Chipotle Sliders with Homemade Ketchup

This is another repeat meal, one I’ve made several times over the years, sometimes for company.  It’s always a big hit.  I think it’s the homemade ketchup that really takes it over the top, but the burgers themselves are also amazing.  The chipotle makes them a little bit spicy, but they are so moist and tender.  They melt in your mouth and have an almost buttery texture.  I wish I could wax eloquent on why exactly they turn out this way, but since the burgers are made with lean ground sirloin, not chuck, I really can’t explain it.  Sometimes the leaner meat results in a dry burger, but that’s certainly not the case with these little guys!  Try them soon, they are delicious!

Source: Rachael Ray “2,4,6,8: Meals for Couples and Crowds”

Ingredients:
2 lbs. ground sirloin
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 chipotles in adobo, chopped fine, plus 2 tbs adobo sauce
2 tbs grill seasoning
1 tbs EVOO
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 (15 oz) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
Salt and black pepper
12 (1/2 inch thick) slices smoked or regular Cheddar
12 small rolls, but not dinner rolls, those are usually too small (I like potato rolls, I find they are the perfect size), toasted if desired

Directions:
Preheat your grill pan to medium-high and let it get very hot.
Place the meat in a bowl. Grate half the onion into the meat using the large holes on a box grater. Chop and reserve the other half. To the meat, add Worcestershire sauce, chipotles, adobo sauce, and grill seasoning. Add salt if your brand of grill seasoning doesn’t have it. Drizzle a little EVOO over the meat and use your hands to mix everything together until just combined. Score the meat into 4 sections and make 3 mini burgers out of each section (3 inches wide and 1 inch thick). You’ll end up with 12 sliders.
Heat a small pot over medium heat. Add a tbs EVOO and the garlic. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add brown sugar and vinegar. Cook 2 minutes more and stir in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook another 5 or so minutes to thicken it a bit.
Grill the sliders for 2-3 minutes per side. When you flip them, add the cheese. Tent with aluminum foil for better melted cheese.
Place the burgers on the bottom buns, and top with the homemade ketchup and some chopped raw onion. Enjoy!

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Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas

This is one of my own creations, though I cannot take full credit.  I saw a recipe online for such a thing, got inspired, and decided to take a stab at it.  This actually came out fantastic!  Enchiladas are one of my favorite dishes, I love them any old way, with whatever filling or topping.  My only rule (and this isn’t MY rule at all!) is that you must, must, must use corn tortillas.  Never use a flour tortilla for an enchilada. It’s simply not legit!

I’m not going to lie, enchiladas are a production to make. They’re messy as anything, and it takes awhile to assemble all the components. However, they are totally and completely worth it! These particular enchiladas are fusion food, and that’s probably making them sound a lot more elegant than they are. It’s simply taking one of America’s favorites, the buffalo chicken, and fitting that into a different vehicle than a wing, in this case the beloved Mexican enchilada. It works. They are spicy, of course, but they really don’t blow your head off.

I have one confession. You know I’m not a fan of much canned foods, but I used canned enchilada sauce for this recipe. I tested several different things, and that one was honestly the best! I hope no one respects me less now. 🙂

Here is the recipe, enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken breast, on the bone, skin optional
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
Blue Cheese Dressing/Dip (recipe to follow)
12 Small white corn tortillas
Buffalo sauce, about 10 oz.
Enchilada sauce, 10 oz. can (remove 2 tablespoons before using – you don’t need them)
Shredded jack cheese (8 oz.)
Crumbled blue cheese (2-3 oz.)
2 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 F. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then drizzle lightly with olive oil IF you remove the skin. Bake in oven until an instant read thermometer reads 165 F. Remove to a plate and let cool until you can handle it. When cooled, discard skin and bone and shred the chicken. Set aside. Bring the oven temperature down to 350 F.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, cook the vegetables in the olive oil until softened.  Make sure you lightly salt them. Throw the shredded chicken into the veggies and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the chicken and veggie mixture with the blue cheese dressing.
In a pie plate, mix together the buffalo sauce with the enchilada sauce.
Grease a large baking dish, the biggest one you have.
Warm the tortillas until they are nice and pliable. I do this over a medium-low flame on my gas stove.
Now comes the really messy part. One at a time, dredge both sides of each tortilla through the buffalo/enchilada sauce. Lay it on a flat surface and fill with roughly 2 tbs of the chicken mixture. Don’t overfill. Place the tortilla seam side down into the baking dish. Repeat 11 more times, until you have 12 enchiladas all lined up snugly next to one another in the baking dish. Pour the remaining buffalo/enchilada sauce over all the enchiladas and smooth out with a spatula. You want everything covered. Now sprinkle the cheeses over the whole thing.
Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until the jack cheese has melted. If you want, broil it for a few minutes to brown and bubble the cheese. Remove, scatter the scallions all over, and let set for about 5 minutes. Serve hot.

BLUE CHEESE DRESSING/DIP:

This is really good! I came up with it awhile back when I was trying to make some recipe that called for store-bought blue cheese dressing. I looked in the grocery store that day but couldn’t find a brand that didn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, so I decided to play around and make my own. This is what I came up with, and we’ve been using it ever since.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp lemon pepper
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Directions:
Mix everything together in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. For best results, chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

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Butter Pecan Ice Cream

One night after a particularly spicy dinner, Matt and I were craving something sweet and cold to calm our fiery mouths.  I suggested we make some ice cream.  We looked through a few books and chose a Caramel Ice Cream, which included making a caramel sauce from scratch.  Caramel sauce is simply sugar with a little bit of water put over heat in a skillet.  The heat melts and caramelizes the sugar and there you go!  It should be easy.  However, I learned an important lesson that night.  You cannot caramelize unrefined sugar.  I started buying organic, raw sugar awhile ago, and that’s all I had lying around to use.  For the most part, it’s a fine substitute its refined sibling.  However, you need refined white sugar to make a proper caramel sauce.  Unrefined sugar has a touch of molasses, as well as jagged edges on each crystal, and that makes it impossible to make caramel.  I knew it wasn’t working, but I forged ahead and combined the sugar mixture with the cream.  It still didn’t look right, but I went ahead and put it through the ice cream maker.  It wasn’t the right color, and I was feeling a little discouraged.  But, I tasted it and immediately said to Matt, “This tastes like butter pecan ice cream without the pecans!”  So, we added pecans.  And there we had an incredibly tasty butter pecan ice cream.  I replicated the recipe with a few tweaks a week later and it still worked beautifully.  It’s absolutely delicious.  I really wish all my kitchen mishaps were this successful!  Alas, they are not.  Someday, I will make a proper caramel ice cream.  But this one will do quite nicely in the meantime.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
4 tbs butter
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
Roughly 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and brown sugar. Stir together until it’s all melted together, about 4 minutes. Add the salt and shut off the heat. Add in the milk and cream, turn the heat back on to medium-low, and scald the dairy (bring it almost to a boil, but don’t let it boil).
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and white sugar; beat well. Add 1/2 cup of the cream mixture to the egg mixture and whisk constantly. This will temper the yolks so they do not scramble. Now slowly, while whisking, pour the eggs into the saucepan with the cream mixture. Turn the heat to medium and cook, whisking frequently, for about 15 minutes, until the mixture turns almost to a custard consistency. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon. This is your ice cream base. Pour the base into a clean bowl and refrigerate until chilled. You can speed along this process with an ice bath. Give it a stir occasionally to avoid getting a film on top.
When it’s chilled, pour it into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Mine calls or 25 minutes. In the last five minutes of churning, add the pecans. When it’s done, put the ice cream into the freezer for at least 2 hours to firm up. This makes about a quart.

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Green Chili

As my readers know, I grew up in Texas, the birthplace of chili.  In Texas we make what is known as red chili.  Proper Texas chili has no beans (perhaps I shouldn’t, but I must admit that beans in a chili don’t offend me), and it is always a tomato based sauce with beef.  I grew up eating versions of red chili.  Recently, I learned about green chili.  This chili originated in the state of New Mexico.  It has no tomatoes, and uses pork instead of beef.  The green comes from green chiles (a lot of them!) and tomatillos.

One day I got it in my head that I wanted to make this chili and see what it was all about.  So I ventured to Whole Foods for the ingredients.  I walked out of there with an armload of chiles and a big hunk of pork shoulder.  I think the checkout girl was wondering if I was making weapons at home!

I spent a lovely afternoon simmering this chili, making the whole house smell delectable.  I still wasn’t sure what to expect as far as taste.  Let me tell you, it was sooo good.  Spicy and fiery from the chiles, succulent tender pork shoulder, all enveloped with a thick gravy that was cooked to a perfect consistency.  We fought over the leftovers.  Green chili is distinctly different from red chili, but I highly recommend it!  I do apologize for the picture, for whatever reason it didn’t photograph well.  Do not let that dissuade you from trying it.  Enjoy!

Source: The Homesick Texan blog (not cookbook)

Ingredients:
4 lbs of boneless pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb of poblano peppers (about 5)
4-10 serrano peppers stemmed and seeded (I used 8)
4-10 jalapeno peppers stemmed and seeded (I used 8)
1 lb tomatillos cut in 1/8ths (about 6 to 8)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
6 tablespoons of cumin
2 tablespoon of Mexican oregano
2/3 to 1 cup of cilantro
2 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of dark beer
1/4 cup of masa harina
Salt and white pepper to taste
Peanut oil, olive oil or lard for frying

Directions:
Roast the poblanos over the flame on a gas stove, until blackened, and then place in a mixing bowl, cover with seran wrap and leave alone for about 20 minutes. After this, the skins will come right off. Then dice the peeled poblanos, removing seeds and membranes. Meanwhile, dice the jalapenos and serranos in a small food processor or by hand. Mix them with the diced poblano.
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, saute the onion in peanut oil until cooked, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more. Turn off the pot.
In a cast-iron skillet, lightly brown the pork on each side in lard (or the fat of your choice – I used canola oil) for a couple of minutes and then add to the soup pot. You will probably have to do this in batches.
Once all the pork has been lightly browned and added to the soup pot, add two cups of chicken broth and 1 cup of dark beer. Also throw in the pot the tomatillos, 3 tablespoons of cumin, 1 tablespoon of Mexican oregano and half of your chile mixture.
Turn on the stove to medium and bring chili to a boil and then turn heat down to low.
Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
After an hour, add 3 tablespoons of cumin, 1 tablespoon of Mexican oregano, 1/3 cup of cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook for half an hour uncovered on low, stirring occasionally. At this point, you’ll probably notice a nice brown oil slick on the top of the pot. Skim the fat by sticking in a ladle and dragging it over the surface. This isn’t foolproof, but it gets rid of most of the fat.
After half an hour, throw in the rest of the green chiles in the pot and add another 1/3 cup of cilantro. Cook for another half an hour to 45 minutes.
In a separate dish, mix the masa harina with some of the chili liquid until a thick paste is formed. Slowly stir this into the chili until it’s well incorporate without any lumps. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Garnish with crumbled Cotija cheese and sour cream.

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Orange Blossom Waffles

Welcome to another repeat meal Wednesday!  I’ve made these waffles several times, sometimes for company, and they are always a big hit.  Orange blossom water is the secret ingredient, and it can be obtained at international grocers or online.  The other thing that makes these waffles so delectable is that you separate the egg yolks and whites and whip the whites before folding them into the batter.  This makes for fluffy, airy waffles.  I would actually recommend doing that for any waffles you make; the end result is really worth the little bit of extra time and mess it takes to do that.  I love these waffles drizzled with honey instead of maple syrup, the honey really compliments the orange flavor.  Enjoy!

Source: Padma Lakshmi, “Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet”

Ingredients:
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
3 tbs orange blossom water
Honey and confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Directions:
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, then add the milk, melted butter, and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well with a whisk.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the whites into the batter, then stir in the orange blossom water.
Cook the waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions on your waffle iron. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and drizzle with honey to serve.

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Tilapia Ceviche

I have fond memories of the first time I tried ceviche.  San Pedro, Belize, May 2010.  I was eating lunch with Matt after doing some exploring of the town in a rented golf cart.  We got lunch in this little seafood shack right on the beach with beautiful views.  Matt was actually the one to order it, but never fear, I ate several bites.  We both really enjoyed it.  It was fresh, clean, citrusy, and a touch spicy from the habaneros that Belizeans love so much.

I really didn’t know about ceviche growing up.  We didn’t eat much seafood; BUT, all things considered, I doubt I’d have touched this dish with a ten foot pole even if I had been exposed to it.  It’s a Mexican specialty that has easily migrated to other Central American countries and Caribbean islands.  Ceviche means that seafood has been “cooked” in citrus juice.  It is never exposed to a traditional heat source for cooking it.  Up until my mid-twenties, I would have considered it raw and stayed far away.  I’m very glad I have changed my mind, because ceviche is delicious, easy, and healthy!  Our waiter in Belize told us that ceviche is usually consumed after a long night of drinking.  That hasn’t ever been my experience of it, but I can attest to the sheer pleasure of eating it with an icy cold beer.

You can use a variety of seafood for ceviche, really whatever you want.  I’ve seen white fish, swordfish, tuna, shrimp, squid, and crab.  This particular recipe called for tilapia, and that’s one of my favorite fishes, so I happily obliged.  This recipe allowed 15 minutes for “cooking” and I would probably allow up to at least 30 minutes.  I served my ceviche in the traditional manner: the fish itself is in a drinking glass with corn tortillas and lime wedges alongside.  You can use the tortillas as is, and eat this like a taco, or you can fry or grill them and serve it tostada style.  It will be delicious either way.  Enjoy!

Source: Marcela Valladolid, “Fresh Mexico”

Ingredients:
2 lbs. very fresh tilapia, cut into a small dice
15 limes; 14 halved, 1 cut into wedges
1/2 cup chopped, seeded tomato
1/2 cup chopped, seeded cucumber
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, minced
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and black pepper
1 tbs bottled hot sauce (I use Cholula)
Corn tortillas, for serving
Sour cream
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, thinly sliced

Directions:
Place the tilapia in a medium bowl. Squeeze the juice from the lime halves over the fish and mix gently to combine. Chill in the refrigerator until the fish is white throughout, about 30 minutes.
Drain off the lime juice, gently squeezing the fish with your hands. Discard the lime juice. Mix the tomato, cucumber, jalapeno, onion, and cilantro with the fish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the hot sauce and mix gently.
Spread the tortillas generously with the sour cream, then top with the ceviche. Arrange the avocado on top and serve immediately with lime wedges alongside.

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Roast Chicken with Shallot-Garlic Butter

In my house, we absolutely adore a whole roast chicken.  Our local grocery store sells a brand of chicken that is farmed responsibly, raised without antibiotics, sourced locally so there is a small carbon footprint, and tastes delicious when cooked.  So we buy them as often as possible, we’re happy to support them and give them our business.  Compound butter is one of the best ways to easily prep a whole chicken for maximum flavor.  The beautiful thing about compound butter is that you can flavor it however you want.  You are only limited by your imagination.  You can make it herb-heavy, you can use spices, you can use tons of garlic and even ginger.  How it works is you simply mix your flavorings with softened butter and then stick huge gobs of it under the skin of the breasts and dot it over the legs and thighs.  Most recipes will say to evenly spread the butter over the legs and thighs.  I’ve tried many times, and I just don’t know their secret for making the butter remain on the chicken and not come off onto your fingers.  If anyone knows how this works, please leave a comment and let me know!  I’ve found it’s far less frustrating to just dot the butter around and let the hot oven do the work.  This particular compound butter was very flavorful and the chicken was so moist and tender.  It’s a winner for us.  Enjoy!

Source: Emeril Lagasse, “20-40-60”

Ingredients:
4 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbs minced shallots
1 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 whole chicken, about 3-4 lbs, excess fat and giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
In a small bowl, combine the butter with the shallots, parsley, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Place a dab (about 1 tbs) of butter inside the cavity of the chicken, then sprinkle the cavity with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Use your fingers to gently loosen the skin covering the breast, and place 1/2 tbs of butter under the skin on each side of the breast. Use another tbs to dot each of the legs and thighs. Reserve the remaining tbs for brushing on the cooked chicken.
Tuck the wing tips behind the bird and tie the legs securely together with kitchen twine. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper all over the chicken. Set in a large shallow roasting pan or a large cast-iron skillet. Roast in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast, not touching bone, reads 165 F. Remove the chicken and dot the remaining compound butter over it. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Carve it and serve it!

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