Saturday, December 31, 2016

Crustacean Crush and Happy New Year!

Don't tell my husband, although I'm sure he already knows, that I have a major crush on crustaceans; specifically, crab legs! Anyone who's eaten crab legs with me knows that I can plow through them with efficient velocity! (Maybe that's why I prefer to enjoy these babies at home.) King crab is the obvious choice, but I would never turn my nose up to snow crab either. With their sweet, briny flavor and meaty texture, they are an excellent choice for any celebration, like New Year's Eve! However, I'm sure that I am not alone in buying crab legs at the last minute, frozen and without the time to let them thaw overnight. This is the kind of spontaneous purchase you make and then dread when you're not sure what to do with them. Well, I think I can help you out!

(The spoils of my most recent conquest!)

How to Buy, Reheat, and Serve Crab Legs

Purchase at least 1 pound per person.

It is recommended that crab legs be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. If you don't have time, thaw them under cold running water, which is usually what I do.

Unless you buy a live crab, the legs are already cooked. The main goal is to reheat the meat without overcooking or drying it out. Some people like to reheat them in the oven, boil them, or even reheat them in the microwave. My preference is to steam them. 

To steam them, fill a large pot big enough to hold the legs with enough water to come up about 1 1/2" from the bottom. Add half a lemon, one bay leaf, a few peppercorns, and 1/2 cup white wine. Insert a steam basket, like the cheap folding kind available at almost any grocer. If you don't have a steam basket, you can wad up some aluminum foil to hold the crab legs above the water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, then add the crab legs and cover. The crab legs should be done shortly after you begin to smell them, about 5-9 minutes total. Remove the legs with tongs and place on a serving platter. Serve immediately with necessary utensils (kitchen shears or shellfish scissors, seafood or lobster crackers, and seafood or lobster forks), clarified butter for dipping, and lemon wedges.

Clarified butter is also called drawn butter. Clarified butter is melted butter in which the milk solids have been removed. To serve 4-6 people, melt 1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks) in a small saucepan over low heat. Allow the butter to come to a boil. As it begins to "sputter," it will separate into three layers: foam on top, clear liquid in the middle (this is the clarified butter part you want), and milk solids on the bottom. When the top foam subsides, remove the pan from the heat and skim off the top foam with a spoon. Pour the butter into a measuring cup and allow it to continue to cool. When cool, gently pour the butter through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into another measuring cup, stopping short of the very bottom of the butter where the milk solids lie. You can store the clarified butter in the refrigerator until ready to reheat. Reheat in a small saucepan over low heat until returned to liquid state. (Note: I do not recommend reheating in a microwave. I have had it explode numerous times, even when set under 10 seconds. It's makes a terrible mess and you'll have to start all over.)

What to serve alongside? Take your pick: buttered new potatoes, corn on the cob, green salad, toasted bread, etc. Although, if you are a true crustacean aficionado, the answer is always, "More crab!"

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Burn Your Buche and Eat It Too!

Christmas is my favorite holiday! After all, it's the only day of the year that I can splurge with such scrumptious holiday faire such as Boeuf en Croute, Gratin Dauphinois, Chocolate Truffles au Naturel, Seven Layer Jello, and the iconic French Christmas cake "Buche de Noel!" So, why do the French celebrate Christmas with a cake that looks like a log? It actually began as a pagan tradition where the largest log possible (perhaps bearing roots and all) was wrangled inside to provide warmth and blessings on the winter solstice (the longest night of the year). As it burned, the log was pushed deeper and deeper into the hearth to hopefully burn for 12 hours. When the log was finished burning, the ashes were collected for use all through the year. At the time there were strong beliefs that the ashes were magical! Some of the ashes were saved to spread over the fields to ensure a generous harvest, some were used to protect the house from lightning during strong storms, and some were kept to ward off evil!
Booze and fire! What could go wrong?
When Christianity emerged, the Yule log ritual was merged with Christmas and the custom shifted to Christmas Eve. It is rumored that it was Napoleon who spurred the invention of the cake, by outlawing open chimneys in the winter, which he believed was causing disease. Or, perhaps it was the increasing use of small coal stoves as a heat source, which began as a result of wood shortages. Another theory is that it was virtually impossible to drag logs up urban Parisian stairways, if they even had a fireplace. Whichever theory you choose to believe, The Buche de Noel's popularity began in 19th century France and remains an essential Christmas tradition to this day.

This decadent recipe for Buche de Noel is from the brilliant Jean-Christophe Novelli, former personal chef to the Rothschild family and owner of the world renowned Novelli Academy. Who better than a Frenchman to provide an authentic recipe! Don't let this cake scare you. It really is just a simple sponge roulade, filled and covered with buttercream frosting. The recipe calls for chestnut puree, which can be difficult to find in American grocers. You can just omit the chestnut puree, or you can adjust the flavors to your desire, e.g., coffee and Kahlua, almond and Amaretto, cherries and Kirsch, etc. In addition, meringue mushrooms and a snowy dusting of powdered sugar and cocoa make a spectacular presentation!


Buche de Noel

*Get out your kitchen scale! (See Gadgets.)

Ingredients:
For the Cake:
7 ounces/200 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 eggs, separated
8 ounces/225 grams castor/granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I omit.)
6 tablespoons castor/granulated sugar (for dusting tea towel)

For the Filling/Frosting:
1 lb, 5 ounces/600 grams 70% bitter chocolate (or the best quality you can find)
9 ounces/250 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 ounces/140 grams icing/powdered/confectioners sugar
2 ounces/60 grams sweetened chestnut puree (You can omit completely, or alter to your preference, see above.)
5 tablespoons whisky (or whatever you choose)

Directions:
For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a 17x11x1-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa, and salt together in a bowl, set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks and half (4 ounces) of the sugar with a whisk until doubled in volume. Add the dry ingredients and fold in. Add the vanilla and cinnamon (if using). The mixture will be very stiff. (I transfer the mixture to the largest bowl I have, so I can use my mixer for beating the egg whites.)

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Add the remaining (4 ounces) sugar and whisk until the egg whites (meringue) form stiff peaks.

Stir 1/3rd of the meringue mixture into the egg yolk/cocoa mixture to soften it. Then gently fold the rest of the meringue mixture in two stages, carefully so as to retain as much air as possible.

Spread the mixture into the lined pan and bake for 8-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Dust a tea towel with the 6 tablespoons sugar and turn the cooked sponge onto it. Carefully remove the parchment paper and quickly roll (long side to long side) the cake up into a log. Although it will seem like a lot of sugar, it makes a lovely crust on the cake. Don't worry if the cake cracks a bit as it rolls up, it will all be covered by the frosting. Set aside to cool before filling and frosting.

For the Filling/Frosting:
Melt the chocolate in double boiler. (If you don't have one, set a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. See Gadgets.)

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and 5 ounces icing sugar together. Add the chestnut puree (if using) and continue to mix to a  smooth, spreadable paste. Gradually incorporate the melted chocolate and allow to cool to room temperature.

Finishing the Cake:
When the sponge has cooled, unroll it carefully. (Again, any cracks don't matter.) Brush with half the whisky (or whatever you desire).

Spread some of the filling evenly over the sponge to within about 2 cm from each edge. Using the tea towel to assist, roll the sponge back up and brush liberally with the rest of the whisky and allow to soak in.

Trim the ends and use these to form branches by placing back onto the log. (You can use some of the buttercream to help "glue" them on.)

Use the remaining filling to generously coat the cake all over. Use the tines of a fork to give a bark effect.

Dust with powdered sugar and cocoa and decorate with meringue mushrooms. Proudly serve with a smile!

Joyeux Noel!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What's in a Name?

There is no finer roast than Beef Wellington, or is it Boeuf en Croute? This lavish dish consists of a whole beef tenderloin fillet slathered with a sublime mixture of minced mushrooms, shallots, and herbs, (and sometimes pate), a mixture known as "duxelles" in French culinary lingo, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. It makes an impressive presentation which tastes ever better than it looks! Lucky for me it graced my Christmas table!

The origins of Beef Wellington fall somewhere between fact and fiction. It is standard lore that this elegant entree was named after Arthur Wellesley, who became 1st Duke of Wellington, after defeating Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo. It is said that Wellesley had a love of "a dish of beef, truffles, mushrooms, Madeira wine, and pate cooked in pastry." Perhaps that would be something he had eaten while in France,... perhaps Boeuf en Croute? After all, duxelles were reportedly created in 17th-century France by chef Francois Pierre La Varenne and named after his employer, the Marquis d'Uxelles. In addition, wrapping an expensive piece of beef with indulgent ingredients sounds rather French to me. In fact, if Wellesley did create the rage for Boeuf en Croute, of course England would banish the French name and opt for one featuring their national hero.

Another theory is that Beef Wellington originated in Ireland, known as Steig Wellington. Steig meaning steak in Irish, and coincidentally was Wellesley's birth place. New Zealand also gets into the mix, apparently claiming to have created the dish for a civic reception. The funny thing is, there are no recipes for this dish until the 20th-century...and they appeared in America in the 1940s! In the 1960s, Beef Wellington became quite fashionable at American dinner parties thanks to Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), which included a recipe for Beef Wellington, not Boeuf en Croute. Hmmm?

Anyway, Beef Wellington may cost a fortune and appear time-consuming, but it is actually quite easy to make! I've made several different recipes over the years, and I've taken all the best components to create what I think is the best version. First, buy the best piece of beef fillet you can find. After all, it is the big ticket item and the star ingredient. In addition, save your money by not using wild or dried mushrooms, use standard cultivated button mushrooms instead. I recommend making the duxelles a day or two in advance, as I think the flavors deepen with time. Then comes the alcohol question. In my mind, it comes down to two, Cognac or Madeira? I choose Madeira. I also embrace the modern addition of a layer of prosciutto to help encase the whole shebang. Easily purchased puff pastry is the final component to create this succulent masterpiece. And finally, with a dish this extravagant, the sides should not be distracting. I serve it simply with pureed potatoes (aka., mashed potatoes) and buttered peas. It is elegant, sumptuous and guaranteed to please!


Beef Wellington (aka., Boeuf en Croute)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the Beef
1 center cut beef tenderloin, about 2 pounds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to rub on beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Kitchen twine

For the Duxelles
1 1/2 pound button mushrooms
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots
Leaves from 2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup Madeira
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the "en Croute"
12 paper thin slices prosciutto
1 pound puff pastry, thawed
Flour, for rolling out pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water, for egg wash

Directions:
For the Duxelles
Place the mushrooms and shallots in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the butter to a large saute pan over medium heat. When melted, add the mushroom/shallot mixture, thyme leaves, and bay leaf, and saute until very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes. Pour in the Madeira, bring to a boil, and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the cream and cook a few minutes more. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Beef
Tie the tenderloin in 4 places to help hold its shape while searing. Drizzle the tenderloin with olive oil and season very generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat the 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, sear the beef on all sides. Set aside to cool. When cool, remove the kitchen twine and rub all over with the Dijon mustard. Set aside.

For the "en Croute"
Lay out a long piece of plastic wrap (big enough to encase the beef) on a work surface. Lay out the prosciutto pieces, slightly overlapping, forming a rectangle big enough to encase the tenderloin.


Using a rubber spatula, cover the prosciutto evenly with the duxelles. Season the duxelles with additional salt and pepper.


Lay the tenderloin in the center of the prosciutto/duxelle rectangle.


Using the plastic wrap, pull each long side up and over the tenderloin, then close the ends.


You may have to wrap the whole package with a second piece of plastic to make sure it is secure. Place the whole package on a platter or baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so to ensure it maintains its shape.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of puff pastry to a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Place the puff pastry rectangle on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Remove the beef from the refrigerator, carefully remove the plastic and place in the center of the puff pastry rectangle.


Roll out the second piece of puff pastry, making sure it is big enough to encase the entire tenderloin generously. Brush the bottom margins of the bottom pastry sheet with the egg wash, then drape the second pastry sheet over, pressing the edges to seal well.


Trim the edges to make a 1" border. Crimp the edges with your fingers.


Refrigerate until ready to bake.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the entire surface of the pastry with egg wash and make a couple slits in the top with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the beef reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Remove from the oven and rest at least 10 minutes before serving in slices.

(Perfect! This dish is supposed to be rare!)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fungus Among Us

What's the best thing about the holidays? My adorable "Meringue Mushrooms." They are super easy and only require four ingredients: egg whites, sugar, chocolate, and cocoa powder! You use plastic sandwich bags to pipe the mushroom caps and stems, which takes a little practice, but you just get better and better as you go. The mushrooms are dusted with cocoa powder at the end, so that diminishes any imperfections. These make excellent gifts, packaged in recycled mushroom containers or in glass jars, and are the perfect companion to Buche de Noel. These go so fast, I usual make several batches throughout the holidays. They are so cute, you have to try it!


Meringue Mushrooms

Makes about 50

Ingredients:

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or chips
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Directions:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. 

In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and sugar until smooth and glossy, and soft peaks start to form, about 6-8 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a sandwich bag with about 1/2 cup of the meringue. Press the air out of the bag and seal shut. Cut one tip off the bottom of the bag and coax the meringue to that corner. Twist the bag to help hold the meringue in place. With the cut tip close to the parchment, gently squeeze out the meringue to form the mushroom cap. (Don't lift the bag up until the cap spreads out, then lift.) 


To make the stems, gently squeeze and lift, to make a sort of "kiss" shape. Make as many stems as you have caps. Dip your finger into some water, dab any excess water onto a towel, and then smooth out the tops of the caps with a gentle patting motion.  


When your baking sheet is full, place in the oven, and bake until completely dry and easily releases from the parchment. This can take anywhere from 2-3 hours, depending on the oven and humidity. If they start to brown, turn the oven temperature down. To check if they are done, try to lift one of the less attractive caps, if it releases easily, then press the bottom of the cap. If it smooshes easily, it's not done. If it's firm, it's done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet.

Now, holding one mushroom cap, gently twist the tip of a small sharp knife into the bottom of the cap. Keep twisting until you have a hole in the bottom, like drilling. Don't press too hard, or you will crack the cap. Repeat with the remaining caps.

In another sandwich bag, place the chocolate inside, do not seal the bag, and microwave 15 seconds at a time, smooshing the chocolate after each interval with your fingers, until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Allow to cool slightly. You don't want it runny. Seal the bag, cut one of the bottom tips, and squeeze a little chocolate into one of the cap holes. Insert one of the stems, point side first, into the cap. Set aside to dry. Repeat with the remaining caps and stems.

Finally, using a fine sieve, dust the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder. Admire how cute they are and pop one in your mouth. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise"

No Retro Christmas would be complete without Jello! Jello was invented by Pearle Wait in 1897 in Le Roy, New York. Wait, who was experimenting with combining a cough remedy, a laxative tea, and gelatin, came up with a fruit flavored dessert which his wife, May, named "Jell-O." Lacking the capital and expertise to market his creation, Wait sold his formula to Orator Frank Woodward, a successful medicinal manufacturer and proprietor, for $450 in 1899. After sales were slow and disheartening, Woodward sold the "blankety-blank business" for $35 to Sam Nico. In 1900, The Genesee Pure Food Company launched a very successful marketing campaign that resulted in $250,000 sales in 1902. In 1904, the Jell-O "best seller" recipes rolled off the presses with 15 million booklets distributed, and the rest is history!

At the tail end of the 19th century, the "domestic science/home economics" movement had taken hold of the Victorians, in which they became obsessed with control. The idea of a tossed salad with mixed greens made them cringe, for it was "messy"! Oh my! Instead, they preferred an "orderly presentation," in which ingredients were painstakingly separated, organized, and presented. Thus molded gelatin (Jell-O) salads were born. They put everything in gelatin, from fruit and nuts to mayonnaise and tuna! It was so prevalent, that Pulitzer Prize winning composer William Bolcom composed the novelty song "Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise" for his wife, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Bolcom based the song on his experiences playing the piano for women's clubs in his youth, after being fed absurd and unappetizing concoctions, including jello salads. Be warned: This video may induce dry heaving!



Don't worry, this fabulous recipe, which I nicked from my equally fabulous mother-in-law, for "Seven Layer Jello" is neither absurd nor unappetizing! Not only does it look like a beautiful present on your plate, it tastes light and refreshing, and is a MUST for any retro Christmas! Everyone loves it! Honestly, along with Meringue MushroomsPeppermint Bark, and Lacy Nut Cookies, I make this every year and it just wouldn't be Christmas without it! This recipe does require time to allow each layer to set, so plan accordingly! For a chic adults only gelatin dessert, see Wine Jelly with Grapes!


Seven Layer Jello

Makes one 9"x13" pan.

Ingredients:
4, 3 ounce packages Jell-O (lime, lemon, orange, and cherry)
2 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
1 pint sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups scalded milk, cooled
1 cup sugar

Directions:
Lightly oil a glass Pyrex 9"x13" pan. Dissolve the lime jello in 1 cup boiling water, stir. When dissolved add 1/2 cup cold water. Carefully pour into the oiled dish, carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

Meanwhile, bring the 2 cups of milk to boiling. Add the 1 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. 

Dissolve the 2 envelopes of Knox gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water. Let stand 2 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture to the milk/sugar mixture.

Mix the vanilla extract in 1 pint sour cream. Add to the gelatin/milk/sugar mixture. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. (I actually just whisk it very well until very smooth.) This is your "white" mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate!*

At this point, the lime jello should be set, you will know it is set when it's "sticky" to the touch. Measure 1 1/2 cups of white mixture and carefully spoon or gently ladle over the lime layer. Gently tilt the pan from side to side to spread the mixture evenly over the lime layer. Carefully place in the refrigerator to set.


Next, dissolve the lemon jello in 1 cup boiling water, stir. When dissolved add 1/2 cup cold water. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature. When the first white layer is set, carefully spoon or gently ladle the lemon layer over the white layer. Gently tilt the pan from side to side to spread the mixture evenly over the white layer. Carefully place in the refrigerator to set.

When the lemon layer is set, stir the white mixture, measure 1 1/2 cups white mixture, spoon on lemon layer, tilting as before. Refrigerate to set.

Repeat each layer as directed above, using orange, then the last 1 1/2 cups white mixture, and finally the red mixture.

When done, allow the mold to set overnight. To serve, cut into squares. To store, refrigerate covered with plastic wrap. Keeps fresh for several days.

*If you must refrigerate the white mixture and it sets up, gently reheat in microwave about 10 seconds at a time, stirring each time until smooth. Don't let it get hot or it will melt into the other layers!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thanksgiving in the Southwest - Part 5, The Grand Finale!

What would Thanksgiving be without pumpkin pie? This traditional dessert of the season originated with the early American settlers of the Plymouth Plantation, who celebrated their first harvest season in 1621 with a three day celebration along with the local native Americans. Although the pumpkins were more likely hollowed out, filled with milk, honey, and spices, and then baked in hot ashes. It wasn't until 1651, when famous French chef Francois Pierre la Varenne wrote La Vrai Cuisinier Francois, which included a recipe for pumpkin pie, did pumpkin pie take its modern form. In 1929, when the Libby McNeill and Libby Company (LM&L) purchased Dickinson and Company, canned pumpkin became readily accessible. Today, LIBBY'S is now owned by Nestle and produces 85% of the world's canned pumpkin!

For my nontraditional Southwestern Thanksgiving menu, of course traditional pumpkin pie is not on the menu. Gasp! Instead, a decadent pumpkin creme brulee served with fresh raspberries is the grand finale! This luscious custard is made with cream, sugar, vanilla, and eggs, and is elevated with the addition of canned pumpkin! It's an unforgettable dessert and unique alternative to traditional pumpkin pie! Bissinger's Chocolate Cinnamon Chile Cake would also be a wonderful addition! Happy Thanksgiving!


Pumpkin Creme Brulee


Serves 6

Ingredients:
For the Custard
1/2 vanilla bean, split
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 cup pumpkin (LIBBYS of course!)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Topping
1/2 cup sugar
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise. 

Heat cream, sugar, and vanilla bean until hot, but not boiling to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. 

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks, pumpkin, and vanilla extract until smooth. Strain out vanilla bean from cream mixture. Reserve bean and scrape out seeds. Add seeds back to cream mixture and stir to incorporate. 

Temper the egg yolks by adding just a little of the hot cream mixture to equalize the temperature. This will keep the eggs from "scrambling" when the rest of the hot mixture is added. Then add the rest of the cream and mix well. 

Pour into 6 small ramekins. Place the ramekins in a bain marie (a 2-inch high roasting pan filled halfway up with hot water). 

Bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes until firm, but still a little wiggly in the center. (It took mine a few minutes more). Remove from water and chill 4 hours or preferably overnight. 

Sprinkle sugar onto the tops and using a torch or broiler, quickly brown to caramelize sugar. Garnish with a few raspberries and serve immediately.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving in the Southwest - Part 4

As part of my Southwestern Thanksgiving menu, these "Smashed Candied Sweet Potatoes" make a colorful substitution for the traditional mashed potatoes. Unusual additions like chile powder and red wine vinegar balance the sweetness of the honey. Not only is this a beautiful side dish, it is interesting and addictive! It's almost like dessert! If this fabulous recipe doesn't appeal to you, another option would be Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes.


Smashed Candied Sweet Potatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients:
5 large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
1 cup honey
2 tablespoons Guajillo or New Mexican red chile powder
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast potatoes until tender, about 45 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle. Cut in half and scoop insides into a large bowl. Discard the skins. Smash, mixing in remaining ingredients. Place in a serving dish and return to oven to reheat until hot. Serve hot.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving in the Southwest - Part 3

I love it when cranberries come into season! Not only are they a must with your Thanksgiving turkey, they make beautiful displays in hurricane lanterns with candles. One of my favorite brunch recipes is my Cranberry Pear Coffee Cake, as well as this exciting "Cranberry-Jalapeno Chutney." This recipe utilizes jalapenos for a touch of heat, golden raisins for added sweetness, crystallized ginger for zing, and a splash of lime juice to counteract the sugar. If you are afraid of the jalapenos, just remove the seeds. It is the perfect addition to my Southwestern Thanksgiving menu, alongside Stuffed Turkey Rolls with Poblano Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing and Pecan Mole Sauce. Easy, delicious, and beautiful!



Cranberry-Jalapeno Chutney

Serves 6

Ingredients:
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, roughly chopped
2 fresh jalapenos, thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until cranberries are tender and chutney has thickened. Taste; if too tart, add more sugar. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve as a garnish for the Stuffed Turkey Rolls. This is also great served with pork tenderloin or roasted turkey.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanksgiving in the Southwest - Part 2, and the Disappearing Table!

It's no secret that my mother was a terrible cook! Nor did she cook often. In fact, I only remember one Thanksgiving that she attempted to make herself. It was a small affair because my father, who was Chief of Surgery, always worked on Thanksgiving so he could spend Christmas at home. I remember sitting with my brother and sister at our formal dining table from Italy, which consisted of a cast iron base and an inch thick beveled glass top. While we sat there horsing around, my mother brought in the piping hot turkey in its roasting pan, sat it on the corner of the table, and promptly returned to the kitchen to get the remaining dishes. One minute later, the entire corner of the table cracked and fell to the ground, turkey and all! My siblings and I sat there wide-eyed, not knowing her reaction, and didn't mutter a peep. When she returned and saw that part of the table had disappeared along with the turkey, she said, "I always hated that table. Your father has terrible taste." Needless to say, after their divorce a few years later, she left the table when we moved....and that darn glass corner was still sitting there, just where it had fell! 

Moral of the story? Besides not placing a hot roasting pan directly on a glass table, sometimes roasting an entire turkey is more trouble than it's worth! So as part of my Southwestern Thanksgiving menu, try this unforgettably delicious recipe for "Stuffed Turkey Rolls with Poblano Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing and Pecan Mole Sauce." Instead of dealing with an entire turkey, turkey tenderloins are marinated in a delicious white wine-Dijon marinade, rolled around a fantastic chorizo-poblano stuffing, and served with a simple yet delicious pecan mole sauce. The turkey needs to be marinated 2 days ahead, filled and rolled 1 day ahead, making it convenient and hands-off on Thanksgiving day. In addition, the pecan mole sauce can also be made days ahead so you can enjoy the holiday with family and friends! I promise you will love it!


Stuffed Turkey Rolls with Poblano Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing and Pecan Mole Sauce

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for Turkey Rolls:
4 turkey tenderloins

For the Marinade:
1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt 
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Mustang Spice* (*1 teaspoon Guajillo chile powder, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup chicken stock

1 recipe Poblano Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing (see below)
1 recipe Pecan Mole Sauce (see below)

Directions for Turkey Rolls:
*Two days before cooking:
Remove tendon from tenderloins, splitting in two. Butterfly each piece open and pound slightly to flatten and even out thickness.

Mix wine, mustard, seasonings and oil in a freezer zipper-close plastic bag and add tenderloin fillets. Marinate for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight. (Overnight is preferred.)

*One day before cooking:
Remove from the marinade and discard bag. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and lay out 4 approximately 12-inch pieces of kitchen twine on top of the plastic wrap. 



Next nestle 4 of the tenderloin fillets next to each other and top with half of the Poblano Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing. (If you can't get all the stuffing in the turkey rolls, reserve the remainder and refrigerate until time of baking.)


Using the plastic wrap to help, roll and tie the tenderloins together. Tighten the plastic wrap around the turkey roll, twist ends and fold under. Repeat with the remainder of turkey and stuffing, making two rolls. Refrigerate overnight.



*Time to cook:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Carefully remove plastic wrap and discard. Lay turkey rolls seam-side down in a buttered baking dish. Add any leftover stuffing to the ends of the rolls. (At this point, I recommend inserting an oven-safe meat thermometer. See Gadgets.) Pour in 1 cup of stock and cover with lid or foil.


Bake for approximately 1-1 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving with pecan mole sauce (recipe follows). I promise you will love it!


Poblano Cornbread-Chorizo Stuffing

Ingredients:
1, 9"x9" pan cornbread, crumbled (I baked 1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix and it was just the right amount.)
1/2 teaspoon each dried sage, thyme, oregano, and cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced (See Techniques for more information, if needed.)
1/2 stick butter
1 cup red onions, diced
1 cup celery, sliced
14 ounce Mexican chorizo, casing removed, cooked, and well drained
3 eggs
1 cup chicken stock (or more as necessary)

Directions:
Crumble cornbread into a large bowl. Add herbs, poblano, and spices. Heat butter over medium heat and saute the onions and celery until translucent. Add to cornbread. Mix well. Add enough stock to moisten. Add drained chorizo and mix in well. Beat eggs and add to stuffing. Use to stuff turkey rolls, or to use as a casserole, bake in a pan about 25 minutes at 350 degrees.


Pecan Mole Sauce

Ingredients:
2 Ancho chiles (Ancho chiles are dried poblano chiles, available at most well-stocked grocers, Mexican grocers,or online.)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 roma tomatoes
1 cup toasted pecans
2 slices stale white bread, torn into pieces
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions:
Soak Ancho chiles in warm water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate. Drain and remove stems.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic for approximately 8 minutes or until browned and caramelized. Set aside.

Broil or roast tomatoes until the skins are blackened and slightly softened. Peel when cool enough to handle and discard the skins.

Place the tomatoes, pecans, onions and garlic, bread, Anchos and 1 cup of the chicken stock in a blender. Process until smooth.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the puree from the blender and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook stirring occasionally until thickened, about 1 hour. Strain if a smoother sauce is desired and serve.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thanksgiving in the Southwest - Part 1

Last Thanksgiving, the thought of making my traditional Thanksgiving menu seemed unexciting and filled me with a sense of dread. In addition, with house guests and many meals needing to be made, filling my fridge space with an entire turkey seemed inconvenient and counterproductive. Instead, I threw caution to the wind and made an entire Southwestern Thanksgiving menu courtesy of Canyon Cafe: Bringing the Southwest Experience Home. (One of my favorite cookbooks ever!)

This incredibly unforgettable menu is as follows:

My guests and I were so enchanted by the menu that I am doing it again this year (minus the green bean salad)! Check back for the rest of these wonderful recipes for a Thanksgiving that is anything but boring!



Sunburst Squash Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, diced
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1 1/2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons butter
Your favorite green and red bottle hot sauces (I use El Yucateco brand.)

Directions:
Heat the oil in a soup pot and saute onions until translucent. Do not brown, Add squash cubes and spices, toss to coat. Add stock, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook just until tender. Strain and reserve stock.

In a food processor or with a hand mixer, puree soup with enough stock to make a medium-thick soup. Return to soup pot. Add cream and stir to heat well. Add butter and adjust seasonings if necessary. Keep on low-do not allow to boil from this point. If it gets too hot the soup may separate.

Serve dotted with your favorite green and red bottled hot sauces pulled out from the center to form a sunburst.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pan de Muertos

Halloween is over. Now what? Let me take you to Mexico, for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. In Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 (for children and infants) and November 2 (for adults), to honor and celebrate the lives of the dead. These dates correspond to the Catholic, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, brought to Mexico by the Spaniards. However, Day of the Dead has been celebrated for centuries, all the way back to the Aztecs, when it was celebrated for the entire month of August. Day of the Dead is a time to remember the dead, by cleaning their grave sites, adding flowers (particularly marigolds), gathering pictures, favorite foods and drinks of the deceased, and by eating sugar skulls and Pan de Muertos or Bread of the Dead. It may sound morbid, but it isn't. After all, wouldn't it be nice to know that you wouldn't be forgotten?

In honor of the tradition of Day of the Dead, I'm offering an authentic recipe for Pan de Muertos or Bread of the Dead. It is an exotic yeast bread, flavored with a hint of anise, sugar, milk, and eggs. Sometimes other flavors are added, like cinnamon and orange, but it is it's shape that makes it distinctive. Pan de Muertos is traditionally decorated with sugar, two "bone-shaped" pieces of dough, and topped with a skull or tear shape to represent sorrow. Something like this:


Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)

Serves 14-16

Ingredients:

For the dough
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon anise seed
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons orange zest

For the glaze
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons colored or white sugar

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the milk and butter until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the warm water.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed, and sugar, blending well. Stir in the warm milk mixture, eggs, and orange zest, mixing until well blended. Slowly add flour, 1 cup at a time to create the dough. Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punch the dough down, removing 1 fistful of the dough and set that aside. Take the larger portion of dough and place it on a baking sheet, shaping it into a round dome.

Using the dough you had set aside, shape two small, long bone shapes to be placed on top the dome. Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to double in size, about 1 hour. Bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire rack to cool slightly.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together the 1/4 cup of white sugar, orange juice, and orange zest, stirring until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and brush over the warm bread. Sprinkle with colored or white sugar. 

Recipe adapted from Texas Cooking Online.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Singing Canaries and Beastly Dogs?

When I first found this recipe for "Pollo Con Migas y Limon (Chicken with Bread Bits and Lemon)," from Penelope Casas, a well respected authority of Spanish cuisine, I saw that it was a traditional recipe from the Canary Islands. This immediately grabbed my attention! After all, the original founders of San Antonio, Texas (one of my most beloved cities, for more see Remember the Alamo!) were transported from Spain's Canary Islands in 1731, to join the existing military/mission community and populate the province of Texas. At the time, low prices in the sugar market caused a severe recession to the islands' sugar-based economy. The decline was caused by successful sugar production in Spain's American territories. It sucks when a government ruins their own economy!

Anyway, although people correctly associate the Canary Islands with canary birds (which were originally brownish green when found on the islands and highly prized for their beautiful singing), the Canary Islands were actually named for their infestation of particularly large and vicious dogs, from the Latin word "canis" meaning dog. Dogs are even present on the Canary Islands Coat of Arms!
So, the islands were named after the beastly dogs, and the birds were named after the islands. Got it?

While this recipe calls for a larger bird, specifically chicken, the addition of ham, onions, and a little white wine makes a very fine dish indeed! Fried bread bits (known as migas and traditional in Spanish cuisine) are perfect to soak up the wonderful flavors of the sauce! Chopped parsley and a touch of lemon brightens the flavors and balances this savory dish! Although this isn't the most beautiful entree to grace your table, no one will care when they taste it! It makes a surprisingly wonderful meal that you will be proud to serve family and friends! I like to serve it with oven roasted potatoes tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a generous pinch of paprika! Yum! What to drink? A Spanish wine, of course!


Pollo Con Migas y Limon (Chicken with Bread Bits and Lemon)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup bread without crusts, torn or cut roughly into 1/2" pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1, 3-3 1/2 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces (Chicken thighs also work well.)
Salt
Flour for dusting
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped Spanish mountain cured ham, prosciutto (which is what I used and was able to find already diced), or capicollo (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
1/2 lemon, in thin slices
Minced flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions:

Place the bread pieces on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons olive oil and bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 5 minutes. (It took about 10 minutes in my oven.)

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt, then dust them with flour. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow casserole or large saute pan and brown the chicken on all sides. When the chicken pieces are nicely browned, set aside on a large plate. To the hot casserole or pan, add the onion and ham and saute until the onion has turned translucent. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the wine and broth and scatter in the lemon slices. 


Bring to a boil, then transfer to a 350 degree oven and cook, uncovered, 45 minutes, adding more broth if necessary. (I added an additional 1/2 cup broth during the cooking time.) When ready to serve, sprinkle with the bread pieces and parsley.

Recipe adapted from iDelicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain, by Penelope Casas.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mexican Pasta?

I am happy to report that I am feeling better, and was actually hungry for lunch! Because I've been under the weather, I really wanted to make myself something comforting and from my childhood, specifically, "Sopa de Fideos!" Sopa de Fideos is a type of "Sopa Seca," meaning dry soup, made with fideo pasta and very popular in Texas. Fideo is a type of Mexican pasta much like vermicelli, which can be substituted easily. In Mexico, this dish is typically served as a second course following a soup course, then a meat course, then concluded with dessert. However, this is a favorite lunch or snack for kids and adults alike.

This recipe reminds me of a passage I read from Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl: An Encyclopedia, which writes, "Because so few cookbooks were published in Spain - John C. Super maintains that there were probably no more than eight cookbooks published in Spain in the first 350 years after the printing press was invented - the transmission of cooking knowledge from person to person was vitally important for the households, palaces, and ecclesiastical institutions of colonial Mexico. Diego Granado's cookbook, Libro del arte de cocina, published in 1614, was one of the first cookbooks used in Mexican kitchens. This book contained a large number of Italian-inspired recipes and thus Italian food influenced Mexican cooking and dining far more than French food did."

This delicious homey dish pays homage to Italian ingredients and illustrates how two food cultures based on very similar ingredients can have such contrasting results. These differences are the consequence of very different culinary techniques, and of course, the use of local herbs and spices. For instance, in Sopa de Fideos, the pasta is fried in oil like a pilaf, then cooked in broth until "dry," as opposed to simply boiling the pasta, as they would in Italy. In addition, with the omission of basil, for instance, cilantro proudly takes over. And finally, as there are endless recipes for Sopa de Fideos, some calling for the addition of diced potatoes, shredded meat, chorizo, and/or chiles, feel free to try it and then make it your own. To truly appreciate this comforting classic, I insist that you garnish it with crema (creme fraiche would be a good substitute), avocado slices, cotija cheese (parmesan would be a substitute), and a sprinkle of cilantro!


Sopa de Fideos

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons canola oil
5 ounces fideo (like La Moderna) or vermicelli (if using vermicelli, break the strands in thirds)
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock (If I don't have home-made, I use "Better Than Bouillon" Reduced Sodium Chicken Base)
4 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste

For garnish: Mexican crema, avocado slices, crumbled cotija cheese, chopped cilantro

Directions:

Heat the oil over medium heat until shimmery. Add the fideo or vermicelli and stir to coat the pasta with the oil.


Continue to stir and turn over the pasta until medium brown, being careful not to let it burn. Add the tomato, onion, and garlic, and continue to stir for a couple minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.


Pour in the stock and tomato sauce. Stir in the salt, cumin, and chili powder.


Cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.


Serve warm, garnished with crema, avocado, cotija, and cilantro.

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!