Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chicken Tinga Tostadas

Chicken tinga is a traditional Mexican recipe that was taught to me by two friends that I met while living in Virginia. They loved this recipe and made it quite often since moving to the U.S. from an area near Acapulco, Mexico. This is a quick and easy recipe that delivers big authentic Mexican flavors. This recipe is made by first poaching 3-4 bone-in chicken breasts with the skin removed in chicken broth with a mixture of 1 chopped onion, 4 chopped tomatoes, garlic, and oregano.

When the chicken is cooked all the way through it is removed from the broth, shredded and set aside. The broth mixture goes into a blender with a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The amount of chipotles you put in is up to your own personal taste. The broth mixture gets well blended and then poured into a pan.

The chicken and the chipotle sauce are combined and brought to a simmer on the stove. Once some of the liquid has evaporated and the chicken mixture has thickened it is ready to serve.
I serve chicken tinga on a warm tostada with onion, cilantro, queso fresco, sour cream, avocado, and a lime wedge. It is also equally delicious if you choose to serve it as a filling for tacos or burritos as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Red Velvet Cake

For Valentines day I made my wife a red velvet cake. I am not much of a baker but I tried. I used the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I made 2- 9" round pans and cut the two cakes into separate layers to create a four layer cake. The only adaptation I made to the recipe is that I added a couple thin layers of dark chocolate truffle while I was putting together the layers. This was an easy recipe and it turned out great. I will make it again for another special occasion.
Red Waldorf Cake
Prep: 45 minutes Bake: 30 minutes Cool: 1 hour Stand: 1 hour
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring (1/4 cup)
2-1/4 cups sifted cake flour or 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 recipe Creamy Frosting
1. Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease and flour two 9x1-1/2-inch round cake pans or one 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Set pan(s) aside. In a small bowl stir together cocoa powder and food coloring; set aside. In another small bowl stir together flour and salt; set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla to shortening; beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on medium speed after each addition until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating on low to medium speed after each addition just until combined. Stir together baking soda and vinegar. Add to batter, mixing until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan(s).
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, about 30 minutes for 13x9x2-inch pan, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cake layers from pans; cool thoroughly on wire racks. Or, place the 13x9x2-inch cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly. Frost with Cream cheese Frosting. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
4. Makes 12 servings
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Monday, February 16, 2009

Green Curry Chicken

If you are looking for huge complex flavors in a simple to prepare dish, curries are a great place to start. Here is a taste of the green curry that I made. I used a canned green curry paste as my base and its primary ingredients are ground green chiles, shallots, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. The heat of this dish can be altered to taste based on the amount of curry paste you wish to add. We prefer ours a little spicy so we use a ratio of 4 teaspoons of curry paste to 1 can of coconut milk.

My ingredients were sliced chicken breast, red onion, red, orange, yellow, and green bell pepper, baby eggplants, Thai eggplants, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, Thai basil, lime, green curry paste, chicken broth, and coconut milk. Perhaps the hardest to find ingredient in the list is the lime leaves but they are worth a trip to an Asian supermarket. They have an intense citrusy lime aroma that is hard to compare.

I started by simply stir frying all the vegetables in a very hot wok until they began to soften. Then a couple teaspoons of the curry paste and all the other aromatics such as lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves go into the wok. Heating the curry paste up with the vegetables will give it a chance warm up and bloom its flavor a little bit.

Next we add the chicken broth, coconut milk, basil and cilantro. Once this mixture comes to a simmer we add the sliced chicken breast allow it to poach in the liquid until it is done. The lemongrass stalks can be removed from the mixture and a fresh sprinkle of basil and cilantro can be tossed in to finish the dish. I served it with lime wedges and a fresh scoop of rice from the rice cooker.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pad See Ew

Last weekend I took a trip to the Asian supermarket. I found some great ingredients that will keep me cooking for a while. I brought home some Chinese broccoli, baby bok choy, Thai eggplants, Thai basil, lemongrass, baby purple eggplants, fresh bamboo shoots, fresh bean sprouts, fresh rice noodles, green and red curry pastes, coconut milk, garlic-chili sauce, and dark sweet soy sauce.

I decided the first dish I would put together would be Pad See Ew. Literally translated it means "fried with soy sauce." It is a stir fried rice noodle dish that is popular both as street vendor food in Thailand, and as a traditional Thai restaurant staple here in the United States. The basic ingredients are fresh sheets of rice noodles, Chinese broccoli, garlic, eggs, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and chicken or pork. It is a process similar to making fried rice. It can be made all at the same time in your wok or in a series of steps. I prefer to cook each ingredient separately at first and set it aside as I go so that I can make sure each is cooked the way I want it.

<---I start making the sauce by sauteing garlic in toasted sesame oil. To that I add a few tablespoons each of light and dark soy sauce, and oyster sauce. I bring it to a boil and then taste for seasoning. I usually add about a tablespoon of sugar to lighten up the taste a little bit.

The chicken, Chinese broccoli, and rice noodles take their turns getting stir fried in sesame oil.

Once the chicken, Chinese broccoli, and rice noodles have been stir fried we can assemble the dish. Everything gets tossed back into the hot wok along with the sauce. I make a opening in the bottom of the wok to add an egg. The egg gets scrambled in the wok and mixed in with the rest of the ingredients. You have to work everything together as fast as you can as the noodles will begin to soak up the sauce and the mixture will begin to thicken up quickly.
Here is the finished product. It is served with traditional Thai condiments such as sriracha (ground chili and garlic sauce).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Italian Beef Sandwiches

During my time in Chicago I was introduced to something that is as Chicago as the hotdog is but without the same notoriety. I am talking about the classic Italian beef sandwich. It can be found at corner hot dog huts and sandwich stands across the city. The first names that usually come to mind are Portillos or Al's #1 Italian Beef. Both of these companies have multiple locations across the Chicagoland area. The idea for the sandwich is quite simple really. It consists of very thinly sliced roast beef that is soaked in a rich beef stock that is heavily seasoned with Italian spices. The meat is piled high on fresh Italian buns. Toppings are optional and are limited to cheese and a choice of peppers (sweet bell or hot giardenara).

My choice cut of beef for this recipe is the eye of round roast. Its a little leaner than some of the other options and if you prepare it properly it makes great Italian Beef. For this recipe I started with a large 6-1/2 pound roast...I know thats big but hey its Superbowl Sunday!

How Is It Made???

First I rinse and trim the roast of any visible fat. Then the meat gets a light coating of vegetable oil followed by heavy doses of dried oregano, garlic powder, and pepper. I then sprinkle with a very light amount of salt. I give the roast a quick rub to distribute the spices evenly, and its ready for the oven.I put the roast on a rack and into a 475 degree oven for 7 minutes per pound, so 45 minutes total for this bad boy. After 45 minutes, I removed the roast from the rack and placed it in a pan with a few cups of good beef broth. I then insert my digital thermometer, wrap with foil, and return to the oven at 325 degrees. I watched the readout of my thermometer and pulled it out of the oven when it read 125 degrees in the center. I allowed the roast to rest on top of the stove under its foil tent for 30 minutes and the temperature continued to rise until it peaked at 142 degrees in the center, which is perfect for what we needed. The larger the cut of meat the more the temperature will tend to rise after pulling from the oven. I put the pan with the roast and broth into the fridge to chill until we were ready to eat. It is much easier to thinly slice meat once its given a chance to cool. In the meantime I prepared the sweet peppers by steaming green, yellow, and red bell pepper strips in a little bit of reserved beef broth.

C'mon...Lets Eat!

I removed the roast from the fridge and combined the juices from the pan with the juices from the peppers into a large pot and brought just to a boil. I then turned the heat to low. Meanwhile, its time to get out the heavy equipment. There is nothing like using a real meat slicer for when you need to finely shave meat. I have made this recipe by hand before, it just takes a little extra effort and a sharp knife. I thinly sliced the beef and added into the broth mixture to heat back up to temperature as well as soak up some of the flavors in the broth. A toasted Italian roll with provolone cheese is the perfect place to stack this creation. Pile the meat as high as you can and top it with some of the sweet peppers. Authentic Italian beef houses in Chicago will give you the option of having your bun dipped in the "gravy" or what we called the broth. We usually opt to serve the sandwich with a little cup of the broth on the side for dipping. This is big city comfort foot at its finest.