Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pollo Pulquero {Slow-Cooked Chicken with Tomatillos, Potatoes, Jalapenos, and Cilantro}

 This is a spicy little slow cooker recipe that is perfect for a busy spring day.  Onions, potatoes, chicken, cilantro, tomatillos, and pickled jalapenos get layered in a slow cooker until all their flavors meld into one succulent and spicy little dish.  The chicken is fall-off-the bone tender and the heat from the jalapenos is just the right amount of heat without being overwhelming.  In fact, all the flavors here are just spot on.   The potatoes really help to make this a very satisfying but light spring meal that fills you up without weighing you down.  I'd definitely make this one again.

Slow-Cooked Chicken with Tomatillos, Potatoes, Jalapenos, & Cilantro
(Pollo Pulquero)
Adapted from Mexican Everyday 
by Rick Bayless
Serves 4

1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
medium (about 1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 skinless chicken thighs (bone in or out 1-1-1/2 pounds)
1 cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves or 1/3 cup epazote leaves
1-1/4 pounds (8-12 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup sliced canned pickled jalapenos
2 tablespoons jalapeno pickling juice

Spread the onion over the bottom of a slow-cooker.  Sprinkle with salt.  Continue with layers of the potato slices, chicken thighs, cilantro or epazote and then tomatillos, sprinkling salt evenly over each layer before moving on to the next.  (This is the only salt in the dish, so make sure to add enough.)  Scatter the jalapeno slices over everything, then drizzle on the pickling juice.  Cover and slow-cook on high for 6 hours (the dish can hold on the slow-cooker's "keep warm" function for 4 more hours or so).

Carefully transfer a portion of your pollo pulquero onto each dinner plate.  If there is a large amount of juice in the cooker, tip or ladle it into a saucepan, set it over high heat and boil quickly to reduce to a rich consistency.  Taste and season with more salt if it needs it, then drizzle over each serving.  If you have any cilantro in the refrigerator, chop some to sprinkle over each portion. 

A Quicker Oven Version:  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Layer the dish as described in a medium-large heavy pot, preferably a Dutch oven.  Set the lid in place and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer to reduce the juices.  Spoon directly from the pot onto plates.
Theme: From the Earth

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cookbook Review: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Food From My Frontier 
by Ree Drummond
294 pages

Nine Chapters: Breakfast; Lunch; Soups; Starters, Party Food, and Drinks; Pasta and Pizza; Supper; Sides; Sweets; and Canning

I'm a big fan of Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman.  If it weren't for her then I never would have discovered food blogs, much less started one of my own.  Several years ago I was on a forum for bath and body products and someone mentioned The Pioneer Woman's site.  Out of curiosity I clicked on the link to her site and instantly fell in love.

I credit Ree with my discovery of food blogs.  Prior to clicking on her site I never even knew food blogs existed.  For years I had been alone in my love for food and cooking and suddenly a whole new door opened.  I became obsessed with food blogs and eventually I told myself that I could write one of my own.  The rest, as they say, is history.

I really enjoy following Ree along on her journey, whether it's on her blog or on her new Food Network show.  I enjoy everything she shares whether it's the footage of her ranch life, her kids, or her food.  I enjoy her personality and the fact that she doesn't take herself too seriously.  I think she's a real class act and I'm happy for her.  She's really carved out a wonderful career for herself.

I think The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a great book for any food blogger, but mostly I think this is a great book for the family cook.  There are so many wonderful recipes to feed your family in this book.  To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed to tell you how many recipes I have bookmarked.

I'd like to cook almost every recipe in Ree's new book, but here are the ones I managed to do so far.

First up are Ree's Make-Ahead Muffin Melts, which I wrote about on this post.  These little muffin melts are genius!  It's basically a make ahead egg spread that can be pulled out of the fridge in the morning, smeared on an English muffin, and broiled until hot and bubbly in mere minutes.  A very quick and tasty way to have a nice hot breakfast in the morning.  The best part?  You can customize these to suit your tastes.
Next up I chose Ree's Tequila Lime Chicken to serve alongside her Mexican Rice.  Ree's Tequila Lime Chicken is marinated in a mixture of lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, olive oil and tequila.  The chicken is tender and flavorful and pairs so well with refried black beans, Mexican rice, and some corn tortillas.  My family really enjoyed this meal.
Tequila Lime Chicken
by Ree Drummond
Makes 6 portions

3 limes
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
5 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup tequila
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Optional for serving:
pico de gallo
jalapeno slices
Refried black beans (heat two 14.5 ounce cans of black beans in a saucepan, then mash slightly)
Mexican Rice (recipe to follow)
Warmed flour or corn tortillas
Lime wedges
Avocado slices
Sour cream
Grated Monterey Jack cheese

Slice open the limes and squeeze the juice into a food processor or blender.  Add the garlic cloves, jalapeno slices, cilantro, kosher salt, olive oil, and tequila.  Blend the mixture until totally pureed.  Then add the chicken breasts to a large plastic bag and pour in the marinade.  Seal the bag and marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight.  Remove the chicken from the bag and grill it over medium-high heat. Rotate the chicken 45 degrees on both sides to create nice grill marks, and continue grilling until the chicken is cooked thoroughly, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Slice the chicken and serve it on a plate topped with pico de gallo and a jalapeno slice, surrounded by refried black beans, Mexican Rice, rolled-up warmed tortillas, and a couple of lime wedges.  You can also add some avocado slices, some sour cream...load it up!
Mexican Rice
by Ree Drummond
Makes a huge amount; enough for two dinners*

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups long-grain rice
One 10-ounce can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
One 14.5 ounce can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoons ground cumin, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and add the rice.  Cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure the rice doesn't burn.  Add the Rotel, whole tomatoes, cumin, cayenne, and salt.  Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups of the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the rice is done.  Add more liquid as needed; the rice shouldn't be sticky. 

Just before serving, sprinkle lots of freshly chopped cilantro over the top

*Note: This recipe easily makes enough rice for two full meals.  Plan accordingly.

Recipes I have bookmarked to make:   Carnitas Pizza; BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Quesadillas; Fried Chicken Tacos; Peach Whiskey Chicken; Apricot Shrimp Skewers; Pork Chops with Apples & Grits; and Honey-Plum Soy Chicken...just to name a few!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes

In Bayless' Mexican Everyday, the intro to this recipe reads "This is one of the simplest, tastiest, come-back-to-it-often dishes I know."  After reading those words and looking at the gorgeous picture in the book I knew this was one of the first Bayless meals I had to make.  When a Top Chef Master speaks I listen.

This recipe is super duper easy.  All you have to do is slice up some potatoes and then whip up a quick sauce of fire roasted tomatoes, pickled jalapenos and their juice, and some garlic and cilantro.  Pour that sauce over the fish and the sliced potatoes and slide the whole thing right into the oven.  If you're looking for something a little faster Bayless says that you can even use a jarred salsa in place of the sauce (I would go with one that had some heat to it).  Doesn't get much easier than that!

The end result is a very nicely spiced dish.  The jalapeno really comes through.  I think this is a light and very pleasant meal that is filling yet healthy.  I can see why Rick says this is a "come-back-to-it-often dish".   

Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes
Pescado Horneado al Jalapeno
Adapted from Mexican Everday
by Rick Bayless
Serves 4

4 medium (1 pound total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold Potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1/3 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
About 1/4 cup sliced canned pickled jalapenos (you can seed and slice whole pickled jalapenos or buy slices)
1 tablespoon jalapeno pickling juice
Four 4- to 5-ounce (1-1-1/4 pounds total) skinless fish fillets (mahimahi, halibut, black cod and striped bass are all good here), preferably 3/4 to 1 inch thick

Note: I used cod 
Turn on the oven to 400 degrees. Scoop the sliced potatoes into a microwaveable 8x8 inch baking dish.  Drizzle on the oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Toss to coat, then spread the potatoes in an even layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and poke a couple of holes in the top.  Microwave on high (100%) until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes with their juice, garlic, cilantro, jalapenos and pickling juice.  Process to a puree, leaving just a little texture.

Lay the fish fillets in a single layer over the potatoes.  Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the fish and potatoes.

Slide the baking dish into the oven.  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until the fish flakes when pressed firmly.

Scoop a portion of the fish-potatoes-sauce onto each dinner plate, sprinkle with cilantro and serve right away.

Theme: Sauces and Salsas

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Make-Ahead Muffin Melts

I'm interrupting my normal posting schedule to bring you what I think is a recipe goldmine...the make-ahead muffin melt.  First I must disclose a few things.  First, I'm absolutely crazy for English muffins.  They're right up there on my list of top ten things I like to eat.  Next, I must let you know that I love all breakfast foods.  Breakfast is my all-time favorite! Last but not least, even though I do love to cook and spend countless hours in the kitchen, sometimes I just like to be lazy.  Hence my love for all things simple, easy, effortless, and of course all things make-ahead.  If none of these things appeal to you then you will most definitely not be as excited about this recipe as I am.

This little muffin melt probably doesn't look like much, but it's one of my favorite food discoveries this year.  In fact, I was going to share this recipe in my upcoming The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook review, but I really felt like this recipe deserved a post of it's own. 
Hardboiled eggs, chopped bacon, mayo, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, and cheese
In my house we like to procrastinate.  We sleep in until the last possible second, leaving little time for a home cooked breakfast.  Usually in the mornings my kids only have time for cereal or (gasp) instant grits.  This is where this recipe comes in.  These little muffin melts are heartier and healthier than cereal, but they are also just as quick and just as easy as pouring a bowl of cereal.  Best of all, you can totally eat these on the go whereas you definitely can't eat cereal on the go.  

Basically this recipe is a customizable egg spread that can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.  When you're hungry for breakfast you simply take the egg spread out of the fridge and smear it on a English muffin.  Then you slide the muffin under the broiler and broil for 3-4 minutes until it gets all bubbly and golden.  The end result is a hot and hearty breakfast in minutes. The English muffin gets kinda crispy, as does the top of the muffin melt, but the interior of the melt is creamy and delicious. It's literally perfect on-the-go breakfast food.  Perfect to make for kids before school.  Perfect to make for hubbies who are eating on the go.  Perfect to make for a Mom who has absolutely no time for herself.  Perfect.
Who doesn't have time to take a bowl out of the fridge and smear this on an English muffin?

The other reason I love this recipe is because you can customize it to suit your tastes/needs.  There really is no end to the possibilities here.  Don't want bacon?  Add ham, or sausage, or even chorizo.  Want to cut back on fat?  Leave out the egg yolks, use reduced fat mayo, and/or cut back on the cheese.  You'd never notice the changes.  Maybe you want a vegetarian option?  Forget the meat and add in scallions, peppers, onions, spinach, tomatoes, etc.  Don't like English muffins?  Opt for bagels, a biscuit half, or just plain regular white bread.  You could literally make a different option every week.  I don't know about you all, but I like things that are easy and I always like having options.  To me this is something worth getting excited about.
Make-Ahead Muffin Melts
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
by Ree Drummond
Serves 6-12, depending on serving size

12 slices bacon
12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 cup real mayo
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
6 English muffins, split

Fry the bacon until crisp.  Use a knife to chop it up, then put it somewhere safe so your family won't wolf it down (I cut the bacon into lardons/slices prior to cooking it.  I think it cooks faster and easier that way).  Peel the hard-boiled eggs.  Then give them a rough chop.  Add the cheese, the chopped bacon, and the mayo to a bowl.  Next add the Dijon mustard, the garlic powder and the Worcestershire sauce.  Fold all the ingredients together, then give it a taste.  Add more of whatever you think it needs.

Preheat your oven's broiler to low.  Spread a good amount of the spread onto the halved English muffins.  Place them on the lower rack of the oven and broil them for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn them.  The topping should be hot and the cheese should be melted.  
If you're looking for breakfast options, please give these a try! 

Expect a glowing review of Ree's new book The Pioneer Woman Cooks soon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Creamy Mango Ice

I have a confession.  I buy packages of cubed mango in the freezer section of my grocery store.  When the craving strikes I take out a package and let it thaw just a bit.  When the mango is semi-frozen I start popping those cubes straight into my mouth.  Talk about tasty.  Those semi-frozen cubes are so creamy and sweet.  It's like a dreamy tropical treat that you don't have to feel guilty about.  

While paging through my copy of Mexican Everyday I saw this recipe for Creamy Mango Ice and I was smitten.  I had to make it...and soon.  I blended up a bag of frozen mangoes with some water, sugar, corn syrup, and lime juice.  I tasted it.  Then I tasted it again.  If you taste something several times is it still considered tasting?  Finally I had the willpower to pour it into a 9 x 13 dish and set it in the freezer.  I set the timer for 2 hours and tried to forget about it.  Unfortunately, I kept going back to the freezer and taking a bite.  After two and a half hours and lots of stirring there was a good amount missing. Then my son tasted it and I think he liked it as much as I did.  Let's just say there was barely enough left for the picture.  This mango ice is cold, icy, refreshing and incredibly delicious. Consider this a warning. 

Creamy Mango Ice
Adapted from Mexican Everyday
by Rick Bayless
Serves 6

1-1/2 cups pureed fresh mango pulp (peel and pit the mangoes, 
then puree in a food processor or blender)**
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup fresh lime juice

Note: I used a 12 oz. package of frozen cubed mangoes, but you really need about a 15 oz. package OR about 4-6 fresh mangoes, depending on their size and amount of puree they yield

Begin by pureeing a 12/15 oz. package of frozen mangoes and/or 5-6 fresh cubed mangoes.  You should have 1-1/2 cups pureed fresh mango pulp.  Add in 1 cup of water, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup corn syrup and 1/3 cup fresh lime juice.  Blend in blender or food processor until well blended.  

Pour the mixture into the canister of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.  The ice will have the best texture if you transfer it from the ice cream maker into a container and let it firm up for several hours in the freezer.  Alternatively, pour the mixture into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, slide it into the freezer and "still-freeze" the mixture - stir it thoroughly after 45 minutes, then twice more at 15-minute intervals.  

The ice is best eaten within 24 hours.  Scoop it into small dishes and garnish with lime zest and/or slices.

Theme:  Sweet Tooth

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chipotle Shrimp

For the next six months me and the other folks at I Heart Cooking Clubs will be cooking up the recipes of Rick Bayless every week.  I've known of Rick Bayless for quite some time, but really grew to love him when I watched him on Top Chef Masters. I was so glad when he won as he really did shine above the other chefs, both with his cooking and his charming personality.  You don't have to watch Rick Bayless very long to learn that he is a real class act.  A stand up guy.  I admire that.

Since I love to cook shrimp dishes I went ahead with this Chipotle Shrimp for my first Rick Bayless recipe.  In his cookbook, Mexican Everyday, Rick says that chipotle shrimp is very popular along the Veracruz coast of Mexico and that there is sure to be a version of it on every restaurant menu.  I can see why.  This dish delivers just the right punch of heat without overpowering the delicate shrimp.  With very few ingredients it was simple to put together.  We enjoyed ours served over pasta, but it is equally as good all on it's own.

*Also included below are a couple different riffs, including a vegetarian option.
Chipotle Shrimp
(Camarones Enchipotlados)
 Adapted From Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
Serves 4

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted), drained
2-3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
1 tablespoon chipotle canning sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed
About 1-1/2 cups fish or chicken broth or water
1 to 1-1/4 pounds medium-large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail left on if you wish
About 1/4 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish

Pour the drained tomatoes into a blender or food processor.  Add the chipotle chiles and chipotle canning sauce.  Process until smooth.

In a very large (12-inch skillet), heat the oil over medium.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute.  Pour in the tomato mixture.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.  Add enough broth or water to achieve a light tomato sauce consistency.  Taste and season highly with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.

Add the shrimp to the pan.  Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Stir in a little more broth or water if the sauce has thickened too much.

Scoop onto dinner plates and sprinkle with cilantro.

A couple different simple riffs: 
Replace the shrimp with scallops

Going vegetarian:
In a very large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat.  Add 1 pound firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, and stir until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes; remove to a plate.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, with 1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed; lower the heat to medium-high and stir-fry until the eggplant is soft but not mushy.  Add the recipe's garlic and stir for a minute, then add the tomato mixture, 3/4 cup veggie broth and 2 teaspoons soy sauce.  Add the tofu back to the pan, season and serve.