Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Melon Gazpacho


This isn't the first time I've made gazpacho, and it certainly won't be the last. I look forward to making this soup every summer.

Gazpacho:
½ seedless watermelon
½ Santa Claus melon
1 large cucumber
1 large tomato
2 red bell peppers
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1.5 tablespoons salt
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1.5 cups croutons (recipe follows)
Hot sauce to taste (I used Frank’s)

Remove the rind from the watermelon and Santa Claus melon and roughly chop. Peel and deseed the cucumber by cutting it in half lengthwise and using a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Give it a rough chop. Remove the seeds from your tomato, and give it a rough dice. Deseed the peppers and – you guessed it – give it a rough dice. Remove the papery husk from the garlic and dice.

Add all these ingredients to a large bowl along with the vinegar, salt, extra virgin olive oil and croutons. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours.

Add half the contents of the bowl to a blender and blend until you have a smooth soup. Repeat with the second half. Taste and season with salt.

To serve:
Gazpacho
Basil leaves
Black pepper
Prosciutto
Sungold cherry tomatoes, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
Croutons

Ladle some gazpacho in a bowl and garnish with the remaining ingredients.

Croutons:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed but kept whole
5 sprigs thyme
3.5 cups hearty stale bread


Cut bread into ¾” to 1” cubes. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil and the garlic; when the garlic starts to sizzle, add the bread and thyme. Cook until the bread starts to color (5 to 8 minutes? I wasn’t really paying close attention to how long it took, exactly), but be careful not to burn them. Add 1.5 cups to the gazpacho mixture, and reserve 2 cups (let them cool) for serving.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Puerco Pibil


I first heard about Puerco Pibil from director Robert Rodriguez, who featured his recipe on the DVD extras of Once Upon a Time in Mexico (naturally, you can find this online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO8EiScBEjA).

It’s a really fantastic, tangy pulled pork dish with a little bit of kick to it as well. I made a few notable changes to Rodriguez’s recipe: I omitted the tequila (didn’t have any, wasn’t about to buy a bottle for this) as well as the banana leaves. I don’t know if the banana leaves add any flavor, but I suspect they are used as a traditional garnish since in the past this was cooked on coals buried in dirt (pib is Mexican for pit barbecue)

Puerco Pibil:
5 lbs. pork butt, cut into 2-3” cubes
5 tablespoons annatto seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
½ teaspoon whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
2 habanero peppers, deseeded and chopped
½ cup orange juice
½ cup cider vinegar
8 garlic cloves, diced
6 limes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt

Use a spice grinder to grind the annatto seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, cloves and allspice into a powder.

In the container of a blender add the orange juice, cider vinegar, habaneros, diced garlic, brown sugar, salt, spice blend from the grinder and brown sugar. Juice the limes into the mixture as well.

Blend to liquefy, and add the marinade into a large Ziploc bag along with the cubed pork. Toss the bag into the fridge, and marinate for 4 to 6 hours, turning every so often.

Preheat an oven to 325. Add the meat and the marinade to a 9”x13” baking pan and cover with foil. Bake for 3 hours. Remove the pork from the sauce and shred. Serve over rice with some salsa. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Tomatillo Salsa:
6 tomatillos, halved
2 garlic cloves, still in their husks
1 habanero, deseeded
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
½ cup of water (more if needed)
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black peper


Put a pan over medium heat and add the tomatillos, garlic and habanero, and cook, flipping once, until everything starts to get some color on it. Add the tomatillos straight into a blender. Chop the habanero and add it to the blender. Remove the garlic cloves from their papery husks and chop, then add to the blender. Add the cilantro and water (go easy on the water and add more if you think it needs it) and puree. Season with cumin, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Frog Leg Confit with Peach and Mango Salsa



Trying new things is always fun, so when this week’s theme of confit came up, I decided to try frog legs for the first time. Confit is a preservation technique using rendered fat to slowly cook meat. Typically you would use the fat of whatever meat you were preserving, but this wouldn’t really work in this case.

I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of this. It’s not that the recipe is necessarily not working, I just wasn’t a fan of frog legs. They’re not offensive in any way, but they taste like a combinating of fish and chicken, which isn’t really something I’ve been missing all my life.  That, and they were pretty expensive, especially considering the taste.

This is really just my personal preference (or lack thereof), so don’t let this dissuade you from giving frog a chance.

Frog Leg Confit:
Frog legs (I made 1 lb [4 legs] – good for 2 servings)
Duck fat
Rosemary sprig
Garlic clove
Bay leaf
Flour
Egg
Panko bread crumbs
Canola oil

Preheat oven to 275°F. Place the frog legs in a oven safe dish with decently high sides. Pour in melted duck fat to cover the frog legs by 1”. Add in sprig of rosemary, garlic, and bay leaf. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and place in the oven. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender but not falling off the bone.

Remove the legs from the fat and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. You can do this part the night before.

When you are ready to cook the legs, pour enough canola oil into a dutch oven to cover the legs by at least 1”. Heat the oil to 375°F.

Make a breading station by placing flour on a plate, a beaten egg and 1 tbsp of water in a dish, and some panko bread crumbs on a plate. Coat the frog legs with flour, then shake off the excess. Coat the leg with the egg wash, then the panko, shaking off any excess. Repeat with remaining pieces.

Fry the legs for about 2 minutes, until the breading is golden brown. Serve with salsa, arugula, radishes and red-leaf romaine.

Mango-Peach Salsa:
1 very large mango, diced
4 medium peaches, diced
3 small jalapeno peppers, deseeded and diced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 shallots, diced
Lime juice
Salt

Cut everything up that needs to be cut and add to a bowl. Season with lime juice and salt. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving to let the flavors blend together.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

IPA Marinated Skirt Steak with Chimichurri




This week is about cooking with beer. I had a case of Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA and a skirt steak in my freezer, so it seemed like the logical choice to make a South American inspired dish.

A few notes – the skirt steak I used was very thin, so I just cooked it on the stovetop. This recipe would work well with a thicker cut like a flank steak, or even something like London broil. You’ll want to sear a thicker piece of meat on the stove, and then transfer it to the oven to finish. Or you could just grill it, in which case I’m envious of you.

Also, I know what you’re thinking – chimichurri is made with parsley. Well, my parsley is just starting to bloom, but I have tons of arugula and a decent amount of cilantro already sprung up, so that’s what I went with.

Steak:
1 two-pound skirt steak
1 cup India Pale Ale
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lime juice
3 chipotles in adobo, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup diced white onion
2 teaspoons oregano
½ teaspoon black pepper

Mix everything but the steak together in a large Ziploc bag. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the steak, and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove the meat from the marinade, and wipe off any bits that are sticking to it. Salt the meat liberally, and cook on a cast iron skillet over medium-high/high heat, flipping occasionally, until the meat reaches 125-130°F.

Chimichurri:
¼ cup arugula, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup India Pale Ale
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients, whisk well before serving at room temperature. Can be kept refrigerated, tightly covered, for 2 to 3 weeks.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bacon-wrapped Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Poblano Peppers


This was inspired by atomic buffalo turds – an unsavory name for a great appetizer consisting of cream cheese stuffed jalapeno peppers wrapped in bacon. I decided to make these entrée sized, possibly because I had too much Guy Fieri on the brain.

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts
8 oz. cream cheese
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Frank’s hot sauce
½ large white onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tbsp cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
5 to 6 poblano peppers
5 to 6 slices of bacon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While that’s going on, trim your chicken breasts of any excess fat. Place them on a large piece of (food safe) plastic wrap, sprinkle some salt on both sides, then wrap the breasts in plastic wrap, twirling ends and tying them together.

Place the chicken into the boiling water, turn off the heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove from the water, and take off the plastic. Let the chicken cool until you can handle it, and shred the meat with your hands. Add to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, add the onion, celery and garlic to a large pan over medium heat. Sweat for about 5 minutes, adding some salt, and then add to the bowl along with the chicken.

Add the cream and cheddar cheese to the chicken bowl. Add hot sauce (how much? Well how much spice do you want? I just poured in a generous amount), cumin and black pepper. Mix to combine everything with your hands.

For the peppers:
Place an oven rack on the upper part of your oven and set the broiler to low. Place the poblano peppers on a baking sheet and broil, until the skin starts to blister and blacken in spots, then flip and repeat the process. Took me about 5 minutes per side, your mileage will vary depending on your broiler so don’t forget about these!

Once the peppers are done broiling, remove them from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Remove the skin, running the peppers under water (makes it easier). Next, cut a slit down one side (so you can stuff them) and remove all the seeds.

Use a large spoon to stuff the peppers with the filling. Wrap a slice of bacon around each stuffed pepper. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan, and put the peppers on. Bake the peppers in a 400°F oven for 25 minutes, until the bacon is cooked and starts to crisp.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Arroz con Pato Chiclayano - Peruvian Rice with Duck



In Peru they use the native Muscovy ducks, but since I could only get my hands on a Pekin duck here in the states, I used that instead. With the Muscovy, throw in all the duck pieces along with the braising liquid when you get to that step. I held back the breasts in the fridge, since the ones on a Pekin don’t need all that long to cook (especially after being browned). Also, if you are buying a whole duck, I highly recommend you trim the excess skin and render some delicious duck fat in a pan. And make some duck stock with the carcass, because why not.

Rice with Duck: (serves 4; cooking time: about 1 hour 15 minutes all together)
1 large duck, ideally a Muscovy
2 dried aji panca peppers (or guajillo)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
6 large garlic cloves, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup white wine
1 quart water
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup long grain rice

Remove the stems and seeds from the aji panca peppers, and place in a small pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add to a blender and puree.

Cut the legs and breasts off the duck. Brown in a dutch oven over medium heat – I did this in two batches. Pour off excess fat and reserve, but leave some in the pan. Add the onions and pepper, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Add in the ¼ cup of wine, and cook for a minute, until reduced by half. Add in the aji panca puree, and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add the 1 quart of water, the legs of the duck, the red wine vinegar, and the salt/pepper/cumin. Bring to a boil, the simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Reserve the duck breasts in the fridge.

Rinse the rice under cold water. Add the reserved duck fat into a large pan over medium heat. Add the rice and toast for 3 to 4 minutes.

Chop the cilantro, then ladle 1 cup of the broth from the duck pot into a blender, along with the cilantro. Puree. Add back to the pot along with the rice and the duck breasts. Cook for 15 minutes, until the rice is finished. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies




An extremely rich mashup of two recipes:

Brownie Layer:
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1.5 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

Cheesecake Layer:
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Brownie Layer:
Make a double broiler by filling a medium pot halfway up with water and placing a large bowl on top. Turn the heat on to medium, and add in the chocolate and butter. Stir until both have melted, then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Stir in the sugar, then whisk in the eggs one by one. Add in the vanilla. Fold in the flour and salt.

Prepare an 8”x8” baking pan by placing a piece of parchment paper into it with about 1” overhang on all sides. Pour in the brownie mixture.

Cheesecake Layer:
In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla until smooth. Add in the sugar, beating until fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time. Add the cream, then the flour. Pour 2/3 of the mixture over the brownie mixture, and spread even with a rubber spatula.

Place the 2 oz. of chocolate into a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave on low for 10 second intervals until melted. Stir the melted chocolate into the remaining cheesecake mixture. Add the chocolate batter on top of the other cheesecake batter, and swirl with a butter knife.

Bake at 325°F for 35 to 40 minutes, until the edges are puffed and the center is set. Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.