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Thomas The Accidental Gourmet

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Chilli Rellenos with Tomatillo Salsa

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm glad this year is about over. As Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, "if it's not one thing, it's another."

To help make it through the season, Jenn and I took off most of Thanksgiving week. Not only did it ease up on the stress of the season, but it gave us a lot more time to play in the kitchen, which has been nice.

Quite frankly, there are few things quite as therapeutic and relaxing has having a bottle of wine and chopping the ever loving %#@! out of some onion.

Couple all that with the fact that, yet again, we have waaaay too much turkey in the refrigerator, and it's time to get those creative juices flowing at maximum (at least for me: Jenn would be content to eat turkey sammiches for the rest of her days).

This little dish, however, may have cured her of that.

Turkey Chilli Rellenos with Tomatillo Salsa

What You Need:

(Chili Relleno)
3 poblano chilis
1/4 lb. chopped turkey (smoked, preferably)
1/8 cup cilantro
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
2 1/2 ounces of panella fresca, crumbled (or you can use queso fresco, or maybe even goat cheese)
1 cup cornbread dressing
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp salt

(Tomatillo Salsa)
5 roasted tomatillos (destemmed)
1 minced serrano (not seeded)
1/2 avocado
1 large clove garlic, crushed and minced
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 medium white onion
1/8 cup cilantro
1/4 tsp salt

What To Do with It:

Make the salsa. Just throw the ingredients in a blender and puree for a couple of minutes.

Cut out the tops of the poblanos, and cut out the seeds and membrane. Roast the poblanos in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until skin blisters, then peel off skin. (You can blanch them in boiling water, then rinse in cold water, to help the process along).

Mix your other ingredients and stuff into the poblanos. Stick a couple of toothpicks in the top (or along the sides to seal any holes).

Place the chilis in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. Place 1 tablespoon crema mexicana along the length of the poblano, then add a couple tablespoons of salsa.

Serve with mexican rice (start it at the same time you put in your poblanos) and merlot.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What To Do with a Six-Legged Turkey: Smoked Turkey Legs

I'm not a huge football fan, at least not since Jerry Jones became the owner of the Cowboys. Perhaps it's better to say that I'm not a big Cowboys fan, but let's face it, if you're not a Cowboys fan, you can't really enjoy football. Even so, at least once a year I'm able to put aside my disdain for Mr. Jones and enjoy a good football game. That day is Thanksgiving.

Anyone who has watched a T-Day football game knows about the John Madden six (or even sometimes eight) legged turkey. This is all fine and dandy if you do an oven bird (and have a professional cook staff). For the rest of us, the additional-legged variety of turkey poses a problem.

The solution is quite simple, actually: cook the legs separately. With a dry rub. On a grill.

Smoked Turkey Legs

What You Need:

Turkey Legs (skin on). If you live in Dallas, you can get them at Central Market for about $1.50/pound.
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Cracked Black Pepper
Cracked Green Pepper
Crushed Dried Rosemary
Dried rubbed Sage
What To Do With It:
Make your rub. 4:2:2:1:1:1:1 and then salt to taste. You may also want to adjust the herbs. For six legs, you're going to want about 1/2 cup of rub, so use 1/4 cup cayenne, 1/8 cup garlic & onion powder & so on...
Dry the legs, apply the rub, and let sit for a couple of hours, until they're room temperature.
If you're smoking:
You should be going low & slow. Wrap the legs in foil, and place in smoker for two hours, then unwrap, and smoke for an hour on each side.
If you're grilling:
Place the legs on foil, but don't wrap. Cook about an hour per side, then finish for a few minutes without the foil.
Serve with beer. Make lots of cave-man noises while you eat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Orale! Chipotles in Salsa Adobo!

There's a song that says "God Bless Texas." That is true on soooo many levels, the least of which is that Texas is next to Mexico.

"So what?" you may ask. "So are California and Arizona."

Yes, but have you ever heard of "Cal-Mex," or "Mex-izona"? Didn't think so. But I'll bet you a dollar to a doughnut that you have heard of Tex-Mex. Because of Tex-Mex, we're introduced to and experience a lot of food that the rest of the country doesn't even know exists. Fajita? Heard it first here (hell, it was invented here). Anything with heat in the spice? Good luck finding that north of the Mason-Dixon.

Which brings us to chipotles. Depending upon which entomologist you believe, "chipotle" is either a Spanish-Aztec word ("chi" for "chili" and "potle," which means "smoke"), or it's derived from an ancient nahuatl word meaning "smoked chili." To me, it just means tasty.

This year, my sister had a bumper crop of jalapenos (along with a lot of other peppers). I, being the loving brother that I am, offered to take a few off her hands. 30 hours, and about five pecan logs later, and I had around 140 smoked jalapenos (also known as chipotles). "Hmmm," I asked myself. "Whatever shall I do with these?" Stick 'em in adobo sauce, of course.

Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

What You Need

About 70-135 chipotles (I used 135, because my peppers started out about 1 1/2 inches long) (Why so many? Because it takes about 30 hours at around 150 degrees to smoke the jalapenos, and you don't want to do that for just 10 peppers. The picture shows them at about 22 hours into the smoking process.)
30 small tomatoes, peeled (you could probably substitute a large can of stewed, whole tomatoes for every 10 tomatoes)
15-oz. can of tomato sauce (to act as a flavor balancer in case your tomatoes lack enough acid)
2 cups cider vinegar
8 cloves garlic, smashed, then minced
4 white onions, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp oregano
Salt (start with about 2 tsp, and then add gradually to taste)

What To Do With It
Sautee onions until translucent.
Mash the garlic with the flat of your knife, mince.
Peel, then puree your tomatoes.
Add tomatoes, vinegar, cumin, oregano salt and 8-15 chipotles to pot (around 6 qt. capacity). Boil, then cover and simmer 1.5 hours.
At this point, puree in batches.
Return puree to pot, add remaining chipotles, and simmer another 1.5 hours. Salt along the way to taste.
If necessary, reduce until the sauce clings to a metal spoon.
When you're done, you're going to have around 3 quarts of chipotles and salsa adobo. You may want to have a few 1/2 pint jars around and then can your chipotles and salsa. I filled just over 12, with each having 10 peppers (which filled 1/2 a jar).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mai Tais: All My Drinking Friends Have a Sailing Problem

Two of our best friends, JD and Susan, have a J122 that they keep on Lake Texoma. For about half the year, we race. The other half, JD and Susan are happy to have us up for a night or a weekend.

The only cost of admission is (i) food and (ii) drink. I really think that Susan was the inspiration for the Finding Nemo fish, Dory ("Fish are friends, not food"). And JD, unfortunately, shares my philosophy regarding alcohol: "Life is too short for cheap booze." So, we don't do fish on the boat, but we do drink well.

Next week, they're going to be gracious enough to take us and our nephew out for a sail. Because it's almost sailing season again, I suspect all the pots and pans will be off the boat. And although JD and I would both be content with just a bottle of Anniversario rum, Jenn and Susan don't think that straight rum is acceptable.

Therefore, I think that we'll make laab gai spring rolls and mai tais: easy to eat, tasty to drink.

Laab Gai (with props to Beth, who gave me the recipe originally)

What you need:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 jalapenos (or serranos, or similar peppers), minced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp ginger root, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp fish sauce (to taste)
1-2 tbsp soy sauce (again, to taste)
1 tbsp rice cooking wine
1/4 cup lime juice
Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
cucumber and carrot, julienned
Spring roll wrappers

What to do with it:

Chop up your chicken in a food processor. Basically, you're going to be making ground chicken. Boil it until it's cooked, then drain.

Put it in a bowl, add everything else except the cabbage, and mix. Once you have the flavor balance you want, refrigerate for an hour or so.

Prep a spring roll wrapper (place in warm water for about 8 seconds, removing before you think it's ready). Drop in a little cabbage, a couple tablespoons of laab gai, roll and enjoy.

Mai Tais

What you need:

1 ounce gold rum (I use Cruzan)
1 ounce spiced rum (meet my friend, Sailor Jerry)
1/2 ounce amaretto
juice of 1/2 key lime
3 drops Angostura bitters
small pinch allspice
2 1/2 ounces pineapple juice

What to do with it:

Mix it.

Pour it over ice.

Drink it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ceviche Peruano

Do you remember your "first?" It doesn't really matter the first of what...your first car, first kiss, first apartment...chances are you remember your first fondly. In some cases, your first may even outshine anything subsequent.

My first car is that way. It was a 1964 1/2 Mustang. It had no A/C, the windshield wipers had two speeds (too fast and too slow : i.e. one speed), and it went through transmissions the same way I go through a package of Little Debbie Zebra Cakes (Ford used three different transmissions that first year of production, none of them designed to actually match up with the engine).
But it was perfect. It had the original radio and was painted the original Rangoon Red--a real classic. It may have lacked a bunch of gadgets, but I could still get out there and adjust the timing by moving the distributor cap. What it may have lacked in newer-model accessories, it made up in simplistic coolness.

So it is with ceviche. My first was in Peru, and nothing can ever top it. Unlike Guatemalan or Mexican ceviche, ceviche peruano is very simple: fish, sweet potatoes, corn, onions. It is light and refreshing, and not at all over-complicated. Other ceviches may be good, but ceviche peruano is simply the best.

Ceviche Peruano

What you need:

(serving for four)
3/4 cup lime juice (about 20 key limes)
1 1/2 pounds white fish (anything from basa to mahi mahi)
1 habanero (or more, depending on your heat preference)
2 sweet potatoes
corn (or choclo if you can find it)
red onion
juicer (trust me: you don't want to hand squeeze 3/4 cup lime juice from key limes)

What to do with it:

The day before, slice about 1/2 of a red onion thin and put in salt water to soak. This will (i) soften up the onion and (ii) take some of the bite out. About an hour prior to serving, dump out the salt water and put in fresh water. Continue soaking until it's time to eat (this will remove the excess salt).

Get your juice on. Using key limes is important: a limon from Peru is much more acidic than the persian limes we get here in the states. If you use persian limes, expect to almost double your cooking time. Finely mince the habanero (if you can get aji, use that) and place in the lime juice.

Cube your fish into 1/2" bits. (I used to use red snapper, then I learned a dirty little secret: the restaurants tend to use the cheapest fish they can find. It makes sense, I suppose: you're pretty much destroying the taste of the fish and replacing it with lime. Obviously, a stronger fish will give you a stronger taste, but for $15 per pound difference, basa tastes just fine.)

Once cubed, place on a cookie sheet and run hot water over it (not hot enough to cook, just hot water out of the tap--all you're doing is rinsing the fish). Now put your fish in your lime juice. If the juice doesn't cover the fish, add a bit more. Refrigerate, and stir about every 30 minutes.

For timing purposes, it takes about 3 hours for the juice to cook your fish. So at about 2h 30min, start boiling your sweet potatoes. If you couldn't find choclo, get your corn ready (you're going to make corn on the cob, microwaved, boiled, or whatever floats your boat).

If you did find choclo, drop a little (1 tsp) butter and some kosher salt (2 tsp) in a pan and sautee until golden brown. (In Peru, the corn is actually pithy, like pop corn. I haven't figured that out, yet... Maybe I need to try dried choclo.)

Plate by slicing the sweet potato in 1" wheels, add your fish, onions and corn. Give everyone a shot of the leche de tigre (the juice left over from the fish and limes) prior to eating. Serve with a bit of hot sauce (such as Cholula) and Cristal beer (or another lager).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Stilton-Stuffed Pork Loin Chops

In my never-ending quest to rid myself of the freezer full of pork I bought, I'm having to find more and more willing victems...errr...guinea pigs...errr...dinner guests.

This Friday, we cooked dinner for our friend, Donna, for her birthday. Donna's fun to cook for: she's up for just about anything.

She's also no slouch in the kitchen herself. So the pressure was on: no faking my way through this meal. I also wanted a bit of "wow factor." I settled on making an emulsified sauce for the "wow." Half way through dinner, I decided that a little chutney would add the punch I was looking for.

While I'm still working on getting that sauce right (I really need to buy a saucier pan), and I'm going to have to work on the color palette, the flavors all came together quite nicely on the palate.

Stilton-Stuffed Pork Loin Chops

What You Need:

Pork chops
4 pork loin chops (fairly thick, about 1 1/2"-2")
1/2 cup toasted, crumbled walnuts
1/2 cup stilton cheese at room temperature

Sauce and Chutney
1 Beet, roasted
1/2 cup diced granny smith apple (peeled)
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 sprigs fresh thyme (stripped)
1 cup chardonnay and 1 cup water
8-10 cloves (ground)
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp butter
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 sprig thyme, chopped
Salt to taste
2 grinds black pepper

What To Do With It:

Start prepping the sauce first. Saute the onions for about 15 minutes over medium-low heat. I used 1/2 tbsp of butter for this. Throw in 1-2 healthy pinches of kosher salt.

Separtely, roast your beet in the oven at about 350 (this takes about an hour--alternatively, you could nuke it for about 6 minutes).

Add the wine & water, apples and stripped thyme, and boil over medium-high heat.
While your sauce is reducing, sear the pork for about 2 minutes on each side over medium-high to high heat. You want a little bit of brown. Butterfly each chop.

Mix the walnuts and stilton together. Apply evenly to each chop (on the inside).

Fold the chops back together and secure with a toothpick.

Back to the sauce... Once the liquid is reduced to about 3/4 cup, strain it into a separate container and reserve. The apples and onions left in the strainter now become your chutney. Chop up your beet, add the ground cloves and a couple of grinds of pepper and get them good and mixed in.
Go ahead and put the chops in the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes (I left mine in a little longer, on the advice of my sous-chef, and over cooked them).

When the chops are about 10 minutes from being done, things get busy. Melt the butter. (Experts will say to clarify it, as well, but I just left most of the solids at the bottom of the butter container, which worked pretty well.) In a pan with sloping sides, whisk together the egg yolks and 3 tbsp water until frothy.

Place the pan over medium-high heat and whisk the tar out of it, paying particular care not to let any one area rest (you'll just end up with boiled egg yolk in your sauce). As soon as the sauce thickens (and this will happen very quickly, and it looks like pudding), count to 5 (still whisking), and remove from heat. Whisk for another 20-30 seconds more. This is called a sabayon.

Add the butter and lemon, using the whisk to gently stir them in. Now add the chopped thyme and the reserved liquid to taste, gently stirring the liquid in. Add salt, if necessary.

Plate by putting sauce on top of the pork chops, then the chutney on top of that. We served ours with a wild rice mixture (Safeway brand, no less) that was quite tasty, and a field green salad with toasted walnuts, stilton and fresh, diced apple on top and a raspberry-chipotle vinaigrette.

We paired this with a Perrin & Fils Cote du Rhone, which was very tasty.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pork Spring Rolls--Another way to eat the other white meat

My family is from the south, and my folks grew up in the post-depression era. Maybe that's why they always have a full pantry and freezer. Whatever the reason, I inherited that habit, and if I find a good deal at the store, I can't resist it.

Which is how we came to have 14 pounds of pork loin chops in our freezer (who can resist "buy one 'family size' package, get two free"?). Now, pork loin chops for about a dollar per pound is a great deal. 14 pounds of chops in the freezer, however, presents a challenge. After all, there's only so many different ways to cook pork chops, and then it starts to get boring.

So, we've been experimenting. Our latest foray was to try to make spring rolls. Took about 20 minutes start to finish.

Pork Spring Rolls

What you need:

Spring roll wrappers.


2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
10 ounces of pork (I used two pork chops), cubed into 1/4 to 1/2 inch
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 serrano (or similar chili--Thai pepper will be significantly hotter, so bear that in mind if you go that route)
1 tbsp onion, chopped
1 tsp ginger

Veggies (cooked):
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 cup each of carrots, celery and bell pepper (thinly sliced)
2 tbsp chopped onions
1 cup thinly-sliced napa cabbage (also called Chinese cabbage)

Veggies (raw):
1/4 cup cilantro (coarsely chopped)
1/4 cup pea shoots
2 water chestnuts (thinly sliced)

What to do with it:

Prep everything before you start cooking. The actual cooking time is around 6-8 minutes.

In a skillet about 10 inch round, place 1/4 inch water and heat until warm. Leave on stove.


Cover the pork with the spices.

In a separate skillet, combine the olive oil and sesame oil with the garlic and heat over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to turn brown. Remove the garlic and add the pork. Saute for about 2 minutes, then add the onions , ginger and peppers. Saute for another 4-6 minutes.


While the pork is cooking, in another pan combine the oil and soy sauce over medium heat. Drop in the hard vegetables for about three minutes (you want them still quite firm). Remove and drop in the cabbage for a minute, moving constantly (you want it only slightly wilted).

Now the fun begins. Place a spring roll wrapper in the water. The instructions on my box say to leave it in about 3 seconds. I found 5-8 worked better. Either way, don't leave it in until it's "done," because then it will just shred on your plate. It should still be firm when you pull it from the water (it will get more pliable).

Put the wrapper on a plate and dish out some veggies (raw and cooked) and meat. Roll it like you would a tortilla, but close both ends. So, if your food cuts across the diameter of the wrapper like this: (-----), you're going to fold the ends over thusly: )---( and then roll.

Mix up some Sriracha and soy sauce, or Chinese mustard and teriyaki, or peanut sauce, or whatever floats your boat for dipping. Consider adding mushrooms to the cooked vegetables and lemon grass to the raw vegetables and substituting watercress or bean sprouts for the pea shoots. You could also make this with chicken (maybe cook a minute longer) or shrimp (cook a couple minutes less).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fresh Salsa (Because life is too short for Pace)

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: hungarian wax peppers and banana peppers look very similar.

Another fact with which you may not be familiar: the hungarian wax pepper has about the same scoville scale rating as a jalapeno, whereas the banana pepper is more akin to a pimento. If you confuse the two, you're in for a surprise.

Recently, my parents bought a bag of what they thought were banana peppers. I thought they weren't. So, being the good son that I am, I asked my wife to try one. She took a small bite, and pronounced them banana peppers. I took a significantly larger bite, and then drank a lot of beer. Definitely NOT banana peppers.

Fortunately, the folks had also bought a bag of roma tomatoes. Best of all, my dad has a cage for the rotisserie for roasting veggies. So we had something to do with the peppers.

Fresh Salsa

What you need:

6 roma tomatoes
1/2 large red onion (or a regular white onion, though I prefer red)
2-4 serrano peppers, depending on your heat tolerance (jalapenos or hungarian wax peppers also work)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2-4 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime

What to do with it:

Roast the peppers and tomatoes. If you're lucky enough to have a cage, do them over coals or a flame. Otherwise, use a cast iron skillet. Roast them until the skin is blackened in places (not necessarily all over).

Cut off the stems of the peppers and the stem end of the tomatoes, then drop them in a food processor or blender, skins, seeds and all. Quarter the onion, and add as well, along with the lime juice. Smash your garlic cloves under a knife and mince. Add that and the cilantro, then blend. Now start adding the cumin and salt (this is a "to taste" kind of thing).

If you find the salsa too mild, you can always chop up another serrano and blend it in. Too hot? I haven't the slightest idea (my salsa has 4-5 peppers), but I suppose adding another tomato might take some of the bite out.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Grilled Curried Lobster: Summertime Goodness

One day, when we've got enough time, I'll tell you the story of the best lobster ever, an epic tale of the quest to find grilled lobster in Barbuda. But today, we don't have that kind of time. Seriously.

I will tell you, however, that the idea of grilled lobster sounds great, but the execution is often lacking. We've had it a few times in the Caribbean, and it was usually too dry and lacking in flavor. The first time I made it, I followed the advice of several cookbooks and boiled the lobster until it was almost done before placing it on the grill. And I didn't make it again for years.

This weekend, however, my sister asked me to grill some lobster. Who am I to say no to my little sister?

Grilled Curried Lobster

What You Need:

4 Lobster tails (ours were 4 ounces)
3 limes
2 1/2 tsp green curry
1 tsp ground ginger
1 jicama
1 large avocado
1 mango
1/2 cup cilantro
5 roma tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 red boiler onion
Olive oil
1 lemon

What to do with it:

Squeeze 2 1/2 limes: you should end up with about 1/2 cup of juice
Add 1 tbsp olive oil, the ginger, 2 tsp green curry and about 1/2 tsp salt. Now you have the marinade for the lobster.

Start your charcoal.

Peel and seed the tomatoes, and chop them.
Finely chop the onion and garlic.
Add this, 1/4 cup of the marinade, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp curry and the juice from the final 1/2 lime in a sauce pan on medium heat. Cook until the tomatoes are broken down, about 15 minutes. Now you have a marinara. Set this aside to cool.

While this is cooking, cut the underside of the tail lengthwise. Now spread the shell along the cut, and spoon in about 3 tsp of your marinade.

Prepare your mango and jicama by chopping (you want all the mango, and about 1 1/2 to 2 cups jicama). Slice the avocado and rub lightly with lemon juice (this keeps the avocado from turning brown). Tear up the cilantro leaves.

Your charcoal should be ready now. Place the tails on the grill, hard side down, for 3 1/2 minutes. Flip, and cook another 3 minutes. (You may need a little more time, depending on how much your tails weigh.)

Remove the tails, and plate the jicama, mango, avocado and cilantro (in that order). Ladle some marinade down the center of this. Take a butcher knife and use it to split the tails completely in half, then place them on the plate.

Serve with a weissbier. We used Weihenstephaner Vitus (a weizenbock).
(We also tried a pinot grigio, but the marinara contrasted too much with it.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lambsicles and Basil Mint Pesto: baa, baa tasty sheep

The rest of world calls them lamb chops, but I just like the sound of lambsicles. Plus it accurately describes how you eat them.
I've been making these for years, but I prefer to serve them by themselves.

However some people seem to think that you can't have lamb without mint. The problem is that I'm not a fan of mint jelly, so I've been on the hunt for some sort of suitable replacement.

Not too long ago, I saw a show where they made a mint pesto sauce. Sounded pretty good, so with a few modifications we were on our way.

Lambsicles and Basil Mint Pesto

What you need:

(Lamb chops)

3-4 Lamb chops per person
1/2 tsp. ground fresh rosemary per person (more is ok)
1/8 tsp. salt per person (salt to taste, however)
1 tbsp olive oil per person


2 cups chopped fresh mint (maybe chop 1/8 cup more, to add during the process in case you want a little more mint taste)
1 cup chopped fresh basil
12 roasted pecans
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup sheeps milk feta
extra virgin olive oil
salt (I used Kosher)

What to do with it:

I highly recommend that you use a mini-prep food processor for chopping all the herbs. Otherwise, you'll be at it for a long time...

(Lamb chops)

Place the rosemary, salt and olive oil in a ziplock bag. Mix it up. Put in the lamb chops and coat them, turning the bag occasionally to keep an even marinade going. (if you're cooking a lot of chops, use a big dish, such as a roasting pan.

Once you've got the pesto made, put the lamb chops under a broiler for 4-5 minutes. You're going to cook them until they're just crispy on top, but don't go over 5 minutes. They should be a little pink.


Grind up the pecans and garlic, then set aside.
Chop the herbs in batches, until you've got the required amount, then put the herbs, cheese (crumbled), nuts and garlic in the food processor. Add about 1/4 cup olive oil, a teaspoon of salt and puree.

Check the consistency and taste. Add some more olive oil and salt, and puree again. You're not going to be adding a set amount each time. Ultimately, you want enough salt for your taste, and enough olive oil to get a consistency that allows you to spread the pesto evenly.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scallops Peruano

Almost 20 years ago, I had fresh scallops in Peru. They were served on the half shell with the roe still intact. At the time, I didn't appreciate just how good they were.

For my 40th birthday, my wife ordered me fresh scallops from a local seafood market (in Texas, you can only get scallops in the shell by special order). The picture to the left shows how they arrived (minus the wine), of course.

Now, I recall the scallops in Peru as being baked, with only parmesan cheese. But that just seemed a little naked.

So, we added a little wine and some italian parsley, then baked. We were cooking for 12, so our cooking times were a bit off (probably cooked them about 1 minute to long). Nonetheless, WOW. Super fresh, a hint of sea, and all around delicious!

Scallops Peruano

What you need:

Scallops, still in the shell

Dry white wine (sauvignon blanc works well)

Argentinian parmesan cheese (it's not as hard as parmigiano-reggiano, and melts well)

Italian parsley

What to do with it:

Wash the scallop. It will be open slightly (like a soft-shelled clam), so don't worry.

Hold the scallop with the shallow side up, and cut away the shell from the scallop. Repeat for the bottom half.

You now should have the scallop detached. There's a sheath around the scallop that holds all that excess stuff to the scallop. Cut that off, and throw away everything except the roe (orange or slightly pink, depending on the sex of your scallop). Place the scallop and the roe in the deep shell, sprinkle on a bit of parsley (very little), grind on a twist of sea salt, sprinkle on some grated parmesan, and add about 1 tbsp. wine (add it on the side of the scallop, not on top).
Bake at 450 degrees for 4-6 minutes, depending on how many you have. Err on the side of not enough time (you can always put in for another minute).
Ours came packed in seaweed, so we put that down on the plate for serving. We also served with Rombauer Chardonnay. Any "oaked" chardonnay should do, however.
Oh, and I got a new digital camera. Nice, eh?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Caribbean French Toast Casserole

We try, once a year, to charter a boat with another couple and sail around the Caribbean. Jenn and I typically do food duty.

Actually, I typically do food duty, and Jenn does drink and bikini duty. But once a trip she does cook a meal.

At the beginning of the week, we provision the boat. Invariably, we get not enough rum and too much bread.

Toward the end, the bread is getting a little stale, and we've stopped somewhere (several times) to replenish our rum supply. Unfortunately, our livers usually cry "uncle" by day five, so we've also over-bought the rum.

What to do? Make breakfast, of course.

Caribbean French Toast Casserole

What You Need

1 loaf french bread
6-8 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
coco lopez
1 can crushed pineapple (if you happen to have some fresh chopped pineapple that's been soaking in vanilla rum, brown sugar and ginger overnight, that's even better...)
1/2 - 1 cup gold rum (also known as "enough" rum to get the bread soaked)

What To Do With It

Cut french bread into 1 inch slices, brush with butter, and toast to golden brown
After you toast the bread, cut into 1 inch by 1 inch squares

Beat the eggs, add 1/2 can coco lopez, 1 can crushed pineapple, cinnamon and rum in a large bowl. Combine bread with liquid until bread is fully soaked. If there is not enough liquid to soak the bread (shouldn't be sitting in liquid but everything should be wet), beat some more eggs, and combine with more coco lopez, rum, and cinnamon.

Butter a rectangular glass pan.

Pour into pan, sprinkle with cinnamon. Let sit overnight. (You don't have to do this but it is better this way).

Next morning, drizzle some rum on it (notice a theme here?), put a few pats of butter around the dish and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

You've just created french toast in a casserole pan, but you shouldn't need syrup with this.

A little more rum, though, never hurt anyone.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spicy Mussels in Coconut Milk Broth

Last night my wife decided she was tired of steak. Instead, she wanted halibut ... until we got to the store. Then, though she still wanted seafood, she didn't want any fish. That leaves crustaceans and bivalves, we just had shrimp the other night and we didn't want to spend the kind of money that lobster or crab takes.

So we zeroed in on mussels. It's been a while since we've had them. Years, in fact. Too long for me to remember how I used to make them. But I did remember a dish we had at a restaurant that had coconut milk as a base. I set out to create my own version.

It turned out pretty well, I must say.

Spicy Mussels in Coconut Milk Broth

What You Need
24 mussels
2 tbsp. shallots, chopped
1 tbsp. ginger, minced
1 serrano, deseeded and sliced thin (or leave the seeds in for extra heat)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 mushrooms, diced
1 can coconut milk
2 cups dry white wine (or champagne)
4 cloves
1 tsp coriander
1/2 lemon
1 lime
1/3 cup cilantro

Chicken broth
Rice sticks (rice vermicelli)

What To Do With It

First, purge the mussels. Set them in cold water. They'll "evacuate" any sand.
Next grind up the coriander and cloves. (I used a mortar & pestle. A mini food processor will work. If not, use 1/2 tsp of curry powder.)
Saute the garlic, shallots, ginger and serranos.
Pour in the wine and coconut milk. Squeeze in the lemon and 1/2 lime. Simmer on medium for 10 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Continue to simmer. Add water if it's getting too thick. Salt to taste. If it's not spicy enough for you, add some red pepper.

When you add the mushrooms, put on a pot with 1/4 chicken broth and 3/4 water to boil (this will be for your rice sticks). Once it boils, throw in the rice sticks.

After 2 minutes (when your rice sticks should be almost done, if not all the way), put the mussels and 1/2 the cilantro in the coconut milk. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook 3 minutes.

While this is going on, remove the rice sticks, drain and wash with cold water for 2 minutes(otherwise, they'll make your broth very thick, trust me.)

Serve by placing the rice sticks in a bowl, then adding mussels and broth. Add a couple drops of lime juice and fresh cilantro on top.

Serve with a bottle of prosecco. We used Riondo Spago Nero Prosecco.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pork Stew "Ethiopian"

We really like Ethiopian food. In case you're not familiar with it, Ethiopian has a lot of stews and is eaten with a bread called injera (think of a sourdough pancake). It's spicy and quite flavorful

Once upon a long time ago, we got an Ethiopian cookbook and made actual Ethiopian food. It turned out really good. The problem is that it took a fair amount of time because you clarify butter and make berbere sauce before you get started on anything else. (This sauce keeps in the fridge, and you use it for all your dishes).

So unless it's a special occasion, we don't make Ethiopian food.

However, on a whim this weekend, I bought some injera. We had some pork in the fridge, and were wondering what to make. I figured I could make a reasonable facsimile of an Ethiopian stew.

And I did. :)

Pork Stew "Ethiopian"

What you need

(This recipe assumes you're cooking for two people.)

Two pork chops, cut in 1" cubes (or so)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, torn
1 tbsp cardamon
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 jalapeno (or 1 serrano)
1 tsp salt
A few grinds of red pepper and black pepper
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp butter

What to do with it

Sear the pork in a pot. Once it gets brown, throw in about 1 cup water and all the rest of the ingredients except the sour cream.

Cook on high until it boils, then reduce to medium. You want to cook away a lot of the liquid.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl and add an equal amount of water. Stir this until you have a liquid with no lumps. Then add to your pot.

If you get tired of waiting for the liquid to reduce and the stew to thicken, you can use about a tablespoon of flour, mixed with water until it makes a thin paste, then add that. (You don't want to add just flour, or you'll get dumplings).

Serve with injera if you can get it (probably have to go to an Ethiopian grocery) or you can use sourdough bread. The latter isn't as fun, because you don't get to eat with your fingers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Scallops with White Wine Court Bouillon and Linguini

I've mentioned before that I like scallops. I could eat pan-seared scallops all day long.

My problem is finding ways to cook them that are (i) different and (ii) healthy (yes, we're still on that *&@%^ diet chez moi).

Well, tonight we forgot to plan anything for dinner, so Jenn & I stopped by our crack dealer on the way home to see what we might find. What we found were the colossal sea scallops for $6.00 off per pound. Of course, we bought some. But what to do with them? Big thunderstorms coming through, so definitely no bacon-wrapped scallops on the grill.

A while back I heard a recipe on NPR for clam sauce to put over linguini that I thought would work quite well for scallops. In fact, I was correct.

Oh, and I learned a new term: court bouillon. It's a fancy way of saying "a liquid with herbs and wine in which you poach food."

Scallops with White Wine Court Bouillon and Linguini

What you need:

(I cook for two)

About 1/2 to 2/3 pound of scallops (depends on how hungry you are). And these are the big sea scallops, not bay scallops. Smaller scallops will reduce your cooking time a lot.
1/2 cup oaky chardonnay (something with a nice, buttery finish)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion , thinly sliced (just until you get to the green part)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/8 tsp tarragon, finely chopped
1/2 lemon
1 tsp white wine vinegar
about 2 tsp butter
salt & pepper to taste

What to do with it:

While your water comes to a boil, prep your ingredients & give your scallops a good washing (once if you like them a little strong, more if you don't).

Drop in about 1 tbsp of your parsley, the garlic, tarragon, lemon, vinegar, white wine, a couple pinches of salt and some pepper and cook over medium-high heat in a large, flat pan for about 5 minutes to get the flavors mixed throughout. Check it to make certain that you've got enough salt. If your water isn't boiling, reduce to simmer. (Don't forget to crank the heat back up to medium-high just before you put your scallops in)

Otherwise, once the water boils, throw in your linguini & your scallops (pasta in the water, scallops in the court bouillon, obviously). You're going to cook the both about seven minutes. Turn the scallops over once.

At the seven-minute mark, drain your linguini and remove your scallops and place in the oven on warm.

Add the butter to your court bouillon and reduce on medium-high until the sauce thickens a bit.

Dish up some pasta, quarter (or half) the scallops and place on top. Ladle on some of your sauce, and sprinkle the rest of the parsley on top. You can also add a LITTLE bit of fresh parmesean cheese or anoter grated hard cheese.

Serve with a chardonnay, preferably the one you used to cook the sauce.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dijon Swiss Chicken Sammich--You Can Dress Up Chicken

We're on a diet chez nous.

Which is to say, "I'm being supportive of my wife's efforts."

Or to put it another way, "Thomas is always hungry."

One thing about my wife. In college, she spent an entire summer eating cereal for breakfast and quesedillas for dinner. She would be content to eat the same thing every day. I, on the other hand, need some variety.

So lately, I'm on a mission to figure out as many interesting way to cook chicken as I can. I feel like Bubba on Forrest Gump. You remember, "Anyway, like I was saying, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. There's um shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan-fried, deap-fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burgers, shrimp sandwich. That's, that's about it"

With that in mind, I present you tonight's essay: Dijon Swiss Chicken Sammich:

Dijon Swich Chicken Sammich:

What you need:

I'm assuming that you may be cooking for more than one, so this recipe is based on a one-person serving. Adjust accordingly.
One chicken breast
1/2 scallion (green onion)
1/4 lemon
1 slice swiss cheese
1 mushroom
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, dijon mustard, kaiser roll (or other bread)

What to do with it:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spread a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet.
Drizzle a bit of olive oil (1 tsp or less) on top of the chicken, along with the lemon.
Thinly slice your mushroom and place on top of your chicken. Do the same with the scallion.
Sprinkle a bit of salt on top, place a slice of swiss cheese on top of the chicken.
Bake until it's done (time will depend on the type of oven you have, but generally 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness--add more time for more pieces: about 5 minutes each).
While your chicken's cooking, if you can, toast your bread.
When you're finished, add a little pepper to the chicken, put the mustard on your bread and serve.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lox & Eggs and Gruyere Poached Eggs

I have a confession.

I HATE eggs.

I simply don't understand fried eggs (runny yolk is disgusting, and egg whites are gross). Scrambled eggs are only edible if they're covered in ketchup (they're the only thing I eat ketchup on). Don't get me started on soft boiled eggs.

Unfortunately, my wife, and a lot of other people, love eggs. So I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make them...palatable.

I've had several people tell me that the two recipes I'm posting are really good. I'll just take their word for it.

Lox & Eggs

What you Need:

Nova Lox (or any other cold smoked salmon) (about 1 ounce per person, maybe a little more)
1/2 tsp dill per person (fresh is preferable)
1/4 Shallot per person
1/2 Tomato per person
1 Egg per person
1 Tbsb. buttermilk per person
1 Tbsp. cream cheese per person

What to do with it:

Chop the lox and tomatoes.
Beat the eggs and buttermilk with a fork. Yep. Buttermilk. Add the dill and cream cheese. Make certain that you have several clumps of cream cheese throughout.
Sautee the shallots in olive oil until translucent on medium heat.
Add a bit more olive oil, and drop in the eggs.
Sprinkle the lox and tomatoes on top, so that they're evenly spaced about.

You're going to want to put a lid on the skillet to keep heat in to cook the top without charring the bottom.

I suppose if you wanted to get really wild, you could add a bagel.

Gruyere Poached Eggs

What you need:

An egg poacher (this just won't work if you do it in boiling water)
Gruyere cheese
Rubbed sage (or crushed)
Salt & Pepper
Sour Dough Bread

What to do with it:

Put two small slices cheese (about 1" by 1/4") in the poacher
Drop in 1/4 tsp of sage, a few shakes of salt and pepper
Serve on sourdough toast.

They're good. Trust me.

Or so I've been told.