Here's a recent fast dinner that I made - Jambalaya with fried plantains.
1 Med. Onion 1 Green Bell Pepper 1 Red Bell Pepper 2 Celery Stalks 1 Chicken Breast 1 lb Andouille 28 oz Canned Tomatoes 1 C. White Wine Cajun Seasoning (I prefer Tony Chaceres), Salt, Pepper to taste 1 C. Rice
Cube the chicken and cook in oil in the bottom of a dutch oven or everyday pan. Just before the chicken is cooked through, add the sliced andouille and cook until its smelling yummy. Next, dice the veggies and saute in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add the canned tomatoes (chop them if they weren't already chopped), add the juice from the can of tomatoes, 1 C. broth or water and the wine (should be about 3 C. liquid). Bring it to a simmer and add the rice. Stir in the seasoning and cover, turn to low until the rice is cooked.
Emeril would scoff at this version, but my dear Auntie Young would be proud! Also, with the big dinner coming up on Saturday, I'm swamped with testings, so I may not get to post much until next week. Today I started gelatin clarifying my chile juice and making chile nori. I'll post results as I'm able. Wish me luck!
Look at these fun things! A couple who lives half the time in Mexico, stopped by with salt grinders for us to check out. Great packaging, but we'll have to see how much they'll cost. The salt and garlic grinder was good but didn't grind aggressively enough. I'd like to see them in our store.
Today was the day that I welcomed a new friend to my kitchen. He is a friend that I invite each year, but only comes for one day. He releases his musk, which wafts through my nose, sending quivers of orgasmic ecstasy throughout my limbs. If I could wrap my arms around his scent, I would squeeze so hard that he could never leave. But, alas, he always does. After a few short hours all that remains are memories of his existence, and maybe an instant recall following a bite of his slimy green flesh. Yes, my friends, today is the day I roasted my chiles!
For those of you who haven't met my friend, I'll do my best to introduce you. This time of year, green chile trucks are all over our highways and side roads. Behind them lay a crumb trail of green curled peppers. My first experience with the real deal (not the canned Ortega crap) was in a little tiny town called La Garita, where after a day of rock climbing with Tory, I would get a green chile cheeseburger. This truly is food of the gods.
Nowadays I have green chile year round, at pretty much any restaurant I go to. And I use green chile daily in the cafe for a couple of our menu items. So today's reuniting with my friend was as much about love as money (I'll spend pennies on the dollar using these chiles). Here is how its done.
You start by going to pretty much any grocery in the area and pay about $17 per bushel with a $2.50 roasting fee. Bring your own trashbags and/or pillow case. Here's my friend waiting for his ride: Here's the tour guide loading my friend on: (brief romantic pause) There's something about watching the chile roaster. The little green fellas go round and round, every now and then one or two hang on to the top for dear life, only delaying the inevitable fall to the masses. Their skin sizzles, their tops burst with steamy delight, seeds spill upon the ground. This pile of sensuous blackened, fleshy meat, waiting to be released from the scorching fire. The smell that is released is one of a kind. It can not be duplicated at home in your oven. It can only be enjoyed one day a year. (back to the story) The ride is over: Next, I took my buddy, stuffed him into a pillow case, and that went into a trashbag. There are many other ways, but I like this system because it captures the moisture, but allows for the steaming to happen. And here it is. The object of my desire: I always had a thing for redheads: It took me just under two hours to rub the skin off of all of the chiles, chop the heads off, squeegee the seeds out, and lay them in stacks. But this is the payoff: That guy is perfect - destined for cheeseburger greatness! Sometimes, passionate moments aren't pretty. Here's the mess: And the final moment. One bushel gives me this many small bags of chiles for use in stews, enchiladas, burritos, soups, omelets...you name it. So what do you say - do you like my friend?
Purple Gentian Smell - very faint, almost sweet Directly in mouth - I refrained from spitting it out! Bitter with a slant toward acidic. It reminded me of chewing on licorice root. The flavor is somewhat "roundish" and is concentrating on the back of my tongue, as expected by the outdated map of the tongue. As a tea - More smooth, but still quite bitter. More of the sensation was experienced on the tip of my tongue.
Silk Tassel Smell - virtually none Directly in mouth - Flavorless As a tea - Has the smell of a good green tea. A very nice taste with just a tinge of bitterness on the tip of my tongue. I would drink this as a tea happily.
Oregon Grape Smell - dusty, non-distinct Directly in mouth - Similar to putting cream of tartar in your mouth with a slight earthy flavor. As a tea - Not good nor bad. So non-distinct that I won't be using this.
Hops Smell - Fresh and green Directly in mouth - Almost citrus-y, but mainly mild As a tea - Not pleasantly bitter - how did this stuff end up in beer?! Nothing unique about it.
I've talked before about my cuts in the kitchen, but today I had my worst burn to date. I use a glass top stove in the cafe, and I accidentally left a burner on (something that you don't easily do with a gas stove top). I set a tray of cookies on the stove, went to pick it up and...yeah...let's not do that again. This one is painful. "I suffer for my art."
Today was the first day that I walked to work pre-sunrise. I've feared this day for that past month because it means for the next six months I'll be walking in the dark, and that cold mountain mornings are just around the corner.
But, on my walk two things reminded me of why I love this town so much. The first was the rooster crow just before sunrise. I'm not sure about where you live, but as small as it is, this is still a city, and I love the fact that we have chickens and roosters and goats in backyards on almost every block.
The other thing that I love is that there was just one car on the entire walk. In our little city, no one comes out before sunrise, and everyone is at home by dusk. Vampires need not apply in our town, nor lounge lizards.
I'm working on a bitter element to the Chile dinner, and these four options were given to me by our local herb specialist. I wanted indigenous, which these are, and, of course, edible. I'll test them tomorrow first in an oil, then as a tea.
Here's our little dinner last night. It was muggy so we didn't really want to create heat in the house so we opened our olives, dolmas, almonds, Tyler made some hummus, grilled halloumi cheese and pita. Perfect meal!
Test #2 Soaked raw chile with everclear for one hour. Added just a splash more and lit. It burned for 90 seconds and the smell was released from the chile around 45 seconds. Perfect for lighting in the kitchen and walking to the table.
I tried burning my 151 vanilla extract - no go. Its over a year old, and just didn't ignite. I'm going to try soaking some green chile tomorrow and lighting that.
Also, its been fun trying to gather up just the right serving dishes for these courses. They're starting to come in slowly. I have my caviar tins, tuna tempura vessels, and the "pixie stix." There will be a lot of scrambling at the last minute when the hosts return from Minnesota with some of my dishes that they've bought along the way on their trip.
I'm also getting nervous about finding some of my local produce that's not quite ready to be picked.
I've done my first experiment to create flames for the Chile Fest dinner. I took Everclear (I hadn't bought that in nearly 20 years!), and brown sugar cubes. Then we read this from the bottle: "Caution!! Extremely flammable Handle with care" So we grabbed the fire extinguisher. Then we read a bit more: "Caution: Do not apply to an open flame. Keep away from fire, heat and open flame. Contents may ignite or explode." With that I grabbed the flame! It burned very intensely. Plenty of flame for my purpose. In fact, it may have been a bit large. It burned for 90 seconds before it started to flicker and we doused it under a bowl. I also wanted to test the exploding glass theory, so I put this candle holder over it. This is the one I would like to use if I can find 18 of them (one for each guest). It didn't explode (although we hid under the table just in case. Here's the downside to sugar: The smell started at about 45 seconds and wasn't very appealing. So then I just poured some in a bowl and lit it! Fire! Fire! Fire! Oooh, me like pretty flame!
Then I realized, the vessel for the flame is irrelevant from a functional perspective. Yes, I can control the flame depending on what I put the Everclear in, but its going to burn whether I put it on sugar or on a mouse's ass. So that opens up some possibilities. What if I poured it in a vessel of green chile? It melted the sugar, so it would heat/cook the chile, but it would burn itself out before it caused mischief.
So that's it for tonight. More fun with flames tomorrow. And, I'll try my homemade vanilla extract which I used 151 rum in.
Amoretti is incredibly generous with their samples. I'm sure I pay for them in the long run, but its like Christmas every time a box comes from them. This was another sales call (as mentioned in a previous post) from another desperate sales rep who is feeling the economic pinch. I asked for their kumquat flavors and they sent me this: 15 extracts, 6 coffee or mixer flavorings. Not a bad haul. I still haven't finished going through their last sample pack. Thanks Amoretti.
I've been struggling to find a good tart shell recipe. This one came from Ong's book, and is his citrus shell. I liked it, and it held its shape well, but I did have one customer say it was tough (I disagree, maybe their dentures slipped). I used it to make a key lime kumquat tartlet. A bit sweet, but what's new.
This past week's lunch special was Bibimbop. I hadn't had it since the last time I had Korean in Indianapolis at Mamas, on the eastside. Its a classic Korean one-bowl lunch. It was a huge hit, and what was really exciting for me is that less than a half dozen customers had ever had it before, which means I introduced probably 50 people to this great dish. I had to make some adaptations, and I explained them to the customers so they would know what to expect if they went to a Korean restaurant, but I was very pleased with the outcome. I'm stumped on next week's special...
Look at this bad boy! Leftover dough from the muff buns. Leftover provolone. Tomatoes from our garden. Molinari pepperoni. Leftover red peppers. Man was it good. My only advice to those who come here to learn something (you fools!)...always have your oven as hot as it will go, and fully, fully preheated before you put your pizza in. And, if you have the foresight, store your dough in the fridge overnight before using it. Much better taste and texture.
We have a friend who bought an Aga. For those of you who don't know, Agas aren't ovens, they are cooking units. There's a whole bizarre sub-culture of Aga owners who probably have Aga underwear for those romantic nights when you warm your buns on the cooking unit. Anyway, our friends had one shipped from England all the way to Silver City (oddly enough they were not the first to do so, they were the second), and the unit was accompanied by the included short British installation man. They've since taken to sharing their Aga magazines with me, much to my delight. It's a whole new set of recipes. Have you noticed how so many recipes just recycle the same tripe? Well, if Aga is recycling their tripe, its new tripe for me.
Tonight we made a recipe out of an 06 issue. Get two thick salmon fillets. Cut them in half horizontally, but leave a spine of connecting meat. Open 'er up. Now, take two avocados, 1 T. of Thai curry paste - we used red, but massaman would be great too, and the zest and juice of one lime. Mash them roughly. Fill your split fillets with the mixture. Salt and pepper your fillets. Oil a baking dish, and pop in an oven at 450F for about 10 minutes or until done. While the fish is baking, combine 1 T. Soy Sauce, 2 T. Sweet Chili Sauce & 2 T. Water in a saucepan. Warm over a medium heat to combine. When the fish is done, plate, serve with jasmine rice (great taste pairing), drizzle with sauce and enjoy with a crisp light beer. We had two new beers tonight. I had this Italian one - Peroni. At first I didn't much care for it, but with the fish it was very nice indeed. Tyler's beer was too dark for fish. Tyler also made this great salad of nectarines and pistachios. That was an amazing flavor pairing - I can guarantee that you'll see it in a dessert in the near future.
When I went to school in New Orleans, I lived on muffaletta and beer. A true muff is about 10" across and was an easy lunch for me back in my marathoning days. Along with the etouffee that I served this week I also made muffs: I made my own buns because I couldn't buy buns big enough. These were only 8" but that's still one big ass bun! On the bottom of the bun add layers of mortadella, genoa salami, ham... Cover the meats with some provolone. On the top of the bun add olive salad (green olives, black olives, giardinera [pickled cauliflower, carrots), some spices and olive oil, processed not as fine as what you see on my sandwich) and more provolone. A light grilling to melt the cheese... And that's a sandwich that would make any Y'at proud! It was a great sandwich sure to fill your belly!
When I leave for the cafe in the morning it's too early for me to eat. So by mid-morning when I'm ready to eat something, I'm really hungry. I made some buns (see next (up) post), and used the extra dough to make a monsterous cinnamon roll topped with toffee caramel, poured on while the roll was still hot...mmmmmm.
Because of our remoteness, we rarely get calls from our sales reps. We're simply too small of an account for them to put time into, yet, they still take their commission.
In the past few months, I've received numerous sales calls - normally something I would complain about, but now it's kind of nice to have the attention. I've also seen an increase in resignations by sales reps. Clearly this is not a good time to be a sales rep.
I'm due for a recipe, so how about the shrimp etouffee that I'm making at the cafe this week. When I lived in New Orleans, I cared for Auntie Young, who in turn cared for me. I cared for her as she aged and became feeble, and she cared for me because A strong wind could have knocked me over (it was my marathoning years). Every afternoon I would go over to see her and she would inevitably have some pot of Cajun food waiting for me. It was always good.
This week I've been serving Muffaletta sandwiches and shrimp etouffee. Its a simple but tasty dish that's actually not bad for you. So, let's make a roux!
Tant por tant flour and olive oil (1/2 cup of each) Bring it to a boil and make your roux. Once it starts bubbling, turn it to Med-Low. Notice the color. Its a pale beige-ish color right now. Leave it on Med-Low while you prep your vegetables. Start with 2 Vidalias, 2 Bell Peppers, 3-4 stalks of Celery, a good handful of Italian parsley, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 2 Bay Leaves, and a bit of Thyme. Cut 'em up! Now, let's look at that roux. See how its a dark peanut butter color? That's what we're going for. It took me around 25 minutes to get there. You'll stir occasionally throughout the darkening process. This process cooks the flour and darkens the oil.
Add your stuff. Stir. Mmmmm...doesn't that look appetizing - as appetizing as baby diarrhea. But wait!
Add 20 oz of fish stock, clam juice or if you're a bum, vegetable stock. Then 1 C. of white wine and I add a bit of hot sauce at this point. Bring it to a low boil and cook it until it gets to a consistency that looks good to you. It won't be thick and gloppy. It should be almost stewlike. About 10-15 minutes before you're ready to serve, salt and pepper to taste, add the shrimp, and make your white rice. Serve with extra hot sauce for your guests and a good loaf of French bread! Enjoy.