Go West Young Girl, Go West!

Monday, December 21st, 2015

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Chili is a dish I have recently revisited. As a Chef you spend most of your waking hours in a professional kitchen dreaming up innovative, new dishes. Testing out new products, curating ingredients, perfecting techniques. It is easy to overlook certain comfort foods. Its not that we write them off, but when things feel dated you tend to avoid them. But often times, innovation is in fact inspired by history and memories. To embrace the food we grow up eating and to create a well balanced homage using current techniques and good ingredients, that is when a Chef can really shine.

Chili takes me West. Where I grew up, and often a place I long for. It takes me to imaginary desert vistas, cattle drives, and campfires. Chili is an icon of the American West but its roots clearly lie somewhere further south. At its most basic incarnation it is meat cooked down in chiles, onions, and garlic. This is the start of many iconic Mexican dishes. Its personality morphs as you travel through the American Southwest and no other states claims it quite so triumphantly as Texas. You like beans in your chili? Well Texans do not. Head over to New Mexico and it will be easy to find that deep ruddy red you know so well to be replaced by green, thanks to the popular local hatch chile. In a bowl or on a pile of fries, at its core its comfort food and one I love.

The recipe below is a great starter chili, designed for the home cook. I like to dress up a bowl with a pile of cheese, sour cream, and corn bread. This dish is ever interchangeable. Pick your protein: beef, lamb, pork, goat, turkey, or beans. Add more heat or throw in a few different chile powders: chipotle morita, arbol, dried jalapeno. This recipe is designed to resemble the chili’s of my childhood and as it should be, in creating this recipe I am inspired to find a way to make chili into my next great restaurant dish.

Enjoy!

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Turkey Chili

Yields about 5 quarts

4 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds organic ground turkey
1 onion small dice
4 cloves garlic minced, around 2 tablespoons
2 jalapenos, deseeded and small dice, around 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 chipotles in adobo, minced
1 tablespoon of adobo sauce (from the canned chipotles)
4 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon Chimayo*
1 28 oz can small dice tomatoes
1 cup of beer, dos equis amber
4 cups of chicken stock
4 cups cooked black beans

In a heavy bottom large pot heat 3 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Add in the ground turkey. Cook until lightly browned, around 6 minutes. Remove the turkey from the pot and set aside. Add in your remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Heat pot over low heat. Add in onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Sweat down until the onion is translucent, around 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium. Add in tomato paste, cumin, sweet paprika, oregano, Chimayo, chipotles, and adobo sauce. Sauté for one minute, stirring to coat the vegetables in the tomato paste. Add in beer and stir. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add in canned tomatoes, cooked turkey, black beans, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and reduce to low heat. Cook for one hour uncovered. Set aside or serve immediately topped with scallions, sharp cheddar, sour cream, and corn bread.

* Chimayo is a chile variety popular in New Mexico, and I was the recent recipient of a cup of this delicious chile powder. If you can not get your hands on any, feel free to sub out with your favorite. To learn more about Chimayo check out the link below.

Chimayo Chile

 

 

 

Hot Chocolate- A Magical Elixir

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

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Hot Chocolate, the most sacred of beverages, has been suffering from an identity crisis. Everywhere I look, the acceptable version of this beverage has become a watered down version of ifs ancestors. If you order hot chocolate in a restaurant, hotel, or coffee shop you are lucky if you can get a version that is milk and chocolate. At its best I tend to find a thin, milky, over steamed generic tasting cup with spray can (gasp) whipped cream melted over the top. At its worst I find people accepting hot water (no!) and a coco powder mix dissolved into it.

Where did we go wrong! Why are we ok with this? I demand change. Maybe I have watched the movie Chocolat too many times, but I want my mug of hot chocolate to be a spiritual experience, a remedy for cold days and fatigue. I want a mug of chocolate melted into whole milk with exotic spices and a bowl of freshly whipped cream served along side so I can spoon it in as I see fit.

And so I share with you this tale of what hot chocolate should be. My first real taste of the good stuff happened in Paris. On Ile St Louis there is a shop by the name La Charlotte de l’Isle. On the window of this shop are the words “Chocolat Chaud l’Ancienne” which translates to The Old Hot Chocolate. Here, I sat at a table and was served the real deal. Thick, rich, spiced hot chocolate. It was served in what looked like a copper Turkish coffee pot so it would stay warm as I poured it into my mug. There are not words to describe the transformative experience I had. After I drank this magical brew I felt like I could sing, dance, and walk the entire city of Paris in 1 hour. I was a one man musical. My dinning companion, Ben, who had the same magical elixir had the opposite effect. He fell asleep immediately after consuming!

So buyers beware, I cannot presume to tell you what the effects will be. But I can tell you this, a real mug of hot chocolate is hard to find but not hard to make. With a saucepan, good chocolate, and a little care you can make a magical elixir of your own.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a few photos of that magical hot chocolate from Paris. Don’t mind the the old school photo filters!

Hot Chocolate For Two

2 ½ cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon coco powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pinches of ground cayenne pepper
3 ounces of high quality dark chocolate (I like Valrhona)
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat add milk, bay leaf, coco powder, ground cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Heat to a simmer. By heating up the milk slowly, you give the spices time to steep into the milk and create more flavor. While the milk is warming make the whipped cream: in a bowl add heavy cream and powdered sugar and whisk until it can hold soft peaks. Set aside. When the milk is simmering, add in chocolate and brown sugar. Whisk to incorporate. Serve immediately with a side of whipped cream.

*Be creative with you spices and find out what you like. Nutmeg, clove, ground chipotle, and almonds can all be nice additions.

 

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Pozole- My Cold Weather Companion

Saturday, December 5th, 2015

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When winter months roll around I want to hibernate. I want to be in a hot kitchen slow cooking, braising meats, roasting root vegetables, and invariably staying warm. Pozole is a dish that hits the mark on these dark, cold days. It encapsulates everything I love about Mexican cooking. It layers flavors and techniques to create a dish with intense complexity. There is a mild heat from the chiles that warms you balanced with acidic lime juice and rich braised pork shoulder. It is a hearty stew that can be served with an assortment of sides that personalize each bowl: tortillas, radish, avocado, cilantro, shredded cabbage, limes, creama (or sour cream), and cheese. This is a dish I have served many times over the course of my career and has taken on many iterations. Oxtail Pozole at Food & Wine Festival in Atlanta, Green Chile Pozole on Top Chef, and most recently Pozole Rojo, currently my favorite version. This recipe is gold. Print now, make it tomorrow, and thank me later.

Pozole Rojo

Yields 6 quarts

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch sized cubes
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon canola oil
9 gaujillo chiles
3 ancho chiles
2 medium sized tomatoes
2 chipotles in adobo, I like the Embasa brand
1 large white onion, small diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 poblano peppers, deseeded and small diced
1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
3 dried bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
5 cups of cooked and drained hominy, you can use the canned stuff
3 quarts of chicken stock
2 ½ Tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup limejuice
½ cup chopped cilantro

Begin by mixing the pork shoulder with the salt and black pepper. Set aside and gather the rest of the ingredients. Toast the dried guajillo and ancho chiles; I use a cast iron pan for this. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add a few chiles to the pan at a time, keeping them in a single layer touching the pan. Using a metal spatula gently press the chiles flat against the pan, the chiles should puff up slightly and darken in color just a little bit. They should not be charred or smoking, this will make them bitter. It will take about 30 seconds to toast each round of chiles. After the chiles have all been toasted, place them in a container and cover them with hot tap water. Weigh them down with something like a small plate so that they all stay submerged. Soak them for 30 minutes. While the chiles are soaking roast the tomatoes. Heat the same cast iron pan over medium heat. Place the whole tomatoes into the pan and cook for about 7 minutes. You want to get as much of the outside skin charred as possible, rotate the tomatoes as needed to accomplish this. After the chiles have soaked for 30 minutes, remove them from the water and place in a blender along with the roasted tomato, canned chipotle, and about a cup of the chile soaking water. Blend until smooth.

In a large pot heat the canola oil over medium high heat. When pot is ready add in the pork shoulder. Sear the pork until it is well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside. Next carefully pour the chile puree into the pot and cook while stirring for about 3 minutes. This will help concentrate the flavor of the chilies and add more depth to the final product. Next, add in the onion, garlic, and poblano peppers. Cook for 1 minute. Add in the ground cumin, ground coriander, bay leaves, and Mexican oregano. Cook for an additional 3 minutes before adding in the hominy, chicken stock, and the pork shoulder. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for about 1 ½ hours. Remove the bay leaves. To finish the pozole add in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Season with salt to your taste, I used about 2 ½ Tablespoon of salt for mine. Serve along side crispy tortillas, shredded cabbage, radish, sour cream, and cheese.

*If you have the chance, make this a day before serving. I love how the flavors marry and become even more delicious overnight.

Thanksgiving 101: Perfectly Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

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I am one lucky lady. My luck has taken me away from posting as of late but I am back in the nick of time, one week before the biggest food holiday of the year, Thanksgiving!  This week I will be posting some awesome side dishes that are easy to execute and delicious to eat. Feel free to send me any of your holiday cooking questions in the coming weeks!

So lets start the notoriously gluttonous holiday food posts with one of my all time favorite’s, sweet potatoes. The trick to perfect silky-smooth, whipped sweet potatoes is using a food processor such as a robot coup or a kitchen aid.  For a non electric option, a ricer or tamis will also work. If you have none of the above, do not fret. Sweet potatoes are easy to mash with even the back of a heavy spoon, you just need some decent muscles!

Wood Roasted Whipped Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4-6 people

3 pounds sweet potatoes
½ cup heavy cream
1 sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon espelette pepper

To cook the sweet potatoes build a small fire in a wood grill. Let the fire burn down until the coals are white. With the lid closed, the temperature should be between 325-350 degrees. Place the sweet potatoes on the grill and close the lid. Cook for around 45 minuets or until cooked through. The sweet potatoes will be extremely soft and easily pierced with a wooden skewer. Remove the potatoes from the grill and set aside.*

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, in a small pot combine heavy cream, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Turn off and set aside, allowing the herbs to steep into the cream for 10-15 minuets. Strain the cream. Add the cream back into a pot and warm with the butter until melted.

Peel the skin off of the warm sweet potatoes. After they have been peeled you should have a little over 2 pounds of sweet potato pulp. Place into a food processor. Add in the warm cream mixture and salt. Pulse until smooth. At this point the sweet potatoes can be cooled and stored for up to 4 days or served immediately. I like to garnish my sweet potatoes with espelette pepper, which gives them a little kick. Alternatively you could garnish with toasted pecans, a dusting of cinnamon, or a little brown sugar. Enjoy!

* When making this recipe, make sure to adjust cooking times for size. This recipe was made using small sweet potatoes that were grown here on Cumberland Island. Your standard grocery store sweet potato will be a little larger and need a little extra time to cook.

The Magic is in the Mojo

Monday, October 26th, 2015

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It is not a secret that I love Latin food. Amongst my great appreciation for the multitude of cultural highlights and culinary delights I often find myself drawn to Cuban food. There is a very specific flavor profile that proliferates: a mix of acidic citrus, ripened tropical fruits, black beans spiked with herbaceous culantro, and tender braised meats. It is simple, flavorful, and comforting. My introduction to Cuban food was in Miami, at Restaurant Versailles in Little Havana.Versailles encompasses one and a half city blocks with a restaurant, bakery, and cafe. Order the oxtails, try the ropa vieja! In what has now become a tradition for me when I visit Miami, I like to go the the sidewalk cafe window and order a Cafe Cubano, a pack of cigarillos and do as the the locals. Sit and watch.

One of the most popular sauces found in Cuban cooking is mojo.The sauce is said to have originated in the Canary Islands and you can find variations of it through out Caribbean cooking. If you look up the word mojo, with no culinary context, it is defined as a magic charm or magic power. It is no surprise to me that the word has this duel meaning because it does in fact has transformative and magical powers. I would rank it among my top five favorite sauces…

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Mojo Chicken

All-Propose Brine
One whole 4-pound chicken, best quality available
Grapefruit Mojo
Spice Rub
Charcoal Grill

Brine
Yields 5 quarts
2 quarts water plus 3 quarts ice water
7 ounces kosher salt
7 ounces sugar
3 bay leaves
3 peeled garlic cloves

Bring the two quarts of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in the sugar, salt, bay leaves, and garlic. Stir to dissolve and remove from heat, let steep for 10 minutes. Add in the 3 quarts of ice water, stir to incorporate. Keep brine in the refrigerator until ready for use.

Grapefruit Mojo
Yields 4 cups
3 medium sized shallots, rough chopped
1 habanero, deseeded and rough chopped
7 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
¾ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ Tablespoon dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
Juice of 3 grapefruit
Juice of 2 navel oranges
Juice of 3 limes
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar

Add the olive oil to a medium sized pot and place over medium-low heat. When oil is hot add in the garlic, shallot, and habanero. Fry in the oil until the vegetables begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add in the cumin, coriander, black pepper, oregano, and the bay leaf. Fry in the oil for about 20 seconds. Turn off the heat and add in all of the citrus juice at once. Stir to incorporate. Place mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. Add in salt and vinegar, check seasoning. Allow mojo to cool down before using.

Spice Rub
Yields enough for 1 chicken
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients together and reserve.

To Prepare:
Two days before you plan on serving the Mojo Chicken, spilt the chicken in half. This can be accomplished by cutting out the backbone of the chicken and cutting in-between the breasts. If you have a neighborhood butcher shop they can do this for you. Place the chicken in a container and pour the brine over until it is fully submerged. Make sure the brine is cold before using. Place the chicken in refrigerator and brine for 12 hours or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brine. Reserve 1 cup of the mojo so it can be served on the side with the chicken. Place each half of the chicken into a gallon zip-lock bag and carefully pour the other 3 cups of mojo equally between the two bags. Squeeze out as much air as you can and seal the bags. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 12 hours or overnight. Store in refrigerator while marinating.

After 12 hours remove the chicken from the mojo marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. Rub about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each of the chicken half’s. Spread the spice rub over each piece of the chickens evenly. Set chickens aside while you prepare the grill.

If using a charcoal/wood grill begin by building a medium sized fire on just one side of the grill, preferably the side that has air vents on it. Once the coals have burned down, place the chicken on the grill directly over the coals. Flip after two minutes or so and cook for another 2 minutes. This is done to sear the skin and crisp it up. After both sides have been seared move the chicken to the side of the grill without coals. Close the grill and allow the chicken to cook, flipping it over every 15 minutes or so. If you have a thermometer in your grill you want it to be about 350 degrees inside the grill when it is closed. At this temperature the chicken will take about an hour to cook. Remove the chicken when an internal temperature of 160 degrees has been reached, be sure to check the temperature of the legs.

Serve the chicken with the reserved mojo, rice, beans, and plantains. Put on Buena Vista Social Club and make some classic daiquiris.

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My Inherited Love of Cabbage

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

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I preformed in one play in my life. And in that one play, I was given one line. That line could not have been better assigned to any student in the entire 3rd grade.

Cabbage… I love Cabbage!

– Whitney Otawka, as said in the 1987 stage performance of the Elf and the Shoemaker preformed at Maple Elementary School in Fontana California

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It is no surprise that the foods we love and crave are foods that take us somewhere. That place can be a childhood memory, the comforts of home, or defining moments in our lives. For me, cabbage is a tie to my family history and the mysterious and untraceable roots of the Otawka’s. There is only one item that I inherited over time that links me to my surname and that is my copy of “The Anniversary Slovak-American Cookbook” published in 1952. My mother was given this cookbook by my paternal great-grandmother who was, I have been told, an amazing cook. She was born in Hungary in 1885 and lovingly referred to a Bubba. I never met her, nor did I know my grandmother, but I share in their love of cabbage, sour cream, paprika, and dumplings. Christmas is not Christmas with out nut roll (kolacky) and as a child I looked forward to the white and pink wafers know as oplatky that would arrive in the mail wrapped in a palm leaf every Easter. These are small ties to a small family that I do not know well, but there is one thing I can be certain of and that is our love of cabbage.

So today I start with the beginnings, a classic comfort food, cabbage and noodles. It is inexpensive and extremely easy to make. We are fortunate to still have some chanterelles popping up here on Cumberland so I have included them for a little extra layer of flavor.

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Cabbage & Noodles with Chanterelle Mushrooms

2 heads savoy cabbage
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
3½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
2 cups chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned
1 clove garlic, minced
1- 12 oz package of medium egg noodles

For the cabbage, cut each head into four equal pieces. Using the larger side of a box grater, grate all of the cabbage. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add in 6 tablespoon of butter. Add in the cabbage and reduce heat to low. Slowly cook the cabbage for about 30 minuets, stirring frequently. Do not let the cabbage brown. Halfway through the cooking time add in 2 tablespoons butter, salt, and paprika. Set aside.

In a large pot bring 3 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Add in egg noodles and cook for recommend length of time, around 7-8 minuets. Strain the noodles from the water and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter. While the noodles are cooking heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sauté pan. Add in garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add in chanterelle mushrooms. Sauté until cooked through, around 3 minuets. Season with kosher salt.

To plate, toss the cabbage and chanterelle mushrooms with the noodles in a large bowl. Share with your loved one!


 

Comfort Me with Chicken Soup

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

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It is that time of year when the weather begins to change. Here in the South it is a very slight change, but very much needed. The humidity lifts its damp cloak and the air becomes just a little more crisp. That ever so slight change has me craving stews, soups, and braised meats. My brain goes into overdrive and I start planning fall menus and anticipating the first harvest of root vegetables.

To jump into the fall season this week I share an all time, much loved comfort food, chicken & rice soup. This is a soup for beginners, one that I promise will stay in your recipe book and accumulate splashes and stains from heavy use. When I am sick this is what I want to eat more than anything and Ben is always there to make it for me.

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Chicken and Rice Soup

Yields around 3.5 qt.

1 teaspoon olive oil
3 ribs of celery, small diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and small diced
1 medium white onion, small diced
2 clove of peeled garlic, small diced
5 chicken thighs
1 bay leaf
2.5 qts chicken stock
2 cups cooked white rice
½ bunch of parsley, minced
2 tablespoon kosher salt

Begin by seasoning the chicken thighs with 2 teaspoons of the salt and set aside. Heat a mid sized soup pot over medium heat, when hot add in the olive oil. Add in the chicken, skin side down and cook until the skin is crispy and golden brown. Flip the chicken over and cook for two minutes longer. Remove chicken from the pot and place on a plate and set aside. Pour out the oil in the pot and discard. Place pot back on the stove and add in the celery, carrot, onion, and garlic. Cook over low heat until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the chicken stock, bay leaf, and chicken thighs. Bring mixture to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce heat to low. Cook the chicken until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool slightly, pull the meat away from the bones, and chop into smaller pieces, discard the skin and bones. Add the chicken meat, cooked rice, parsley, and remaining salt to the pot, and stir together. Taste for seasoning. Grab a bowl of soup, a few crackers, and a fleece blanket. Put on your favorite movie and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Chicken Tinga Tostada with Avocado, Radish, & Lime

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

IMG_4087I am here to state my case for tostada’s. For those of of you that are unfamiliar   Wikipedia states

Tostada is a Spanish word meaning “toasted”. In Mexico and other parts of Latin America, it is the name of various local dishes which are toasted or use a toasted ingredient as the main base of their preparation. Even though the tortilla is generally fried, the meaning sticks with it.

It is basically a flat crispy taco. How can you go wrong with that? In my opinion you get more for your money, you can pile a tostada high and never worry about it ripping through the tortilla or what some call the “squeeze” when you take a bite of the taco and the fillings push through the other side and falls on the ground. Anything you put on a taco, you can arguably put on a tostada.

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Chicken Tinga is a dish original to Peubla, Mexico and is a perfect topping for tostadas. I piled my tostada this week with tinga, avocado, lettuce, radish, cheese, and lime juice. Have fun with it, try a veggie version with the black bean recipe or top it with the shrimp pico de gallo. Its perfect for a casual meal with friends… and don’t forget the tequila!

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Chicken Tinga

yields 3 cups or enough for 8 tostadas

6 chicken thighs
2 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½  teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 medium sized tomatoes
¼ of a white onion
3 garlic cloves
1 individual canned chipotle pepper, I like Embasa brand
1 dried avocado leaf, these can be found at most Mexican grocery stores
1 dried bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 cup chicken stock

Begin by seasoning the chicken thighs with the salt, cumin, and black pepper. Set aside. Char the tomatoes and onion over a direct flame until the skin has become charred and burnt in some places and soft in the middle. Peel the skin off of the onion and place in a blender with the tomatoes. Lightly char the garlic and remove the skin, place in the blender along with the chipotle pepper. Puree the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and chipotle until smooth. You should have around 2 ½ cups of puree.

Place a medium sized pot over medium heat and add in 1 tablespoon olive oil. When oil is hot add in the chicken thighs, skin side down. Cook until the skin is crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a plate. Pour the tomato puree into the pot and fry in the oil. Be careful some the puree might splash up when it’s added to the hot oil. Cook this mixture while stirring frequently until it has darkened in color and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Add in the avocado leaf, bay leaf, and Mexican oregano, and chicken stock. Bring mixture to a simmer and add in the chicken thighs. Cover pot with a lid, adjust the heat to low, and simmer the chicken until it is very tender, about 35 minutes.

Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Allow the tinga sauce to continue to simmer on low while you prepare the chicken. Remove the skin from the chicken and finely chop it, place back in the pot. Pull the meat off the chicken and shred with your fingers or a fork; place the meat back in the pot. Cook the tinga for another 10 minutes on low heat, remove the avocado and bay leaves and its ready to serve. This can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Chicken Tinga Tostadas

8 corn tortillas
3 cups canola oil
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups finely grated Mexican cheese
2 sliced avocados
4 thinly sliced radish
½ cup sour cream

In a medium saucepot heat the oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. When oil is ready add in 1 tortilla, using a large round spoon or ladle hold the tortilla under the oil to fry until it becomes golden brown and crispy, about 1 ½ minutes. Carefully remove the tortilla and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all tortillas are fried.

To assemble, place about ½ cup of the chicken tinga on a tostada shell, add as much lettuce, cheese, avocado, radish, and sour cream as you care to have. Serve with tequilla and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Sticky Fingers

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

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Its been a weekend of BBQ indulgence. As some of you many know I am engaged to a southern man and he just happens to come from a BBQ family. This past weekend we were in Washington, Georgia to celebrate his families 91st consecutive family reunion, one that is celebrated by cooking pork long and slow over hot coals on a humid August day. You get in line and you get pulled pork, slaw, stew, white bread, and sweet tea. “Seasoning” or bbq sauce is in a squeeze bottle on the table and dessert is in its own special room with the finest caramel cake, ambrosia, and banana pudding you will ever see. To say the least, I do not do much talking. I eat. I eat very well. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a few pictures from the weekend.

I did not know much about BBQ before moving to the South but I am happy to say I  have been a willing and eager student. This week’s recipe is  baby back ribs with a chipotle honey sauce. Its designed for the home cook, as any pit master would scoff at oven braising,  but it combines a little indoor cooking with a little outdoor cooking making for the right amount of  smoke, flavor, and bbq to help budding pit masters find their way.

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Barbecued Ribs with Honey-Chipotle

2 racks of pork baby back ribs
1 cup chicken stock
BBQ Spice Rub
Honey- Chipotle BBQ Sauce
About 2 cups of soaked hickory wood chips

BBQ Spice Rub

Yields 5 tablespoons or enough for 2 racks of ribs

2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. Will keep for up to a month.

Honey-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Yields about 1.5 cups

¼ medium white onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, diced
1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil
1 chipotle pepper, plus about 1 teaspoon worth of the adobo sauce from the can (I recommend Embasa brand)
¾ cup ketchup
¼ cup worcestershire sauce
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
pinch of salt

In a small saucepot, heat the bacon fat or olive oil over low heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Place mixture into a blender and add remaining ingredients, puree until smooth. Pour mixture back into the saucepot and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste the barbecue sauce and adjust with more honey (for sweetness) or chipotle (for heat) to your preference.

To Prepare the Ribs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Season both of the racks of ribs with all of the BBQ rub. If you have time, season the night before to allow the spices and salt to penetrate into the meat, if not season them at least 1 hour before cooking. Place ribs into a pan that allows them to lie flat next to one another and that is at least 2 inches deep. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and pour into the pan with the ribs. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven, discard the foil and let cool at room temperature. When cool enough to handle remove ribs from pan and brush with the Honey-Chipotle BBQ sauce using as little or as much as you would like. I recommend about ½ cup of sauce per rack.

Prepare a charcoal grill. Burn the charcoal down until it begins to turn white, about 30 minutes or so. Scatter the soaked wood chips over the coals, and place the ribs on the grill grates. Close all grill vents to trap as much of the smoke as possible. Cook the ribs for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the ribs from the grill as to not let them fall apart. Serve and enjoy.

Here are a few pictures from this weekends BBQ!

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Ratatouille for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

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My inspiration for this recipe comes from two distinct places.

1. Bread. I love bread. I love good bread. I do not have a large family and when dealing with really good bread from a good bakery you have a small window of time in which to eat the bread. 2 days, maybe 3 and its time to make croutons. I wanted to make recipe that makes meal out of beautiful bread.

2. RATATOUILLE! Clearly the title of this post gives away my second reason. The first time I met Ratatouille, I was introduced by Chef Eric Leroy. Eric was the Chef and Owner of Toutatis in Oakland California. It was my very first restaurant job. A true gem. Eric was from Toulouse France and cooked Brittany style galettes (savory crepes made from buckwheat flour) and sweet crepes. I was the second person in a two man kitchen. Eric cooked family recipes, one of which was ratatouille. The galette was called La Baline. It had melted gruyere cheese and a sunny up egg, the crispy buckwheat flower galette was folded into a triangle, brushed with butter and toped with ratatouille. Ratatouille to the likes I have never seen done better. It was more of a stew, not badly chopped up sad looking vegetables (look up ratatouille images on google to see what I mean). I do my best to recreate what I saw so many years ago, but all I have is my memories to work from. I owe so much of what I know about cooking to Eric.

This dish is worthy of being served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The ratatouille takes a little time, but its well worth the effort. Its perfectly in season in the South right now.

Ratatouille

Yields 4 cups

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 small bell peppers* (around 1 cup) deseeded finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large eggplant, small diced
1 zucchini (around 1 ½ cups), small diced
2 cups fresh tomatoes, small diced
1 ½ cups tomato juice
½ teaspoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

In a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium- low heat. Add in onion and sweat down for two minutes. Add in bell peppers. Saute for 4-5 minutes until fully sweated down, being careful not to brown. Add in garlic and sauté 1 more minute. Remove onion mix from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Place the pan over medium heat and add 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in eggplant. Make sure the pan is large enough for the eggplant to be a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in zucchini and sauté 5 minutes. Add in tomatoes. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add in tomato juice, paprika, salt, and thyme. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.Can be cooled and said for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner Ratatouille For One

1 thick slice of bread
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
1 basil leaf torn
Ratatouille, as much or as little as you like

In a pan heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add slice of bread. Heat until golden brown, flip and repeat. Set aside on a plate. Heat cast iron pan or non stick pan over medium low heat with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Add egg and cook to sunny up, around 4 minuets.

To plate spoon warmed ratatouille over bread. Top with sunny up egg and torn basil. Finish with a little drizzle of olive oil.

Bon Appetit!