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! 

Impromptu Christmas Eve

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

Ingredients:

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)

1 lime

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

Directions:

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

Thai Trifecta

Dessert suggestion:  Sliced bananas, dusted with cinnamon and chocolate sauce and whipped cream topping.

Dust with cinnamon, drizzle chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream

Cucumber Salsa

The summer heat has taken a slight break in my neck of the woods and I couldn’t be happier. It’s actually been cool enough for me to sit and relax on the patio during the last few evenings and listen to the hypnotic drone of the cicadas and watch the fireflies flickering through the trees. This is the sort of weather that begs for margaritas with chips and salsa. When it’s hot outside, I like to prepare this salsa. It starts out slightly spicy and finishes with a cool, refreshing bite.

Ingredients:
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1⁄2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp dried dill weed
1⁄2 tsp salt

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for about one hour. Serve with sturdy, salty tortilla chips and margaritas!