Friday, May 30, 2014

Bacon Chipotle Mashed Potatoes


Printable version
Potatoes have to be one of the most versatile and loved things to eat on the planet (or at least in the Western Hemisphere). Fried, boiled, baked or even grilled (yes, they can be made great on the grill), whatever the preparation – they are delicious when made right. They're also one of just a few items that can be cooked in the microwave and you would never know it. On a plate they are usually a compliment to the main course but they can often steel the show. Kind of like Robin to Batman.

I still like to eat at McDonalds. Why? The Big Mac? Nope. Quarter Pounder? Nope. The fries are stupid good, best in of the fast food world as far as I’m concerned. I love them. And will likely eat at McD’s from time to time for as long as I live.

Now that I have gotten that out, it time to get down to business. Potato recipes are some of the most popular posts on this site. So every once in a while I like to get creative with the spuds and share it on the interweb.

For this recipe, I use bacon and chipotle pepper to add a smoky fire to some extra creamy mashed potatoes. And yes, I devoured the s**t out of these!

BEHIND THIS BITE
Bacon Chipotle Mashed Potatoes

I have documented well over 300 recipe in information graphic form since I began doing it 4 years ago. In that time, I have created a digital pantry of ingredients that I can re-use in recipes. I am trying to get my staple ingredients, like minced chipotle pepper, shot in every amount from teaspoon to quarter cup. That way when I use it in the future I don’t have to re-shoot it. I just get it from the digital pantry, much like I do when I’m actually cooking.

The prepped ingredients in this recipe are from the there. The bacon and potatoes needed to be shot because I didn't have those amounts photographed. All other shots were taken as I cooked and presented the recipe.

Here is the catch though.

The digital pantry made this a quick recipe to turn around, but ironically, I have been sitting on it for a couple of months! So much for quick turn around. Still, I’m glad to finally be sharing it.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Bacon Chipotle Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4 to 6; 40 minutes
2 1/2 lbs Potatoes, peeled, diced
1 Tbs salt
1/4 C Unsalted butter
1/2 Milk
1/2 C Sour cream
4 slices Bacon
cooked, crumbled
1/4 C Chipotle in adobo, minced

Cook potatoes
Put potatoes in a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover potatoes by at least 1 inch. Stir in salt. Place pot over high heat, bring to a boil and cook potatoes until tender. 12 to 15 minutes.

Drain, Mash, serve

Drain potatoes in a colander. Return to pot and add butter and milk. Mash potatoes until creamy and smooth with a potato masher. Stir in sour cream, bacon and chipotle until well combined, place in a bowl and serve.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Smoky Chipotle Spice Rub


Printable version
Now that grill season is in full swing I like to make new spice rub combinations to flavor my food. Salt, pepper and the taste from a well seasoned grill is actually pretty good on its own, but the right combination of flavors in a spice rub can take food to another level of delicious or even transport a meal to different regions of the world.

I build my spice rubs much like I do a soup or a sauce. I start with base flavors like onion and garlic in their powder form, and salt and pepper is always present to enhance other flavors. Once I have the base I move onto the spices that will be more prominent and work together, like rosemary and thyme for example.

For this recipe, I have an onion and garlic base and use Chipotle chili powder as the star with cumin and oregano as compliments. Chipotle is much hotter than regular chili powder so brown sugar is added to balance the heat. In the end, this rub will add a spicy, smoky Mexican flavor to anything cooked over a fire.

BEHIND THIS BITE
A lettuce wrap disaster photo!

I used this recipe for my print column but it is only part of what I intended the recipe to be. The rub was used on chicken tenders that I grilled, topped with sauteed onions and red pepper then drizzled with a creamy lime sauce. I wrapped everything in a lettuce leaf and it tasted great. I was really happy with the results.

The only problem was the pictures.

The lettuce was out of control! I tried everything to get a good shot that looked like a delicious lettuce wrap. It’s just that the lettuce was like curly hair on a humid day. I just wasn't able to get it to look the way I wanted it. It ended up being a good learning experience. I went to plan B and made a salad-looking dish with all the ingredients, which turned out ok, but in the end, the best overall shots were focused on the rub.

I have found that lettuce is one of the hardest things to get right when styling food and photographing it. I’m sure there are many stylist and photographers that would agree. Thank god I took a few styled shots of the rub, otherwise, I might not have even had this to publish!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Smoky Chipotle Spice Rub

Makes 1/2 cup; 5 minutes
2 Tbs Chipotle chili powder
2 Tbs Brown sugar
1 Tbs + 1 tsp Cumin
1 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Pepper
2 tsp Onion powder
2 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Oregano

Make rub
In a bowl mix together chipotle powder, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Liberally sprinkle on meat and rub in with fingers before grilling. Store in a tightly sealed jar.

FOR LESS HEAT
Replace the chipotle powder with regular chili powder for a less spicy and smoky rub that tastes more like a traditional Mexican seasoning.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sausage and Egg Breakfast Tacos


Printable version
Sometimes mistakes in the kitchen turn into something great. I stayed with some friends recently and I took it upon myself to buy a few breakfast items to cook in the morning as a reward for putting up with me for the night.

My plan was omelets. The last thing in the skillet were the eggs and through my impatience I kept stirring the mix which scrambled them. Instead of a thick omelet like patty in the skillet I got a breakfast scramble that was perfect for a burrito or taco filling, but a little awkward to eat with a spoon from a bowl instead of wrapped in a tortilla with toppings.

My friends agreed I had the start of a great breakfast taco. For this recipe, I remake my breakfast blunder with some small tweaks. Sausage is the key element of flavor and it’s complimented by the sauted vegetables. The eggs add a fluffy and creamy texture. Salsa, cheese and cilantro are used as garnish and it’s served on a tortilla, helping turn a mistake into a great way to start the day.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Sausage and Egg Breakfast Tacos

I love turning tacos and burritos into breakfast items, which had always left me to dream about Taco Bell offering a breakfast menu. Well, that culinary dream has come true and last Thursday I ventured to my nearest Bell for a breakfast sampling.

I ordered a Waffle Taco and an A.M. Crunchwrap with steak. The taco had a manufactured flavor about it and I thought it could be reworked to make a little tastier.  The waffle had a syrup flavor infused in it and made it taste unnatural.

The A.M. Crunchwrap was simply spectacular and the best thing I have ever eaten for breakfast at a fast food chain. The hash brown, steak, eggs and cheese packaged into a toasted tortilla is an excellent breakfast item that can be eaten on the run. I really think the hash brown patty included in the mix really helped it stand out. I used a little mild salsa with each bite also.

They have a sausage and bacon option for the A.M. Crunchwrap and I plan to try them both next time I make a run for the border before 11 a.m.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Sausage and Egg Breakfast Tacos

Serves 4; 30 minutes
1 lb Breakfast sausage
1 C Onion diced
1 C Poblano pepper, diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
6 Eggs beaten
12 Flour tortillas
1/2 C Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 C Cilantro, chopped

Brown sausage, cook vegetables
In a skillet over medium-high heat cook sausage until browned,  remove to a paper towel lined plate. Add onion and poblano pepper, cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic and cook one minute more or until fragrant.

Finish filling

Return sausage to pan and mix through. Pour eggs into mixture. Let cook a minute then stir. Repeat until eggs are set and mixture is heated through 6 to 8 minutes.

Make tacos
Place filling in a flour tortilla and garnish with salsa, cheese and cilantro. Then serve.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Habanero Tomato Salsa


Printable version
My favorite thing to eat is tacos. I specialize in them. So much so, that people sometimes pay me to create a taco bar for their event or occasion. The secret to a great taco is not the meat, tortillas or toppings. The secret is in the sauce, where heat from a hot pepper, tartness of a lime, or a limitless number of ingredients can be used to create a flavor explosion that defines the taste of the taco.

When putting out sauces for a taco bar I always include a couple of the mild variety, for the none heat-loving people, and a couple of spicy offerings for those who can handle the fire.

For this recipe, I make a habanero hot sauce for heat lovers. I’ve been working on it for sometime, because it’s easy when using habanero peppers to make sauce so hot that it literally creates pain and misery. Here I use the acid of tomato, the citrus of lime and the sweetness of honey to balance the habanero inferno. The sauce is hot, but hot in an addictive way, that’s sure to create future cravings.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Habanero Tomato Salsa

I made tacos for a gathering at the church recently and put out a sauce that I thought was really hot. Earlier in the day when I made and sampled it out of the blender, it was lip numbing and set my mouth on fire. In the 4 hours between that taste and actually serving it, the lime and sugar really went to work on the heat and as the flavors melded together, completely neutralized it. I was telling people to watch out because it was hot. After a while a friend of mine came over and said “I thought this sauce was supposed to be hot?”

I then went and sampled it.

I was astonished that the heat had disappeared, and a little embarrassed because I was really talking the sauce up. Since then, everyone who tried the sauce has given me a hard time about it. That’s the inspiration behind this sauce. I could make a hot sauce so hot it would be inedible, but I wanted to make something that packs a whollop but can be eaten on two or three tacos at dinner, so there needed to be some restraint to the fire. This sauce does that.

I recommend using only one habanero the first time if a person is just experimenting, but for a hot sauce lover two habanero is the way to go. Make sure you have tissue around when you try this – it will make your nose run!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Habanero Tomato Salsa

Makes 1 quart; 40 minutes
3 medium Tomatoes quartered
1 large Red onion quartered
4 cloves Garlic
2 Habanero peppers
1 Jalapeño pepper
1/2 C Cilantro chopped
2 Tbs Honey
1 Lime zest and juice
Water to create desired consistency of sauce

Roast vegetables

Preheat oven to 425°
Season onion, tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno and habanero with salt and pepper to taste, toss in olive oil. Place in a roasting dish and cook until tomatoes wilt and black bits appear on edges of onions and peppers, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

Blend
In a blender add roasted vegetables, cilantro, zest and juice of lime, honey and a little water if necessary. Blend mixture until smooth, 5 to 6 minutes. Pulse and stir occasionally to break up any chunks.

Rest, test and serve
Let salsa rest for at least one hour for flavors to meld. Taste, if to hot add more honey if necessary. Serve on tacos, or eat with tortilla chips.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mexican Stir Fry


Printable version
Rice has been cultivated for more than 7,000 years. Archeologist in China have even unearthed rice-filled pots dating as far back as 8,000 B.C.

Today, it’s a dietary staple for half of the world’s population and is grown in two ways. Aquatic rice, or paddy-grown, is raised in flooded fields. Hill-grown, which yields less and is lower quality, can grow nearly anywhere in a tropical environment.

Rice is classified commercially by its length and comes in short, medium and long grain varieties. As a general rule, shorter rice means more starch, and therefore more sticky when cooked and ready to serve.

I prefer less-sticky long grain rice because it clumps less. I usually make it plain to add to a recipe or to serve something over it. For this recipe, I wanted the rice to stand alone as a side with a Mexican flavor. To do that I create a chili-seasoned base before adding any liquid. It’s then boiled and covered. This allows the rice to drink up all of the yummy flavors while it hydrates and softens in the pot.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Mexican Stir Fry

I made the rice and featured it in the print version of my column and it ran with the introduction above. I didn’t have enough room in print for the entire stir fry recipe so I went with just the rice. I have been doing that a lot lately. I’m looking for ways to do more complex recipes for the web and using parts or simplified versions for the print column. It kills two birds with one stone.

That said ... the Mexican stir fry was a fun twist on the traditional Asian flavored classic, and it was a tasty meal. I used fresh corn that I sliced off the cob, which was a task. It was tasty and I’m glad I used it but with so many flavors in the mix, canned corn would have probably saved time without much sacrifice in flavor. Canned corn is much closer to the fresh stuff than green beans and many other canned vegetables.

The chipotle sauce I used is a go-to sauce that I get in the world food isle at the grocery. Had I been insanely ambitious with this recipe I would have made a homemade version, but sometimes you just have to say enough is enough – and I had just cut fresh corn off the cob – until the Food Network or Martha Stewart is payin' me big bucks for these recipes I'm just gonna have to use some ingredients from a can or jar!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Mexican Stir Fry

Serves 6 to 8; 35 minutes
1 C Onion diced
1/2 C Jalapeño seeded, diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
1 Tbs Chili powder
2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Oregano
2 C Rice
4 C Water
2 lbs Chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
2 C Yellow corn
1 C Poblano pepper, seeded, chopped
1/2 C Chipotle sauce
Cilantro for garnish

Sauté vegetables
In a soup pot over medium heat sauté onion and jalapeño in a little olive oil until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Toast spices, rice
Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano and rice. Stir until well combined, let mixture toast for 2 minutes or until fregrant.

Finish rice
Add water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, remove from heat but keep covered for 10 minutes more. Remove lid, fluff with a fork.

Make stir 
Fry While rice finishes, in a wok or skillet heated to medium-high brown chicken in a little olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. When chicken is just cooked through, add corn, poblano and chipotle sauce. Cook until vegetables are soft, six to 8 minutes more. Adjust seasoning, serve over rice.