Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Great Enchilada Caper

When I was younger, almost every extended family get-together included enchiladas. I am told I loved my aunt's version when I was a kid, but I apparently lost my taste for it once I entered middle school.  Afterward, no one really made enchiladas that I could get hooked on until my friend's mom sent me some (we were neighbors) and I loved them. The flavors were layered, complex and truly Mexican, flavors which I love. I never made them, however, afterward.  Now, I know enchiladas are "Mexican Food 101", one of the most made Mexican food dishes in the USA, and of all of the dozens of taco dishes and carnitas dishes I have made over the last ten years, I have never made enchiladas.  Not once.  I am deeply shamed and we must never speak of it. 

I decided to get over myself and make enchiladas.  I am always trying to expand my horizons and try my hand at new things, new dishes.  On a side note, a bird walk, I am often asked why I do not make dishes with shrimp, abalone and mussels as well as mushrooms.  I am allergic to mushrooms and shell fish. However, I have decided to get over that, too, and expand my horizons and prep dishes with those, too, although just the aroma of mushrooms sauteing makes me quite ill.  I have to figure that part out, still, and I will need taste testers because, well, there is the whole allergic issue.   Alright, back to enchiladas!  I decided that if I were going to make this dish I was going to do it my way, use my own methods, herbs and spices. Since I grew up with the ground beef version - and I do not find anything wrong with that, folks - I decided to use chicken and spice it up, season each layer of the dish, from the chicken to the tortillas, the sauce and the cheeses.  Let's get to it, shall we?

I began by toasting the cumin and coriander seeds to make my Mexican Spice Blend. I then combined and ground the following spices and dried herbs in my spice grinder. 

Recipe for my Mexican Spice Blend

3 rounded tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons chile molido or your favorite chile powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 partly rounded teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
1 rounded teaspoon toasted cumin seeds

I know that this is the same photo that I used for my previous blog post but it always looks the same. 😋

I simply seasoned both sides of six boneless, skinless chicken thighs and three chicken breasts.  I added three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat to a skillet and seared the chicken in batches without cooking them all the way through.  In the meantime, I prepped the other ingredients for braising the chicken so it'd be tender even through the baking process.  

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 28-ounce can Cento tomato puree
2 14.5-ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 large bottle of Corona beer
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 rounded tablespoons of Mexican Spice Blend
2 cans fire roasted diced green chiles*
1 28-ounce can chile ancho sauce*
1 4-ounce can Salsa Ranchero
1.5 cups Mexican Fiesta Cheese Blend

Now, in the same skillet in which I'd seared the chicken, I added the finely chopped onion and sauteed it for about three minutes over medium heat.  I did not add salt to the onion as the salt from the spice blend on the chicken had salt enough in it. I am seriously trying to monitor and diminish my sodium intake. Afterward, I added the garlic and gave it two more minutes.  Next, I'd transferred the onion and garlic to a slow cooker. To that, I added half a bottle of Corona beer - delish, I know! - and one 28-ounce can of tomato puree (I love Cento), 2 14.5-ounce cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes, two tablespoons of my Mexican Spice Blend, the can of salsa ranchero and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro.  I thoroughly stirred the liquids and spices together to incorporate well.  I snuggled all of the chicken breasts and thighs into the braising liquid.  I added another fourth of the beer bottle and stirred once again. I set the timer for 5 hours on high.

After a long five hours, long due to the mouthwatering aroma in the kitchen all day, I removed the chicken and shredded it.  Very simple and easy by that time!  It practically fell apart by itself.  

The combination of thigh meat and breast meat was delicious, and I used that combination because the friend I was cooking for wanted the breast meat and I wanted the thigh meat, so we compromised.  Next time, because I really enjoy chicken thigh meat, all juicy and flavorful, I will use that for  my next batch of enchiladas. I want to make my own sauces, both chile ancho and salsa verde with fresh tomatillos, Anaheim and serrano chiles, garlic and onion and cilantro.  Looking forward to spring fresh veggies and herbs!

Alright, now for the learning part.  I KNEW that I should have heated up my corn tortillas before using them, but I thought that if I heated up my store-bought chile ancho sauce I'd dipped the tortillas in before filling and rolling, that would make them more pliable.  Wrong.  Lesson Learned:  Heat Up The Tortillas First. We must never speak of it again.  

I reduced (but not enough; next time!) the braising liquid after skimming off much of the fat renderings and used some of that to mix with the shredded chicken to add even more flavor to the meat. I added some finely chopped onion I had reserved, along with diced fire roasted green chiles to the meat and mixed that together with tongs. I dipped a tortilla in the ancho enchilada sauce, placed it in a baking pan I'd sprayed with non-stick spray, added about two tablespoons of meat, some cheese and fresh cilantro, rolled the tortilla and moved it to the side of the pan.  I continued the process, but because I did not heat the tortillas up properly, as I mentioned above, some of them tore. I tucked those under the enchilada roll next to it in hopes that in the baking process, sauce and cheese oozing downward would cement it together.  BOOM! 😊  Mic Drop!  That worked quite well. 

Reducing ancho sauce for the tortilla hot tub.

Dipping and filling and rolling and placing. 

Oven ready!

You can see the two rolls in the center right that did not work out so well.  The cheeses did cement it together nicely, thankfully. 

I have to mention that the above photo does not show everything.  I added more cheese atop what you see and then baked it for 25 minutes at 350-degrees. 

Final product!!!

Lovely melted cheese with diced fire roasted chiles oozed in, topped with olives on half of it (my friend loves olives, but I am not partial to them, except in a tapenade).  

Annnnnd plated!

I garnished with fresh cilantro, Tapatio and salsa ranchero sauce.  I was very pleased with the combination of flavors and the textures.  I think I am back to loving enchiladas again!

I'd love to hear your tips and flavor combinations.  Drop me a line!  You can visit my Facebook blog site at In-House Cook and leave me a message!  Or, you can follow me on Twitter: @grnmn1 

Thank You!

Now, go cook for someone you love!  They will love you for it!

As always, Thank You for your time and consideration. 

In-House Cook

Monday, February 20, 2017

En Un Santiamen -- Carne Asada Tacos In A Jiffy

En Un Santiamen Carne Asada Tacos
In-A-Jiffy Steak Tacos

Several years ago, a lovely friend, who is most sadly no longer with us, taught me that when you are on a budget and have company coming (my son and I were company), you can make a wallet-friendly and extremely flavorful meal for family and friends and be satisfied that everybody will be quite happy.  

I made carne asada tacos several evenings ago for three friends for under $15.00 and here is how I did it.  My local grocery store, like all stores across the country, have fantastic monthly sales on their meats.  I bought two packages of thin cut tri-tip steaks for $5.00 per package, an onion, garlic, fresh cilantro, two limes and a package of small flour tortillas. I had cheese at home already. I also have my pantry stocked with a large array of spices and dried herbs. 

First things first, I wanted my asada to be authentically flavored.  I made a batch of my Mexican Spice Blend, added it to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and two tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime juice and a splash of Mirin, sweet rice wine vinegar and some fresh thyme from my potted herb garden. 

Recipe for my Mexican Spice Blend

3 rounded tablespoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons chile molido or your favorite chile powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 partly rounded teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 rounded teaspoon cumin seeds

My finely ground spices and herbs.

I add all of the spices and herbs to my spice grinder and finely ground it all. I added some of the spice blend - about two tablespoons - to both sides of the thinly sliced tri-tip and added those to a pan with the evoo, lime juice and Mirin.  I tossed the steaks about the coat them all and let them marinate for thirty minutes. I had that time available, but if you do not, fifteen minutes would be fine, too. 

In a skillet over medium-high heat, I added two tablespoons of evoo, and, when the oil began to ripple, I added the thinly sliced marinated steaks. I had to sear and saute the steaks in two batches.  Thinly sliced steaks take only three minutes per side over medium-high heat, as I mentioned above. When they finish searing, I removed the steaks, allowed them to rest a few minutes and, after draining some of the steak renderings, I added a tiny splash of evoo and the chopped onion, finely chopped garlic, some of the fresh oregano and thyme and sauteed that until I finished slicing the steaks into small slivers. 

After sauteeing the onion an garlic, I added the steak slivers and sauteed the mixture until the onions were a bit translucent. The aroma of steak and aromatics (onion and garlic with the herbs and spices) filled my kitchen and my friends were thrilled. 

I saute ingredients until the onions become translucent. 

To serve, use whatever tortillas you like, whatever cheese you like, and whatever other condiments you like.  Some like shaved radishes, cilantro, scallions, lime.  I love it all, but simple cheese and my favorite Salsa Ranchero makes me very happy 

My philosophy? Tacos should be a food group!

Everyone has their own recipe, but I thought I would share my recipe, simple, inexpensive, flavorful and a family favorite as it is. Making that recipe brought forth the memory of a dear supportive friend no longer with us. Now, go cook for someone you love!  You will be glad you did!

And as always, Thank You for your time and consideration. 

In-House Cook


Monday, February 13, 2017

What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Welcome To Yet Another Episode of What I Have Been Up To In My Kitchen!

Although I have been busier than ever before in my day job, and time in my kitchen has been curtailed, I have eked out a few dishes to write about.  A breakfast, a lunch and a dinner.  Well, the lunch could be a dinner or, if an egg is added, a breakfast, as well. Let's get started!

First, breakfast. It is absolutely not a secret that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and nothing says breakfast like eggs, bacon and hash browns. The theme of this breakfast was fresh herbs: fresh rosemary, sage and thyme.  I incorporated it into all three parts of the meal.  I began by adding some of the mixed fresh herbs to the bacon as it fried up. I was pleasantly surprised at how aromatic that was and the dynamic the fresh herb flavors added to the bacon. Very interesting. 

When the bacon is done, place them on a paper towel on a plate. 

Meanwhile, I began frying up 3 cups of hash browns in three tablespoons of vegetable oil and two tabs of butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. I'd added a palm full of the diced herbs and a little salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of each, to the potatoes and turned them over to in skillet. The secret to crispy hash browns is to simply leave them alone and make sure there is equal heating across the flat surface of the skillet.  Let the hash browns cook for about seven minutes; check them and when they are golden brown, flip them.  Allow to cook another seven or so minutes.  Season, as needed, IF needed.  

Hash browns starting off in the skillet with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. 

As the bacon finishes, and the hash browns are browning, crack four-to-nine eggs (depending on how many you are feeding; two per person) into a large bowl.  Add one or two tablespoons, or half a palm full of chopped scallion greens, a tablespoon of the fresh herbs, half a teaspoon of salt and pepper and a dash of water.  My friend, Morgan, taught me that. Vigorously whisk the eggs until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. 

Add two tabs of butter to a skillet and allow it to melt and foam over medium-high heat.  Add the whisked eggs and allow the edges to solidify.  I simply allowed the edges to solidify before scrambling things about a bit.  The secret to well-cooked scrambled eggs is to, like the hash browns, let them be! However, whatever you prefer, do!!!  Over-easy, over-hard, omlette. 

I plated the three delicious parts of the meal very simply.  You can garnish with scallions, cilantro, or not at all.  It is very pretty as it is. Witness below!

If you are a fan of sauces, add it!  Food should make you happy and it should be enjoyable.  Now go, enjoy!

Next, a delectable, simple weeknight meal to enthrall the pickiest of eaters......

Naan Burger with Yogurt Garlic Aioli

When the craving for a burger hits me, I get moving. I'd had a wildly busy week that week and I was unable to get to the grocer to purchase buns (I'd had a craving for King's Sweet Hawaiian Buns, my new bread obsession) but I did have Naan (Lebanese flat bread, in this case) in the freezer (I know, fresh is best, but I could not use it right away when I'd purchased it) and decided to finally enjoy it. Isn't it odd how life throws one monkey wrench after another into your plans and you have to just be flexible and adjust? I have learned that it is how you adjust that is important, whether you let it get to you or if you just let it go.  I am still learning to try to just go with it. I never said i was the quickest learner.  😊

Here is what I did to make this a perfect comfort food. To be honest, I wish I'd had ground lamb on hand, but I used ground pork for this burger. My apologies. I'd added the following the pound of ground pork: 

1/4 diced yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1.5 teaspoons Harissa 

For the Garlic Yogurt Aioli:
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 teaspoon diced fresh oregano
1 teaspoon of Mirin

To start, preheat the oven to 350-degrees. 

Add the above ingredients to the pound of ground meat and form the number of desired patties.  I go big, rather than mini.  My mom's version of "regular sized" burgers is making six burgers out of 0.96-pounds of ground beef., Mama.  Go big or go home!  That is just me, you do what makes You happy!  I digressed, sorry.  I made three burgers rather than six.  

I added two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a skillet and, when the oil began to ripple, a sure-fire way to know it is ready, I added the burgers. They take about six minutes per side.  Another tip, just like the hash browns and eggs:  Leave them alone! Let them sear!  

Meanwhile, whip up the aioli and put it into the refrigerator to chill and allow the flavors to marry. This has a delicious tang and bite to it. You will love it!  

In addition, add the Naan to the oven, placing it on a rack, rather than in a pan.  No need to spray it with anything, it just needs to heat up. Allow it to heat through, about seven minutes or so. Once the Naan has heated through, it may get a little crispy on the outside and edges.  This is good!  Remove it and spread the aioli over the Naan. Sprinkle some fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, cilantro or arugula atop that, if you like, and add the burger.  The Naan folds and acts like thick tortilla, in a way.  I found it to be very delicious and sturdy. 

Even GusGus wanted in on the Naan action!

  Add fresh herbs to the Naan and Burger. 

I added a few dollops of Harissa to give it heat.

Quite delicious, simple, easy, not a lot of ingredients needed, and sure to be a family favorite!


Up Next.....STEAK!!!

Nothing pleases the palette after a long "dry spell" of simple, humble pantry meals after a tight budget month than a huge, juicy herb butter basted steak, skillet potatoes, tangy tomatoes and jumbo buttermilk biscuits.  Well, if you are everyone who is me, that is. There is no real recipe for anything, here.  This is just for the savory fun of it!  The potatoes and the biscuits were store bought. Sometimes one just needs to let the store do some of the work.  😋

I love basting big, thick, juicy rib-eye steaks (these were bone-in, a feast for the pups) in butter and herbs after getting a good seared caramelization on the meat. Normally, I'd use fresh thyme and rosemary, but the store only had fresh sage, for some reason, so I used that.  Even so, it was fantastic. 

I added two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and two tabs of butter to a hot skillet and added the already chopped potatoes.  I added some salt, pepper and fresh minced sage and sauteed the potatoes on medium-high heat to get some golden color onto them, then I oven finished. The biscuits, I simply brushed with a little melted butter and sparsely sprinkled garlic salt atop the biscuits and baked according to the directions.

I also simply used grape tomatoes and plated them without garnish.  I love tomatoes, garnished, marinated or just as they are. That is just me. 

Very simple, most delectable, this dish was the epitome of comfort.  

This dish have love written all over it!

As always, friends, Thank You for your time and consideration.  Now, go cook for someone you love!!!  Food is love, brings family, friends and loved ones together. There is no greater way to show those you love how much you love them than by cooking for them.  Now, Go!  Cook!

In-House Cook