Monday, January 27, 2014

Oaxacan Black Mole with Braised Chicken Thighs

Mole is an acquired taste, especially a dark mole like this one, which tends to be more spicy and intense than a red or green version.   When I first tried mole, I hated it.  But, I eat a vast amount of Mexican food, and am pretty much obsessed with Mexican regional cuisine... so I never gave up on it completely.

Now that I've developed a taste for mole, I respect it.  So much so that I was teaching mole classes over the summer!  The word really just means sauce, and there are literally thousands of different preparations.  It is usually rich, spicy and complex, full of seemingly out of place ingredients that pair surprising well together.

This recipe is no exception, so don't freak out when you read the list of ingredients!  I've made this particular mole negro about 20 times and it is one of my favorite recipes.  It isn't difficult to make, just a bit time consuming, but well worth the effort.

Yield: 8-10 servings

2 1/2 quarts water
4 cups chicken stock
3-4 lbs bone-in chicken thighs
2 onions, quartered
6 peeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 poblano peppers
4 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 plantains, sliced
1/8 cup golden raisins
2 slices bread, toasted
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup rum
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon oregano
2 peppercorns
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional garnishes:

Additional sesame seeds, fresh cilantro, sour cream, chopped onions

Brown the sesame seeds in an ungreased skillet. Transfer the seeds to a blender or food processor and add the dried guajillo chiles, poblanos, and tomatoes. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to speed the blending. Blend together well, then strain through a sieve or cheesecloth. Discard any thick residue that remains. Transfer the blended ingredients to a large pot.

In the same skillet, divide the oil and cook in several batches the nuts, peppercorns, and seeds, onions, garlic, plantains, raisins, and bread. The onions, garlic and nuts should be lightly browned and the plantains should be soft. The raisins should brown slightly.

As the ingredients are cooked, transfer them to the blender and puree, adding stock if necessary, then straining and adding to the pot. Repeat until all of the ingredients have been cooked, strained and added to the pot, adding the peanut butter into one of the last blender mixes. Add any remaining chicken stock, rum, cocoa powder, seasoning and bay leaves to the pot and bring to a boil. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Reduce the heat, add the chicken, and let the mixture simmer on medium for 60-90 minutes, or until the chicken is soft and falling off the bone.

At this point, taste the sauce.  If it is too bitter or not quite flavorful enough, you can add either vinegar or sugar, or both, to balance the taste.   Add very lightly, then taste, so as not to ruin the sauce.  Lime juice is another option to intensify the flavor.  If the sauce is too spicy, adding more water or stock can work, or you can serve it with sour cream to cut the heat.  Either way, give it one more final taste and season with salt, if necessary, before serving.

Serve warm, with rice and or beans, and garnished with cilantro, lime wedges, onions and/or sour cream, if desired. Enjoy!

Baked Chili-Cheese Dogs

This is a great recipe to make if you're having a Superbowl party, or if you're just having people of the male persuasion over.  I've included a link to my new favorite chili recipe, but I won't sue you if you use your own recipe, or, god forbid, chili out of a can.

Leah's Chili Recipe

Yield:  Serves 4-8

8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
2 cups chili
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Hot dog garnishes/condiments (optional)
Such as chopped onion, pickles or relish, mustard, ketchup, diced tomato and/or pepperocini, etc

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.  Place a hot dog into each bun, then place into pan.  Repeat until all of the hot dogs have been squeezed into place.

Ladle approximately 1/3 cup of chili onto each hot dog and then sprinkle with each of the cheeses.  Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until cheese is melty and buns are brown.  Use a flexible spatula to remove hot dogs from pan, then serve with desired garnishes and condiments.  Enjoy! 

Note:  I made a sort of healthy version - turkey franks with turkey chili.  Of course, the cheese is still a heart attack waiting to happen, but you do what you can!  The point is, you can customize this easily with any type of franks, chili and/or cheese.

Sweet Surrender Fire Roasted Turkey Chili

People are always trying to reinvent chili, but I've always preferred the basic formula. What's not to like about old fashioned chili with all the standard spices and fixings?

For this recipe, I wanted to try making a sweeter version, to use as a topping for baked chili dogs. I experimented with a baked beans flavor by adding molasses and brown sugar and surprise- it's my favorite chili recipe ever!  Of course you can sub any type of meat for the ground turkey, or omit altogether for a meatless version.  This is a particularly colorful chili, with four kinds of beans and five kinds of peppers.

Yield: 6-8 servings

3 bell peppers (1 each yellow, green and red), seeded and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper
1 head of garlic
1 16 ounce can each black, pinto, kidney and white beans
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
3 cups chicken broth
1 pound ground turkey, browned and drained
3 dried arbol chiles, seeds and stems removed
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper, to taste

Start by roasting the peppers, garlic and onion.  Peel the onion and break the garlic cloves apart, but leave inside the skin.  Leave the peppers whole.  Drizzle the veggies lightly with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning once, until the vegetables are soft and have begun to char.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then peel the garlic and set aside.  Dice the peppers (remove the skin if desired, I actually like the flavor and color of it in the chili), jalapeno, and onion.

Add the vegetables to a large pot with 2 cups of the chicken broth, reserving one cup.  Add the cans of beans (including the liquid from the cans), diced tomatoes, molasses and brown sugar, and turn heat to medium.

For this recipe, I used a fun technique I learned from another recipe, roasting the chiles and then pureeing them to make a version of my own chili powder.  Yum!  If you want, you can omit the arbol chiles and add prepared chili powder to taste, skipping this next step altogether, but it's fun ; ) and I thought it added a nice flavor and creamy texture to the chili.

In a separate skillet, roast the dried arbol chiles over high heat for 2-4 minutes, until they begin to brown.  Remove and cool.  Add the roasted chiles to the bowl of a blender or food processor, along with the reserved cup of chicken broth, flour, roasted garlic, and spices (cumin, oregano, and chili powder).  Process until incorporated into a smooth paste, then scrape from the bowl and reserve.

Next, cook the meat over high heat until browned.  Drain and add to the chili.  Add the pureed chili powder to the chili, mixing to incorporate.  If you are concerned about the heat or seasoning, add in batches and taste until you are happy with the flavor.  Cook the chili for about an hour, until it thickens and the beans and meat are sufficiently tender, then season to taste and serve.  Serve with any of the traditional garnishes (cheese, sour cream, onions, cilantro, etc).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Boozy Apple Pear Crisp with Bourbon Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

My mother was a terrible cook, but the one thing I can remember her making when I was little that I really liked was apple crisp.  Crunchy, warm, sweet.... it's still one of my favorite desserts, though you rarely find it anywhere at restaurants.  I'm sure someone's country grandmother is making it right now!  This version has a little bourbon, which makes everything better.

Yield: 4-6 servings

5 small apples (I used Granny Smith)
3 small pears
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup bourbon

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats
1/2 cup flour

Bourbon Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, scraped

3 tablespoons bourbon
3 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a 9 inch pan and set aside.

Peel the apples and pears and dice into bite-sized pieces.  Mix the fruit in a bowl with the spices, salt, and 1/4 cup bourbon.

In a separate bowl, make the topping.  Using a pastry blender or your hands, cut the butter into the oats and flour.  Add the brown sugar and continue to blend until topping is nicely combined.

To assemble the crisp, add the fruit mixture to the bottom of the pan in two layers, stopping to sprinkle a bit of topping over the first layer, but saving the majority of it for the top.  Cover the fruit with the remaining topping and bake for about 30-45 minutes, until the topping is caramelized and crisp.

To make the bourbon vanilla whipped cream, place the heavy cream and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar, vanilla bean, and bourbon and beat until combined.

To serve, slice the crisp while warm and top with the bourbon whipped cream.  Then have seconds.  Enjoy!

Note: If you have an aversion to either apples or pears, you can just use one type of fruit. Also, if you used gluten free flour or omitted the flour all together, this would be a gluten free dessert ; )

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Smoky Shrimp and Roasted Corn Chowder

Okay, just make this.  Make it right away!  This is probably my favorite thing I've made in a long time.. I ate it all.  I ate it for dinner.  I ate it for lunch.  I ate it as a snack.  It's gone!!!!!

Yield:  4-6 servings 

  • 4 large ears fresh corn (sub frozen corn if you can't get fresh due to the season)
  • 3/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock (or shrimp stock, if you can get it)
  • 8 slices smoked bacon, diced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 pound peeled potatoes, cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the chicken broth and shrimp shells to a boil in a large pot.  Simmer for about 20 minutes to bring out the shrimp flavor in the broth.  Strain and discard the shrimp shells, turn heat to low. 
While the broth is cooking, cook the bacon until crisp, the remove to drain on paper towels.  Using the bacon grease, heat the pan to medium-high and add the corn (removed from the cobs).  Roast the corn in the pan until most of the kernels have charred a bit, about 10 minutes, then add the corn to the reserved broth.  Next, gently saute the shrimp in the remaining bacon grease until they begin to turn pink - this will take just about 5 minutes, be careful not to overcook or your shrimp will be tough!  They will be going into the hot soup and cooking a bit more, so it is better to slightly undercook them.  Remove and set aside.
Next, add the remaining vegetables to the same pan and cook until softened.  Add the flour last, mixing it into the vegetables.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper, then add the vegetable flour mixture to the broth and stir to combine.
Add potatoes, paprika, thyme, and cayenne pepper to the pot and cook on medium about 20 more minutes, or until potatoes are soft.  Add the cream, lemon juice, and sugar (I found it balanced the heat of the paprika well).  Season to taste.
Serve the soup warm, with the crisp bacon lardons as a garnish, and don't forget toasted crusty bread for dipping.  Yum!  Enjoy!

Roasted Tri Color Veggie and Gorgonzola Salad with Basil-Balsamic Dressing

I'll be perfectly honest with you - I grilled this salad.  I just love the smokiness grilling the vegetables imparts.  But for those of you too timid (or sensible) to wander outside in the snow to use the grill, I'm sure the roasting method will do just fine!

This is easy to make and is a lovely vibrant dish that could be served as a salad or side dish.

Yield:  2-4 servings

Salad Ingredients:
2 cups assorted cherry tomatoes, halved (I was able to buy both yellow and red at my local grocer)
2 bell peppers (one yellow, one red)
1 large red onion, sliced 

Dressing Ingredients: 
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped  
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup Gorgonzola or other cheese (feta or Mozzarella would also be good choices!)

Start by roasting the tomatoes and onion.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning once, until the vegetables are soft and have begun to char in places.

While the veggies are roasting, grill the bell peppers over an open flame (the stovetop works fine for this!) until the skins blister and blacken.  Set aside to cool and then remove the skins (or you can do the trick where you place the peppers in ziplock bags and then the skins sort of fall off - whatever works for you!).  Once you have peeled the peppers, remove the stems and seeds and slice into thin strips.  Add to a large bowl.

Remove the tomatoes and onions from the oven and add to the bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together until combined and season to taste.  Gently toss the salad with the dressing and sprinkle with the Gorgonzola cheese.  Refrigerate to cool, then serve.  Enjoy!

Salt Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo Dipping Sauce

Potatoes and salt, a match made in heaven!

Yield:  2-4 servings

Ingredients for potatoes:
2 pounds small potatoes (I chose a selection of fingerlings with a few red potatoes thrown in)
Sea salt (I used Maldon)

Cilantro Mojo Ingredients:
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Place the potatoes into a wide pan in a single layer.  I used a large skillet.  Add 4 tablespoons of salt and enough water to cover the potatoes.  Bring water to a boil and allow to boil rapidly until all of the water has evaporated.  Turn the heat down to low and cook in the dry pan for an additional 5-10 minutes, turning the potatoes occasionally, until they are dry and the skins begin to wrinkle.  The skins should be covered with a thin crust of salt.

Make the mojo dipping sauce while the potatoes are cooking.  The sauce is very similar to a chimichurri and could be made spicier, if desired, with the addition of a bit of cayenne or more pepper.  Using a blender or food processor, combine all of the vegetables and blend until smooth.  Add the oil, spices, and vinegar and mix until combined.  Season to taste and reserve.

To serve, place potatoes on plate with the mojo.  If your guests desire, they can wipe a bit of the salt off of their potatoes before dipping in the mojo sauce.

I served this as a side dish to a delicious strip steak, as you can see, but it could also be served as an appetizer.  Enjoy!