Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Southwestern Lasagna?

Continuing my "Chilly Chile Menu," following the Southwest Caesar Salad, I served "Green Chile Chicken Lasagna with Goat Cheese!" Yum! If you're familiar with my site, you know that wonton wrappers make fantastic ravioli, but did you know egg roll sheets make a great lasagna? Brilliant! This sensational lasagna, layered with roasted green chiles, goat cheese, grilled chicken, and a fabulous green chile sauce, is so comforting and absolutely delicious! Although this recipe calls for a lot of chiles, it is not as spicy as you would expect. So don't be afraid! In addition, sauteed wild mushrooms would make a welcome addition layered over the goat cheese! This is just what you crave on a snowy winter night! *Don't forget to check back for dessert!


Green Chile Chicken Lasagna with Goat Cheese

Serves 6 (at least!)

Ingredients:
For the green chile sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and large dice
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
8 fresh green chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded (see Techniques) (Poblano chiles are the best choice, but anaheim or a mix of both would work as well.)
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup cilantro
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the lasagna
1 recipe green chile sauce
1 lb large egg roll sheets
8 fresh green chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded (see Techniques) (Poblano chiles are the best choice, but anaheim or a mix of both would work as well.)
1 log (6 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
1 lb Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (reserve 1/3 of the cheese for topping)
1 lb cooked chicken, diced or shredded (I cook it on my grill pan.)

Directions:
For the green chile sauce
Heat oil in a large pot and saute onions and garlic over medium heat until translucent. Add prepared green chiles and stock. Bring to a simmer and add cilantro and seasonings. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then carefully transfer to a blender jar. (Allow to cool a few minutes or you might have an explosion ) Process until very smooth. Taste and season with salt (at least 1 tsp) and pepper. Set aside.

For the lasagna
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom and up sides of a 9"x13" baking dish. Make three layers in the following order:

1st layer: double layered egg roll sheets (cut to fit or you may not have enough!), flat chiles, goat cheese, and 1/3 of the Monterey Jack cheese.



2nd layer: double layered egg roll sheets, 1 cup sauce, chicken, 1/3 Monterey Jack cheese.


3rd layer: double layered egg roll sheets, remaining sauce. (It seems like a lot of sauce, but it's okay!)

Cover with parchment paper them foil. (Can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours at this point.)

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Uncover and top with reserved cheese. Return to the oven for 10 minutes to melt cheese.

Cut into serving-size squared and serve while hot.

Recipe from Canyon Cafe: Bringing The Southwestern Experience Home.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Chilly Chile Menu

Depending on where you live, you may be blanketed in snow (like me) and have more on the way! When the temperatures drop and there is a true chill in the air, I crave chiles! So, to warm the hearts of me and my guests, I came up with this "Chilly Chile Menu for a Snowy Winter Night": 


I kicked things off with a "Southwest Caesar Salad" that is not only a fantastic take on the classic Caesar recipe, but awfully pretty as well! With the creation of the original Caesar Salad in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924 by famed restaurateur Caesar Cardini, it's no wonder that it embraces a southwestern twist so well! This salad can be served cut into wedges, as it is intended:


but also makes an impressive presentation served family style in a large bowl! 


(From my experience, the general consensus is that it is easier to eat presented in wedges!) Trust me, this simple salad which gets a kick from tabasco chile peppers tastes as good as it looks! *Don't forget to check back for the rest of this heart warming menu! 

Southwest Caesar Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the dressing
1 cup Dijon mustard (I prefer Grey Poupon!)
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 anchovies (optional and not authentic to Cardini's original recipe!)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt

For the salad
2 heads romaine lettuce
2 large tomatoes, 1/2" dice (I use cherry tomatoes in the winter because I think they have the best flavor this time of year!)
1/2 cup Cotija cheese crumbles or Parmesan shreds or strips
2 cups fried tortilla strips (see Techniques)

Directions:
For the dressing
Place dressing ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the salad
Remove the outer limp leaves from the Romaine and cut into quartered wedges lengthwise. (Keep the end intact to hold everything together!) Rinse under cold water, shake off excess water, then lay wedges on a plate in the refrigerator to chill until very cold (about 30 minutes). This crisps the Romaine.

Place each wedge on a decorative plate or large serving platter. Drizzle the dressing down each wedge, allowing some to run onto the plate. (Depending on the size of the lettuce, you may not need all of the dressing! Don't drown it! Save any remainder for another day!) Sprinkle the diced tomatoes and Cotija or Parmesan evenly over the lettuce and plate. Mound tortilla strips evenly over the center of each wedge.

Recipe from Canyon Cafe: Bringing the Southwest Experience Home.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Montezuma, Casanova, and Chocolat



Chocolate has long been recognized for it's powers with love! Aztec ruler, Montezuma, was said to have drank up to 50 "flagons" of chocolate a day to allow him to serve his many wives and lovers! Even Casanova, legendary 18th century lover, held strong beliefs in the power of chocolate! In addition to chocolate's caffeine content, it also contains PEA (phenylethylamine), which when combined with our internal stores of amphetamine heightens our sense of love! It's no wonder with chocolate's association with romance, that it would become the basis for Joanne Harris' novel Chocolat, and the charmingly romantic film adaptation Chocolat. (One of my favorites!)

This Valentine's Day, why not surprise your truelove with a decadent cup of "Vianne's Spiced Hot Chocolate?" According to Joanne Harris, this recipe from her cookbook My French Kitchen, is THE recipe from the movie! With it's combination of bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and red hot chile, it's guaranteed to excite your senses! Joanne suggests serving it in mugs topped with whipped cream, chocolate curls, or a dash of cognac or Amaretto (my favorite)! You can even make it ahead, store in the refrigerator, and reheat it after a lovely night out! What could be more romantic? Happy Valentine's Day!


Vianne's Spiced Hot Chocolate

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups milk (I use half-and-half.)
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 hot red chile, stemmed, halved, seeded
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet (70 percent) chocolate (I use Ghiradelli bittersweet chips.)
Brown sugar to taste (about 2 teaspoons, or more to taste)
Whipped cream, chocolate curls, cognac, or Amaretto, to serve

Directions:

Place the milk in a saucepan, add the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and chile, and gently bring to a shivering simmer for 1 minute. Grate the chocolate (or add the chips) and whisk it in until it melts. If you must, then add brown sugar, but do try without it. (I prefer some sugar added.) Take off the heat and allow it to infuse for 10 minutes, then remove the vanilla, cinnamon, and chile. Return to the heat and bring gently back to a simmer. (At this point, I recommend straining it to ensure it's silky smooth!) Serve in mugs topped with whipped cream, chocolate curls, or a dash of cognac or Amaretto.

Recipe from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jack-Lights and the Year of the Snake!



Chinese New Year 4711 begins on February 10, 2013! The Harbin Ice Festival is celebrating it's 29th year of incredible ice and snow sculptures to welcome the Year of the Snake! These ice sculptures have their roots in northeast China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when local peasants and fishermen made ice lanterns or "jack-lights" during the winter months. The jack-lights were made by pouring water into a bucket and allowed to almost freeze. Once partially frozen, the bucket was gently warmed so that the bucket-shaped ice could be removed. A hole would then be chiseled in the top and the remaining water poured out, creating a hollow vessel. A candle would then be inserted creating a windproof lantern! The jack-lights were placed outside their houses and used during traditional festivals. As you can see, this tradition has evolved into the mind-numbingly enormous Harbin Ice Festival, which I heard only takes two weeks to build! Wow!

In honor of the Chinese New Year, I always like to create a fun dinner for family and friends! Last year I started with Crab Dumplings with Garlic-Ginger Dipping Sauce, followed by Seared Salmon with Shiitake and Snow Pea Lo Mein, and finished with an incredible Ginger, Lemon, and Mint Granita. Absolutely delicious! This year I plan to keep things simple by serving "Soy-Marinated Flank Steak with Asian Pesto and Wasabi-Mashed Potatoes!" While not actually authentic, the flavors are Asian inspired and create a simple, flavorful, and exciting meal! This is one of my favorite recipes and is definitely a great way to cook flank steak, no matter what recipe you choose! Some fortune cookies and red envelopes filled with money is all that's needed to create a fun dinner in honor of the Year of the Snake!


Soy-Marinated Flank Steak with Asian Pesto

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
For the Flank Steak
2 1/2 pounds flank steak (don't substitute skirt steak, it's too thin for this recipe!)
2 cups soy sauce
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced or grated (I use my Microplane.)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon canola oil

For the Pesto
3 scallions, white and 3" of the green part, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
To marinate the steak
Trim any silver skin and excess fat from the flank steak. With the tip of a sharp knife, score each side of the meat. In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and canola oil. Place the steak in a large glass or ceramic dish and pour the marinade over the steak, turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Let the steak return to room temperature before grilling.


To make the pesto
In a food processor, combine the scallions, cilantro, parsley, olive oil, pine nuts, sesame oil, and garlic. Process until smooth. Stir in the sesame seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


To cook the steak
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Preheat an indoor grill pan (or a large heavy skillet) over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Remove the steak from the marinade and scrape off most of the marinade. Brush the grill pan with oil; then sear the flank steak on both sides until golden brown in color. Transfer the browned steak to a foil-lined baking sheet, and finish cooking in the oven until medium rare and an instant-read thermometer registers 135 degrees, 10-15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, covered loosely with aluminum foil, before slicing and serving. To serve, thinly slice the flank steak and place on a platter, Top with the pesto.

Wasabi-Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon wasabi powder (available at most grocers)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. As you peel and cut the potatoes, put them in a large bowl of cold water. When all the potatoes have been peeled, drain the potatoes and add them to the boiling water. Boil until completely tender, about 20 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the potatoes. Set aside.

Combine the milk and wasabi powder in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the powder.

Using a food mill or ricer, mash the potatoes into a clean pot. Stir in the wasabi milk, butter, and vinegar. Add as much of the reserved potato liquid to loosen the potatoes as needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from Weir Cooking in the City, by Joanne Weir.