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Friday, April 28, 2017

Recipe: Slow Roasted “Smashed” Salmon with Citrus, Chilies, and Fennel

Slow Roasted “Smashed” Salmon with Citrus, Chilies, and Fennel




Ingredients:
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 navel orange, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 4 dried chile de arbol (you can also use fresh fresno chile, however, if you do, the heat will last longer, using dried makes a nice bite that fades quickly)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Kosher salt, coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 2-pound skinless salmon fillet, preferably center-cut
  • 3/4 cup evoo
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Ground Black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb Fresh Asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon evoo


Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking tray with foil, and place asparagus on top and drizzle with oil. Roast for 15-20 until deep green and tender. Do not worry about seasoning, the “broth” from the salmon will impact plenty of flavor
  2. Reduce oven to 275°F. Toss fennel, orange slices, lemon slices, chile, and 4 dill sprigs in a shallow 3-quart baking dish; season with kosher salt and pepper. Season salmon with kosher salt and place on top of fennel mixture. Pour oil over. (For a richer flavor, top the salmon with a few patties of butter)
  3. Roast until salmon is just cooked through (the tip of a knife will slide through easily and flesh will be slightly opaque), 30–40 minutes for medium-rare.
  4. Transfer salmon to a platter, breaking it into large pieces as you go. Place asparagus on the serving platter. Spoon fennel mixture and oil from baking dish over top of the asparagus, 

Monday, February 6, 2017

How We Do Super Bowl Sunday - Buffalo Fried Chicken, Home Organization & Lady Gaga


I’ve previously expressed my disinterest in the Super Bowl, but none-the-less it managed to permeate my weekend. We were generously invited to watch the game with some friends which had been our intention to do, football with gays is palatable enough, but we fell far behind our major Sunday To-Do list (thank you Saturday night decision making skills…) and decided not to leave the house. 

After spending the better part of Saturday reorganizing the office, and most of Sunday hunched over reinventing the basement system, by the time dinner time (and kick-off apparently) rolled around I was in quite the mood. You see, in a perfect world Mark is the organizer and I am the decorator, separate and sequential roles. Mark, however, is under the impression that organizing is some how a collaborative effort. I don’t get it, I always end up staring at him blankly while he dives down rabbit holes of rearranging, categorizing and labeling. I’ll occasionally get to vote yes or no on a throwaway question, or he’ll ask me to step in for heavy lifting, but other than that, it’s painfully dull and decidedly non-collaborative. His prized Christmas gift this year, a label maker, made the process even more excruciating in that it meant constant silent delays in progress as he typed, formatted and printed the dozens of tiny labels that now cover every box, bin, drawer and shelf in our home. We have a shelf dedicated to and labeled for “Small-Med Plastic Storage Containers” …Who has signage for storage for storage?!?! Anyway…

I hit a breaking point at about hour 3 and made a break for the kitchen. I don’t know if it was the proliferation of Super Bowl, Football and Gaga talk on social media or my frayed nerves, but I was craving fried food like nobody’s business.

I decided to use the guise of “Super Bowl Sunday Cooking” as an excuse for making Buffalo Fried Chicken. And yes, I do create internal narratives about all my meals, normally to justify indulgent ingredients but sometimes just because I’m crazy…What? you don't? I can’t be the only who does this…anyone?

I digress...Naturally, I wanted to take buffalo chicken to the next level so I quickly decided a roasted Brussels Sprouts and blue cheese hash would be the perfect traditionally thematic yet Instagram appropriate fancy base for my dish. I made my own Buffalo sauce (butter, more butter, hot sauce and butter) and made a quick gluten free batter using cornstarch, maseca, and unsweetened coconut milk. I cut chicken thighs into nugget sized portions and dredged them adding some salt, garlic powder, pepper, and paprika for color and flavor. Prep and frying were quick and easy and the Sprouts roasted simultaneously, overall, this was a surprisingly simple way to Super Bowl comfort food success.

We finished eating just in time for the Gaga Half time show. After a tumultuous 2016 we ended our cable relationship with Comcast (my face may be on their watch list) so I had tried to think ahead and figure out a way to stream the event live. But in the moment of truth, every which way I tried didn’t work. I was panicking. I texted my friend in desperation to see if her techie partner would have any solutions to save my night. She instantly FaceTimed me and we watched the show together in the darkness gasping and yasssing as Gaga recreated the soundtrack to my coming out story through each stop in her musical catalog…Fitting end to a trying (and frying) Sunday...

Buffalo Chicken Nuggets with Buttermilk Brussels Sprouts Hash

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 lbs Brussels Sprouts - Stemmed and sliced thin (almost like cole slaw)
  • 6 oz Buttermilk Blue Cheese (or whatever type you prefer) - crumbled
  • 1.5 lbs Boneless-Skinless Chicken Thighs - cut into "nugget" sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon evoo
  • 1/3 cup Corn Starch
  • 1 cup Maseca
  • 1 cup Unsweeted Coconut Milk
  • 6 tablespoons Salted Butter
  • 1/4 cup Your Favorite Hot Sauce + more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Worchesterchire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Fine Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss sprouts in evoo and spread in large glass roasting dish. Cover with blue cheese crumbles. Roast for 20 mins, tossing halfway through, they should be bright green when you remove from the oven. While sprouts roast. Combine cornstarch, maseca, coconut milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika in a medium mixing bowl. Add water as needed to achieve a runny but smooth batter texture (like you're making pancakes). Dredge the chicken in the batter and ensure even coverage. Heat the frying oil to in a high sided pot (to avoid splatter). Once hot, fry the chicken in batches, carefully turning the nuggets throughout for about 7 minutes or until golden. To make the sauce, heat a stick of salted butter in a small sauce pan. Once melted add hot sauce, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and stir until thoroughly combined. Put in a large mixing bowl and when nuggets are fried, toss them in the bowl until evenly coated. Serve immediately atop sprouts hash and top off with a few blue cheese crumbles.










Friday, February 3, 2017

Chili Without Borders - And Super Bowl Fever

Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner and that has me in the mood for Chili!

I’m totally kidding, I don’t watch sportsball. I’ll be over here checking twitter for reactions to Gaga and googling the best ads at work on Monday…

That being said, it IS chili season. The depths of winter is the best (and really the only appropriate) time for this cold weather comfort food. The first months of the year bring the depressing gray skies and camouflaging layers of clothing that both make chili so appealing and wardrobe friendly.

According to nationalchiliday.com (yes, that's a thing and it's coming up on February 23rd) the origins of chili are shrouded in myth and mystery. There are theories that a Spanish nun, alive in the 1600’s, had a transatlantic spiritual experience with Native Americans, after which she recorded a recipe for a venison based version of the dish. Mexico is often credited with its invention, but any Mexican will adamantly deny any association with “chiles con carne” (peppers with meat). There is some consensus, however, that the first written and recorded recipe came from J.C. Clopper , a historian of sorts, hailing from the Houston area, who, while never using the word ‘chili’ describes a traditional peasant dish with stewed meat and peppers in an article describing life in 19th century San Antonio, Texas. In the 1880’s “chili queens” were selling bowls of meat and vegetable hash in market stalls in the city, and by 1898 the name “San Antonio Chili Stand” was featured at the Chicago World’s Fair. The humble dish is often credited for keeping starvation at bay throughout the Great Depression due to the inexpensive yet nourishing  nature of the ingredients, but by the 1960’s it had been elevated to executive levels. President Lyndon B Johnson was famously a chili lover, so much so his wife, First Lady Ladybird Johnson was said to have had cards bearing his favorite ‘Pedernales Chili’ recipe mailed to thousands from the White House.

Chili is arguably as American as apple pie, no matter where it came from. It’s an amalgamation of ingredients, that likely arose out of necessity  for economy with available food, flavored by inputs from varied cultural traditions and changing times, and is now beloved nationwide. Despite its ubiquity and national proliferation, there are decidedly diverse regional schools of thought on the proper ingredients for chili. Divisions so stark and opinions so strong (beans vs no beans for example) they have sparked many a heated dinner table argument on the “rules” of chili from place to place.  But really I can’t be bothered with the debate…

Let’s be honest people, you throw a bunch of different things in a pot, mix it together, heat it up, and let it simmer until all the flavors combine to complement and elevate each other. It’s the way the ingredients balance each  other and work together that makes it so good….It doesn’t take a genius to see the obvious “American Melting pot” metaphor, but these days, it’s clear some people just don’t get it… When we respect, honor, and elevate each other, we improve ourselves and the condition of everyone. That’s why for my latest chili-potluck at work I decided to put an even more inclusive, global spin on my submission and created the recipe for “Chili Without Borders”. I used garbanzo beans from the traditions of the middle east, curry squash from south asia, roasted chiles from latin America (sorry Mexico, I had to), and spice combinations drawing inspiration cuisine from all across the globe, achieving, in the end a depth and complexity of flavor that even I didn’t know was possible for humble chili.

I’m aware that chili as protest piece and crock pot as soap box is eye roll worthy to some, but it’s my simple way to demonstrate that diversity truly does make things better (and more delicious).

Chili Without Borders

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium butternut squash – peeled, cleaned  and cut into 1.5” cubes
  • 3lbs ground beef
  • 1 can pinto beans – drained
  • 1 can garbanzo beans – drained
  • 1 can black beans - drained
  • 1 large yellow onion – chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup roasted poblano chili peppers - diced
  • 2 tablespoons Wood Smoked Paprika + more to taste
    • This is a critical piece, you must have a nice smoky paprika for depth
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon evoo
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (I like a sweet and spicy variety)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard or Chinese mustard (prepared)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper + more to heat preference
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon evoo
  • Salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese (optional) – grated


Preparation:

****This recipe is meant to be malleable and adapted to your taste or current mood and serves 8-10  depending on your appetite and portion control capabilities****

Preheat oven to 450 ° F. Line a baking tray with foil. Toss cubed squash with garlic powder, curry  and evoo in a large mixing bowl until well coated. Spread evenly on foil. Bake for 30-35 minutes, check with a fork around 20 to make sure they are not getting too mushy, but brown/crispy parts are encouraged (hence the high temp).

While squash roasts, heat evoo in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent. Add ground beef and break into small pieces with a utensil. Brown the meat, but watch the heat to ensure it does not burn. Once there is no more pink visible, you can take a moment to drain the excess fat depending on the fat ratio of the ground beef you used. Turn the heat to low, and add your tomato paste, all the spices, and the beans. Mix well and cook, on very low heat, until squash is done roasting. Add roasted squash and incorporate all ingredients, taste at this point. Add additional salt, pepper or spices to your preferred savory or spice level. At this point you can put on a very low burner (like a simmer option) or put in a crock pot on low and allow to cook and let th flavors marry for at least an hour. Serve hot with the grated cheese on top, and preferably some sour cream and corn bread.







Thursday, February 2, 2017

México Moment - Elote Pizza

I, like many of my family and friends, have been having a moment since, well, November 8th of last year. Ever since January 20th, as New Yorker cartoonist David Sipress recently (and aptly) put it, I’ve struggled with the fact that “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.” When the executive order including provisions to “Build the Wall” was signed on January 25th, I was thrown into a decidedly México Moment. Like so many other acts and declarations since, then, this one really stung.

Having lived for the better part of two years in the Pearl of the West, Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, México, I returned  home to the United States, thoroughly enamored with México and Mexican culture. As I struggled with the implications of the anti-Mexican rhetoric splashed across all media, I found solace in my nostalgia for the sights, sounds, tastes and people of my second home south of the border. A dinner party the night after the executive order felt like the apt venue to show solidarity in some small way and honor beloved México in the food I prepared. After all, food is love, and yo amo México.

‘Elote’, a word that has its roots in México’s indigenous past, coming from Nahuatl, the storied language of the Aztecs and most of pre-Colombian México, is a ubiquitous preparation of corn on the cob  that can be found in the streets, prepared in restaurants and served in the home throughout the year (a blessing of a nearly seasonless climate) across nearly all of México’s 31 states. Usually served on a stick, Elote is a corn cob, grilled over coals until blistered and then dressed with hot chile paste, salt, cheese (usually queso fresco or cotija), mayonnaise or crema (sour cream), and finished with lime (Side Note: ‘Esquites’ is the same ingredients mixed with the corn shaved off the cob and served in a cup or a bowl, equally as delicious). Elote is distinctly Mexican, colorful and a vibrant mix of sweet, smoky, savory, spicy and sour flavors, in my opinion, one of the best traditional street foods in the world. If you ever find yourself in México, seeking a snack in the heat of the midday sun, look around for the nearest Elote cart, they’re never too far.

For our meal I decided to turn this dish into a main course. I would do this by incorporating the ingredients into a pizza and in doing so, diverge ever so slightly from the traditional preparation. Now I would normally have made own quick pizza dough, but work, followed by therapy, followed by traffic (counter productive I know…) meant I wouldn’t have time to let it rise before our guests arrive, so I cheated and bought my favorite brand, Brooklyn Pizza Dough. It’s sold frozen, but I let it defrost at room temp while I unloaded my crazy on my therapist for an hour, and it was ready to go by the time I got home.


Corn can be hard to come by in January in the mid-Atlantic, good corn that is, but thanks to our southern neighbors I was able to find some in my local grocery store, purchased, thankfully still free of a 20% import tax (cough cough). Knowing my time constraints the night-of, I broiled the corn cobs until blistered the night before we were to host dinner, shaved them and chilled them in the fridge. I picked up some queso fresco, which I knew would crumble very well, and queso Oaxaca from my favorite Mexican grocer on Eastern Avenue, which, while not traditional to Elote, would add the critical melt factor to the pizza topping. One of the critical aspects to good Elote is mayonnaise or crema (sour cream of sorts), which add that enigmatic, umami tang and pulls the whole dish together. Initially, either of these on pizza sound downright revolting (though I have been seen dipping a slice in mayo very late night), so how to achieve that je ne sais quois creamy note so crucial to the Elote preparation, was a momentary conundrum. My workaround was to incorporate mayo into the chili paste. Normally, Elote is dusted with dried chili mix or rubbed with an oily, almost ground, paste which imparts the fiery color and bite to the sweet yellow corn kernels. I combined sea salt, dried morita and chilacate chiles, red pepper flake, and paprika (for color) with mayonnaise and took my immersion blender to it. What resulted was almost paste, kind of sauce, sort of aioli, with the most brilliant blood red color I could have asked for, success!

I brushed the dough with some roasted garlic olive oil to give a nice base flavor. Then spread the corn and evenly dusted with grated, crumbly queso fresco. I cross hatched long pieces of string-cheese like queso Oaxaca for maximum ooze effect then drizzled the umami-chili concoction generously overtop. When I pulled it from the oven, a quick squeeze of lime (not too much or it would have been soggy) and Elote Pizza was born.

Dinner conversation that night was not entirely bereft of the usual dinner party frivolity, but it was marked by political discourse and the associated topics and emotions, ranging from despair and despondence to anger and agitation to action. Dinner did its part as a delicious and reverential nod to a time honored Mexican culinary tradition and a celebration of a cuisine and culture I hold close to my heart. Elote Pizza as solidarity comfort food.

Elote Pizza


Ingredients:
  • 1 ball Brooklyn Pizza Dough – rolled to desired size and thickness and dusted with corn meal
  • ¼ cup garlic infused olive oil
  • 4 ears sweet corn
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 dried morita peppers
  • 2 dried chilacate peppers
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (get a bright red variety)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flake
  • ½ pound queso fresco – grated
  • 1 medium ball queso Oaxaca – pulled into long strings


Preparation:

First, blister the corn. This can be done by rubbing the cobs in olive oil then grilling, broiling, or using a brûlée torn until the kernels begin to blacken and pop. Once, blistered, shave off the cob and set in a small bowl (can be done a day ahead and kept refrigerated).
Preheat oven to 400F. Using a blender or a cup with an immersion blender, puree the dried peppers, paprika, salt and mayonnaise into a thick paste-like aioli, it should be pourable but not runny or liquid. Brush dough with garlic olive oil. Spread corn evenly across the top. Repeat with queso fresco. Place strings of queso Oaxaca in a cross hatch pattern as if it were a pie crust. Drizzle chili paste generously across the top. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on crisp factor but at least until the cheese is melted and the crust golden. Immediately upon removal from the oven, drizzle with the juice of half of a lime (being careful to avoid creating any soggy parts). Serve immediately.