I♥CC: Welcome Madhur Jaffrey!-“Indian-style” Scrambled Eggs~

30 09 2012

I am an Indian Cuisine novice.  A newborn.  Somewhat nervous about the new world I’m about to embark on.  I’ve never tasted official “Indian Cuisine.”  Most of the seasonings are familiar either on their own, or in other combinations, with a few exceptions…cardamom is new to me, as is fennugreek.  I’m not used to combining cinnamon and cloves in my savory dishes…nor am I used to such spiciness… But…I know how to add the heat factor slowly up to the recommendation in the recipe.  So, I’m game.  I♥CC has voted to cook with Madhur Jaffrey for the next 6 month term.   I’m doing the “I-think-I-can” chant in my head, but…I’m GAME!

I selected “Indian-Style Scrambled Eggs”  from the cookbook above as my first recipe.  The recipe is on page 64.  Ms. Jaffrey recommends doing the mise en place first…because once you get started, it goes pretty fast.  And she’s right.  The eggs go together VERY quickly!  Start the toast before the eggs…  You are merely moments from this stage…

…and this stage, about midway through the process.  You just want a nice, soft curd…scrambled eggs continue to cook for about a minute after they come off the stove if they aren’t immediately removed from the pan.  I turned the eggs just a bit more before I added the tomato and cilantro (coriander leaf).  These are flavors I’m familiar with. I’ve eaten the combination before in Mexican food.  This was a good choice.

I did make one ingredient change… When I got ready to cook, I realized I didn’t have any mushrooms on hand.  So, I thought about what I did have that would add bulk without a lot of flavor…that would take on the other flavors…that had a bit of moisture without becoming soggy…and I settled on a baby zucchini.

This got a thumbs up from both of us.  We found the cumin (which we like to start with) was quite interesting…  I’m getting braver now.  I’ve even selected a couple recipes to work on in the weeks to come.  In the meanwhile, these eggs are going to have to make another appearance with some kind of Indian bread… Mmmmmm!


I♥CC-Adios y Gracias Rick Bayless: Acupulco-Style Shrimp Cocktail~

29 09 2012

It’s time to bid farewell to our chef of the last 6 months, Rick Bayless at I♥CC…  While I didn’t take the whole ride, it was quite an experience to get to know this chef’s recipes better.  I didn’t start out a Rick Bayless fan…but I ended as one.  I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Rick’s style, and not just his efforts to share an accurate regional representation.  My favorite Mexican cookbook will never change, but it will be accented by Rick’s recipes now.  I’ll reach for his cook books again and again, because there are so many MORE recipes I’m dying to try!!

My recipe selection from Rick’s vast compendium of recipes was his Acupulco-Style Shrimp Cocktail

Rick’s Acupulco-Style Shrimp Cocktail~
Coctel de Camarones, estilo Acapulco

Makes 4 cups, serving 4 to 6
Recipe from Season 3 of Mexico – One Plate at a Time

1 pound cooked shrimp
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup ketchup
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce (Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce is delicious here)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped cilantro, plus a few springs for garnish
1 ripe avocado

Of course, there must be a story to go along with the dish…  I had picked up a bag of cooked and frozen shrimp quite by accident.  This recipe called for 1 pound cooked shrimp…this should be okay then…maybe a little off texturally, but still plenty tasty!  The sauce was soooo good!!  Enough chili bite and enough lime…and it’s very, very close to one of my signature appetizer dishes.  I thawed and rinsed the shrimp, stirred it all together and added the shrimp cocktail as a starter for a steak dinner for two.

Evidently, not only did I accidentally buy precooked shrimp, I also bought an off brand.  While the sauce was absolutely divine, the shrimp had an overpowering old seafood taste…  I was crushed.  While it looks lovely, and the sauce is fabulous, the shrimp were the deal killer.  Rick’s incredibly flavorful sauce ALMOST saved the dish…but I just can’t do icky fish or seafood.

I’ll be making this again, as soon as I can lay my hands on FRESH shrimp!!

Thank you all for sharing your dishes these past months.  I love the opportunity to see and hear how others’ dishes came out during my participation time.  I’m anxious about Indian cuisine…nervous and excited by turn.  I’m hoping to play along (it’s going to require more pre-planning on my part…that could get difficult!) for the whole 6 months and I’m trying to draft a friend who loves Indian to cook with me.  I’m looking forward to the new experience, and I have my cookbooks ready to go!

Food-n-Flix: It’s Complicated…Chile Rellenos~

22 09 2012

Our featured flick at Food ‘n Flix for September has been It’s Complicated.   I had a hard time deciding what to prepare, when it dawned on me that I’d used this exact phrase to describe the preparation method for Chile Rellenos.  A friend had asked me if it was “hard” to make them, and my reply was, “No…but it’s complicated…”  And when you think about it…spicy, sexy, enchanting…the movie and the food work well together.

This was kind of a typical post-first-marriage chick flick…  I can understand (up to a point) why a woman whose spouse had abandoned her and their children for a younger woman might entertain some fairy tale-romantic dreams of recapturing what they’d once had…  I think I felt badly for her, putting herself in that position of still feeling that “need” somehow…  I may be a little harsh in that regard, but I didn’t get my opinion from a box of Cracker Jacks…there’s some history there.   Regardless…this is where the chiles fit in for me.  This is a volatile situation…and it could become combustible…just like biting into an unknown chile!  Ever done that?

I have to admit that I love her kitchen.  Mine is so incredibly (space saving) tiny!  I realize this is totally impractical…it works well for film, but running from one end to the other gets OLD!  *Ü*

I would seriously love to see red tomatoes in my garden too….  The weather has been really off the past couple of years, and tomatoes just aren’t on schedule the way they should be.  My plants look this good, but there are only a few tomatoes trying to set.  Every time we’d get a flush of flowers, it would get HOT and the blossoms would drop.  Now that Fall is HERE (we still had high 90’s weather last weekend) we’ll get tomatoes, peppers and other goodies to finally set fruit.  What an incredible job to have!!

We whip up a little mischief in Life by having an affair with the ex-husband (Alec Baldwin), Fate delivers a new version of Mr. Right (Steve Martin) and Meryl Streep finds herself sitting in a hot frying pan.

Fortunately, our protagonist eventually sees the situation for what it is…and extracts herself from the whole mess.  We’re left with Mr. Right and Ms. Complicated walking off screen to share a cup of tea…  Not my favorite movie… I guess I’m not a big romance-flick kind of gal.  I tend to face Life pretty much head on, and shake my head in disbelief at romance books and movies.  Not that I don’t love a beautiful love story… *Ü*  Still…it’s fun to check on some movies I’ve never seen!

Back in the kitchen, we took some of those red, ripe tomatoes and diced them with some onion and a bit of seeded fresh jalapeno, then tossed that in a saute pan with some garlic and a little oil.  Set this little salsa aside until you plate your chiles, but do make it now as your attention is going to be on your chiles for awhile.  Add salt as needed to taste and add cilantro just before you spoon it onto the cooked chile rellenos.  Couldn’t be easier!  But the chiles part…that’s what’s complicated.

Can you make meringue?  Then you can make chile rellenos.  Egg whites will whip up high and light religiously if you are equally as religious about washing the mixing bowl and the whisk, whip, or beaters with hot soapy water just before using them.  When you separate your eggs, use 3 small bowls…one to crack the egg over to separate the eggs: this bowl will be the first catch basin for your egg white.  If you are successful at separating the egg without breaking the yolk, transfer the egg white to the mixer bowl.  If you do break an egg yolk, you haven’t lost your whole mixer of egg whites…just that from the one egg.  If you break the yolk, pour the whole egg into your yolk-bowl.  The extra whites won’t matter there so much.  Stop and wash the bowl you’re cracking eggs and separating them into.  There will be traces of egg yolk left in there if you don’t.  See what I mean?  It’s not hard…but it’s complicated… *giggle*

I use 3 eggs (separated), for 4-6 fire roasted (Part of the enchantment of this recipe is the freshness of the dish…fresh, fire roasted, gently…so only the skin is blackened, not the flesh, is best.  This will yield a pepper with a bit of crunch and an incredible flavor.  However, all things considered, yes, canned will work fine, but the flavor and texture won’t be the same.) poblano peppers filled with Monterey jack cheese.  I cut my cheese into triangles about 1/2 inch thick and fill each chile pepper with a triangular hunk of cheese.  This slows the melting a little bit, giving the batter time to cook all the way through.  I like to keep a bit of the stem on my chiles to promote batter dipping.  It makes a great little handle.  Once the peppers are filled, set them aside while you prepare the egg batter.  Whip the egg whites until high and light, but not dry.  Move to the egg yolks and beat until fluffy and lemon colored.  Season with salt and fold the egg yolks into the egg whites.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat with about 1/4-1/2 inch of vegetable oil in it.  Dust the filled chiles with flour and dip into the egg batter and coat thoroughly.  Lay into the hot pan and repeat, filling the pan without crowding the chiles.  If possible, keep track of the opening where you inserted the cheese and lay the chile on that side to cook first.   Reduce heat if necessary to keep from scorching the eggs.  Turn the chiles when nicely browned and the egg “fluff” has set somewhat.  Once in awhile, you’ll need to make an additional third turn if you have a blocky pepper.

Remove the chiles from the pan and let drain briefly on paper.  If you have to cook another pan full, keep these warm in a 140° oven until all servings are ready.  Plate your rellenos, top with warm salsa and serve with a dollop of Mexican Crema (or sour cream) and hot sauce if you like.

I love chile rellenos.  I’ve been making them so long…They’re my favorite Sunday brunch food.  Then it’s time for a nap.  Or a good movie.  Or both.  Maybe we’ll have to amend that to Saturday brunch…


Thank you France at Beyond the Peel for being our hostess this month!  It was fun!  I can’t wait to see what decadent things everyone has been making!

I♥CC: What’s in your lunch box a la Rick Bayless-Sopes~

20 09 2012

As we near the end of our time at the apron strings of Rick Bayless, I♥CC has selected “What’s in your lunch box?” as our theme of the week.  I don’t carry a lunch box very often these days, but this one is similar to one I carried to school back in the…oh, nevermind…  These days I scoot home because I live close enough and have an hour for lunch.  It’s not unusual for me to toss together a few things left from dinner the previous night, so sopes filled with leftover Beef Short Ribs with Tomatoes, Roasted Poblanos and Herbs (page 278 of Mexico: One Plate at at Time), wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination.

I’m learning to love sopes.  I picked up a package when I visited the local Mexican market the other day and tried them again.  I’ve not been quite sure how to prepare them until I recently read one of Rick Bayless’ recipes about sopes.   What a fun little masa boat to float goodies onto your plate!  The first time I fixed them, I filled them with the a beef and potato filling that was a play off of the Pork and Potatoes taco filling I made a couple weeks back.  This time, I created a beef filling adapted from Rick’s Beef Short Ribs with Tomatoes, Roasted Poblanos and Herbs, using beef chuck rather than short ribs.  I knew I was going to want filling for various “antojitos” for the rest of the week, and this recipe was perfect for that.  Slow cooked beef and roasted poblanos were enough for me, but I swapped out the short ribs (availability) for beef chuck chunks.

Fry the prepared but unfilled sopes in hot oil and fill the center with hot oil to cook as well.  Carefully tipping the pan to one side to pool the hot oil just a bit helps.  Fill the “well” in the center with a small spoonful of refried beans to act as food-glue, then spoon in your meat mixture, top with a bit of cheese, your favorite salsa, a dollop of sour cream or crema if your heart desires, and perk it all up with a squeeze of fresh lime.  Eat either out of hand or with knife and fork.

I didn’t look to Rick for a salsa recipe…  I’ve been making fresh salsa for so long, I just reach in the fridge and work with what’s available.  Rick’s recipe for Late Summer Salsa Mexicana is pretty darn close to what I do off the top of my head.

While one filled sope is just about enough for lunch, these little boats sail right on toward sunset to greet us at the dinner hour just as well.  Add sides of rice and beans, a salad if you like, and you have a full meal that is really filling.  We really enjoyed the recipe for the meat (I did everything else the same).  We’re very fond of poblano chiles to start with.  Mexican food has worked really well for us as we tend to eat Mexican style several times a week. I often cook a pot of some meat on the weekend that will fill in a few nights for us through the week.  Kind of pre-planned fast (home-cooked) food!  This has a nice, well-rounded flavor without being overly spicy.   I’m going to miss that fun pairing of our habits and our chef next month!

IHCC: Dia de Independencia-Celebrating with Seafood Stew~

15 09 2012

We are celebrating Mexican Independence with Rick Bayless this week in the world of  IHCC.  So we’ll be preparing some special dishes…party fare…

As I was scanning through MEXICO–ONE PLATE AT A TIME WITH RICK BAYLESS, I ran across a recipe for Seafood Stew…and it sounded perfect for what my mouth was wanting.  You see…I knew I had squid tubes in the freezer, and I had a 1 pound bag of “Marinara Seafood”, and I almost always have frozen shrimp of one kind or another…and the bag of mixed seafood had been calling to me all week.  My mind went to Mexican Ciopinno in about point 2 seconds.  Except, if you follow the link, you’ll see this recipe is NOW called Red Chile Seafood Soup…  Which made a lot more sense with the result I ended up with.

I’ll say it…I didn’t care for this as a “stew” at all.  To me, a stew has a rich, gravy-like “broth.”  I about panicked when I saw how thin the “stew” was…it was so very soup-like!   My mouth was all set for some serious depth of flavor, and this certainly didn’t have that.  It did have a light, delicate  flavor…almost too delicate.  There was a definite fishiness in my dish, as I used frozen products.  There just aren’t many sources of fresh seafood where I am.  We both felt it needed more tomato, and even though I added 1 tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot (to half a recipe), it wasn’t quite enough.  Even for soup.

Having said all that, what this has accomplished is I still have a yen for a Mexican style “cioppino” dish.  Therefore it will be back to the stove top to play a bit and see what I can come up with from this inspiration.  If I had time and the ingredients, I’d give serious thought to going back at it my way!

Which is not to say this didn’t have merit…it does.  My tomatoes might have weighed out differently bulk-wise.  I used a 16 ounce jar of canned, home-grown tomatoes (to a half recipe), which is usually enough, but…  I was skeptical that I’d cooked the tomato down long enough.  The directions called for med-high heat, which reduced the sauce quickly,  however I found med-high to be too high to reduce the tomato without scorching it.  I was fairly pleased with the appearance and flavor of that sauce before the calamari stock was added.  Thinking of this as a soup, rather than a stew, makes a lot of difference too.  I’d have added toasted shredded tortillas as a garnish, and maybe even have dusted it with some cheese.  Then, the cilantro.  But that’s okay Rick.  The inspiration is so tremendously appreciated!

IHCC: Going RED with Rick Bayless-Salsa and Pork with Potato Taco Filling~

7 09 2012

My selection for IHCC’sEsta Rojo” theme of the week is Rick Bayless’ Essential Chopped Tomato-Serrano Salsa .  Mine was made with jalapenos, rather than serranos as I wanted a nice chile flavor, but not as much heat.  My jalapenos are “gringo” perfect…lots of fruity chile taste without quite as much fire.   We have salsa, but we need something to put it on…must be time for tacos!

This tasty little concoction is Guajillo Spiked Pork and Potato Tacos filling.  Well…almost.  Last week I made the Shredded Beef Soft Tacos from Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures.  I had quite a bit of liquid left, and it smelled too wonderful to do anything other than save for something special…I was thinking soup…  However, it looked perfect for the half recipe of pork and potatoes I was putting together, so I went with what I had.  I had used guajillo peppers in my shredded beef, so we were still right on track.

Mmmm…. A little cheese, a few hot tortillas, a swipe of crema, fresh salsa…it’s hard to eat better than this.  It says the recipe is better a day or so later… I’ll have to get back to you on that!  I can say that we didn’t notice the potato wasn’t a piece of the meat, as it absorbed a lot of the flavor…even though I used russet potatoes rather than red potatoes.

IHCC: Rick Bayless Out(side) of Mexico-Going Thai~

1 09 2012

This week IHCC is cooking Rick Bayless OUT of Mexico! We’re traveling abroad with Mr. Bayless and his daughter, Lanie, to the various corners of the world…we’ll be disembarking in Southeast Asia, visiting Vietnam and Thailand. The recommended source for Rick Bayless recipes from around the world is Rick & Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventure.  It’s filled with recipes from Mexico to Spain, Asia, and France to name a few places.  The tales of their adventures are pretty fun too!

I’m sometimes amazed at how close the various cultures are culinarily.  Mexican food uses cilantro and chiles.  Thai food uses cilantro and chiles.  The chiles of the area may be different, but the end result is the same…to bring a little (or a lot of) zip to our foods!  Chinese food uses cilantro (Chinese Parsley) and chiles (Szechuan), and Indian cuisine uses chiles and the seeds of cilantro, known as coriander.   If you have a few key ingredients you can cook globally almost any time.  So, stepping off to Thailand-in-my-kitchen was faster than the flight!

My first choice was Rick and Lanie’s Street Vendor Pad Thai, as pictured above.   I had to make a couple changes…I didn’t have Thai pickled radish or Daikon to make my own, so that was left out.  Since I already have palm sugar and Thai Bird chiles in the house, I used those (to taste) instead of brown sugar and chile flakes.  And then…I have tamarind pulp in my refrigerator, so I used that instead of making my own.  Aside from all that….*giggle*  It’s the same.

I’m not quite good enough to be able to mix my sauce in the pan…I still need to cook it on the side until I get the flavors right…and I’m getting there! Practice makes perfect, and this is an incredibly quick and easy “fast food” fix after working all day. Still…this isn’t as close to Rick and Lanie’s recipe…so I’m going to submit Peanut Dipping Sauce!

I can’t even say the Salad Rolls or Spring Rolls bear more than a vague resemblance to Rick and Lanie’s. They’re both wrapped in rice paper wrappers, is that close enough? I stuck pretty darn close to the recipe for the Peanut Dipping Sauce for their Salad Rolls. You can find the recipe in an inset on page 189 accompanying the recipe for Vietnamese Rice-Paper Wrapped Salad Rolls.

I used “natural” peanut butter and Sriracha to bring up the heat a little, and we loved this. It’s very close to what I watched a co-worker who is Hmong, make at work when she brought salad rolls for a pot luck. I had no idea it was so easy! LOL! Seriously…this is really great made with the bottom 1/4 jar of a jar of peanut butter. It mixes well in the jar and you have a place to store the extra built in. Salad rolls are a seasonal favorite here. Just about any leftover meat can be finely minced and incorporated, and it’s a good use for the rest of those bean sprouts!

We’re quite delighted with this new addition to our (incredibly LARGE) cookbook library!  I confess…I’m hooked on Bayless!!