Friday, August 10, 2012

.chicken curry.

My husband's birthday was earlier this week so I've been making dinners that I know he loves to give him a "week of Jim" sort of birthday.  He retired from the Navy in 2008 and I remember him talking fondly of the curry dishes he would have whenever he deployed.  I have experimented many times making curry.  Most were good, but not exceptional.  I was looking for real, authentic flavors and heat and I think I've nailed it this time.

There's an Indian grocery in Poughkeepsie that I pass all the time so I decided to stop in there last week to see what I could find to make my curry.  They had a couple varieties of curry powder.  I picked up some Hot Madras curry powder, Indian red peppers (they look like little tiny super skinny red jalapenos), and fresh curry leaves! 

Begin by heating a dutch oven, or a skillet - whichever you have.  Heat over medium high heat and add some oil -- preferrably ghee.  Season chicken thighs and legs with salt and pepper and sear in the heated oil.  Once they're beautifully browned on both sides, remove and set aside.

You shouldn't need any oil as the fat from the chicken has rendered into the pan.  Add the following aromatics and vegetables in the heated pan:

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 to 2 onions, halved and sliced
4-5 Indian red peppers
5-6 curry leaves
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups red or gold potatoes, large cubes
2 cups carrots (I use the little mini snack sized carrots and leave them whole or if they're really big, cut them in half)

Saute all of these vegetables together for about 5-10 minutes.  When the onions begin to wilt and become transparent, season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the top of the vegetables with curry powder (I used quite a bit to get lots of flavor in there) and half cup flour.  Stir everything up and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

If you're using a dutch oven, return the chicken to the pot.  If you aren't, put your vegetables in an oven safe baking dish (that has a lid, perferrably -- or seal tightly with foil).  Top the veggies with the chicken.  *Note:  I also largely diced one tomato and put those on top before putting in the oven. 

Add 1 can coconut milk and 2-3 cups chicken stock -- enough to almost cover everything in the pot.  Cover with lid or foil and pop in a preheated 300* oven.  Let this cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  This dish can also be made the day before and reheated.  The flavors will be amazing the following day!

Serve over cooked rice.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

.southern caramel cupcakes w/ candied pecans.

I don't know many people who don't love cupcakes.  These individual serving sized treats are perfect for someone who would like to splurge a little, but not overindulge.

I make cupcakes whenever I go to my scrapbook weekends.  I take two varieties and these deliciously moist, Southern Caramel Cupcakes were the ones I took just recently to a crop.  A light, buttery cake topped with homemade caramel and a candied pecan.  Could you get any more southern than that?

These take time to make -- at least, the caramel does.  So make sure you give yourself ample time.  Whomever you make these cupcakes for, they will love you for it!  Enjoy!

Butter Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups cake flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Your batter at this point will be really light and fluffy. 

In a bowl, mix together all your dry ingredients.   In a measuring cup, put your milk and vanilla.

Alternating, add some dry ingrediens and then some of the wet.  Do this until all has been added and mixed in.  Your batter should be slightly thick, but fluffy like frosting.

Using a large cookie scoop, scoop your batter into paper lined muffin tins.  Bake at 350* for approx 15 minutes.  When a toothpick inserted comes out clean, remove from the oven and dump onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely.

Homemade Caramel Topping

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, put 4 cups sugar and 1 cup butter (cut up into pieces) and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the butter/sugar begins to turn a caramel color.  (Approx. 10 minutes)

When the sugar turns a deep amber, add 2 cans evaporated milk (Pet brand preferred) and 1 tsp sea salt (no substitutions).  Whisk until smooth.  It might take a few minutes, but as the milk heats up, the sugar will dissolve.

Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and lower the heat a smidge to medium low.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  When your candy thermometer reaches 245*, pull the pot from the heat and add 1 tsp vanilla.  Mix in well.

If you have a stand mixer, pour the hot caramel into your mixing bowl and using the paddle attachment, beat on slow for 30 minutes, or until the caramel becomes thick and is spreadable.  Let sit again for 30 minutes.

Spoon some caramel onto each cupcake.  Using a knife or small offset spatula, spread the caramel around to cover the surface of each cake. 

*NOTE:  Do not let this caramel sit too long otherwise it will set up too much and won't spread out as easily - and you could pull up the top of your cake. 

Candied Pecans

Put 2 cups pecan halves in a skillet and add 1/2 cup sugar.  Over medium heat, keep stirring the pecans and sugar around until the sugar melts and coats the pecans.  It will turn an amber color like the caramel.  When it does, remove from the heat immediately and dump the coated pecans onto a piece of foil or on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  Allow to cool, then break up into pieces. 

*NOTE:  These can be made up days in advance.  Store in an air-tight container until ready to use.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

.chile-rubbed short ribs w/ sopes, greens, & pickled onions.

I love short ribs, but whenever I make them, I always go to my go to recipe with tomatoes, red wine, Italian herbs and all that good stuff.  It's always an Italian dish!  I decided to try something new.  While searching around the internet, I came across a recipe for chile rubbed short ribs, which gave it a more Latin/South American flavor.  Something I definitely wanted to try. 

With short ribs, you need to make them well ahead of time.  They take 4 hours to braise in the oven to ensure the sinew has broken down and for the fat to render completely.  Do it properly, and you'll have a finished product that's juicy and tender and mouthwateringly delicious!

There are a lot of components to this dish and while it may look awfully fancy in my picture, it's really not.  In fact, I would even consider this dish something a beginner could easily make.  So if you're feeling intimidated, don't! 


Put chile powder and salt in a bowl (2:1 ratio).  Generously coat all of the short ribs and set aside.  If you can, do this step the night before so they can soak in all that smoky chile flavor.

Put some oil in a large dutch oven and heat over medium high heat.  When hot, put in your short ribs and sear all sides of the pieces.  If all of your short ribs didn't fit in the pan, sear some and then put them on a plate.  Repeat searing the remaining ribs.  Place all seared ribs back into the dutch oven. 

Add to your pot:

1 1/2 cups red wine (a good Spanish wine would be fantastic for this)
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 Spanish onion, sliced
1 lime, cut in half, squeeze juice into the pot and drop the lime into the pot
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can green chiles, diced
2 tomatoes, diced

Put the lid on and pop this into a preheated 250* oven.  Cook for 4 hours.


Peel and thinly slice 1 red onion.  Put in a large ziploc with 1/2 cup warm water, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt.  Seal up the ziploc, removing as much air as possible.  Pop in the fridge and let sit.  This step can be done a day in advance to give your onions more time to pickle.

Step 3: SOPES

Sopes are these lovely little fried corn pancakes.  They have a hint of sweetness that pairs well with the robust short rib.

In a bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups masa (I used Maseca), 1 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp salt.

In a saucepan, put 2 1/2 cups milk and heat to boiling.  Once boiling, turn off the burner and add 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces.

When the butter has completely melted, pour the hot milk into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.  Let sit for 5 minutes for the masa to absorb the liquid.

If you have an electric griddle, use it.  If you don't, you can use a skillet over medium heat.  Heat your griddle to 350*.  Drizzle the hot griddle with oil or melted butter.  Use a 2 Tbsp cookie scoop and scoop blobs of batter onto your griddle surface.  Take a metal spatula and carefully press down each blob to make a little pancake.  (I did have to coat the back of my spatula with some butter so the dough wouldn't stick to it.)  Cook for 6 minutes on each side.  When they're golden brown on both sides, remove and set aside.  Repeat until all the batter is cooked up.

Step 4:  PLATE!

When all of your steps are done, it's time to plate.

Begin by placing your sopes down first.  I used spring greens and layed them down on top of each sope.    Then I put a piece of short rib meat on top of that!  Crumble a little Cotija cheese on top of that, then drizzle with some Mexican Crema.  The final step is placing some of those pickled onions as the garnish.

Voila!  So simple.  So SO delicious.  Your family will be amazed by your mad culinary skills!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

.tagliatelle w/ bolognese.

I bought a pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid last year and have only used it a couple of times... to roll out pieces of fondant.  No pasta.  Something about making homemade pasta scared me.  I don't know what it is.  It was this irrational fear that it wasn't going to turn out.

Well, I decided to give it a try.  I read a lot about pasta making online, checked out YouTube videos and I felt confident that I could do it!

Tagliatelle is one of the traditional pastas to use with bolognese sauce.  It's a lot like fettuccine but not as thick.

For the pasta, I used:

1 cup flour
1 cup semolina flour (If your store carries Bob's Red Mill brand, you can find it there)
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp olive oil
Cold water

Mix together the flours and salt.  You can either mix in a bowl or on your counter.  I used my counter.  Make a deep well in the center and add the eggs and olive oil.  Using your fingers of one  hand, start mixing things together, being careful not to knock down the walls of your dam.  Use your other hand to keep the dam intact.

Add Tablespoons of cold water as needed until you have a nice, slightly dry dough.  Keep working the dough until you have collected and incorporated all of the dry ingredients.  Add more water as needed.

Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  This helps relax the gluten.  Cut the ball of dough into four pieces.  Flatted out slightly like a pancake and round edges.  Wrap each piece well with Saran wrap and let rest for 30-45 minutes.  This will help relax the dough so it can stretch well.

To learn how to use your pasta maker and roll out the pasta, check out this great YouTube clip.

Make sure you roll your dough to the #6 setting and then run through your fettucine cutter.  Make sure you dust your cut pasta with a little flour to keep it all from sticking together. 

Now bolognese.  This needs to be made well in advance.  In fact, make it the day before you plan on having it for dinner because it gives those flavors a lot of time to marry together, forming a wonderful sauce.  Here's my recipe for bolognese ------

1 lb ground beef or sirloin
1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb medium thick sliced pancetta, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1 Tbsp sugar
3-4 fresh roma tomatoes, chopped
Rind off of your parmesan wedge
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup cream
Fresh herbs (oregano, basil, bay leaf, Italian parsley)

Heat some oil in a large sauce pot or dutch oven.  Put in the pancetta, sirloin, and pork and start browning.  When the meat is halfway browned, add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and bay leaf.  Mix around and let those aromatics cook with the meat.  When the meat is completely cooked, add your sugar, tomato sauce, paste, diced tomatoes, and red wine.  Add more wine if you need to.  Tie your fresh herbs into a bouquet garni and drop into the pot.  We'll fish these out later.  Also drop in the rind cut off your parmesan wedge.  This will add a lot of flavor to your bolognese. 

Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Don't go crazy with the salt right now, because as the sauce cooks, that rind is going to add a lot of salty flavor and you don't want to wind up with something too salty.

Stir in the cream and cover with a lid.  Pop in a 300 degree oven and let it cook for about 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the oven and either serve, or let it cool so you can put it in the fridge.  Like I said earlier, this is best if it can sit in the fridge overnight.  The next day, remove the parmesan rind and bouquet garni.  Taste and reseason with salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve hot.

You don't have to be of Italian heritage to make an amazing pasta dish with authentic bolognese!  Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

.thai peanut chicken.

In recent months, I have made a pledge to myself and to my family to cook healthier meals.  I'm the one who has made this commitment, but you'll notice I use some unhealthy things - because my family would revolt if we went 100%.  Baby steps, people.. baby steps.

We love Asian food.  My husband has been to Thailand many times and he is usually all over anything Chinese, Thai, Japanese.. you name it.

When I was at the commissary, I bought this bottle of something called PB2 (see image below).  It's basically the pulverized remains that are usually discarded after they make peanut butter.  It's 85% less fattening than regular peanut butter, but you still get all the protein benefits -- and right now, I'm doing this protein forward diet so I'm all over this stuff!

Not only is this dish HEALTHIER than it's original, it's tasty and I swear, your family won't even notice the difference.  At least my family didn't until I told them there was no sugar in this dish and it was less fattening.

Now on to the recipe!

In a bowl, mix together:

1/2 cup PB2
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 packet (2-3 tsp) Splenda
1/4 tsp chili oil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

For the main component of the dish, I used:
3 chicken breasts, cut against the grain, into strips
1/2 cup green onion, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped or julienne
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup peanuts

I also added some peas, but you can add whatever vegetables you want. 

Heat your wok until it starts smoking.  Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and saute the chicken with 2 cloves garlic, minced and 1 tsp fresh ginger root, peeled and grated.  I also added the red bell pepper, since they take some time to cook.  If you use broccoli, add in the beginning.

When the chicken is almost cooked through, dump all the peanut sauce into the center of the wok.  Stir until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken.  Add cilantro, green onion, carrots, and peanuts at this time.  Remove from the heat and serve with rice or noodles (if you want).

This will make enough food for 6 people.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

.cubano skirt steak w/ grilled corn.

There's a restaurant near us that I absolutely love.  It's classy and swank and the food has always been excellent.  You should see their brunch buffet!!!!  One of my favorite dishes there is a grilled Cubano skirt steak.  It's actually an Asian-Latin fusion dish because they put a spicy Thai Tamarind sauce on top.

I decided to try and recreate this recipe once and was very pleased with the results.  (verrrrryyy pleased!)

First, you want to make sure you use the right cut of meat.  Skirt steak.  It's also referred to as hangar steak.   It comes from the belly of a cow and is a very thin cut.  It has a ton of flavor all on it's own, but it's not particularly tender on it's own so I like to marinade it.  I wouldn't replace with flank steak.  Flank steak is thicker and you won't get the same results.  Trust me.

Here's a diagram of where the skirt steak comes off a cow!

This is a marinade recipe I came up with on my own.  I really wanted to get a lot of flavor into the beef.

In a bowl, mix together:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
a handful of cilantro
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes
a couple dashes of chili oil (found in the Asian aisle of your grocer)

Mix everything together with a fork.  Put your skirt steaks into a large ziploc and dump the marinade in.  Seal up the bag, pushing out as much of the air as you can.  This will help the marinade envelope the meat and keep it sitting in the marinade at all times.

You want to marinate your meat for at *least* 8 hours.  Overnight is best.

About an hour before you grill, take the steak out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter.  Beef always cooks better when it's closer to room temperature. Gives you even cooking. 

Because this steak is so thin, it won't take very long to grill up.  Also, personally I would never cook these past medium rare otherwise you will wind up with shoe leather.

Since we had this with grilled corn on the cob, put the corn on first, as this takes a lot longer to cook than the steak.  Here are good directions on how to grill corn

Drain the marinade and pop the steaks onto a very hot grill.  Let sit for about 2-3 minutes to get grill marks then flip over.  Repeat so that you've grilled the steak twice on each side.  Press the fattest part of the skirt steak and if it's still squishy, you might want to turn the grill down and lower the lid so it can cook through some more.  Don't be tempted to cut into this to check the doneness.  Just remember the general rule -- if it's squishy, the meat's still a little raw.  If the meat is soft but not hard, it's perfectly medium rare.  If there's no bounce back at all and firm, you've done gone and killed it. :P

Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Your corn will probably be done at this time, too.  I love mixing together some soft butter and a little bit of smoked cumin, salt, and pepper.  Take a knife and rub that all over your corn.  It gives you a wonderful smoky, spicy flavor on your corn that complements this dish very well.

Slice and serve the steak and eat!  This is going to be the best steak you ever ate.  Guaranteed!

Monday, May 21, 2012

.shrimp chorizo & red potato hash w/ poached egg and manchego cheese.

Paige was craving shrimp last night and I didn't want to make scampi or any kind of pasta dish.  I normally make this dish without the shrimp, but thought it would be delicious in this.

This will make enough for 4 people, depending on how big a serving you want.  It's easy to add a little more here and there to adjust for a larger group.

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
6-8 new red potatoes, large dice
1 large onion, sliced
1 lb chorizo sausage, sliced in half, then sliced into 1/2" pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
Manchego cheese
olive oil
4 eggs
salt and pepper
white vinegar
chives (garnish)

Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with water and salt.  Bring  to boil and cook until the potatoes are fork tender.  Drain and cool.

In a skillet, heat about 3-4 Tbsp olive oil.  When it's hot, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are slightly translucent.  Add the potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let the potatoes get some color on them.  Add the chorizo and shrimp.  Cook and stir occasionally to make sure all the shrimp cooks.  When the shrimp is light pink, remove the pan from the burner.  Taste and re-season with salt and pepper, if needed.

In a medium sized saucepan, put 3-4 cups water and 3-4 Tbsp vinegar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so it is no longer boiling.  You can have this water ready and waiting on the side so your hash doesn't get cold while waiting for this to get to temp.

When your water is good and hot, take a wooden spoon and swirl the water to make a little whirlpool.  Have an egg already broken in a bowl and quickly, but carefully pour directly into the center of the whirlpool.  This helps the white swirl into the center.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to dry.

Dish up some hash and put the egg on top.  Use a vegetable peeler and shave some manchego cheese on top.  Manchego is a wonderful sharp Spanish cheese that complements this Spanish influenced dish.  Sprinkle chopped chives on top to give it a splash of green.  Serve immediately.

Monday, May 7, 2012

.chinese chicken salad.

The weather is starting to warm up here in New York and this is when I start wanting salad.  I love salad.  This is a recipe I got from my sister, Ronda, but I tweaked it a little to give it  a more Asian flare.  There are four different steps to this dish.  Each can be done early in the day or even the day before and then tossed together when you're ready to eat.  Make sure if you do hold it for another day, that you don't add the mandarin oranges or chicken until you're ready to toss.  This will keep the lettuce from getting wilted and soggy.


In a jar, mix together:

1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2-3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp chili oil (optional* - use only if you want your salad to have a kick!)

Put a lid on the jar and shake it up.  Set aside and add to salad when you're ready to eat.


In a saucepan or skillet, put 1 cup slivered almonds & 6 Tbsp sugar

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is melted and coats the almonds. Dump onto a piece of foil and let cool completely. Break apart and add to the salad.  (I think you can find candied almonds in the produce section of your local grocer.  So if you find them, take the short cut and use them!)


In a large bowl, put:

4 cups chopped lettuce
2-3 cups chopped cabbage (you can  use red or green)
1 bunch green onion, sliced on the diagonal
1 cup celery, sliced on the diagonal
2-3 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 - 11oz can mandarin oranges, drained
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked, cooled, and diced


Take a package of won ton wrappers and slice them into strips.  Heat some oil (1 cup) in a skillet and heat over medium heat.  Test the oil by tossing one strip in.  If it just sits there and doesn't immediately start frying, the oil is too cold.  You want these to fry quickly so they don't absorb a lot of the oil.

Fry up a handful of wontons and remove when golden brown.  Put on paper towels to drain.  Repeat until all the wontons are fried up.

Toss everything together (minus the wonton strips).  Put a handful of crispy wontons on top and serve!  The perfect Spring/Summer meal for you and your family!  Enjoy!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Deb's Birthday Cake

My BFF Deb turned 50 in March. Her husband and kids threw her a surprise birthday party - that really wasn't a surprise to her because she's too observant and picked up and subtle things. lol.. but not once did she ever ask me if I was part of the planning. She probably didn't want to put me in an awkward situation where I'd have to lie to her (right, Deb?).

Anyway.. I was asked to make the cake for her birthday party. I kept trying to think of what I should do for the theme of the cake. I thought about the things she enjoys -- photography, horses, scrapbooking. Then I thought about what she does for a living -- a nurse. I thought I should just do a basic birthday cake but I couldn't do it. It had to be something special. Something one-of-a-kind. It couldn't be the same ol' for my friend.

So I thought about her favorite scrapbooking company - Basic Grey. I went to their website and searched through some of their recent paper lines and fell in LOVE with their "What's up?" papers and thought the design would transfer well to a cake.

Here are the papers I used for inspiration. Beautiful, right?

And here's how the cake turned out!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

.chocolate zucchini bread.

Now before you turn your nose up and close the browser, I want you to give zucchini a chance. You don't taste it and it provides not only nutrients to your bread, it makes it moist and delicious!

I've been making this recipe for years now and it's one of my favorites. I'm sure it will become one of your favorites, as well.

This recipe makes 2 loaves, or about 1 dozen large, Texas sized muffins. (Those are the kinds of muffins we made at my bakery -- we like em big!)

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

In another bowl, mix together:
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup oil (you can substitute applesauce, if you like)
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 bag mini chocolate chips

Dump all the wet ingredients into the dry and mix using a fork just until the dry ingredients are slightly wet. Don't overmix.

Spoon into prepared bread or muffin pans and pop in a 375* oven and bake 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350* and continue baking until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Trust me... you're going to love this bread! (you can thank me later. ;) )

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

.beef and cheese empanadas.

I love empanadas but have never made them before. I'm always looking for new things to make because I get very bored with the same ol' same ol'. I hardly ever cook with hamburger, yet I had a pound in the freezer that I wanted to use up. Taco salad? Nah. Chili? Nah. Empanadas!

These little hand held pockets are so delicious. They're a little time consuming to make, but well worth the effort. Mine aren't very traditional, but they were exactly what I wanted. My kids ate them up!

Here's what I put into my empanadas:

Ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno, seeded and fine diced
salt and pepper
garlic powder
chili powder
approximately 2 cups grated monterey jack cheese

Heat 3-4 Tbsp oil in a skillet and saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno until fragrant. Add the ground beef and cook until done. Add 2-3 tsp chili powder and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Add more seasoning if needed.

Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Stir in until melted and coated.

Make the empanada dough --

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup water (plus or minus 1 tbsp)

Mix together dry ingredients. Using a fork, mix in the butter and distributed within the flour. Slowly add water, carefully mixing with the fork until it begins to pull together. Form into a ball and wrap with saran. Pop in the fridge and hold for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into approx. 1 ounce balls (think ping pong ball size). Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a circle. Spoon filling into the middle.

Now here's where you can decide how to close the pocket. Traditionally, you are supposed to braid the edge, but some people use a fork to crimp it closed. Personally, the braid/twist thing is MUCH prettier and it isn't very difficult to do. I found a very handy YouTube video showing you how to fold the edges to give it the braided look.

Once your empanadas are made, cover and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

There's one final decision to be made. Fry or bake? They can be cooked either way. We fried ours because I think they looked better that way. Plus, I didn't want a super hard crust from baking, know what I mean? (Not saying they would, but my husband was pushing for fried)

If you use the oven, preheat to 375* and bake for 25-30 minutes.

If you're frying, heat your oil to 375* and fry for approximately 5-6 minutes or until the empanada is beautifully golden brown on both sides. Remove from the oil and sit on paper towels to drain.

Serve with fresh guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.

Friday, March 9, 2012

.irish soda bread.

I adore bread and I especially adore Irish Soda Bread. It's made more like a big giant biscuit - using no yeast for leavening, but with, strangely, baking powder. The recipe I use comes from a book I picked up years ago called 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood. I have tweaked his recipe a little bit, but it's one that we like.

In a large bowl, mix together:

4 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt

Cut in 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter until the mixture is nice and crumbly and no big pieces of butter remain.

In another bowl, add 1 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup milk, and 2 eggs. At this point, if you want golden raisins and/or caraway seeds, add them now. About 1 1/2 tsp of caraway seeds and 1/2 cup raisins. Whisk and add to the flour mixture. Using a fork, mix the wet into the dry until a dough begins to form. Using your hand, continue to work the dough until it pulls together and there's no more flour in the bottom of the bowl.

Dump contents onto a lightly floured counter. Split the dough in half and form into a nice smooth ball. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place each ball of dough on it. Take a sharp knife and score the tops of each mound with a criss cross.

Let sit for 20 minutes then pop into a well preheated 400* oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. The top of the bread should be beautifully browned. Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Monday, March 5, 2012

.roasted pork tenderloin with apple-fennel garnish.

I admit that I am a friend of pork. Bacon, pork shoulder, pork tenderloin, chops... I'm not picky! This recipe was inspired by an episode of Top Chef or one of those shows. It was a couple years ago because this isn't the first time I've made this dish.

Not only is it easy to prepare, it's delicious and something you can impress your guests with.

Here's what you need:

1 - 4lb pork tenderloin
1-2 granny smith apples, cored and sliced (no need to peel!)
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
salt, pepper, and celery seed
1 bottle hard apple cider

Season your tenderloin with salt, pepper, and celery seed. Heat a little oil in a dutch oven. Pan sear all sides of the tenderloin to lock in moisture. When all sides are browned, top with the apple slices, onion, bay leaf, and pour the hard cider over the top. Cover and pop in a 350* oven and roast for about an hour. You want to pull this out when your thermometer reads 145* because pork tenderloin has very little fat so you don't want to overbake, otherwise you're left with really dry meat.

Remove the pork from the dutch oven and set aside to rest (cover with foil). While it's resting, make the sauce. Dump all the cooked apples and onion into a seive and strain the liquid (make sure you set the seive on a bowl so you save it because we need that liquid for the sauce.

Remove the bay leaf and put everything in the blender. Add a little bit of the liquid to the blender to help smooth out the sauce. Taste and re-season with a little salt, if needed.

Now before you actually pulled the roast out of the oven, you want to make the apple-fennel garnish.

Cut one granny smith apple into matchsticks. Thinly slice one fennel bulb. Heat a saute pan and melt 2-3 Tbsp butter. When hot, add the apples and fennel and saute quickly. Season with salt and pepper. (I sprinkled a dash of celery seed in here, too)

Make sure you saute close to the end of the roasting time, or do it while the tenderloin rests (that's what I did).

To assemble, spoon some of the sauce onto the plate. Put a slice of tenderloin on top and spoon some garnish on top. To make it extra fancy, put a little fennel frond on top.