Sunday, April 28, 2019

Mark Bittman's Chilaquiles

Mark Bittman calls this dish Chilaquiles and I have to disagree. Chilaquiles is fried tortilla strips topped with a spicy salsa or tomato sauce and cheese. I love chilaquiles. This recipe is actually Migas, fried corn tortillas added to scrambled eggs and lots of fun toppings. I love Migas, too. Whatever you chose to call this dish, you definitely have to call it delicious!

A friend gave us the most amazing homemade salsa made from California red peppers and garlic. The salsa has a wonderful toasty flavor with a hint of heat and a touch of garlic and we have been craving it every single day. We wanted something with salsa for breakfast, but we were looking for something a little different. That's when I found this quick recipe in Bittman's Kitchen Express.

The toasted peppers in the salsa pair perfectly with the fried tortilla strips. I added in a little heat with some jalapeno and, dare I say, this dish does not even need any cheese. It is incredibly flavorful on it's own. It's got me thinking I need to start making my own salsa. Sometimes it is all the condiments!

Chilaquiles (Or Migas)
Adapted from Kitchen Express
by Mark Bittman
Serves 1

Cut corn tortillas into strips. Fry in not too much oil -with a few chopped jalapenos, pickled or not. If you feel in that direction - until crisp, about three minutes, turning on paper towels to drain. Beat a few eggs with milk or cream and salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a tablespoon or so of the frying oil and add the tortilla strips and the eggs. Cook, stirring, until the eggs are done, two to four minutes. Garnish with salsa, chopped avocado, cheese, scallions, sour cream, or whatever else you like. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mark Bittman's Corned Beef Hash

I like recipes with minimal ingredients. Evidently I also like recipes with potatoes. As proof, my last FIVE posts have all been about recipes centered around potatoes! Ruth's Sauteed Cabbage with Bacon and Cream and Potato Pierogi; Tessa's Omeleta Horiatiki with Potato, Feta, and Oregano; A roundup of Ruth Reichl favorites with two of them being Cheddar and Garlic Twice-Baked Potatoes and Shirred Eggs Over Potato Puree; Tessa's Patates Tiganites (Greek French Fries), Nigel's Classic Shepherd's Pie, and now Mark Bittman's Corned Beef Hash! I think it's reasonable to say that I need to move on from potatoes and share something fresh and light next.

I'm laughing because there are two reasons I have so many potato dishes. First and foremost, we just love potatoes. Who doesn't? Secondly, potatoes are ALWAYS in my pantry and I can ALWAYS make a potato dish without having to venture out and run to the store.

I tell ya. Put some potatoes in your pantry and with a few other basic ingredients you can always put a meal together!

I bought this corned beef hash on sale for a mere $1.99/lb, which is a fabulous price. Listen to me: DO NOT BOIL YOUR CORNED BEEF! Roast it! Roast it at about 300F to 350F, covered, for about an hour per pound. If your corned beef is good quality then you should end up with a very tender corned beef that almost falls apart, or shreds, like a roast. NOTE: Save any liquid that accumulates in the pan for your hash! Note that it will be quite salty so if you like salt then this will be okay, but if you do not, then you will want to use another liquid such as stock.

Corned beef hash is a delightful and hearty dish that is exceptionally delicious when made from scratch! Bittman's version is different in that he calls for more liquid, so it does not fry up to be as crisp as other versions. When mine came together it had great flavor, but was quite soft, and while some people would like that, I opted to place my has under the broiler (as he suggested) to create a crisp crust on the top. The broiler worked nicely and was much easier than standing over a pan, flipping and flopping the hash, which can be quite finicky. I topped the hash with two over-easy eggs and watched as the yolks oozed over the hash. We are big fans of a skillet breakfast and corned beef hash is easily one of our all-time favorites, perfect for an Easter Brunch!

Corned Beef Hash
Adapted from How To Cook Everything
by Mark Bittman
Serves 2-4

2 cups cut-up leftover corned beef (I like it cut pretty small)
2 cups cut-up cold boiled potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup liquid (stock, tomato sauce, milk, cream, or gravy)*
3 tablespoons oil or butter
salt and pepper, to taste*
eggs, optional*

Toss together 2 cups of left-over corned beef (I don't like to boil my corned beef. I like to roast it at 350 for about an hour per pound). Add 2 cups cut-up cold boiled potatoes.  Add 1 cup chopped onion and 1/2 cup liquid (*I used the leftover stock from roasting the corned beef, but be warned if you do this - it will be quite salty-also watch the amount of salt you add to this dish*). You can also use stock, tomato sauce, milk, cream, or gravy as a liquid. The goal is to moisten the mixture but not so much as to make it soupy. 

Heat 3 tablespoons oil or butter in a heavy skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted or the oil begins to shimmer, put the hash in the pan and cook it, undisturbed, for about 10 minutes, or until a nice crust has formed. Turn the has and brown the other side, or flip half of it over onto the other, or brown the top under a broiler (mine was too moist to brown on the stovetop so I put it under the broiler).  Serve with over easy eggs* on top and a sprinkling of parsley or something green.

Theme: April Showers @ I Heart Cooking Clubs!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Nigel Slater's Classic Shepherd's Pie {and other Classic British Favorites}

Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash, and Shepherd's Pie come to mind when I think about Classic British food. Of course, you have to have your tea, scones, crumpets, and you might delight in some Sticky Toffee Pudding or a trifle or two. I'd really like to enjoy a good Toad In The Hole one day, but for now, I'll stick with a good old-fashioned Shepherd's Pie. A true comfort food classic.

Shepherd's Pie is one of the most popular British dishes. Nigel Slater's version is rustic and simple. A handful of ingredients and very loosely written instructions. Very loose. I will tell you that ground lamb is the most important ingredient in a Shepherd's Pie. If you use ground beef, you're making a Cottage Pie. Equally delicious, no doubt, but a different name altogether.

So, Nigel's Shepherd's Pie. His instructions are vague at best, but you really can't go wrong here. You are essentially flavoring ground lamb and covering it with mashed potatoes. Don't overthink it. I've included a blow by blow of how I made mine down below. Saying that, I think this dish would turn out slightly different each time you make it. Depends on the seasoning you use, depends on the veg you use, depends on whether you top it with cheese. 

I will say this. I didn't feel like a long cooking project before I started this and while it took time, it was certainly not tedious, or labor-intensive, or difficult. The steps were simple and the tasks are easy. However, the payoff is huge and for that reason, this dish is really a cook's best friend. Not to mention, the aromas are heavenly and the dish is soul soothing and hits all the right notes of a comfort food pleaser. Don't hesitate to make this!

Classic Shepherd's Pie
Adapted from The Guardian
by Nigel Slater
Serves 4-6

The Recipe: Boil and mash 1kg of big, floury potatoes, adding a thick slice of butter as you mash. Soften 2 onions, peeled and chopped in a little butter. (You can add a few diced carrots and celery at this point.)  When they are golden, add 600g minced lamb, letting it brown thoroughly. Now add your salt, pepper and thyme and a shake or two of Worcestershire Sauce, and about 350ml of stock. Let the mixture simmer gently for 30 minutes. Tip the lamb into a shallow baking dish, top with the mash, dot with a little butter and bake for 35-40 minutes in a hot oven till the surface is crisp.

The Trick: Nicely browned onions, a few leaves of thyme and maybe a shake of the Worcestershire Sauce is all you need. Whether you are using minced or cooked lamb, it should be neither too small nor too large. Let the mince cook for a good 30 minutes, if not longer. The crust must be crisp on top so either pull a fork across its surface to create "furrows" or pile it up into clouds with a spoon. 

What I did: I gathered enough russet potatoes to equal 2 cups mashed potatoes. I peeled them and cut them into cubes and boiled them around 20 minutes until they were tender enough to mash. I added about 4 tablespoons of butter and a splash or two of milk (the potatoes were too stiff without the milk). Two onions seemed like A LOT of onion so I opted to dice 1 onion, 1 stalk of celery (plus the leaves), and 1/2 half of a very large carrot. I cooked the onion, celery, and veg in about 2 tablespoons of butter for about 10 minutes until the onions became golden. Then I added 1 pound of ground lamb. My lamb was on the fatty side and after it cooked I had to drain some oil out of the pan. Then I added three shakes of Worcestershire Sauce, a sprig of thyme, salt, pepper, and 1-1/2 cups of beef stock. I stirred it to mix and then allowed it to simmer and thicken for 30 minutes. When the time was up I piled the lamb mixture into a 10" cast iron skillet, topped it with the mashed potatoes, created "furrows" with the back of a spoon, and brushed the top with 2 tablespoons of melted butter so that I could ensure a golden brown crisp buttery crust. I baked the pie in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes, although I will tell you that I would check it starting at 25 minutes because ovens vary. Allow to cool briefly and serve, straight away!

Jamie Oliver's Fruit Scones

Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Tessa Kiros Mezedes Feast (Keftedes, Patates Tiganites, Tzatziki, Cucumber Meze, & Alatopiperigano}

Tessa Kiros is one of my favorite IHCC chefs and I love all her books, but Food From Many Greek Kitchens was on my kitchen counter and her Omeleta Horiatiki was so good I was hungry for more! I have so many pages in this cookbook bookmarked to make and I decided it was time to get to work and start crossing some off my list.

Now, I'm all about potatoes lately and I will confess that I planned this meal around Tessa's Patates Tiganites (French Fries) solely because she mentions scattering the wedges with a seasoning blend called Alatopiperigano (salt, pepper, and oregano) then topping with feta cheese before dunking them in some tzatziki. Um, yes. Why haven't I had fries with feta or tzatziki before? Where have I been hiding? Three recipes down. Next, I needed some meat, hence the Keftedes and then I needed a veg, and we love cucumbers, so bring on the Cucumber Meze.

I won't lie. I was in the kitchen for a good amount of time, but it was all easy and doable. First I made the Cucumber Meze and it was so refreshing and delicious I pretty much ate it all while I was putting the other recipes together so then I had to make another batch! Next was the Tzatziki. I wanted it to have some time to set in the fridge and allow the flavors to meld.

Then I fried up the Keftedes and I have to tell you, you need to make these! They are no ordinary meatball. Instead of breadcrumbs, they are bound with potato and they are therefore much lighter and become much crispier when fried. The texture is a huge delight and they are irresistible right out of the frying pan. Not to mention, those little suckers are loaded with flavor.

Next, I soaked the potato wedges in salt water to remove some of the startch and waited to fry them up. While they were soaking I mixed up the Alatopiperigano seasoning which is just a simple blend of salt, oregano, and black pepper that smells absolutely delicious. When the potato wedges were ready I fried those babies up and was so excited to drain them and sprinkle that Alatopiperigano on top because now it was time to feast!

It was all such a delight and for a moment I was transported to Greece. I closed my eyes and smelled savory meat, aromatic oregano and mint, and lemon. I imagined a world where people topped hearty potato wedges with feta cheese before dunking them in tzatziki and I wanted to be a part of it, and in my kitchen, I was a part of it. Even if only for a moment or two.

Keftedes (Fried Meatballs)
Adapted From Food Many Greek Kitchens
by Tessa Kiros
Makes about 35

10 - 1/2 ounces unpeeled potato (about 2)
1 pound 2 ounces ground beef
1 red onion, grated (small)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried mint
a good pinch of ground cinnamon*
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
all-purpose flour for dusting
olive oil, for frying
lemon quarters, for serving
Note: I know cinnamon is traditional in Greek cooking, but I don't care for it with meat so I omitted it.
Boil the potatoes, covered, in plenty of water until they are soft when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, put the beef, onion, parsley, oregano, mint, cinnamon and egg into a bowl and mix. Drain the cooked potatoes and when they are cool enough to handle, peel and break up into the bowl. Season well with salt and pepper, then mash everything together with a potato masher. Knead again with your hands to make a compact mix. Form walnut-sized balls of about 1 ounce each, but you can make them smaller or bigger if you like. Scatter some flour onto a flat plate and roll the balls lightly in the flour, keeping them in compact balls.

Heat olive oil to a depth to a depth of about 1/4" in a large nonstick skillet. Add as many balls as will fit to the skillet and fry until they are golden on all sides, flicking them gently to roll over. You will probably have to fry them in two batches. Remove carefully with tongs and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Add a little salt and serve hot, with a few drops of lemon juice.

Patates Tiganites (French Fries)
Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens
by Tessa Kiros
Serves 2

10 1/2 ounces long potatoes, about 2
light olive oil, for frying
Alatopiperigano* (see recipe below)

Note: I fried my potatoes in canola oil, but olive oil is what they use in Greece.

Peel the potatoes, halve them lengthwise and slice each half into 3 or 4 wedges. Put into a bowl of cold water with some salt and leave them for 30 minutes to 1hour to soak off some of the starch. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap in a clean dish cloth to dry further while the oil is heating.

Pour a good 1/2" depth of oil into a large skillet. Heat oil over medium-high heat until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds. When you think it's hot enough, throw in a wedge to see if it bubbles and fizzles. If so, add all the wedges, leveling them so they are not on top of each other. When they start to look soft, poke at them with a wooden spoon to roughen up their surfaces. Leave them alone again until they start looking crunchy, then shuffle them with a wooden spoon, turning them if necessary. Turn the heat down if the oil bubbles too quickly and becomes too hot; you don't want dark brown, soggy chips. When they are lightly golden and crisp, move them around in the pan with a slotted spoon and remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Scatter with alatopiperigano. Serve at once with tzatziki and a scattering of feta cheese on top!

 Tzatziki (Yogurt, Cucumber, Garlic)
Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens
by Tessa Kiros
Makes a bowlful

1 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
5-3/4 ounces cucumber (1 small)
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces Greek yogurt
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped mint
black pepper, to taste

Note: I think the flavors of this tzatziki will depend on the yogurt you used. I used Fage 2% and the results were a thick sauce. If you wanted a thinner sauce you could always save a little of the cucumber liquid or add a touch of olive oil.

Using the flat of your knife, crush the garlic with a pinch of salt into a paste. Put into a small bowl with the oil and leave to marinate while you proceed with the rest.

Trim the cucumber and peel it. I like it striped, with one strip peeled and the net left unpeeled. Using the large holes of the grater, grate the cucumber into a sieve. Scatter with the salt and leave it for 30 minutes or so to drain, turning it over a couple of times and even pressing down with your hands or a wooden spoon.

Put the yogurt into a bowl for serving. Add the garlic and oil, the mint and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Fold the cucumber through and taste for salt. This can be stored in the fridge, covered, for a couple of days. The cucumber will give up a little water, but stir it through to loosen the tzatziki.

Cucumber Meze
Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens
by Tessa Kiros
Serves 2

7 ounces cucumber (about 1, peeled and sliced)
juice of 1/2lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
salt and pepper, to taste
about 1 tablespoon olive oil

Put the cucumber and lemon juice into a bowl and crumble in the mint. Add salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over just before serving.

Alatopiperigano (Salt, Pepper, Oregano)
Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens
by Tessa Kiros

1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Few grinds of black pepper

Mix together and keep in an airtight container. Use as a Greek seasoning and sprinkle on fries, meats, eggs, etc.