Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mole Amarillo with Game Hens

Oaxaca, Mexico is known for its moles.  Most people are familiar with the dark brown one served with chicken in lots of mom and pop Mexican restaurants-the one flavored with bitter Mexican chocolate.  In actuality there are 7 traditional moles from Oaxaca.  Mole Amarillo or Yellow Mole is one of them-the sauce turned out a shade of dark red, so I'm not sure why they called it amarillo. 

It might not be yellow, but it is tasty just the same.  Moles are mysterious and complicated recipes-they are ancient concoctions which require patience and time to prepare.  One exception is one of our favorite dips-Guacamole-that's right, Guacamole is a mole-so I recommend you approach any mole recipe just like you're going to mix up a bowl of Guacamole and the task will just fall into place.  I modified this recipe from Saveur magazine.

I roasted game hens, rubbed with lemon and oregano, but the real star is the mole.

10 dried guajillo chiles, seeded and washed
1/2 tsp of ground achiote
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp saffron
2 tbs oil
1 head of garlic, all cloved peeled
1 medium onion, peeld and roughly chopped
8 tomatillo, husked, washed, and roughly chopped up
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped up
1 tbs yerba santa, ground
salt to taste and a pinch of sugar
Chicken stock as needed

Toast the peppers in a dry cast iron skillet, add the annatto and cover with 2 cups of hot water.  Let the mixture seep for 20 minutes.

In a separate pan, heat 1 tbs of the oil and saute the onion and garlic over medium low heat until the vegetables are soft and begin to turn golden.  Add the cloves, cumin, oregano, saffron, and yerba santa.

Add the toasted peppers, reserve the water, tomatillos and tomato, continue to saute until soft and browned. Add the reserved chilie water.

Puree in small batches and press through a strainer.  This should be a fairly thick paste.

Saute the paste in the remaining tbs of oil for about 20 minutes, thin to sauce consistency with the chicken stock and simmer for up to 2 hours before serving.  Add the salt and sugar to taste.

I ladled some of the mole into a deep soup plate and placed a split game hen on top.  I served an herb green rice with peas from a Rick Bayless cookbook on the side.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sigma Aldrich Iron Chef

Last Sunday the Sigma Aldrich corporation hosted an Iron Chef competition at the Kitchen Conservatory.  It was part of a team building activity for a group of their managers.  There were people in from all over the world, Great Btitian, France, Brazil, Switzerland were represented on my team.  There were 5 teams of 5 managers, assigned to a Kitchen Conservatory Chef.  Each chef had been assigned a cuisine beforehand.

Here is a list of the chefs and some of their stand out dishes.

Chef Anne Cori and her team won with their Italian menu.  The shrimp ravioli in lobster sauce were amazing.

Chef Clara Moore and her team got Mexican and they made an unusal and delicious grilled pineapple tamale.

Chef Christie Maggi got Moroccan, her team's great dishes included mini Bastillas, a lamb tajine and almond cookies.

Chef Naam Pruitt ( author of Lemongrass and limes:Thai Flavors) and her team presented a marvelous curry, Jasmin rice, and shrimp skewers.

These are only some of their dishes I remember. 

I got French and was lucky enough to get a team that included two men who knew how to cook-and one was French, and the other and experienced pie baker.

Some of our best dishes included Coquilles a la Nage (bay scallops in a wine cream sauce), Entrecote au Vin Sauce (Steaks with red wine sauce), and tarte Tatin (upside down appe tart with caramel).

Our afternoos started with our team van-yes, each team got their own van-taking us to the Dierberg's in Brentwood to purchase the things for our menu.  Here is my team at the check out.

Once we were back in the kitchen it was a mad fight for the burners, ovens, ice cream makers-did I mention that three of us did ice cream-my team made my favorite ginger ice cream to top the tatre tatin.

What a terrific company and what a terrific bunch of people to work with.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Sassy Sauce at the Kitchen Conservatory

I used four meats and four sauces for a small class at Kitchen Conservatory this week.  Grilled Veal Chops with Salsa Verde, Gaucho Steaks with Chimi Churi, Southern Fried breast of Chicken with Orange Bearnaise, and Lobster fra Diavolo.  The Gaucho Steas with Chimi Churi was the favorite, with the chicken with orange Bearnaise a close second.
Veal Chops with Salsa Verde

Gaucho Steaks with Chimi Churi

Lobster fra Diavolo

Sage Battered Southern-fried Breast of Chicken with Orange Bearnaise

Friday, October 26, 2012

Green Tomato and Cabbage Chow Chow

Green Tomato and Cabbage Chow Chow

The cabbages are just coming in, the tomatoes won't have enough sun to ripen, and the peppers are still abundant, so if you chop them all up, sweeten it and spice it up, preserve it with vinegar you have a tasty chow chow to brighten the upcoming winter meals.

I hesitate to give recipes and advice on canning, because I'm such a novice, so if you're unsure about preserving food, consuslt an expert-which I am not.  That said, this is the second time I've canned this relish.  The nuber one rule is keeping things clean, this means sterilizing the jars, lids, and utensils (a dishwasher can do this for you);  clean and sanitized work surfaces and clean wiping towels.

Start by chopping your vegetables and cooking them in the pickling solution.

  2. 6 green tomatoes, cored and finely or coarsely chopped (I like mine chunky)
  3. 1 medium cabbage, chopped
  4. 8 Bell peppers-I used a mixture of colors
  5. 2 hot peppers-optional if you you don't like heat
  6. 3 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  7. 2 Tablespoons celery seeds
  8. 4 cups white vinegar-cider vinegar would be nicer
  9. 2 cups sugar-I used sugar substitute
  10. 3 Tablespoons kosher salt
  13. Cook over medium low heat for about 2 hours, stirring often and skimming any foam or scum from the top.
  15. Ladel the hot relish into the sterilized jars, running a thin knife around the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles, place the sterilized lid on the jar and secure with a ring.
  17. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  I use a steam canner, for 10 minutes.
I have no idea how why the numbers 1 through 17 appeared on the recipe, bu I can't get ride of them so ignore them please.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

More Pumpkin

Here are a couple of other ideas for roasted pumpkin I was working with this past week.  First up is Bucatini with roasted pumpkin and sage brown butter sauce.  Bucatini is a fat, hollow noodle which resemble a fat spaghetti with a hole in the middle.  They are a chewey, hearty noodle to soak up the sage butter and compliment the sweet pumpkin.  Salty parmesan cheese is a perfect fit with the sweet of the pumpkin and the richness of noodles in butter sauce.

Bucatini with Sage Brown Butter and Parmesan

1 pound bucatini, cooked according to package directions
1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups of butter, browned and strained-discard the solids and return the clarified browned butter to a clean saute pan
2 tablespoons of minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese-as much or as little as you like
Freshly ground blackpepper

Heat the clarified butter and add the sage, it should sizzle for about 20 to 30 seconds, add the pepper flakes and the pumpkin.  Heat the pumpkin, being carefule not to break up the chunks too much.

Add the cooked noodles and heat through.

Serve with the grated parmesan cheese.

Pumpkin Risotto

1 small pie pumpkin, roasted according to the recipe I gave last week.
2-3 tablespoons neutral oil-canola or vegetable
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, minced
3 cups Arborio rice
1 cup Riesling wine
1/8 teaspoon each ground allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup for the risotto and additioanal for garnish-as much as you like

Cut the roasted pumpkin into 1" chunks and divide in half.

Add the spices to the stock and bring it to just the point of simmering.

In a heavy bottomed pan-I like a dutch oven or similar kettle-heat and add the oil and butter.  Stir fry the minced shallot over low heat for a couple of minutes until it is soft and fragrant.  Add the rices and coat with the butter-oil-shallor mixture.  Continue to saute the rice until it turned an opaque shade of white.

Stir in the wine and cook until the wine is reduced.  Add 1/2 of the pumpkin chunks and begin adding 1/2 cup of the spiced stock, stirring the rice until it is absorbed.  Continue cooking the rice and pumpkin this way until it is tender and a little creamy-adding more stock as the rice absorbs it and the pumpkin falls apart into a puree-probably about 20 to 25 minutes, stir in 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning.  Do not over cook the rice or it will become mushy.  It may not require all 8 cups of stock.

To serve heat the remaining pumpkin and carefully fold into the risotto, trying not to break up the chunks, drizzle the top of the rice and pumpkin with some of the sage brown butter (same recipe from the Bucatini posted above).
Sprinkle on more parmesan or serve it separately.

I have to thank Josh and Jordan-from the restaurant kitchen-for helping with this recipe.  First of all Josh suggested it as a seasonal special and then all three of us worked on getting recipe developed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sacred Music and Sunday Dinner

Music is always a big part of my Sundays.  Classical Sacred music is always a good choice for Sundays, but also I like some gospel-both country and black spiritual styles.  Sometimes I play old church hymns on my own piano.  Today I thought for something different I would share this vidoeo of Valentina Lisitsa playing Ave Maria with my Sunday dinner of Roasted Quail and Grapes.

I discovered Valentina on You Tube.  She was born in Ukraine and emigrated to the US.  In the middle of a lackluster career her husband posted some videos of her playing to You Tube-and they went viral.  She now has a recording contract and plays the great concert halls around the world to sold out crowds.  And I, like so many others, am totally enchanted with her.  She plays with such passion and urgency.

She also usually plays a Bosendorfer rather than the more expected Steinway-she has said that she gats a more "rumbling bass" out of the Bosendorfer.  I play the considerably more modest Wurlitzer in the second picture and am lucky to get something remotely musical out of it-I keep trying anyway. 

Roasted Quail and Grapes with Roasted Pumpkin
4 large quail-4 to 5 ounces each
4 cloves of garlic
4 rosemary sprigs
4 bay leaves
1 orange, quartered
Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 celery stalk, cut into sticks
1 carrot, cut into sticks
1 small onion quartered
1 cup grape juice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 pound red seedless grapes, cut into four clusters
1/2 pound green seedless grapes, cut into four clusters

Rub the birds with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, salt and pepper the birds and the cavities.  Stuff the bird's cavities with a clove of garlic, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf, and an orange quarter.  Truss the legs.

Let the seasoned birds rest at least 1 hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.  Let the birds return to room temperature before roasting.

In a roasting pan just large enough to hold the birds, place the celery, carrot, and onion, toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes in a pre-heated 425 degree oven.

Place the quail, breast side down on the vegetables and return to the oven for 15 minutes, add the grape juice and vinegar, return to the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

Turn the birds breast side up, add the grape clusters and baste with the juices; return the birds to the oven for 15 more minutes, basting the the birds every 5 minutes with the juices.

Serve the birds with some of the roasted vegetables, a slice of roasted pumpkin,and the pan juices.

Roasted Pumpkin

1 small pie pumpkins
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
salt and pepper

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds.

Place the pumpkin on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side down.  Add 1/2 cup water to the baking sheet and place the pumpkin in a preheated 425 degree oven for 1/2 hour.

Turn the pumpkin cut side up and brush the surface with the melted butter, sprinkle the brown sugar across the surface.  Season with salt and pepper and return to the oven until the pumpkin is totally soft and the edges are caramelised-about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cactus and Corn Salsa

Cousin Kevin from Plano Tx sent me a recipe link last week that just seemed too perfect for the season.  The original recipe comes from Simply Recipes. 

Olive oil to grease baking sheet
2 Nopales cactus paddles, spines removed
2 to 3 tomatillos
1 small white onion, quartered
2 hot peppers
2 cloves of garlic
1 ear of corn
1 bunch of cilantro, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast the cactus, tomatillos, onion, peppers, and garlic in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Puree the roasted vegetables.

Grill the corn in a grill pan until some of the kernals are browned.  Cut the corn from the cobb.

Fold the corn kernals into the cactus puree, and stir in the remaining ingredients.

I did change some aspects of the recipe-so it's not exactly the same as the one on Simply recipes, but close.
I served the salsa along side some roasted pork tenderloin and some crispy corn chips.  Thanks cuz its a really delicious and unusual salsa.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Keralan Beef Short Ribs

I've really been enjoying Food and Wine magazine lately.  In the September issue they had a story about Asha Gomez who is from Kerala, the Southwestern Province on India's tropical coast.  She operates Cardamom Hill, an Indian restaurant in Atlanta. 

Apparently they eat eat beef in Kerala-I must confess to being pretty ignorant about Indian food.  The recipes are usually so long and require so many spices I don't have that I usually pass.  These recipes seemed so approachable with simpler ingredients that I already had in my spice cabinet that I gave them a try and was rewarded with some marvelously flavored dishes.  Of course I was familiar with yellow curry powder-which is a blend of several spices, but Asha's recipe for Fragrant South Indian Beef Curry contains another popular spice blend called Garam Masala.  I went to the Asian market and purchased an intriguing looking tin of this spice mixture.  It came with a small cookbook written in English and Arabic-I will try some of them sometime.  Asha's recipe calls for boneless short ribs and a cooking time of 1 1/2 hours, simmered over very low heat.  I changed the recipe to used bone in short ribs, tripled the sauce ingredients, and started the ribs on the stove top, but ended up braising them in the oven at 300 degrees for 3 hours.

Fragrant South Indian Beef Curry

2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
12 fresh curry leaves-I used bay
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root
3 Tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 1/2 cups water
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground tumeric
4 small dried hot chiles-I used 1 tablespoon asian chili paste
4 star anise pods
2 cinnamon sticks
6 meaty beef short ribs
Salt to taste

In a medium enameled dutch oven, heat the oil until shimmering hot, add the onion and bay leaf, lower heat slightly and caramelise for about 7 minutes.

Add the minced garlic and ginger and stir cook for 1 minute until they are fragrant.

Stir in the dissolved tomato paste, coriander, garam masala, cayenne, tumeric, chili paste, star anise, and cinnamon.

Add the ribs and salt, stir until the ribs are coated with the spices.  Cover the pot and finish cooking in a 300 degree oven for 3 hours, stirring occaisionally.

Spoon off excess fat and remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, and bay  leaves before serving.

Asha also presented a Red Cabbage Stir-fry with Coconut.  I made this a couple of times and it was really delicious, but the color of the red cabbage turned an unappetising color, so I tried the recipe with green cabbage and liked it much better, the tumeric turns is a beautiful shade of gold.  I also eliminated the coconut since I didn't have any on hand and forgot to get it at the Asian market.

Cabbage Stir-Fry

2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 fresh curry leaves-I used a couple bay leaves
2 pounds chopped cabbage
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
Salt to taste
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, semmed and chopped

In a large deep skillet, heat the oil.  Add the mustard and cumin seeds-cook until fragrant and seeds begin to pop-about 30 seconds.  Add the cabbage, bay leaves, and tumeric, season with salt.

Stir cook for 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the stock and simmer the cabbage until it begins to soften.

In a food processor or blender, puree the garlic and chile.

Scrape the chile-garlic paste into the cabbage mixture and blend well, continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer-remove bay leaves before serving.

I garnished things with cilantro which is always complimentary to curries.

Friday, August 31, 2012


We love our beets around here, and pickled beets have been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember.  In the 50's and 60's when I was growing up, pickled beets were usually part of the "relish tray" that was always put out for Sunday dinner, and which also included carrot and celery sticks, olives, and other small bites.   Sunday dinner was usually served around 1 or 2 PM, after services at the United Methodist church.  Somewhere along the way the frumpy sounding relish tray gave way to the ultra chic sounding Crudite', but they both serve the same purpose of light nibbles to stave off hunger as everyone took their seats and the final carving and serving began.

Of course my mom's beets are the best, how could they not be?  Here is my version based on a recipe from "America's Best State Fair Recipes" compiled by Catherine Hanley.   This recipe is from Loraine LaPole of Anderson, Indiana and was an Indiana State Fair winner.  It doesn't say from which year, but the book was published in 1993.

6 pounds of beets,well scrubbed
1 1/2 cups of water
3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons allspice
2 cinnamon sticks

I also added a couple whole cloves, bay leaf and mustard seed, which were not in Miss LaPole's recipe.

Blanch the beets until tender but still firm-20 to 25 minutes.

Wash and scald 6 (1 pint) jars-I just ran them through the dishwasher on sanitize.

In a non-reactive kettle bring the water, vinegar, two sugars, salt, and spices to the boil. 

Slip the skins from the blanched beets and cut into uniform quarters, if you are using baby or really small beets, leave them whole.

Add the beets to the vinegar mixture and simmer for 15 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, pack the hot jars with the beets and some of the spices.  Cover the beets with the pickling solution, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove the air bubble by running a knife inside the edge of the jars.  Wipe the rims clean and seal with hot lids and screw bands.  Process 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.  I processed mine in a steam canner my mom gave me as a gift a couple of years ago-uses less water and energey and keeps the kitchen cooler while you are working.

Of course pickles taste better after they sit for a couple of weeks if you can resist opening them-I can't.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Figs

One small upside to our strange weather this year is a bumper fig harvest.  Usually the local figs become ripe in late summer early fall-often in October.  But this year the fig bushes didn't die down over the winter, so they have been producing earlier and more abundantly.  Here are some from my friend Ardel's farm.

For a special at the restaurant one night last week, we tossed the figs with some fettucini, proscuitto, capers, and sweet peppers for a special.  The salty proscuitto and briny capers were a delicious compliment to the sweet juicy figs.  While it might seem a little strange to add fresh fruit to your pasta, it was the perfect vehicle to carry this mix of savory and sweet.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Heartbreaking Summer Corn

Here is a picture of our local corn this year.  The drought this summer is an agriculture disaster.  This is sweet corn, but the field corn is worse and the bean crop is almost as bad.  If you shop in stores and aren't close to a rural area you probably won't see this-picture perfect produce will continue to arrive from other parts of the world.  But it will affect prices soon.

While the absence of sweet corn is bad enough, the lack of field corn as feed affects any livestock grower.  Cattlemen can't graze their animals-the grass is all burnt up and they can't afford to buy the corn that is available.  Beef prices will temporarily go down as the cattlemen rush to market the animals as soon as their weight is minimally met, and next year beef prices will probably skyrocket.  Dairy herds are of course in just as bad of shape-we are losing small dairy herds daily.

Not to get political, but the congress adjourned without addressing the farm bill.  While some of the grain farmer's have crop insurance-there is currently no help for the livestock end of things. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pepperazzi-My Kitchen Conservatory Class Featuring Peppers

The subject of peppers is vast, and this class barely skimmed the surface.  I chose some very common and readily available peppers, one canned (Chipotle)-one pickled (Pepperoncini), and 5 fresh (Jalapeno. Habenero, Serrano, Thai Bird's Eye, and Bell).

Peppers are used in so many diverse cuisines, as my friend Ruths says "it's all over the map".  Here are the dishes we did.

Italian Beef with Gardiniera
We used the pepperoncini, jalapeno, and sweet red and green bell.

Thai Fried Chicken
We used the Thai Bird's Eye

Jamaican Jerk Chicken
We used the Habanero

Mexican Pork Tinga-we used Jalapeno and Chipotle in Adobo

Peruvian Ceviche-we used the Habanero and Serrano-although the sweet potato and corn garnish sort of cover up all the fish and peppers.

Here are some candid shots of the class preparing the dishes-there were so many people taking pictures it almost looked like a photography class.