Friday, June 29, 2012

Sweet Potato Enchiladas with Red Mole (HCEV)

  • 12 to 15 mild to medium dried chiles, like New Mexico, mulatto, pasilla, guajillo, or ancho (or a combination), toasted, soaked, and cleaned [Pretty sure I picked up some damn expensive New Mexican's at Whole Foods. Now that I've discovered this wonderful bodega in East Boston, I'm never spending that much on dried chiles again.]
  • 2 cups assorted nuts, like peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnut, pine nuts, and hazelnuts [Used the remainder of the unshelled peanuts I used for Peanut Soup, Senegalese Style. Plus I topped it off with a cup of sunflower seeds.]
  • 1/4 cup tahini or sesame seeds [Used sesame seeds I had on hand rather than buying tahini]
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder or chopped unsweetened chocolate [I used cocoa powder here. I thought it odd that Bittman didn't suggest buying Mexican chocolate. Trying to make it easy for the plebs?]
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored (canned are fine)
  • 2 thick slices white bread (stale is fine)
  • 1 quarter vegetable stock or water, plus more as needed [Hmm, again I de-vegetarianised the dish with boxed chicken stock.]
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more for frying
  • 3 or 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons anise seeds [I swear that I have a distinct memory of buying this at Harvest in Central Square, but it certainly wasn't on my overstocked spice shelf or logged in the list I keep in my planner.]
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Brown sugar as needed (optional)
  • 24 small corn tortillas, plus more if any break
  • 4 cups sweet potatoes, cooked, mashed, and seasoned
  • 1/2 cup crumbed queso fresco for garnish
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion or scallion for garnish [I used radishes instead since they are my favorite with Mexican food and already had some on hand.]
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
  • Lime wedges for garnish [Didn't use the last two ingredients.]

Toasting the dried peppers.

A couple of them blew up like a balloon.

Covered the peppers with hot water. I put a plate on top to keep them submerged and let them soften until I was ready to deal with them.

I would've have saved me some prep I realize if I had used shelled nuts, but these were around.

First batch in the blender: nuts, onion, garlic, and bread.

The debris after peeling a whole head of garlic.

First batch blended.

Peppers, tomatoes, and cocoa powder. Why bother washing out the blender container when it's all going in the same place?

Second batch blended.

Cook over largely low heat for 20 minutes until deeply browned and softened.

Add the broth. I probably should've kept the pepper soaking liquid and used that.

An hour of simmering.

Boil sweet potatoes until tender.

Mashed with my brand new potato masher (No food mill yet).

Frying the tortillas in oil until softened and pliable.

On a pile of paper towels. Maybe I should've layered them a bit more, but I patted the tortillas dry as I worked.

Filling the enchiladas with 2 tablespoons of the sweet potatoes.

Ran out of sweet potatoes and used straight up scrambled eggs after. Bittman includes eggs as a variation but only as an addition to the cheese.
Unsurprisingly I was happier with the sweet potato enchiladas than the egg ones.

Covering the bottom with a thin layer of mole.

Enchiladas filled and rolled with half the casserole covered with sauce.

The remaining sauce. After nearly finishing the enchiladas by the time I write this entry, I'm contemplating thinning the sauce out a bit and braising chicken tenders in it.

Already sprinkled some of the queso fresco on before I remembered to take a photo.

Queso fresco and radishes.

Smothered in some of the extra mole.
I thought the mole was really bitching until I gradually worked my was through the leftovers. Nearly worth the enormous amount of prep that went into it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Sage-Vermouth Sauce (CATKTV) and Mashed Potatoes (The Best Light Recipe)

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've broken out two cookbooks for one dinner. I'm kind of allergic to making side dishes, but I couldn't just call the chicken recipe a meal and leave it at that. Besides, I managed to finish both dishes at about the same time.
Yes, both cookbooks are America's Test Kitchen cookbooks.

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Sage-Vermouth Sauce
  • 1/2 cup table salt
  • 2 (1/2-pound) whole bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, split in half along breast bone and trimmed of rib sections
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 4 medium sage leaves, each leaf torn in half
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • Table salt and ground black pepper

Brining chicken for 30 minutes. I was supposed to do this in the fridge according to the recipe, but after a day of defrosting in the fridge, the breasts were still largely frozen so I did this at room temperature.
from Wikipedia:

Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation.[1] The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes.[1] This leads salt ions to diffuse into the cell, whilst the solutes in the cells cannot diffuse through the cell membranes into the brine. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis.[1] The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins.[1] The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix that traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from dehydrating.

Browning skin-side down on the stove top in my rarely used cast-iron skillet.

Flipping them over. It sort of looks golden brown.

After browning, the breasts go into a 450 degree Farenheit over for 15 to 18 minutes or however long it takes the thickest part of the breast to reach 160 to 165 degrees. Then you remove the chicken from the pan and begin to build the sauce.

Sauce mise en place. Completed at some point while juggling the chicken and mashed potatoes.

Brown the shallot until softened.

Finishing the sauce by whisking the butter in 3 tablespoons at a time after the sauce had reduced to about 3/4 cup.

The finished chicken with light mashed potatoes. I wish the sage had been a bit more forward.

Mashed Potatoes
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed, peeled, and cup into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup 2 percent milk, warmed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • Ground black pepper

The potatoes I peeled.

Boiling the potatoes until tender enough for a knife to easily slip through... Took longer than I thought.

Apparently my roommate must have packed her potato masher already. I swear that I must've bought one when I lived in Sunset Park in Brooklyn about 2 years ago, but couldn't locate it. (It'll be a different story tonight [I own up to the fact that it can sometimes take me a rather long time to finish a blog entry]) when I mash sweet potatoes for another dish tonight.
I was somehow supposed to fold the sour cream into the potatoes. Perhaps that would actually have seemed to have happened if the potatoes has been processed finer (BTW, apparently the way to make the smoothest representations of this dish to use use a ricer or a food mill. the latter is totally on my Amazon wish list.). The potatoes were perfectly edible if far from perfect and I could see how the recipe would be a success low-fat version of the dish with the right equipment in hand.

In any case, I feel I should say a little bit about the book the mashed potatoes came from The Best Light Recipe from America's Test Kitchen. ATK usually doesn't give a damn about fat and calorie content while perfecting their recipes; the bottom like is flavor. But the staff begged founder Chris Kimball to do a light cookbook and he set out a challenge for them: to make a great low-fat cheesecake. I'm sure you can figure out the rest.
Anyway, after reading enough Michael Pollan and getting freaked out by the artificiality of low-fat food (even basic dairy), I come from the same position as ATK stands for in general. However, I'm game if they are. Never hurts to cut back on unnecessary richness every now and then and I'll own up to ordering Starbucks drinks made with skim. They're so damn sweet.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I staged at L'ESPALIER for the first time yesterday; this was also, of course, my first experience in a professional kitchen. I was there from 1 P.M. to shortly before midnight. I peeled sunchokes, washed these tiny white turnips I have never seen before, trimmed and washed radishes, pitted cherries with a paper clip, watched service, and helped clean up at the end.
And I can stage again any time I like. Chef Matt joked that I should show up this morning at 8 A.M., but I'm impelled to stage at least every other week, probably somewhat more often than that. Who knows if someday I'll just choose to never have days off again.

Forget expecting to reach my goal of regularly working in a professional kitchen by the end of the summer because now I've got it. Maybe they'll start paying me for this by then, and perhaps I'll finally quit CVS.
I'm thinking I really want to look for a one-day stage somewhere in New York City when I'm on vacation in August. It'd be fucking awesome to stage at Momofuku Milk Bar or a whole slew of places.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Barley Soup with Roasted Seasonal Vegetables (HCEV)

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (I'm no vegetarian, don't have room in the freezer to justify making stock, and wanted something richer than water: So boxed chicken stock.)
  • About 2 pounds root vegetables--turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, celery root, waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold or fingerling, alone or in combination--peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage (I went with fresh since I'm making something soon that will require fresh sage leaves.)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Bought a turnip and a bag of parsnips. Figured I could snag a few carrots at home for brightness. This is the pile of peelings I wound up with after accumulating enough vegetables to equal 2 pounds of them and allow an ounce for trimming ends.

Peeled vegetables.

Roasted at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes

Oops I forgot to take a picture of me sauteing the onions, garlic and smidge of bacon.
Again, folks, I'm no vegetarian though I often have vegetarian days. Plus, I got to use this HOMEMADE bacon somehow.

Bittman said that after 5 minutes of constant stirring that the mixture would begin to stick. I wasn't timing this step and stopped when I thought the barley was toasted plenty.

Adding the chicken broth. SORRY!!!

I was supposed to cook this until the barley was very tender, but I was hungry and stopped cooking after I reached edible.

There was very little liquid left especially after adding the vegetables. I'd probably consider this dish much more of a barley pilaf than soup here. The sage figured well in the dish. I'm not sure the dish is quite worthy of making again, but it certainly was nice.
I cooked one of the variations of a soup whose main recipe involved cooking the vegetables directly in the broth. Even though it's been sweltering recently, if I have the time I am ABSOLUTELY taking advantage of the maillard reaction (See previous entry with this tag).

When do I cook when I'm pressed for time anyway? Easier just to go to the Chinese restaurant down the street all my roommates hate for some reason.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cochinita Pibil (Slow-Cooked Achiote Pork)

from the Rick Bayless iPad app
  • 1/2 3.5-ounce package prepared achiote seasoning paste
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice (divided use)
  • Salt
  • 1/2 1-pound package banana leaves, defrosted if frozen
  • 3 pounds bone-in pork shoulder roast
  • 1 large white onion, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, roasted in their skins, then peeled
  • 8 medium (about 3 ounces total) fresh habenero chiles, roasted and stemmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 24 corn tortillas, heated (optional)

An awful lot of limes to make out to 3/4 cup lime juice. I had bought a bottle of juice earlier in the event that I'd be lazy.

Mise en place.
Threw a few radishes in the mix because my red onion wasn't all that large. Also, quick lime-pickled radishes are pretty much my go to garnish/vegetable with Mexican food. Which it appears I will be doing more often in the near future.

Lime juice, salt and El Yucateco achiote paste. It struck me as weird that it is also known as annatto paste when I've been led to believe that annatto is only used for color.
After eating this dish and researching on Wikipedia, recado rojo (Yet another name for this!) is:

a popular blend of spices from Mexico. Originally a Mayan blend, it is now strongly associated with the Mexican cuisine of Yucatan and Belizean cuisine. The spice mixture usually includes annatto, Mexican oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, garlic, and salt.[1][2] The annatto seeds dye the mixture red, and this gives the meat or vegetables it seasons a distinctive red hue.

And there I was wondering how the hell the dish was seasoned with just annatto. Silly me.

Blended until there were no obvious lumps and about ten more seconds. (Though some remained)

Lining my Cuisinart Multi-Clad stockpot with banana leaves.
It somehow got left off my shopping list, but shopping for them at Chinatown would have given me the same anxiety even if I had thought ahead. I didn't notice until I had pretty much given up that there's another freezer by the produce section at C-Mart and a frenzied phone call to my mother (I swear to God I've seen her use them on occasion). Ask the employees she says, but I only get dull stares and then I get ignored.
I'm sure this asking them is an okay proposition if you speak the language.

Pork shoulder, onion, and what I had no reason to believe was a sauce made of anything but annatto at this point.

Banana leaves folded over and then into a 300 degrees Celsius oven for 4 hours.

Thinly slice red onion and radish. Oh, and I sliced my finger too. Next time I use a mandoline, I'm going to wear a band-aid before I hurt myself as armor.


Pan-roasting habaneros and garlic in a pan.

Softened and charred.

In the blender. I'm not sure why Rick Bayless suggests to start the blending before adding the liquid (lime juice). Reading what must be countless recipes at this point, this makes no sense since a blender can't do its job without liquid.

I had lost a few habaneros to decay in the fridge, but this salsa is mostly likely the spiciest thing I've ever made.

Not the spiciest thing I've ever eaten. I'd probably give that award to the first time I had Jerk Beef at Davis Square's Redbones. I couldn't believe how a restaurant served a dish that was inedibly spicy and that this was a popular dish to boot. Over the years, I've ranted about it, but never dared to order it again.
A couple years ago, I met up with friends there, and though I wasn't hungry, I ordered a slider of the meat. It was a perfectly palatable heat level. My lord, I wonder if they ever realized how bad that batch from five years ago was and if they threw it out or just keep serving it to dumb people like me.

Cooking has happened! The banana leaves lost their vibrancy of color.

Shredded the meat with a wooden spoon.

And I had some beautiful tacos. Still not a Bayless dish that I'm utterly in love with, but at this point I realize I'm looking for the chipotle. Not that I'm knocking the tacos that harshly. Although I probably wouldn't pass up Taco Bell if I came across one (They've disappeared in the Boston area), I've had authentic tacos at least five or six times in the couple years which is kind of a lot. And these totally stood-up among the best tacos I've had. Plus, two tacos were sufficient unlike what I imagine would've taken 6 tacos at Lone Star.

on chipotle: Surely I'll solve this issue when I make Camarones Enchipotlados (Chipotle Shrimp) in a couple weeks.