Friday, January 27, 2012

Salsa Chicken Enchiladas

Salsa Chicken Enchiladas, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
One might think that after 10 years working in a mexican restaurant...and then suddenly...not, I might be over mexican food, perhaps even a little bitter about it. I'm not. I've always loved it and always will.
What I have recently gotten into is roasting chickens. I roast a chicken almost once a week. Porque? you may ask, though anyone who's done it knows that the humble chicken just keeps on giving.
I decided to venture off the usual chicken pot pie this time whilst pondering the future of my tupperware container of shredded dark meat. I'm a white meat gal. I just can't knaw into a thigh and leg, there are too many weird things in there, best it goes into stock. I shred off what meat I can identify and put it to a greater purpose. Chicken pot pies never fail me, I decided that my goal this time was to do something that involved the tortilla, designated by my Fresh and Easy clearance purchases the other day.
What I ended up with was a salsa chicken that could go into a quesadilla, enchilada, taco or omelette. The thing that made this salsa chicken stand out was toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds, then crushing them with a mortar with pestle. It gets added to the garlic, shallots and re-hydrated ancho chiles sauteing in olive oil. Then I added caramelized onions and roasted peppers before adding a can of crushed tomatoes. Add the chicken, bring it all to a simmer and then salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle in some chopped cilantro (I use the leaves and the stems which have a lot of great flavor) and done.
Muy bueno.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Game Day Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I've been baking chocolate chip cookies for-EVER. Even longer than I've been a 49er Faithful and that's been a loooonnnnng time. It's a big day here in San Francisco for us Niners fans. The NFC Championship game is this afternoon and I'm going to watch it at a friends house. My first offering was to make my 7-layer mexican dip, but she's planning a chili bar, so the dip seemed a little redundant.
On to plan B, which I'm learning (I'm always still learning) should just be plan A and be done with it. The Chocolate Chip Cookie. One can NEVER go wrong with Chocolate Chip Cookies.
In spite of an Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I'd been making for nearly 15 years, I came upon my current favorite last year via The Amateur Gourmet who got it from Top Chef Just Desserts chef Eric Wolitzky. The recipe gives the measurements by weight and could not be easier. It also makes an enormous amount of dough. My tweak to the recipe is using a combination of chocolate chips and cut up chunks of bittersweet or dark chocolate. I like the little shaved bits that spread throughout the cookie as well as some oversized large chunks. I also brown the butter. That's a little tip I got from Smitten Kitchen. The browned butter adds a nutty richness in flavor.
Who knew that when I stumbed across this recipe at AG that my cookie production would be amped up in some pretty awesome ways. The best was the strategy of freezing cookie dough (form the cookies and freeze them on a cookie sheet, then transfer them into a ziplock freezer bag) so that freshly baked cookies are only 15 minutes away, any time, any day. Brilliant. It also propelled me to buy a kitchen scale. I was amazed by the variance between weights and measures, especially when you get into larger quantites like flour when baking bread.
At the same time, I got another great tip from watching America's Test Kitchen. I bought a small ice cream/portioning scoop for consistency. Restaurant supply stores and Smart and Final sell portion scoops in numbered sizes from about 10-30 which corresponds to the number of scoops per quart of ice cream. I use a 16 if I want a big cookie, something I would give as a hostess gift maybe. If I'm making them for a crowd I go 24.
I've given these out a lot in the last year and in spite of all the great feedback they are still a work-in-progress. Just like me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The many lives of my roasted chicken

I have always been a bargain hunter, even in flush times, and never too proud to share my cleverly gotten gains with others, or my mad-project-runway-iron-chef-skills.
someone: "I love that jacket!"
me: "GOODWILL two dollars!"
or "thanks! I made it outta placemats"
I  had to run into Fresh & Easy for bread and dish soap but I can never resist doing the clearance drive-by, challenging the kitchenista into imagining all sorts of  iron chef concoctions. This one was a no-brainer.  A whole chicken and and a bag of tortillas for less than $5.  Sweet!
As soon as I got the chicken home, I cleaned it and dropped it into a brine(1/2 c. salt, 1/2 sugar and 2 quarts of water) for several hours and put some black beans in the crock pot before heading back out for the day. It was 10 pm before I got that chicken in the oven.  While that was roasting, I caramelized a big batch of onions and roasted 2 red peppers in the broiler. An hour later plus a few minutes to rest, the meat is separated from the bones (which go into the dutch oven with water and set on a low heat to slooooowly transform into stock), following a process I got on Just the carcass and water for the first several hours (4-6) on a very low heat. The temperature should reach no higher than 160 degrees thus never reaching a boil. Add the vegetables and aromatics for the last hour.
Some form of chicken sandwich comes first. This one involves some rocket tossed in a little agave dijon dressing, the above mentioned caramelized onions and roasted peppers. This probably isn't the kind of sandwich you'd want to wrap up and take with you for later. It's too wet, buuuuut I recently got hooked on F & E's white bread which is surprisingly dense and moist (makes a killer grilled cheese). I did take this on the road with me and though it was a little soggy from the onions by the time I got around to it, it still held together and tasted divine. Best to prepare for immediate consumption.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the last butternut squash

the last butternut squash, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The holidays are over and so is my butternut squash. Just before Thanksgiving I was given a big box of butternut squash. Six to be exact. Big ones. I was a little overwhelmed, yet fueled with anticipation, wondering just how much butternut squash soup I could eat and how much time I could waste doing recipe searches...turns out, a lot and a lot.
It now seems hard to believe that until about a year ago, I had never purchased, prepared or knowingly eaten squash...well pumpkin, for cheesecake, but I bought that in a can. I hated squash. Any and all forms of squash were looked upon with an across-the-board "blech!" That was then.
This is now. With the exception of an exceptional recipe from Ottolenghi's Plenty for a spicy roasted squash with tahini, lime and cilantro, that I made for Thanksgiving, my two most favorite endings to squash is soup and chicken pot pie.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'Nini 'Rito

Sausage & Black Bean Burrito, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I love my neighborhood coffee house for so many reasons but their panini grilled breakfast burrito changed by life.
The breakfast burritos were a hard sell when the cafe first got them in but once they caught on, they became all the rage, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. They weren't bad...quite tasty in fact. Very simply: black beans, salsa, cheese and eggs. It was the grilled finish and the angled cut that got me all churned up. I loved the crispy, sandwich-y prettiness of the whole presentation. It was the first time I ate, analyzed, anticipated and acted so quickly.
Over these many months, my version of the panini grilled burrito has evolved from it's Simple Pleasures beginning and now changes to accomodate whatever the pantry has to offer and what needs rescue from the refrigerator. This version started with a Spanish rice pilaf made with Trader Joes brown rice medley. I had some spicy sausage in the freezer that I browned up with some caramelized onions and then added a can of black beans and some frozen corn. I ended up with enough filling to make 4 hefty burritos. By the time I made the last one yesterday morning, I'd run out of pepper jack cheese and had to improvise with the last bit of some blue cheese, mozzarella and parmesan. A revelation. In a good way.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Chocoholic Bliss Baby

Peanutella, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This was a little something I came across at Smitten Kitchen earlier in the year and I've been anxiously waiting for an occasion to make it again, so I whipped up several batches for the "holidaze" and just now got to thinking that there's another holiday approaching, one in which I generally do NOT partake, that this would be perfect for.
I'm ever-so-grateful to have some truly amazing friends and family in my life that I couldn't hold this one back.
Imagine one crazy day you got the sudden urge to make your own peanut butter and while those toasted peanuts where whirrrrrrring around and liquifying in your food processor, a bunch of rich, dark cocoa powder accidentally fell into that little tube part that just happened to be open followed by a box of powdered sugar...well, after you cleaned up the big huge mess you might just be left with something like...

Peanutella ooops! I mean Chocolate Peanut Spread as Smitten Kitchen calls it.  

Go here right now and get this recipe and make it for the people you love...starting with you. Serve it with a spoon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hearty Lentil Soup

Hearty Lentil Soup, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The little kitchen is back and better than ever. After an inconvenient computer malfunction, and some unexpected free time on my hands, my little kitchen ventures can be explored, shared and archived once more. Activity has been anything but stagnant here as the holiday season was crazy with productivity. This week I've been all about the pantry, refrigerator rescue and focusing on freezer friendly food. I'll catch it up in little spurts.
The latest and greatest little kitchen production is a Hearty Lentil Soup from The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook.  It seems kind of crazy now but it was the first time in my life I've ever made a lentil soup and for the life of me I don't know why it took me so long.
Awhile back, whilst noodling around at my favorite natural foods co-op, Rainbow, I became mesmerized by all the towers of colorful legumes and bought several different lentils. It made feel all healthy and green seeing as I rode my bike all the way across town to shop there. I really just wanted to decorate the little kitchen with pretty jars.
That was then and this is now. Most of the pretty jars have moved into the dark pantry or refrigerator where their freshness can remain a little longer intact. My current kitchen challenge is to use the pantry and the produce market even more and the grocery store, a little less. I also smell another Dutch Oven Boule in my immediate future.