Thursday, July 31, 2008

.chili con carne.

I'm embarassed to admit this, but I have never made my own chili. I know! But I conjure up images of my childhood when my mother would make chili and it was this really bland, boring mix of beans and meat. (Sorry mom!!!)

I finally got up the courage to try it for myself because we're trying to use up the stuff in our freezer... and I had a pound of hamburger in there. It turned out awesome. I will never EVER buy what I usually buy again.

Dice up two jalapeno chilies. If you want heat, leave the seeds and pith in. If you don't want it hot, cut out the pith. That's where the heat is.

Mince 2 cloves garlic.

Dice one medium onion. I used red onion because it's what I had on hand. I would have preferred white or yellow.

Take 1 pasilla chili (also referred to as chili negro) and cut into pieces.

Put in a spice grinder until all ground up.

Heat a little olive oil in a stock pot. Saute the onion, jalapeno, and garlic for a minute.

Add 1 Tbsp cumin

and the ground pasilla chili. Sauteing the spices first brings out the oils and giving your food rich, bold flavor. Saute for about 30 seconds.

Add 1 can diced green chilies and saute for another minute or two.

Add your ground beef. About 1 1/2 lbs.

Break the hamburger apart as it cooks. This is what it will look like once it's all cooked through.

I used three different kinds of beans for this. You can use all of one, or mix it up like I did. Don't drain the beans. Add them all with their liquid to the pot.

And finally add 1 can of diced tomatoes. I used the spiced tomatoes that have chili spices in it.

Let this cook on your stovetop on low for 2-3 hours. This allows all of the flavors to marry together.

If you want to crock pot this, add everything to the crock once the beef has browned. Don't forget to season with salt and pepper!

Serve with crackers and cheese. Pickled jalapeno slices would be awesome on top too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

.chicken tomatillo tamales.

I get on these kicks where I read gourmet blogs and this one I happened across one night talked about these amazing chicken, corn, and tomatillo tamales they had at a restaurant somewhere in New York. This, of course, sent me on a mission to find a recipe for them! I wound up using two different recipes and adjusting them to my own personal wants. They turned out really good!

I've never made tamales before so if you are a seasoned vet, please do not make fun of me! LOL I was surprised at how easy they were to make. Having asked around, it seemed like it would be a more arduous task. I think if you use pork it would be. From start to finish, these took about 2 hours to do. I made extra and froze them so I can have more another night. Yessss. I love that!

Begin by putting cornhusks in a pan of water. Set something heavy on top to keep them submerged in the water.

Cut up one small onion. I had to use green onion because I was OUT of regular onion. Bummer.

Mince one clove garlic.

Cut up three tomatillo.

The recipe calls for Pasilla chilies. Pasilla are the name of the fresh pepper, which is a very dark green. Can't find them around here, sadly. Dried are called chile negro and work fine as a substitute for fresh. You will want to cut the stem off then cut into pieces.

Put all of the pepper pieces into a spice grinder and grind until you're content.

If for some strange reason you can't find fresh or dried, use chili powder.

Cook up some chicken breasts. Remove from the pan and let cool.

Once cool, shred with your fingers or with a fork.

Heat a little oil or butter in a skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and chili powder to the pan and saute for a minute.

Add the tomatillo and stir in. Cook for another minute or two.

Add 1/3 cup frozen corn.

Dump in one can drained and rinsed black beans.

Cook this down for about 5 minutes. Add a little water to the pan if needed to avoid burning.

Add the chicken in. Season the entire filling well with salt and pepper.

Squeeze in the juice of half of one lime.

Set the filling mixture aside.

Now to make the masa cake.

In a bowl put 3 cups masa harina, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup oil, and 3 cups chicken stock. You want almost a playdough type consistency.

Take some of the cornhusks and carefully pull them apart into thin strips. Tie two pieces together to create laces. You're going to need these to hold the tamales closed.

Take some of the masa (about 1/4 cup) and put it on one of the soaked cornhusks. Press it out using your hands.

Don't ask me what is going on with the lighting on this picture. Put a spoonful of filling on the masa.

Fold the husk over in half, and then fold the edges in.

Take another piece of cornhusk (one of the smaller, thinner pieces) and fold it over the top opening. To secure it, wrap and tie using one of the husk laces we made.

Keep repeating this process until you've used up all the masa and/or filling.

Now it's time to cook these babies. If you have one of these pasta pots, great! You want to steam the tamales - not bake. If you don't have one of these pots, put a colander in a pan upside down. This will keep the tamales from resting in the water on the bottom of the pot. Put a lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil (make sure you don't use too much water!! Just enough to steam these guys!).

Put the tamales into the steamer and cover with a lid. Steam for about 40 minutes, rotating them halfway through the cooking process. You'll know they're done when the masa pulls away from the husk easily.

Serve with rice and beans if you want. Top with sour cream and guacamole.

These weren't very spicy so we had salsa with them too. Perfect!

So you can see that homemade tamales CAN be achieved in your house and it won't take 3 days either!!! You'll definitely want to make a lot of these so you can enjoy them again and again. This recipe made 16 tamales. Enjoy!

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Monday, July 28, 2008

.kung pao chicken.

This was a request I received from April. She was asking if I had a good tried and true recipe for Kung Pao Chicken. Surprisingly, I did not! So I did a little researching and came up with something that was easy and delicious. I'm definitely adding it to my Chinese menu rotation!

I will note that this dish is spicy, which can be omitted all together, but you'll be left with, in my opinion, a very boring dish. The spice is what makes this authentic.

In a bowl, mix together the marinade:

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 tsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (use sake or dry sherry for substitute)
1 tsp oil

Cut up 4 chicken thighs into bite size pieces. You could use chicken breast, but you really do want a dark meat for this recipe.

Put the chicken and marinade in a ziploc and let sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice some green onion on the diagonal.

Finely sliver some fresh gingerroot.

Thinly slice 2 cloves garlic.

And toast some peanuts in a 400 degree oven. I went a little crazy with the peanuts and there were far too many in the dish. Do only HALF of what you see in this picture.

In a bowl, whisk together:

1 1/2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp dark soy sauce (this is actually a mushroom soy sauce. I had to ask at the asian market here and was given the 411 on it. LOL)

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp black vinegar (found in asian markets)

2 Tbsp water

1 tsp cornstarch

Heat your wok with about 1 Tbsp oil. Add the marinated chicken and cook until about 70% done. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Wash out the pan.

Heat the wok back up with another tablespoon of oil. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for a few seconds.

At this stage, you really are supposed to add red chiles, deseeded and thinly sliced, but I couldn't find them so I used crushed red pepper flakes. I added way too many. LOL SPICY!!!!!!!!!! But it was goooooooddddd. If you can't find the red chiles, use red pepper flakes but only a dash.

Add the peanuts and mix everything around.

Add the chicken back to the wok.

Pour in the cooking sauce and stir. It will begin thickening immediately. Remove the pan from the burner once it's thick and coats all the chicken.

Add your green onion and toss to coat. Serve with steamed white rice.

We had ours with rice and sweet and sour chicken. Yummy!

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