Monday, July 23, 2007

Tacos Dorados

Over the weekend I grilled some beef, a shoulder roast and a flat iron steak. It had been a while since I had made any tacos so I decided to use the meat from the day before for some filling.

The first thing I did was make some guacamole, from the same recipe you can see here.

I wanted to give that a chance to marry together for a while before I served the tacos.
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 onion coarse chop
1 garlic clove
1 jalapeno pepper chopped
4-6 ounces of boneless shoulder roast (or whatever you have)

Put all of these ingredients into a processor and pulse fairly well.

Meanwhile, heat a little shortening in a hot pan. When the grease is hot add in the pureed mixture. Bring this to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about half an hour.

Season with salt, pepper and cumin.

The mixture should reduce a fair amount, it shouldn't be runny when you spoon it.


I use the store bought corn tortillas. I heated the cast iron skillet and added enough oil for about a half inch depth. The tortillas have to be flash fried. Don't skip this step.

When the oil is hot, fry each tortilla for about 3 seconds per side. If you don't do this they will crack when you try to roll them and fall apart. (Yeah, I tried skipping this step before.)

The filling will make about 10-12 tacos.

Lay out some paper towels to take the tortillas to after flashing them. After all of the tortillas are finished spoon in a large spoon full of the filling and roll them. Insert a toothpick to hold them together.

Fry the tacos 3 or 4 at the time for about 2 minutes per side or until they are golden brown.

Remove them to paper towels to drain.

When all of the tacos are done you can lay them out on a platter and garnish with some sour cream and guacamole.

I thinned the sour cream out with a little cream so it spoons easier.

I topped mine off with a little radishes as well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Osso buco

I happened to be in the grocery store early when I ran across some veal shanks. The only reason I mention this is because they tend to disappear quickly, so most times you won't ever see them. I took advantage of my luck and promptly added a package to my cart.

veal shanks
olive oil
1 carrot chopped
1 onion diced
1 celery stalk chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups white wine

Start by browning the veal shanks thoroughly. If I had a dutch oven I would have started off in that, but since I do not have one I started in a pan. Once the shanks are well browned remove them. Add the carrot, onion, celery and thyme into the same pan. Cook until the onions are soft about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, chicken stock and wine, deglaze the pan and bring to a boil. I then transferred the contents into a casserole dish that contained the awaiting veal shanks and what liquid had settled out of them from earlier. If you have a dutch oven just add the shanks back into it. Slap it all into a 375 degree oven for 2 hrs or until the meat is falling off of the bone. It is possible to overcook veal shanks...


Heat one can of chicken stock on the stove, just under boiling.

Finely dice a small onion. In a medium sized pan heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the onion until it is translucent. Add in a pinch of saffron while the onion is cooking. Add in a cup of rissoto and just let it sort of fry for a minute or so. Now, you need to have whatever it is you are drinking nearby because you cannot leave the stove for the next fifteen to twenty minutes. In my case it was Carr cabernet sauvignon, I'll come back to that later.

Add in chicken stock a ladle at the time and stir it into the rissoto. As the rissoto absorbs the liquid add more as necessary. Continue to do this until all of the stock is in the rissoto. When all of the stock is absorbed add in a tablespoon of butter, stirring the whole while. Make sure to sample the rissoto to see that it is al dente but not cruncy, this is important. If it is still crunchy keep stirring.

Once you have it where you want it, add in a half a cup or so of pamigiano reggiano. I had pecorino so I used that instead, which worked out well.

Take the rissoto to a platter, top with the veal shanks and some of the stew liquid from the shanks. Pour another glass of wine and enjoy!

Joseph Carr, the best wine $20 can buy!

If you see it buy a case.

Habas a la rondena

It has been a long time since I have cooked any "Spanish" dishes and since it's the height of summer I decided it was about time. I was once in a second hand book store when I stumbled upon a book called "Spanish Cooking" by Pepita Aris.
With said book in hand, I went home and promptly set it on fire by turning on a burner while it was lying on the stove.

It rained all day Saturday and the grill was out of the question, so it was a good day to work in the kitchen, so i got the formerly mentioned charred tome down from the shelf.

The first recipe is called Habas a la rondena, or lima beans with ham, Ronda style. Aris writes, "So popular is this fresh bean dish all over Spain that it is sometimes called espanola instead." The book is broken out into regions and she has this recipe in the Andalusia region of Spain, which is also the birthplace of Flamenco music, a personal favorite.

2lb - Lima beans frozen
1 1/2 cups chopped Spanish onion
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup diced ham
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt, pepper
4 hard boiled eggs
1 red bell pepper diced

I sauteed the onion in the olive oil until it was quite well done and almost caramelized. I used a Vidalia onion instead of the red onion. Toss the ham in with the onion and fry for a minute or so. Add the frozen lima beans into the pan. Honestly, I think 2lbs was too much, I should have stopped after the first bag, which was a pound. I then covered the pan with a piece of foil and let it cook for about 10 minutes on med high. I chopped the boiled eggs while that was cooking. When the beans were done I transferred the pan to a large bowl added in the egg and bell pepper and tossed well.

It was very good warm, but it was even better today after being in the refrigerator overnight.

The second "Spanish" dish was also from Andalusia, pinchitos morunos, or small spicy Moorish kebabs. This is technically a tapa.

1 lb pork, (I used boneless ribs)
2 garlic cloves
2 tspn salt
1 tspn curry
1 tspn paprika
1/4 tspn dried thyme
black peper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon juiced

Crush the garlic with the salt in a mortar, then work in the other ingredients.

Cut the pork into bite sized pieces. Marinate the pork and allow let sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

I soaked the skewers for 20 minutes prior to adding the pork. Skewer the pork. Cook under the broiler about 3 minutes a side. Alternatively these would be perfect on the grill as well.

Last step: Open beer, play Paco de Lucia, eat...

I wasn't joking about setting the book on fire. You can clearly make out the rings of the burner...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Italian Sausage & Chickpea soup

I like to cook soup quite often mainly because it is easy and I am inherently lazy...

I can usually concoct a decent enough soup for supper when there isn't much to work with and I don't feel like leaving the house.

So tonight I found some mild Italian sausage in the frigid box and that was a start.

I also found a red onion, so I diced it up fairly coarsely. I heated some olive oil in a pot and tossed in the onions once the oil was smoking.

I cooked the onions until they were nice and caramelized.

I chopped the sausage into chunks and browned them in the same pot with the onion.

After a couple more minutes I deglazed the pan with a bit of chicken stock. After that I added in the rest of the can. (about 2 cups)

I found about fourteen cans of garbanzo beans in the pantry...(not sure what's going on with that?) So I opened a can, poured off the liquid and dumped the beans into the pot.

I happened to see a glass of water on the counter about half full so I poured that in as well.

After the soup came up to a boil I lowered the heat and let it simmer for about half an hour while I was doing something else.

When I checked back on the soup it looked a little thin, so I dissolved some corn starch in a glass of cold water and poured that in with the soup. Then I raised the heat back up and brought it to a boil for about 5 minutes.


Time to eat...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cast Iron chicken

"Gol-azo! Gol-azo! Gol-azo!" Fernando Fiore- Univision Announcer

Congratulations Argentina! with a 3-0 win over Mexico in the semi finals of the Copa America. Argentina now advances to the championship against Brazil.

I had some left over "drum sticks" from the weekend soirée that needed attending to.

Since it is a rare occasion that I fry anything, I decided to bake the chicken.

I started out with a couple of carrots, a stalk of celery and an onion.

I diced all of the vegetables up fairly coarsely.

I salted and peppered the chicken and sprinkled on some dried thyme.

I browned the chicken a little in a bit of olive oil.

After the chicken browned for about 5 minutes, I removed it to a plate and tossed the onions in the same pan, which by the way is my cast iron skillet. Only because it is oven proof.

After the onion had sauteed for about 5 minutes, I tossed in the carrot and celery and one minced clove of garlic.

I then added the chicken back into the pan and poured in about a cup and a half of chicken stock.
And for good measure, I threw in a bay leaf.
Then it was slammed into a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.
After cooling off for a bit I served it over some white rice.
Much like Argentina tonight, it was a winner...

Sunday, July 8, 2007


"Clearly, guacamole is the work of perfect art, the legitimate employ of the three Aztec elements that make it up: avocado, tomato and chile. " Salvador Novo, Cocina mexicana

This excerpt is from Rick Bayless' book Authentic Mexican and so is this recipe.

This time I doubled the ingredients however because I had about 8 people to plan for.

6 avocado
1 onion very finely diced
2 jalapeno peppers finely diced
1 tomato, core and seed, dice fine
1 clove of garlic finely diced
about 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime

The rest is pretty straight forward...combine the ingredients.

The one thing that I have found is that it is critical to really mince the onion well so that there aren't any large pieces at all.

Alternatively, you could zap the onion in the food processor as well, but it doesn't work as well and tends to liquefy the onion.

I prepared this the night before and let it marry together in the refrigerator over night. Just remember to keep a few avocado pits together with it to keep it from rusting.

The final result...

Zorak showed up unannounced.

Try tacos dorados with the guacamole.


I decided to try making some bread this weekend. It turned out rather nice.

I started off making the sponge, which was one handful of flour, a packet of rapid rise dry yeast and about a teaspoon of sugar.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and add about a cup of hot tap water. The yeast packet says about one hundred and thirty degree water. I just let the water run until I was sure it wasn't getting any hotter and added that, probably about 120 degrees.

I let this sit for about fifteen minutes so that the yeast could be activated.

Next I started adding in flour one handful at a time. I ended up with about 7 handfuls of flour added before it was ready to be kneaded.

My handfuls must have been about 1/2 a cup.

Kneading the dough....

After the dough was kneaded for about 10 minutes, I put in an oiled bowl and covered it.

After about an hour the dough had doubled in size.

Then I kneaded the dough for about a minute more and cut it in half and formed two dough balls.

I shaped these two balls into loaves and cut some slits in the top.

I baked the two loaves on 350 for about 35 or 40 minutes, which yielded the two finished loaves in the top photo.

This bread turned out very delicious.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Perfect Burger

"I like mine with lettuce and tomato
Heinz 57 and French fried potatoes
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer
Well good God almighty which way do I steer for my
Cheeseburger in Paradise.." Jimmy Buffett

Sometimes there is no substitute for a good hamburger and since it was the Fourth of July it was doubly appropriate.

Wes tends the outdoor grill..

Booze hounds...



Monday, July 2, 2007

Empanadas...getting better

"Daddy don't live in that New York city no more. He don't celebrate Sunday on a Saturday night no more..."-Steely Dan

I have failed on numerous occasions to successfully make a decent empanada or something at least approximating the ones they have in Buenos Aires.

This time I got a little closer.
The reason? The dough...I think.

3 cups flour
1 stick of butter (8 tblspns)
2 egg yolks
2 tblspns white wine vinegar
cold water
teaspoon course salt

Combine the butter and flour in a bowl with your fingers. Add the egg yolks and vinegar. Begin adding water a bit at the time until you have a reasonably firm dough. Refrigerate until ready to use.

I used chicken for the filling simply because that is what I had already on hand.
I diced one onion and sauteed it in olive oil.
I cut the chicken tenders (whatever they are) into fairly small chunks and browned them along with the onion.
To this I added about a teaspoon of dried oregano and salt and pepper.
I ground up some walnuts in the coffee grinder and added them as well.

After the chicken was thoroughly cooked, I pulsed it all in the food processor a few times.

Back to the dough. I rolled the dough out to about an eighth of an inch.

I used a can opener to cut the bottom out of a coffee can and used that as my cutter. The diameter was 4 inches.

On the left you can see an empanada with the filling ready to be closed up.

I brushed an egg wash around the edge before I doubled the dough circle together.

I used the tines of a fork to seal the edges together.

I also found that they actually worked a little better by using the rolling pin to roll out the rounds a bit more just before placing the filling on the dough.

Now if I could only figure out how they get those rooster head shaped edges in Buenos Aires.

I baked the empanadas on 375 for about thirty minutes. They came out reasonably flaky and pretty tasty too.

Overall it was a decent effort.

Cooking spirits: Carr, Cabernet, amazing $20 wine.

Cooking music: Steely Dan