Wednesday, April 15, 2020

For the Love of Poblanos! and Award Winning Poblano Chicken Chowder!

I LOVE poblano chiles! I love them roasted and peeled for my Green Chili Cheeseburgers, stuffed with cheese, battered and fried for Chiles Rellenos, and finely diced to create the most amazing "Poblano Chicken Chowder!" But before I continue, I have to get one thing straight: POBLANOS ARE NOT PASILLAS! This sort of thing makes me crazy because many people (particularly in California) are being sold a lie! According to Rick Bayless, "Because of a quirk of migratory history, some Californians still refer to this chile (poblano), and it's dried counterpart, as 'pasilla,' as they do in Michoacan. Otherwise, everyone else knows them as 'poblano,' or simply 'chile verde' in Mexican regions where they're the only game in town."

Here is a picture of poblano chiles:

(When dried, they are known as Ancho!)

Here is a picture of chilaca chiles:

(When dried, they are known as Pasilla!)

In addition, "poblano" is also used to refer to a person who lives and/or is from Puebla, Mexico. Got it?!?

Poblano chiles are not only popular in Mexican cuisine, but in Southwestern cuisine as well! One of the best chowders I've ever had was from Canyon Cafe (aka., Sam's Cafe and Desert Fire)! Their award winning Poblano Chicken Chowder has medaled in 5 out of 6 opportunities at the Manor Grove's "Soup's On" competition, and most recently took home an unprecedented double first-place win in the judge's and people's choice award! Yes, it's that good! Lucky for me and you, I have their cookbook, Canyon Cafe : Bringing The Southwest Experience Home, which I picked up way back in 2000! With the exception of a lot of chopping (great for practicing your knife skills), I found the recipe straight forward and easy to follow. How did it turn out? Absolutely delicious! In addition, it made enough for leftovers to eat for lunch (my favorite!) or even freeze for a cold rainy day! It may not look like much, but trust me, it's fabulous!

Poblano Chicken Chowder

Serves 6-8

For the roux
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup flour

For the soup base
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lb onions, diced
1/2 lb celery, diced
1/2 lb carrots, diced
1/4 lb poblano chiles, stem removed, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 quarts (8 cups) strong chicken stock (or chicken bouillon/water)
1 1/2 tablespoons Tabasco pepper sauce
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed and finely chopped

To serve
1 quart* (4 cups) heavy cream (*I only use 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream, and like it better that way!)
1 lb chicken breast, grilled and diced (I use a grill pan.)
Fried crispy tortilla strips, for garnish (If you're too lazy, you can buy them, but it's better to make them fresh, see Techniques!)
Jack cheese, shredded (optional)

For the roux
Make a roux by heating melted butter with flour and whisking over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown this mixture. (You may have to adjust the heat!) It should be a blond color. Reserve.

For the soup base
Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven, add onions, celery, carrots, poblanos and garlic. Saute until onions become translucent and carrots begin to soften.

Add thyme, pepper, and cumin, stir well. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Whisk the roux until smooth again. Begin adding the roux and whisk in each bit to incorporate. Be careful not to form lumps!

Continue to cook over high heat for 5 minutes to remove the flour taste. Remove from the heat and add Tabasco and cilantro. Add cream and diced chicken. Heat through. (Don't allow to boil or the chicken will not be tender!)

To serve
Ladle soup into bowls, top with crisp tortilla strips and jack cheese, if desired.

Recipe from Canyon Cafe: Bringing The Southwestern Experience Home.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Happy Easter and an Eggscellent Easter Menu!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Easter! I have big plans for my Easter Menu:

Roquefort-Stuffed Eggs
(James Beard's recipe below!)

(in tea cups)


(for my kids!)

(served perched on a glass of Madeira!)

Roquefort-Stuffed Eggs

Note: If you don't care for blue cheese, don't try this recipe! Roquefort's not cheap!

12 boiled eggs, peeled and chilled (to boil eggs, see Techniques!)
1/4 cup finely crumbled Roquefort cheese
2 tablespoons Cognac
Sour cream
Watercress sprigs, for garnish


Combine the mashed yolks of 12 eggs with the Roquefort and Cognac. Bind with enough sour cream to make it firm and smooth. Stuff the whites with a large star-tip piping bag (if possible). Garnish with watercress sprigs. (I couldn't find watercress, so I had to use a little parsley...)

Tip: What to drink with stuffed eggs? Champagne! It's surprising how well they go together!

Recipe courtesy of James Beard's American Cookery.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

We Don't Truss Lawyers

Thomas Keller is a multiple 3-star Michelin Guide chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. He owns many restaurants, Bouchon, Per Se, and Ad Hoc; but, The French Laundry in Yountville, California is where the magic began. He has received numerous awards, and is considered one, if not the Best American Chef. No wonder his recipe for Mon Poulet Roti is hands-down the best roast chicken EVER! Believe it or not, it is also the simplest I've ever made. The keys to this recipe is a dry chicken, a "rain" of salt, and being able to truss a chicken.  Can't truss?  Watch this:

Got it?  Now make this juicy, crispy, delicious chicken!

Mon Poulet Roti:

Serves 2 to 4


For the chicken:
One 2-3 pound fresh chicken (if the chicken is slightly larger, like 4-5 pounds, roast it for an additional 15 minutes per pound in the oven)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)

To serve:
Unsalted butter (optional)
Dijon mustard


Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. (I also recommend leaving the chicken uncovered overnight in the fridge!) When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. (I place my cast iron skillet in the oven at this time.)  The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird.

Now, salt the chicken-I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin.  Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a saute pan (Careful! The pan is hot!) or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone-I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes.  Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board." (When I make this, I don't baste the chicken until cut and served, otherwise it ruins the crispy skin.)

Remove the twine, carve it up how you like it (with bones/deboned), and serve with fresh butter to slather over the meat (optional) and Dijon mustard on the side.  I like to serve this with mashed potatoes or Gratin Dauphinois) and those amazing french green beans called harticot vert. You won't believe how good this is!  Thank you, Keller!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Give Peas a Chance!

Peas are a member of the legume family and are one of the earliest cultivated crops. Growing peas actually returns nitrogen to the soil without the need for added fertilizer, making them a very beneficial crop. Peas are believed to be native to central Asia and the Middle East. Originally, peas were cultivated to be used in dried form, providing nourishment when other sources of food was scarce. It wasn't until the 17th century when the consumption of fresh green peas became fashionable and more readily available.  

Peas are often overlooked as a substantial health food, but they are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B, zinc, and omega-3! Research shows that peas lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers the risk of cardiovascular problems, and has even been shown to protect again gastric cancer! Wow! In order to reap these benefits, it is recommended to consume 3 cups per week.

Nothing says Spring to me like fresh green peas, just hitting the market! One of my favorite recipes is for "Spring Pea Soup!" This soup is so easy and amazingly delicious! Even my husband, who says he despises peas, goes wild for this soup! I like to serve this soup simply in little "shotglasses" for an amuse-bouche, in little tea cups for a chic first course, and even as the main event dressed up with a dollop of sour cream, homemade croutons, crispy pancetta, and a drizzle of olive oil! This lovely green soup is the perfect accompaniment to any festive meal, and will definitely be gracing my Easter table this year! Bonus: You can even make it ahead!

(As amuse-bouche! So cute! It may not look like much...until you taste it!)

Spring Pea Soup

Serves 4-6


2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch scallions, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1 nice handful fresh mint leaves
1 pound fresh peas (if available) or frozen peas (So you can make it year-round!)
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


In a medium to large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the scallions and mint, and gently fry until the scallions are soft, about 3 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and add the fresh or frozen (no need to thaw) peas and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in the cream, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor (be careful if it's hot!), or use an immersion blender (see Gadgets). Strain the soup through a food strainer to remove the pea skins. (This gives it a luxurious velvety texture!) Return to a clean pot, add salt and pepper, to taste. Gently reheat before serving.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What do a Priest, Napoleon, and Salvador Dali have in common?

Camembert cheese is a creamy, originally unpasteurized, cow's milk cheese made in the Normandy region of France. At the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799), the Harel family gave refuge to a priest from the Brie region. The priest repayed the Harel's for their kindness by teaching Marie Harel, the farmer's wife, how to make cheese. In 1855, one of Marie Harel's daughters presented Napoleon with one of the cheeses and told him that it was from Camembert, thus the name. With the expansion of the railroads and the invention of the iconic wooden cheeseboxes, created by engineer M. Ridel in 1890, Camembert has become one of the most popular French cheeses in the world! It is rumored that French troops were issued Camembert in their rationings during WW1, but I could not verify that. In addition, Salvador Dali's famous melting clocks painting, "The Persistence of Memory," was inspired by Camembert melting in the sun! Who knew? With it's voluptuous texture and mushroom aroma it is one of my favorite cheeses!

Renowned chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli, began his career in his home town of Arras, Northern France. Who better than a true Frenchman to create this amazing recipe for "Whole Baked Camembert?" Imagine freshly baked bread with an entire wheel of marinated Camembert baked inside! Fantastic! The first time I made this, I called my neighborhood friends as I removed it from the oven. While we tried to allow it to cool, gazing at it in excitement, we finally gave in and devoured it in less than 10 minutes flat! It's that good! This recipe may appear to be complicated, but it really is quite easy. The Camembert should be marinated overnight, so allow for that. In addition, this recipe is for two Whole Baked Camemberts, but I usually make one Camembert and use the remainder of the dough to make a second loaf without the Camembert for another day. As this is a European recipe, you will need a kitchen scale, and a spray bottle.

Whole Baked Camembert

Makes two loaves.  *This recipe takes me about 3 hours or so, start to finish, however; my oven has a "proof" function which aides in rising.

For the marinated Camembert
2 wheels Camembert (preferably unpasteurized, if possible)
Sun blushed tomatoes (optional, I don't use)
Olives/tapenade (optional, I don't use)
Fresh thyme and a bay leaf
Cracked garlic, skins removed (I use about 3 cloves)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the bread dough
1 lb strong bread flour
2 teaspoons salt (I use Kosher.)
1 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons active bread yeast
Up to 2 cups warm water
1 pinch sugar

For the marinated Camembert
Prepare the cheese by piercing the top and bottom rind with a fork. In a small bowl just large enough to hold the cheese, add the tomatoes (if using), olives or tapenade (if using), some fresh thyme and one bay leaf, a few cloves of crushed garlic, season with salt and pepper, then fill to cover with the olive oil. Marinate refrigerated overnight.

For the bread dough
In a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together the flour, salt, butter, yeast, and sugar. Add enough water to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. If the dough becomes too wet and will not come together, add extra flour a little at a time, until soft and slightly sticky. Knead the dough for 5 minutes in the electric mixer, or turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes by hand. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large floured bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. Remove the marinated cheese from the refrigerator.

Once doubled, turn out onto a floured surface and gently press out the excess gas from the dough. Knead a couple of times to smooth out the dough. Divide into two. Roll each piece out one times bigger than the cheese. Place the cheese in the center of the dough, adding some of the ingredients from the marinade and wrap the dough over and around the cheese to seal.

Turn over onto a parchment lined baking sheet so the folded dough is on the base. Brush the top with some of the olive oil from the marinade and finish with sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Allow the dough to double in size before baking in a 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown...not dark brown. Using a spray bottle, spray the inside of the hot oven just after placing the bread inside. Spray a second time 5 minutes before the end of cooking. (This helps make a nice crust.)

When done, remove the bread to a large serving board and allow at least 10 minutes before serving.

(You know you want that!!! Mmmmmm!)