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KotW: Eggplant & Pepper Salad July 31, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, salads, vegan.
1 comment so far


NB: I chose this for today’s post over Kip’s excellent Beef & Lime pasta salad for one very good reason: In the heat of the day, after a long and mildly tedious stretch of work, this one sounded yummier. Schizodigestive’s brilliant, uncompromising editorial standards are working hard for you.

I’ve roasted an eggplant over open flame several times now, with great success. But what to do with a perfectly roasted eggplant once you have it? Well, here’s one idea: an alternative to the Turkish white bean salad.

Roast one medium-to-large eggplant. Let it cool while you do the rest of this. Also, start warming about a quart of water in a small saucepan.

One 15-ounce can white beans (cannellini)

Drain the beans in a strainer or colander, rinse them and let them drain again.

Prepare dressing:

One-half cup good olive oil
one-half cup red wine vinegar
two tablespoons whole-grain mustard
one large clove garlic, pressed
one-quarter teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
salt and black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, then gently mix the drained beans with the dressing. Let this sit while you prepare:

Three or four medium carrots, peeled and diced

Parboil the diced carrots for three minutes, drain, add to the beans and dressing. Top, skin, and chop the eggplant, and add that. Finally, chop

Two to three roasted red or yellow peppers (from a jar, unless you feel like making your own)

Add the chopped peppers to the mixture and stir thoroughly. If you have 20 minutes to half an hour to let it sit, so much the better, but it can certainly be served immediately. Serve on romaine leaves or mixed greens.

(c) /KC July 2008

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KotW: Chicken Yassa. July 28, 2008

Posted by sarawr in African food, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, poultry.
2 comments


This week’s post by Kip is, uh… actually last week’s post by Kip, because I was insanely busy last week. It’s worth the wait, though, I promise — this is, hands-down, the best chicken I’ve ever tasted. I promise you guys will love it.

This is from the Casamance in Senegal, is about the best barbecued chicken ever, and is a beautiful introduction to African food. If you serve this to guests, it’ll knock their socks off.

Two pointers right up front. First, once this is all together, you need to let it marinate refrigerated overnight, so this is a start-the-day-before recipe. In Africa, long marinating copes with the fact that free-range chicken can be tough! In the United States it answers just the opposite — battery-raised chicken doesn’t taste like much. Second, this really, really is best if you’re able to grill it; the other cooking methods work, but that little bit of char and crunch puts this dish over the top.

six tablespoons peanut, corn or canola oil
one chicken cut into serving pieces (yes, you can use boneless breasts and thighs, but this is a lot better with bones and skin)
four to eight onions, roughly chopped
half a cup mixed citrus juice — lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, grapefruit; fresh-squeezed if feasible
half a cup cider vinegar or rice vinegar
two bay leaves
four to eight cloves garlic, minced
one-third cup Dijon mustard
one or two tablespoons soy sauce (to taste)
one serrano pepper, or other fresh medium-hot pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (not jalapeno which loses flavor when cooked)
flaked red pepper (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
salt (to taste — it may not need any)
one small green cabbage, cut into chunks
four to six carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

The amounts of onion, fruit juice, garlic and hot pepper given here look excessive. No way. More the better.

Combine everything except the cabbage and carrots in a glass or stainless bowl or enamel casserole and refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Cook the chicken until it’s ALMOST, not quite, done:

    over a charcoal fire or
    on a gas grill or
    in a hot oven or
    in hot oil in a skillet, just about in order of preference.

Try for nice browning in any case.

While the chicken is cooking, scoop the onions out of the marinade and sauté them for a few minutes, in a pan big enough for the finished dish. Add the cabbage and carrots and remaining marinade and bring to a slow boil. Add the chicken pieces, cover and simmer until the chicken and the carrots are done.

Serve with white or brown rice or, better yet, couscous.

(c) July 2008 /KC

KotW: New Mexico Food, Part Three. July 17, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, New Mexico, poultry.
1 comment so far


ZIA RISING: Chicken with Red Chile and Vinegar

Zia is the blazing light of noon, but not only that. In his all-seeing arc over the land, Zia is also the scarlet of sunrise and sunset — and of the red chile.

The red pepper is an altogether deeper thing than the green one, more mature, more complex. Above all the dried red pepper, brought forth and ripened and then shrunk to a husk by Zia himself, has irresistible power that we must invoke with respect and care. As green chile stew is rapture in a bowl, the dish called carne adovada is transcendence on a plate. This testimony to the red chile, if made right, is unforgettable.
……………

Wherever the Spanish conquerors went, they took the adobo way of cooking with them. “Adobo” is the Spanish word for “marinade,” and to cook with it may at first have been primarily a way to preserve cooked food in hot climates. But the potent standard flavorings of adobo — garlic, onion, vinegar, bay leaves, and black or red pepper — with long simmering become a sauce for meat or poultry that is absolutely addictive.

Adobo was brought to many countries, and those countries in turn contributed to it. The chicken adobo of the Philippines, the pork adobado of Spain and the carne adovada of New Mexico are all quite different — and all utterly delicious. But only in New Mexico did adobo become the central dish of the feast of the Sun God. Get out your six-quart or eight-quart stewpot, and make this if you dare!

……………….

Some respectful disclaimers. Carne adovada in New Mexico is usually made with chunks of fresh pork shoulder — but that means a whole lot of boning, skinning, and hacking. In fairness you should then also use those bones and trimmings, together with the trimmings of the vegetables, to make stock… you see how much work this is! If you want to do it that way I’m not stopping you, any more than I’d stop myself; but this recipe is for pollo adovado, made with dark meat chicken that you only have to half-thaw and chop. In the interest of time, this recipe also assumes you have a food processor. And even so, you have to start preparing this either the night before, or on the morning of the day you want to serve it.
……………….

6 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (usually, one warehouse-store bag)

Take these out of the freezer to half-thaw for easy chopping.

12-16 dried red chile pods, medium or hot
2 cups boiling water

Top the peppers, tip out and discard the seeds that will come out, rip the pods into chunks and chop them in a food processor. When you have fine flakes, slowly pour in the boiling water until the peppers are smooth slurry. Pour this into the six-quart pot to let it develop.

10-12 cloves garlic
two large yellow onions, chopped

In the food processor, mince the garlic. When all the garlic is on the walls of the tank, add the onions and pulse — until you have minced onions, not onion slush! Add this to the pot.

2 cups factory marinara sauce or diced tomatoes
Santa Fe, Bueno or Chimayo red chile powder as appropriate, see below
one-half cup flour
2 teaspoons (or more) ground cumin
2 teaspoons (or more) leaf oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

How much chile powder you use depends very much on how hot the powder is, and how hot you want the finished dish; but you always want the deep flavor of the pepper to come through along with the heat. For hot chile powder the right amount could be as little as a couple of tablespoons, for mild powder it could be as much as half a cup. Remember that in classic New Mexico cooking, chile powder can actually be intended to thicken the sauce.

Combine all the ingredients, process until smooth and add to the pot. Finally, spin

1/2 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

in the food processor to rinse out the tank, and add that to the pot.

The chicken thighs
one cup (two four-ounce cans) diced mild green chiles
two to four bay leaves

Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces, adding it to the pot as you go. Add the diced green chiles and the bay leaves. Mix it with your hands, and I mean really massage it, maul it, make sure every side of every piece of meat is touched by the mixture. Then either

    cover and refrigerate overnight, or

    (assuming the chicken is still fairly cold) allow it to sit at room temperature for three to four hours.

Preheat your oven to 350° and bake this for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Toward the end of the cooking time, taste an occasional piece of chicken to make sure it doesn’t get overdone — you want each bite to be perfectly tender but not broken or stringy.

Finally, if necessary, use red flake pepper, El Pato tomato sauce, sriracha, or comparable heat to make this as hot as you want it. There should be plenty of sauce, but if you want more, add a couple of cups of chicken stock. Serve with hot white rice or warm flour tortillas, or both.

I have, I swear, made a double recipe of this in a 12-quart pot for a small Christmas party, and had it completely vanish in an hour. Good luck with yours!

(c) /KC July 2008

KotW: New Mexico Food, Part Two July 16, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, New Mexico, restaurants, roasts, soups and stews.
1 comment so far


THE LOCAVORE IN HEAVEN: Green Chile Stew

This is the signature dish of some parts of New Mexico, and has escaped to a few places — not many — in other southwestern states. If the chile grows where you are, you can order this (usually for about five bucks a bowl) at fancy restaurants, less fancy restaurants, coffee shops and even airport lunch counters (note 7). If the chile does not grow where you are… which may be only a few miles of difference… you will ask for green chile stew and the waitress will look at you funny.

But although it’s useless to order this in a restaurant in (say) northern California, you can make it yourself if you acquire the materials. That’s an adventure in itself and not cheap, but it can be done. Personally, I do it, because I think that really good green chile stew is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. (And if the best green chile stew I’ve ever made has never quite equaled what they serve in the little restaurants around where Sara lives — well, that’s the exile’s lament.)

4 quarts chicken stock (note 1)
28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes in juice
2 big yellow onions chopped fine
6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 lb. (about a dozen) roasted Barker, Big Jim, Sandia or Socorro green chiles, skinned, topped, seeded and chopped (note 2)
two teaspoons powdered cumin
two teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
salt to taste
3 4-ounce cans Hatch diced green chiles (note 3)
1 cup of 505 (or other) medium green chile sauce
4 to 6 cups of roast chicken meat, mixed light and dark, diced (note 4)
6 stalks of celery trimmed and sliced
6 carrots pared and cut into hunks
2 large white potatoes, peeled and cut into french-fry-like sticks (note 5)
one can El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco (note 6)

Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add the tomatoes and onions, and let simmer twenty minutes. Press in the garlic, add the chopped roasted chiles, cumin, oregano, and salt, and let simmer twenty minutes more. Add the canned chiles, chile sauce, meat, celery and carrots, and cook till the carrots are half-done. Add the potatoes and the El Pato sauce, and continue to cook till the potatoes are sort of not raw. (They’ll keep cooking in the hot broth but you want them to still be a little crunchy.)

Serve with warm flour tortillas, homemade if you can get them.

NOTES

1. The best chicken stock, of course, will be made from the carcasses of a couple of roast chickens, with vegetables and seasoning. If you don’t feel like going that far, use good-grade chicken stock in boxes, but choose organic and low-sodium — you can adjust the salt later on your own and you don’t want too much added in advance.

2. Where the chiles grow, you can get these freshly roasted in August and September, or frozen the rest of the year. If, like me, you don’t live there, you can order them (mostly in fall, winter, and spring, not summer) frozen and airfreighted from places like newmexicanconnection.com or hotchiles.com. They’ll be about $10 a pound.

I recommend you buy medium or medium-hot frozen peppers, and whole, not chopped. The ones that are chopped before freezing lose too much flavor — at least for that price. When you’re ready to use the peppers, thaw them, take the tops off, hold them under cold running water, slip off and discard the skins, split the peppers open and rinse out the seeds, then chop the peppers.

3. Yes, the canned chopped peppers do have to be Hatch — the national brands, like Ortega and La Victoria, don’t taste the same at all. As for the sauce, it can be 505, Garcia, Hatch, Leal’s… just so long as it’s from New Mexico or, at a stretch, West Texas. If you don’t have sauce, use more canned peppers, and vice versa, but it’s best to use both.

4. Chicken is my preference but you can also make this with bite-size pieces of pork shoulder, or even with hamburger, although that’s my least favorite. If you use red meat, brown it before you add it.

5. These are authentic, but optional. If you use them, you might want to put them in what you’re currently serving rather than in the whole pot, so they won’t get cooked twice in the leftovers.

6. This is sold in little yellow eight-ounce cans. One side says “Tomato Sauce” (understatement) and has a picture of a blue-headed duck in an oval frame (“El Pato” means “the duck”). The other side says “Salsa de Chile Fresco” and has a picture of three chili peppers, one red and two yellow. This sauce adds cascabel chiles to the stew, which are very good things. In the Southwest you can buy this in Wal-Mart, in California I’ve even found it in Safeway, and you can also buy it online; it’ll cost fifty cents to a dollar-fifty a can depending on where and how you buy it.

7. Most of the restaurants with good stew are sort of…remote. But on the upper floor of the Albuquerque airport (Sunport), between the elevators and the A gates, there’s a coffee counter called Black Mesa Coffee Company that makes excellent green chile stew. Also pretty good coffee.

(c) July 2008 Kip Crosby

KotW: New Mexico Food, Part One. July 15, 2008

Posted by sarawr in Kip of the Week, New Mexico.
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December 2004: Driving through south-central New Mexico, Adri stops at a gigantic general store and total tourist trap called Clines Corners. Wanting a present for Kip that’s compact, mailable, authentic, and intriguing, she selects a four-ounce packet of Santa Fe red chile powder.

January 2006: Kip, Sara, and various family are sitting on the patio of one of P’ville’s better lunch joints. Kip tastes his first spoonful of New Mexico’s national dish, green chile stew. It hits him with the force of a mild psychedelic drug.

June 2008: At home, Kip has roasted green chiles in the freezer, green and red bottled chile sauce stacked in the garage, canned chopped green chiles and red chile honey on the kitchen shelves, and the tag end of a bag of dried red chile pods. But his stock of other crucial New Mexico ingredients is perilously low.

In P’ville — not Wal-Mart, which in context is kind of lame, but a local supermarket — he buys various grades of red chile powder in cellophane bags, a whole bunch more dried red chile pods, and a six-ounce bag of Mexican oregano. Sara supplies him with a cardboard box for all this stuff, which he packs up and takes as checked baggage on the flight home.

No doubt about it. Kip’s chilefication is complete.
……………

Zia the sun god is the inescapable deity of New Mexico. His symbol, a red sun circle with four groups of four red rays on a yellow field, adorns New Mexico’s state flag, license plates, public buildings, and signage. Zia is everywhere, but nowhere more than above and around you in the sky. Standing on a street corner in P’ville at two in the afternoon, for more than five minutes, can make you feel like people jerky.

The pepper is a gift from Zia. Only this sun in this sky allows the pepper to grow as it should. You can find this chile in most of New Mexico, some of Arizona, a little bit of West Texas, a sliver of southeastern California. But Zia is unyielding. Where the pepper grows, it grows, where it does not it will not. And without the pepper there is no green chile stew, no carne adovada, no stuffed sopaipillas.

Alas! Where Kip lives the sun is not Zia, it is only the sun, and Zia’s gift is barren.
……………

We’re on Sara’s porch. “In New Mexico,” a friend says, “you can talk about peppers just about more than you can talk about pickup trucks or sex.”

There are kinds of peppers: Barker, Hatch, Sandia, Santa Fe, maybe more. You can buy peppers green, or red, or pintado (green with red streaks). You can buy them fresh, frozen, dried, whole or chopped, powdered, or made into sauce; mild, medium, hot, or extra hot. Best of all, in August and September, you can buy peppers that have been freshly roasted in metal mesh drums crank-turned over gas flames. Take those home, hold them under cold water and slip off the dark-speckled skins, then top them. Remove the seeds or not, depending on how much heat you like.

Real New Mexico cooking depends on using the pepper in several forms in almost any dish. Some of the techniques are subtle, like using chile powder — alone or mixed with flour — to thicken stew. Some are rough-and-ready, like the directions on the jar of the popular chile sauce called 505: “Warm thoroughly and pour over any meal.”

New Mexican food, at least in restaurants, generally is not searing hot — mouth-hot. But as you eat, warmth builds up first in your chest and belly, then in your limbs, finally all through your blood and soul. (A really good bowl of green chile stew once made my eyelids itch. Go figure.) Zia, repairing your human frailty, has given of himself, and the Sun God is within you.

Honest chile heat is one of the best feelings ever. I won’t say it’s better than sex. It sure as hell is better than pickup trucks.
……………

A last caveat: What I’m discussing here is not Mexican food, Texas food, Tex-Mex food, or (especially) big-city “Southwestern” food. It is the food you get in New Mexico’s small towns, either by making it yourself, or by shunning the pestilential chain restaurants and braving Zia to saunter down side streets in search of the real thing.

Next: Green chile stew in all its glory…and where to get some.

Mmm, meaty. July 10, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices, red meat, roasts.
4 comments


If you’re not a vegetarian, you probably love roasts. If you’re me, you’re also a little intimidated by them; it’s hard to get a roast just right, and I’ve been trying for years. I’ve been beset by all the usual problems — meat comes out too dry, a roast that looks substantial at the market shrinks during cooking to something more appropriate for a small cat than a family of three, the meat is just right but the vegetables are mushy — and I’d begun to despair of ever getting it right. Thankfully, I think I finally did. A few nights ago I was faced with the letdown that comes after an amazing week, the lack of energy that comes from days without sleep and a looming deadline, and a roast I’d almost forgotten about. I kind of went “aww, to hell with it” and just tossed things together. Here’s the (delicious) result:

YOU NEED:
A smallish roast (three or four pounds)
Four or five red potatoes
A couple of handfuls of baby carrots
Half of a purple onion
A cup and a half of butternut squash
A quarter cup or so of V8 or plain tomato juice
Decent butter
A little olive oil
Various seasonings

WHAT YOU DO:
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and prepare your roasting pan by buttering it very lightly (you can use cooking spray too, but your vegetables will be distinctly lacking in flavor). Dice up your carrots, onion, potatoes, and squash and toss them together in the pan. Get about 3/4 of a cup of hot water and add pepper, salt, parsley, some finely chopped garlic, a sprinkle of paprika, and just a splash of soy sauce. Pour this over the vegetables and let everything sit.

Once that’s done, sear the roast in about a tablespoon of olive oil and half a tablespoon of butter. When I say sear, I mean it — you don’t want to brown your meat here so much as you want to crisp the outer layer. Don’t turn the heat all the way up, but get it pretty darn close — about thirty seconds on each side should do it. Let the roast cool a bit, then place it on top of the vegetables with the most fatty side up. Sprinkle the meat with pepper, a dash of Tabasco, and more chopped garlic. Pour the V8 over it until the roast is well-covered but the juice isn’t really involved with the vegetables. Cover the whole thing (if you’re using foil, lightly butter or spray it so that it doesn’t stick to the roast) and pop it in the oven for two hours.

If this wasn’t just a fluke, the meat should come out meltingly tender while the vegetables are firm, flavorful, and just a little bit crisp where they’ve touched the pan. I’d love it if some of you would try this and let me know how it works; I want to do it again, but I have been well-schooled by experience to expect recipes this good to fail miserably upon re-attempt. Good luck!

Kip of the Week: About Parsley. July 3, 2008

Posted by sarawr in herbs & spices.
2 comments

If you’re planning to try to make the Turkish bean salad I posted last week [ed. note: two weeks ago, for I am lazy] — which is really good — you’ll need a lot of parsley. Not a bad thing in itself, since most markets will sell you a bunch as big as a grapefruit for pocket change. But the question is how to make it last, since if you just toss it in the vegetable bin, it’ll turn limp, dark and evil within a few days.

After eons of putting up with this I made my prize-deserving discovery: What makes parsley sicken and die are the bacteria in the dust that sticks to it. With a couple of easy, respectful steps you can make parsley (and its flavor) last much longer.

1. Run a big bowl of cold water and put some ice in it.

2. Pinch the small bushy branches of the parsley off the coarse main stems. (The French, who have names for everything culinary, call this épluchage.) Throw them into the cold water as you go.

3. Stir the contents of the bowl till all the parsley gets really wet. Leave the bowl undisturbed for twenty minutes or half an hour. Then scoop the parsley carefully out of the water, trying your best to leave the grit at the bottom of the bowl. Put the parsley in your salad spinner basket.

4. Spin it as DRY as you can.

5. Store the washed, dried parsley in a plastic container with a tight lid — a quart yogurt container is perfect. It should stay absolutely fresh for a week and okay for a few days after that. If you still have any left after ten days, throw it in your next stockpot, and put a note on your fridge that says COOK WITH MORE PARSLEY.

/KC June 2008

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Stay tuned; I’ve got a nice roast post coming up and next week will feature a two-parter on New Mexico food by Kip.