Pork Milanese

December 30, 2015

It was during my two years living in South America that I discovered Milanesa. It’s one of the most common dishes; an unsung hero of South American cuisine. Not elegant, it’s a daily staple. Ubiquitous, and varying in details from country to country. A breaded cutlet of meat; pounded thin, and shallow fried in a pan. I ate most of my Milanese with mozzarella and tomato; milanesa a la napolitana. Looking back, it seems impossible to believe that I have never made a proper Milanese since leaving South America 15 years ago; coming very close with this Wiener Schnitzel. Today’s recipe is simpler than the Weiner Schnitzel. I ground my own bread crumbs, and made the typical three-plate assembly line; flour, egg wash, bread crumbs. The end result absorbed a little too much oil during the cooking process, and took 3-1/2 minutes per side to reach the correct internal temperature of 145-degrees; over-browning the bread crumbs. 3-stars. My kids loved it, but my health-couscousness knows that it absorbed too much oil during cooking.

A little over browned by the time it reached 145-degrees

A little over browned by the time it reached 145-degrees

I have not yet been able to visit South America again (the world is filled with so many places to visit). Finally, I plan to return to South America; Quito, Bogota, and Cartagena.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball’s recipe for Milanese uses boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Today I used pork tenderloin because it offers more flavor and has less of a tendency to dry out. Chicken cutlets should be pounded to 1/2″ thickness in Step 2, rather than 1/4″ for pork.
  2. Today’s recipe simply grinds up pieces of bread into bread crumbs. Unfortunately, the un-toasted bread crumbs seemed to absorb more oil that pre-toasted ones. I prefer the recipe for Wiener Schnitzel.
  3. The final temperature of Pork tenderloin is 145-degrees. If you cook chicken breast, cook until 160-degrees.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 5:30 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, which calls for chicken. The descriptions of how I prepared this today, using pork tenderloin, are given below:

1 pork tenderloin (about 1-1/4 pounds).
Salt and ground black pepper
5 large high-quality sandwich bread
1/4-cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2-cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4-cups + 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Garnishes:
1 lemon
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers
1 large hard-cooked egg

  1. Set rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 200-degrees.
  2. Trim off any fat and remove the silver skin. Cut the tenderloin on a diagonal into 3 or 4 equal pieces. Cutting on a diagonal will ensure the pieces are oblong, instead of round. Place one piece at a time inside a gallon-sized bag and pound to an even thickness of 1/4″. Remove from bag and season cutlets with salt and pepper. Repeat pounding process with remaining cutlets.
  3. Pat cutlets dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove crust and slice bread into 3/4″ cubes. Add to food processor and process for 20 to 30 seconds until to fine crumbs (resulting in 1-1/2 cups bread crumbs). Empty into a shallow dish or pie plate; mixing in Parmesan.
  5. Place 1/2-cup flour in second shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in third shallow dish and mix with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
  6. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge thoroughly in flour, shaking off excess. Use tongs to coat with egg mixture, ensuring to coat the entire surface, allowing any excess egg to drip back. You want to ensure a very thin and even coating. Finally coat evenly with bread crumbs, gently pressing so that the crumbs adhere.
  7. Place breaded cutlets on plate to allow the coating to dry for 5 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare a wire rack, setting in rimmed baking sheet, and covering half the rack with a triple layer of paper towels. Prepare your garnishes. Slice a lemon into wedges, chop your parsley, rinse you capers to remove the brine, and separate your egg white and yolk (either crumble or pass separately through a fine-mesh strainer).
  9. Put a 12″-nonstick skillet over medium-high burner, pre-heat 3/4-cup vegetable oil until the oil begins to shimmer. Cook 2 cutlets at a time in skillet for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes per side, gently pressing on cutlets with spatula for even browning. The cutlets will be ready when they are deeply golden brown, crispy and the pork registers 145-degrees.
  10. Put cutlets on paper towel–lined side of prepared wire rack to dry (from Step 8) for 15 seconds per side. Move cutlets to unlined side of wire rack and keep warm in 200-degree oven. Repeat from Step 9 with remaining cutlets.
  11. Serve with lemon wedges and other garnishes.

 


Spicier Chili con Carne

December 20, 2015

I made Chris Kimball’s Best Ground Beef Chili two months ago. While I loved the flavor, I was disappointed in its utter lack of heat. Today, I added a four types of peppers to help amp up the spiciness. While still too mild for my taste (my two sons cannot handle too much heat), I was nevertheless much happier with the overall results. Grinding our own chiles makes a huge difference in this recipe; elevating the recipe into a special meal. The ingredient list is very long; you will definitely need to make a special trip to the grocery store. Sometimes my supermarket runs out of Ancho (and Guajillo chiles), so I recommend buying them in advance. 4-1/2 stars; still needs more heat.

Original recipe needed to be spiced up

Original recipe needed to be spiced up

Also it is worth noting that the Ancho chiles in the recipe are used to make home-ground chili powder. When I first made this recipe two months ago, there was a discussion about why this recipe does not re-hydrate the chiles; the answer being that we are making chili powder; not chili paste.

In the past I have been unable to find Ancho chiles, which are dried poblanos and are very, very mild. I have substituted Guajillo chiles, which are a little hotter, and can also be hard to find.  In either case, I would recommend not exceeding 1 ounce, as Chris Kimball’s original recipe was a little too earthy. I’ve reduced the Anchos in today’s recipe from 6 down to 4.

Today I added the following additional ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12. (not including garnishes).
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1/2-pound dried kidney beans (or 29-oz can)
1/2-pound dried pinto beans (or 29-oz can)
2 pounds 85% ground chuck.
2 tablespoons water
3/4-teaspoon baking soda
Salt and pepper
4 dried ancho chile (1 ounce)
1 ounce tortilla chip, crushed (1/4-cup)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper.
2 medium onions, diced.
1 celery stalk, diced.
1 red bell pepper, diced.
2 Jalapeno chilies, chopped fine.
15-oz can tomato sauce
29-ounce can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water (or chicken broth)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Lime, cut into wedges
Coarsely chopped cilantro
Chopped red onion
Additional garnishes: diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and/or steamed white rice.

  1. For best results, soak 1/2-pound of dried kidney beans and 1/2-pound of dried pinto beans overnight. Use 1-1/2 tablespoons salt for a 1/2-gallon of water.
  2. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, add beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4-teaspoon baking soda. Toss until thoroughly combined, and set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the stems for the chiles and tear then into 1″-sized pieces. Set a Dutch oven set over medium-high burner; Add chiles and toast for 4 to 6 minutes until they become fragrant, stirring frequently. If the chiles begin to smoke, then reduce the burner. Allow to cool in the bowl of a food processor.
  4. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper, and 2 teaspoons pepper to bowl food processor. Process for 2 minutes until it becomes finely ground. Empty spices into a small bowl.
  5. Process the tomatoes with their juice in the food processor for 30 seconds until smooth.
    Dice your onion and peel your garlic.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the empty Dutch oven, set over medium-high burner. Add diced onion and 2 teaspoons salt; at cook for 6 to 10 minutes until have given off their water; stir occasionally. Press garlic directly into pot and cook for just 1 minutes.
  7. Add beef mixture from Step 1. Cook beef for 12 to 14 minutes; breaking up meat into 1/4″-pieces as it cooks. The beef should begin to brown and a fond should begin to form on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add spice mixture from Step 3 and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes; to bloom the spices.
  8. Add 1-1/2 cups water (or chicken broth), 2 teaspoons sugar, tomato puree, and pinto beans and their liquid. Bring up to a boil, and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover with lid, move to pre-heated  oven. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender and chili has slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking.
  9. Uncover chili and let it sit for 10-minutes. Meanwhile, prepare any of your garnishes.
    After 10 minutes stir to re-incorporate any fat that has risen to the top and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste.
  10. Serve, passing separately the lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and other garnishes; sour cream, cheddar cheese, guacamole or diced avocado, julienne-fried flour tortilla, or sliced scallions.
I used a mixture of pinto and kidney beans

I used a mixture of pinto and kidney beans


Creamy Mocha Pudding

December 14, 2015

Over the years I’ve made hundreds of desserts, but surprisingly, this is my first batch of homemade pudding ever. Perhaps because instant Jell-O has degraded pudding into something that we, an Americans, never make from scratch anymore. It comes as either a dry box mixed with milk, or in shelf-stable, pre-made little plastic cups.

I had the idea to make chocolate pudding a year ago, when I made this Coffee Flan. Then a few months ago Cook’s Illustrated published an updated pudding recipe (their previous recipe was 15 years old). Today’s pudding is made with real ingredients and is delicious. There are several variations, but I love the addition of Coffee flavor to chocolate. The recipe took under 30 minutes to make (plus 4 hours to cool). 4-stars. Great flavor and texture, without the skin on top that mars my memories of my childhood pudding.

Delicious pudding with 30 minutes of work

Delicious pudding with 30 minutes of work

Later this week I plan to make chocolate mousse with my son, for his high school French class’s Christmas Party. I am saving a bit of the pudding to compare flavors between the two desserts. Obvious the mousse with have a lighter texture.

Comments / Issues:

  1. I don’t have Kahlua, so I skipped substituted an equal amount of Brandy. The brandy worked well to give it some depth, but overall the mocha pudding lacked coffee flavor.
  2. The first time I made this recipe the pudding did not set, because I tried to set it in an ice chest rather than the refrigerator. The 4 hours of setting time in Step 6 must be undisturbed refrigerator time; I would even suggest putting in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator because it is the coldest part.
  3. I tried making this recipe using a round of parchment as specified in the recipe, but it was difficult to measure the correct diameter Instead of parchment I will try plastic wrap (to avoid necessity of measure and cutting.)

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 1:30PM. Dinner time 6 PM.
The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup sugar (3-1/2 ounces)
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Kahlúa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup brewed coffee
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

  1. In a very small bowl, mix together vanilla extract and espresso powder; set aside.
  2. In large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, Kahlúa, and salt. Whisk in yolks and cream until fully incorporated, making sure to use a rubber spatula to scrape corners of saucepan. Whisk in milk and coffee until incorporated.
  3. Set saucepan over medium burner; cook for 8 to 12 minutes, whisking constantly. The mixture needs to be bubbling over its entire surface. Cook for 30 seconds longer, then remove from heat.
  4. Add butter and chocolate to pot. Whisk until melted and becomes fully incorporated.
  5. Remove from burner and whisk in vanilla mixture.
  6. Pour pudding through fine-mesh strainer into bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper or plastic wrap directly against the surface of pudding. Set on bottom shelf of refrigerator to cool and thicken for at least 4 hours.
  7. Whisk pudding briefly and serve.

 

 


Better Chicken Marsala

December 9, 2015

Of course we have all had Chicken Marsala in restaurants; it’s one of those ubiquitous staple of Italian-American cuisine. Today’s recipe is a good solid recipe, everything is well cooked and tasty. But overall, Chicken Marsala is a well-worn path to known flavors. This recipe executes everything well; especially the quick sear on the chicken before re-heating the cutlets in the sauce. Too often the flour coating turns gooey from too much time in the sauce. I can only give this recipe 3-1/2 stars; better than average (3-stars being average). In the end, there is no big-flavor payoff for the many steps.

Very solid Chicken Marsala

Very solid Chicken Marsala

Chris Kimball recommends spending a little extra for a moderately priced dry Marsala ($10 to $12 per bottle). You will use about two-thirds of the bottle. He also recommends serving this with some form of starch; potatoes, white rice, or buttered pasta.

Rating: 3-1/2 star.
Cost: $24.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 4:30PM. Dinner time 6 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it for this Thanksgiving is as follows:

2-1/4 cups dry Marsala wine
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1-oz dried porcini mushrooms
4 (6-to-8-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3-oz pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 6 pieces)
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

    1. Rinse porcini mushrooms, and add to medium-sized saucepan. Add 2 cups Marsala, and 4 teaspoons gelatin in with the porcini and set over high burner. When it comes up to a boil, reduce burner to medium-high and allow to vigorously simmer for 8 minutes until it has reduced by half.
    2. In the meantime, trim away any pockets of fat and cut each chicken breast in half crosswise. Next cut only the thick halves in half again, horizontally, creating all 3 cutlets of approximately the same thickness. Put cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound so that they are an even 1/2″ thick. Put chicken in bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
    3. After the Marsala has reduced by half strain through a fine-mesh strainer and use a rubber spatula to press down and extract as much liquid as possible; throwing away the spent porcini.
    4. Empty the Marsala back into the saucepan, adding 2 cups chicken broth, and bring up to a boil. Lower burner to medium-high and allow to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until it has reduced to 1-1/2 cups. Set liquid aside.
    5. While the liquid is reducing is Step 4, Add 1/2 cup flour to a pie plate and dredge one piece of chicken at a time if the flour. Gently shake to remove an excess flour. Set chicken onto a wire rack that is set over a sheet pan.
    6. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a 12″-regular skillet. Pre-heat over medium-high burner until it begins to smoke. Add 6 pieces of chicken to skillet, and reduce burner to medium. Cook the first side for 2 to 4 minutes until it turns golden brown. Flip chicken and continue cooking for 2 to 4 minutes until the second side turns golden brown.  Remove cooked chicken to the wire rack.
    7. Repeat Step 6 with the remaining 6 pieces of chicken and another 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
    8. While the chicken cooks cut pancetta into 1/2″-pieces. Slice the crimini mushrooms thinly, and prepare shallot and garlic.
    9. Reduce burner to medium-low and add diced pancetta. Cook for about 4 minutes until brown and crisp; stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom to loosen and brown bits for the bottom of the skillet.
    10. Add crimini slices into skillet with pancetta, increasing burner to medium-high. Cook for about 8 minutes mushrooms begin to brown; stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet.
    11. Use a slotted spoon to remove mushrooms and pancetta to a clean bowl.
    12. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and minced shallot to skillet; cook for 1 minute until softened. Add tomato paste and minced garlic; cook for just 30 seconds.
    13. Begin to add your components back to the skillet. Add the reduced Marsala, 1/4-cup of Marsala from the bottle, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano. Bring up to a simmer, then add the chicken back to the sauce and allow to reheat for about 3 minutes; flipping halfway through to ensure both sides are hot.
    14. Remove cutlets to serving platter.Remove pan from burner and whisk in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 1/2-tablespoon-sized-pieces) and 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley. Add parsley and cremini mushroom mixture. Stir until mixed and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to taste. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

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