Sunday, October 22, 2017

Aztec Chocolate Skulls

The cacao tree, which yields the berries, or "beans," that are the basis of chocolate, first appeared somewhere between Mexico and South America; but, the processing and culinary use of cacao was first developed in what is now Mexico. Mexican chocolate (which also refers to the foamy drink) is the round, flat disks of cinnamon-scented chocolate. The word "cacao" can be traced back to the Olmec inhabitants of Tabasco, Chiapas, Veracruz, and parts of Central America, and was passed on to the lowland Maya who succeeded them in this territory. The Maya, who flourished for eight centuries before the Spanish arrived, used their beloved chocolate in rituals such as wedding ceremonies. The Aztecs, who later came to dominate central Mexico, believed that chocolate symbolized power and glory, and used it as part of their rituals by giving the drink to human offerings in order to bless the sacrifice. Creepy! 

With Halloween and Day of the Dead almost here, I wanted to share this delightfully spooky, super easy recipe for "Aztec Chocolate Skulls." I used commercially available silicone skull molds (mine were made by Wilton and designated for ice cubes), Ibarra Mexican chocolate, milk chocolate chips, rice krispies, and edible gold flakes (purchased from Sur la Table). The combination makes an exotically delicious treat, perfect for the Aztec Gods! 


Aztec Chocolate Skulls

Makes 15 skulls, depending on the size of your mold.

Ingredients:

1 disk Ibarra Mexican chocolate
5 ounces milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup rice krispies
Edible gold flakes (optional)

Directions:

Sprinkle the mold with gold flakes, set aside. Bash the disk of Ibarra (still in it's package) against a cutting board, to break it up a bit. (It's hard as a rock!) Open the package, and drop the Ibarra and half the milk chocolate chips into a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. (See Gadgets, for "No Double Boiler?") 


With a spoon, keep turning and squashing the chunks of Ibarra until it is completely softened and mixed with the milk chocolate. 


Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining milk chocolate until completely melted. Stir in the rice krispies. With a spoon, spoon the chocolate evenly in the mold, pressing down with your fingers.


Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Pop them out of their molds and serve!

Thanks to Karen Hursh Graber for the background on Mexican chocolate via Mexconnect.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Devilishly Good Chicken!

Foods that are highly seasoned (e.g., mustard, chilies, etc.) or sinfully rich (e.g., chocolate cake) have been referred to as "deviled" since the 18th century. In 1868, The William Underwood Company began selling a mixture of ground ham with seasonings which they named "deviled ham." In fact, their devil logo is one of the oldest trademarked logo still in use today. While I love highly seasoned food, canned ham is not my kind of thing. Trust me. I used to audit food processing plants (like Ballpark Franks), haven't eaten one since!
Image result for deviled ham
The original Underwood Deviled Ham logo.
With Halloween almost here, I want to share this wickedly addictive recipe from Williams-Sonoma for "Chicken Thighs Diavolo." Diavolo means devil in Italian, but only dishes invented by Italian-Americans use the term. In Italy, they would refer to a spicy dish as all-arrabiata meaning "angry-style." I digress. Anyway, these chicken thighs are marinated in a wonderful blend of cider vinegar and five different chili spices, then grilled to juicy perfection. Delicious! I love this marinade so much! In addition, you could use it on practically any cut of chicken or even pork. I don't know who created this spice blend, but they must have sold their soul to the devil to create it!


Chicken Thighs Diavolo

Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the marinade
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Thai chili paste or red pepper flakes (I use Chili Garlic Sauce by Huy Fung Foods, Inc.)
1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce (I use Cholula.)
1/2 cup water

For the Chicken Thighs
3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of any excess skin and fat
1 or 2 handfuls wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes. (I use mesquite.)
1 large disposable aluminum roasting pan

Directions:
In a bowl, combine marinade ingredients and whisk until the salt and granulated garlic dissolve. Taste and adjust the seasonings; the sauce should be bright red and very spicy. Pour half the sauce into a small serving bowl and set aside.

Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, score the chicken to the bone in several places to expose the flesh. Place the chicken in a large disposable aluminum roasting pan, pour the remaining sauce over the top and turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 10 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat.

For a charcoal grill: Sprinkle the wood chips over the coals. Place the pan with the thighs on the cooler side of the grill, cover and cook until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer the thighs to the grate directly over the coals, brush with the marinade from the pan and grill, turning often, until nicely charred on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes more.

For a gas grill: Increase a burner to high. Heat a smoker box half full of chips until smoking, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the pan with the thighs over unlit burners, cover and cook until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Transfer the thighs to the grate directly over the heat, brush with the marinade from the pan and grill, turning often, until nicely charred on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Serve immediately and pass the reserved sauce alongside.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Batten Down the Hatches!

I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast and have been through several hurricanes. I realize how absolutely boring it can be, being couped up inside your home. For my friends and family in Eastern South Texas (or even if you're not), try this beautiful (and potent) cocktail in horror of Hurricane Harvey. Drink this and you are guaranteed a little fun! Good luck! X0X0


Hurricane

Ingredients:

3 parts dark rum (1 1/2 oz.)
3 parts light rum (1 1/2 oz.)
2 parts passion fruit syrup (1 oz.), if you can't find passion fruit syrup, just try any grenadine syrup blend
Fresh lime juice (1 tablespoon)

Directions:

Shake all ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This makes one beautiful cocktail!