tomatillos are soft, remove the saucepan from the heat.  Take a potato masher and carefully mash the tomatillos.

 

Mashing the tomatillos.

Mashing the tomatillos.

Place the saucepan back on the heat and cook for another 20 minutes.  Be sure to stir frequently.  Taste for seasoning.

10.  Add the slurry and mix in well.  Add the chicken, cilantro, and lime juice.

Adding the chicken, cilantro, and lime juice.

Adding the chicken, cilantro, and lime juice.

Cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.  Taste for seasoning.  Stir frequently.

11.  Serve with tortillas and a little queso fresco or shredded jack cheese.

Dinner!

Dinner!

 

Now, If you have some leftover chili, and I’m sure you will, here’s a great way to use it.

Take a couple of toastada shells and break them into large pieces on a plate. (Or, you can use tortilla chips.) Take a skillet and set it over medium heat.  Add a little vegetable oil and heat.  Add roughly 1 cup of the chili.  Heat the chili and stir frequently.  Spread the chili out as evenly as possible over the bottom of the skillet and crack 2 eggs on top of the chili.  Cover the skillet and turn the heat to medium-low.

I generally like to spoon some of the warm chili over the top of the eggs to help with cooking. Carefully use a rubber spatula to get under the chili and eggs so the chili doesn’t stick to the pan and burn.

Let the eggs poach in the chili until they’re done to your liking.  I generally like my eggs soft, so I’ll let them cook about 5 minutes.

When the eggs are done, carefully scoop out the chili and eggs and place them over the broken toastada shells.

Yummy.

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

 

Enjoy!

 

Mole Verde 5

Posted on October 09, 2012 by Sahar

I love mole. For me, it’s another one of those comfort foods that always make me happy. It’s also one of the great things about growing up in a state where the Mexican influence in food is so prevelant.

 One of the origin myths of mole has the nuns of Convent Santa Rosa in the 16th Century anticipating a visit from the Archbishop.  They were a rather impoverished convent and had nothing to serve him.  In their panic, they cooked together what they could find – seeds, chocolate, day-old bread, nuts – and cooked it for hours into a sweet, thick sauce.  They added the only meat they had, an old turkey, and served it to the Archbishop.  He loved it.

Whew…

Little did the nuns of Santa Rosa know, they invented the National Dish of Mexico.  While it is mostly prepared for the holidays, it can be eaten any time of year.

All moles are very time consuming, labor intensive, and require many ingredients. Some sources state that some moles have as many as 100 ingredients, but that’s almost certainly an exaggeration (but, who knows). However, 30 ingredients isn’t unheard of, and some mole recipes can list 10 different varieties of chiles. Other ingredients can include: peanuts, almonds, fried bread, plantains, lard, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, and cloves.

It is said there are seven types of mole:

Mole Poblano – The most popular of mole sauces used today is mole poblano. It is what is considered the “national dish” of Mexico throughout the world. mole poblano originated in the state of Puebla and is made up of more than 20 different ingredients. The main ingredients are chili peppers and chocolate (which gives mole poblano its distinctive flavor and dark color). It has a slight sweetness to it.

Mole Negro (black)  –  While the region of Oaxaca is considered “the land of the seven moles,” its main mole is mole negro. This version of mole  is darker than the traditional mole poblano, but has the same rich flavor. Mole negro is known for being the most difficult mole sauces to make, due to its large ingredient list that contains chili peppers, chocolate, onions, garlic, seeds, spices, nuts and hoja santa. Hoja santa is a plant that gives mole negro is distinctive flavor and color.

  It is also generally sweeter than Mole Poblano.

Mole Verde (green) – Mole verde originated in the region of Oaxaca and gets its name from its green color. This color is achieved by using toasted pumpkin seeds, romaine lettuce, cilantro and tomatillos. Mole verde is has a milder flavor than most of the other mole sauces, and is popular in dishes that contain chicken.

Rojo (red) – Can be made from guajillo chiles, ancho chiles, pecans, tomatoes, peanuts, chocolate, garlic, onions and spices.

  It has a medium-heat depending on the amount and types of chiles used.

Mole Amarillo (yellow) Made from ancho chiles, guajillo chiles, tomatillos, spices, cilantro, and the aromatic herb hoja santa.

Mole de cacahuate (peanut) –  Made from peanuts and chiles.
Mole chichilo is made from pasilla chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, spices and masa harina.

Mole coloradito (red Oaxacan) – Made from ancho chiles, almonds, tomatoes, seeds, bananas and spices.

(information sources: www.wikipedia.org; www.mexonline.com; www.ehow.com)

One of these days, I’m going to make all of these.

Now, on to the recipe:

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The ingredients

 

Mole Verde is a pipian-style mole from Puebla.  The ingredients are all fresh, there’s no chocolate, and there are seeds (usually pumpkin) in the sauce.

3 lbs. chicken

Chicken broth or water

1/2 c. pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds, unsalted)

2 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. Mexican oregano (I used dried)

1 1/2 tsp. Marjoram (I used dried)

Salt & pepper to taste

1 med white onion, peeled, stem end left on, cut into 1/4’s

4 lg. garlic cloves, peeled, stem end cut off

3 jalapenos

3 poblano peppers

8 tomatillos, papery skin removed and rinsed

1 c. packed spinach leaves

1 bunch clantro, large stem ends trimmed off

1/2 c. chopped parsley

 

1.  Place the chicken pieces into a large pot with just enough chicken broth or water to cover.  Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the chicken simmer until done.  Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside until cool enough to handle and shred.  Discard the skin and bones (unless you want to save the bones for stock).

2.  Heat a heavy skillet on high.  Dry roast the pepitas and cumin seeds.  Stir frequently to keep them from burning.  As soon as the pepitas begin to brown and pop and the cumin seeds begin to have a fragrance pour the seeds onto a plate and let cool.

Dry roasting the pepitas and cumin seeds.

Using a coffee grinder (one that you use only for spices), grind the seeds into a powder.  You’ll need to do this in batches.

The ground seeds. They smell great. Really.

3.  Have a bowl covered with plastic or a large zip bag nearby.  Dry roast the jalapenos and poblanos in the skillet on all sides until the skin is blackened and blistered.  It’s OK if the skin isn’t blistered evenly and there’s still some green.  (Alternately, don’t leave the chiles on the heat for too long or they’ll turn gray.  At that point, you’ve gone too far.)

Dry roasting the chiles and garlic.

Dry roasting the poblanos.

Place the chiles in the bowl and cover or place in the bag and seal.  Allow the chiles to steam to loosen their skins.  Leave until cool enough to handle.

4.  Continue dry roasting with the onion (cut off the stem end after you’ve roasted the onion), garlic, and tomatillos.  Again, you just want to have some black spots.  Make sure you don’t overcook the tomatillos.  You don’t want them to come apart in the skillet.

Roasting the onion.

Roasting the tomatillos.

5.  Remove the chiles from the bag or bowl and peel off as much of the charred skin as you can.

The peeled chiles. Ready for seeding.

Remove the stems and seeds from the poblanos and the stems from the jalapenos.  Depending on how mild or spicy you would like the mole, keep or remove as many of the seeds and membranes from the jalapenos as you like.

5.  Add the oregano, marjoram, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, jalapenos, spinach, cilantro, and parsley to 4 cups of the chicken broth.  Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly before pureeing.

The ingredients cooking away.

7.  Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so already, shred the chicken.  Discard the skin.  Discard or save the bones for stock.

8.  Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add the ground pepitas and cumin.  Add 1/2 cup of the stock and make a paste.  Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.

9.  In a food processor or blender in batches, or with a stick blender in the pot, puree the broth and vegetables until as smooth as you prefer.  Place the pot back on the stove over medium-high heat and add the paste into the mole mixture.  Mix well.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes.  The mole will thicken slightly.  Taste for seasoning.

10.  Add the chicken back into the mole and cook another 5 minutes to heat the chicken through.  Serve with rice and tortillas.

 

Note:  I somehow lost some of the photos I took while I was making this dish.  However, you can see the finished mole here: http://weareaustin.com/news/features/morning/stories/vid_8.shtml

Yes. I did a TV spot.  And I was very nervous.

If you would like to see even more mole recipes and even some cajeta cheesecake, I’ll be teaching this class on Friday, October 19 at Central Market North Lamar.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Chicken Stock (or Broth) 0

Posted on August 14, 2012 by Sahar

Look at any (non-vegetarian) cookbook and you’ll see one ingredient that is used in just about every recipe that is a soup, has a sauce, or a gravy.  Chicken broth.

Chicken broth is used mainly for its rather chameleon-like ability to take on the flavor of most dishes.  The flavor is neutral enough to not interfere with the other flavors; rather, it enhances them.  It can be used in vegetable, pork, lamb (depending on the recipe), and, of course, chicken.

In fact, in many recipes that call for water, I’ll use chicken stock instead if I can.  It just makes everything taste better.

But, while a good sauce or gravy can cover up many sins in the kitchen, the sauce or gravy needs to taste just that much better.  So, if you’re using bad stock, there is nothing you can do to hide that.

The words “stock” and “broth” are generally used interchangeably. Because, well, they’re almost exactly the same thing.

According to “The New Food Lover’s Companion, 4th Ed.” (Herbst & Herbst, 2007):

“Stock is the strained liquid that comes from cooking meat or fish (with bones), vegetables, and other seasonings in water to extract their flavors.”

“Broth a liquid that comes from cooking vegetables, meat or fish, and seasonings in water.”

Basically, the difference between the two is one of use or intent. “Broth” is what you end up with at the end of cooking the ingredients; “Stock” is what you use to cook with.  Other definitions will say that a “Stock” is always made with bones while a “Broth” isn’t.  And, indeed, there is a very different “mouth feel “(a technical term used by chefs to describe taste and texture of an ingredient) between the two.

But, whatever you term it, a stock or broth can make or break a recipe.  A good stock will enhance; a bad stock will ruin.  There’s no hiding it.

***************

There are literally dozens of commercial chicken stocks/broths on the market.  Swanson’s (my personal favorite among the lot), Pacific, Kitchen Basics, and Better than Bouillon are a few that come to mind.  Many stores, like Central Market (TX), Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc. will have their own brands as well.  You can find regular, organic, low sodium, and even flavored commercial stocks/broths now.

However, I always recommend one thing when buying stock/broth from the grocery store.  Avoid bouillon like the plague.  It’s little more than tiny blocks of salt with a little artificial flavor enhancement.

As good as some commercial stocks/broths are, there is really nothing to compare to homemade.

Homemade chicken broth is fairly inexpensive, easy, and, best of all, delicious.  You can control the flavor of the stock, make it with all organic ingredients, make it low- or no-sodium.  It’s completely up to you.

The recipe that I’ll be giving you today is for a traditional white (non-roasted) chicken stock.  This means that all of the ingredients are raw when they go into the water.

Now, on to the recipe.

**********

I will preface this recipe by saying that I don’t particularly care for a lot of vegetable flavor in my meat stocks.  I save that for my vegetable stock.  So, I keep the vegetables to a minimum.  Sometimes, I just leave them out altogether.

You don’t need to get fancy about chopping the vegetables for this.  Just make sure they’re peeled and cleaned.  You can simply cut them into large chunks and that will be fine.  In fact, I worked with a lady who would simply break the celery and carrots in half and toss them in.  No muss, no fuss.

Also, I never put salt into my chicken stock.  I do this so I can control the salt in the recipe later.

One more note about the cuts of chicken. Whole chickens are best.  Just be sure to remove the giblets (if there are any) and thoroughly rinse the chicken.  Trim as much of the fat as you can (although natural, free range, and organic chickens will have less fat) and, very important, leave the skin on.  It has a lot of flavor, just like the bones.  I will sometimes use, as I did in this particular instance, chicken thighs either in place of or to enhance the whole chickens.  Dark meat has quite a lot of flavor, so I like to add a few extra thighs in.  I don’t recommend using all white meat because it just doesn’t have the flavor to make a rich stock.  If you’re going to go to all the trouble to make homemade stock, you want it to have flavor. Do NOT use boneless, skinless breasts to make stock.  You may as well use water in your cooking instead.

 

The ingredients

 

2 whole chickens, trimmed of most fat, about 8 lbs. total (If the chicken has giblets, discard the liver or use it in another recipe. It will make your stock bitter and cloudy.)

-or-

1 whole chicken plus 3 -4 lbs. of chicken thighs

1 med. onion, peeled and chopped

2 med. carrots, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, cleaned and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

1 Bouquet Garni (made with 4 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, 2-3 bay leaves, and 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns; you can also include about 10-12 sprigs of parsley)

Cold water to cover (preferably filtered), plus extra if needed

 

Tied Bouquet Garni

The chopped vegetables and garlic

 

1.  Rinse the chicken (this will help get rid of some of the impurities as well as anything that might interfere with the flavor) and place it in a large stockpot. (You want one that will hold at least 8 quarts).  Add in the vegetables and bouquet garni.  Add just enough water to cover all the ingredients.

Everything in the pot.

 

2.  Place the stockpot on medium heat, cover, and slowly heat until you just see bubbles start to break the surface.  As soon as that happens, uncover the stock, turn the heat down to low and gently simmer.  This will help to make a clearer stock as well as give it a deeper flavor in the end.

3.  When you see foam rise to the top of the stock, take a spoon or very fine strainer and skim it off the top.  (The foam basically consists of any dirt , blood, or other impurities in the ingredients. Sounds gross. But, hey, it’s homemade.)

You can just start to see the foam rising to the top. The stock has been cooking for about 20 – 30 minutes at this point.

3.  Continue cooking at a low simmer and skimming off any foam for the next 3 hours.  Add cold water as needed to keep the ingredients covered at all times.

After about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Skim off the foam.

 

After skimming off the foam.

At approximately 1 1/2 hours.

At approximately 2 hours. At this point, you really won’t see any more foam.

Approximately 2 1/2 hours. Add more water if needed.

At 3 hours. Notice how the ingredients have cooked down.

 

4.  At this point you can do one of two things: either strain the stock and get it ready for storage; or, store the stock as is, overnight, in the refrigerator.  I tend to do the latter.

Ideally, you can quick-cool the stock by filling your sink full of ice, placing either the stockpot or a bowl with the strained stock in the ice.  Stir frequently until the stock is cooled to room temperature (replenish the melted ice as needed).  At that point, either store the stock overnight in your refrigerator or store it into serving- or recipe-sized portions and put it in the freezer.

However, things are not always ideal.  I will let the stock cool in the stockpot on the stove and then put it into the refrigerator to cool overnight. (Luckily, we have a refrigerator in our outbuilding so I have the room to store a full pot of stock.)

To make sure you cool down the stock safely without the use of a sink full of ice, pour or strain the stock into a large, clean bowl, cool the stock down to room temperature (70F) within 2 hours and then down to 40F within an additional four.  This will help to retard bacterial growth and make a safe stock.  (Invest in an instant-read thermometer.  They’re fairly inexpensive and will take a lot of guesswork out of cooking and checking the temperature on your foods.)

In France, and probably other parts of Europe, stock is left to sit on the stove overnight. I don’t recommend that.

Be sure to cover your stock if you store it overnight.

5.  If you let your stock sit overnight, you can remove any fat that has hardened on top before you store it.  However, if you’ve trimmed the chicken before you started, there shouldn’t be too much fat to worry about.  But, it’s up to you.

Stock after sitting overnight. I left the ingredients in to continue adding flavor. However, if you want to strain the stock before cooling, go ahead.

 

Ideally, you want your stock to look like, well, jelly.  Meat jelly.  This happens when you have extracted all possible flavor from the ingredients and you have cooked the collagen out of the bones and skin.  It’s what gives the stock a silky mouth feel and richness.

Mmm… Chicken Jelly.  Seriously, this is what you want to see.

 

6.  If you have already strained your stock and are ready for storage, go ahead and do that.  However, if you’ve store your stock overnight with the ingredients still in the broth, then, you’ll need to reheat the stock over low heat until it just becomes liquid again.

7.  Strain the stock.  I’ll remove many of the large pieces of chicken, vegetables, and the bouquet garni  from the stock before I start to pour out the liquid.  Saves on splashing messes.  Be sure to let the anything you remove from the stock drain thoroughly before discarding them.  Take a large colander and pour the stock through it into a large bowl or clean stockpot.

If you’ve done this right,  the chicken or vegetables won’t have any flavor once you’re done, so they can be discarded.

(Don’t give any of the chicken to your cats, no matter how persistently they beg.  The garlic & onion that’s infused through the stock and into the chicken will make them very ill.)

First straining of the stock.

Stock after the first straining.

 

Now, at this point, you can do one of three things:  a) stop straining and store the stock; b) you can cook it down a little further to concentrate the flavors as much or as little as you like; or, c) strain the stock a second time to clean it a little more.

I like a richer, clearer stock, so, I went with  (b) & (c).

Take a fine meshed strainer and line it with several layers of cheesecloth (available everywhere) or a flour sack towel.  Place the strainer over a bowl or stockpot and pour the stock through.  This will catch any last bits bone, meat, vegetable, etc. that wasn’t strained the first time around.

Cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Pouring the stock through the cheesecloth.

What’s left after the second straining. A little chicken, a lot of fat. I have literally seen chefs dip bread into this.

My finished stock. Yummy.

8.  I’ll measure my cooled stock into quart-sized zip bags.  It’s almost always the amount I’ll use and that way I’ll only have to take out what I need.  You can measure out however you like; but, I highly recommend portioning it out.

Stock ready for the freezer.

 

I’m reluctant to give you an exact amount this recipe will make because it’s a little different for everyone.  Because I cooked this down a bit, I ended up with 2 quarts of stock.  However, you could have up to 4 or 5, depending on the size stockpot you used and how much your stock was cooked down.

Always label and date your stock.  It will keep for up to 1 year in the freezer and 3 days in the refrigerator.

 

Enjoy!

 

p.s.  I’ll be teaching a class on chicken at Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar, in Austin on Friday, August 24.  If you’d like to see more lovely chicken recipes, sign up soon!

 

 

 

 



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