Corn Chowder

July 3, 2015

Corn is so ripe right now that I can feel the fatness of the kernels right through the husk, no need to pull back the husks. Plus as a bonus, it’s on sale for just 20-cents an ear (practically free). After discovering this recipe a few years ago, corn chowder has become a delicious way for me to enjoy sweet summer corn during peak season. I’ve updated the recipe a little, to include changes to deepen the flavor and elevate this to a strong 4-1/2 stars. Chris Kimball’s original recipe calls for cooking the bacon and onions only until they soften, I now brown them a little to build up a fond on the bottom of the pan; the corn chowder is even more satisfying. Perfect for your 4th of July barbecue.

Delicious way to enjoy sweet summer corn

Delicious way to enjoy sweet summer corn

Comments:

  1. The original recipe does not brown the onions and bacon; starting the onions and the bacon at the same time, and stopping before the bacon gets crispy. While the original recipe results is a fresher tasting chowder, the richer flavors from developing a fond and crisping the bacon deliver a much more satisfying bowl.
  2. While step 1 sounds confusing, when you separate the kernels and pulp from the cob. I was worried that I might be cutting away too much pulp and I sliced off the kernels, but in the end you will throw away the solid from the pump (after extracting the juices). So the bottom line is you shouldn’t worry.
  3. When I squeeze the pulp, I only got 1/2-cup of juices; not the 2/3-cup that Chris Kimball says the pulp should yield. But the story is the same every time I make this recipe; I think you will never get 2/3-cup. Today’s corn was so fat and juicy, if it didn’t happen today I think it will never happen.

 

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $5.00
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 5:30. Dinner time: 6:15

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

8 ears corn
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion
4 slices bacon
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups water
3/4-lb red potatoes
1 cup half-and-half
Up to 1 Tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

  1. Remove husks and silk from corn. Cut kernels from the cob using a chef’s knife, being careful not to cut away too much of the pulp. Then over a large bowl, use the back of a stiff butter knife to scrape the pulp into the bowl (once you try it you will see how easy the pulp comes away from the cob). Put pulp in a clean kitchen towel and tightly wring the pulp allowing the juice to fall back into your large bowl. Chris Kimball says that I should have been able to extract 2/3-cup of juice, but I was only able to extract about 1/2-cup. Throw away the dried pulp.
  2. Stack your bacon slices and slice them lengthwise, then cut them into 1/4″ pieces. Finely chop your onion, and mince you thyme.
  3. Set a Dutch oven over medium burner; Add bacon and cook for 4 minutes; a head-start before adding more ingredients.
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and allow to melt. Add onions, thyme, and 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, for 10 to 12 minutes. The onion will be done when it has browned slightly, and there is a fond on the bottom of the pan. While that cooks, dice your potato into 1/2″ pieces.
  5. Mix in 1/4-cup flour and stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk in 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add your corn kernels and diced potatoes. Bring back up to a simmer, then reduce the burner to medium-low and cook for 18 minutes until the potatoes are ready.
  6. Remove 2 cups of chowder to blender and process it for 1 minute until smooth. Return processed chowder to the pot, and add 1 cup of half-and-half, and continue to cook until the pot has again reached a simmer.
  7. Remove from burner, add corn juice, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and as much as 1 tablespoon sugar depending upon the inherent sweetness of your corn.
  8. Spoon into individual bowls and sprinkle each bowl with 1 teaspoon minced basil.
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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.

Mango, Orange, and Jícama Salad

February 14, 2014

A nicely balanced, Latin-themed fruit salad. The simple flavor of the jícama nicely contrasts with the sweetness of the mango and orange. Simple to make. Unfortunately, I don’t think that my sugar transformed into a thick enough syrup. Keep cooking until it forms a thick syrup. Simple. 3-1/2 stars.

The finished salad

The finished salad

Comments:

  1. The recipe makes a lot more than just a side dish. As a side dish, 5 people at about half the salad.
  2. One of my mangos looked ripe on the outside, but was not sweet on the inside. Fortunately, my other mango was deliciously sweet and made up for it.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Medium/Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 5:15 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons juice (2 limes)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch salt
12 ounces jícama
2 mangos
2 oranges

  1. Peel the jícama, and cut into 1/4″ dice (should yield 1-1/2 cups).
  2. In small saucepan, add the 3 tablespoons sugar, lime zest and juice, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, a pinch salt. Put over medium burner and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar dissolves; stirring constantly. Remove pan from burner, stir in jícama to coat, and allow the syrup to cool for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, peel the mangos, removing pit, and cut into 1/2″ dice (should yield about 4 cups). Add to a large serving bowl. Peel your oranges and cut away the pith. Slice into 1/2″ thick rounds and then into 1/2″ dice. Add to bowl with diced mango.
  4. After the syrup has cooled for 20 minutes, pour over fruit in serving bowl and toss until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes prior to serving.

Tabbouleh

June 24, 2012

For over 15 years I have made the best Tabbouleh I’ve ever eaten. I guess I’m biased, because I make it exactly as I like it. Restaurants always seem to stress the bulgur, and I prefer to stress the fresh ingredients; parsley, tomatoes, lemon.  Today’s recipe is somewhat of a compromise. Chris Kimball uses 6 tablespoons of Bulgur; probably a 33% decrease over an average deli. However, my own recipe used just 2 tablespoons, so that the freshness of the other ingredients really shine. Another interesting thing about today’s recipe is that the Bulgur is soaked; not cooked. This is intended to prevent the wheat from becoming mushy. Overall, it was just okay. I give it 3-stars.

Pretty good; but I think I make better

Comments:

  1. I reduced the recipe by one-third, because that is how much parsley my bunch yielded.
  2. I have only ever eaten Tabbouleh just with pita bread. However, Chris Kimball also says that it can be eating with the crisp inner leaves of romaine lettuce AND pita bread. I didn’t try.

Rating: 3-stars.
Cost: $6.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:30 PM. Finish time 6:30 PM.

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

2 medium round tomatoes,
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup medium-grind bulgur
3 tablespoon lemon juice (1-1/2 lemons)
1/4-cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cups fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
1-1/2 scallions

  1. Put bulgur in a fine strainer and rinse with cold water. Allow to drain and put in a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons on lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon. The grains will need about 40 minutes to begin to soften.
  2. Core the tomatoes and cut them into 1/2″ pieces. Add to a large bowl and combine with 1/4 teaspoon of table salt. Put in a fine strainer placed over the large bowl, and allow to stand for 30 minutes to drain away any excess liquid.
  3. As the tomatoes exude juice, add 2 tablespoons to the bulgur.
  4. About 15 minutes later begin to chop your remaining ingredients. Chop your parsley and fresh mint. Slice your scallions thin, and give them a few chops.
  5. After tomatoes have drained and bulgur has softened, wipe the large bowl dry and which together 2 more tablespoons of lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon, plus olive oil, cayenne pepper and 1/4 teaspoons salt. Gently mix in the tomatoes, bulgur, chopped parsley, mint, scallions.
  6. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room-temperature for 1 hour.  Toss to recombine the ingredients and adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste.
  7. Serve inside of sliced pita edges.

Butter Bean and Pea Dip with Mint

May 13, 2012

This is my second variation of Chris Kimball’s bean dips from the current issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It taste fresher and lighter than Pinto Bean and Corn Dip with Cilantro. Unfortunately I only had wheat-saltines for serving; I think it would have been tastier with some thinly sliced bread or pita. Overall, if you like bean dip then I think you’ll love this recipe, plus it takes only about 5 minutes of work. However, I have never before served bean dip, having been to too many parties where canned bean dip was offered. While Chris Kimball does prove that not all bean dip is disgusting. This is very fresh tasting, but it is not enough to resurrect the genre in my mind. 3-stars.

Fresh and minty

Comments:

  1. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find canned butter beans, so I substituted petit lima beans.
  2. I used regular plain yogurt rather than Greek yogurt, because that’s what I already had in my kitchen.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Started: 3:00 PM.  Ready at:  4:00 PM.

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

1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup frozen baby peas
1 can butter beans (15-ounce)
1 scallion
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Table salt
1/4 teaspoon coriander
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
Extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Remove your baby peas from the freezer and allow to thaw.
  2. Peel the garlic and press it into a small bowl, then mix together with lemon juice and zest. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Pat your thawed peas dry with paper towels, and reserve 2 tablespoons for later as a garnish. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bean packing liquid by adding to the bowl of a food processor, then rise the beans. Cut your scallions in two ways, first cut the white and light-green parts into 1/2″ pieces. Second, slice the darker green part thin and on a bias.
  4. Add the following to the bowl of the food processor: rinsed beans, peas (except for the reserved garnish), white and light-green parts of scallion, mint, 3/4 teaspoon table salt, coriander, cayenne pepper and lime/garlic mixture. Pulse between 5 and 10 times until completely ground. Scrape down sides of food processor with a rubber spatula. Continue processing for 1 minutes, scraping down sides of food processor two more times.
  5. Add yogurt and process for 15 more seconds.
  6. Empty into a serving bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to serving.
  7. Sprinkle with salt according to your taste. Top with remaining peas and scallion greens. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.

Pinto Bean and Corn Dip with Cilantro

May 10, 2012

Chris Kimball has five bean dip recipes in this month’s issue of Cook’s Illustrated. As I mentioned earlier, I made this Latin version of a bean dip for Cinco de Mayo. It came out fabulous, and was not a lot of work. This recipe included enough fresh ingredients; corn, cilantro and lime; to prevent it from becoming dense and pasty like most bean dips. 4-stars. I still plan to try another of his bean dip recipes, probably his Butter Bean and Pea Dip with Mint or Pink Bean and Lima Bean Dip with Parsley.

Latin-style bean dip

Comments:

  1. I already had 1/2 bag of dried pinto beans in my cupboard, which I used in lieu of the canned pinto beans specified in the original recipe. I soaked the dried beans in salt water overnight, rinsed them the next afternoon and cooked them for about 45 minutes until they were tender. I substituted some olive oil for the two tablespoons of reserved bean liquid. However, I still left the canned beans in the recipe below, because canned beans make more sense in a recipe that lacks a long cooking time.
  2. I used regular plain yogurt rather than Greek yogurt, because that’s what I already had in my kitchen.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low.
Started: 3:00 PM.  Ready at:  4:00 PM.

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

1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup frozen corn
1 can pinto beans (15-ounce)
1 scallion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Table salt
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
Extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Remove your corn from the freezer and allow to thaw.
  2. Peel the garlic and press it into a small bowl, then mix together with lime juice and zest. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Pat the corn dry with paper towels, and reserve 2 tablespoons for later as a garnish. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bean packing liquid by adding to the bowl of a food processor, then rise the beans. Cut your scallions in two ways, first cut the white and light-green parts into 1/2″ pieces. Second, slice the darker green part thin and on a bias.
  4. Add the following to the bowl of the food processor: rinsed pinto beans, corn (except for the reserved garnish), white and light-green parts of scallion, cilantro, 3/4 teaspoon table salt, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and lime/garlic mixture. Pulse between 5 and 10 times until completely ground. Scrape down sides of food processor with a rubber spatula. Continue processing for 1 minutes, scraping down sides of food processor two more times.
  5. Add yogurt and process for 15 more seconds.
  6. Empty into a serving bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to serving.
  7. Sprinkle with salt according to your taste. Top with remaining corn and scallion greens. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve.

Crab Cakes with Remoulade

May 3, 2012

These were the first crab cakes I’ve ever made at home. So when the recipe calls for using pasteurized lump crab-meat from a can, I was skeptical and tried using the frozen craws I found in the supermarket. But about 5 minutes later I realized what a tremendous amount of work it would require. 40 minutes later, I resolved never to complain about the high price of crab-cakes in restaurants again: assuming, of course, that they use fresh crab-meat.

My first homemade crab cakes

These crab cakes use ground shrimp as a binder in lieu of mayonnaise, so there is very little to dilute the taste of crab. The soaking in milk may have helped remove some of the excess fishiness, but the final crab cakes still needed some lemon of offset the slightly-too-strong taste of the sea. Because these are my first homemade crab cakes I can only compare to those that I’ve eaten in restaurants. While they are delicious, 4-stars, they are still not as good as crab cakes that I have eaten in nice restaurants in Manhattan. I assume it’s because they use fresh crab-meat. Of course, 8 enormous crab cakes for $14 is a tremendous bargain compared to a similarly priced tiny appetizer in a restaurant.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 4:00 PM.  Dinner:  6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original crab cake recipe is here., and his Remoulade recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

Crab Cakes:
1 pound lump crabmeat
1 cup milk
1-1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
2 celery ribs
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4-oz shrimp
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

  1. Put crab-meat in a small bowl and pick it over to remove any pieces of shell that your find. Add enough milk to completely submerge, about 1 cup. Cover with plastic wrap and all to stand in refrigerator for between 20 and 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile put 3/4-cup Panko in a small zip-lock bag and use a rolling-pin to crush it until fine, then empty into a dry 10″ non-stick skillet. Add an additional 3/4-cup Panko. Toast over medium-high burner for 5 minutes until golden brown; stirring bread crumbs every 30 seconds for even toasting. Empty into a pie plate and add 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground black pepper to taste.
  3. Roughly chop celery ribs and onion and add to bowl of a food processor. Peel and smashed the garlic and add to food processor. Pulse 6 to 7 times until finely chopped. It may be necessary to scrape down the bowl using a rubber spatula. .
  4. Wipe out skillet, place over medium burner and melt butter. Saute the chopped vegetables, adding 1/2 teaspoon table salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, for about 5 minutes until the vegetables have dried out. Empty to a large bowl and allow to cool down for 10 minutes.
  5. Strain the crab-meat to remove the milk, pressing down with a rubber spatula.
  6. Wipe out bowl of food processor using paper towels. Peel the shrimp and pulse about 12 times until it becomes finely ground. Add cream and pulse again 3 or 4 times. Empty the ground shrimp into the bowl with the vegetables. Stir together the Dijon, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice, and Old Bay seasoning until evenly combined. Add crab-meat and carefully fold together trying to preserve the lumps of crab-meat.
  7. Divide into 8 equal size piles and press into 1/2″-thick patties. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  8. Place each crab cake in pie plate with panko and press so that crumbs adhere to the crab cakes.
  9. Place the skillet over a medium burner, and pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to shimmer. Cook 4 at a time for 3 or 4 minutes without moving them. Carefully flip them over using two spatulas. Reduce the burner to medium-low and add 1 more tablespoon oil. Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a serving plate. Use paper towels to wipe out the skillet, and repeat this step with the rest of the crab cakes.
  10. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and remoulade.

Remoulade:
1/2 teaspoon capers
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon minced parsley leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper

  1. Drained and rinse your capers. Peel your garlic gloves. Mince your parsley leaves.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients (except the salt and pepper) to the food processor. Pulse about 10 times until well combined, but so much so that it becomes smooth.
  3. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper according to your taste. Serve.

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