Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Romancing the Tin

Many years ago, before my first child was born, my husband and I visited Northern Italy. As we were young and broke, we backpacked across this romantic region of Italy. Besides the amazing architecture, museums, cathedrals, and breathtaking vistas, we fell in love with Caffarel Gianduia 1865 chocolates, (a sublime mixture of milk chocolate and hazelnuts). In fact, one of a handful of treasures we brought back from Italy, was a tin of these magnificent "boat" shaped confections.

In 1826, Pier Paul Caffarel began making chocolates in an ex-tannery located at the edge of old Turin city centre. In 1852, Caffarel introduced it's new confection, called Givu, meaning "stub" in Piedmontese dialect, which became known as the original Turin Gianduiotto. In 1865, during the Turin Carnival, Gianduia (the masked character that is the official representative of the city) handed out Caffarel Gianduiotti to the spectators. From then on, the character Gianduia became associated with the chocolate; hence, Gianduiotto Caffarel became known as Gianduia 1865. The factory has since relocated to Luserna San Giovanni (the birthplace of Pier Paul Caffarel). Here is a look inside!



So, when I ran across this "Giandua Souffle" recipe, by Giada de Laurentiis, I had to try it! These individual chocolate souffles, made with milk chocolate and hazelnut liqueur, are amazing! You want to know what the best part is? You can make them up to 2 days ahead, before baking! It's no wonder they wound up on my holiday menu! Well, even though my Gianduia tin is empty, I still have it and this treasured recipe! Buon Natale!


Giandua Souffle

Makes 6, 6-ounce ramekins

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/4 cup, plus more for ramekins
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (Frangelico)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped or chips, plus 6 ounces, chopped or chips (this is by weight, click here for more on food scales)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch salt
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, if you are going to bake them now. Butter and sugar 6, 6-ounce ramekins, or more if using smaller ones.

Heat the butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, hazelnut liqueur, and vanilla in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter melts. (Click here for more on double boilers.) Remove the butter mixture from the heat, add the 3 ounces of chocolate, and let sit until it melts, about 3 minutes. Place the chocolate mixture in a pie dish and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a spoon to form the chilled mixture into 6 evenly-sized  balls (truffles) about the size of a walnut. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a double boiler and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and continue to whisk constantly. Don't curdle the eggs! Turn down the heat, if necessary! The mixture will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise in another 3 to 4 minutes. Like this:


Stir in the 6 ounces of chocolate and set aside to let the chocolate melt.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl or stand mixer. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture.

Place a ball (truffle) of the chilled chocolate mixture in each of the ramekins.


Spoon the souffle mixture over the truffles and up to the rim of the ramekins. (At this point the souffles can be covered and kept refrigerated for 2 days.)

Place the ramekins in a hot water bath (a baking pan, filled with hot water, about 3/4 way up the ramekins) and bake until golden on top and the souffle has risen, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if refrigerated). (The souffles won't rise as high if they were previously refrigerated. That's okay. They sink quickly anyway!) Remove from the oven. (Click here for a tip on how to remove hot ramekins from a water bath.) Serve immediately. Delicious!

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Blue Christmas and a can of Febreze!

The holidays are in full swing with parties galore, but what should you bring your holiday host? The standard gift is a bottle of wine, and in my opinion always appropriate. However, during this festive season, a homemade gift alongside makes it even better! Instead of something sweet (like peppermint bark, meringue mushrooms, or lacy nut cookies), how about something savory, like "Walnut Blue-Cheese Coins!" 

These rich crackers are unbelievably easy to make (as long as you have a food processor), and can be refrigerated a few days ahead to be baked off when needed. I recommend using Roquefort (the king of cheeses and my personal favorite), Stilton (English classic), or Gorgonzola (for a mild, sweeter version). One note of caution: if you are planning to make these for your own holiday party, make sure to bake them the day before your guests arrive or they will be greeted to an overwhelming bouquet of funk! (Febreze anyone?) These savory crackers make a nice presentation when packaged in cellophane sleeves and seasonal ribbon. You can also attach them with ribbon directly to the wine bottle. It is a gift that you will be proud to bestow and your host will truly enjoy!


Walnut Blue-Cheese Coins

Makes about 30

Ingredients:

1 cup toasted walnuts (3 1/4 ounces)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (2 ounces)
Coarse salt for sprinkling (I use French grey sea salt.)

Directions:

In a food processor, finely grind 1/2 cup walnuts. Add the flour, table salt, pepper, and baking soda; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese; pulse until the dough comes together, about 15 seconds.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface; divide into two equal parts. Using your hands, roll dough into two 1 1/2"-diameter logs. Coarsely chop remaining 1/2 cup walnuts; sprinkle over a clean work surface. Roll logs in walnuts. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, at least 3 hours.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice logs into 1/4"-thick coins. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Bake until centers are firm to touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, 3-4 days.


Recipe from Christmas with Martha Stewart Living.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Turkey is NOT from Turkey!

Around 1519, conquistador Hernando Cortez returned to Spain with a bird introduced to him by the Native Americans of Mexico. The peculiar bird confused all of Europe. The French thought it was from India and so named it dindon, from Poulites d'Inde. The Germans, Dutch, and Swedes agreed that the bird was Indian, they named it kilcon after Calcutta. By the time the trend reached England, rumor had it that the bird was from Turkey, and so that became its name. However, the Wild Turkey is native to the forests of North America, and the Ocellated Turkey is native to the forests of the Yucatan Peninsula. 

So, what better cuisine than that of Mexico to utilize your leftover turkey? In fact, I roast a turkey every year just to make these delicious enchiladas! Everyone I've ever given this recipe to makes these after Thanksgiving, every year! Serve with refried beans, leftover corn souffle (which I always have after Thanksgiving), a big green salad perked up with orange segments, sliced red onions and sliced avocados. Beer and/or sangria, chips, salsa and guacamole round out the meal. Enchiladas buena!


The Great After-Thanksgiving Turkey Enchiladas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1, 28-oz can enchilada sauce
5 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the enchiladas
3 cups coarsely shredded cooked turkey
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese (divided into 1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 canola oil
12, 5-6" corn tortillas

Directions:

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add enchilada sauce, tomatoes and chipotles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover; simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Mix turkey, 1 1/2 cups cheese, sour cream, 1/4 cup onions and 1/2 cup cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1/2 cup canola oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 tortilla until pliable, about 20 seconds per side. (Don't fry them!) Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in 13x9x2" baking dish. Making one at a time, spoon 1/4 cup turkey mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up tortilla and arrange seam side down in baking dish. When all the enchiladas are nestled in neatly, spoon 2 1/2 cups sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake enchiladas until heated through, about 30 minutes.

Rewarm remaining sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Transfer to a sauceboat. Serve enchiladas, passing sauce separately. Delicioso!

History of the turkey from bigsiteofamazingfacts.com. Recipe from Bon Appetit.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Don't Be A Devil!

Halloween is almost here, and my kids are already embracing their inner devils! Next to Christmas, Halloween is their most anticipated holiday. Perhaps it's the chill in the air, or maybe the costumes, but I'm absolutely sure it's the treats! To turn my devils into saints, I always make these awesome cupcakes by Giada De Laurentiis. They use store-bought chocolate cake mix, enhanced with orange juice and chocolate chips, then frosted with a delicious limoncello frosting (lemon juice for my kids). These are so good, you'd be a devil not to make them!


Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Limoncello Frosting

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
1 box chocolate cake mix
Orange juice (instead of water in cake mix)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 cup diced candied orange peel (optional)

Frosting:
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons limoncello (or lemon juice for kids)*
2 tablespoons orange juice*
1 orange, zested
1/4 cup finely diced candied orange peel, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

To make the cupcakes: mix the chocolate cake mix according to package instructions, substituting orange juice for the water. Toss the chocolate chips with the flour. Fold the chocolate chips and the candied orange peel into the chocolate mixture. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Fill and bake the cupcakes according to package instructions. Let the cupcakes cool for 1 hour on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting: combine all the ingredients except the candied orange peel in a medium bowl. Using a mixer, beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Using a small spatula, place about 1 tablespoon of frosting on top of each cupcake. Top with a small sprinkle of candied orange peel.

*I find that the frosting is a bit runny, so be careful! Start by only adding 1 tablespoon limoncello (or lemon juice) and 1 tablespoon orange juice and see how that goes.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

House of Tiles?... and What do the Swiss have to do with Enchiladas?


Casa de los Azulejos or "House of Tiles" is an 18th century palace located in the heart of Mexico City. The palace was built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba in honor of his marriage to Graciana Suarez Peredo. A later renovation added the distinctive Puebla tile to the facade, giving the palace it's name. The palace passed hands a few times, used as a private residence, a jockey club, a women's clothing store, and was occupied by the army during the Mexican Revolution. In 1917, brothers, Frank and Walter Sanborn, purchased the property to expand their drugstore and to open it's flagship restaurant, "Sanborns." In 1931, the palace was declared a national monument. Click here for an awesome look inside! (The music's fun, too!)

Sanborns is a fabulous place to visit and grab a bite to eat. In fact, this is the birthplace of their signature dish, "Enchiladas Suizas." Enchiladas Suizas literally translates to "Swiss Enchiladas." Why? Well, in 1922, Mexican President Alvaro Obregon invited fleeing Mennonites, mainly from Swiss and German roots, to settle in the northern regions of the country. In addition to cheap land and freedom from taxation for 100 years, the Mennonites agreed to supply cheese and dairy products to the region. Later that year, a whopping 20,000 Mennonites arrived and began making their cheese, known as queso menonita, which is now known as Chihuahua cheese! The current population is estimated to be about 80,000, and makes 80% of the region's cheese and 70% of its dairy products!

Enchiladas Suizas are ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! These chicken enchiladas, smothered in a green chile cream sauce and topped with melty cheese, are my absolute favorite! The name is a tribute to the Swiss cheesemakers who made it all possible!


Enchiladas Suizas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the sauce
1 pound (6-8) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 medium white onion, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 serrano chiles or 2 jalapenos, stemmed
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup Mexican crema, creme fraiche, or heavy cream
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the enchiladas
4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded cheese, Chihuahua or Monterey Jack, halved
12 corn tortillas
1/2 cup canola oil
Sliced white onion, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Directions:

For the sauce
Roast the tomatillos, sliced onion, peeled garlic, and chiles on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet, 4-inches below a hot broiler until the tomatillos are soft and blotchy black on one side, 4-5 minutes. Turn everything over and roast the other side.


Scrape the tomatillo mixture into a blender or food processor.


Process to a smooth puree. Heat the 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a medium-large (4-5 quart) pot over medium high. When the oil is hot enough to make a drop of puree sizzle, add the puree all at once. Stir nearly constantly for several minutes until darker and thicker. Add the broth and the crema, reduce the heat to medium low, partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.


When done, if the sauce has thickened beyond the consistency of a light cream soup, stir in a little more broth (or water). Taste and season with the salt. Set aside.

For the enchiladas
In a large bowl, mix the chicken, onion, and 1 cup of the cheese. Season with the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1/2 cup canola oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Using tongs, cook 1 tortilla until pliable, about 20 seconds per side. (Don't fry them!) Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.


Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a 13x9x2" baking dish. Making one at a time, spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up tortilla and arrange seam side down in baking dish.



When all the enchiladas are nestled in neatly, cover with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake the enchiladas until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Garnish with the sliced onion and cilantro. Serve immediately. You're going to LOVE it!

Friday, June 18, 2021

What I want to eat when it's freakin hot outside!

Today it's 99°, with a heat index of 110°!!!! Ick!  I'm so sick of the heat and the dreaded question of "What's for dinner?"  At times like this, I immediately think of the ultimate, quick, hot weather food from Rick Bayless's Mexico One Plate at a Time. Black bean-chicken tostadas with salsa and tangy romaine makes a perfect dinner that no one in my family will turn down. My version simplifies things by buying packaged tostada shells, a rotisserie chicken, using my favorite salsa, and a couple more tweaks. In fact, this is so fast that I pull this out when I'm in a pinch for time.



Black Bean-Chicken Tostadas with Salsa and Tangy Romaine

One package tostada shells
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1, 15oz can black beans or frijoles negros, drained
Kosher salt
2 cups shredded chicken (use a store bought rotisserie)
3/4 cup mexican crema or sour cream (I can find crema at my local mexican market. It's awesome and worth looking for!)
1 cup or so of your favorite salsa (I like a tomato/jalapeno type for this recipe)
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, cotija, or even shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups loosely packed, thinly sliced romaine
chopped tomatoes and cilantro for garnish

For the beans:
In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmery, add the onion and cook until golden, approximately 7 minutes.  Add the garlic until you can smell it (about a minute, no more).   Then add the beans.  Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they are soft and creamy.  Add a little water, if necessary.  Don't worry about lumps.  It should be lumpy but still smooth.

For the tangy romaine:
Toss the romaine with the vinegar and olive oil and about 1/4 teaspoon salt.

To serve family style (or you can plate to make it more special):
Put out the tostada shells, bowl of shredded chicken, bowl of beans, the tangy romaine, crema, salsa, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, and cheese. 

To assemble:
Take a tostada shell and spread the bottom with the delicious black beans.  Top with some chicken, romaine, salsa, crema or sour cream, and cheese.  Garnish with the tomatoes and cilantro.  Enjoy and don't forget to tell your kids to lean over their plate!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Cloudy with a Chance of Roquefort

Few things in the culinary world are as ethereal as the elusive souffle. Souffles were created in the late 18th century by Antoine Beauvilliers, author of L'Art du Cuisinier (aka., The Art of French Cookery) and owner of the famous Beauvilliers, which was the most famous and elegant restaurant in Paris at that time. Souffles, as well as other egg dishes, are very popular in French cuisine. Souffles are served as a course during a meal and are positively breathtaking to look at! So, why don't more people in America make souffles? Possibly because of the rumors that they are difficult, fall without warning, or have never even tasted one!

I've made many souffles over the years, and I yet to have one collapse. The most important thing to remember is to separate your eggs very carefully. There must not be any trace of shell. When cracking eggs, always whack them on a flat surface as opposed to the side of a bowl. It produces less shell shatter. The other and most important thing is to make sure there is absolutely NO yolk in the egg whites. The fat in the yolks will not allow your egg whites to hold their loft. As long as you separate your eggs properly, you too can make a perfect souffle! 

This recipe, from French Classics Made Easy by Richard Grausman, for "Roquefort Souffle" is my absolute favorite cheese souffle! It's like a Roquefort cloud and in my opinion the best souffle I've ever tasted! If you love Roquefort as much as I do, you can add an extra ounce of cheese, it will still turn out perfect and even more delicious! I would recommend starting the meal with a bowl of soup, like Cream of Asparagus or the like, then serve this fabulous souffle along with a baguette, mixed green salad adorned with pear slices and toasted walnuts and dressed in a nice French vinaigrette (recipe follows), and finishing with homemade chocolate truffles and a glass of champagne! It's a classic menu and not one you'll soon forget!


Roquefort Souffle

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as an entree.

Ingredients:

4-cup souffle mold
Butter and all-purpose flour, for souffle mold
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (not in the original recipe)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled (about 2/3 cup) (plus another ounce, or any other quality leftover cheese scraps you have, if you like)
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with the rack set in the lowest position. Liberally butter a 4-cup souffle mold and lightly dust with flour, tapping out any excess.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks and water together in a small bowl. Add the 3 tablespoons flour to the yolks and blend until smooth.

Before the milk boils, stir about 1/4 cup of it into the egg yolk mixture to thin it. When the remaining milk boils, add it and stir well.

Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and whisk rapidly over medium-high heat, whisking the bottom and sides of the pan until the mixture thickens and boils, about 30 seconds. (Turning the pan as you whisk helps you easily reach all areas of the pan.) Continue to whisk vigorously for 1 minute while the souffle base gently boils. It will become shiny and easier to stir.

Reduce the heat to medium and allow the souffle base to simmer while you stir in the mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the cheese and mix well until it melts completely and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and cover.


In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.


Pour the warm souffle base into a large bowl. With a whisk, fold in one-third of the beaten egg whites to lighten it. With a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the remaining egg whites. Stop folding as soon as the mixture is blended: a little egg white may still be visible.


Pour the souffle mixture into the prepared mold, leveling the surface with your spatula. If any of the batter touches the rim of the mold, (mine didn't even come close) run your thumb around the rim to clean it off.


Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 425 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. (You can test for doneness by inserting a skewer or cake tester.) The souffle should rise 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the mold and brown on the top. Serve immediately!


French Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

*Additional ingredients that can be added are 1 garlic clove (halved and removed when the dressing has acquired the desired garlic flavor), chopped fresh herbs, chopped shallots, and chopped hard-cooked egg. To accompany the Roquefort souffle, I kept it simple and did not include any additional ingredients.

Directions:

In a small bowl or jar, mix the first five ingredients together. Add the oil and mix until all the ingredients are well blended and smooth. Blend well again just before using. Any leftover vinaigrette can be stored in the refrigerator for another delicately flavored green salad.

***You may also be interested in Giandua Souffles, a fabulous dessert and can be made ahead!

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Santa Maria Style BBQ and The Hitching Post

Memorial Day weekend is this weekend and marks the beginning of summer break, my husband's birthday, and the official kickoff of the barbecue season! Yippee! Why not fire up the grill and throw a "Santa Maria style barbecue!" Santa Maria style barbecue, named for the town along the central coast of California, is a regional tradition dating back to the mid-1800's. It wasn't until the 1950's, when Tri-Tip became all the rage and a signature cut of this style of barbecue. (For more on Tri-Tip, see Introducing, The One And Only, Tri-Tip!) According to the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, the official Santa Maria style barbecue menu consists of barbecued Tri-Tip, seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and cooked over red oak, pinquito beans (indigenous to the area), fresh salsa, grilled French bread dipped in butter, macaroni and cheese, tossed green salad, and a strawberry dessert, like my Long-on-Strawberry Shortcake. In addition, they recommend a local Pinot Noir or Syrah to round out the menu. Fantastic!

This recipe, from Frank Ostini of the iconic The Hitching Post and The Hitching Post II restaurants, family owned since 1952, takes Tri-Tip to another level! The secret is their "magic dust" seasoning which adds a few extra ingredients to the traditional dry rub. The Tri-Tip is then basted with a garlic-infused vegetable oil and red wine vinegar mixture. The result is a beautiful beefy masterpiece! Don't forget to check back for the perfect zesty Pinto Bean Salad, a variation of the classic pinquito beans that MUST accompany Santa Maria style barbecue!


"Santa Maria Style BBQ" Oakwood Grilled Tri-Tip

Serves 4, but can easily be doubled for a crowd!

Ingredients:

For the Tri-Tip
1, 3 lb Tri-Tip roast
Handful of red oak chips, for the grill

For the magic dust dry rub
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon Kosher salt

For the basting mixture
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup garlic-infused vegetable oil (heat oil in a small pot with a few crushed garlic cloves until the garlic just turns golden, remove from heat and allow to cool)

Directions:
Soak the wood chips in enough cool water to cover for at least an hour before grilling.

Coat both sides of the Tri-Tip with half the dry rub, pressing to adhere. Let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile prepare a charcoal grill to medium hot, placing the hot coals to one side, leaving the other side without coals for indirect cooking. When the coals have all acquired a nice ash coating (will look light gray), remove the wood chips from their soaking water, and throw over the coals. Next, add the Tri-Tip, fat side down and sear for about 5 minutes, uncovered, until charred. Turn the Tri-Tip over, fat side up and sear for another 5 minutes, uncovered, until charred.


Next, place the Tri-Tip to the indirect side of the grill (without coals), baste with some of the basting mixture and sprinkle with some of the remaining dry rub. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so, flip the Tri-Tip and baste again and sprinkle with some more dry rub. (You want to baste and sprinkle with the dry rub each time you flip the Tri-Tip, about 4 times.) Continue to cover and cook until an internal temperature of 125-130, about 30 minutes. (A thermometer, designed for grilling  makes this a lot easier! Check out Gadgets for my top pick!) Remove the Tri-Tip to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting into 1/2" slices against the grain.

Recipe adapted from Frank Ostini via Bobby Flay. Thanks Frank!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mexico's Crazy Corn!

When I was a kid, I remember when my Mom and Dad returned from a vacation in Veracruz, Mexico. My Mom told us that they put mayonnaise on corn on the cob, and we thought that sounded extremely gross! "Elote Asado" (Mexican Grilled Corn) is perhaps the most popular street food in Mexico. Sweet ears of corn are grilled until tender, slathered with mayonnaise, Mexican crema, or a mixture of both, then rolled in cotija cheese, dusted with chili powder, and served with a wedge of lime. I know it sounds crazy, but it is quite delicious!

I recommend starting with the freshest, sweetest corn you can find. I also recommend seeking out authentic Mexican crema, as opposed to using sour cream. In addition, I have to admit that I don't care for the squeeze of lime. I know...dumb gringo! (FYI: If you serve this to anyone with facial hair, have plenty of napkins available! It's pretty funny to watch!) Anyway, this is a fun and authentic recipe to celebrate Cinco de Mayo! Try it and let me know what you think! Happy Cinco!


Elote Asado (Mexican Grilled Corn with Crema, Cheese, and Chili)

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 ears of corn
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup Mexican crema
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup grated cotija cheese
Chili powder
4 lime wedges, for garnish

Directions:
Pull the husks down the corn, but leave some attached to make a handle. (I like to tear a husk or two to tie the husks together.) Grill the corn on a hot grill, turning occasionally until tender and slightly charred, approximately 8-10 minutes. Mix the mayonnaise, crema, and cilantro together in a small bowl. Spread the cotija cheese on a plate to allow easy rolling. When the corn is done, slather it liberally with the mayo/crema/cilantro mixture. Roll it in the cotija cheese. Sprinkle with chili powder, to taste. Serve with lime wedges.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Julia Child of Texas

Helen Corbitt was born on January 25, 1906 in upstate New York. After receiving a degree in home economics from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, her plans for medical school fell apart as a result of the Great Depression. She began work as a therapeutic dietitian in New Jersey and New York before being offered a teaching position at the University of Texas in Austin. She reportedly told the Dallas Times Herald, "Who the hell wants to go to Texas?," "Only I didn't say 'hell' in those days. I learned to swear in Texas." Only a few weeks after arriving, she was requested to cater a convention using only Texas products, which in those days was stark to say the least. However, Helen pushed up her sleeves and created a sublime mixture of black eyed peas, garlic, onion, vinegar, and oil, which became known as the legendary "Texas Caviar."

Helen's career took off, working at the Houston Country Club, the Driskill Hotel (where she fed the likes of Lyndon Johnson, who used many of her recipes at the White House), before finding her perfect fit at the Zodiac Room in 1955, at the Neiman Marcus flagship store in Dallas. With her focus on using only the freshest ingredients, the Zodiac Room was a huge success with appreciative Texans. She cooked for movie stars, socialites, royalty, and dignitaries, as well as the general public who could treat themselves at the standup counter on the main floor. According to Stanley Marcus's memoir Minding the Store, after complaining that the Zodiac Room has never showed profit, Helen replied, "You didn't mention money when you employed me. You simply said that you wanted the best food in the country. I've given you that."

After retiring from Neiman Marcus in 1969, she began lecturing around the country and writing cookbooks. Her first cookbook, Helen Corbitt's Cookbook (1957), sold more than 300,00 copies and is a mainstay in many Texas homes. With their worn-out pages still lovingly used today, I would be remiss not to share one of her most famous creations, "Poppy Seed Dressing," used for her "Citrus and Avocado Salad," which I lovingly call "Texas Sunshine Salad." The original recipe calls for Texas's renowned Ruby red grapefruit, but I actually prefer to use navel oranges. The combination of the sweet vinaigrette, creamy avocado, and tart citrus is surprisingly delicious! I find it a pleasing counterpart to Texas and Mexican cuisine, and especially refreshing on frigid winter days to remind us that the summer sun will soon be here again!

  
Texas Sunshine Salad (Citrus and Avocado Salad)

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 grapefruits or oranges
2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and sliced
Lettuce leaves to form the base of the salad (I use 1 large head of Boston lettuce in this recipe.)
Poppy seed dressing (recipe follows)

Directions:
First cut the ends off each grapefruit/orange. Set cut-side down on cutting board and run a knife down each side in an arch shape to remove the peel and white pith. With a sharp knife, slice into each section along the inside of each membrane. Repeat with the remaining sections. Set aside. Can be refrigerated until ready to use.

Just before serving, arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter. Decoratively arrange the avocado slices and grapefruit/orange segments on top of the lettuce. Drizzle some poppy seed dressing over the salad, serving extra dressing at the table. Serve at once!


Helen Corbitt's Poppy Seed Dressing

Makes approximately 2 cups (This recipe can easily be reduce by half.)

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon grated onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1 cup oil, preferably canola and never olive oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Directions:
Place everything in a mason jar and shake until emulsified. (Or you can use a food processor if you like to clean them...) Will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Shake before using.

Thanks to Texas Monthly, "Tastemaker of the Century-Helen Corbitt," written by Prudence Mackintosh, December 1999.
Recipe adapted from Helen Corbitt's Cookbook, and Texas Home Cooking.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Easy Easter Lamb - Just Throw it on the Bahbie!

Lamb is not commonly eaten in the US. It is less than 1% of the total meat consumed per person, per year. This is due to the fact that lamb is not always readily available in US markets, and very expensive compared to other protein choices. In addition, I know many people who have never even tasted lamb or others who say they don't like the flavor. That's too bad. After all, lamb makes a stunning centerpiece to any Easter table. So, for those of you who are willing to give it a try, I have the perfect recipe for you!

This recipe for "Grilled Leg of Lamb with Rosemary, Garlic, and Mustard," from the April 2010 issue of Bon Appetit, is truly special. The leg of lamb is butterflied, studded with garlic, and marinated overnight in an effortless mixture of whole grain Dijon mustard, olive oil, white wine, rosemary, and lemon. The lamb is then grilled over direct heat for approximately 17 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. (You'll need a reliable meat thermometer, see Gadgets.) Not only does this free up your oven, grilling the lamb creates a delicious mustardy crust with a flavorful and moist interior that is not gamey in the least! You will convert any non-lamb-lover with this recipe! I like to serve it with "Tuscan Tomato, Basil, and Mint Vinaigrette" that compliments it nicely. This vinaigrette is one of my personal favorites that I have been making for years. It is phenomenal with lamb and also delicious with chicken and fish. And finally, a nice bottle of Syrah is the perfect accompaniment with grilled lamb.


Grilled Leg of Lamb with Rosemary, Garlic, and Mustard

Serves 10-12 (If you want to serve less, use a 3-4 lb boneless leg of lamb instead.)

Ingredients:
1 well-trimmed 6-lb boneless leg of lamb, butterflied to even 2" thickness (I have found that one cut is all that is needed to butterfly a boneless leg of lamb. Easy!)
8 garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Nonstick vegetable oil spray (for the grill)
Fresh rosemary sprigs and fresh Italian parsley sprigs (for garnish)

Directions:
Open lamb like book on work surface. Using tip of small knife, make 1/2"-deep slits all over lamb. Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Insert garlic slices into slits in lamb.


Combine remaining 4 garlic cloves, mustard, olive oil, white wine, rosemary, and lemon juice in processor. Blend until coarse puree forms. Spread underside of lamb with half of puree. Place lamb, seasoned side down, in 15x10x2" glass baking dish. Spread remaining puree over top of lamb. Cover lamb with plastic wrap and chill overnight.


Let lamb stand at room temperature 2 hours. Coat grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove lamb from marinade and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill lamb to desired doneness, about 17 minutes per side, or until an internal temperature in the thickest part reaches 130 degrees. Transfer lamb to cutting board; let rest at least 10 minutes.

Thinly slice lamb against grain. Overlap slices on platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs. Enjoy!


Tuscan Tomato, Basil, and Mint Vinaigrette

Serves 6-10 or approximately 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 2/3 cup chopped/seeded plum tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Whisk all ingredients, except for the tomatoes. Stir in the tomatoes and season with pepper to taste. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Mmmm! I wouldn't serve lamb without it!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

On the Fourth Day, Let There be Pastrami

St. Patrick's Day and the arrival of Spring mean one thing at my house, homemade pastrami! Pastrami is smoked corned beef that originated from Central Europe and was brought to America by Romanian Jews in the late 19th century. Kosher butcher Sussman Volk, who had immigrated to New York from Lithuania, claimed to have created the first pastrami sandwich in 1887. Volk had inherited the recipe from a Romanian friend in exchange for storing the man's luggage while he was out of the country. (Don't you use your luggage when travelling?) However, this is disputed by legendary Katz's Delicatessen in New York City, who opened in 1888 and claim to be the first. I guess it doesn't really matter since Katz's is still going strong and Volk is just a memory in time.

My husband was the first to discover this recipe for "Close to Katz's Pastrami" from amazingribs.com. You can check the recipe out there, although it seems a lot more informative and might scare away a pastrami novice, so I've simplified it here to coax you to try it. In fact, I have made a few changes. Instead of smoking the corned beef at 225 degrees, I keep it at 250 degrees. I don't make my own corned beef either, rather I buy it at the store in those cryovac packages, which grocers everywhere are marking down post-St.Patrick's Day. In addition, I recommend making more than one, since it takes a lot of your time! Don't worry, it freezes very well. 

You need to start the process 3 days before you plan on serving. The first day you soak it refrigerated in cold water to help remove excess salt. The second day to pat dry, apply the dry rub, and refrigerate overnight. The third day you smoke it for about 5-6 hours, cool, and refrigerate. And finally, on the fourth day you steam it for approximately 2 hours, then eat! It may seem like a lot of work, but it's so good, you just might become verklempt!


Close to Katz's Pastrami

Makes approximately 4-5 sandwiches. (I like mine with mustard, pastrami, Swiss cheese, and coleslaw on toasted rye. Pickle on the side.)

Ingredients:

For the Pastrami
1, 4 lb uncooked corned beef brisket
4 tablespoons freshly coarse ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder

For Smoking and Steaming
Smoker or Grill (I use my beloved Weber, see Gadgets.)
Disposable aluminum drip pan (I use the cheap ones from the grocer for roasting.)
Entire bag of charcoal
4-8 ounces wood chips, soaked in water (I like cherry wood.)
Steamer basket or steamer insert (I use the cheap ones from the grocer and remove the center handle/lifter thingy.)

Directions:
Day 1: Remove corned beef from package, rinse, and throw away the spice packet. Trim excessive fat off the corned beef and any membrane that might remain. (Leave at least 1/8-inch fat on it!) Place the corned beef in a large pot. Cover it with cold water and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2: Remove the corned beef from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Mix together the pepper, coriander, mustard, brown sugar, paprika, garlic and onion powders. Rub all over the corned beef, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3: Prepare a charcoal grill or smoker for low heat (250 degrees). Place an aluminum drip pan half full of water in the center of the fire bed. Sprinkle some of the soaked wood chips on the coals. Place the corned beef, fat side up, on the grill rack over the drip pan. Insert a grill thermometer, see Gadgets. Cover and smoke the corned beef, maintaining 250 degrees, and sprinkling with wood chips/charcoal occasionally until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Wrap with foil and return to the grill until it reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees. Remove from grill, let cool slightly, and refrigerate overnight. 



Day 4: Set up your steamer, or bring a couple inches of water in a large pot to a simmer, insert steam basket. (Tips: If you don't have a steamer, you can wad up foil to hold the now pastrami out of the water. I place a piece of foil between the steamer and pastrami to contain excess mess.) Cover and steam the pastrami over medium-low/low heat, adding water if necessary, until it reaches an internal temperature of 203 degrees, approximately 1 1/2-2 hours. 


Let rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.


Mazel Tov!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Mon Petit Chou

"Mon petit chou" (pronounced maw puh-tee shoo) is a French term of endearment which literally translates to "my little cabbage." At first you may think, "Gee, thanks..." However, the term chou (or choux, if plural) has a double meaning routed in the pastry world, chou referring to "chou a la creme" or cream puff! Ah, that's way better than being called a cabbage! Anyway, this brings us to "pate a choux" or choux pastry. Choux pastry is loosely regarded as being created in France by Chef Panterelli in 1540, who came with Catherine de Medici of Florence in 1533, upon her marriage to the future King Henry II of France. Over the years, the original recipe evolved, as well as it's name, from "pate a Panterelli" to "pate a Popelini," to "pate a Popelin" (which were cakes made in the Middle Ages and shaped as woman's breasts! Scandaleux!), and finally to "pate a choux." So, what is it? Basically, choux pastry is a twice cooked dough with high moisture that creates steam when baked, thus puffing up to create a crisp outer shell and hollow interior that's perfect for filling!

If you have never made choux pastry, I am about to change your life forever! This magical dough, which contains only four common ingredients (water, butter, flour, and eggs), is shockingly easy to make and takes mere minutes! It is the basis for eclairs, profiteroles (little buns that look like tiny cabbages, hence the name), stacked with caramel for "croquembouche," shaped into a ring and filled with praline cream for "Paris-Brest," the basis for "St. Honore cake," and fried to make beignets and even churros. If that's not enough, because choux pastry doesn't contain sugar, you can easily fill them with savory ingredients as well, like chicken or seafood salad, ham or prociutto and cheese, scrambled eggs and herbs, steak and bearnaise, or even mix in a little cheese before baking and you've got "gougeres!" The combinations are endless, and it all starts with this one simple dough! This recipe for "Profiteroles" will delight any "mon petit chou" and are perfect for Valentine's Day! Just don't let them know how easy it was!


Profiteroles (Choux Pastry Buns with Pastry Cream and Chocolate Ganache)

Makes about 50, depending on the size. 
*For larger shells for steak, etc., drop by large spoonfuls and bake at 400 for about 45 minutes.

Ingredients:
For the Pate a Choux
1 cup water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 cup flour (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the flour, but it is optional and not traditional.)
4 eggs

For the Pastry Cream
1 recipe Creme Patissiere (Which can be made days in advance! or if you're lazy, fill with ice cream.)

For the Chocolate Ganache Glaze (Can be made days in advance!)
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Directions:
For the Pate a Choux
In a medium saucepan, boil the water and the butter.


Bring to a simmer and stir in the flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.


The mixture will become a big ball. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Transfer the blob to the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl. Starting with the lowest setting, beat in the eggs, one at a time.


Don't add the next egg until the previous one has been incorporated. Beat until smooth and velvety.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. 

Using a pastry bag or two spoons, pipe or drop approximately 1" balls onto the sheet.


Using your finger dipped into a little milk, pat down the tips from piping, if necessary.


Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until medium-golden brown and dry on the outside. (You need to keep an eye on them, and can check to make sure they are fully cooked by cutting one open.) When done, remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.


(Some people recommend piercing each one with a skewer or toothpick to allow steam to escape.) Once cooled, they can be stored in an airtight container until ready to be filled.

For the Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan heat the cream to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the corn syrup. Pour over the chocolate chips and mix until smooth. The sauce can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated, and gently reheated before using.

Final Assembly (*Assemble only as many as you plan to eat that day. Any remaining ingredients can be stored separately for a second round of indulgence!)
Using a pastry bag with a round tip, poke the tip into the side of each cream puff and pipe in enough pastry cream to fill the hollow center.


If you don't own a pastry bag, you can make a partial horizontal cut with a knife and spoon in some pastry cream. Just remember to hold the cut together when dunking into the glaze.

Holding each cream puff securely with your fingers, dunk and twist the top of each one into the chocolate ganache glaze to coat and set aside until ready to be served.

Voila!


(Mon Petit Chou loves them!)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Love on the Rocks?


When I was in college, getting my degree in Geology, I was required to complete a "field training" course. I signed up for a class with Texas Tech, in which you were expected to map parts of the Colorado Rockies. After arriving a day late, I found myself (backpack and rock hammer in tow) ascending the side of a steep mountain, when I first heard his voice. He offered me a hand, (Thank God!), and then I looked up to see my one true love, standing there in a tie-dye Ben&Jerry's "Cherry Garcia" t-shirt, mirrored Serengeti sunglasses, and a Redskins baseball hat! What a get-up! Six weeks later, we were engaged, and the rest is history.

So, for my handsome man, I'm making "Goat Cheese-Arugula Ravioli with Tomato-Pancetta Butter." This dish tastes so fantastic and is so beautiful! It's perfect for a romantic Valentine's dinner! In fact, it's so perfect, you just may fall in love!


Goat Cheese-Arugula Ravioli with Tomato-Pancetta Butter

Serves 4-6, (Can be made ahead!)

Ingredients:

For the ravioli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large shallots, minced
3 ounces arugula, chopped (about 3 1/2 cups)
6 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), crumbled
1/2 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Approximately 30-40 wonton wrappers (from one 12-ounce package)
2 large egg whites, whisked just until foamy

For the tomato-pancetta butter
6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
6 large plum tomatoes, quartered, seeds and membranes discarded, tomatoes diced small
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

For serving
5 tablespoons butter, melted
12 fresh basil leaves
Fresh thyme

Directions:

For the ravioli
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, saute for 10 minutes. Add arugula, toss until wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Transfer the arugula mixture to a large bowl and cool. Mix in the goat cheese and Parmesan cheese. Season the filling with salt and pepper.

Line 2 baking sheets with heavy-duty foil, spray with nonstick spray. (I use 1 baking sheet lined with parchment paper and no nonstick spray. When the first layer is done, I place a sheet of plastic wrap over and stack the second layer on top. That way you can store in the fridge easier.) Place 4 wonton wrappers on work surface, cover remaining wrappers with plastic to prevent drying. Lightly brush entire surface of each wrapper with egg white. Spoon 1 generous teaspoon (I put 1 tablespoon) filling into the center of each wrapper. Fold wrappers diagonally in half, forming triangles. Press edges firmly to seal, avoiding any air bubbles inside the ravioli.


Arrange ravioli on prepared sheets. Repeat with the remaining wrappers until the filling is gone. (Can be made ahead. Cover with plastic and chill up to 1 day.)



For the tomato-pancetta butter
Cook chopped pancetta in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towel to drain and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add butter to drippings in skillet, melt over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and thyme, saute until tomatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

To serve
Place melted butter in large bowl. Cook half of the ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Using a hand-held strainer, transfer ravioli to a colander to drain, then place in the bowl with the melted butter, toss gently to coat. Cover to keep warm. Cook the remaining ravioli in the same pot of boiling water. Drain as before and transfer to the buttered ravioli. Toss gently to coat. Divide the ravioli among serving bowls. Rewarm the tomato butter over medium heat, add the reserved pancetta and basil, saute 1 minute. Spoon sauce over ravioli. Garnish with thyme and serve! (Don't forget some wine!)

This is an old recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit.