Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chilaquiles Verdes

Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican peasant dish of fried tortillas bathed in either green or red salsa (depending on the region) until tender.  Slightly tart green tomatillo sauce is my preference and is the base of the recipe from the famed restaurant ¡Lotería! in the L.A. Farmers Market. 

Tomatillos are referred to as the green tomato (Spanish: tomate verde) but are not related to tomatoes, but are in the plant family related to goose berries.  The tomatillo fruit is surrounded by a paper-like husk that can be easily removed.  Fresh ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks.  They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator.  They may also be frozen whole or sliced.
Chilaquiles are most commonly eaten at breakfast time, unlike nachos; chilaquiles are a meal to be eaten with a fork. Nothing is wasted in the Mexican home, so this dish was born as a clever way to revive yesterday's tortillas and leftover salsa.  You can top with a fried egg (my choice) or shredded chicken or beef, even black beans.  If frying your own tortilla chips seems too involved (I recommend you try it, though-it is really very easy!), as a shortcut this dish can be made with store bought tortilla chips, but choose the unsalted variety.


Chilaquiles Verdes
recipe from ¡Lotería!

Salsa Verde

8 medium tomatillos (about 1½ pounds), husked and rinsed
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, stemmed
½ white onion, halved again
2 garlic cloves
½ bay leaf
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of dried thyme
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp. corn oil

Vegetable oil for frying
12 six-inch corn tortillas
2 large eggs, beaten
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 Tbsp. crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese
3 Tbsp. finely chopped white onion
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
Crema fresca or sour cream for garnish

To make the salsa verde:  Put the tomatillos, chile, onion, and garlic in a medium pot and add water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are soft and the tomatillos turn pale green, 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.  Carefully transfer the boiled vegetables, along with the cooking water, to a blender.  Puree for a few seconds to blend; be sure to hold down the lid with a kitchen towel for safety.  Add the ½ bay leaf, oregano, thyme, salt, and broth.  Continue to puree until smooth. You should have about 1 quart of salsa verde.
Place a wide pot or pan over medium-high heat and coat with the corn oil.  When the oil is hazy, pour in the salsa verde; it will bubble a bit.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.  Cover, reduce the heat to very low, and keep warm while you fry the chips.
Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed pot or countertop deep fryer to a depth of about 2 inches and heat to 375° over medium-high heat.  Stack the tortillas and fan them with your thumb to separate.  Cut the tortillas into 8 wedges like a pie.
Working in batches, fry the tortilla chips, turning them with a skimmer or slotted spoon so they don't stick together, until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the chips to a paper towel-lined baking pan or brown paper bag to drain and cool.  (let the oil return to the proper temperature between batches.)
To finish the chilaquiles, uncover the salsa verde and raise the heat to medium.  Just when it starts to bubble, stir in the beaten eggs.  Cook and stir for about 5 seconds, until the egg feathers into the sauce, thickening and binding it.  Immediately add the chips, tossing gently until they have absorbed enough sauce to become soft.  Take care not to break the chips.  Sprinkle Jack cheese on top and let it melt.
Divide the chilaquiles among 4 plates.  Sprinkle with queso fresco, chopped onion, and cilantro.  Garnish with crema fresca and serve immediately.

Monday, October 19, 2009

it's all about the frosting

There is just something about frosting that makes me happy.  And once you try this particular recipe you'll agree.  I love using this as a frosting or filling because it is light and creamy, and less sweet than the Classic Americana Icing.  It tastes like whipped cream.  I found this recipe in Sarah Magid's book Organic and Chic. This frosting can be adapted in so many ways; I start with Sarah's basic Vanilla Whipped Buttercream and then depending on my whim I add flavorings.  This version works beautifully as a filling with a dark-chocolate frosting or as pictured above, add raspberry purée to make a lovely sweet, yet slightly tart frosting to go with these yummy white chocolate cupcakes.



White Chocolate Cupcakes With Raspberry Frosting

10 Tbsp. soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup  superfine sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
6 oz. white chocolate, melted
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, then add white chocolate and stir to combine.  Sift flour and baking powder over cake batter and fold in until combined.  Line two 6-hole (1/3 cup-capacity) muffin tins with 8 paper cases, then divide mixture among cases and bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly pressed.  Cool on wire racks.

Raspberry Frosting
This is a slight adaptation to Sarah Magid's recipe for her Vanilla Whipped Buttercream.

2 sticks (1 cup)  unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup raspberries, puréed and strained

Cream the butter on medium speed, 3 to 5 minutes, in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer until soft.  Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat for a minute or so, then while whisking constantly, sprinkle in the flour slowly so to avoid getting any lumps.  Continue to whisk and cook the mixture until it comes to a low boil.  Then reduce the heat to low and keep whisking a few more minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken.

Immediately remove pan from the heat, but keep stirring. Place the pan over a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.  If you overheat the mixture and get small lumps try passing it through a fine-mesh sieve.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the cooled milk mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Increase the speed to medium to combine thoroughly about 2 minutes.  Then lower the speed and add the vanilla and  raspberry purée and blend until completely combined another 2 to 3 minutes.

Spread frosting over cupcakes using an offset spatula and serve.  Cupcakes will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Friday, October 9, 2009

field trip

Living in Southern California I have to admit we are spoiled.  The mild climate, the almost constant blue skies, fabulous beaches and mountains in the far off distance, it's no wonder there are so many tourists every year.  We enjoy the privilege of eating outdoors most of the time, except for the few weeks in early spring when we may get a drizzle here or there.  The produce is so plentiful; it can be taken for granted.

The slight changes in temperature make it a lovely place to live, but the downside of that is the seasons are a little tough to differentiate.  Yes, there are those few trees that turn those beautiful golden hues that eventually end in a burnt orange, until they give up and let the wind take the leaves to their winter hold.  Which in my area is the gardeners' work truck.  But it's the palm trees that sway their green fronds, and the crazy bright bougainvillea that explodes in fuchsia, pink and orange throughout the winter months that is our typical.

So to get into the fall spirit I took a little field trip with my better half a few days ago.  We traveled about two hours southeast from my San Juan home to a small town called Julian, which is known for apple orchards and of course pie (always a bonus).  It is a quaint town with one main road about half a mile long, if that. 

It is dotted with antique stores, some with very odd names like: Pistols and Petticoats, Hog Heaven and of course Mustang Sally's Quality Re-Sale.  So yes, we didn't do much shopping, but were amused by some of the unusal items in these establishments.

After completing our tour of the town, I couldn't leave empty-handed, so we bought an apple pie at the famous Julian Pie Company.  It is a locally owned family business specializing in apple pies and cider donuts.  Some 17,000 trees provide apples for pies at their Julian location.
So after our purchase we headed toward the apple orchards, because I couldn't come all that way without buying some apples.  It was a beautiful day and an even more beautiful drive on quiet roads that lead past sprawling ranch estates, small vineyards and just the open expanse which isn't the norm back home.

We finally found the U-pick orchard that was recommended, and the only one that was open that day for picking.  Unfortunately, as it turned out the only thing left to pick was what was left on the ground, and I wasn't that desperate for apples.  So we ended up taking some nice photos instead of another orchard nearby, which as we found out was going to be open for picking the next day.  Go figure.
Thankfully, we have a pie.  Or had a pie.  It was delicious.