Friday, September 16, 2016

Roasted with Love - Hoarded with Passion

Authentic New Mexican Hatch Chiles are in stores NOW, and only for a very limited time! These chiles are named after Hatch, New Mexico, where they are grown in the heart of Mesilla Valley. The intense sunlight and cool nights give this chile it's mild-medium heat and unique fruity flavor, which I adore! These chiles are the epitome of New Mexican cuisine. Once roasted and peeled, they are perfect for chiles rellenos, added to eggs, thrown in soups and stews, stirred in cornbread, delicious additions to enchiladas and tacos, and are essential for the distinguished green chile cheeseburger! (A staple in my house!) Truly, the sky's the limit when cooking with these phenomenal chiles!

Because of their very limited availability, most hatch chile enthusiasts roast their chiles in LARGE batches (like 10 pounds or more!), peel, de-seed and freeze them for an entire year's supply! Do I do this? Absolutely! I've been buying them up as fast as I can! When purchasing, look for a bright green color, smooth firm skin, a symmetrical shape (if possible), and a bit heavy for their size. For a few chiles, I use my stove-top gas burner (see Techniques, scroll to the very bottom, it was the first technique I posted!), but for large quantities, I fire-up my grill! Not only does the smell of chiles roasting over an open flame make my heart sing, it adds an authentic smokey flavor, and is the traditional method used in New Mexico! (If you don't own a grill, you can also roast them under your broiler in the oven.) So, make some room in your freezer, grab your car keys, and run, don't walk!


Roasting and Freezing New Mexican Hatch Chiles

Ingredients:
As many Hatch chiles you can find!
Plastic wrap
Quart and gallon-size freezer bags (depending on how many chiles you want to preserve)

Directions:
Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high heat. Once the grill is very hot, place the chiles over direct heat, turning occasionally until the skins are blackened and blistered. (If there are any green spots, the skin won't come off.)


When nice and roasted, place the chiles in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to steam and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, remove them to a cutting board. Pull out the seed pod and with a knife, cut the chiles in half, scrape off the blistered skin and scrape out the seeds.



Once all your chiles are ready, lay out a piece of plastic wrap. Lay one chile at the end, fold over the plastic wrap, lay another chile on top, fold over the plastic over, lay another chile on top, and continue until you have about 6 chiles nicely packaged. (Layering with the plastic makes it easy to remove one chile at a time, as desired.) Place in a freezer bag and remove any excess air. Once you have all your chiles snuggly packaged, place all the freezer bags into a gallon-size freezer bag, squeeze out any excess air, and freeze to use whenever you like. Thaw before using.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Burn Baby, Burn!

In 1986, Larry Harvey and friend Jerry James created a wooden human effigy, drug it down to Baker Beach in San Francisco, and lit it up in honor of the Summer Solstice. Harvey said, "it was like a second sun brought down to this earth." As crowds gathered and spontaneous singing broke out, Harvey realized that they had instantly created a community of bohemians. This was recreated every year on Baker Beach with the human effigy and crowds increasing each year. These gatherings became known as "Burning Man." In 1990, the Golden Gate Park Police caught wind of the event, and informed them that they would no longer be allowed to burn the man due to the fire hazard to the surrounding hillsides. It was then that Harvey along with the San Francisco Cacophony Society decided to relocate the event to the Black Rock desert in Nevada over Labor Day weekend.

Today, Burning Man attracts upwards of 60,000+ people, creating a self-sustaining city in the desert, made up of artists, eccentrics, and entrepreneurs. With no utilities, everything from water to electricity must be brought in and taken out. Burning Man has become an international stage for art, music, and any kind of self-expression. It was even nominated for a UK Festival Award for Best Overseas Festival. It's no wonder Burning Man's philosophy that "Life is short. Make something amazing. (Then burn it)" appeals to dreamers and doers from around the globe. If you want to check it out, here is the live stream:


*FYI: Check it out Saturday evening, September 3, 2016, to see the Man burn!

So, whether you wish you were there or the thought of spending a week in the searing heat, dust, port-o-potties, and no doubt more than just a whiff of pachouli doesn't excite you, you still must admire the spirit of individuality. Instead, try this deliciously eccentric recipe for "Desert Fire Pasta" via Canyon Cafe. It consists of delicate angel hair pasta, sauteed shrimp, mushrooms, and jalapeno, all tossed in a rich jalapeno cream sauce, and topped with a little Parmesan and a generous spoonful of pico de gallo! Yum! You won't believe how fabulous it is! After all, life is short. Make something amazing. (Then eat it!)


Desert Fire Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Jalapeno Cream Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon butter, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh jalapeno
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 pinch cayenne, or more to taste

For the Pasta
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
3/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno
8 ounces angel hair pasta
1 1/2 cups Jalapeno Cream Sauce
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup pico de gallo

Directions:
For the Jalapeno Cream Sauce
To make the roux, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, whisk in the flour, set aside.

Saute onion, jalapeno, and garlic in the remaining 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat until the onion is translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Do not let the vegetables brown. Stir in the cream, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and whisk in the roux. Continue to simmer until thickened. Set aside over very low heat while making the pasta.

For the Pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While the water comes to a boil, heat the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, mushrooms, and jalapeno, and cook just until the shrimp are opaque. Add the jalapeno cream sauce. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Drain and add to the shrimp mixture, tossing well to combine. Add the 1/4 cup pasta water to help loosen the sauce. Transfer the pasta to individual pasta bowls and top each with 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan, a sprinkle of parsley, and a generous spoonful of pico de gallo. Serve immediately!

Burning Man Tomato! Ha! Ha!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Nothing is Impossible

The Loretto Chapel Staircase
(The funny thing is that my camera died during vacation
and this is the only picture that came out clear! Kind of weird!)
I recently took a wonderful trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, specifically to visit the Loretto Chapel and its miraculous staircase. The Loretto Chapel was founded by Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy and the Sisters of Loretto who started a school and made plans to build the chapel. After raising 30,000 dollars, Bishop Lamy hired architect Antoine Mouly and his son, Projectus Mouly from Paris, France to build the chapel in the Gothic Revival-style patterned after King Louis IX's Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Construction began in 1873, complete with stained glass from the DuBois Studio in Paris. The chapel was completed in 1878 with the exception of a staircase to the choir loft, which was deemed impossible in the small space and that a ladder would be the only way to access the loft. That is until the Sisters made a novena (nine days of prayer) to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox.

Months later, the unknown carpenter completed the miraculous staircase which features two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support, made with wood not native to the area and only wooden pegs! Apparently the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. The Sisters searched for the carpenter, even placing an ad in the newspaper, to no avail. It then became legend that the carpenter was none other than St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the Sisters' prayer. A true miracle!

Just as the staircase was deemed impossible, so is the classic Mexican dessert - Chocoflan (aka, Impossible Cake). The magic of chocoflan, a combination of cayeta (goat milk caramel), flan and chocolate cake batter miraculously separate into distinct layers during baking, which is why it's also known in Spanish as "pastel imposible," or impossible cake! I've tried many recipes for this delicious dessert, but have determined that the best one is also the simplest. Instead of making the batter from scratch, this recipe utilizes store-bought cake mix and cayeta, making it simple to put together. In addition, this cake needs to be refrigerated for at least 24 hours before unmolding and serving; however, I think it tastes even better if you allow 48 hours in the fridge before unmolding and serving. So, if you are looking for a miracle, perhaps the impossible is just one cake away.


Chocoflan (aka, Impossible Cake)

Ingredients:
1 cup cajeta, divided
4 eggs
1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1, 12-ounce can evaporated milk
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package chocolate cake mix (2-layer size) (Plus whatever ingredients as directed on package.)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup cayeta in bottom of pan. Place Bundt pan in large roasting pan. Set aside.

Beat eggs, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Set aside.
Prepare cake mix as directed on package, adding remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla. Pour batter over cajeta in Bundt pan. Slowly pour flan mixture over batter. Cover pan with foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Carefully pour hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up side of Bundt pan.
Bake 1 1/2 hours or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Transfer Bundt pan from water bath to wire rack. Remove foil and cool completely.

Refrigerate at least 24 hours. (I prefer 48 hours!) Loosen cake from sides of pan. To unmold, invert pan onto a serving platter. Remove pan. Warm remaining 1/2 cup cajeta and drizzle over the top. Enjoy!
Enjoy!