Archive | March, 2013

Mexican Flan

26 Mar

There arent too many Mexican desserts. But one of the most popular mexican desserts is flan.

I decided to make Mexican Flan for Mexican Supper Club back in October. I was a little nervous since I’ve never made a custard before. I knew immediately to set up the basics – line a large roasting pan with a dish towel and place my flan pan inside so that everything is ready.

I struggled with the first step of making the caramel topping. I boiled the sugar water 3 times without it turning out right before I called the expert……my mom! Without having made this before either, she surmised that my heat wasnt high enough when simmering the sugar water mixture. She was right and it turned dark and was ready to go! I dont know how, but moms are always right.

The rest of the flan came together real easy after that.

Because my oven was having issues, it took a bit long than expected to cook through and in the process the top (well, really the bottom) got a little dark….You can see it in the pictures later on in the bottom of the plate.

I was especially nervous when the time came to flip the flan upright onto the plate in front of my dinner guests. Basically, you wait until it’s cooled completely, run a knife around the edges, then hold a plate on top of the pan, and flip the entire thing over so that the flan has the caramel part on top.

Look how perfectly this worked! SUCCESS! It looks gorgeous, too.

And then we finally got to try it at the end of our mexican meal. It was out of this world. I nailed the taste and the texture!! Again, dont mind the dark part on the bottom of the plate. My oven is to blame.

Mexican Flan

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tblsp water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1.5 cups 2 percent milk
  • ¼ tsp lemon zest

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350 degrees.

Place dish towel in bottom of large roasting pan and place 9-inch cake pan in center.

Bring sugar and water to boil in small saucepan, swirling saucepan gently until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.

Reduce to simmer and cook, gently swirling saucepan occasionally, until mixture turns deep, dark mahogany color, 7-10 minutes. Carefully pour caramel into cake pan and cool slightly until hardened.

Bring kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and yolks together in medium bowl until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Whisk in condensed milk, 2 percent milk, and lemon zest. Pour mixture into cake pan and gently place roasting pan on oven rack. Be careful not to splash any water inside pan of custard, pour boiling water into roasting pan until water reaches halfway up the side of the cake pan.

Bake until center of custard is just barely set and is no longer sloshy, 30-40 minutes. Start checking after 25 minutes.

Carefully remove roasting pan from oven and careful transfer cake pan to wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cover cake pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Run knife around cake pan to loosen custard. Invert large serving platter over top of cake pan and grasping both cake pan and platter, gently flip custard onto platter, drizzling any extra caramel sauce over top (some will remain in pan). Serve.

Can be made ahead 2 days – cover tightly on top with saran wrap so it hits the custard.

Perfect Basic Chicken

24 Mar

This recipe is a base for chicken dishes. Once you do this, you will never boil chicken for your casseroles and soups again. Unless you need the stock!

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This is so easy – and the flavor and moistness you gain from preparing the chicken this way is hands above anything else. I use this chicken to make casseroles, soups, enchiladas, salads, and appetizers.

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The olive oil, salt, and pepper add a lovely flavor note to the chicken – it is absolutely delicious. I would just eat this chicken alone as a straight-up meal.

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You MUST use a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast. The chicken gets a deeper flavor from the bone and skin while it cooks. And also the bone and skin contribute to the moisture level of the chicken.IMG_1423

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Trust me – you will make chicken this way FOREVER. Screw getting a pre-made roaster (AKA salt stick with chicken meat attached) at the supermarket……this is cheap, easy, and delicious!!!! And you can make it ahead and freeze it once you chop up all the meat. I do not advocate buying chicken roasters from the supermarket – not when it can be this easy and flavorful!!!

Perfect Basic Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (or however much you are cooking at one time)
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Arrange chicken pieces on rimmed baking sheet with the skin side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper on both the front and back of each piece. Rub each piece all over to ensure that the oil, salt and pepper are well distributed. (I usually do this step in a large bowl so that everything is contained and I can really rub it all together – prior to placing on baking sheet)
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until internal temperature at thickest part of chicken is 165 degrees.
Let rest and cool for 30 minutes to allow juices to settle. Remove and discard the skin and bones. Chop or shred chicken as desired.
To Freeze: measure chicken in 1-2 cup quantities into pint or quart size freezer bags. Squeeze as much air as possible from bags, seal, and flatten the contents to make a thin, even layer of chicken throughout the bag. (This facilitates even thawing and reheating of chicken.) Freeze flat until frozen solid. Then bags may be stacked or stored upright in freezer.

Pulled Pork

16 Mar

I got a Pork shoulder at the supermarket and stuck it in the freezer a month or so ago because I knew I would get the hankerin’……

The hankerin’ for some PULLED PORK!!!! Pulled Pork is not only delicious, but it’s so flexible and works in/on anything!

My good friend Dennis also has a foodblog (http://digitallydennis.wordpress.com/) and posted a recipe for a dry rub that I wanted to try the next time I did pulled pork. Now, Dennis showed it with barbecued chicken, but after reading the ingredients, I knew it would work for pork. It was spicy without being too spicy. It was exactly the perfect taste I was looking for in a rub!

Typically, pulled pork is made in a crockpot, but I didnt want to make it that way. I saw a tip on one of the blogs I follow (http://www.hardlyhousewives.com) on how to physically roast the pork so that it was insanely tender. So I put that into practice. And it was totally right – instead of roasting the meat in a crockpot or something along those lines, you wrap the meat tight in tin foil and roast for a couple hours. It locks in the flavor.

I meshed the two together – technique and recipe – and came out with an AMAZING finished product. It was sinfully delicious and so simple to make and do. Just let it cook in the oven for hours and go about your business around the house.

And you can take that pulled pork and put it on anything! You can put it on a sandwich, eat it plain or put barbecue sauce on top, or put it in other foods – like pizza, nachos, and stuffed rolls!

Like these quickie nachos…..Next I want to try a pulled pork pizza! I cant wait to make this pulled pork roast again!!!!

Shooter’s Secret Spice Dry Rub

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1  teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (use less or more depending on how spicy you like it)
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 4-6 pound pork butt or pork shoulder

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine.

Sprinkle Shooter’s Secret Dry Spice Rub on both sides of meat and rub. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 1-2 hours (or overnight if you like).

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Put the pork, fat side up, in the oven. Bake approximately an hour.

Lower the oven temp to 300 degrees. Take the meat out and triple wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and slow cook it for 7 hours or so (for a 6-7 pound piece of meat) until the meat is fork tender. It works out to cook for an hour per pound.

This will give you an incredibly moist pork with a crunchy outside. Feel free to freeze whatever you dont eat!

Beef Enchiladas

10 Mar

When I was planning for Mexican Supper Club in October, I referred to the Cooks Illustrated Mexican Edition for some inspiration. I found so many recipes that I ended up using, but this one especially called my name: Beef Enchiladas.

This recipe couldnt have been easier to put together. And note – I used homemade flour tortillas, not the storebought ones in the picture above (recommended over buying storebought tortillas).

The flavor in the sauce is insanely amazing. Never in a million years did I imagine it would be this tasty.

Everyone ate it up like crazy. I had to fend the leftovers off from Beth and save them for Robb. I can not wait to make it again.

Seriously, if you want an authentic and EASY mexican feast, include this in your mealplan. You will not be sorry.

Beef Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tblsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt
  • 1.25 pounds top blade steaks (chuck meat)
  • 1 tblsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups Monterey jack (or cheddar cheese) shredded
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped canned pickled jalapeno chiles
  • 12 corn or flour tortillas

Directions:

Combine garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, sugar, and 1 tsp salt in small bowl.

Pat meat dry with paper towels and season with salt. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook meat until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer meat to plate.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions to pot, and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and water and bring to boil.

Return meat and any accumulated juices to pot, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is fall-apart tender, about 1.5 hours.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350. Strain beef mixture over medium bowl, breaking meat into small pieces, reserve sauce. Transfer meat to bowl and mix with 1 cup cheese, cilantro, and jalapenos.

Spread ¾ cup sauce on bottom of 13×9 inch baking dish. Microwave 6 tortillas on plate on high power until soft, about 1 minute. Spread 1/3 cup beef mixture down center of each tortilla, roll tortillas tightly and set in baking dish seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas and beef mixture. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas and spread to coat evenly.

Sprinkle remaining cheese over enchiladas, wrap with aluminum, and baked until heated through, 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese browns slightly, 5-10 minutes.

Flour Tortillas

9 Mar

I am sure the last thing you think about making from scratch when doing mexican is flour tortillas……well I am here to let you know how EASY it really is.

When cooking for my Mexican Supper Club night, I planned to do Beef Enchiladas. I bought flour tortillas from the store as a back-up just in case I didnt have time to make my own.

But I always had a feeling that I was going to make my own no matter what. It turned out that I had some extra time and I just went for it!

It was BEYOND easy to put together. They took a little longer in the frying pan than I thought they would. But all in all, they turned out AMAZING.

The key when you are sauteeing them in the frying pan is to make sure you have a damp towel on top of saran wrap on top of the plate of cooked tortillas so they stay a bit pliable when you go to use them.

Making your own tortillas is SO much better for you than using store-bought. They taste fresher and dont contain any chemicals or additives. They have a better texture, too, and are great to use in almost any recipe!

And I am so bummed that I didnt take any pics of the finished tortillas. I’ll have to update in the future when I make them again. But here is a pic of my yummy beef enchiladas!

Flour Tortillas

Ingredients:

  • 2 and ¾ cup flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 6 tblsp Crisco, cut into 6 pieces
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tblsp water, heated up to 110 degrees
  • ½ tsp vegetable oil

Directions:

Combine flour and salt in bowl – stir. Rub shortening into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until combined.

Turn dough out onto counter and knead briefly to form smooth, cohesive ball. Roll 2.5 tblsp dough into 1.5 inch balls. Transfer balls to plate and refrigerate until firm, wrapped in plastic.

Working on lightly floured counter, roll out balls to 8-inch rounds. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat until just smoking. Wipe out skillet with paper towels. Lay 1 round in skillet and cook until surface begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Flip and cook until browned and puffed, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate and cover with dish towel. (NOTE: It took my tortillas about 3-4 minutes per side to cook)

At this point – go on and use them for whatever dish you plan to make.

BLT Bites

3 Mar

If I had seen this recipe on my own, I would have cruised on past because it looks a bit intricate and timely. That assessment is true; however, the taste is FABULOUS.

My friend Mel was having her Halloween party and had asked me to make a couple items. I offered a few ideas of my own and then she requested that I make this one and proceeded to send me the recipe.

When I read that I would have to stuff cherry tomatoes, I thought they were nuts. And it definitely took a little bit of time, but it was SO worth it. The bacon/mayo mixture couldn’t be simpler to make. And yes, I cheated this time by buying pre-made bacon because I was making 4 things in 5 hours and didnt have time to fry a pound of bacon. But it’s good to know that this is a possibility!!

And I figured a way to stuff them a bit easier – use the 1/8 teaspoon of my measuring spoon set. Made it so much better!

The taste is just amazing. And they were one of the FIRST things to disappear at the party! They are tiny and people love to pop them in their mouths…And the bacon-flavor just hits you!

I highly recommend this recipe – although I think it’s best for a small party/get-together so that you don’t kill yourself in assembly. Or you could make this and stuff larger tomatoes as a lunch!

BLT Bites

Ingredients:

  • 16 to 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley

Directions:

  • Cut a thin slice off of each tomato top. Scoop out and discard pulp. Invert the tomatoes on a paper towel to drain.
  • In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Spoon into tomatoes.
  • Refrigerate for several hours.

Yield: 16-20 appetizer servings.

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