Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Squash Enchiladas

It's been a while since I posted here, but as I promise with all of my blogs, I will post on an irregular and unpredictable schedule. It really tends to throw my followers, so I I apologize to both of you.

Several weeks ago someone gave us a bunch of Summer Squash. I know that Summer Squash does not grow in bunches, like bananas. But, they gave us a lot. Summer Squash is not one of my favorite things to cook or eat. It's one of those blandish things that can take on other flavors, but it can be hard to make the star of a dish. I tend not to gravitate toward the paler vegetables, anyway. I'll rarely touch wax beans because they look like...well, I'll spare you what I think they look like.

This is what my Summer Squash looked like:

I looked up recipes for Summer Squash and found several for Summer Squash Enchiladas. We had just celebrated the 4th of July with a huge Mexican feast (Make of that what you will, Just remember, I wont judge you.) and had a lot of those ingredients left over. And I had never really made enchiladas before. Since my thing is learning techniques and not necessarily  following recipes word for word, this sounded like a fun challenge. But, I still wasn't sure that I would like the squash.

As it turned out, I did like the squash. The end result was really delicious. So here, in general terms, is what I did. (And I don't guarantee that I'll remember to include everything since it was so long ago. OK, it was two weeks ago, but that's really taxing my memory.

First, I made the sauce. 

I took some dried peppers, about 6 or 7, two different varieties (don't ask me to remember their names) put them in a dry pan. I toasted them for less than a minute, just to get a little color on them and to deepen their flavor. Then I poured enough water to cover them and brought it just to a boil, and then poured all of it into another container to let it steep for about 30 minutes.

While they were steeping, I chopped and sauteed onions and garlic. I used white onion. Also, you don't have to chop very finely because it will all go into the blender.

Saute the onions for a while first since they will take longer, and if you have the garlic on the heat for too long, if it gets too brown, it will be bitter.

Then, everyone into the pool, or in this case, the blender. And, by the way, that was just an expression. Never swim in a blender. It could be very dangerous.

I added some canned tomatoes, one or two Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce, cumin, a little salt, and oregano. Mexican oregano would have been best, but I didn't have any. Many recipes called for chicken stock, but I decided to keep it all vegetarian so I just used the water that the peppers had been steeping in. I didn't have anything else to do with that water, and it was packed with flavor now. It would have been a shame to have wasted it. Then I blended until smooth. 

I heated a little olive oil in a sauce pan and poured the sauce in to simmer for a while. That helps to bring it all together and develop the flavors. At some point during the next phase, I took it off the heat to cool so I could work with it later. It is necessary to plunge your fingers into it, so, you know.

The next phase is the filling. Lots of chopping going on here. Squash, onions, garlic and a Jalapeno Pepper.

You do want to pay attention to the size of your dice here, because it will not be blended. You want a nice, uniform, medium dice on the squash - this is the "meat" of the filling, so to speak - and the onions, and a pretty fine dice on the garlic and Jalapeno. Nobody wants a large chunk of either of those in their mouth. 

Saute time again. Same as before: Onions first. Then garlic and Jalapeno. And finally squash. You want the squash to have some bite to it in the final product, which also gets baked, so don't overcook it.

Fresh herbs! Parsley and cilantro.

I had some leftover corn on the cob that had been rubbed lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with chili powder, then wrapped in foil and roasted over the coals on a grill, so I decided to use it.

I kept it on the heat just long enough to warm the corn through a little. It didn't really matter at that point. I didn't want to overcook the squash and it was all destined for a big bowl to cool enough to handle. 

I also had some Mexican cheeses that I didn't see a recipe call for, so I used it anyway. The two that I had on hand were Queso Fresco and Cotija. Queso Fresco just means "fresh cheese." It's salty and melts nicely. Cotija is a harder, stronger cheese, and does not really melt as much as soften. They both crumble. So, I crumbled and added.

Now, the fun part. And messy. I assembled my sauce in a shallow dish, and my filling near by. I heated some corn tortillas (in the microwave, but you can do it in the oven if you prefer) and had them at the ready. I put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of an oiled baking dish. Then, the assembly begins. Dip a tortilla in the sauce and shake it off (gently), fill with filling, roll, put seem side down in the dish.

Repeat until your dish is full.

I ladled most of the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas, sprinkled with more cheese plus some shredded "Mexican cheese blend," and some sliced green onions.

You can pop it in the oven and bake it at 350 until it is heated through and the cheese is melted and just beginning to turn golden. I covered it with foil and put it in the refrigerator and put it in a cold oven the next night. I set the oven to 350 and did as above. It was a pretty amazing dish.

This may seem like a lot of work - and it was. But, you know, if you love cooking, it's not really work. And it probably took me longer to write this blog post than the actual preparation of the dish. And it's always worth it to prepare good food from scratch.

Eat Well. Have Fun. Be Kind.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Short Ribs, Part 1

Short Ribs.

This is my first stab at short ribs. I researched lots of recipes and then, of course, made my own version.

First I salted and peppered. I always use kosher salt fresh cracked black pepper. I always crack the pepper in my mortar and pestle. (Pepper not pictured.)

 I rendered down some natural bacon for the fat in my Dutch oven.

Then I dredged the ribs in flour (I used AP flour and a little whole wheat white flour. I also lightly salted and peppered the flour.)

I browned the ribs in batches of 4 at a time in the bacon with some added olive oil.

After all of the ribs were browned and removed, I sauteed some diced shallot and onion, and some carrot cut into about 1 inch pieces. I deglazed with some red wine and let it come to a simmer, then added chicken stock, adjusted the salt and pepper, put the ribs back in and made sure they we just about covered with the liquid. Threw in a couple of Bay Leaves and a few sprigs of Thyme, put the lid on and left it alone in a 350 oven for about 3 hours.

It's in the oven right now as I write this. If the suspense is killing you, over here my salivary glands are going into hyper-drive. Oh, the aroma.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Trust Me

We'll be hosting our annual family brunch on Dec. 25th where I will be doing all of the cooking. My daughter invited some friends whom I haven't really met yet. She relayed this conversation to me:

Invited Friend: Well, what do you do at this brunch?
Rachel: We eat a lot. My dad always makes too much food, and we eat all day.
Friend: Your dad's cooking?! I'll be there!
Rachel: You've had my dad's cooking?
Friend: No. But I always trust the fat man.

Thank you. I think.

I may need to rename this blog: Always Trust the Fat Man.

I'll post brunch pictures, post-brunch.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Broccoli Balls...

...That's what someone called Brussels Sprouts on  a post of mine on Facebook. Either that, or he knows my Secret Service code name for when I'm President.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Parmesan Cheese, and White Truffle Oil. This was my Thanksgiving contribution. I was asked to bring a Green Vegetable. That's always a hard one, especially when you have to make it at home and travel with it, even for a short distance. Many green vegetables will be cold and soggy by the time you get there. And, I knew their kitchen would be busy as they prepared the bulk of meal, so making it there was out.

My solution was to come up with something I could start at home and then stick in the oven for ten minutes before dinner. I knew the turkey would be out by then, resting. 

I like Brussels Sprouts. I made sure to eat them at work the day before in the employee cafeteria so I would remember exactly how not to make them.

 First, I bought just under the amount I thought I would need, thus assuring me of having just the right amount. I always forget that when they say "there will be 15 people" and ask me to bring the green vegetable, that the green vegetable is not the only thing on the menu. I usually buy and prepare way too much. My mother ingrained this fear in me...the very worst thing in the world would be to run out of food, even just any one item. Even the green vegetable.

Then I prepared them. I rinsed and just trimmed the bottom where the stem was attached. I do not cut little X's into the bottoms or tops of them like some recipes suggest.

My compost overfloweth.

I blanched them in lightly salted water for about 3 - 4 minutes, then shocked them in an ice water bath.

Then came the bulk of the cooking time. I dressed them very simply - just a little olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper ( I used Black Hawaiian Sea Salt because I had some. You can use whatever you have.) I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, just before they were about to brown.

Then, I dressed them with white truffle oil, fresh chopped garlic (I used a fairly small, but rough chop), and Parmesan cheese.

I did this with enough time to let them cool completely. I didn't want to cover them with foil and travel with them while they were still hot. The trapped heat would have continued cooking them, and they might have gotten mushy, employee cafeteria style.

When the time came, I put them in the oven at 350 and watched them carefully for about ten minutes. I turned on the broiler for the last minute or so.

The truffle oil is what elevated them to royalty. Truffle oil can be a bit expensive, (not as expensive as actual truffles, which I've never had) but I splurged. It was worth it. It has a unique, earthy flavor. Truffles are a  kind of mushroom, but I wouldn't describe the flavor as mushroomy. Anyway, there are some people in my family who don't like mushrooms and wouldn't eat the truffle oil, so I made a separate, untruffled batch. Their loss. Also, there are people who don't like Brussels Sprouts at all and wouldn't eat them no matter what I did to them. Fine with me. I ate theirs. 

By the way, truffle oil is not pure truffle. Or, at least not the oil I buy. The one I have is sunflower oil with truffle extract. The flavor is still divine.

This is a White Truffle:

Not pretty, but delicious. Truffles and truffle oil are to be used sparingly. Not only can the flavor overwhelm a dish, but they are one of the most expensive foods on the planet. The record for the sale of a single truffle at auction is $330, 000.00 for a 3.3 pound white truffle. My small bottle of truffle oil was only about $13.00, so when I look at it comparatively, I feel a lot better.

Eat Well. Have Fun. Be kind. Give love.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Getting Saucy

So, now that I've made my rub, I'm going to make my BBQ sauce. I have no photos of my BBQ sauce, so I'm going to insert random photos from the web of people who look like me.

This is Chef Paul Prudhomme, apparently  before he lost 130 pounds, bringing him down to a, um, comfortable 360 pounds. 
The base of my sauce is (great secret revealed now) ketchup. Plain old store bought ketchup. (Are there supposed to be commas in that sentence?) Here's my recipe:

Pour some ketchup in a sauce pan over low heat and add stuff.

Clip that. File it.

What stuff? Well, again, I like my BBQ sweet and spicy. So, stuff that makes it sweet and spicy.

Here's what I used in this particular batch:

Dom Deluise. I did not use him in my BBQ sauce.
Brown Sugar
Apple Cider Vinegar
Honey Mustard (two kinds - a mild one and a spicy one)
Maple Syrup (I only use the real, more expensive kind)
A dash of Worcestershire
A few dashes of Tabasco

I yelled that that ingredient because it's important.

The rub is a complex blend of spices (really) and adds a depth of flavor and richness to the sauce. It was especially important in this sauce since I planned to use the rub and sauce together on the same food. Using the rub to complete the flavor profile of the sauce carried that flavor through from beginning to end. It worked nicely.

This is Burl Ives. I'm sorry to use this particular photo in a food blog, but every time I see it I think, "Yeah! That's what I want for my next publicity photo: my naked body, a bathtub filled with dirty water, a cigar, and an electric fan dangerously close to the water." 

In the past, I've used other items in a BBQ sauce. It depends on what I'm in the mood for and what I have on hand. Sometimes I'll finely chop a little onion. Maybe some fresh garlic. I've used plain yellow mustard. Maybe a little molasses if I have it on hand. Tomato paste, if I want to intensify the tomato flavor. Even apples. Play with it. Close your eyes and TASTE it. Use your senses and trust them to tell you what to use. Make mistakes. Try again.

Buying dairy products to make cheese.
Be like Tevye. He never gave up.

Eat Well. Have Fun. Be kind. Give love.