Friday, September 30, 2011

Chicken in a Tomatillo, Chipotle and Piloncillo Sauce

Most of the Mexican cooking I've done is based on recipes from Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, and the few times we've travelled to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Oaxaca. We've made some amazing dishes having been inspired from those sources, several of which I've reported on in this blog. However recently PBS has had a really great show on the weekends, Pati's Mexican Table with the most pleasant of hosts, Pati Jinich. I find the recipes on the show to be remarkably different from what I've become used to, and as a result, have really gotten into them. My first impression is that where Rick's dishes seem geared towards dishes you might find in a restaurant, Pati's seem to be much more what you find in someone's home in Mexico.
This recipe is one of those that I viewed on a Saturday morning and went out to recreate that same evening. We have a couple of local markets I use when cooking Mexican; Monterey Market (for their avocados) and Mi Tierra (for everything else Mexican) both in Berkeley, CA.

With Pati's blessing, here's my take on the meal.

1 whole free range chicken (I use Mary's in California)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
2 medium white onions
3 garlic cloves pounded in a mortar
2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed, quartered
4 teaspoons freshly grated piloncillo
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 cups chicken broth

Pati's original recipe calls for dark chicken parts but I use the whole bird, cutting it up like I would to make chicken cacciatore or any braised chicken dish. 

Chicken cut into leg/thighs, wings, and breast halves.

Well-seasoned with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Actually for this, like I usually do with braised meats, I pour some whole pepper and kosher salt into my Thai granite mortar and grind just short of a powder, then rub it all onto the skin.

The tomatillos pre-husked and pre-rinsed. The husks are like paper that you can just rub off, but the resulting fruit under them, which look like little green tomatoes, tend to be pretty sticky so needs to be rinsed by rubbing them under running water.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot add the chicken pieces. Brown on one side for a few minutes, then flip over and brown on the other side.

I seared the chicken parts in the canola oil in my large iron Dutch oven over a pretty good heat to get a good color on the skins. Since I used the entire chicken I seared in two separate batches to allow room for the meat to sear well.

Searing meat, second batch yet to cook and the quartered tomatillos.

I sliced the onions into half moons fairly thinly.

Quartered tomatillos again.

I pounded the garlic in a pinch of salt to get a paste. It just seems that garlic can impart a bit more flavor when I prepare it this way but easy to burn so have to keep on eye on it once it hits the heat.

Add the onion to the oven and cook, stirring for a few minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 20 seconds.

Make room in the oven and add the tomatillos, allowing everything to cook together for a few minutes.

Here's the piloncillo, a brown cone of pure sugar used in Mexican cooking, and what I grated of it for the dish.
Again the grated piloncillo and the chipotle with some of the adobo sauce on the side ready to add to the oven.
This is a pot of chicken broth that I made from backs, necks and frozen leftover parts from various meals with chicken. I consider homemade broth so superior to the canned stuff or cubes that I make it on a regular basis and keep it frozen in containers to use when a recipe calls for it. It's not hard at all to make and although takes a few hours, you can schedule it while you're doing other things around the house as it can sit alone and simmer once you've gotten it underway. I'll blog about making broth soon in another post.

Add the piloncillo, chipotles, and the adobo sauce and stir well. Once it comes to a simmer, incorporate the chicken pieces along with the broth and cook for about a half hour, stirring occasionally.

When done the sauce should be chunky and thick, and the chicken fully cooked.

This is the dish just prior to serving.

And here's the plating. I'd made some guacamole (posted earlier) and some tortillas from masa along with brown rice to soak up the sauce. A little Cholula sauce and a bottle of Negro Modelo didn't hurt either.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Calamari Stew with Potatoes and Tomatoes

This was my first chance to use the Lodge 5qt Dutch oven that I purchased last month. We'd gone to Sur La Table to get a small oven as I'd only had a large one and needed something between that and my 14" iron skillet and this dish proved it. We'd looked at Le Creusets but they were like $250. I'm still not sure why they cost so much other than that they look pretty nice, like something that belongs in a Chappaqua kitchen so that the housewife can match the color with her walls. Catching a reflection of myself in the store quickly reminded me that I'm nothing like that so a $50 Lodge pot like this would work just fine, thank you. And as this recipe proved, it is an amazing tool!

The new pot!

Squid with flavoring

Tomatoes and potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 dried hot pepper crushed or ripped into small pieces
1 pound fresh squid cleaned *
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes chopped into 2 inch pieces
1 pound fresh tomatoes (if not in season, use Muir Glen canned whole)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped

* I like to clean fresh squid myself. If you've never done it, I'll have a video blog on cleaning them posted in the near future and will update this post to reference it once I do.

Cut the squid bodies into 1/2 inch rings.
Add the oil to a large pot or skillet over medium-low heat; when hot, add the garlic and the hot pepper cooking until the garlic is soft and translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the squid and allow it about 10 minutes to release its liquid. Add the wine and allow to cook over the low heat for a few minutes. You can also add a pinch of salt here.

If you are using fresh tomatoes in season, peel the skins by parboiling them for about a minute, cooling them in ice water, then rubbing the skins off.

Add the potatoes and tomatoes to the pot, stirring to combine. Bring to a low simmer and allow to cook for about 45 minutes. (Note here that squid is best either cooked quickly over high heat or slowly over low heat, like for this kind of stew. Cook somewhere in between and you're asking to eat white rubber!)

At the end of cooking, remove from heat and add the lemon juice and parsley. Taste for salt, add if needed.We served with a boiled corn on the cob, brown rice, bread and a salad of fresh tomatoes from the yard with a bit of basil, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. And a glass of that white wine.

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Please post a comment and let me know how you liked this dish!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spaghetti w/ Tuna and Olives

Another recipe from one of my go-to books, Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. This is very similar to a recipe in one of my Marcella Hazan books, Pasta with Sicilian Sardine Sauce, which I like better but is more of a production in that you have to hunt down fresh sardines. (Anytime I can come across fresh sardines I snap 'em up but that's a whole other story I'll write up at some point. ) I think it's safe to say that the two recipes probably have the same basic origins in seafood areas in Italy.

This recipe is simple and another staple using pantry ingredients when we're stuck with the 'what should we cook tonight?' question.

2 tablespoons parsley
2-3 cloves garlic
1 red onion diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 anchovy fillets - salt-packed or canned in oil
6 oz. can of oil-packed tuna
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon capers rinsed and drained
1/2 - 1 pound spaghetti (depending on how much to serve)

A good mis en place helps with this dish as there are several ingredients you'll want to combine in quick succession. I'd recommend having the can of tuna opened, the anchovies cleaned, boned and rinsed (if using the salt-packed ones), the capers prepared, and the tomato paste at the ready beforehand.

Set a large pot with salted water to the boil and add the spaghetti, which should cook in the water until about one minute short of the time recommended on the package. While it cooks, pound the garlic and parsley in a mortar with a pinch of salt into a paste.  This will be the base of the sauce you're going to make for the pasta.
Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat and add about half of the onion and all of the garlic-parsley paste stirring to combine while it heats. While it cooks, grab about a cup or more water from the pot with the pasta and set aside to use as you prepare the sauce.
Once the onion is soft and translucent, add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water and reduce it to nothing. Add the tomato paste and anchovies, stirring to break down and combine with about 1/3 cup more of the pasta water. Stir and cook for about a minute then add the tuna. Allow it to cook for a minute. Add more of the pasta water if the contents of the skillet has dried too much.

When the pasta is ready, grab another 1/2 cup or so of the water to put aside, then drain it in a colander. Add it to the skillet to mix and cook with the sauce for about a minute, add the remaining onion and the drained capers, adding salt and pepper to taste.

As with any seafood pasta dish, best not to add any cheese to it. However as you may notice in the photo, we served this with fresh tomatoes from the garden dressed with olive oil, basil. and a scoop of burrata.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steak and Arugula

We had some friends over last weekend and I took a request for what meal to serve. One of them asked that we check out a recipe she'd picked up, rib-eye steak served on a bed of arugula. We'd already this kind of dish this several times for ourselves so used the recipe we'd come up for the meal.

For the steak we went to the Oakland market for Marin Sun Farms to pick up what they call 'Cowboy Steaks' - thick ribeye cuts from a grass-fed beef with the bone-in. Not cheap but always an amazing cut.
I used the XL Big Green Egg to grill some corn at 400. When they were done I kicked up the temp to 650 then added the steaks which I had seasoned with a little salt, a good amount of fresh cracked black pepper and a healthy coating of good olive oil. They cooked on one side for two minutes, then I flipped to sear on the other side then shut down the openings on the Egg to lower the temp to 500 so that they could oven-cook until I got the right feel to the meat - about 10 minutes to a medium rare. Grass-fed beef can easily be overcooked so I kept a close eye on them until I got them where I wanted them.

I let them rest for about 10-15 minutes before slicing against the grain.

We'd sauteed some thin slices of red onion and mixed with arugula with a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil and used this as a bed for the sliced steak. We served with some bread and roasted potatoes and a dessert of watermelon sorbet.
Very nice meal with good friends.

Pantry Dish: Sausage, Onions, and Potatoes

Weeknight after work, what to have? Well let's see what we happen to have in the frig and the pantry.
Ok, there's that andouille sausage we froze as it was going to be way too much food for the BBQ last month, we have some potatoes that we picked up from the farmer's market last weekend and never got around to using. And of course there's always an onion or two around since we'll always find a use for it somehow somewhere.
Now let's put in 'sausage potatoes onion' into Google and click 'Recipes'. Hmm, not that one, no not that one either ... huh, usually this works pretty good but tonight I'm coming up blank on things that are ringing any bells. So, what can I do with this? Ponder, ponder... Ok, I got it.

This is pretty much how my mind went a couple of weeks ago and how I wound up with this dish. It was really tasty and hit the spot perfectly, maybe you'll find it good too.

2 andouille sausages pre-cooked
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil

I brought some water to the boil in a medium pot and added the potatoes to parboil for a couple of minutes then drained them.
Since the sausage was frozen I thawed them about halfway in the microwave then sliced them in to discs. In a small skillet over medium heat I seared them a few minutes on each side then removed the skillet from the heat.
In another skillet I added the olive oil over medium heat then the onion and garlic to saute. Once the onion was soft and translucent, I added the drained potatoes and raised the heat to medium-high to get a good browning on both. Once I had the browning, I moved the sausage into the skillet to heat through again. I added the salt and pimenton as seasoning at the end. We served with some tomatoes from the garden as a small salad.
Very easy and simple but since I had cooked so many recipes like this before, I was able to pull from those experiences to come up with this dish. Nice when that happens!

Zucchini Fritters

Delicious way to use some of the zucchini in the garden. We're not doing too well with the harvest this year due to the persistent cool/cold weather this summer in the Bay Area but we've had some to use.

I found this recipe online somewhere a while back so apologies for not accrediting the original author.

3-4 zucchini grated

1 onion diced
2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg beaten

1 cup canola oil (or enough to fry in)

Salt the zucchini and allow to drain in a colander in the sink for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the diced onion to cook to translucence. Remove the onion to cool.

Now that the zucchini is drained, here's a good method to remove the remainder of the water. Wash the salt off of the zucchini. Open up a clean dish towel and scoop the zucchini into the middle. Fold over the corners to form a pouch over the zucchini. Twist the pouch as tightly as possible over the sink to squeeze out as much water as possible.

To make the batter, sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, and pepper into a bowl. Stir in the milk and beaten egg along with the drained zucchini and cooled onion until combined and smooth, then allow to sit for about 15 minutes.

In another large skillet, add the canola oil to about 1/2-1 inch deep, enough to cover the fritters up halfway and heat to a shimmer. Scoop out enough batter at a time to make a fritters roughly about 2-3 inches in diameter doing so in batches so as to not crowd them in the pan. Cook about 2-3 minutes a side and remove to a paper towel in a dish to drain adding salt to taste.

You can serve these with creme fraiche but I used some homemade mayo with some pimenton sprinkled on top. For this meal we had green beans from the garden boiled and dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper and some tomatoes dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil with a side of brown rice.