Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wishing you Mole and a Happy New Year!

 What a surprising thing blogging has been to me. Last year at this time, if somebody asked me what a blog was...I would have just given a shrug...the kind that includes raised eyebrows and wide eyes. I had just begun to see the term around, but hadn't yet sit down to investigate what it was all about. I'm sure I probably started by googling the word blog...and wouldja look at me now. Here I am, sitting in front of my computer, trying to put together one last post of the year. A post with my favorite meal...or food...or maybe flavor...whatever it is, it's my absolute favorite above all others...this year or any year.

I started making mole about 10 years ago. Actually, I think it was exactly 10 years ago this holiday season! Did you know that red molé is actually the national dish of Mexico? Even though, it is actually a sauce. A sauce, that is delicious with anything from poultry to carnitas to vegetables! And in Mexico, families (and family members) each have their own special molé ingredients and proportions. In ritual, they gather the most beautiful dried chiles...the kind that are still pliable...spices, dried nuts and fruits...and another star (usually homemade, too), Mexican chocolate. Yes, this is the sauce that some people call the "chile and chocolate sauce." But don't let that fool you, because it is SOOOOOO much more. Yes, they both add to the fabulous, earthen complexity of the sauce...but they are not alone. Look for dried chiles that are supple and pliable...you want them to bend. You want the warm smell to envelope you when you get near them. If they are hard and brittle...and you can't smell them...then why use them? I am fortunate enough to have homemade Mexican chocolate from a friends mami in Mexico, but the kind you can find at the market are very, very close in quality. Plump tomatillos and sticky raisins...thick bread...and the nuttiness of almonds and sesame seeds are more of the ingredients in this mole. Round it out with some piloncillo (or brown sugar if you can't find any) and some warm spices (freshly ground in w/ a mortar & pestle or in a spice grinder) and you're on your way. Molé takes a good day to make correctly. And you want to make it correctly! It'll show. I originally learned from the master and have tweaked and adapted over the years in order to make this molé mine, but I owe so much to Rick Bayless and his welcoming, instructional method of teaching through both his books and his tv show. Make your first batch from a trusted recipe, and then adapt from there. Mexicans themselves ask me how I learned to make this. They swoon just as much as I do. Just as the hubs...otherwise referred to as mexi...he'll tell you it's true. I can't even tell you the number of times I've been told... "You can get married now!" Good to know ;) This is what they tell a girl/woman in Mexico once she can truly cook.

Well. But, any occasion is a special occasion if you add mole...so, I'm adding mole to this New Year's Eve. 
Mole Rojo / Mole Poblano
yield ~1½ gallons (yes, it's a lot...but you'll want to share it and eat it for a while)

7 medium tomatillos

⅔ c. sesame seeds, toasted then cooled and whizzed in a spice grinder

½ c. vegetable oil or good rendered pork lard

6 oz. mulato chiles, seeded & stemmed & ripped in half

3 oz. ancho chiles, seeded & stemmed & ripped in half

3 oz. pasilla chiles, seeded & stemmed & ripped in half

9 garlic cloves, peeled

1 c. (~4½ oz.) whole, skin on almonds

1 c. raisins

1 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp. freshly ground anise

¼ tsp. freshly ground cloves

2 slices thick, firm country bread, toasted dark

1 tablet of Mexican chocolate (~3 oz.)

~½ c. piloncillo or brown sugar

salt

Begin by gathering your mise en place...you'll be glad you did. Seed & stem your chiles...wipe 'em free of any loose dirt if necessary. Husk your tomatillos and rinse them. Toast your sesame seeds and grind them. Peel your garlic cloves, darkly toast your bread, and measure out all of your other ingredients. This is going to take either one very large pot or two pretty large ones (I usually use two 5-quart pots). Just start everything in one pot and do the dividing once you have the puree made. Also, go ahead and roast your tomatillos under the broiler until blackened and soft. Add those to a large bowl with the ground sesame seeds.

Next, heat your oil in the pot and quickly fry your cleaned chiles, in batches. It'll only take ~20-30 seconds total per batch. Remove them to a separate large bowl. Once they are all fried, cover with hot tap water and cover with a plate (to submerge them). Let sit to "plump" for ~30 minutes. Make sure to remove any stray seeds from the oil. In the same hot oil, fry the garlic cloves and almonds until they both turn golden and smell out of this world. Remove them to the bowl with the tomatillos and sesame seeds. Add the raisins and sauté until they plump up...and they will puff right up, it's pretty cool to watch. Remove them to the tomatillo bowl. Add the toast, chocolate (broken up a bit) and ground spices to the bowl with the tomatillos.

Transfer the chiles to a blender (in batches) and add a total of 5-6 c. of the soaking liquid to help them blend up. Transfer to a food mill, set over a bowl and turn the mill to release all of the liquid and leave the skins behind. I did this for years actually pushing through a strainer...it worked, but I'd be sweating by the time I was done...a food mill is a breeze!
At this point, turn the heat back on under your pot(s). They should still have a thin coat of oil on the bottom, if not, add a little. Once it is really hot, add the chile puree and lower heat a bit...cook down until it is the consistency of tomato paste, ~15 minutes. Watch out! This splatters like crazy! And it's messy. Very, very messy.

While this is going on, add the contents of the tomatillo bowl (in batches) to your blender (no need to clean jar) along with a couple cups of water, as needed. Once it is all ground up, pass it through the food mill, back into the bowl. Add this puree to the pot once the chiles have cooked down. Stir & let cook back down to the consistency of tomato paste, ~10 minutes more. I recommend grease splatter-guards or a face mask to guard from splatters. Add 3 quarts of water to the pot(s) and bring to a boil. Partially cover and lower to a gentle simmer. Simmer for ~1 hour, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (napé). You can always thin it out with a little water if necessary. Add the piloncillo and ~3 tsp. of salt. Taste...it should be spicy and slightly sweet and earthy and rich...and perfectly silky...all at the same time. Adjust seasoning as necessary. I let it cool down and then transfer to jars or containers for storing or sharing.
Now, use as you wish...one thing I like to do is to brown some chicken or turkey...but this time chicken (4 1/2 lbs. thighs & legs). Drain fat from pan, then pour a quart of mole over the chicken, cover and finish cooking. I then shred it all up and eat it with rice and queso fresco and cilantro...
 ...wrapped in tortillas.
 But, if you want to know my honest to goodness favorite way to eat mole...it is basically, as is. I toast some tortillas and stuff them with queso fresco &/or avocado slices, then dip them in hot molé. It is sheer ecstasy!!!

Another surprise...all of the amazing people I've met out here in blog-land!! I am so happy to have met and worked with so many wonderful souls...and to have made some genuine friends along the way. Thank you for such an amazing first year here in the world of blogging. I wish you all a safe, healthy and blessed New Year!!




Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wienies and Booze...

Little nibbles. Tapa. Mezze. Pupus. Hors-d'oeuvre. Smorrebrod. Zakouski. Canapés. Appetizers. Amuse Bouche. SMALL PLATES. This is our theme this week over at IHCC. Small plates are great for socializing and sampling...as well as a big plus in the restaurant biz- using up the "little bits" and driving up profits. Many times you find yourself making perfectly delicious "trimmings" into an employee meal. Which is fine sometimes, but when you can actually get creative and make it into something artistic and fun that people actually ask for and want to try, that is a fabulous feeling. And really, you can apply the same principle at home. I decided this was the perfect opportunity for me to use up a couple of things left in the fridge from the holidays...try something that I may or may not have made otherwise. I had a pack of cocktail sausages that I thought maybe I'd put to use over the holidays. Didn't. I also had about half a jar of 2 types of olives. Yup, used 'em up. I improvised slightly and actually used up the ends of some pantry items, as well...honey, molasses, sesame oil and soy sauce...which will allow me to make a list and start fresh. Cocktail Sausages...or as I like to call them, Sticky Wienies! adapted from Nigella Express (I made a half batch ~40 sausages) ~1 1/2 lbs. cocktail sausages mini smokies 1/4 c. honey I used 1/4 c. honey AND 1/4 c. molasses...which I recommend doing...I've actually made these w/ just the honey before and the molasses adds a great, sticky richness 1 Tbs. sesame oil 1 Tbs. soy sauce Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange sausages in large, shallow roasting pan. Whisk together honey, molasses, oil and soy sauce and pour over the sausages. Toss the sausages with the sticky mess. Roast for 25-30 minutes, shaking the pan once about halfway through. Yum. Dare you to eat just one.Spicy Martini Olives inspired by the Martini Olives recipe from Nigella Express makes 1 c. olives 1 (8 oz.) jar pimiento stuffed green olives I used 4 oz. garlic stuffed olives & 4 oz. bleu cheese stuffed olives 1/4 - 1/2 c. Absolut Peppar Vodka (or other chili pepper infused vodka) couple dribbles olive oil couple pinches crushed red chile peppers Put drained olives into a bowl (or separate if you don't want to mix them). Toss with remaining ingredients. Let sit an hour or so to let them soak in the booze. There. Now you can eat your liquor ;). These rock. IHCC


Monday, December 28, 2009

Free Food! ...yes, I admit it.

I wonder if there is a statute of limitations on how long it should take to review a product sent to you to sample? Surely I've crossed that line. The holidays completely threw me for a loop this year and all logic flew up the chimney (see vanished in a puff of smoke). The sad thing is, when I received my !disclaimer! free products to sample from Fischer & Wieser, I got busy using them almost immediately. It's my posting prowess that is in question, I suppose. And you know these companies...the ones that have far too many delicious sounding products...they practice torture. You know, making you CHOOSE which products you'd like to sample. Um, like a foodie in a kitchen store. Me with my pen poised over my notepad...scribbling down choices and haphazardly crossing them out when I find a "better" sounding product. I finally closed my eyes and pointed decided on a few I really wanted to try.Just for spits & giggles...I'm gonna start with my personal favorite of the 4 products I tried. Mom's Garlic & Basil Spaghetti Sauce...or should I say Summer in a Jar!!! Popping the lid on this sauce, I could feel the sun beating down on my shoulders and the warm earth under my bare feet! I knew I wanted to go old school and simply toss it with some pasta...so I could close my eyes and block out the leafless tree branches outside my window...and feel summer in my mouth. Chunks of juicy tomato, the peppery zip of fresh basil and my old friend garlic...fresh, mouthwatering garlic.So I made some pasta al dente, then poured on the summer to heat it through. A little freshly grated Parmesan and I had a simple meal that I wished would never end. So yeah, I really REALLY loved this sauce.The next goodie I dug into was the Red Hot Jalapeño Jelly! I'm gonna say...paired with some homemade cream cheese...this is one of my new favorite and almost embarrassingly easy party offerings. You can heat some of the jelly up to make it loose, and simply pour it over cream cheese...or you can mix it in. Either way, the heat and tang of the jelly paired with the cool, creaminess of the cheese is an addictive little minx...beckoning your crackers to dive in!Next up is the Brat Haus Beer Mustard. Are you a mustard fan? I love complex mustards...ones that dare you to dip and spread another time. This one was excellent simply spread on a sandwich or used as a dip for hard or soft pretzels. But equally as intriguing slathered on a grilled brat with caramelized onions...I'm actually salivating just remembering that combo. And the crazy thing about this mustard is...it actually kinda tastes like sausage. I was eating it on a pretzel and I felt like I had a bite of summer sausage spread with some mustard. Intriguing, indeed. Without me voicing this observation, my daughter took a bite and commented..."this tastes like hotdogs." She likes hotdogs.Last, but not least...the one I was initially the most excited to try...Citrus, Herb & Truffle Oil Vinaigrette Dressing. Maybe it was the anticipation that killed it, but sadly...it wasn't what I was hoping for. It wasn't bad. It just didn't taste like truffles. At all. Boo Hoo says the truffle lover. It's edible...but don't psych yourself up for a truffle-tastic meal...or you'll be left disappointed. I decided to slice up some red cabbage thinly and then toss it with the vinaigrette.In the meantime, I par baked a pizza crust...then added the cabbage to it and baked for another 15 minutes or so. I must admit, it looks pretty...just not much flavor there. This is an excellent application to use with actual truffle oil and a bit of salt & pepper...but not with this dressing. I did use it tossed with some greens to make up a bed under some grilled white fish. It was good...but I still felt it lacked something. Not sure what...and it may have all been in my head. Decent, but I wouldn't go looking for it.That said, I WOULD go looking for Mom's Garlic & Basil Spaghetti Sauce, Red Hot Jalapeño Jelly and the Brat Haus Beer Mustard!!! Thanks so much to Anne from Fischer & Wieser for allowing me to sample just a smidgen of their fabulous-sounding products...even though I was severely lacking in the timely manner department!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Surviving the holidays by breathing deeply...and eating...and traditions like baking gingerbread.

The holidays are definitely not the same as they were when I was younger. They used to be relaxing...anticipatory...carefree. Remember when that stretch of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed like ages? Hunting down the perfect tree. Stringing up lights. Smells of delight wafting from the kitchen to envelope the whole house in their comforting embrace. Lazy days during that two week stretch of glory when the doors to all educational facilities are locked tight. Scribbling out wish lists...ever growing wish lists. All seemingly centered around that day or two of piling into the car and delighting in the present-gathering trek while the snow falls softly with a sense of wonder.And then you become the adult. And reality gives you a good, hard soap opera slap in the face. Suddenly holidays feel stressful, short and languid. Four weeks!? That is totally not enough time to gather your wits. Yes, we'll find a tree. Yes, I see everybody else's lights hanging and bringing holiday cheer to the dark evenings. An endless string of holiday cooking that is somehow shoved into the midst of the regular every day meals that people still expect to eat. Cluttered counters. Cluttered living room. Cluttered closets. Puddles of melting snow scattered throughout the house. A bare spot under the tree...and in your wallet.

What do you mean it's time for school to let out already!? Oh boy...wish lists appearing on the fridge...ever growing wish lists. Digging out the shovel that has been buried since last winter. Last minute shopping trips trying to find that perfect gift from the picked-over shelves...while praying that I can locate the Valium Salt Lick and Everclear Drinking fountain. Gauging weather reports of an ice storm warning...can we all pile into the car and safely make it to our destination?

But wait! Suddenly you realize that all of your shopping is finished. As finished as it'll ever be. Kids are smiling and laughing. People are eating and hugging. Football is even on. Holiday tunes are playing somewhere and you're actually singing along. Because seriously, who can resist? You can breathe.

Realization that you made it through another year as you look out the window and watch the snow falling softly...with a sense of wonder. Stuck somewhere in the midst of the madness is a tradition. Cooking the usual holiday fare...and the new flavors that will join us at the table that particular year. As usual, I'm the one who introduces new dishes to the mix. A couple of years back, I decided to bring a lovely gingerbread that I baked from a Nigella Lawson recipe...and while not everybody is the biggest gingerbread fan...I am. I got some takers, but haven't really brought it back to the extended family table since. I did bring what was left of it to a friends house we stopped by on our further travels...and they swooned and finagled the leftovers. But I have continued to make it to enjoy at home and pass out to friends ever since. A tradition sprung from another tradition. I love this gingerbread because it uses fresh ginger and bakes up beautifully sticky and warming. And can I just say...it also has a tart, lemony icing to cap it off just right. Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing 
from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
yield: ~20 squares

for the gingerbread:
1/2 c. + 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
 1/2 c. + 2 Tbs. brown sugar
3/4 c. + 1 Tbs. light corn syrup
 3/4 c. + 1 Tbs. molasses
2 tsp. fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. + 2 Tbs. milk
 2 large eggs, beaten to mix
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 2 Tbs. warm water
2 c. AP flour

  roasting pan, ~12 x 8 x 2", greased & lined w/ foil or parchment

for the icing I double this amount:
 1 Tbs. lemon juice
 1/2 c. + 2 Tbs. confectioners' sugar, sifted
 1 Tbs. warm water

 Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a saucepan, melt the butter along with sugar, syrup, molasses, ginger and cinnamon. Off the heat, add the milk, eggs and baking soda in its water. Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed (it will be a very liquid batter).

 Pour into the pan and bake for 3/4-1 hour until risen and firm. Be careful not to overcook it, as it is nicer a little stickier. When it cools, get on with the icing.

Whisk the lemon juice into the confectioners' sugar first, then gradually add the water. You want a good, thick icing, so go cautiously and be prepared not to add all the water. Spread over the cooled gingerbread and leave to set before cutting. I add a bit of lemon zest to the icing, as well...and sprinkle as garnish.


Oddly enough, this year I didn't want to load up at the buffet (we do a buffet-type dinner at my grandma's on Christmas eve). I was totally beat and just wanted something simple. Something that always reminds me of grandma's house...no matter where I eat it. We always do a tray of cold ham and a basket of rolls. Grandma & grandpa have always had a really cool old refrigerator in grandpa's office, as well...always stocked with Squirt. Love Squirt...for as long as I can remember. So, I sat back and relaxed with nothing more than ham on a roll and a glass of Squirt.But, I couldn't resist a bite of gingerbread as a late night snack a few hours later...I hope everybody made it through the holidays in one piece and that you're now enjoying some peace. This gingerbread is my Traditions entry over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week...click on over to check out some other Traditions!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Flan-Cake

Pumpkin Spice Flan-Cake from www.girlichef.com
In my search to incorporate our family's mixed cultures and traditions this holiday season, I combined pumpkin and flan...inspired by my favorite Chocoflan.

The really cool thing about this cake is that the longer it sits in the fridge...the moister it becomes...I think it has to do with the moisture from the flan layer on top. The combination of the two layers tastes oddly like pumpkin pie...only more complex...so addictingly wonderful.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Soup, Corn, Bread & new Solstice Traditions

I think I've begun a new tradition in our home...making soup to celebrate the Solstice! I made a nice, autumn soup for the Autumnal Solstice...and now...a fiery, earthy, hearty stew to ring in the Winter Solstice! This time I also baked up a rustic loaf of bread to go with it. Yup. I believe I will make it a tradition to include a seasonal soup in my Solstice meal from here on out. Tonight will be the longest night of the year...and I will cozy up around the Yule log warming my bones and my soul in anticipation of the renewal of the sun...because after this long winter night...the days are going to begin to get longer. Traditionally, corn in its many forms has been an important part of the Native American (I try to source my Cherokee roots and incorporate them in my life and cooking as much as possible) diet. My stew uses corn in three forms...sweet kernel corn, yellow hominy and white hominy....plus, its fire comes from the use of those earthy, dried chile peppers...and another Native American staple, squash. And in contrast to the heat of the stew is a traditional Anadama Corn Bread, made with ground corn...or cornmeal. It is made with molasses and has a beautiful, complex flavor that hints at subtle sweetness. The combination of the stew and bread make a very sustaining meal to last you through this long, cold night.

Fiery Squash & Three-Corn Stew from the kitchen of girlichef yield: ~3 1/2 qts. 1 Tbs. bacon fat 1 medium onion, sliced 3 cloves garlic, peeled 1 ancho chile*, seed, stem & brush clean, then torn into strips 1 morita chile*, seed, stem & brush clean, then torn into strips ~1 lb. squash (pumpkin, butternut or any other hearty orange squash), peel & dice** 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 1/2 tsp. ground cumin freshly ground black pepper, to taste ~1 1/2 qt. chicken stock, divided 1 (15.5 oz.) can white hominy, drain & rinse 1 (15.5 oz.) can yellow hominy, drain & rinse 1 (12-14 oz.) can sweet corn, drain In a medium pot, heat bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, ~3 minutes. Add chiles and working quickly, cook until they just begin to blister & change shades, ~30 seconds. Once they've changed, quickly add in your squash, thyme, cumin and black pepper. Stir around for ~2 more minutes. Pour in ~ 1 quart of stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until squash is soft, ~10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender (or alternately in a blender and add back to pot). Add all three corns and return to a simmer for another ten minutes or so. Check during simmer, you may need to add some of the reserved stock to loosen if the stew has become too thick. Spoon into bowls and serve with Anadama Bread on the side. *When I say fiery, I mean FIERY!! Halve the amount of chiles you use if you don't like so much heat. **alternately, you could use squash pureeAnadama Corn Bread from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., & Zoe Francois yield: 4, 1 lb. loaves 1 1/2 c. cornmeal 1/4 c. wheat germ 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour 3 c. unbleached AP flour 1 1/2 Tbs. granulated yeast (2 packets) 1 Tbs. Kosher salt 1/4 c. vital wheat gluten 3 1/2 c. lukewarm water 1/2 c. molasses Um...this is a really long recipe to write out (not to make...just to type out), so I'm just going to recommend you buy this book! If you are a bread baker...or a wanna-be bread baker...you will not be disappointed. It is largely responsible for me overcoming my fear of yeast! Just click on title above. I'm sending this over to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays this week! Wishing you all a blessed Yule!



Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mmmmmm Vanilla Shortbread.

For someone who claims to not be a baker...I sure have been doing a lot of baking lately. Maybe it's my new found love affair with yeast. Maybe it's the season. Or maybe I'm just turning over a new leaf. And you know what? Whatever the reason, I am just fine with it. More than fine with it, actually. While I still consider myself a much, MUCH better cook than baker, I'm thoroughly enjoying my foray into the flour arts! The only downfall...my pants are definitely a bit tighter as of late. I know, I know...exercise helps. But I am the master of excuses and I'm just far too busy to take the time to work out [she says, clearing her throat]. I figure, a couple more weeks and I'll be chillin' on the sweets sector of the baked goods, so it'll all even itself out then. Right? As far as fresh baked bread goes...no way, no how...am I ever giving that up. Never have, never will. But anyway, I digress. Back to talking about the fattening stuff. Cookies. Shortbread cookies. Vanilla Shortbread cookies to be exact. Gorgeously flecked with those little (worth their weight in gold) black seeds. One word. Meltinyourmouthdecadent.Vanilla Shortbread
from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

2/3 c. confectioners' sugar
1 3/4 c. AP flour
2/3 c. cornstarch
3/4 c. + 2 Tbs. very soft, unsalted butter
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
vanilla or other granulated sugar for sprinkling (or use decorating sugar like I did)

Preheat oven to 325° F.
Put the confectioners' sugar, flour and cornstarch into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and give them a quick blitz (this saves you the sifting step). Add the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean and the butter. Process again until the soft mixture coheres and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. Turn this out onto a jelly roll pan and press to form an even (as you can make it) layer, using fingers or the back of a spoon, or both. Can I just take this opportunity to ask what size, precisely, is a jelly roll pan? I googled it and found that a jelly roll pan is basically just a cookie sheet with sides. So, tell me Nigella, what size jelly roll pan should I use? Because...this dough does NOT fill my jelly roll pan. Hmmmm. No biggy, though...really. It's a pretty firm, press-in type dough, so I just sort of pressed and stopped about where I thought it looked right. Using the tip of a sharp knife (actually, I used a butter knife), cut the shortbread into fingers. Nigella makes 3 x 11 rows to equal 33...I made 3 x 5 rows to equal 15. Actually, I'll make them even smaller next time...because while delicious, they are rich and these were big fingers! Use the tines of a fork to make little holes in each marked-out biscuit; about 3 times diagonally. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, it will still be pale, but not doughy, and a tad golden around the edges. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so, before removing, with a palette knife and your fingers, to a wire rack. Sprinkle with sugar and let cool completely before storing in a tightly lidded tin. These are simple and gorgeous...just look at the flecks of vanilla seeds! I bet they'd be superb if you dipped the end in a little chocolate, as well...but I seriously enjoy my shortbread as is. Totally worth the little pinch in the flesh of my waist...at least it seems that way while I'm eating one. This is my entry for the POTLUCK this week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs...won't you cook or bake up something by Nigella and join us?

IHCC
*Update 12/26/10: I am sharing this with the 12 Day of Bloggie-mas.



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oxtail Stew from the new BloggerAid-CFF Cookbook!

"It is no secret that the world is facing a global food crisis... In 2009, BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine (BA-CFF) was born from a vision that ordinary people cn achieve extraordinary results... We understood immediately that food bloggers could best relate to a cookbook." ~excerpts from the Preface to the BA-CFF CookbookThe minute I received notice that our cookbook was ready for sale...I was on it! This gorgeous collaboration by food bloggers from all around the world is such a source of pride to me. Do you remember when I posted a picture of my recipe contribution, Lentil Burgers...what seems like oh so many months ago? Well, my recipe is now on page 133. Big smile!! This book is diverse and colorful and filled with quotes and sayings and introductions to each of the 140 (I believe) food bloggers that contributed to this book! I've mentioned before that I am a big baby, right? I cry at commercials, books, movies, kids recitals, songs, blog posts...you name it...so it probably won't be a big shocker when I tell you that simply reading the preface brought tears to my eyes. Seeing my recipe and some of food blogging friends recipes brought tears to my eyes. Holding this amazing labor of love in my two hands...the feel of the cover and the pages on my fingers...you guessed it...brought tears to my eyes. But most of all, remembering the fact that all that's 100% of the proceeds from the sale of our book, is going to benefit hungry children. The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP)'s School Meals program feeds an average of 22 million hungry children each year. As a mom...as a human being...this tugs at my heart as well as my tear ducts. Won't you please help feed and nourish and educate those less fortunate by clicking HERE and purchasing our new BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine Cookbook? And why not get involved by joining BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine?

Are you ready for one of the many diverse recipes from the book? This one in particular is something I have been wanting...meaning...to make for a long time, but for some reason just hadn't gotten around to it. In all honesty, I'd never even tried this "cut" of meat before. An oxtail is just as it sounds. While going through my book, I came across a recipe from Giz & Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen for Oxtail Stew...and thought it looked and sounded so dreamy and comforting...and then I found a couple pounds of oxtail at the store a day or so later...fate. Let me tell you, if you've never tried oxtail...you must! It is rich and silky and absolutely delicious!

Oxtail Stew
from Equal Opportunity Kitchen via the BloggerAid-CFF Cookbook
yield: 2-4 svgs.

3 Tbs. Olive Oil
2-3 lb. Oxtails, fat trimmed
salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 large onion, diced I sliced them thinly
2 large carrots, peeled & thinly sliced
1/4 lb. pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/4" strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. homemade or reduced sodium beef broth I used chicken broth
1 c. dry white wine
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes I used whole tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried thyme I used a bit more
garnish: fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped I just used curly

In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Pat oxtails dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown in batches on all sides (~5 minutes per batch). Don't over crowd the pan as it will not allow oxtails to brown effectively. Transfer oxtails to a dish and set aside.
Add onion, carrots and bacon to pot and sauté in oxtail drippings until the onions are softened and the bacon begins to turn brown, ~10 minutes. I had a lot of fat from my bacon here, so I actually drained most of it off before moving on to next step.
Return oxtails to the pot. Add broth, wine, tomatoes (w/ their juices), bay leaf, thyme, salt & pepper. Raise heat, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmering the oxtails until they are very tender; ~3 hours. Skim any foam that may rise to the surface. Transfer to a serving plate and top with freshly chopped parsley. I also served it over some warm polenta w/ parmesan.There is also a link on my sidebar to purchase the book...at any time! So, as if helping feed hungry children weren't more than a great reason to check out this cookbook...imagine 139-ish more recipes equally as tempting, yet completely diverse to delve into!!

I'm also sending this over to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays this week.



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries & Orange Zest (for our 2nd Bread Braid)

Bread baking time again...hooray! Do you remember me joining the fairly new baking group HBinFive? The one that helped me conquer that fear of the BBY forever? Well, it's time for our December bonus recipe...and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out! We officially begin baking from the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day in the new year, so you have plenty of time to grab your own copy and join us over at Big Black Dog our home base with our host Michelle. While our bonus recipe last month was given to us by Zoe Francois, one half of the team who brings us the book HBin5, this months was chosen by the other half, Jeff Hertzberg, MD. While I can't post the recipe for the Whole Grain Challah with cranberries and orange zest, I can tell you that it is posted HERE...and then show you my process of baking it...so pretty and just begging to be photographed! One thing that I love and that has been so helpful in conquering my fear of the BBY, is the simple process given for the bread in HBin5. Mixing the dry ingredients... ...and then adding the wet...that's it. Look how beautifully this dough rose over the course of a couple of hours! I ripped off an approximately 1 lb. piece and divided into three, formed them into ropes and did a simple braid for my first try. Take my picture, take my picture!! I let it rise for ~90 minutes oh yeah and then gave it an egg wash and sprinkling of sugar and orange zest. It came out of the oven all golden and crusty and beautiful...and sliced up just as nice. Why did I ever fear yeast? I no longer remember. Be sure to head on over to this months Bread Braid to see all of the other variations that were baked up by the members of HBin5! HBin5