Yum Peaceful Cooking: September 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Migas and The Homesick Texan Cookbook Review

It's that time....we've been playing around with The Homesick Texan for a few weeks now. I've shared a few recipes and tidbits here and there. And now....it's time to lay it all out on the table. Tell it like it is....give you the skinny. Express my honest opinion. Give you the scoop on whats between the covers.  I'm going to tell you the lowdown on the hoedown.

Before last month I had never heard of Lisa Fain. After reading through her cookbook, I feel like we would totally mesh! There's something about her that echos within my soul. Although I have never lived in Alabama, I feel deeply connected and very rooted to my family, the way of life and the food there. Being in the city, you just don't get that "down home" connection. One of the ways I cross all those state lines between me and my family is by cooking foods that feed my soul. Which is what Fain did when she started her blog and wrote this cookbook. She fed by her need to connect to her home while living in New York. 

Now....I have never "really" reviewed a cookbook before. It's rather intimidating. I mean, you want to be accurate and informative as well as sounding like you know what you're talking about. That's when I turned to my peeps over on Facebook and asked them what they're looking for when searching for a cookbook. What points they'd like me to touch on in my review. I got some awesome responses. You people are the best! Thank you so much for your guidance. 

With that said, let's get down and dirty....and into the nitty gritty of it all (ok, are you soooo over the idioms? me too)

When I look at a cookbook, the first thing I do is flip through the pages. I hate to sound so "shallow" but honestly, photos are very important. I have a hard time buying a cookbook that doesn't have a single photograph (besides Mastering the Art of French Cooking....HUGE exception). The Homesick Texan has a ton of fabulous photos. Not only of mouthwatering food but also a few nostalgic, pure Texas shots that are scattered about strategically.

Next...contents. Theme. Tex-Mex is totally up my ally. I love Mexican food. I love southern food. When you combine the two.....you have something uniquely Texan. The Homesick Texan has a fabulously diverse content which is brilliantly divided. How often do you open a cookbook and see a chapter called "The Larder: The Homesick Texan's Pantry"? This is probably my favorite chapter. In it Lisa acknowledges and addresses the fact that not every city has the ingredients for a good Tex-Mex meal. She discovered this while shopping in New York City. You will see a solid 8 pages of ingredients and kitchen equipment that you should have, with descriptions and alternatives. In the back of the book you'll find a "Resource" page that tells you where you can order items and ingredients if you can't find them in your local market or Mexican grocer.

Not only does she have your typical chapters for Appetizers, Seafood, Sweets but there are whole chapters dedicated to Pickles and Preserves....Salsa, Sauces, And Gravies and Tex-Mex Classics (not to mention Morning Foods; Chilis, Soups, and Stews; Beef, Pork, and Fowl; Sides, Hot and Cold and last but not least, Breads). That pretty much covers it all. And if you can't find what you need based on the chapters....all you have to do is look in the Index where you will find recipes listed not only by name, but by ingredient.

One important factor that was brought up on Facebook was the desire to see the level of cooking experience needed as well as the length of time it takes. Neither of these are addressed in The Homesick Texan. I have found though, that most of the recipes range from very basic to requiring a bit more "how-to" knowledge. But to be honest, this is all good, down-home food that can be cooked and enjoyed by anyone with any level of cooking experience. Each recipe includes a great little intro that makes you wish you were in Texas having it the way it was originally experienced. As for the "how long" portion. You'll have to gauge this a bit. If you browse through the instructions...mentally adding up the cooking time frames...you should get a pretty good idea on what's required. I will say that the instructions are easy to follow.

If you haven't been following along during The Homesick Texan journey I've been on, you can view the recipes I've cooked below:

And now I have one more recipe to share. This is an easy one. Not as quick as your typical scrambled eggs....but when you're getting ready to experience something fabulous.....prep is never as quick as ready set, ready go. But it can be effortless.


Oil for frying
4 corn tortillas cut into strips
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded, stemmed and diced (I didn't have fresh jalapenos so I used the kind in a jar)
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper 
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese, jack cheese or maybe a combo

Usually I show you a nice display of ingredients all arranged on a cutting board or something. This time I decided to be real. I do gather all of the ingredients before starting on a recipe. But it's always "everywhere" on the counter....and that's how I really cook.

In a large skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of oil over a medium-high heat. Put the tortilla strips in the hot oil and let cook until nice and crispy...about 3 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Drain out the oil, leaving about 2 TB. Turn the heat down a bit and add the onions and jalapenos. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. While that's going on, whisk together the egg, milk, salt, pepper, cumin and cilantro in a bowl.

Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Add the egg mixture to the skillet along with the tortilla strips. Let the egg cook for a minute so the bottom sets a bit. Stir gently and then add the cheese

I have a confession to make here. I did a few things out of order. When I measured the cumin, instead of tossing it into the egg mixture, I tossed it into the pan with the onions and garlic. (silly me). Then I forgot to add the cilantro to the egg...so it went in along with the cheese. But you know what? It didn't matter. This is such a free-form recipe and very forgiving as it also allows for adjustments to accommodate your own personal tastes. More cheese? Less cheese? No onions? More heat? Just do it. We're talking about eggs here. Make it so you like it. 

Once the cheese has been added, gently stir until the cheese has melted. Add more salt and pepper to taste (if needed). 

Lisa Fain recommends that you serve Migas with salsa and tortillas. I personally found it very filling and satisfying. Not to mention simple. I didn't need the extras. (BTW...I halved the recipe and this plate served 2). All I did was sprinkle some jack cheese over the top and let it melt. (love me some melted cheese).

This is the perfect example of many of the recipes in The Homesick Texan. Complex in flavor yet simple enough for any level of cook to make. I loved the corn flavor that the tortilla strips added to the eggs. The jalapenos were a great addition of some slight heat. The smokey flavor from the cumin was wonderful. If I wanted to beef it up a bit....I could've added some chorizo or sausage. If I wanted more veggies...some diced tomatoes would've been a wonderful addition.

Let me wrap this up with a simple 5 star rating for a fabulous cookbook. It has been a sheer pleasure being part of the The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off that was sponsored by Hyperion and hosted at Girlichef*, (where you will find others who have cooked from and reviewed this cookbook. I recommend that you mosey on over there and see what the rest of us have to say).

If you love Mexican and / or Tex-Mex food....I highly recommend that you not pass this one up. It's a keeper and bound to become a favorite in your collection, as it is mine.

Thank you Hyperion and Girlichef* for including me in such a fun adventure.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Citrus Chicken

A couple of weeks ago I was hunting for a new chicken recipe. Nothing in particular in mind....just something I hadn't done before. I came across Grilled Citrus Chicken over at Spryte's Place and the freshness of it...zest and juice from lemon, lime and orange....really got my attention. As I read her post, I noticed that Spryte had gotten the recipe from a fellow BakeSpace member...AND she included the link to the forum thread that lead to the sharing of the recipe. I clicked on the link to see if I would remember the conversation...but of course I didn't. It occurred over 2 yrs ago...but it was fun to reminisce.

The good ole days.

Well...I made a couple of changes in the recipe. Not because it "needed" it by any means...but we weren't grilled and I was in the mood for little bite sized chicken. And I was planning on making rice. The original recipe had Dijon mustard in it. Spryte replaced it with soy sauce. I used both. I'm not a fan of thyme...which was in the recipe. I replaced it with sage. I then made a sauce so go over the chicken and rice.

Let's just say....it was fabulous! A new favorite around here for sure! I wish I had made it 2 yrs ago when it was first shared with all us lucky BakeSpace peeps.

I have to warn ya here...I didn't jot down exact time frames on cooking this dish...you just have to kinda keep and eye on it and go with your gut.

Citrus Chicken
Printable Version

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs or a couple of boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used the prepackaged chicken thighs from Costco) cut into chunks
1 TB each lemon, lime and orange zest
1 TB each lemon, lime and orange juice
2 shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil plus extra for the pan
1 1/2 TB honey
2 TB fresh sage, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

In a sealable baggy, combine the citrus zests and juice along with the shallots, garlic, Dijon, soy sauce, veggie oil, honey, sage, salt and pepper. Squish around to combine. Add in the chicken. Place in the fridge and allow to marinate for a few hours. I wouldn't do it overnight though. Citrus is a fantastic tenderizer but if left too long, it starts to break down the meat. I've even heard that it will begin to "cook" fish. I don't do fish (due to allergies) so I haven't investigated how and why this happens. Or how technically true it is.....anyways....2 - 6 hours is fine.

Add enough oil in a hot skillet to cover the bottom. Pour everything, chicken and marinade, into the heated skillet.

Cook on medium low, stirring often, until liquid is pretty much cooked down. This is were you have to be careful. If the heat is too high or you cook it too long, you could scorch the marinade residue.

Remove the chicken and set aside

Add the vermouth to the hot skillet and deglaze the pan, stirring up all those crispified bits that might be stuck to the bottom...mmmm....lots of flavor in those babies. Add the chicken broth

Allow to simmer until reduced a bit. Not too much cuz you want enough sauce to pour over the chicken and soak into the rice...ya know? Because once the sauce is done, you add the chicken back into the pan and serve it over some nice fluffy rice

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pan De Campo

Breakfast for dinner. It's one of my most favoritest dinners. And I almost always do the bacon and eggs with biscuits and gravy thing. Which happens to be one of my most favoritest breakfasts too.

This week for our Cook-off and Spotlight of The Homesick Texan Cookbook we got to choose whatever recipe we wanted to showcase. There were so many to pick from. I could've gone with the Blueberries with Cornmeal Shortcake, or the Hush Puppies...I really considered the Tamales. I mean there are just so many wonderfully mouthwatering recipes to choose from and you just KNOW you're going to love whatever it is you decide to make.

And here I am.....with one of the most simple recipes in the whole dang book. The Pan De Campo. Lisa Fain proceeds the recipe with a bit of history telling. It's just so cute how she has a story behind every recipe in the book.  The Pan De Campo is Texas' state bread. (I wonder if California has a state bread...it should....and I think it should be Sourdough Bread). Apparently this is the bread of cowboys. It's kinda like the biscuit version of cornbread....made in a cast-iron skillet and all. If you're a cowboy out on the range, you'd be making this over an open fire. Us citified people will have to put up with using a stove and oven and just deal with it. 

Pan De Campo
Printable Version

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 TB (aka 1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 TB lard or shortening, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400' F and grease a large (10") cast-iron skillet

Combine the dry ingredients. Stir in the shortening and blend (use a fork or pastry blender) until you have fine crumbs. Add the buttermilk and blend until smooth.

Heat up your skillet on the stove. While that's going on....on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle, about 9" wide (a bit smaller than your skillet)

Place into your hot, greased skillet and cook for about 5 minutes per side over a medium low heat

Then put the whole thing in the oven, skillet and all, and bake for about 15 minutes

And there you have it....Pan De Campo. You can slice it like a pizza or tear it off into pieces

What do you do with a giant biscuit? Well...you can do what I did and treat it like a regular biscuit by pouring luscious, creamy breakfast gravy all over it.

You can do as the cowboys do and dip it into beans. Or you can have it for dessert with some honey or homemade jam.

And if you have any leftover the next day slice it length-wise and make yourself an egg sandwich.

Whatever you do...I'm sure you'll have fun with it as much as you enjoy it. And maybe, just maybe.... you'll feel a little bit like a cowboy while you're doing it.

*This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off sponsored by Hyperion and hosted at Girlichef*

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mac & Cheese and natural Sargento cheese

I can count on 1 hand how many times I've made macaroni and cheese....from scratch. The first time I tried it, (about 20 yrs ago)...I made it using American Cheese. Aaack. I don't know why I even tried that. The only time I eat American Cheese is when it's on a cheeseburger or inside a grilled cheese sandwich. But in my defense, I was young and stupid ignorant.  I tried other various recipes...even one that used velveeta cheese. I think what I was ultimately trying to do was make something that tasted like mac & cheese in the little blue box cuz that's what I grew up on.

Not long ago, my girlfriend showed up for a bbq with homemade mac and cheese and it was wonderful! The first homemade version that I actually enjoyed. Then recently I made the Poblano Mac & Cheese which was a great alternative to the norm.

Through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Sargento, I was able to get some Sargento cheese and pairings.

I love cheese (mild to medium....nutty, buttery kinds. I can't do the stinky cheeses) and I was excited to have the chance to give Sargento the test.

The macaroni and cheese test.

First I had to "cultivate my experience". With the help of the tasting guide that Sargento sent me...I became familiar with the differences between natural cheese and processed cheese through the 4 points explained to me...

1. Look

Sargento's real cheese (medium cheddar) on the left and the processed cheese on the right. You can see the sheen and rubbery appearance of the processed cheese. The sliced Sargento cheddar cheese looks as it would if you had sliced it yourself, not to mention the deep rich color.

2. Touch

I'm sure by looking at the photo above you can imagine how they feel. Now notice in the photo below.....

The processed cheese (now on the left) tore into smooth rubbery pieces while the Sargento cheese broke more than tore.

3. Smell

Have you ever smelled processed cheese? The first thing I smelled was salt. Then nothing. Of course the Sargento natural cheese smelled like....cheese! I mean...it smelled like cheddar cheese. You knew what you were going to experience once it hit your palate. Which leads me to the 4th point...

4. Taste

I tried both cheeses.... alone, with fruit and with wine. Actually....I only tried the processed cheese alone and with wine. Then stopped. No flavor. Bland. Ack. I'm beginning to wonder what it is I like about it on even a cheeseburger. Surely it can't be contributing to the flavor. The Sargento cheese on the other hand was so flavorful that I finished the slice of cheddar and started in on the muenster

I could've just made this my dinner. The smooth salty buttery-ness of the muenster and the nutty, full bodied flavor of the medium cheddar. Even after you finished with the bite...the flavors danced in your mouth...creating the urge for a second (and 3rd) round.

And then came the real test. I mean...what better way to test cheese than to make America's #1 side dish....Macaroni and Cheese

I used a very basic recipe and I reduced it down tremendously. I didn't need a huge casserole dish lying around, threatening my mid-section, if you know what I mean. I ended up with some sauce left over, which I will be saving for later this week to use on some veggies or maybe to pour over a baked potato (cuz I don't feel so threatened by cheese soaked potatoes? Who the hell am I kidding!)

Btw...my girlfriend...Dianna, who brought the mac and cheese to the bbq sent me her recipe. She cracks me up. She warned me..."I don't use a recipe with measurements".  And then proceeds to write:

'Mac N Cheese - Macaroni - Butter, Cheese, Half & Half, flour, salt, pepper. Cook the noodles drain and set aside. Melt butter in a pan and add the flour, salt and pepper to make it like a paste and cook it, add the half and half slowly (and use a whisk so it doesn't lump) till it's like a thick cream sauce. Mix the sauce and cheese with the noodles - Top with cheese and bake until it's golden.'

I just love that woman!

Anyway.... if you can make a basic roux, you can make this dish without measurements. The rule of thumb is...equal amounts of fat (ie: butter) and flour. And enough liquid (ie: milk) until you've reached your desired consistency. If you're not comfortable with a roux...I suggest you practice and get comfortable. It's the basis for so many good things....white sauce, cheese sauce, gravy, etc.

Basic Mac and Cheese (serves 2 - 4...depending on your piggy-ness)

4 oz elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 1/2 cups half and half (or milk)
Salt and Pepper to taste
5 slices Sargento Medium Cheddar Cheese
5 slices Sargento Muenster Cheese
handful Sargento Mozzarella Cheese
handful cracker crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375' F. Spray a little 7 x 7 oven safe dish with cooking spray. Pour the cooked pasta into the dish and set aside.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over a medium low heat. Whisk in the flour and continue whisking for a few minutes. Don't let the flour get too brown. Slowly whisk in the half and half (or milk if thats what you have). Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens. Don't let this happen too quickly...you want to cook out the flour taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cheddar and muenster cheeses and stir until melted.

Pour the sauce over your pasta. Top with mozzarella cheese and crackers.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and browned on top.

And there you have it. For me.....the best homemade, basic macaroni and cheese I've ever made. Sargento, with its great tasting natural cheese that melts wonderfully, definitely passed the mac and cheese test. I can only imagine how good it would be in a sandwich or on a burger. No more processed tastelessness for me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

BBQ Oven Fried Chicken

Barbecue sauce isn't just for the grill. Actually....I rarely use it on the grill. Mostly because one of my kids doesn't like barbecue sauce. She also doesn't like cheese (unless it's on pizza. but never 'extra cheese'), bacon (omg!!!....really?!) mayo, potatoes, rice, pasta, syrup, and most nuts. Seriously....she's nuts!! But....in her defense...out of all of us in the family....she eats the healthiest (except for her sweet tooth. At least she got ONE of my food genes). I don't remember her being all that picky when she was little (except when it came to peas....her whole little body shivered, all the way down to her toes (literally) in revolt to the taste of peas). I s'pose she grew into this neat little picky eater trait of hers. It can be challenging sometimes...making dinner. One loves cheese, one doesn't. One loves chocolate, the other can take it or leave it (have you ever in your life heard a girl...yes, a girl....say these words..."it's too chocolatey").  Try making lasagna in my house....one child loves it really saucy with barely any cheese and the other is the exact opposite. Sir Sportsalot has his likes and dislikes too. He's easy to please as long as it's not too fancy or unusual. American, Mexican, Italian...and Amercanized Asian are usually safe. As long as I don't twist up the recipes too much. (I think I've crossed that line in abundance these recent years.).

Thank God we all like chicken.

But sometimes....I just have to cook for me. (which is best done on nights when no one's home). As the girls get older and Sir Sportsalot gets busier with his sports stuff...that seems to be happening more often. And here's the double-edged sword. I don't know how to cook for one. Fine....we have leftovers. Sir Sportsalot won't eat leftovers (I've even tried telling him...'if you didn't eat it when I made it last night....technically, for you, it's NOT leftovers!'). The girls....they will if they think to look in the fridge. That leaves at least 3 servings for me to devour before the food has passed it's 'time'. Not to mention the fact that...honestly....it gets rather boring eating the same leftovers for a couple of days. Thank God the girls bring their friends around and I can usually count on things getting eatin up.

Once in a while....there's that really good dish that you make and you want to eat it the next day...and the next. It's that good. You can't get enough. (for some reason, this most often happens with those really good, cheesy, fattening dips). Anyway....the BBQ Fried Chicken was just as much of a delight to eat the next day as it was the night I made it. It remained juicy and tender. And even though it may not have been as "crispy" (which it wasn't all that crispy to begin with because I chose to use skinless meat)....the caramelization of the sauce is what made it so darned good.

Let's back up a minute. Not long ago, I came home from work to find a box. For me. (it's like getting a present...even though you know it's coming.) Inside was a bottle of KC Masterpiece Southern Style Barbecue Sauce (you know me...I'm all over anything "southern") shipped to me through the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program.

 (Yes, the bottle is 1/3 of the way empty. I swear, that's not how it arrived, all snug in the box. I just didn't think to take a picture of it until after I'd started on my fried chicken adventure.)

I started thinking about what to do with it. BBQ ribs briefly came to mind. As did bbq burger patties. I could've done the typical bbq chicken. But I feel the need to do something more unusual when I'm trying a new product. I feel the need to be more creative. To try something new. So I let the bbq sauce ideas simmer in my mind for a few days. (One thing was for sure....when I made whatever it was I was going to make, it was going to be a night when my youngest child wasn't going to be eating dinner at home).

And the night came (unexpectedly as usual). One by one, they all left...I had boneless skinless chicken thighs defrosted with no idea what I was going to make. It was 7:00 at night and still...not a clue. I saw something on TV, boneless chicken wings or something....being dipped in buffalo wing sauce. The image merged with my simmering bbq sauce thoughts. They danced around for a few minutes...getting a bit excited as the realization that what was happening was going to be nothing short of deliciousness. But as is with all things new....nerves set in. Is it really going to work? Is it too good to be true? But the thrill was already there and it was going to happen.

BBQ Oven Fried Chicken
Printable Version

Amounts for this recipe are not exact. I didn't measure a single thing.

5 - 6 pieces of chicken. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs. If you want crispy....keep the skin on.
2/3 bottle of KC Masterpiece Southern-Style Barbecue Sauce (divided)
1 cup or so (as needed) of flour
Seasonings for the flour (use whatever you normally use when making fried chicken. I use salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika and poultry seasoning)
about a cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup butter or margerine
1/4 cup shortening (do not substitute oil for this)

Preheat the oven to 425'. Line a baking sheet with foil (easy clean up). Melt the butter and shortening on the sheet. Being careful not to burn it. Cuz then you'll have to start over (been there, done that).

Get out 3 dishes (pie plates or round cake pans work great). Pour about 1/3 of the bottle of barbecue sauce in one dish. Because KC Masterpiece's Southern-Style Barbecue Sauce is thin-bodied it's perfect for dipping. In another dish combine the flour and seasonings. In the 3rd dish, pour in your buttermilk.

One at a time....dip the chicken into the buttermilk, then into the flour. Then dip it into the bbq sauce and then back into the flour. Carefully place the chicken (skin side down if applicable) onto the prepared baking sheet. I say 'carefully' because you don't want to disturb all your hard work by inadvertently removing the coating. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 - 30 minutes. The time frame will depend on the chicken. If using bone-in....30 minutes for sure. I did my boneless thighs for 20 - 25 (boneless breasts will be less). Then carefully turn the chicken over (trying not to leave any of the coating behind) and continue baking for the same amount of time. During the last 10 to 15 minutes, pour the other 3rd of the bbq sauce over the chicken.

Remove and let sit for about 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

What did I serve with these juicy, tender, caramelized beauties?


Yes....I served leftover Poblano Macaroni and Cheese and corn casserole.

And it was good!

KC Masterpiece's Southern-Style BBQ Sauce is perfect for this recipe. Its tangy, sweet and has a bit of heat that catches your attention without making you worried. I have a fear of things that are too spicy. Of not knowing when the heat is going to end. With this sauce....no worries. It's all good.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Poblano Macaroni and Cheese

I've recently discovered my love of the poblano chili. With that said, you can imagine my excitement when I found out that our second assignment in our Cook-off and Spotlight of the fabulous cookbook The Homesick Texan, we were making Poblano Macaroni and Cheese.

Over the Labor Day weekend, we invited friends over for food and fun and I knew this dish would be perfect to share with everyone. I'm just glad that our friends are willing and hopefully eager guinea pigs for my kitchen shenanigans.

Before we begin here, let me give you a little heads up.....in the stores here in the states (from what I've read and experienced), fresh poblanos are labeled as pasillas, which in reality (according to Wikipedia) is actually a dried chilaca pepper...and a dried poblano is called an ancho chili. How confusing is all that? Sooo....if you can't find anything in the produce section labeled as a poblano, look for a pasilla.
 (you won't see the chiles in there because they were already in the oven roasting)

Poblano Macaroni and Cheese
Printable Version

2 poblano (aka pasilla) chiles
8 oz elbow pasta (2 cups)
2 TB unsalted butter
4 cloves minced garlic
2 TB flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 cups grated while cheddar cheese (12 oz)
1/2 cup Cotija cheese

Under the broiler, roast your poblanos until blackened. This will take about 5 minutes per side. And we're not talking about 2 sides. It could be 3 or 4 sides....depending on the shape of your chili. Don't rush the process....but keep an eye on things. While you're at it...make sure you thoroughly enjoy the aroma. It's heavenly. The smokey sweetness of it all......mmmmm

Once they're roasted, stick em in a plastic bag and let 'em steam for a while....say...20 minutes. Remove from the bag and peel off the skin, remove the stem and seeds...

Then cut that roasted baby into 1" long pieces. Set aside.

While all this is going on....cook your pasta according to package instructions. But don't over cook them....maybe a little less than al dente. You don't want pasta paste once everything's said and done. 

About now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 375' and grease a casserole dish. If your pasta is done....pour it into the prepared dish and let it sit there while you make cheese the sauce

Next, you're going to start on your roux. Over low heat, melt the butter, then add the garlic and cook for about a minute tops...I recommend stirring the whole time so your garlic doesn't burn. Burned garlic is rather yucky. Whisk in the flour and cook, while whisking, until it becomes a light toasty brown color. This part is important. The browning of the flour reduces the floury taste. The recipe says about a minute...I did it a bit longer.

Whisk in the milk and stir until it thickens....yet is still "fluid". Remove from heat and stir in the mustard powder, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro and poblano chiles.

Next, you're going to take half of the shredded cheese

I want to mention here....white cheddar is more expensive than regular cheddar cheese. Feel free to use the orange cheddar instead...or even go half white and half orange if you'd like. It's all good.

Slowly add the cheese to the sauce and stir until it melts and is well combined. At this point, if your sauce is too thick, add a little milk....about a teaspoon at a time. Which I did have to do. If the cheese won't melt because your sauce has cooled down too much....put the pan back on the stove over a low heat.

Pour the sauce over the pasta....

Then top with the remaining cheddar cheese

Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until its bubbly and brown. Sprinkle with Cotija cheese and serve

I enjoyed this dish....but I found the lime to be a bit over powering. I think...I may have added too much. I suspect that I added a tablespoons worth instead of the 1 tsp.... but I can't be sure. Next time...I'm going to use less....or I might just use lime juice instead of the lime zest. But it is definitely worth making again. I might take Lisa (the author) up on some of her recommendations for variations...I might substitute some of the cheddar with pepper Jack cheese and maybe add some bacon!! She also recommends topping it with some crushed tortilla chips for a nice crunchy top.....YUM!!!

I do absolutely love the poblano flavor is this dish!

*This post is part of The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight and Cook-Off sponsored by Hyperion and hosted at Girlichef*

Next week....I get to pick my own dish to spotlight. I just have to decide if I'm going to do bread or something sweet. Oh man...just looking through these recipes...my stomach is growling!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kara-Age Soy-Ginger Seasoned Chicken

It's been a crazy week. My children are in college now. But somehow I've managed to get my life involved in the rush-rush of each new school year. I don't work for the schools.  I don't even step foot into a school. I don't work in retail. What I do does impacts a few children in school. But I don't see the children.

And I love my job.

Yet...summer is ending. School is starting on Wednesday and that effected my work week in a major way. (And will continue to do so (in a lighter manor) until summer school is out next year.) So you can understand my excitement when I received a box of Kikkoman Kara-Age Soy-Ginger Seasoned Coating Mix in the mail early in the week. Why the excitement? Besides the fun of trying new things through the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program with Kikkoman, I was excited....thrilled....overjoyed because I was able to make a quick, delicious meal, in minutes. Without having to over think it. I didn't have to think about it at all. I got to come home...coat, pan-fry and eat. Minimal effort. Maximum results. Perfect for those exhausting, mind numbing days at work.

I've been using Kikkoman brands for years. I have a gallon of their soy sauce in my fridge (I'm not lying).  I've used their sauces and dips numerous times. In my American mind, Kikkoman is the brand that represents Japanese food. Yet somehow I had no idea that Kikkoman makes more than dips and sauces. Seriously....take a look at some of the stuff they have on their Kikkoman Homecooks Products page. Soup mixes? Soymilk? Yep...all there and then some.

Well, let's take a look at what I did for my simple dinner....

1 packet of Kikkoman Kara-Age Soy-Ginger Seasoned Coating Mix
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 lbs) (you can use breasts instead or even fish fillets)
Vegetable Oil

Cut the chicken into little bigger than bite sized pieces, about 1 1/2 inches. This will take longer than anything else you do in this recipe. If you'd really like to save time....use those chicken tenders and call it night.

Heat about 1/4" of vegetable oil in large, heavy skillet to about 350' over a medium heat.

Pour the seasoned coating mix into a baggy.

I know that's not a baggy...but I wanted to show you the coating. It's not a breaded mix at all...but very finely ground flours, spices...etc. (there's always "etc" in packaged products). When I opened the packet....my senses were overpowered with various scents. Don't go sticking your nose in there...it's about as bad as straight pepper. In other words... those 3 oz are fully packed with flavor.

Working in batches of about 12 pieces of chicken at a time, coat the chicken

Pan-fry half of the pieces of chicken in the hot oil for about 2 - 4 minutes....turning often, until cooked through. Drain on a paper towel.....repeat with rest of the chicken.

Serve with your favorite sides. I made a simple vegetable fried rice (here's a quick tip for fried rice.....use leftover rice. That way it doesn't end up being mushy rice)

One of the things I loved about this coating is that it stayed on the chicken! Every piece was still coated with seasonings when I removed them from the pan. And somehow....that seasoning seemed to penetrate into the chicken. I'm not sure if that's also why the flavor had mellowed quite a bit since it first came out of the packet. I have to admit...once I'd gotten a whiff of the seasoning, I was a bit concerned that it would be insanely overbearing. But it wasn't. It was flavorful and delicious. I drizzled a bit of lemon juice over the chicken which brought out a certain brightness (the way only lemon can do). Each bite was just as tasty as the last. 

I have another packet in the box (each box comes with two 3 oz packets). If I weren't allergic to fish, I'd try it out that way. So I'm thinking of other, non traditional ways to use the packet. And I think I just decided what I'm going to do with it. But it's a secret for now.....shhhh