Sunday, April 15, 2018

Lost Your Mojo?

"Mojo" is an interesting word. It can mean different things to different people. It can mean a magic spell, hex, or charm. It can refer to a magical charm bag used in hoodoo (not be be confused with voodoo) which originated in the Mississippi Delta area by African-Americans. It can also refer to someone's sex appeal, or lack thereof. However, mojo is a sauce consisting primarily of olive oil, salt, garlic, and other spices that originated in the Canary Islands. (For more on Canary Island cuisine, see Singing Canaries and Beastly Dogs?) But in Cuba and other islands of the Caribbean, where large Canarian emigration occurred, it is a sauce made with garlic, olive oil, and a citrus juice. It is typically used as a marinade or dip.

What do I do when I lose my mojo? I make Rick Bayless's "Garlicky Linguine with Seared Shrimp, Chipotle, and Queso Anejo!" It's like a Mexican shrimp scampi or Spaghetti Aglio e Olio and it is fabulous! You will need to make a batch of Rick's "Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo," which will require approximately an hour of baking, but once you have that you can store it in the refrigerator for up to three months. (Just make sure the garlic is always covered with some olive oil.) As long as you have your mojo, this recipe takes mere minutes to complete! You've got to try it! I like to serve it with a simple salad, plenty of crusty bread, and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.


Garlicky Linguine with Seared Shrimp, Chipotle, and Queso Anejo

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
For the Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo (FYI: You can make half a batch, if you prefer, and still have plenty for this recipe!)
4 large heads of garlic
2 cups fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (Not the junk in a bottle!)

For the Shrimp and Pasta
2/3 cup Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo (stir before measuring)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt
1-3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeded and finely chopped (I use 3!)
1 pound dried linguine
2-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped watercress, parsley, or cilantro (I use parsley.)
3/4 cup grated Mexican queso anejo, Parmesan, or Romano (I use cotija cheese, which is like Mexican Parmesan and is easier for me to locate.)

Directions:
For the Mojo
Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Break the heads of garlic apart, then mash each clove with the side of a knife to release the clove from the papery skin. Stir together the garlic, oil, and salt in an 8x8-inch pan (make sure all the garlic is submerged), slide it into the oven and bake until the garlic is soft and lightly brown, about 45-55 minutes. Add the lime juice and return to the oven for 20 minutes for the garlic to absorb the lime and turn golden brown.

Using an old-fashioned potato masher or fork, mash the garlic into a coarse puree. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth storage container and refrigerate it until you're ready to enjoy some deliciousness. It will keep in the refrigerator for up the three months as long as there's enough oil to keep the garlic covered.


For the Shrimp and Pasta
Fill a large (6-8 quart) pot about 2/3 full of water. Add 2 tablespoons salt, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, spoon 2 tablespoons of the oil from the mojo into a very large (12-inch) skillet. (I use my non-stick one, see Gadgets.) Set over medium-high heat. Pat the shrimp dry, sprinkle with salt and, when the oil is hot and looks shimmery, lay them in the skillet. Cook until the shrimp just lose their transclucency in the center, about 1 minute per side. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped chiles and the rest of the mojo.

Slide the pasta into the boiling water, stir, then let boil until al dente according to package directions.


Remove 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then pour the pasta into a colander set in a sink. Return the pasta and the 1/2 cup water to the pot. Scrape in the shrimp mixture, sprinkle with the chopped watercress, parsley, or cilantro, toss together and divide among warm plates. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve without hesitation.

Monday, April 9, 2018

House of Tiles?... and What do the Swiss have to do with Enchiladas?


Casa de los Azulejos or "House of Tiles" is an 18th century palace located in the heart of Mexico City. The palace was built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba in honor of his marriage to Graciana Suarez Peredo. A later renovation added the distinctive Puebla tile to the facade, giving the palace it's name. The palace passed hands a few times, used as a private residence, a jockey club, a women's clothing store, and was occupied by the army during the Mexican Revolution. In 1917, brothers, Frank and Walter Sanborn, purchased the property to expand their drugstore and to open it's flagship restaurant, "Sanborns." In 1931, the palace was declared a national monument. Click here for an awesome look inside! (The music's fun, too!)

Sanborns is a fabulous place to visit and grab a bite to eat. In fact, this is the birthplace of their signature dish, "Enchiladas Suizas." Enchiladas Suizas literally translates to "Swiss Enchiladas." Why? Well, in 1922, Mexican President Alvaro Obregon invited fleeing Mennonites, mainly from Swiss and German roots, to settle in the northern regions of the country. In addition to cheap land and freedom from taxation for 100 years, the Mennonites agreed to supply cheese and dairy products to the region. Later that year, a whopping 20,000 Mennonites arrived and began making their cheese, known as queso menonita, which is now known as Chihuahua cheese! The current population is estimated to be about 80,000, and makes 80% of the region's cheese and 70% of its dairy products!

Enchiladas Suizas are ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! These chicken enchiladas, smothered in a green chile cream sauce and topped with melty cheese, are my absolute favorite! The name is a tribute to the Swiss cheesemakers who made it all possible!


Enchiladas Suizas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the sauce
1 pound (6-8) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 medium white onion, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 serrano chiles or 2 jalapenos, stemmed
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup Mexican crema, creme fraiche, or heavy cream
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the enchiladas
4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded cheese, Chihuahua or Monterey Jack, halved
12 corn tortillas
1/2 cup canola oil
Sliced white onion, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Directions:

For the sauce
Roast the tomatillos, sliced onion, peeled garlic, and chiles on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet, 4-inches below a hot broiler until the tomatillos are soft and blotchy black on one side, 4-5 minutes. Turn everything over and roast the other side.


Scrape the tomatillo mixture into a blender or food processor.


Process to a smooth puree. Heat the 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a medium-large (4-5 quart) pot over medium high. When the oil is hot enough to make a drop of puree sizzle, add the puree all at once. Stir nearly constantly for several minutes until darker and thicker. Add the broth and the crema, reduce the heat to medium low, partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.


When done, if the sauce has thickened beyond the consistency of a light cream soup, stir in a little more broth (or water). Taste and season with the salt. Set aside.

For the enchiladas
In a large bowl, mix the chicken, onion, and 1 cup of the cheese. Season with the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1/2 cup canola oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Using tongs, cook 1 tortilla until pliable, about 20 seconds per side. (Don't fry them!) Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.


Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a 13x9x2" baking dish. Making one at a time, spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla. Roll up tortilla and arrange seam side down in baking dish.



When all the enchiladas are nestled in neatly, cover with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake the enchiladas until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Garnish with the sliced onion and cilantro. Serve immediately. You're going to LOVE it!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easy Easter Lamb - Just Throw it on the Bahbie!

Lamb is not commonly eaten in the US. It is less than 1% of the total meat consumed per person, per year. This is due to the fact that lamb is not always readily available in US markets, and very expensive compared to other protein choices. In addition, I know many people who have never even tasted lamb or others who say they don't like the flavor. That's too bad. After all, lamb makes a stunning centerpiece to any Easter table. So, for those of you who are willing to give it a try, I have the perfect recipe for you!

This recipe for "Grilled Leg of Lamb with Rosemary, Garlic, and Mustard," from the April 2010 issue of Bon Appetit, is truly special. The leg of lamb is butterflied, studded with garlic, and marinated overnight in an effortless mixture of whole grain Dijon mustard, olive oil, white wine, rosemary, and lemon. The lamb is then grilled over direct heat for approximately 17 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. (You'll need a reliable meat thermometer, see Gadgets.) Not only does this free up your oven, grilling the lamb creates a delicious mustardy crust with a flavorful and moist interior that is not gamey in the least! You will convert any non-lamb-lover with this recipe! I like to serve it with "Tuscan Tomato, Basil, and Mint Vinaigrette" that compliments it nicely. This vinaigrette is one of my personal favorites that I have been making for years. It is phenomenal with lamb and also delicious with chicken and fish. And finally, a nice bottle of Syrah is the perfect accompaniment with grilled lamb.


Grilled Leg of Lamb with Rosemary, Garlic, and Mustard

Serves 10-12 (If you want to serve less, use a 3-4 lb boneless leg of lamb instead.)

Ingredients:
1 well-trimmed 6-lb boneless leg of lamb, butterflied to even 2" thickness (I have found that one cut is all that is needed to butterfly a boneless leg of lamb. Easy!)
8 garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Nonstick vegetable oil spray (for the grill)
Fresh rosemary sprigs and fresh Italian parsley sprigs (for garnish)

Directions:
Open lamb like book on work surface. Using tip of small knife, make 1/2"-deep slits all over lamb. Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Insert garlic slices into slits in lamb.


Combine remaining 4 garlic cloves, mustard, olive oil, white wine, rosemary, and lemon juice in processor. Blend until coarse puree forms. Spread underside of lamb with half of puree. Place lamb, seasoned side down, in 15x10x2" glass baking dish. Spread remaining puree over top of lamb. Cover lamb with plastic wrap and chill overnight.


Let lamb stand at room temperature 2 hours. Coat grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove lamb from marinade and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill lamb to desired doneness, about 17 minutes per side, or until an internal temperature in the thickest part reaches 130 degrees. Transfer lamb to cutting board; let rest at least 10 minutes.

Thinly slice lamb against grain. Overlap slices on platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs. Enjoy!


Tuscan Tomato, Basil, and Mint Vinaigrette

Serves 6-10 or approximately 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 2/3 cup chopped/seeded plum tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Whisk all ingredients, except for the tomatoes. Stir in the tomatoes and season with pepper to taste. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Mmmm! I wouldn't serve lamb without it!