Ribeye Steaks on the Grill

June, 2020.  It seems like years ago to me now.  Beef prices rose quickly in May and I nearly cut beef out of my diet entirely as a result.  That is, until my self-imposed deprivation finally got the best of me and I splurged on a big ribeye roast!

I consider the economy of my food choices when I shop so, when I saw the price of the large roast I took a deep breath and began portioning it in my mind.  I figured I could get 10 thick steaks from the cut of beef and the thought of having 10 delicious, grilled steaks at $7.50 each made me realize that this might be a wise choice.

As I hefted the 7 ½ pound roast from the butcher’s case I took a look at the label on the package.  “WHOLE NO ROLL RIBEYE” was proudly displayed at the top of the label.

I wasn’t familiar with the term “WHOLE NO ROLL RIBEYE” and I didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing.  As it turns out, the term “no roll” means that the meat had not been graded by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture).  Simply put, it might be a tremendous cut of beef or a not-so tremendous cut.  It was, however, inspected by the USDA to ensure that it met the all of the safety requirements.

I can assure you that this was a perfectly fine cut of beef, good marbling and tender texture.

As I mentioned, this made ten 2” thick steaks, each weighing about ¾ pounds.

My intention was to make the classic American steak dinner, baked potatoes and a side of steamed vegetables or a garden salad but, my inclination to Tex-Mex cuisine overtook me and I turned this meal into a fiesta! 

Ingredients for the salsa verde:

15 to 20 tomatillos (cut in half, radially)

3 serrano chiles

1 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs kosher salt

Ingredients for the pico de gallo:

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped

½ orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded and chopped

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Mexican oregano

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for the grilled steaks:

1 beef ribeye roast, 7 to 8 lbs

   Spice rub:

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp salt

1 ½ tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp chili powder

Ingredients for the side items:

1 onion, sliced in half radially

3 serrano chiles

1 yellow bell pepper

4 medium russet potatoes

1 ½ cup prepared guacamole

2 cups fresh lettuce, rough chopped

1 ½ cups fresh cilantro leaves

16 oz prepared refried beans

Directions:

Prepare the grill by heating some charcoal. 

While the coals heat, slice the tomatillos and add them to a large mixing bowl.  Add the serrano chiles and splash some olive oil over the tomatillos and chiles.  Sprinkle the salt over everything and toss to coat everything with the oil and salt.  Set aside.

Chop the tomatoes and chiles for the pico de gallo.  Add to a mixing bowl.  Add the spices and squirt lemon juice over the mixture.  Toss briefly and reserve for later.

Peel the potatoes, slice into large wedges and air-dry in a colander.  Set aside.

Remove the beef roast from the package, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Slice the roast into 2” thick steaks.  Lay the steaks on a platter and dust each side with the spice rub.  Set aside.

Heat some oil in large pan.  Add the potatoes and fry until crisp.  Remove and strain the oil.  Return to the pan of hot oil and fry until crisp again.  Stage the potatoes in an oven-proof serving dish in a 200°.

Add the hot coals to the grill and lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the grill.  Spread the tomatillos and chiles across the foil.  Cover the grill. 

Start another batch of coals.  These will be added to the dwindling coals and will be added to the grill prior to grilling the steaks. 

Steam and grill the tomatillos and serrano chiles for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally.  Once the tomatillos become very soft, and slightly charred, pull them off the grill.  Remove the aluminum foil and discard.

Lay the half onion, yellow bell pepper and 3 serrano peppers on the grill.  Turn every few minutes until each have charred.  Pull the vegetables and reserve.

Reserve 2 of the chiles and the remaining tomatillos and chiles to a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Set aside.

Add the new batch of hot coals to the grill.  Carefully lay the steaks on the grill.  Sear and cook the steaks for 5 minutes.  Turn the steaks and grill on the other side for another 4 or 5 minutes.  Press the steaks with the side of your thumb for doneness.  If the steaks spring back, they’re done.  Remove the steaks and cover loosely with foil.  Stage in a 200° oven.

Prepare the sides… guacamole, lettuce, cilantro and refried beans.

Pull the steaks and potatoes from the oven.  Top the steaks with the charred onion, bell pepper and serrano chiles.   I sliced the steaks into slightly smaller pieces before serving.  Serve warm.

Smoked Pork Enchiladas

There’s a reason why I turn to Mexican food so often.  Mexican cuisine has a rich and long history of embracing other cultural cuisines while maintaining its own identity.  Some cultures have a tendency to cling to strict tradition, when it comes to their cuisine, while other cultures are more willing to change and adapt. 

When it comes to cooking at home, versatility and adaptability is the name of the game!  So, when it’s time to plan a meal, I want to use items that I am familiar with but I want to combine them in new and interesting ways. 

I can stuff anything I want into a tortilla and call it a taco.  I can wrap anything I want in a tortilla and cover it with sauce and it becomes an enchilada.  My imagination is only restricted by considering the taste, texture and nutritional quality of the final outcome.  Once I consider those aspects, the rest of the process is a simple matter of deciding what cooking methods I want to use to achieve my goal.

I pulled some fresh chilis from the garden and I cooked down some fresh tomatoes to make a sauce.  I had leftover smoked pork roast in the refrigerator and Monterrey Jack cheese and corn tortillas.  The rest of the ingredients were spices that I always keep on hand.

 And that is why I’m making Smoked Pork Enchiladas!

Ingredients:

1 red jalapeño, seeded and sliced

3 small poblano chilies, seeded and chopped

1 Tbs cooking oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed

½ cup diced onion

1 ½ cups tomato sauce

2 Tbs red chili powder

1 ½ Tbs cumin powder

1 Tbs Mexican oregano, crushed

2 tsp garlic powder

1 lb. smoked pork roast, sliced and chopped

12 oz Monterrey Jack cheese

10 corn tortillas, softened by dredging in hot oil.

Directions:

Prepare the chilies.  Remove the stems and seeds.  Slice the jalapeño into thin rings.

Remove the stems and seeds from the poblano chiles. Slice and dice the chilies.

Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil to a large, oven-proof skillet.  Set the heat to low/medium heat.  After the oil is hot, add the chopped poblanos and garlic. Simmer and stir for five minutes, or until the chiles and garlic sweat and soften. Add the onions and saute for another 5 minutes.

Remove the chiles and garlic and place on a cutting board.  Chop the chiles and garlic into smaller pieces.

Add the tomato sauce to the pan and cook at medium heat.   Add the cooked garlic, chilies and onion.  Add the red chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic powder.  Simmer and stir for ten minutes.  Remove the sauce and place in a bowl.

Slice and chop the smoked pork and place in a mixing bowl.  Shred 12 ounces of Monterrey Jack Cheese.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped pork and 8 ounces of the shredded cheese. Reserve the other 4 ounces of cheese for the topping.

Spread the tomato sauce mixture across the bottom of an oven-proof pan.  A thin layer is all you will need.

Prepare the enchiladas by placing a few tablespoons of pork and cheese mixture in a tortilla.  Wrap the enchilada and place into the pan.  Repeat, until all of the enchiladas fill the pan. 

Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce.

Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes. Top the enchiladas with the remaining 4 ounces of cheese and sliced jalapeño. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the enchiladas to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with crisp lettuce, a splotch of sour cream and a whole, pickled jalapeño. 

¡Más sabroso para Tex-Mex! (give it a tasty Tex-Mex finish)

Quick Chicken Enchiladas

Sometimes we just have to throw something together in a hurry.  This happens to the best of us, especially now.  It feels like the whole world is closing down on us and we have so little time to find joy.  So little time to give comfort to others.  So little time for ourselves.    

Yes, times are strange, but one thing remains.  We must eat, and eat, we will.

Many people have influenced the way I cook.  One of the many cast of characters was the mother of my friend, Barry.  

Ginger Hornburg was a sweet and feisty, pint-sized woman.  Her husband, Jack, was a giant, in stature and in heart.  The two were mismatched, when seen side by side, but it was clear that they were made for each other.  There was love there, and it was plain to see. 

On one occasion, I watched Ginger make dinner.  Her recipe for chicken enchiladas was typical for the time…shredded chicken, cream of mushroom soup, shredded cheese and corn tortillas.  Bake and serve.  Done!

When she realized that I was interested in watching her cook she made a point to tell me that the key ingredient was green chilis.  To prove the point she showed me a small can of Old El Paso diced green chiles (mild).  I’ve never forgotten that.  Green chilis are essential for chicken enchiladas.

I’ve grown and changed as a cook but I haven’t forgotten essential truths.  Green chilis are the defining touch to Tex-Mex chicken enchiladas and I have Ginger to thank for that!

Let’s make a fast and furious enchilada dinner.

I made these enchiladas while having a Zoom meeting with distant family members and then I followed that with a phone conservation with another friend. 

Start to finish time for this meal was about 45 minutes.  I remember when I could crank out a meal in 30 minutes.  Oh, those were the days.  I must be getting slower in my old age.  Or, maybe I’m learning to savor life’s little moments.  Yah… whatever!

I was lucky to have some grilled chicken in the refrigerator. 

Chicken Enchiladas – mas rapido!

I intentionally overstuffed these enchiladas because I wanted to use all of my left over chicken and I wasn’t working from a recipe.  I was doing the thing I do best…pulling things out of the refrigerator and pantry  and whipping up a quick meal. 

.

As I mentioned previously, the key to this dish is pickled jalapeños.  Seriously, the pickled tanginess of the chilis is the defining element of true Tex-Mex chicken enchiladas.  No exceptions.  Don’t mess with Texas and don’t mess with Ginger!

No walk-through photos on this one.  I was too busy Zooming and talking to people on the phone!  Scroll down to see a photo of the finished dish.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 Tbs butter

1 Tbs flour

2 cups grilled chicken, shredded and chopped

2 green onions, chopped

3 whole pickled jalapeños, chopped

1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped

1 ½ Tbs cumin powder

1 Tbs red chili powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried oregano

6 corn tortillas

8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded

¼ cup sour cream

½ cup fresh cilantro

Directions:

Add the chicken bouillon cubes to the water and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Prepare a roux by heating butter in a skillet.  Add the flour and whisk.  Add the water and whisk until the sauce thickens.  Remove the skillet from the heat set aside. 

Prepare a round 9 inch casserole dish.  Smear a little of the sauce on the bottom of the dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine the shredded chicken, green onions, jalapeños, spinach, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and oregano.  Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon. 

Soften the corn tortillas in hot oil and set aside.

Apply a heavy portion of the chicken mixture to each of the tortillas and roll the tortillas.  Place the rolled enchiladas in the casserole dish.  Rotate the enchiladas to coat all sides with the sauce.

Top with cheese and bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and golden brown.

Serve with sour cream and cilantro.

And please, take time to show young people how you cook, even if they are wild-eyed, scraggly teenagers!

Mesquite Smoked Chicken Tacos

For those of you following my blog you may have noticed that I’ve been quiet for a month, or so.  These last few months have been rough.  Covid-19 is alive and well in the U.S. and I, along with many others, are adapting to the situation as best as we can. 

I haven’t stopped cooking but I have to admit, my spirits have been down and I find it difficult to do much more  than wake up, go to work, eat, sleep and repeat.  I’m sure I’m not the only one experiencing those kind of feelings.  I’ve been relying on tried and true recipes much of the time and I’ve been making lots of comfort food, most of which is not new or novel or worth posting.  You get the idea.

This particular dish, Mesquite Smoked Chicken Tacos, was something I did back in early March, when many people in the U.S. were staying at home to avoid transmitting the virus.  I took all three weeks of my vacation from work and I tilled my garden with nothing but a shovel and my bare hands, day after day.  I ventured out to buy seeds and seedlings and planted all sorts of vegetables. 

I returned to work two months ago and I’ve faced all sorts of challenges.  So, you may see posts from me frequently or there may be big gaps between them.   Such is life.

When I began making this recipe, I came across and onion that had started to sprout, in my pantry.  I’m not the sort of person that throws anything away without consideration so, I cored the onion, used the edible part of the onion and planted the core.

Here’s what became of that onion core I planted.  It should be ready to harvest in a few weeks.

For this recipe, I used a small charcoal grill, along with a few chunks of dry mesquite, for smoke.  Any hard wood would be fine…oak, hickory…  But, true to my Tex-Mex heritage I opted for mesquite.

Ingredients:

2 lbs chicken breast, cut into 1” thick slices

8 oz can tomato sauce

1 Tbs cumin powder

2 tsp red chile powder

1 tsp oregano

1 large onion, diced

4 jalapeños, fire roasted, steamed, peeled and diced

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

Corn tortillas, briefly fried in oil

1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

½ cup sour cream

Directions:

Marinate the chicken in the tomato sauce, cumin, red chile powder and oregano for at least an hour.

Start the charcoal grill.  Add a few pieces of mesquite to the coals, when the coals become hot.

Once the grill is screaming hot, lay a cast iron skillet on the grate and add a tablespoon of cooking oil.  Add the whole jalapeños and let them sizzle and char on all sides. 

Remove the jalapeños and take them inside to steam in a covered skillet with a scant amount of water for a few minutes.  Turn the heat off and allow the jalapeños to steam for about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken to the cast iron skillet and return it to the charcoal grill.  Cook the chicken over low heat for about an hour, turning the chicken every 15 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, remove the jalapeños from the skillet and peel away the charred skins.  Remove the seeds and stem and then chop the jalapeños into small pieces. 

Add the jalapeños, onion and two tomatoes to the skillet and simmer at low/medium heat for several minutes, until the onions begin to soften.  Remove to a serving bowl.

Chop the remaining tomato and sprinkle with garlic salt and oregano.  Set aside.

Soften corn tortillas in a little hot oil.  Set the tortillas aside until you are ready to assemble the tacos.

Remove the chicken from the grill and roughly chop into bite sized pieces.

Assemble the tacos by adding some chicken followed by some of the cooked tomato, onion and jalapeños, followed a little lettuce and then add a small dollop of sour cream and top with fresh, seasoned tomatoes and green onion.

Serve with rice and beans, a fresh salad, or fruit.

Fajitas, (10-step Saturday)

Summer has definitely arrived!  Temperatures are reaching into the 90’s daily and the high humidity makes it swelteringly hot.  I spend most of my time going from one air conditioned environment to the next.  Saturdays are the exception. 

My yard is loving this hot, muggy weather.  If I don’t cut the grass every week I wind up with a jungle on my hands.  So, I psyche myself up and devote an entire day to yard work.  There’s grass to cut and bushes to trim.  The vegetable garden needs weeding and harvesting.  I try to cram it all into one day’s work, which doesn’t always happen.

The thing that motivates me to do all of this is the promise of an ice-cold beer and a delicious dinner from the grill, when the work is done. 

Step One:  put a beer, or two, in the refrigerator.

Step Two:  marinate some meat and refrigerate until needed.

Step Three:  Chop vegetables and fruit for the dinner and keep cool. 

Step Four:  Clean and prepare an outdoor grill.  Have tools and charcoal ready when they’re needed.

Step Five:  Do the yard work.  Get hot, sweaty, thirsty and hungry.

Step Six:  Take a long cool shower. 

Step Seven:  Open the beer.  Take a sip.  Take the beer with you for the next few steps.

Step Eight:  Start the coals for the grill.

Step Nine:  Grill the meat.

Step Ten:  Relax and celebrate your hard work with a cold beer, good food and good friends.

Saturday Fajitas (Fajitas para el sábado)

Skirt steak has become ridiculously overpriced during the last several years.  Beef, in general is sky-rocketing in price, due to the demand.  Skirt steak is a tough, albeit tasty, cut of beef.  It is comes from the diaphragm of cattle and therefore is muscular and tough.  A marinade that contains citrus will help tenderize and flavor the beef. 

Today, I am using a top round steak.  Top round is another a muscular cut of beef and is more lean than skirt steak but I like to use it as a substitute for skirt steak, when the price is right. 

Ingredients:

2 lbs top round steak

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbs red chile powder (polvo de chile rojo)

2 tsp cumin powder (comino en povo)

1 cup salsa (tomato, onion, chiles, etc.)

1 yellow onion (cebolla amarilla)

1 red bell pepper (pimiento roja)

1 green bell pepper (pimeinto verde)

2 fresh jalapeños

2 cups freshly made guacamole a la Mexicana (ingredients below)

½ cup sour cream (crema fresca)

2 cups chopped lettuce (lechuga cortada)

1 cup chopped cilantro (cilantro cortada)

Soft corn or flour tortillas (tortillas suaves de maíz o harina)

Directions:

Apply lime juice to the beef.  Dust the beef with chile powder and cumin.  Slather salsa across both sides of the beef.  Cover and refrigerate until it’s time to grill.

Slice onions and peppers into rings.  Store in refrigerator.  Leave the jalapeños whole.  They will be grilled, later.

Prepare the guacamole:  The ingredients and the amounts of the ingredients should suit your personal taste.  I used 3 avocados, 1 chopped Roma tomato, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons chopped onion, ½ teaspoon garlic salt, ½ teaspoon oregano and the juice of ½ lemon.  Mix gently to combine.  Cover and refrigerate.

At this point you can clean and prepare the grill and set about to the yard work.  Before you head outside to prepare the grill, remove the beef from the refrigerator so that it can warm to room temperature.

After a cool shower and a sip of cold beer, start the coals for the grill.  Don’t be shy with the coals.  High heat is needed for medium rare beef!

As the coals heat, return to the kitchen and pan fry the onion and bell pepper rings in a skillet.  Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and then add the vegetables.  Stir for a few minutes, remove and keep warm.

Now, back to the grill.  Lay the strips of beef on the grill.  Find room for the jalapeños and lay them on the grill.  Turn the jalapeños frequently to produce a slight char on each side.  Turn the steaks after three minutes and grill for another two minutes. 

Remove everything from the grill and head back to the kitchen.

Set the jalapeños aside. 

Let the steaks rest for five minutes.  While the steaks rest, arrange the vegetables on a platter.  Add the lettuce, sour cream and grilled jalapeños to the platter. 

Cut the steak into ¼” slices and arrange the strips on the platter.

Serve with warm tortillas (and that second beer!)

Fill your days with hard work and reward yourself for a job well done. Cook your steaks with love but don’t cook your steaks well done!

Crunchy Fried Shrimp

As you might recall from my previous post, I purchased 3 pounds of fresh shrimp a few days ago.  I used half of the shrimp in the Camarones ala Diabla but, what did I do with the other half?

Well, to be honest, the Camarones ala Diabla was intended solely for me.  I made it fiery hot, just as I like, and it was only fair that I made a second entrée for everyone else. 

The tangy sauce complemented the crispy shrimp perfectly.

Crunchy Shrimp Tacos

Who can resist fried shrimp?  Even people who don’t love shrimp will sample a little, when it’s fried.

Ingredients for the garden filling:

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

3 green onions, diced,

1 large carrot, matchstick cut

1 large jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and diced

½ cup fresh spinach, chopped

¼ cup bell pepper, diced

Ingredients for the sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

3 Tbs spicy ketchup (chili sauce)

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp cumin powder

Ingredients for the fried shrimp:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 large egg

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

Two dashes of Maggi seasoning sauce (less than ¼ tsp)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 lime, quartered

1.5  pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 flour tortillas (homemade this time)

Directions:

Prepare the garden filling by chopping, dicing and slicing all of the ingredients.  Toss in a bowl and squirt a little lime juice over the top and mix briefly.  Set aside.

Prepare the sauce by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, flour, cornstarch, egg, Sriracha, Maggi sauce and salt and pepper, to taste.  This will be the batter for the shrimp.

Add some Panko breadcrumbs to a separate bowl.

Working one at a time, dip the shrimp into the batter, then dredge in Panko breadcrumbs, pressing to coat.

Add the shrimp to the skillet, one at a time and cook until golden and crispy. This only takes 2 or 3 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Assemble the tacos by smearing some sauce on a tortilla, adding a small handful of garden filling and topping with several shrimp and a few squirts of lime.

Serve with rice and beans.

Camarones ala Diabla

Camarones ala Diabla is served at many Mexican restaurants.  The name of the dish translates to Shrimp of the Devil.  The evocative name of the dish might entice you try it or it might make you afraid of the spicy heat that it promises to bring.  I have had Camarones ala Diabla at many restaurants and I have yet to find one that truly brings the heat I want. 

My tolerance for spicy food is higher than most people tolerate and I understand that restaurants cater to the general public so, when I order Camarones ala Diabla I usually tell the waiter, “muy picante, por favor”, or “mas picante”.  Sadly, that usually results in more sauce, rather than a spicier sauce. 

The way I see it, if you’re going to evoke the “devil” in the name of a dish you sell, you should be prepared to deliver the devilish fires of hell.  Don’t hold back!  I want something that sizzles and stings!  ¡Yo quiero picante!

When you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself!

My favorite local seafood vendor, Porter Seafood, rolled into town this weekend and I stopped by to pick up 3 pounds of fresh gulf shrimp.  $8.00 per pound might seem a little pricey, but it’s worth it.  Whole jumbo shrimp, fresh from the gulf, is a real treat.  I nearly cried for joy when I opened the bag and saw these big beauties!

Camarones ala Diabla is not very difficult to make.  All you need are fresh, jumbo shrimp and a wickedly spicy chile sauce. 

My recipe includes more chile de arbol than what most recipes call for and a few whole, crispy, fried jumbo shrimp, to top the dish.  Yes, the whole shrimp are meant to be eaten!  Whole, fried shrimp is a delicacy and it’s something that most Americans shy away from.  I won’t go into the experience of eating them whole except to say that they offer rich flavor, a wide range of textures and they look absolutely awesome!  If you’re even a little curious about trying whole, fried shrimp you should do it.  If the thought of eating a whole shrimp turns you off, don’t do it, but understand that you are missing a sensation that is worth overcoming the initial visual shock. 

Ingredients:

8 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed

8 dried chile de arbol chiles, stems removed (for a milder version, use 3 chile de arbol)

3 Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 tsp coarse salt

2 Tbs sesame seeds, or dried, crushed pumpkin seeds, (optional)

2 dried allspice berries, crushed (optional)

3 Tbs olive oil

1.5 pounds large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Reserve 3 whole, raw jumbo shrimp (do not remove heads, tails or shells)

½ cup milk

½ cup flour

1 egg

2 cups cooking oil

Sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds (semillas de sésamo o semillas de calabaza) add an earthy element to the sauce and the allspice berries (bayas de pimienta) add exotic flavor.  The recipe is fine without these but so much better when they are added.

Directions:

Left: Guajillo chiles: *** Right: Chile de arbol

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles.  Chile de arbol are small and it’s not easy to remove the seeds.  Don’t spend too much time trying.  The seeds will be removed when the sauce is strained.

Steam the chiles in a covered pan or pot, filled with water.  Boil the water, add the chiles, turn off the heat, cover and wait 30 minutes. 

While the chiles steam, prepare the vegetables for the sauce.

Chop the tomatoes, garlic and onion.  Add these to a blender. Add the salt, sesame seeds and crushed allspice to the blender.

After the chiles have steamed, carefully remove them from the water and place them in the blender.

Blend at high speed until pureed.

Strain the sauce and discard the pulp.  This should leave about two cups of smooth sauce.  Reserve until needed.

Rinse the 3 whole shrimp under clear, cool water.  Set aside to air-dry on a plate.

Mix the milk, flour and egg in a bowl.  This will be used to dredge the whole shrimp.  Set aside for now.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add the peeled, raw shrimp.  Sautee for a few minutes, until the shrimp turn pink.  Do not cook for more than a few minutes, to avoid over cooking. 

Remove the shrimp and set aside.

Add the sauce to the pan.  Once the sauce is bubbling hot, return the shrimp to the pan and stir for a minute.  Remove to a serving platter and keep warm.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 cups of cooking oil. 

Once the oil is hot (350°), dredge the whole shrimp, one at a time, in the milk, flour and egg batter.  Carefully lay the shrimp into the hot oil, one at a time.  Fry the shrimp for one minute and then turn them over to fry on the other side for two minutes.  Turn once more and fry for another minute. 

Sorry, no pictures of this. I was having too much fun!

Carefully remove the shrimp and lay them across the top of the Camarones ala Diabla. 

Serve with the usual Mexican fare…tortillas, lime wedges, rice and beans…

Aye, caramba!  ¡Necesito una cerveza fría!

Don’t forget the cold beer!

Restaurant Style Enchiladas

I’m looking forward to the day that we can all return to our favorite restaurants.

Our favorite local Mexican restaurant seems to be doing steady take-out business, during this time of isolation, but I’m sure that they’re not getting the same amount of business that they would if diners were allowed to come in to have a meal. 

I miss our favorite waiters.  I miss the comfortable, casual dining experience.  I miss my litre of Dos Equis with two limes!  Yes, these are hard times indeed!

I order takeout food about once a week to support our local restaurants but I have to say, the food just isn’t as appealing when it comes in squeaky, white styrofoam boxes.  I recently ordered molcajete, which, when ordered in a restaurant, arrives in a large, black stone mortar vessel.  Molcajete is an impressive dish!  Chicken, beef, shrimp, vegetables, chiles, fruit, nopales (cactus) and all sorts of other good things flow over the edges of the great stone bowl.  It is a symbol of prosperity and bounty but, when it comes in a styrofoam box, it just looks like table scraps and then there is a separate styrofom box that contains rice, beans and tortillas, wrapped in foil. 

So tonight, I want to honor our local restaurateurs by making a meal to honor the struggling fine dining establishments and the little Mexican casitas, like the one I love.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I’m using the last jar of my homemade salsa that I canned back in July, 2019.  I’m going to have to wait another two months for more fresh garden salsa…Aghh!

~ Enchilada Combination Platter ~  :   One beef enchilada, smothered in ranchero sauce, topped with queso blanco.  One cheese enchilada stuffed with roasted poblano peppers.  Served with rice, refried beans, sour cream and garden salad.

Ingredients:

6 corn tortillas, softened by simmering briefly in hot oil

Beef enchiladas:

4 chiles guajillo, seeded and stemmed

2 cups homemade salsa (tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro)

1 Tbs cumin

1 Tbs paprika

1 tsp brown sugar

¾ lb ground beef, browned

½ cup queso Chihuahua (any melting cheese can be used)

¼ cup half-and-half (or whole milk)

Cheese and Poblano enchiladas:

1 cup queso Chihuahua (Monterrey Jack cheese can be used as a substitute)

½ cup poblano chiles, seeded, stemmed, roasted and peeled.

Directions:

Before we get started, here’s something to consider…

As a former line cook at a Tex-Mex restaurant and as someone who wants to replicate a restaurant style dish, I suggest preparing as much of these ingredients in advance as possible.  Nothing impresses like being able to throw together a complex meal quickly.  Chop the vegetables, smoke the peppers, brown the ground beef, shred the cheese…you get the idea. 

Steam the dried guajillo chiles for 20 minutes. 

Slice the chiles down one side.  Scrap away the flesh and discard the thick skins.

Add the guajillo chile pulp to the salsa.  Add the cumin, paprika and brown sugar. Mix and set aside.

Brown the ground beef, but not to the point of completely browned.  The meat will finish cooking in the oven, later.

Assemble the enchiladas:

Add 1 Tbs cooking oil to an oven-proof skillet.  Place the skillet on the stove top and set heat to low. 

Lay 3 softened corn tortillas on a clean surface and fill them with ground beef.  Roll them up and transfer them to the skillet, seam side down.  Lightly brown the bottoms of the enchiladas.

Add salsa and guajillo chile mixture to the pan.  Top the enchiladas with more salsa.  Place in a 300° oven,  uncovered for 15 minutes.

While the beef enchiladas bake…

Lay 3 softened corn tortillas on a clean surface and fill them with crumbled Mexican cheese.  Top with chopped, roasted poblanos and wrap the tortillas to form the enchiladas.

Place the enchiladas in skillet, seam side down, and simmer over very low heat, covered, for about 10 minutes.  Covering the skillet is important.  These enchiladas need to be soft enough to cut with a side of a fork.

In another skillet, simmer the half-and-half for about a minute, until it starts to bubble.  Add the crumbled queso Chihuahua and turn off the heat. Stir until the cheese melts.  Keep warm.

Assemble the platters:

Nestle some chopped lettuce, tomato and carrot strips together on one edge of the platter.  Adorn with cilantro and sour cream. 

Add refried beans and Mexican rice to the other side of the platter, leaving the middle of the platter open for the enchiladas.

Carefully lay a beef enchilada on the platter and a cheese enchilada next to it.

Drip some white cheese sauce over the beef enchilada and the refried beans. 

Top the sour cream with pickled jalapeños.

Serve it like you mean it!

Los saludo cocineros y cocineros! Mantenga sus puertas abiertas … ¡Volveré tan pronto como pueda!

(I salute you, cooks and chefs!  Keep your doors open…I’ll be back as soon as I can!)

Te amo!  ¡Sé fuerte!

Botanas!

Botanas are snacks, or appetizers.  A variety of small snacks are served on a large platter and are intended to be served communally. 

I’ve been wanting to make refried beans for several days now and this seemed like a good way to showcase them.  Homemade tortillas, fire roasted poblano chiles, mesquite grilled chicken and queso Chihuahua offer bold flavors and textures to the party platter.  Lettuce, cilantro and tomato add bright colors to the ensemble.

The botanas platter took several hours to complete.  Boiling dried beans and preparing tortilla dough take an hour and half each to complete.  Roasting chiles and the chicken on an outdoor grill requires another hour, or more.  Some of these tasks can be done in advance and kept chilled and then reheated, when you are ready to assemble the platter.

Ingredients for Refried Beans:

2 cups dry pinto beans, cleaned and rinsed

1 guajillo chile, stemmed and seeds removed

1 cup onion, sliced in large rings

½ gallon water

¼ cup lard

2 Tbs bacon fat

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cumin

Directions for refried beans:

Add dry pinto beans to a pot of water.  Turn heat to high.

Slice the guajillo chile in half.  Add the chile and onion to the pot.

When the pot begins to boil, turn the heat to low and cover.  Simmer for one and a half hours.

Strain beans and discard the onion and chile. Rreserve one or two cups of the broth. 

In a large skillet, add the lard.  Melt the lard at low/medium heat. 

Add cooked beans and stir.  Fry the beans for about 5 minutes. 

Add about 1 cup of the reserved bean broth. Simmer and stir for one minute.

Add the bacon fat and stir for another minute.

Mash the beans with a potato masher or large fork.  Mash and mix the beans until they are creamy.  Add more broth if desired.

Add salt and cumin.  Stir for a minute.  Turn heat off and turn out to a serving bowl.

Ingredients for Fire Roasted Poblano Chiles:

3 fresh poblano chiles

The green onions will be grilled, too. They will be in another recipe.

Directions:

Roast chiles on the grill at very high heat.  Turn the chiles every 3 or 4 minutes to char each side. 

Once the chiles are charred on all sides, place them in a bowl and cover with foil or plastic wrap.  The chiles will soften and cool to room temperature in about 15 minutes. 

Remove the chiles and peel the charred outer skin away from the chiles. The charred parts should easy separate from the rest of the chile. Cut the stem off and pull out the seed cluster.

Slice the chiles lengthwise and lay the chile out on a cutting board.  Remove any seeds that were missed.

Slice the chiles in thin ribbons, about ¼” thick.  Set aside.

Pollo a la Parrilla de Mezquite

(Mesquite Grilled Chicken)

Ingredients

2 medium sized chicken breasts

1 tsp red chile powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1 Tbs olive oil

Directions:

Sprinkle chile powder, cumin and garlic over the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss, to mix.

Carefully place chicken on a hot grill and grill each side for 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove the chicken, wrap in foil and store in a warm place until ready to serve.

Quesadillas de Rajas con Queso

(Quesadilla with Poblanos and Cheese)

Ingredients:

Flour tortillas

Sliced roasted chile poblano

Sliced Chihuahua cheese

Directions:

Add sliced cheese and strips of poblano pepper to one half of a tortilla. 

Make a quesadilla by folding the tortilla to cover the cheese and chile. 

Fry the  quesadilla in butter and olive oil at low/medium heat for a few minutes on each side.

Remove and cut the quesadillas in half.

Burritos pequenos

(Small burritos)

Ingredients:

Flour tortillas

Refried beans

Sliced Chihuahua cheese

Directions:

Add refried beans and cheese to a tortilla. 

Roll the tortillas to form burritos. 

Pan fry in butter and olive oil at low/medium heat for a few minutes.

Remove burritos and slice into small, bite sized pieces.

Assemble the botanas platter

Arrange the lettuce, cilantro and tomato on one edge of the plater.  Nestle sliced chicken next to the salad.  Add a bouquet of roasted poblano next to the chicken.

Arrange the quesadillas and mini-burritos in a decorative array to complete the platter.

Celebrate and enjoy! 

Sopapillas (with Apple Syrup)

Special occasions call for special meals.  When I make a special Mexican dish, I like to make homemade flour tortillas.  When I make homemade tortillas, I sometimes make sopapillas, because sopapillas are made from the same tortilla dough.

Sopapillas are Mexican pastries that are quickly fried in hot oil and served warm, with honey. 

Once in a while wires get switched and everything gets thrown into reverse. 

Several days ago, I made an apple crumble and I challenged myself to use 100% of the apples during the process.  One of the results was an unexpectedly delicious apple syrup.  The aroma, taste and color of the syrup was reminiscent of floral honey.  I couldn’t wait to try the syrup in a recipe where honey is normally used.

It didn’t take long to find a way to highlight the apple syrup.  That’s when my usual thought process switched into reverse. 

Sopapillas are made from tortilla dough and, since I was going to need to make tortilla dough, why not make make some homemade tortillas?  And, since I was going to have homemade tortillas on hand, why not make some Mexican food?

If you want to see my recipes for apple syrup and homemade tortillas click on these links:

Apple Syrup

Homemade Tortillas

Ingredients:

1 lb. prepared flour tortilla dough

2 cups cooking oil

¼ cup powdered sugar

¼ tsp cinnamon powder

½ cup apple syrup (or honey)

Directions for making sopapillas:

Add oil to a large, deep skillet.  Set heat to medium.

Mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough, roll it into a ball and place it on a floured work surface.

Using your hand, press down on the dough to form a disc. 

With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to form a larger, thinner disc.  I suggest rolling it out to ¼” thick, or thinner.  I like to roll out the dough very thin. 

Using a pastry cutter, slice the disc into quarters.   

Carefully transfer the cut pieces of dough to the hot skillet, one at a time.  Avoid crowding the pan.  I usually make 3 sopapillas at a time. 

With a large cooking spoon, ladle hot oil over the sopapillas while the fry in the oil.  The sopapillas should begin to puff up quickly.  After about 30 seconds, turn the sopapillas over and cook for another 30 seconds. 

Carefully remove the sopapillas to a paper towel lined plate. 

Transfer the sopapillas to a serving platter and dust them lightly with powdered sugar.

Serve warm with copious amounts of apple syrup!

Drizzle the syrup over the sopapillas or tear off the corners of the sopapillas and drizzle some syrup directly into the sopapilla.  It’s okay, I won’t tell.