Ropa Vieja (Cuban Braised Shredded Beef)

March 28, 2015

I’ve made one of Chris Kimball’s older recipe for Ropa Vieja which used a slow-cooker, but today’s recipe uses a more traditional technique of browning the beef and cooking for 2 hours in the oven. It was much more flavorful and is a definite improvement over the older recipe. The recipe calls for brisket, which naturally has a very distinctive grain that lends itself perfectly towards shredding. The recipe was very well seasoned, though not at all “hot”. Next time I may add a Jalapeno or two. Overall, a delicious recipe; 4-stars.

Traditional cooking method is best

Traditional cooking method is best

In my experience Ropa Vieja is always served with white rice, but Chris Kimball has a recipe for beans and rice here.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $26.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 2:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

2-pound beef brisket
Table salt and pepper
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
2 red bell peppers
2 anchovy fillets
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped coarse
3/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning

  1. Set a rack to lower/middle of your oven and pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Trim the fat on your brisket down to 1/4-inch. Slice the brisket against the grain into 2″-wide strips. The precise length isn’t that important, but cut any strips that are longer than 5″ in half to reduce their length. Pat beef dry using paper towels and season all sides with salt and pepper. Set a Dutch Oven over medium-high burner and pre-heat 4 tablespoons (1/4-cup) vegetable oil until it just begins to smoke. Brown all sides of the beef for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to a large plate at set aside until Step 7.
  3. While the meat browns, prepare the vegetables by slicing the onions in half, peel and sliced thin. Remove the stem and seeds from your bell peppers, and slice into 1/4″-wide strips.
  4. When the pot is empty, add the onions and bell peppers and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the pan bottom develops a fond. Empty the vegetables to bowl and set aside.
  5. While the onions and peppers cook, rinse your anchovies, pat them dry using paper towels and mince. Also peel and mince your garlic.
  6. Add 1 more tablespoon oil to now-empty pot, Add minced anchovies, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook for 30 seconds until they become fragrant. Stir in wine, and de-glaze the bottom of the pan. Cook for 1 minute until mostly evaporated. Add broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves.
  7. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot and bring up to a simmer over high burner. Move pot to 300-degree oven and cook, covered, for 2 to 2-1/4 hours until the beef is just tender; flipping meat after 1 hour.
  8. Remove beef to cutting board and allow to cool for 10 minutes until cool enough to handle.  Pull apart into 1/4″-thick pieces.
  9. Fish out bay leaves from pot and discard. Chop olives and add to pot along with the onions/peppers reserved in Step 4. Bring up to a boil over medium-high burner and allow to thicken for 5 minutes. Mix in the shredded beef and add vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste.

Poached Cod with Miso-Ginger Vinaigrette

March 23, 2015

A few years ago I made this latin 5-star poached cod, and today tried an Asian variation. As before, the fish was perfectly cooked; moist and tender. The flavors were balanced, but the flavors were more subtle than the previous Latin variation. I simply added more sauce to my plate, and it worked out great. It did take me quite a while for me to find the white miso paste required for this recipe (which turns out to be in the refrigerated Asian section). I ended up going to an Asian supermarket. Overall, a delicious 4-star meal; but not as good as the 5-star Latin version.

Interesting Asian flavors

Interesting Asian flavors

Comments:

  1. In Chris Kimball’s original recipe, he says to let the oil cool down to 180-degrees. Today I cooked the scallions for 4 minutes and had to wait about 5 minutes for the oil to cool down. When I made the Latin-themed version and I fried the jalapenos for only 2 minutes, I had to heat up the oil in step 5 instead of allow it to cool.
  2. Trying to find a flaky white fish that is a consistent 1″ thick is difficult. The thinner parts were almost as delicious, even if there were slightly over-cooked.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $17.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:00 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared the soup today are given below:

4 skinless white fish fillets about 1″-thick.
Kosher salt
8 scallion whites
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 peeled onion
2 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
2 scallion greens, thinly sliced

Vinaigrette:
6 scallion greens
8 teaspoons lime juice
2 tablespoons mirin
4 teaspoons white miso paste
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

  1. Set a rack to both the middle and the lower-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 250-degrees.
  2. Cut your fish into 6-oz pieces and pat dry using paper towels. Sprinkle each fillet with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.
  3. Meanwhile, Slice the scallions whites into 1/4″ slices. Cut your onion if half, peel one half and save the second half for another day.
  4. Set a 10″ non-stick skillet over medium burner. Add 1/2 cup oil and pre-heat until shimmering. Fry scallion whites for 3 to 4 minutes until crisp. Pour the contends of the skillet through a fine-mesh strainer into a Pyrex measuring cup. Remove fried scallions to paper towel–lined Pyrex pie plate or casserole dish. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt. No need to wash the strainer yet.
  5. Increase amount of oil in measuring cup so that you have 3/4 cup, and pour back into the skillet (but off the heat). Put the onion cut-side-down in the center of the skillet. Allow the oil to cool to 180-degrees, which could take between zero and 8 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare your ingredients for the vinaigrette. Roughly cut the scallion greens and add to blender. Add lime juice, 2 tablespoons mirin, 4 teaspoons white miso paste, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sugar; but do not blend until step 10. (you’re still waiting to add some olive oil from the fish)
  7. Place fish with skin-side-up in oil, which should rise to cover about half-way up the fillets. Spoon a little oil over each piece of fish, cover your pan, and place on middle rack and cook for 15 minutes at 250-degrees.
  8. Remove covered skillet from oven and flip fish using two spatulas. Replace lid onto skillet and place on middle rack and continue to cook for 10 minutes longer until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 135-degrees. After 5 minutes of cooking put the fried scallions on the lower-middle oven rack to warm them through.
  9. When fish reaches desired temperature, place on serving platter and tent with aluminum foil.
  10. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil used to cook the fish to blender. Blend for 1 minute on high-speed. Add any juices from fish that have accumulated to blender, adjust salt according to your taste. Blend for 10 more seconds on high-speed. Run vinaigrette through fine-mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press solids down to extract as much vinaigrette as possible.
  11. Place each fish fillet on individual serving place and top with fried scallions, radish slices and sprinkle with thinly sliced scallion greens. Drizzle vinaigrette around each individual piece of fish (not on-top). Serve remaining vinaigrette separately.

Mu Shu Pork

March 16, 2015

For me a big Sunday dinner has become an important part of my life (a tradition I adopted during my year living in Buenos Aires), and I always pull out all the stops. So it was with much anticipation that I shopped for the ingredients for this Mu Shu Pork. Unfortunately, the recipe was a huge disappointment. When cooking the pork in Step 6, the pork was too wet and just steamed; not caramelizing at all. Overall this Mu Shu Pork was bland. None of the ingredients brought much flavor; tenderloin, cabbage, bamboo shoot are all very mild. While not bad; it simply lacked flavor to set it apart. Just 3-stars; and not worth the 2 hours of preparation.

Chinese Mu Shu Pork

Chinese Mu Shu Pork

Comments:

  1. While the pancakes took a full hour to prepare, Chris Kimball warns against using tortillas.
  2. Because this was my first time making this recipe, I didn’t realize that I should have started the prep while making pancakes. It’s best to use that half hour at the end of Step 2 to prepare the meat, cabbage and bamboo shoots.
  3. When first cooking the pork in Step 6, the pork was both too wet and the pans was too crowded. The pork steamed instead of browning; even after cooking for longer than the 2 minute maximum called for in the recipe.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4 PM. Finish time: 6:10 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:

Pancakes Ingredients (1 hour):
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (7-1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

  1. Put a small pot with about 1 cup of water over high burner and bring to a boil (you will late measure out 3/4 cup of water).
  2. To make the pancakes, weight flour in a medium bowl, add boiling water and mix using a wooden spoon until forms a rough dough. Allow to cool then empty onto a lightly floured counter and knead for about 4 minutes until the ball is tacky, but no longer sticky. The dough does not need to be completely smooth. Use plastic wrap to loosely cover and allow to sit for 30 minutes. (Meanwhile you can to the prep work under Stir Fry, Step 2).
  3. Lightly flour your surface and use your hands to roll out dough into 12″ log. Cut into 12 equal-sized pieces. Arrange so that the cut side is up and pat into 3″ disks. Brush one side of 6 disks with toasted sesame oil, and set one of the un-oiled disks on-top of the oiled-side. Lightly press down to form 6 pairs. Lightly flour the counter and use a rolling-pin to form 7″ disks.
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil to 12″ non-stick skillet. Set over medium burner and pre-heat until the oil is shimmering. Wipe out with a paper towel, and cook one pancake at a time without moving for 40 to 60 seconds per side; until air pocket begins to form between the two layers and a few light brown spots appear of the second side. Remove pancake from skillet and allow to cool on a plate until cool enough to handle, then peel the two pancakes apart. Stack pancakes with the moist-side-upward and loosely cover using plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining pancakes.
  5. If you are going to use them today, cover pancakes tightly with aluminum foil to keep them warm. If you are using them another day, you should wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and then with aluminum foil. They can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 2 months. You should thaw the wrapped pancakes at room temperature, when unwrap and set on a plate. Cover with a second, inverted plate and microwave for 60 to 90 seconds until warm and soft.

Stir-Fry Ingredients:
1-oz dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
12-oz pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin on bias
8-oz can bamboo shoots, rinsed and sliced into matchsticks
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

  1.  Rinse the shittake mushrooms, and put into a small bowl (or two cup Pyrex measuring cup); cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 1 minutes until steaming. Allow to soften for 5 minutes, before draining through a fine-mesh strainer, reserving 1/3 cup of the liquid. Trim away and discard the stems, and slice the caps thinly.
  2. Meanwhile, trim away the silver-skin from the tenderloin and slice in half horizontally. Slice each half thinly against the grain of the meat. Thinly slice your scallions, keeping the white and green parts separate. Rinse your bamboo shoots under the tap, the slice them into match sticks. Thinly slice 3 cups of cabbage.
  3. In a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the thinly sliced pork and toss together until evenly combined.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the 1/3 cup mushroom liquid, 2 more tablespoons soy sauce, 1 more tablespoon sherry, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch; setting aside.
  5. Wipe out skillet from pancakes with paper towel. Set over medium-high burner and pre-heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Beat together the two eggs, and quickly scramble for 15 seconds until set (but not until dry). Empty eggs to serving bowl and use a fork to break into 1/4″-to-1/2″ pieces.
  6. Put the skillet back over medium-high burner and pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to shimmer. Saute scallion whites for 1 to 1-2/12 minutes until evenly browned. Add the pork mixture and spread into an even layer. Allow to cook without moving for 1 to 2 minutes until well browned. Site and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until all the pork is opaque. Empty into serving bowl with eggs.
  7. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Whisk mushroom liquid mixture to recombine. Add mushrooms and bamboo shoots to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 1 minute. Add cabbage, all but 2 tablespoons scallion greens, and mushroom liquid mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has evaporated and cabbage is wilted but retains some crunch, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pork and eggs and stir to combine. Transfer to platter and top with scallion greens.
  8. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon hoisin in center of each warm pancake. Spoon stir-fry over hoisin and serve.

Tuscan-Style Beef Stew

March 6, 2015

It’s early March and I’m feeling that I’ve allowed circumstances to permit the stew-making season to slip by. So I used this “snow day” to cook today’s recipe as I work from home. Throughout the day the wonderful aromas filled my house and made everybody’s mode much better. While Chris Kimball calls this recipe for Peposo a “Tuscan-style beef stew”, the end result was not so much like a stew. A better description would be wine-braised beef (with lots of peppercorn and garlic). The sauce was too thin to be a stew, and there were no vegetables. Overall, the meal was very good. My sons and I enjoyed the beef. While it was delicious, still I feel it falls significantly short when compared to other stews. 4-stars.

More like braised beef than stew

More like braised beef than stew

Chris Kimball’s main trick in this recipe is; instead of adding all the wine at the beginning; to add it at 3 points during the cooking process. This is supposed to boost the fresh wine flavor. I am not sure if this was one of the contributing factor to the overly runny-sauce. The recipe calls for boneless beef short ribs, which add about $5 to the cost of the recipe when compared to a chuck roast. However, my butcher prepares all his boneless ribs from the chuck, so there is no difference in flavor. The main advantage is that it makes for easier preparation and more consistent cube size. But as I was looking for the specific pieces of meat to buy, I saw that the butcher just cut the meat into cubes regardless of the large veins of hardened fat running through the middle of the cubes. I knew that fat would never break down. I ended up with a 5-pound chuck roast with took an extra 15 minutes to cut into cubes.

Comments / Issues:

  1. As I mentioned above, the recipe calls for boneless short ribs. Chris Kimball also mentions my substitute of a 5-lb chuck roast. I am not sure if I cut away a full pound of fat and sinew; maybe more like half pound.
  2. Cook’s illustrated tried a variety of wine at various price points. They conclude that a $5 to $12 Chianti works best, but you could also substitute and inexpensive Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $35.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 1:45 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:

4 pounds boneless beef short ribs
Table Salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (750-ml) bottle Chianti
1 cup water
4 shallots
2 carrots
1 garlic head
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch

  1. Trimmed the short ribs, and cut into 2″-pieces. Add the beef to a bowl, and toss to combine with 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven. Pre-heat oven to 300-degrees. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil and pre-heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Brown the beef on all sides in two batches; a total of 8 minutes per batch. Adjust the burner as necessary to prevent the fond from burning. Remove first batch to a clean plate and repeat browning with second batch.
  3. While the beef cooks peel your 4 shallots and cut in half length-wise. Peel your 2 carrots, again cutting in half length-wise. Separate the cloves of your head of garlic (do not peel) and crush the cloves. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons peppercorns to a plastic bag and crush using bottom of a skillet (only 1 tablespoon of which is added to the pot in step 4).
  4. Add together 2 cups of wine, 1 cup water, shallots, carrots, garlic, 4 sprigs rosemary, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon cracked peppercorns, 1 tablespoon gelatin, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 teaspoon anchovy paste. Add back the beef from the first batch.
  5. Bring the pot up to a simmer, cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and the lid of Dutch oven. Move to 300-degree oven and cook for 2 to 2-1/4 hours, stirring after 1 hour. The beef will be ready when it is tender.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces of beef to a serving bowl, and lightly cover with aluminum foil, setting aside until Step 9.
  7. Strain what remains in the pot through a fine-mesh strainer into a fat separator. Allow the liquid to settle for 5 minutes. Use paper towels to wipe of the pot, and return the de-fatted juices back to the Dutch oven.
  8. Turn on burner to medium-high, add 1 additional cup of wine and 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper. Reduce burner to as to maintain a brisk simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.
  9. Reduce burner to medium-low. In a small bowl, combine the remaining wine and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, add to pot. Return the beef to the pot, cover, and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes so as to heat the beef. Adjust seasoning to salt according to taste.
  10. Serve, passing the extra cracked peppercorns separately.
Ready to go into the oven

Ready to go into the oven


One-Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes

February 22, 2015

Simple, delicious meal of chicken and potatoes cooked together in just 1 skillet. The only other cleanup is a cutting board and a small bowl.  But be sure to allocate two hours of mostly unattended cooking time. The flavor was very well balanced, and the chicken was moist. 4-stars.

Simple to make and clean up

Simple to make and clean up

The timing on the recipe is based upon a very small whole chicken; 1 to 1-1/4 hours and was perfect for a 4-lb chicken. If your chicken is bigger, you will have to reduce the over temperature (and increase cooking time) to prevent the skin from becoming overcooked. I’d suggest 375. Alternatively, you can bake it at 350 for an hour, then increase to 425 until the breast meat registers 1y0 and the dark meat registers 175.

Comment:

  1. I also tried to make this recipe using 6 pre-cut thighs. It baked in only 35 minutes. The main drawback was that the things had too much skin; while delicious; there was too much fat that rendered. After removing this chicken to rest; discard the extra fat from the pan before finishing the potatoes on the stove top in Step 8.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

The Cook’s Country link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving
Salt
Pepper
1 (4-lb) whole chicken, giblets discarded
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

  1. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 400-degrees.
  2. In a very small bowl, add 2 tablespoons oil, thyme, 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry, then use your fingers to separate the skin from the chicken breast. (While the original recipe just calls for loosening over the breasts, I loosened over the legs and thighs too). Rub the oil mixture from Step 2 underneath and ontop of the skin of the chicken. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together, and tuck the wingtips behind the back. Set aside
  4. Peel your potatoes and square-off the ends. Slice into 1″-thick-rounds. Add potatoes to a 12″ oven-safe, non-stick skillet. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil, 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  5. Arrange potatoes so that they lay flat and in a single layer. Set over medium burner and cook for 7 to 9 minutes without moving or flipping the potatoes, until the bottoms become browned.
  6. Set chicken with the breast-side upward on top of the potatoes and put skillet into oven. Bake for 1 to 1-1/4 hours until the breast meat reaches 160-degrees and the thighs reach 175-degrees.
  7. Move chicken to cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil; allowing to rest for 20 minutes.
  8. While the chicken rests, cover the skillet with a lid and continue baking for 20 minutes.
  9. Carve the chicken and serve with potatoes. Pass lemon wedges along side.

 


Valentine’s Day Snickers

February 15, 2015

Last year, I made some amazing Valentine’s Day truffles. I pulled out all the stops and created something that I considered unique and amazing. This year, without an official Girl Friend, I almost didn’t make truffles. But I decided at the last-minute to make them, and I made them jointly together with my nearly-16-year-old son, who plans to give some to a friend of his. In a twist this year, I included a recipe that I have been experimenting with for the past 7 or 8 months; homemade Snickers. I know that I am not alone in my love of Snickers.

Delicious Valentine's Day Truffles

Delicious Valentine’s Day Truffles

Snickers are a combination of three different layers; each made separately and layered on-top of each other. First, I made the caramel. Then layered the nouget on top. I froze everything solid so that I could cut them into pieces without squishing the more delicate nougat. Finally topped with chocolate, which importantly makes the sticky middle layers much easier to eat.

Comments:

  1. While I generally love dark chocolate, I didn’t like using exclusively dark chocolate with the taste of Snickers. I achieved a great, rich flavor using 50% dark chocolate and 50% milk chocolate. I used Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe’s ($4.50/lb).
  2. 500 grams of chocolate will cover about 30 truffles.
  3. While I tried a couple of times to make my own marshmallow, it was too delicate a process and I ultimately have changed the recipe to simply buy Marshmallow Fluff. I imagine that I could also use regular marshmallows, melted down, but Marshmallow Fluff works perfectly.
  4. I also considered using homemade dulce de leche instead of caramel; because it is so easy to make. While the texture is perfect, the flavor is slightly different. Ultimately I opted for caramel.
  5. If you are making snickers bars instead of truffle-sized treats, then melt 8 ounces of chocolate and pour over nouget (after the 20 minutes in the refrigerator). This will give a nice even base layer of chocolate. Cut into 2-3/4″-by-1″; yielding 24 bars.
  6. A few of the websites I used when working through this recipe include here and here.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time: 10:00 AM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.

For the caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
8 oz roasted salted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Spray a 8″-by-8″ baking pan with cooking spray, then line with a 14″ long piece of parchment paper folded over to match the exact width of the bottom of the pan. Leave a few inches of overhang on each side. Then spray the parchment paper again (never use wax paper). Set aside.
  2. Fit a heavy-bottomed small-sized saucepan with a candy thermometer so that it is near, but not touching the bottom of the pan. Remove thermometer for the time being; only using it for the last few minutes (otherwise your thermometer will overheat).
  3. Add sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup, butter and kosher salt and set over medium-high burner. Stir mixture for 2 minutes until sugar completely dissolves. Use a wet pastry brush to wash down the inside of the pan to eliminate crystallization. Continue to boil , occasionally swirling the pan (but not stirring), and brushing to prevent crystallization, mixture for about 16 minutes until it reaches 260-degrees.
  4. Meanwhile roughly chop peanuts; roughly in half.
  5. Immediately remove the saucepan from heat, add peanuts, evaporated milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix until the peanuts are evenly distributed. Pour caramel mixture into prepared pan using an oiled rubber spatula, spread evenly in the pan. Let cool for 30 minutes until caramel is no longer warm to the touch. Place in freezer until caramel is solid; about 3 hours.
  6. To fully clean the caramel from your pans it may be necessary to re-soften using boiling water.

For the peanut nougat:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 cup marshmallow fluff
3 tablespoons cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved and bring to a boil; about 1 minute.
  2. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and fold peanut butter until melted.
  3. Fold in fluff, and vanilla extract, stirring until smooth. Pour over bottom layer of caramel and allow to cool completely in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Freeze until solid for 3 hours.
  4. Use a paring knife to run along the sides without parchment. Use parchment sling to remove pan.
  5. Place on a cutting board with the caramel-side down, cut into appropriately sized pieces. Put back in freezer while you prepare the chocolate coating in the next section.

For the chocolate coating:
1-lb milk chocolate
1-lb dark chocolate

  1. Bring a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer over high heat; once simmering, turn off heat. Place ALL BUT 6-OZ of chocolate in a dry heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan and stir until chocolate is completely melted and reaches 118°F.; about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile break the remaining chocolate into smallish pieces.
  3. When chocolate reaches 118°F, remove the bowl from the saucepan. Add remaining 6 ounces of chocolate and stir until all chocolate is melted and cools to 100°F. Do not remove the thermometer from the bowl.
  4. Keep the saucepan over low burner. As necessary, return the bowl to the saucepan to maintain the temperature between 95°F and 105°F.
  5. Fill each cup of a mini-cup-cake pan with mini-cup-cake-liners; which will help maintain the form while the chocolate cools.
  6. Spoon chocolate into each empty cup, add one square pushing down so that the chocolate squishes halfway up the sides. Top with another spoonful of chocolate to cover.
  7. Freeze for 5 minutes. Use the tines for a fork to help remove from mini-cup-cake pan. Repeat until your run out of chocolate.

Pork Taquitos

February 3, 2015

When in college a person eats Ramen noodles because they are inexpensive. But there was a time in college that frozen taquitos comprised a significant part of my weekly menu, not because they were inexpensive, but because I thought they were delicious. At the time it never occurred to me that I could make them for myself; they were beyond my young culinary capabilities. Fast forward 20 years, when I tried them again, all that I could taste was their flaws; leathery tortillas, dry meat, lackluster spices (plus a bunch of chemicals and preservatives). I felt the same way when I went back to my hometown in my 30’s. It had been the focus of my life; I had known every nook and cranny of the sleepy little town. Or when I see my ex-wife; a woman who I loved just 3 years ago; but to whom I now feel nothing (opps, a little too revealing; but she never reads my blog). The bottom line is this: Life only moves forward; just as I outgrew my home town, nothing can make eating frozen taquitos appealing again. No amount of horses and men can make Humpty Dumpty whole again. If taquitos are to ever be part of my future, so that I can share them with my kids, it is up to me to figure out how.

Good Mexican food takes a lot of time to preprare

Good Mexican food takes a lot of time to prepare

Chris Kimball does not have a recipe for taquitos. Of course I don’t generally trust his yankee-palate when it comes to “Mexican food”. I have been developing this recipe over the course of the past year, and am only just giving it 3-1/2 stars because there is room for improvement. The flavors are rich and delicious, but the flavors are not completely and properly balanced. Infinitely better than frozen taquitos, and represents a good starting point. I post another recipe when this recipe goes above 4-stars. (Please feel free to offer suggestions).

Comments:

  1. To freeze taquitos, put on a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag; they can be frozen for up to 3 months.  To use frozen taquitos: put in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400-degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. I used flour tortillas tonight, but generally make them using corn tortillas. There is a common (mis)belief that taquitos are made only with corn tortillas, and that flautas are only made with flour tortillas.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $18
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 1PM. Ready at 6PM.

5-lb bone-in pork butt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups (16 ounces) beef broth
2 medium onion
2 jalapenos
2 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
4 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (4-ounces)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
12 corn tortillas (6 inches)
Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole, salsa and lime slices.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 300-degrees. Trim away any excess fat from the pork, and remove any skin (especially if you ended up with a pernil).
  2. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in Dutch oven set over medium-high burner until oil begins to shimmer. Sear pork for 5 minutes per side; about 20 minutes total.
  3. Add beef broth to Dutch Oven, bring it up to a simmer, cover and bake for 4 hours until the pork is extremely tender. Remove pork to a large bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  4. While the pork cools, strain the braising liquid into a fat separator and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Discard any solids.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees.
  6. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon of pork fat (from fat separator) into now-empty dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add onions and jalapenos to pot, sprinkle with 2 teaspoon table salt. Saute until tender; about 5 minutes.
  7. Press garlic into the pot, and add tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and cayenne; cook 1 minute longer.
  8. Pour 3/4 of liquid from the fat separator into the pot, using the liquid to deglaze the pan. Reduce for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  9. Meanwhile, use two forks to shred pork, then pick through with your fingers to discard any clumps of fat or other unappetizing bits. Add pork to pot with sauteed vegetables.
  10. Add grate cheese, and lime juice. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.
  11. chopped cilantro,
  12. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  13. Soften tortillas by wrapping them a paper towel and microwaving them for about 30-45 seconds.
  14. Put 2 tablespoons of filling over lower third of a tortilla. Roll up tightly, using gravity to hold the taquito closed. (You can secure with toothpicks; or mix up your own paste by adding water to flour). Repeat rolling process with remaining tortillas.
  15. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes. Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

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