Quick Pizza

I came down with a cold the other day and I promptly crawled into bed.  That’s my preferred remedy for nearly all illnesses.  I dreamed about making a pizza.  When I awoke, some hours later, I made that pizza.  I recently picked up some garlic naan at my local Indian market and I knew it would be perfect for the occasion.  Naan is an Asian flatbread, similar to pita, in case you are not familiar with it. 

Naan is typically oval shaped, about  6” x 8”, which makes a perfect individual serving.

Prep time: 5 minutes.  Bake time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

1 naan flatbread

2 oz tomato paste

1 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced

8 to 10 pepperoni slices

A dash of garlic salt

A dash of red pepper flakes

Directions:

Smear the tomato paste on the naan.  Add the sliced cheese and pepperoni.

Bake in a 375° oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Remove from the oven and scatter a little garlic salt and red chili flakes on top.

I used some leftover Chihuahua cheese, instead of Mozzarella.

Enchiladas de Queso Chihuahua con Chili Poblano

This recipe is inspired by tamales with poblano chilis.  Most tamales I have eaten have been filled with beef, pork or chicken and, although I have had some great tamales over the years, one type of tamale remains unique among the rest because of its simplicity, clarity and sheer perfection.  If you’ve never had a green chili tamale you’ve been missing out on a wonderful thing!

Here in the United States, poblano chilis are mostly known as the main ingredient in chili rellenos…you know, the big green chili dipped in fluffy egg whites and fried to a delicious, golden brown.  As for Chihuahua cheese, well, it’s a soft, pale cheese, similar to, but not exactly like mozzarella.  Poblano chilis and Chihuahua cheese were made for each other.

Oh, by the way, mark your calendar.  I’m making a vegetarian dish!

Ingredients:

4 chilis poblano, roasted and cut into slivers

1 lb Chihuahua cheese (cut into ¼” sticks)

3 Tbs butter

4 Tbs flour

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp garlic powder

4 cups vegetable stock

14 corn tortillas (homemade, if you’re lucky)

¼ cup green sauce (salsa verde: tomatillo/serrano sauce)

* check out the recipe for salsa verde here *

Directions:

Rinse the poblanos under cold water.  Dry them off and place them on a parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Bake at 400° for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. 

Once the chilis have blistered on all sides, remove them and place them in a plastic storage bag for about 15 minutes.  Steaming the chilis will allow you to easily peel away the outer layer of the chilis.

Once the chilis have steamed and cooled, remove them from the bag and place them on a clean work surface.  Remove the stems and peel away the outer “skin” of the chilis.  They should peel easily.  Slice the chilis lengthwise and lay them open.  Remove the seeds. 

Cut the cleaned chilis into thin ribbons and set aside.

Slice the cheese into ¼” sticks.  Set aside.

Start a roux with the butter and flour.  Add the cumin and garlic powder.  Simmer and whisk for a few minutes.

Add the vegetable stock.  Stir until thickened. 

Pour one half of the sauce into a large casserole dish.  Keep the rest of the sauce in a warm place.

Lay some tortillas on a clean work surface and add the fillings.  These will be some thin enchiladas!

Add 1 strip of cheese and an equal amount of poblano chili to a tortilla.

Roll the tortilla and place in the casserole dish.  Continue in this fashion until you run out of chilis, cheese or tortillas.  Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.

Add some dots of the salsa verde along the top of the enchiladas.

Add strips of Chihuahua cheese across the top of the rolled enchiladas.

Bake in a 350° oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top bubbles and begins to brown.

Note: I was hungry and I forgot to take a picture of the final dish.  I trust that you can imagine what the finished dish looked like…soft, creamy enchiladas with a toasted cheesy topping.  Yes…that pretty much sums it up.  Enjoy!

Chicken Curry

I enjoy making a delicious curry dish every now and then but I have to admit, curry vexes me.  I’m the sort of guy that likes to know the subtle intricacies of the ingredients that I use but I have to admit, my understanding of curry is shamefully shallow.  Fortunately, my lack of understanding doesn’t prevent me from cooking with curry.  I’d like to make my own curry blends someday but, for now I will keep relying on my tried and true prepared blends.

Many years ago I received a boxed set of six curry spices from a friend.  Each container held 2 ounces of various spices.  There was Chaat Masala, Tandoori Masala, Garam Masala, Tea Masala and two that were simply labeled Hot Curry and Mild Curry.  I have used a little of each of them over the years and I still have those containers in my cupboard, tucked away in a far corner.  They have held up remarkably well over the years.  Some spices lose their potency and aroma over time but these seem to have incredible staying power!  I only use a teaspoon or two when I make a curry. 

This is a variation of a turkey curry that I bravely made several Thanksgivings ago, while visiting relatives.

Ingredients:

1 tsp hot curry

1 tsp mild curry

1 tsp turmeric

2 Tbs olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ Tbs fresh ginger, minced

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

½ cup chicken broth

1 ripe tomato, chopped

A pinch of salt

1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water (thickening slurry)

1/3 cup coconut milk

2 Tbs chopped cilantro

1 green onion, chopped

Directions:

Mix the spices in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and ginger, sauté for about 30 seconds.

Add the onion and sauté until they almost turn golden brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the curry spices.  Sauté another 30 seconds and then remove everything from the wok and keep handy.

Add the chicken to the wok.

Stir-fry the chicken until the chicken turns white and firm, about 5 minutes.

Once the chicken has cooked, add the cooked onion and garlic and stir. 

Add the chicken broth and tomato and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add a pinch of salt.  Stir and taste.  Add more salt, if you like.  Stir in the cornstarch and water slurry, to thicken sauce slightly.  Simmer for a few more minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and turn out to a serving bowl.   Serve warm with cilantro and green onions over basmati rice.

Chicken with Stuffing

Chicken with Stuffing

The turkey went fast this Thanksgiving.   We had enough left over turkey to make a big batch of turkey, biscuits and gravy but that went quickly, too.  The leftover green beans,  yams, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese have all been eaten.  Why is it that dressing is always the last remnant of Thanksgiving at my house?  Maybe it’s because we always make too much of it.  The dressing was very good this year, mainly because my wife made it.  She knows how to balance the flavors.  I tend to get heavy handed when adding herbs and spices. 

But, the fact remains.  I have all of this dressing to deal with.  Some types of leftovers make great additions to other future meals.  Vegetables and meat can be added to omelets or salads…that’s easy.  But dressing, or stuffing, depending on your preference, is pretty much singular, in nature. 

I was portioning some extremely large chicken breasts the other day and I decided to use a few of the breast pieces to make stuffed chicken. 

Ingredients for the marinade:

¼ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbs dry Italian seasonings

1 tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp salt

Ingredients for the stuffed chicken:

3 monstrously sized chicken breasts

3 cups prepared and cooked bread stuffing (dressing)

Directions:

Combine the marinade in a large bowl.

Butterfly slice the chicken breasts, leaving about half an inch of the breast uncut.

Lay the chicken breasts open and put them in the bowl containing the marinade.  Allow the chicken to marinate for a half hour, turning occasionally.

Heat a cast iron skillet to high.  Once the skillet is hot, sear the cut sided of the chicken.  Sear for about 1 minute and turn the chicken over to briefly sear the other side, about 10 or 15 seconds.  Remove the chicken to a work surface.  Sear the remaining chicken breast in a similar fashion.

Lay the chicken breasts on a work surface with the cut side facing upward.

Compress some stuffing in your hands and lay the stuffing on one side of the chicken.  Fold the chicken over along the seam and secure with toothpicks.  Repeat the process with the other chicken breasts.

Return the chicken to the skillet and bake at 300° for 30 minutes, uncovered.  Turn the heat up to 350° and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot, along with a vegetable or salad.  I served this with asparagus…

Skinny Asparagus in Lemon, Garlic Butter Sauce

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t remember seeing pencil-thin asparagus in stores until a few years ago. It’s probably just me… When it comes to asparagus I let the price determine which kind I will use. Naturally, the thicker variety is better suited for grilling and the thinner variety is perfect for pan frying, quickly.

Ingredients:

½ lb skinny asparagus

1 Tbs butter

2 garlic cloves, smashed

Juice of ½ lemon

Directions:

Once the chicken has been removed from the skillet, wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove most of the residual oil.

Add the butter and garlic and sauté the garlic for about a minute, or until the garlic begins to turn light brown.

Set the heat to low and add the asparagus.  Stir briefly and cover.  I used a piece of aluminum foil. I like the flexibility I get with foil. Let the asparagus steam for about 4 minutes.  Uncover and gently stir the asparagus for another minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and serve hot.

Preparing Enchilada Sauce

Salsas Verde y Roja

Some good friends are coming to visit next weekend and I want to make something special for them.  One of my friends is a native Texan, currently living in Boston.  Now, I know that good Mexican restaurants can be found all over the country nowadays but you can’t always find good homemade Mexican food. 

I am nearing the zenith of peak season at my work and I have only had one day off this week.  I thought it would be wise to get some of the prep work out of the way so that I don’t have to slave away in the kitchen while my friends are here.  I want the dinner to come together quickly so that I can spend time visiting with my friends, rather than bouncing around in the kitchen like a madman.

I’m preparing enchiladas  – –  some red, some green.  I’m making the sauces today and I’ll keep them in the refrigerator until I need them.  I almost bought canned enchilada sauce today, which would be perfectly fine, but a 20 ounce can of the stuff was selling for over $3.00, and I just couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for salsa, when I can make it for less than half the cost.  Plus, what kind of food blog would this be if I just showed pictures of me opening cans of stuff and dumping them in a pot?

Red Enchilada Sauce (Salsa Roja)

Ingredients:

12 guajillo chiles

4 or 5 ancho chiles

2 to 5 chiles de arbol (these are spicy!)

1 Tbs olive oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 medium sized yellow onion, roughly chopped

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

Directions:

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a heavy pot. 

Cut the stems off the chili pods and remove the seeds and loose pieces of fibrous ribs from the interior.  Add the chiles to the boiling water, turn the heat off and cover the pot with a lid.  Allow the chiles to steam for at least twenty minutes.

Garlic, Salt, Cumin and Oregano

In a large skillet, add olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion for a few minutes.  Add the salt, cumin and oregano and stir.  Turn the heat off and let it rest for a few minutes.

Strain the chiles and reserve the water.  Remove the chiles de arbol and set aside.

Add the softened chiles to a blender.  Add the sautéed garlic, onion, salt, cumin and oregano.  Add about 2 cups of the chili water to the blender.  Pulse a few times and then puree the mixture.  Taste the sauce.  If you want more heat, add more chiles de arbol.  Strain the mixture and keep the pulp. 

Add the sauce to the large skillet and add the strained pulp back to the blender.  Add the remaining two cups of chili water and puree again.  Strain again and add the liquid to the skillet.  Discard the pulp.  Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes on low heat.  Allow the sauce to cool before transferring to a storage container.  The sauce will stay fresh for about a week in the refrigerator.  This should make 4 cups of sauce.

Green enchilada sauce (Salsa verde)

Ingredients:

8 tomatillos

2 or 4 fresh serrano chiles

½ small yellow onion

¼ cup cilantro, leaves and stems

3 garlic cloves, roasted

1 tsp salt

1 to 2 tsp  sugar

Directions:

Peel the husks away from the tomatillos and remove the stems from the serranos.

Slice the tomatillos in half, along their equator.  Slice the serranos, lengthwise.

Lay the tomatillos on a backing sheet.  Add the cut serranos and garlic cloves to the baking sheet and place in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes, or until the tomatillos begin to char.  Remove the chiles, tomatillos and garlic from the oven. 

Place the roasted tomatillos and garlic in a blender.  Add the salt.  Add one or two serranos to the blender…reserve the remaining serranos, for now.

Chop the onion into ¼” pieces.  Chop the cilantro, including the stems.  Cilantro entero!.

Add the onion and cilantro to the blender. 

Puree the mixture in the blender and then taste (after the blender has been turned off, thank you.)  It will probably have a bitter taste.  Add a little sugar and blend again.  Taste and add a little more sugar.  Two teaspoons of sugar should be enough to tame the sauce.  If you want a little more heat, add some more serrano.  Blend again and taste.  The sauce should have some kick but I recommend keeping it fairly mild. 

That’s it!  The salsa verde is ready.  This should make about one pint of sauce.  Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

Asian Spring Rolls

I intended to use ground chicken for the spring rolls but all I could find at the store was ground turkey so, here we go.  I suppose this could be an opening act for a Thanksgiving dinner or maybe an appetizer served during a football game.  It’s also a good way to use leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. 

Make sure to use spring roll wrappers, not egg roll wrappers. Spring roll wrappers are more dense and they are thinner than egg roll wrappers.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 green onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp cornstarch

1 lb ground turkey

2 Tbs cooking oil divided

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1-2 stalks green onion, chopped

1/2 head of cabbage, about 8 ounces, shredded

2 carrots julienne cut

2 Tbs oyster sauce

50 frozen spring roll wrappers, defrosted

2 cups cooking oil

Cornstarch Slurry:

    1 Tbs cornstarch

    1/4 cup water

Dipping sauce:

1/2 tsp sesame oil

3 Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp Garlic Chili Paste

Instructions:

Prepare the Filling:

In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, green onion, garlic, vinegar, pepper and cornstarch.  Add the ground turkey and mix well.  Marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Chop, mince and grate the various stir-fry vegetables. 

Heat a wok over high heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Add the turkey and stir-fry until browned.  Remove the browned turkey and set aside in a bowl.

Turn the heat down to medium.  Add a tablespoon of cooking oil.   Add the green onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Add the carrots and cabbage.  Stir well and turn the heat up to medium-high.   Stir fry the vegetables for 2 minutes, or until the carrots have softened.  

Return the cooked turkey back to the wok and stir.  Add the oyster sauce and toss to coat. Turn the mixture out to a strainer and let liquids drain.   Wet ingredients don’t make good spring rolls!

Wrapping Spring Rolls:

Make a cornstarch slurry with cornstarch and water.  Open the spring roll wrapper package, peel the wrappers apart from each other and cover them with a moistened paper towel. 

Lay a wrapper on a clean surface.  Position the wrapper with a corner facing toward you .  Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the bottom point of the wrapper.  Fold the left and right sides in toward the middle (the wrapper should look like an envelope). Starting from the bottom of the wrapper, roll upward and apply pressure with your fingers to prevent air pockets.  Dip a finger in the cornstarch slurry and paint the top corner of the wrapper.  Finish wrapping and secure the wrap by gently pressing along the seam.  Stage finished spring rolls on parchment paper, or wax paper and keep them covered with a damp paper towel.

Frying Spring Rolls

Add about 2 cups of oil to a wok and turn the heat to high.  The depth of the oil should be about 2 inches.  Once the oil is hot, carefully slide spring rolls into the oil, one at a time.  I fried about 8 spring rolls at a time, to avoid overcrowding. 

Turn the egg rolls over while the fry.  When they are golden brown and crispy, remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.

Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Arrange the spring rolls on a serving platter and place the dipping sauce in the middle of the platter.

Two Sandwiches

Well, Thanksgiving’s just around the corner and you know what that means…

Bánh mì and Cheesesteak sandwiches!

Yes, it’s an odd pairing and no, it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. 

Once again, “Necessity” grabbed hold of the wheel of invention and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.  Working on Saturdays disrupts my rhythm and I usually wind up feeling out of sorts as I head back home from work.  I didn’t have anything in particular planned for dinner, since this particular Saturday was more like a regular weekday for me.  That changed when I learned that we were expecting guests for dinner.  While I was still at work, I recalled what was in my refrigerator.  We had a small pork loin and a some thinly sliced beef.  Both cuts of meat had been in the refrigerator for several days and they would spoil within a day or two, if not cooked.

It seemed to me that sandwiches would be a good solution.  Quick and easy.  I asked my wife to pick up a couple loaves of French bread at the market and I got straight to work, after I came home from work. 

These sandwich recipes are inspired by two classic sandwiches.   I didn’t set out to make the quintessential version of  either sandwich.  I just wanted to whip up some decent sandwiches. 

I used items that we already had at home, so some improvisation was employed.  I normally wouldn’t use cocktail carrots because they give me the creeps.  They remind me of amputated limbs and they develop a weird white coating on them, as they lose moisture in the refrigerator.  Other than that, they are perfectly fine. 🙂

The key to really good Bánh mì and cheesesteaks relies on the quality of the bread that is used.  We are fortunate to have a grocery store nearby that stocks authentic New Orleans style French bread. 

Bánh mì sandwich

Ingredients:

10 stubby little carrots (cocktail carrots)

1 onion, very thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, smashed and sliced thin

¼ rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)

2 Tbs sugar

1 lb pork loin

2 Tbs ketchup

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

2 green onions

¼ cup cilantro leaves

1   24” New Orleans style French bread loaf  (Cartozzo’s Bakery)

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 tsp Sriracha sauce

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400°.

Slice the onions and garlic and grate the carrots.  These all need to be very thin. 

Add the onions and carrots of a bowl and add the rice vinegar and sugar.  Mix together and set aside for an hour.

Slice the green onions lengthwise, very thin. Separate the cilantro leaves from the stems. Set these aside.

In a small bowl, mix the ketchup, Hoisin sauce and soy sauce.  Smear the sauce onto all sides of the pork loin. 

Put the pork loin in a ceramic baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. 

Remove the pork loin after 30 minutes and loosely cover with a foil tent.  Rest the pork for 15 minutes before slicing.

Slice the pork as thinly as possible.  Return the sliced pork to the baking dish and mix thoroughly with the sauce and baked drippings.  Seal the dish with aluminum foil and keep in a warm place until ready to serve.

Slice the French bread lengthwise.  I chose to cut all of the way through but, I could have cut just deep enough to open the loaf like a book.  Either way is fine. Warm the bread in a 200° oven for 10 minutes.  Pull the bread out when the crust is warm and slightly crisp. 

Mix the mayonnaise and Sriracha in a small bowl.

Slather the mayo mixture on both sides of the warm French bread. 

Arrange the pork on the bottom slice of the bread.

Add sliced green onions.

Top with the pickled onion and carrot mixture.

Sprinkle cilantro on top of the onion and carrot.

With a  bread knife, cut the assembled sandwich into four equal pieces (four 6” sandwiches).

Cheesesteak sandwich

Ingredients:

16 oz Muenster cheese, sliced

1 onion, sliced in ¼” rings

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp olive oil

1 lb thinly sliced beef

1 8oz can sliced mushrooms

8 oz marinara sauce

1   24” New Orleans style French bread loaf 

Directions:

Note:  I used a wok to prepare the onions and sliced steak.  Cheesesteaks are best when cooked quickly at high heat and a hot wok is probably the next best thing to a hot flat top grill. 

Slice the Muenster cheese and set aside.

Slice the onion into ¼” rings.  Set aside.

I used a pre-sliced cut of beef.  The slices are very thin which makes it easy to cut the meat into thin ribbons. 

Slice the meat into ribbons and set aside.

Sauté the onions and garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil.  Remove the onions after they soften. Smash the cooked garlic cloves and mix with the onions.

Stir-fry the beef until no longer pink (about two minutes). Remove and keep warm.

Slice the French bread lengthwise.   Layer the sandwich with the sliced cheese. I added mushrooms to one half of the sandwich.

Bake in a hot oven until the cheese begins to melt.

Remove the bread and top with the cooked beef.  Add the sautéed onions.

Top with warm marinara.

Cut the sandwich into four equal pieces ( four 6” sandwiches).