Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Leaving for Mexico!

The time has finally come! Matthew and I are leaving for Mexico on Friday morning. Hopefully will have all sorts of yummy food stories to tell when we get back, but for now, happy weekend everyone!

Matthew and I at the airport. I was pouting because I didn't think the camera was working. Not sure why Matthew was making that face.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Livers and Mistakes

With the surprising liver within my chicken from recipe #7, I decided to make this recipe from Epicurious.

Chicken Liver Crostini

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, minced
12 ounces chicken livers
1/3 cup dry white wine (I left this out cause I didn't have any)
1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1 French-bread baguette, sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rounds

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil. Add onions, anchovies, and garlic, until tender over medium heat. Turn up heat to medium high, add liver and brown. This is where you are supposed to add the white wine, and wait till the liquid is absorbed. I skipped straight to adding the chicken stock and sage. Let the meat simmer till fully cooked and liquid is reduced. Pull meat out once it is done, and keep simmering stock if necessary to reduce. Place meat and some of the liquid in a food processor, and process by pulses until chunky. If needed, add more liquid (but I doubt you will, the recipe calls for way more liquid than is actually necessary). Add lemon peel, and salt and pepper to taste (do not forget this step! I ate my first couple of bites without the lemon, and it made a huge difference).

Brush the rest of the oil on the bread, and toast. Spread the liver on the bread, and eat.

While I was preparing this, I was really worried that I wouldn't like it, because I could not remember ever having eaten liver. And as soon as I tasted it, I was like, oh, I've had pate like a million times, and fois gras too, silly Ana. But, cooking it was nonetheless an interesting activity. I didn't really have 12 ounces of liver, I just had one, so I roughly cut down the recipe to make the amounts correctly. Like I said above, the first few bites I had did not have lemon, salt or pepper, and it made a huge difference. I don't think I'll go out of my way again to make this dish, but if I come across liver again, I will now what to do with it. :)

So in the interest of multitasking, I also had pinto beans and garbanzo beans cooking on the stove because I'd run out of refried beans and hummus. The pinto beans came out perfectly, better than last time. But the garbanzo beans took a little too long, and the cooking time ran into the finale of Project Runway. I heard some sizzling, but I thought water had just spilled out of the pot. During the second commercial break, I went to go stir the beans and I realized that they were completely dry. Zero water. And of course, the beans had burnt. So I had to throw away a cup of garbanzo beans and 1/4 of an onion. Boo. I blame Project Runway. Lesson: make sure beans have enough water!

Monday, March 3, 2008

My favorite dish so far

Mario Batalli's house keeper, Leo, is a genius. But I should have known that it was going to be good if Mario Batalli's children eat it weekly.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, we start with the chicken. One of my favorite soups is this Chicken and Rice soup from Epicurious. When I started making it senior year of college, I decided to try with a whole chicken, cause hey, its supposed to be better and fresher. I would put it in the pot whole, and then try to take it apart after cooking. That was never really efficient (the cavity would get full of rice, then make a mess when I tried to get it out). So, another time, I tried to take it apart before cooking. Lets just say I ruined most of the chicken because of my lack of knowledge on how to properly do this. Needless to say, I was ASTOUNDED when I saw Alton Brown take a chicken apart perfectly in under three minutes. (I highly recommend watching this show, its one of my favorites. The deconstruction of the chicken happens between minutes 5 and 8.)

I'm particularly amused by the intro.

Anyways, so when I was shopping yesterday, I decided to try my luck again with a whole chicken and see if his strategy of deconstructing a chicken works. You be the judge:

Chicken, with one wing cut off (I forgot to take a true initial picture)

Chicken, deconstructed

And, much to my surprise, there was a chicken liver inside of the cavity. I almost dropped it before I noticed it. I've never had chicken liver before, so I'm going to experiment with it later this week (the recipe I want to try calls for chicken stock, which I don't currently have). I'm very excited, stay tuned for that.

After the chicken was taken apart, I moved onto the sauce. From here, I pretty much followed Leo's instructions exactly (except I cut the recipe in half)

Recipe #7 - Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce
a la Leo, via Mario Batalli

1.5 pounds of tomatillos, husks removed
1 bunch of cilantro
2 limes, juice and zest
5 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeƱo (I couldn't find serranos)
minced onion

Drop the tomatillos, garlic, and chili into a pot of boiling salted water. Leave it in there for 2-3 minutes, drain. Place in food processor. Add cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice, and blend until smooth. Return to pot, add onion, thighs and drumsticks. (Actually, I meant to blend the onion with the rest of the sauce ingredients, but I forgot, and it worked this way too.) The sauce should entirely cover the chicken, but if it doesn't, flip the chicken a few times during the cooking process so both sides cook. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes.

At like 15 minutes, I couldn't wait any more, so I heated a tortilla, spread some beans on it, and covered the sauce. It was delicious, I knew I was in for a good dinner.

I had one piece of thigh, some beans, and 3 more tortillas for dinner. I'm really resisting eating the rest of it. I've gotten up 4 times while writing this post to have a spoonful of the sauce. Its tangy and just slightly spicy. I'll be making this again, and I'm the kind of person that is bored by chicken.

PS Unless you don't want me to like you, the correct answer is that yes, I was successful in deconstructing my chicken.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Beans, Beans: They are good for your heart, the more you eat....

For breakfast, Matthew and I finally made good on my promise to refry some beans. Central to the discussion of the beans was that "refried" does not actually mean "fried again" but "super-fried." Diana Kennedy translated refried to "Well-Fried," and Ricardo Arjona's song Tu Reputacion has the line "Tu reputacion son las primeras seis letras de esa palabra" (your reputation is the first six letters of the word -> the word being reputacion -> first six letters -> puta = whore, reputa = super whore).

My apologies for the convoluted rambling, I had no master plan for this post. So, onto the recipes.

Recipe #5 Refried Beans
a la Dianna Kennedy and Mark Bittman

I ended up merging the two recipes because I started with Kennedy's, and I wasn't happy with it, so I switched. These beans have all sorts of uses, and were really the way I ate beans growing up, rather than still whole in broth like Mrs. Kennedy claims is common in Mexico. Probably a regional thing.

6 tablespoons of pork lard (I still don't have lard, I used a mixture of vegetable shortening and bacon fat, but if you have pork lard, use it)
2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
2 cups cooked beans (either previous recipe #3 or canned), in their broth (I didn't have enough broth, so I added water to make up the difference)
1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

In a heavy skillet, heat the fat and sweat the onion without browning, until soft. Add a small amount of th beans and their broth, and mash well as you cook them over highish heat. Matthew and I shared this job, each of us with a fork, and it went fairly quickly. Keep adding beans and broth and mashing until you run out. Add cumins and cayenne and mix in well. Add water if too dry or cook until desired consistency. (There is really no exact recipe here, you just have to keep cooking them until the beans are how you like them. I like mine moist.)

Possible additions: bacon, chorizo, cheese, chili of various sorts, sour cream or Mexican crema. I'm probably going to add creme fraiche at some point, just to try it.

Recipe #6 Molletes

My great grandmother used to make me these bean sandwiches for breakfast when I was little. I never could talk my mom into making them for me, so I haven't had them in years, but they are as good as I remember. Matthew liked them too :).

Note: do not skip the butter, it really adds a lot of flavor to this sandwich that might otherwise be pretty dry.

Mexican Bolillos, if possible, we used hamburger buns. A better replacement would be French bread
melted butter
3/4 cup of refried beans
Salsa (I used the leftover sauce from the enchiladas in recipe #2)
Cheese (white cheddar, cojita, whatever white cheese is on hand, but under no circumstances use yellow cheese)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread melted butter on bread. Place in oven on cookie sheet for 10 minutes. The bread should be crispy in the center, but try to avoid browning it. Mix cheese into the beans. Quantity here is a matter of taste, but I really like mine to be super cheesy. Almost like a grilled cheese sandwich with beans. Spread beans on both slices of bread, and place back in the oven to heat the beans and melt the cheese. Put sandwich together. Add salsa as desired.

No pictures this time. The batteries died during the last photo shoot, but I have batteries now, so tomorrow's dish will be well photographed. I will be making this excellent sounding dish from Serious Eats. Unless I'm too tired from work tomorrow, in which case, it'll happen sometime this week.