Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pork Chili Verde

I first published this recipe on Blogcritics as Pork Chili Verde: A Posole-Style Stew.

Tomatillos are plentiful right now at local farm stands, and local potatoes are starting to show up as well.  We had a predicted hurricane this weekend, so I thought I nice, spicy, warm stew would fortify us against whatever weather Mother Nature chose to throw our way.   I found several recipes online for salsa verde and chili verde, and then decided to adapt and create my own, based on what I had on hand and wanted to incorporate.  I’d say this dish was easy for the accomplished cook, but there are multiple steps.  It’s great Football Day food, because most of the prep happens early and then it just simmers and braises all day, filling up your house with an enticing smoky and tart aroma that mouth makes your moth water! I served this stew for friends with some cold Mexican beer and limes, and paired the stew with warmed corn tortillas, crumbled queso fresco, chopped cilantro, light sour cream, and some smoky red chili mole sauce.  I’ll include that easy recipe too.  If you don’t like your food quite so spicy, you can reduce the amount of roasted chilis and sub in some fresh diced, cubanelle or other mild green or yellow peppers.  My husband claims this is going to be his new favorite cold weather stew, so it looks like I’ll be making it plenty over the months to come.  I’m thinking the leftovers would be amazing with some vegetarian refried beans, fried eggs, corn tortillas and cheese as huevos rancheros!  Enjoy!

For the Stew:

About 3 pounds Boston Butt / Pork Shoulder, cut into 1 ½” cubes
Olive Oil
Salt & pepper to Taste
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 ½ Tbsp cumin seeds
1½ cups roasted Poblano, Anaheim, or Hatch peppers
2 tsp oregano
3 cups reduced salt chicken broth
1 bunch green onions, rough chopped
2 lbs. tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
1 bunch cilantro with young stems, rough chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 15 oz. cans hominy, white or yellow is fine
1 ½ lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1” cubes

In a large braising pot, heat the oil over medium high.  Salt and pepper the cubed pork well and brown it in the oil, in small batches.  Don’t crowd the pork in the pan.  Remove the browned chunks with a slotted spoon or tongs and place in a large bowl.  Once all the pork is browned, remove excess fat from the pan, leaving enough in the pan to brown the onions. Add the chopped onions and cumin and oregano.  Saute until golden, about 4 minutes.  Add about ¾ of the tomatillos and sauté until softened, about 5 more minutes.  Return the pork to the pot, along with any juices in the bowl.  Allow the pork mixture to simmer on medium, stirring occasionally, while you make the salsa verde.  

To make the salsa verde, place about 1 1/2 cups of the chicken stock, the garlic, green onions, most of the cilantro and the remaining tomatillos in a blender.  Process until smooth.

Add two cups of the salsa verde to the pork stew, along with the chilis.  Bring to a light simmer.  Reduce heat to medium low and cover, simmering for about 2 hours. After it has simmered for 2 hours or so, add the cubed potatoes, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes more.  Remove cover, add the drained and rinsed hominy, the remaining salsa verde, and about 1 more cup of chicken broth.  Simmer uncovered until reduced and thick.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with some additional fresh chopped cilantro, light sour cream or greek yogurt, queso fresco or other grated cheese, and some red salsa or mole sauce.  This is great with warm corn tortillas, but cornbread or polenta would be nice too.  It screams out for an ice cold beer with lime.  Ole!

For the Red Mole Sauce:

About 2 oz. dried ancho chilis, stems and seeds removed
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
3 Tbsp Honey
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cocoa powder
Zest of ½ orange
1 cup water

First, remove the stems and seeds from the dried chilis and slice them open.  Cut out the rough internal ribs and tear the remaining peppers into pieces.  Warm one teaspoon of the oil over medium in a mid-sized nonstick skillet and add the peppers.  Saute for 2 minutes.  Remove the peppers and place in a food processor.  Now add the remaining teaspoon of oil and sauté the garlic until golden, but not browned.  Add the water and simmer for about 1 minute. Add that to the food processor too.  Now add the salt, pepper, honey, coriander, orange zest, cinnamon and cocoa.  Process until evenly mixed.  Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and sugar until it has a nice smoky, hot, sweet and slightly bitter balance.  This will nicely round out some of the acidity of the tomatillos in the stew.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pink Lemonade Chicken....For Real!

I first published this recipe on blogcritics as Pink Lemonade Chicken!.

I know, you’re thinking, “what??!!”  Bear with me while I explain.  I love roasted chicken; I really think a well caramelized, tender, juicy roasted chicken with some simple herbed potatoes and veggies is the perfect home-cooked meal.  I particularly love the flavor that brining the chicken imparts to the meat.  It brings so much flavor and moistness to the breast meat, so I try to brine regularly and not just save that technique for holidays.  All it takes for chicken is about one day’s forethought and you will have the juiciest, most tender moist and well-seasoned bird you’ve ever made.  If you’re unfamiliar with brining, it’s essentially marinating protein in a solution of liquid, a large volume of salt, herbs and flavorings, acid, and sugar for at least 24 hours prior to cooking.  An important step in the brining process is allowing the protein, in this case the whole chicken, to air dry after you remove it from the brine for at least 8 hours prior to roasting.  This way, your chicken won’t steam in the oven but will brown and roast beautifully.  I use a limitless combination of juices, water, salty and sweet elements to flavor my brine depending on my mood and my protein of choice.  Pink lemonade chicken came about because I took my seven year-old daughter to the store with me.  She was thirsty and grabbed a container of pink lemonade.  After about two drinks, she thought it was too sweet and didn’t want to finish it.  (God Bless her!) When we got home and unpacked our weekly haul from the market, I came across the almost-full bottle and thought I’d try it for an element of the chicken brine.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds in that one of my regular brines for chicken is mostly salt, water, lemons and honey.  So, the pink lemonade covered most of that and added a nice color to the brine that I was hoping would caramelize the chicken skin beautifully when roasting.   It came out gorgeous!  I hope you’ll try this technique and enjoy the best, roasted chicken you’ve ever had!  Go for the lemonade, or try orange juice, apple juice, or even pineapple juice to create a tasty and incredibly moist poultry dish.  My main point is think broadly about your brining options and not to limit yourself to traditional choices.  Go big and get creative!

We loved this roasted chicken with a simple greek salad, that showcased all the wonderful summer vegetables from our local market, and some rosemary and olive oil roasted baby potatoes.  Thank you too to our amazingly generous neighbor, Jane Colson, and her bountiful fig tree for providing the succulent fresh and juicy figs, which were a great sweet counterpart to this platter! A steel-fermented chardonnay was the perfect accompaniment, and we had homemade frozen yogurt with fresh blueberries and toasted almonds for dessert.  Yum yum!  Enjoy!

Brining Liquid:

2 cups Pink Lemonade
2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
3 lemons, sliced in half
4 sprigs of rosemary
4 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of parsley
½ cup kosher salt
Handful of whole peppercorns
6 whole juniper berries, smashed
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
½ red onion, cut into chunks 
1 Tbsp sugar

For the Chicken:

1 3-6 pound whole chicken
5 lemons, cut in half
2 small onions, cut into chunks
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a very large zip-lock style bag or bowl.  Be sure all is well mixed and sugar/salt are both dissolved.  Rinse your whole chicken well and discard or otherwise repurpose the innards.  Place chicken in the brine and ensure it’s pretty well covered with the liquid and that the herbs and spices are distributed throughout.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to brine for at least 24 hours.  Remove chicken and discard brining liquid, pat dry and place on a plate covered with paper towels.  Drape more towels over the bird and place back in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours before roasting.  When ready to roast the chicken, remove it from the plate and discard all the paper towels.  Place the chicken, breast side up, in a rack in a medium-sized roasting pan.  Place two of the lemons  and the herbs in the center cavity. Rub the skin all over with the oil and then salt, pepper, and paprika  to taste.  Allow to sit on counter to bring closer to room temperature while the oven is preheating to 425 degrees.  Place chicken in the oven at that temperature for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and throw 3 lemons cut into quarters and 2 small onions, cut into chunks, into the bottom of the roasting plan.  Continue roasting bird until internal temperature is 165 degrees (about 17 minutes per pound total roasting time using this method, starting at higher heat).
Periodically, reach in and baste chicken with the pan juice.  If the chicken is getting too brown, cover it loosely with a foil tent for the last part of the roasting time.  Remove from oven and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.  Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Half-Fried Catfish Fingers with Summer Vegetable Saute

I first published this recipe as Half-Fried Catfish with a Summer Vegetable Saute on Blogcritics.

I was craving an array of veggies tonight and luckily, my local market complied by offering an incredible bounty of flavors, colors and textures.  I ultimately opted for zucchini, corn, okra, onion, cheery tomatoes, and arugula, dressed with a bit of thyme and garlic.  I couldn’t think of anything that spelled out summer and complimented the vegetables more than some crispy panko-crusted catfish, served simply with lemon.  It turned out to be a truly amazing summer meal – a veritable feast for the eyes and the palate!  To lighten it up a bit, I flash-fried the fish in just a bit of canola oil to get a nice crispy texture on the outside, and then finished it in the oven, so that it did not have a chance to absorb much more oil.  It was sublime! We rounded out the meal with a locally sourced oak-finished chardonnay and some canary melon and watermelon cubes, tossed with chopped mint.  Perfect!  I hope you enjoy a summer dish like this in the near future and you can definitely play around with the vegetable choices and fish options – rockfish, tilapia, trout, snapper, or even seared scallops would all have been great with this.  I love okra, but the dish would stand on its own with out it.  If you want to make it more indulgent, I’d suggest cooking a few slices of bacon, removing them form the pan, and then sautéing the vegetables in the bacon grease, adding the crumbled bacon to the finished dish just before serving.  Enjoy!

  For the Fish:

1 ½ lbs. catfish or other flaky white fish fillets, cut into strips or fingers
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Tbsp Canola Oil

For the Vegetable Saute:

 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
¼ sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 sprigs of Thyme, leaves removed from stems
6-7 okra, sliced – tops and tips discarded
1 zucchini, cut into ¼ inch rounds and then quartered
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup arugula or baby spinach leaves
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Chop all the vegetables and set aside.  Next, season the panko bread crumbs with the salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning.  Then, the prep fish fillets, by salting and peppering them.  Dip fish into the beaten egg and then into the seasoned bread crumb mixture.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan, and then quickly sauté the fish on both sides.  Remove from the pan and place in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray and put in the oven to finish cooking for about 15 minutes.

Wipe out the pan and add the olive oil and butter, melting over medium high heat.  Add the okra, onions, thyme, and garlic first.  Saute for a few minutes until soft and lightly caramelized.  Add the zucchini and corn kernels and continue sautéing.  Once the zucchini is cooked to your liking, add the tomato halves and arugula leaves.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Spoon the veggie mixture onto a platter and top with the cooked fish fillets.  Squeeze a bit of lemon on each fish filet and season with a bit more salt and pepper.  Garnish with more lemon wedges and serve immediately.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lightened Up Peanut Butter and Chocolate Icebox Pie

I first published this article on Blogcritics as Lightened Up Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Pie.

I love fruity desserts in the summertime.  With so much fresh produce available, it seems that I’m making some sort of crisp, cobbler, compote, or sorbet every week.  But let’s face it, sometimes you just need chocolate! Or better yet, gooey, silky, chocolate and peanut butter!  This pie gives you exactly that in a surprising light and easy filling.  Freezing it gives it a wonderful texture and also the chill is nice on a hot summer day!  This comes together in a few minutes and uses mostly ingredients you probably already have on hand.  What could be better on a hot day?  Enjoy!


Prepared Reduced Fat Graham Cracker Crust
½ cup fat free hot fudge sauce
¾ cup reduced fat peanut butter (such as Jif Reduced Fat)
6 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
juice of one lemon
¼ tsp sea salt
12 oz. can fat free sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup fat free whipped topping, thawed (such as Cool Whip Free)
Additional mini chocolate chips of chocolate shavings for garnish

First, warm the hot fudge in the microwave for about 20 seconds so that it is a spreadable consistency.  Pour it into the prepared graham cracker crust and put into the refrigerator to cool while making the filling.  Next, blend the peanut butter and the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add the vanilla, salt and lemon juice and continue blending on medium.  Slowly add the condensed milk and whip until light and smooth.  Now, add the whipped topping and the mini chocolate chips and gently fold with a silicon spatula until well blended, light and fluffy.  Spoon mixture into the pie crust, on top of the cooled fudge and garnish with some dark chocolate shavings, curls, or additional chips.  Freeze for at least 45 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!