Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pork-Stuffed Chiles in Savory Tomato Sauce (Chiles Rellenos de Picadillo)

Step back kids. This recipe is an investment.

There is salsa, meat, batter...all kinds of fun things to mess with but it takes time.

I devoted an afternoon to the experience and while totally worth it, this dish is not exactly something you "whip up" after getting home from work at 6pm. This is from Rick Bayless' old-school book, Authentic Mexican, which reads more like an anthropology textbook than a standard recipe collection. For good reason.

When he published this, in the nostalgic years of the late 80s, he had just made the career swap of a lifetime: anthropology student turned master chef.
Hey, Mexico can do that to you. Trust me.

I decided to make these the *comparatively* healthy way by pan frying them rather than deep frying them. It yields a different consistency from what many people are familiar with but it tastes just as good and you can feel moderately better about just how many of these you'll find yourself eating. 

I served the rellenos with stuffed tomatoes. In my mind, one stuffed vegetable really deserves another, don't you agree?

To the recipe!

Yield: 8 stuffed chiles, 4 servings

Time: Oodles and oodles and oodles and oodles...


8 large fresh chiles poblanos

2 cups (1 recipe) Quick-Cooked Tomato Chile Sauce (recipe follows)

1 1/2 cups beef or pork broth

vegetable oil

1/2 cup flour plus 2 tablespoons for the eggs

3 cups (1 recipe) Minced-Pork Picadillo (recipe follows), at room temperature

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon salt

4 sprigs parsley, for garnish


1. Cleaning the Chiles- Roast and peel the chiles (either roast them over a gas hob or stick them under the broiler until black and crisp), being careful not to overcook them or break off their stems. Seed them: make a slit in the side of each one, from the shoulder down nearly to the point; with an index finger, scrape the seeds loose from the seed pods (just underneath the stem); under a gentle stream of water, flush the chiles clean of al their seeds, then drain. If you want milder chiles, carefully cut out the veins that run down the inside flesh of each one. Dry the chiles inside and out with paper towels.

2. In a small saucepan mix the prepared tomato sauce (see recipe below) with the broth (adding 1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and black pepper). Cover and place over very low heat.


Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chile Sauce

3 medium-large round ripe tomatoes (roasted in the over until skins are wrinkled and easy to come off), peeled and cored OR one 28-ounce can good-quality tomatoes, drained
                 **NOTE: If you are making this with the pork stuffing, you can roast all the tomatoes at     the same time, see below for pork recipe**

2-3 jalapenos, stemmed

1/2 small onion, chopped

1 large garlic clive, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon

For a more refined sauce, seed the tomatoes: Cut them in half across the middle and squeeze out the seeds and liquid. Roughly chop the tomatoes and placed n a blender or food processor.

If you want a milder sauce, first seed the chiles. Then chop them into small bits and add to the blender or processor, along with onion and garlic. If using a blender, stir to distribute the ingredients evenly, then process the mixture until pureed. (but still retaining a little texture)

Frying the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium-large skilled over medium-high. When it is hot enough to make a drop of the puree really sizzle, add it all at once and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, as the puree sears and cooks into a thicker, more orange-colored sauce. Season with salt and remove from fire.


3. Stuff the chiles with the pork mixture (see recipe below), leaving room to reclose the opening. If a chile won't reform around the filling or if it is torn, "sew" it together with toothpicks, any that can be gently picked up by the stem without losing their filling are fine as is.

Minced Pork with Almonds, Cranberries and Sweet Spices (Picadillo Oaxaqueno)

3 medium ripe tomatoes (roasted, cored, peeled, and roughly chopped **see above for details on roasting tomatoes) OR 1 28-ounce can tomatoes, undrained

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion finely diced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 lbs. lean coarse-ground pork

3/4 teaspoons ground black peppercorns

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup dried cranberries

4 teaspoons cider vinegar

1/4 cup ground almonds

Salt, about 1 teaspoon

 For a picadillo using peeled fresh tomatoes, place them in a blender or food processor with 1/3 cup water, then process until smooth. Using canned tomatoes, simply puree them with their liquid.

Heat the oil in a large skilled over medium. When hot, add the onion and cook until sofe, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the pork in a thin layer and fry, stirring frequently, until cooked and lightly brown.

Add the spices to the skilled along with tomato puree, cranberries, almonds, and vinegar. Simmer until reduced to a thick, homogeneous mass, 30-45 minutes, depending on juiciness of the tomatoes. Season with salt.


4. Spread about 1/4 cup flour onto a plate, then roll the chiles in it, and shake off the excess.

5. Separate the eggs: whites into a clean mixing bowl, yolks into a small dish. Add the salt to the egg whites, then beat with a whisk or electric mixer until they are just stiff enough to hold a peak. Gently beat  in the yolks one at a time, followed by 2 tablespoons of flour, stop beating when flour is incorporated.

6. Heat a little vegetable oil in a large, well-seasoned skillet over medium. Spoon the batter into a round in the skillet and then lay a stuffed chile onto it. Sppon a little batter over the top. When browned underneath, flip them over and brown on the other side.

7. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low oven. Batter and fry the remaining chiles and keep with the others.

8. Ladle about 3/4 cup of brothy tomato sauce into each of the 4 warm plates, top with 2 chiles then spoon more sauce onto each chile for decoration. Garnish with parsley and you're done. Finally!

Pistachio-Lime Wafers

This recipe comes from the book Savor the Southwest, an attitude and overall culinary mission I try to adhere to even when in the UK.

While the original recipe called for orange rather than lime, I almost always prefer the latter to the former.

And to me, lime speaks of nothing more than Mexico, tequila, and all good southwestern flavors. And top that with chocolate? I'll savor these cookies any day. Gladly.

Makes 2 dozen cookies
Time: 1 1/2 hours (includes chilling)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2+ teaspoons grated lime zest

1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and finely ground

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg white

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped


Toss together the flour, lime zest, nuts and spices. Set aside.

With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a regular hand mixer), beat the butter until light, about 5 minutes.

With the mixer running, add the sugar and beat well; add the egg white and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, another 2-3 minutes.

Add the flour mixture, one third at a time, until a smooth dough is formed, about 3 minutes.

Put half of the dough on a piece of parchment paper; cover with another piece of parchment paper.

With a rolling pin, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat an over to 325F.

Transfer the dough from the refrigerator to a work surface, remove the top sheet of parchment paper.

With cookie cutters, cut the dough into 2-inch rounds or into desired shapes.

Remove the cut shapes from the parchment and put on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until lightly golden, 12-14 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a microwave or in the top of a double boiler over hot water. dip the top of each cookie into the melted chocolate and place, chocolate side up, on a piece of waxed paper.

Allow the chocolate to harden, about 1/2 hour.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tomatoes Stuffed with Grilled Wild Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese

This side dish was initially described to me as a "Hot Latin Meal" by I'm not sure exactly what this means, but it does get points for taste and presentation.

If you've been paying attention, you'll see that I've done a stuffed tomato dish before.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is nothing wrong with stuffing a healthy vegetable full of cheese. Nothing at all.

In fact, I recommend doing it as often as possible. And if you can, combine that cheese with mushrooms. Talk about tasty. I did find it interesting that this recipe billed itself as a salad because it uses "green leaves" as a garnish. Now that's a stretch if I ever heard one...

I served this with pork stuffed chile rellenos, a great combination! 

Serves 4

Time: 30 minutes


1 cup sliced oyster, shiitake, or portobello mushrooms (I used dried ones which I rehydrated in hot water)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

4 ripe yellow or red medium size beefsteak tomatoes

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 handful of mixed baby greens

Sweet Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe follows)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on med-high. Add the shallots and when soft, add the mushrooms, rosemary, and thyme. Cook until soft. Set aside. (You can also complete this step ahead of time, refrigerate the mushrooms and then bring them to room temperature when you're ready to stuff the tomatoes).

Meanwhile prepare the tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, slice the tops off the tomatoes either flat or in a zigzag pattern, you need them later so don't discard them.

Using a spoon, scoop out the insides. Set aside. Place the tomatoes into a 1-inch baking pan (you may have to adjust their bottoms if they don't sit upright) with their tops.

Bake until the skin starts to wrinkle, about 15 minutes.

When the tomatoes are finished, remove the tops and stuff with alternate layers of the mushroom mixture and the cheese. Place the tomatoes back into the oven (without their tops) just until the cheese starts to melt, about 5 minutes.

Top each tomato with a bit of the mixed baby greens and a drizzle of the vinaigrette. Cover with tomato tops and serve.

Sweet Shallot Vinaigrette

1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the shallots and sugar, stirring constantly, until the shallots start to soften and brown, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and combine the caramelized shallots, vinegar, and oil in a blender and mix until well blended.

Season with salt and pepper.

Chill for at least an hour before using.

Use immediately or keep for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oven-Roasted Fish with Fennel

Ok folks, get ready, we've officially reached a new period of blogdom. It's high time I join the program and start showing actual pictures of what this food looks like when cooked. Enough of the professionals. Time for the amateurs to step up.

And don't let the poor lighting fool you on this one, this dish was absolutely amazing and gets major bonus points for taking less than half an hour to make!

Adapted from a Recipes for Health classic from the New York Times, in their infinite wisdom.

Serves Four


2 pounds fennel with fronds still attached (3 medium bulbs)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, preferably a spring onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets, such as Pacific cod, Pacific halibut or striped mullet


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F

Trim the stalks and fronds from the fennel, and set them aside. Quarter the bulbs, cut away the cores and slice thin across the grain. You should have about 4 cups sliced fennel.

Chop the fronds, and measure out 1 to 2 tablespoons (to taste).

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, nonstick skillet, and add the onion.

Cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about three minutes.

Add the fennel and a generous pinch of salt.

Cook, stirring often, until the fennel mixture is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, stir together and cover the pan.

Turn the heat to low, and continue to cook 5 to 10 more minutes until the mixture is very soft and fragrant.

Stir in the chopped fennel fronds, and remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Oil a baking dish large enough for the fish to fit in a single layer.

Season the fish with salt and pepper, and arrange in the baking dish.

Cover with the fennel stalks you set aside.

Cover the dish tightly with foil, and place in the oven. Bake 15 minutes.

Check the fish; if you can cut into it with a fork, it is done (cod will cook more quickly than halibut). If it is still tough in the middle, cover and return to the oven for five minutes. Remove from the oven and check again. Remove the fennel stalks from the fish and discard.
4. Place the cooked fennel on a platter or on individual plates, top with the fish fillets and serve.

Advance preparation: The cooked fennel will keep for two days in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wild Mushroom Soup

A few years back my mom gave me a booklet entirely on soups, knowing my penchant for meals in a bowl. I've made a few of them over the years but this one was called into being by a recent late spring cold. There's nothing better when you're feeling down than a warm bowl of homemade soup.

Of course, I was tempted by the old tried-and-true Chicken Noodle, but I gave this one a whirl and I was very happy I did. Same homemade flavors, hearty and soulful.

It also took about 45 min., just about the limits of energy when you're feeling down and out. Of course, it also helped that it was raining cats and dogs outside, another perfect excuse for making soup.

Time: 45 min.


2 lb. sliced assorted mushrooms (button, crimini, and shiitake all work here. I also used dried porcini mushrooms, see note below about rehydrating them)

1 cup onion minced

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 cups chicken broth (or 2 cups chicken broth + 2 cups of the water you used to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms. It should be a dark brown color and will deepen the flavor of the soup. )

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Salt to taste


-Slice/prep the mushrooms.
-Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until soft, stirring often.
-Add mushrooms to the pot, increase heat to high, and saute until moisture evaporates. Reduce heat to medium.
-Stir in sherry, lemon juice, paprika, and pepper. Simmer until sherry has nearly evaporated, then add broth.
-Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
-Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and soy sauce together to dissolve, then stir into simmering soup to thicken.
-Finish the soup by stirring in the 1/2 cup cream and chopped fresh dill.

If you like, garnish the soup with sour cream, lemon slices, and even more fresh dill.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Baked Quinoa with Spinach, Cheese, and Chorizo

I'll admit it, I've been on a bit of a quinoa kick recently. My friends started making salads featuring the trendy new grain and I've jumped on the quinoa bandwagon. It's just so versatile! Taking the place of rice, couscous, pasta, really any starch, it's much lighter and fluffier and works great with just about everything.

This recipe is from the Recipes for Health section of the New York Times, from their own experiments with 'unusual' grains. I substituted the cheeses and added some chorizo which made it a bit heartier for a one-dish meal, but this recipe seems foolproof. I also added some chili pepper in (cayenne and achiote) for the spice lovers among us. But feel free to experiment, adding in your own ingredients to suit your taste!

Serves about 4-6 people as a main course


1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup uncooked) (For Quinoa cooking instructions see here)

2 large eggs
3 ounces cheddar cheese or Gruyere , grated (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)

3 ounces diced dried Spanish sausage (chorizo)
chili pepper (to taste, approx. 2 tsp)


1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.

2. Heat a medium frying pan or a wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Wash the spinach and without spinning dry, add to the pan and wilt in the liquid left on the leaves after washing. You may have to do this in 2 batches. As soon as the spinach wilts, remove from the heat and rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry and chop. Set aside.

3. Wipe the pan dry and heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir with the onion until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

4. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the quinoa, the onion and spinach mixture, the Gruyère/cheddar, the chorizo and the sage. Add freshly ground pepper and stir the mixture together. Scrape into the gratin dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake until nicely browned on top, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat, allow to sit for about 5 minutes, and serve.

Advance preparation: The cooked quinoa will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. The recipe can be made through Step 3 several hours or even a day ahead. The gratin can be assembled several hours ahead.

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