I never order ham and pineapple pizza, when I go out for pizza, or when I order pizza for delivery. It seems like such a silly thing. I prefer a more classic pizza, I suppose. But, when life gives you ham and pineapple, it’s time to make Hawaiian pizza.
Christmas Eve turned out to be a rollicking good time with family, food and holiday movies. The evening menu showcased some impromptu stir-fry dishes and the holiday movie marathon ended with a classic… “The Star Wars Holiday Special”. For the uninitiated, the Star Wars Holiday Special aired on TV in 1978 and was subsequently banished by George Lucas. It starred all of the favorite Star Wars characters like, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Beatrice Arthur. Yes, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur! It’s a must-see!
The idea behind Thai cuisine for Christmas Eve came from a small jar of Thai Green Curry that has been sitting in my refrigerator for quite some time and I wanted to finish it off. I searched my pantry and refrigerator for items that would be suitable for stir-fry. Much of the afternoon was spent prepping vegetables, roasting garlic, soaking the noodles and watching holiday classics.
Thai Green Curry Chicken
1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces
2 Tbs Thai green curry paste (3 Tbs for extra spicy)
1 Tbs oil
2 garlic cloves (fresh)
1 head of garlic (roasted)
2 Tbs fresh ginger, sliced thin
¼ yellow onion, julienne sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1 ½ cups coconut milk
2 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs dried basil and 1 tsp dried parsley (substitution for fresh Thai basil)
Zest of lime
1 can of water chestnuts (8 ounces, drained and sliced)
1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced
1 green onion, diced greens and chopped white roots
¼ cup cilantro leaves
Mix the cut chicken breast with the Thai curry paste. Refrigerate until needed.
In a bowl, combine the chicken stock with ½ cup coconut milk. Add the fish sauce, basil, parsley and the juice of half of a lime. Set aside.
In a wok, add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Warm a tablespoon of sliced ginger and one garlic clove.
Add 1 cup of coconut milk to the wok and turn the heat up to medium/hot.
Add the roasted garlic and stir the coconut milk as it thickens.
Add the chicken stock mixture and simmer at low/medium heat . Add the sliced water chestnuts, green onion roots and sliced jalapeño. Simmer for a few minutes and removed to a bowl.
Wipe the wok clean and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and turn the heat to high. Add a some garlic and ginger. Add the serrano chile and sear the chile in the oil. Remove the chile and reserve.
Add the marinated chicken to the wok and stir at high heat. Return the serrano chile to the wok, along with a garlic clove and 1 tablespoon of sliced ginger. Stir the chicken for a few minutes and remove the serrano.
Continue stirring the chicken until the chicken is cooked and browned.
Add the coconut milk/chicken stock mixture to the wok. Stir to incorporate and turn out to an oven proof bowl. Keep in a warm oven until ready to eat. When you are ready to eat, add a tablespoon of lime juice and top with cilantro, roasted red pepper and fresh lime wedges.
Serve in bowls, over jasmine rice.
Chicken with Peppers and Pineapple
1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces
1 cup flour
¾ cup cornstarch
1 Tbs oil
1 Tbs fresh ginger, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 serrano chile
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 small yellow onion, julienne sliced
2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced into rings
2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into ½” pieces
1 Mandarin orange
Zest of an orange
2 Tbs garlic chile sauce (Sambal Oelek)
2 cups vegetable oil
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup green onion, chopped
In a large bowl, add mix the flour with the cornstarch. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat. Set aside.
Add one tablespoon cooking oil to a wok. Simmer the ginger and garlic at low heat for minute and then remove the ginger and garlic.
Add the serrano and cook at high heat for 30 seconds. Remove and discard the serrano (or save for another time).
Add the chopped bell peppers, sliced onion, sliced jalapeño. Turn the heat to high and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the ginger and garlic back to the wok and continue to stir until the peppers have softened to your liking. (Don’t overcook…mushy stir-fry vegetables make a disappointing stir-fry).
In a small bowl, add the cut pineapple. Add the juice and zest of the orange.
Add the pineapple to the wok and stir a few times to incorporate the flavors. Turn out to a bowl. Add the sambal oelek. Keep the bowl in a warm place.
Add a little flour to the bowl containing the chicken that has been coated in flour and cornstarch. Toss the chicken to prevent the chicken pieces from sticking together.
Wipe the wok clean. Add 2 cups of cooking oil to the wok and turn the heat to high. Add the chicken to the wok, a few pieces at a time. Stir the chicken occasionally. Remove the chicken to a paper towel lined platter when it turns golden brown and crispy.
Carefully pour the frying oil in an appropriate container to cool.
Wipe the wok clean and return it to the stove top. Add the vegetables and chicken back to the hot wok and stir a few times. Turn out to a serving bowl. Top with cilantro and green onions.
Shrimp with Rice Noodles
16 ounces rice vermicelli noodles (rice stick)
1 lb raw shrimp, deveined with tails and shells removed
1 Tbs olive oil
½ tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs ginger, thinly sliced
1/4 yellow onion, julienne sliced
1 Tbs Hoisin sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
2 green onions
Crack the dried noodles in half and add them to a large pot. Add enough water to the cover the noodles by at least two inches.
Heat the water to a boil. Swish the noodles around in the pot as they boil. Sample the noodles while they cook. They should become al dente, just like properly cooked spaghetti noodles. Once the noodles have cooked, strain out the water and rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the heating process. Add the noodles back to the pot and cover with cold water. Reserve until needed.
Add olive oil and sesame oil to a hot wok. Add the ginger and stir for a minute. Discard the ginger.
Add the shrimp to the hot wok and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the onion and stir. The shrimp will cook quickly.
Add the Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce and stir to mix.
Strain the noodles and add them to the wok. Stir to coat the noodles and turn everything out to a serving bowl.
Add the root pieces of the onion to the wok and sear.
Top the dish with chopped green onion tips and seared green onion roots.
Dessert suggestion: Sliced bananas, dusted with cinnamon and chocolate sauce and whipped cream topping.
My favorite sort of days evolve and flow in natural, unpredictable ways. I don’t always plan meals ahead of time, and even when I do, my instincts guide me when it actually comes time to cook.
1. Segmented Grapefruit
I saw some nice looking grapefruit at the store recently. Even though they weren’t bonafide Texas Ruby Red grapefruit, they were large and ripe and I thought they would make a nice addition to the next day’s breakfast.
I like grapefruit but I don’t like the white, bitter pith and I don’t like the membranes between the segments. I wasn’t a big fan of grapefruit until I discovered that I could cut away the parts that I didn’t like! I started by cutting the top and bottom off, just to the point where I could see the fruit beneath. Then I used a sharp kitchen knife to spiral cut the rind, deeply enough to get beneath the pith. Then I cut the segments, sliding the knife along the sides of the membrane, leaving nothing but pristine segments. This takes some practice but it’s definitely worth the effort.
2. Citrus Aromatic
I decided to use the grapefruit rinds to make a citrus aromatic on the stovetop. It’s an easy thing to do and it makes the entire house smell fantastic. I heated a pot of water and added some star anise, a cinnamon stick and a crushed nutmeg seed. Just as I was about to toss the grapefruit rinds into the pot I had an idea. I could use the rinds to make candied ginger and still use the top and bottom pieces of the grapefruit for the aromatic pot.
3. Candied Grapefruit Peels
Once the aromatic pot was simmering, I sliced the grapefruit rinds into thin strips. I boiled the rinds three times in water, to remove some of the bitterness and then I made a simple syrup, using 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. I brought the syrup to a boil while whisking.
I added the cut grapefruit rinds to the syrup and simmered them at low heat for about 20 minutes. Once the rinds turned translucent, I moved them to a wire rack to dry for about 4 hours. On a dry day, they might have dried in an hour but the humidity was high and they took most of the day to dry. After a few hours I dredged the pieces in sugar and then I returned them to the rack. An hour later, I tossed them in sugar again and let them finish drying on the wire rack.
I was left with 1 cup of grapefruit flavored simple syrup. Being the frugal sort of cook that I am, I devised a plan to use the syrup.
4. Sweet and Sour Chicken
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
2 lbs chicken thighs, skinned and deboned
1 cup cooking oil
For the sauce:
1 cup simple syrup (from the candied grapefruit)
1 cup ketchup
1 ½ Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp Hoisin sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
For the stir-fry:
1 Tbs cooking oil
½ tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 Tbs fresh ginger, minced
½ lb broccoli florets
3 green onions, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced diagonally
2 large, mild jalapeños, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch and flour. Whisk to combine. Remove half of the flour mixture and set aside.
Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and debone. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Add the chicken to the bowl containing half of the cornstarch and flour. Toss to coat the chicken. Leave the chicken in the flour dredge for 10 minutes.
Prepare a wok by adding 1 cup of cooking oil and set the heat to high.
Add remaining flour to the chicken and toss to coat.
Add the chicken to the hot oil, a little at a time. Fry the chicken until crispy, golden brown.
Remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.
Remove the oil from the wok and wipe the wok clean with a paper towel.
Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
Add 1 Tbs cooking oil and ½ tsp sesame oil to a hot wok. Add the garlic and ginger and simmer for a few seconds.
Add the vegetables and stir-fry until the vegetables are tender. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and keep warm.
Add the sauce to the wok at medium heat. Once the sauce begins to bubble, add the chicken and stir to coat.
Add the vegetables and stir to combine. Turn out to a large serving bowl.
Top with cilantro and serve in bowls with steamed jasmine rice.
Nothing warms the soul like a bowl of good, hot soup. Pozole is much more than just a bowl of hot soup! Pozole is the heart and soul of family and tradition in Mexico. It is often served during holidays and special occasions. It’s a cold remedy during the fall and winter months and it’s the sort of thing contains everything that is good for the body, mind and soul.
The warmth of the broth is essential. The heat of the chiles restores drained energy. The depth of flavor from the vegetables and meat make it a meal by itself.
It’s a strange thing, posting recipes on a food blog. I prepare food and then I post the recipes and pictures, sometimes right away and sometimes days and days later. This post is the last in a series of posts from a dinner party that my wife and I hosted nearly two weeks ago. The memory of the party is still clear in my mind. Good friends and family gathered around to share stories and we had some laughs and we learned just how much we mean to each other. The food that I served seems so distant now but the memories of our visit remains fresh, like homemade bread, warm from the oven.
As with previous posts in the series, I did not capture all of the process with pictures. The most glaring omission, in my opinion, is that I didn’t take a picture of the finished dish. Heck, I didn’t even take a picture of the pozole after adding the hominy, which is a real tragedy, since hominy is the key ingredient in pozole.
The pozole was sort of an afterthought as I planed the meal. I had already decided to serve green enchiladas and red enchiladas, along with guacamole and Mexican rice. I thought it would be nice to open with a soup. Pozole seemed right for the occasion.
2 lbs pork shoulder
¼ onion (no need to cut)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
4 to 8 guajillo chiles (4 for mild heat, 8 for caliente!)
1 tomato, diced
1 tsp dried oregano
6 garlic cloves
4 Tbs flour
4 Tbs butter
2 cups vegetable stock
1 large can of hominy (30 ounce can)
Cut the pork into large pieces.
Sear the pork in a Dutch oven at high heat for a few minutes. Stir to lightly brown the meat.
Add water to the Dutch oven to cover the pork by about two inches. Add the onion, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Set the heat to low and simmer the pork for two hours. When the pork is tender enough to shred with a fork, remove to a platter and reserve the liquid.
Steam the guajillo chiles for 20 minutes, until softened.
Puree the chiles, tomato, oregano, garlic and 1 cup of the hominy and 1 cup of vegetable stock in a blender.
Strain the mixture to remove the seeds and pulp.
Add the butter and flour to the Dutch oven and prepare a roux. Add the remaining vegetable stock and about 3 cups of the broth from the cooked pork. Whisk to incorporate the mixture.
Add the pork and pureed vegetable mixture.
Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the hominy and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Serve in bowls. Prepare a platter of condiments including sliced iceberg lettuce (or cabbage), cilantro, sliced onion and sliced jalapeño. Place the platter in the center of the table so that guests may add what they like to their soup.
This is the quintessential enchilada. Seasoned ground beef, wrapped in corn tortillas and smothered with red chili sauce and topped with cheddar cheese. If I am strapped for time, I use canned enchilada sauce. Most stores carry a variety of brands and most brands offer at least two types of sauce: mild and hot.
On this occasion I started from scratch. I re-hydrated some dried guajillo and ancho chilies to make the base for the enchilada sauce. As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t take a lot of pictures during the process but this is so simple to make, I don’t believe instructional photos are really that necessary.
Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Strain out the grease. Return the skillet to the stove at low heat.
Crush the seasonings in a mortar and pestle and add them to the ground beef. Stir and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. Transfer the ground beef to a large mixing bowl and cool to room temperature.
While the beef cools, prepare a roux with the butter and flour. Add the vegetable broth and enchilada sauce. Stir and simmer until thickened. Pour about half of the sauce into a large ceramic or glass casserole dish. Reserve the remaining sauce.
Grate the cheese and divide in half. Add half of the cheese to the ground beef and mix by hand.
Lay tortillas on a clean work surface and add the beef and cheese mixture. Roll the enchiladas and place them in the casserole dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.
I served two types of enchiladas during a recent dinner party, along with Mexican rice, refried beans and guacamole. I found myself forgetting to take pictures along the way because I was having too much fun visiting with friends and family.
Consider this Part I of a three-part series of posts.
4 chicken tenderloins
1 Tbs chicken bullion
1 tsp cumin powder
1 bay leaf
5 oz fresh spinach (I used half of a 10 oz bag)
4 Tbs butter
4 Tbs flour
2 cups vegetable stock
14 corn tortillas
1 lb Chihuahua cheese, cut into ½” strips
½ cup salsa verde
Trim 4 large chicken breasts and remove the tenderloins. Add the tenderloins to a pot of water (about 4 cups) and reserve the breast meat for another dish. Add the bouillon, cumin powder and bay leaf.
Cover the pot and simmer the tenderloins on low heat for one hour. Turn the heat off and leave the pot covered for 30 more minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board.
Partially flatten the chicken by pressing with the broad side of a kitchen knife. Pressing the chicken breaks apart the meat and makes it easier to shred.
Gently scrape the chicken across the grain to shred the chicken.
Note: I stored the chicken in a seal-able container, along with the chicken broth. This can keep for a few days in the refrigerator with no worries.
Steam the spinach for a few minutes until it begins to wilt. Drain and set aside.
Start a roux with butter and flour. Add vegetable stock and whisk until the sauce forms and thickens. Add the chicken and chicken broth. Continue to stir to incorporate. Keep the heat set at medium and stir until the sauce thickens again.
Ladle about 1 cup of the sauce into a ceramic or glass casserole dish.
Arrange some tortillas on a clean work surface and place equal amounts of chicken and spinach on the tortillas. Add a strip or two of cheese. Roll the enchiladas and place them side by side in the casserole dish. Continue rolling and placing enchiladas until the dish is full. Pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas.
Top with more Chihuahua cheese.
Lightly cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover. Serve warm.