Thursday, May 23, 2013

No Pinquitos? No Problem!

DContinuing my "Santa Maria Style BBQ Menu," perfect for Memorial Day weekend, the classic accompaniment to a Santa Maria Grilled Tri-Tip, besides french bread, salsa, macaroni and cheese, green salad, and a strawberry dessert, is pinquito beans. Pinquito beans are very small pink beans that thrive in the fertile soil of the Santa Maria valley. In fact, it's the only place that pinquitos are grown commercially. Unfortunately, I don't have any. However, I do have family in the area and I will be looking for a package any day now! (Hint, Hint!)

So no pinquitos? No problem! I think everyone is able to locate some humble pinto beans. This recipe for "Pinto Bean Salad" is a zesty variation of the classic accompaniments of pinquitos and salsa, all in one! It has all the flavors I love, onion, cilantro, chiles, tomatoes, and lime! Although it isn't traditional, it's fresh, fast, and downright delicious! 


Pinto Bean Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1, 15 ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup minced yellow onion
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (not the  junk in a bottle!)
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper sauce, or other hot sauce, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a serving bowl, combine the ingredients and mix well. Told you it was fast!

Serve warmed or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Too Busy to Cook?

The end of school is here, and I've been swamped with school projects, essay reviews, award ceremonies, and music concerts, just to name a few! It's enough to tempt you into making some pre-packaged dinner "to save time!" However, I don't care what you buy, it won't taste nearly as good as something made from scratch! I've got the recipe for you! How about "Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms, Sherry, and Cream?" Oh my! This recipe takes less than 30 minutes, requires only one pan, and is rich and satisfying! It's surprisingly easy, yet elegant enough for company! 

I like to serve this wonderful dish with harticot verts or asparagus and a nice crusty baguette! You'll want that bread to mop up the ethereal sauce! My only suggestion to guarantee success is to go to your butcher and hand-pick each chicken breast of approximately the same size. This ensures that the chicken will cook uniformly, which is key. I can't think of a better dish to soothe your soul and forget about the stresses of your day! (A little white wine wouldn't hurt either!)  Who knew "fast food" could taste this good!


Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms, Sherry, and Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 chicken breasts, approximately the same size
1 large shallot, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry (Not the cooking wine junk, the real stuff!)
1/2-3/4 cup fresh heavy cream, depending on how saucy you want it
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

Place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound the thickest part of the breast with a meat mallet or heavy pan. (Just a few whacks, your not making a paillard! This guarantees even cooking.) Season each chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan  over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken breasts and saute on one side until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken breasts over and continue to cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes. (If you want, you can cut a small slit in the underside of the thickest part of the breast to check for doneness.) When chicken is just cooked, remove from the pan and place on a plate, cover with foil to keep warm.

To the pan, add the mushrooms and shallot. Season with salt and pepper and saute, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms release their liquid and start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry to deglaze and raise the heat. Continue to cook until the sherry is reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes.


Add the cream, stir and continue to simmer a few minutes longer to reach sauce consistency, about 2-3 minutes. 

Taste the sauce and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. (It should be perfect already!)

To serve, place one chicken breast on each plate, divide the sauce evenly, and garnish with the parsley. How chic! You'll love it!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Elusive Morel


Morel mushrooms, with their creepy brainy appearance and hollow stems, are perhaps one of the strangest yet delicious fungi around! These glorious shrooms are only available for a very limited time in the spring. Some say "when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear" or "when you can smell lilac in the air," it is time to start hunting! Morel hunting is serious business to "shroomers" everywhere, not to mention quite lucrative! Lucky for me, my husband hooked me up with a pound of these fabulous fungi from a local shroomer friend, who sold his remaining bounty for $25/lb to one of the best restaurants in town. (You think that's high? I've seen them priced at $50/lb!) This brought on the thought of myself going morel hunting, hmm? I'm a Geologist after all and I'm not afraid of getting dirty...except, I wouldn't sell any of them...plus, they are loaded with bugs making them difficult to clean properly...and then there's the ticks... On second thought, perhaps $25/lb isn't so bad!

One of the most common morel mushroom preparations is to batter and fry them. Somehow, this just seemed a waste of my ephemeral beauties. I decided instead to go all out and make "Grilled Peppered Beef Tenderloin with a Morel Mushroom Cabernet Sauce and Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes!" This recipe comes from Annie Gunn's, a fabulous steakhouse in St. Louis, Missouri. It is also worth noting that Annie Gunn's Chef Lou Rook has recently published his first cookbook called Rook Cooks: Simplicity at its finest. I haven't got my hands on it yet, but it's on my radar! Anyway, so after completely blowing my weekly grocery budget with $25 for my morels, a small fortune for the very best, highest quality, thickest fillets I could find, oh yeah, and a bottle of Cabernet, I realized we might be eating quite frugally for the rest of the week! Was it worth it? Absolutely! It was outstanding! I couldn't think of a better way to use my marvelous morels! Note: Due to endless rain in my area, I wasn't able to grill the fillets, rather cooked them by searing and finishing in the oven. It's a great technique! See Suave Poivre!


Grilled Peppered Beef Tenderloin with a Morel Mushroom Cabernet Sauce and Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the tenderloin
4, 10 ounce tenderloin fillets
3 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

For the morel mushroom sauce
2 ounces pure olive oil
16 ounces (1 lb) morel mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces Cabernet Sauvignon
6 ounces brown veal stock (or in a pinch, you could use beef stock)
2 tablespoon fresh thyme
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

For the potatoes
2 pounds peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 pound unsalted butter (That is an inconceivable amount! I couldn't do it, I added 1/4 pound butter and extra cream to desired consistency)
Salt and pepper (I used white pepper.)

Directions:
For the tenderloin
Roll the fillet in salt and pepper. Massage meat with olive oil. Grill to desired degree of doneness.


For the morel mushroom sauce
In a skillet with oil, saute mushrooms until tender. Add garlic and allow to brown lightly. Deglaze skillet with Cabernet and reduce by 3/4. Add veal stock and reduce by half. Add thyme and finish with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

For the potatoes
Place potatoes in a stockpot with lukewarm water to cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and skim the foam off the top. Cook until tender.

In a saucepot, heat cream and butter while potatoes are cooking. Drain water from potatoes and put through a sieve, add butter and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Whip vigorously.

Serve fillet with mushroom sauce and whipped potatoes.

Absolutely Fabulous!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Get Kinky!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!



Check out my new favorite Mexican band "Kinky" from Monterrey! Their music is the perfect addition to any Cinco de Mayo fiesta! But wait! There's more! Why not pick up some Kinky Liqueur?


It's "a naughty fusion of super premium vodka distilled 5 times with succulent mango, blood orange liqueur and passion fruit." Not only is the pretty pink color alluring, add some tequila and lime, and you've got a fun and festive "Kinky Rita!" Salud!


Kinky Rita

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

2 ounces Kinky liqueur
1 ounce Calende Silver Tequila
Splash of lime or pineapple juice 

Directions:

Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a glass with ice and garnish with a wedge of lime.

Recipe courtesy of Crosby Lake Spirits Co.