Archive for the ‘Southwest’Category

Sweet corn tamales with black truffle

Australian truffle
During last July’s research trip to Australia, I babied a single prize black truffle all the way home. I kept it cool inside a rigid plastic box wrapped with absorbent paper that I changed every 12 hours so it wouldn’t get too moist. When asked at Border Control if I had any fresh food, I said, “yes, a black truffle.” The agent said, “OK,” and waved me through.

shaving a truffle The real question was what to make with this spectacular faceted lump (see above) that was an 80-gram culinary gem? How could I stretch it as far as possible without skimping on the flavor in each dish? After an indulgent meal of black truffle sliced over buttered pasta (see last post), I decided to set aside the truffle shaver in favor of a microplane grater that could produce gossamer ribbons of truffle. As I learned in Australia, maximizing the surface area pumps up the flavor.

Many top North American chefs rave about truffles with sweet fresh corn—one of our first tastes of summer at the market. But I had never seen truffles with sweet corn tamales. It seemed logical enough. After all, the Mexicans have been eating tamales filled with huitlacoche (an inky corn fungus) for centuries. As it turns out, truffle and corn tamales are a match made in culinary heaven.

This version is adapted from Mark Miller’s original “green corn tamales” that he used to serve at Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe. I’ve changed the dough a little and filled the tamales with soft goat cheese blended with black truffle. We serve them without a sauce, but with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche on the side.

Sweet corn tamales with truffle

SWEET CORN TAMALES WITH BLACK TRUFFLE


With apologies to Mark Miller and millions of Mexican chefs, I abandon the colorful corn husks or banana leaves for more practical aluminum foil to wrap the tamales for steaming.

For dough

3 large ears fresh corn, shucked
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter (one half stick) cut into pea-sized pieces
2 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup warm water

Cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a large bowl. Blend 1-1/2 cups of the kernels, the sugar, and the butter until it forms a chunky purée. Return to bowl with remaining kernels and add masa harina, salt, baking powder, chopped parsley, and water. Mix by hand until a soft dough forms, adding a little extra water if the dough is crumbly.

For filling
190 grams soft goat cheese
10 grams of finely shaved truffle ribbons

Mix truffle ribbons into cheese.

Divide dough into eight equal pieces. Flatten each and put one-eighth of cheese in middle. Fold over from two sides to seal. Wrap in aluminum foil and seal tightly. Repeat until you have eight tamales.

Steam for 50 minutes. Unwrap and serve with crème fraiche or sour cream.

Mole amarillo for turkey enchiladas

Mole amarillo2Mole amarillo is a classic sauce for Day of the Dead meals in Oaxaca. When we first started visited the Oaxaca region in the 1980s, we already knew the spicy, chocolate-y mole poblano. But of the seven classic moles, the one that really blew us away was the complex, subtle, and tangibly acidic mole amarillo (yellow mole). It was the first taste of travel that we labored to bring home. In those days, that meant growing our own tomatillos and yellow chile peppers and experimenting a lot to get the flavors right. It really does represent the culmination of our garden, which may be why we introduced mole amarillo with enchiladas into our post-Thanksgiving rotation many years ago. It’s a perfect way to use to leftover turkey. We often serve it accompanied by saffron rice mixed with sautéed scallions, corn, and coarsely grated carrot from the excellent New Southwestern Cooking by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger.

The concentrated form of the sauce can be made far ahead, preserved in canning jars, and be ready to eat in 20 minutes. Just follow the directions through Step 3, ladle into sterilized canning jars, and process for 20 minutes at 10-15 lb. pressure. Because it’s a high-acid food, it will keep safely in canning jars for up to two years. Or so we think. We’ve never been able to hold onto it that long.

MOLE AMARILLO (YELLOW MOLE)

Traditional variations of this autumn Oaxacan sauce, often served on the Day of the Dead, substitute dried cascabel peppers for the yellow peppers and marigold petals or safflower stamens for the saffron. Epazote is a common weed all over North America, often found in vacant lots. When crushed, its leaves smell a bit like kerosene.

Ingredients

8 fresh yellow chiles (Fresno, Santa Fe Grande, etc.), roasted, peeled, deveined and chopped
1 raw onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 lb. tomatillos, husked, parboiled and drained
1 roasted medium onion
1 roasted head of garlic
1 toasted cinnamon stick
6 toasted whole cloves
2 medium tomatoes, roasted and peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh
8 epazote leaves, minced
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 tablespoons toasted peanut or sesame oil
1 slice raw onion
generous pinch of saffron
4 cups strong chicken broth
1/2 cup tortilla dough (masa)

Directions

1. Sauté chiles, raw onion and garlic until soft. Purée and set aside.

2. Purée tomatillos, roasted onion and garlic, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, epazote and tomatoes.

3. Heat oils in heavy skillet. Add onion slice and brown. Stir in tomatillo mixture and cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until mole renders out the fat. Stir in chile mixture and simmer about 1 hour or until mixture thickens. Fat on top may be skimmed off.

4. Crumble and dissolve saffron in warm chicken broth. Dissolve tortilla dough in broth.

5. Add to the mole and simmer about 20 minutes until texture of custard, stirring often.

Traditionally served over chicken pieces, enchiladas or as dipping sauce for small tamales.

29

11 2013

Beyond chile peppers: the nuanced Santa Fe cooking of Estevan García at the Tabla de los Santos

We had the pleasure of spending Spanish Market in Santa Fe last July at the Hotel St. Francis, a luxury hotel that strongly resembles a monastery. And while we were there, we enjoyed the cooking of Estevan García, one of the pioneers of refined Southwestern cooking from his days in Los Angeles. A one-time monk himself, he seems right at home at the St. Francis. His cooking is as straightforward and unpretentious as it is subtle and delicious.

We wrote about him for the Boston Globe‘s food section. The piece appeared on May 9. You can find it online here. The article also included García’s recipe for this incredibly rich goat’s milk flan:

GOAT’S MILK FLAN

Serves 6

The goat’s milk adds a slight tang to this flan. While flans can be rubbery, the long, slow cooking keeps this version smooth and creamy.

Ingredients
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup goat’s milk
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1 vanilla bean
4 whole eggs
2 additional egg yolks

Directions

1. In a deep pot, combine 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup goat’s milk.

2. In a shallow nonstick pan, spread 3/4 cup sugar. Sprinkle water over sugar and place over medium heat. Swirl pan to fully dissolve sugar, then continue heating until mixture turns a dark amber. It should look nearly burnt. Remove from heat and divide caramel into six 6-oz. ramekins. Swirl to cover bottoms and spread caramel partly up the sides.

3. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Sift the vanilla into the sugar using a fork.

4. Whisk together eggs, extra yolks, and the vanilla-sugar mixture until sugar is dissolved.

5. Over medium heat, warm the cream-milk mixture until it looks like it will boil over. Remove from heat and add the other cup of heavy cream to cool it down.

6. Stir some of cream-milk mixture into eggs to temper them. Then stir the egg mixture into the milk-cream mixture. Fill ramekins.

7. Set the oven at 250 degrees. Place folded dish towel in bottom of a large roasting pan. Place ramekins in pan, taking care that they do not touch each other or the walls of the roasting pan. Place in oven and add enough scalding hot water to come halfway up the ramekins. Bake for three hours or until custards are firm in the middle.

8. Cool ramekins on rack. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. To serve, dip ramekins in hot water and use knife to loosen edges. Unmold each onto a small plate or shallow bowl.

Adapted from Estevan Garcia, Tabla de Los Santos, Santa Fe, N.M.

24

05 2012

What to Eat at the Airport: DFW

When we started this blog about two years ago, we never dreamed that we would be singing the praises of airport food. But that was before Pappasito’s Cantina became the only bright spot in a very trying day at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport.

We were en route from Boston to Albuquerque when our early morning connecting flight in Dallas was canceled without explanation. The next flight wasn’t until late in the day and we were resigned to a long, boring wait and generic fast food. We were debating the merits of pre-made sandwiches, bagels, yogurt smoothies, and McBurger when we stumbled on Pappasito’s in Terminal A. The long bar looked so inviting that we grabbed a couple of stools, perused the Tex-Mex menu and settled on tamales filled with chicken breast meat and topped with green chile. Bulging out of their corn husk wrappers, they were the real deal. The tamal was redolent of corn and lime, the chicken was intense, and the green chile was just the right balance of hot and sweet.

Even though we had ordered one of the more modest options on the menu, the servers kept the tortilla chips and spicy red salsa coming, along with refills on ice tea. (No free refills on the Dos Equis drafts, alas.) But a good meal in convivial surroundings certainly lifted our spirits.

It turns out that Pappasito’s is a popular local chain, first started in 1983, so we’d had a taste of border town cooking after all. And it made us think that there may be local foods with character lurking in other airports as well. We resolve to keep an eye out–and we will let you know when we find them.

01

11 2011

Duran Central Pharmacy — a prescription for chile cuisine

Counter at Duran Central Pharmacy

Counter at Duran Central Pharmacy

The drugstore lunch counter is a dying breed all over the country, but it’s alive and well in Albuquerque, N.M. Duran Central Pharmacy (1815 Central NW, Albuquerque, N.M., 505-247-4141) has been around for 45 years and in the same location since 1975. It’s close to the tourist-haunted Old Town, yet locals make up most of the clientele. The food isn’t fancy, but it’s definitely special and highly local. Because it’s full of chile peppers, it’s good for you. The red chile sauce avoids beans and it also eschews such adulterants as cumin. The green chile is also a straight-ahead stew of chopped green chile peppers with just a little sautéed onion and garlic.

Rolling tortillas.

Rolling tortillas.

Those sauces alone would keep me coming back. But I’m even more impressed with the freshly rolled and griddled flour tortillas. On Thursdays, the drugstore even serves carne adovada. That chile-laced New Mexican dish crosses spicy pork barbecue with roast pork. Arrive early to get a seat.

23

11 2009

Warming up with green chile chicken stew

Green chile chicken stew

Green chile chicken stew

El Pinto Restaurant (10500 4th Street NW, Albuquerque, NM, 505-898-1771, www.elpinto.com) may seat up to 1,000 people at a time, yet the quality of the handmade New Mexican food belies the size. Maybe that’s because it is a family restaurant run by the grandsons of Josephina Chavez-Griggs. Her daughter Katy opened La Posta de la Mesilla in 1939, and Katy’s nephews Jim and John Thomas Meek (“the salsa twins”) operate El Pinto. Many of their recipes, though, go back to Josephina. When I was there recently on a cold November night, the green chile chicken stew lifted both the chill and my mood. It’s a perfect winter warmer and simple to make at home once you have the green chile sauce (see the recipes page or the post of November 19). Here’s the recipe adapted from El Pinto:

GREEN CHILE CHICKEN STEW

Ingredients

1 tablespoon corn or canola oil
1/4 cup all-purpose white flour
1 quart homemade chicken stock
1 lb. boneless chicken thighs cut in 1/2″ pieces
3 cups (about 4 medium) red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in 1/2″ cubes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 recipe green chile sauce (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn (fresh or frozen)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat oil in 1 gallon or larger Dutch oven. Blend in flour and make into a roux, heating and stirring until golden brown.

Whisk in chicken stock to make smooth sauce.

Add chicken. potatoes, garlic, and chile sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes until potatoes are tender and chicken is very tender.

Add corn and bring back to a boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with warm tortillas.

Serves 12.

21

11 2009

Going green (chile, that is)

Roasting green chiles at El Pinto

Roasting green chiles at El Pinto

After David and I spend much time in New Mexico, we develop chile withdrawal when we go home. It’s not our problem alone. We’ve met chile growers who admit to carrying small cans of green chile with them whenever they leave the region–just so they can get a fix each day. The science of chile addiction says our reaction comes from the capsaicin in chile peppers. The alkaloid not only makes chiles hot, it also stimulates endorphins that create the feeling of well-being.

Green chile sauce from El Pinto Restaurant, which has been an Albuquerque mainstay since 1962, is a good basic sauce to heat and put on scrambled eggs or enchiladas. Unfortunately, the nearest store that sells it is 100 miles west of us. Here’s an adaptation of the El Pinto recipe, using canned green chiles instead of fresh ones:

GREEN CHILE SAUCE

Ingredients

1 teaspoon corn or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cans mild chopped green chile (3 oz each)
1 pickled jalapeño pepper, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced fine
1/2 cup chicken broth

Directions

Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.

Makes two cups.

19

11 2009