Boned trout… there’s a first time for everything!

Do you ever become the victim of a dramatic magazine photo and a beguiling recipe?

I consider finding a show-stopper a challenge so I have a throw-down between the magazine and me! Usually with good results.

Chard-Stuffed Trout With Charred Tomato Vinaigrette. The magazine photo challenged me!

The beguiling recipe called for butterflied boned trout. In visiting two markets, I found whole trout, heads and tails intact, and not boned. The other choice was flat filets. I thought and asked myself, how hard could it be?

I didn’t know what to do with the heads and tails at home, so my fishmonger removed them for me. He’s better equipped to dispose of trimmings like that than I.

I took the trout home and searched for a boning video.  YouTube has several and all are pretty much the same.  It was helpful to watch the video chef make a slice on either side of the spine and gently cut under it to remove it from head end to tail end.

She then carefully slipped her knife under the rib bones and cut a paper thin slice of flesh under them and carefully used the blade of the knife to lift them out. Kitchen tweezers helped remove a few pin bones that were left. That maneuver was repeated on the other side.

I was able to remove the spine just fine, but the rib bones were a little more challenging.  The were removed, but not as quickly or gracefully as the TV chef did hers.

The charred tomato vinaigrette and the stuffing took some prep time, but were worth it for the flavor.  I learned one lesson from charing the tomatoes.  I thought I’d loosened the  fond from the pan with a splash of water and add it to the blender. It turned my vinaigrette brown instead of pink like the original recipe’s. Ah, well, lessons learned.

The experience with boning fish was a good lesson. I’ll be prepared if I ever want to stuff a fish again.  the stuffing is bright and colorful and just might appear as a side dish one day. I will have to make the tomato vinaigrette again just to get the color right.

FYI, I only prepared two trout and it was not difficult to halve the recipe.

My chard-stuffed trout with an accidentally browned charred tomato vinaigrette. It was still delicious!

Chard-Stuffed Trout with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette

 The Vinaigrette

Ingredients

2 large tomatoes, cut into ½ inch slices

¼ cup fresh flat-leaved parsley leaves

2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed

6 Tbsp. oilive oil, divided

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely divided

1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

Method

Heat a large cast-iron pan or grill pan over high heat.

Add tomato slices to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side until well charred.

Place tomatoes in a blender. Add parsley, capers, ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary, juice, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

 

The Stuffing

Ingredients

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin stripps

1 shallot, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 bunch chard, leaves and top portions of stems thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Method

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to pan. Add bell peppers, shallot, and sliced garlic cloves; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add chard; sauté 2 minutes or until chard is just wilted. Remove from heat, stir in chopped basil.

 

The Trout and Assembly

Ingredients

4 (6 oz.) butterflied boneless trout, heads and tails removed

¼ up pitted Niçoise olives

5 thyme springs

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spread tomato mixture in a bottom of a 9X13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle olives over mixture and arrange thyme sprigs over mixture.

Sprinkle trout inside and out evenly with ¼ tsp. salt and1’2 tsp pepper. Place about ½ cup stuffing in each butterflied trout and fold halves back together. Reserve a little stuffing for garnish when plating.

Heat remaining Tbsp olive oil in large non-stick pan. Add 2 stuffed trout to pan; cook 2 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Turn trout over and cook another 2 minutes until skin is golden brown. Place browned trout on mixture in baking dish. Repeat browning on remaining two stuffed fish. Place baking dish in oven and bake at 400° for 12 minutes until trout is just cooked through.

Caldo de Pescado

The lenten season is over. My favorite seasonal bread pudding, capirotada, is off the menu until next year in local Mexican restaurants. Fortunately, many offer Caldo de Pescado, (fish soup) year ’round so all is not lost.

Last night was chilly and called for a Mexican style fish soup. I didn’t want to go out to a restaurant. How difficult could it be, I figured, so it was a quick trip to the store and back to the kitchen to play with my food!

Jim’s fish soup with cod, shrimp, vegetables, jalapeños and hot sauce. Just right for a cool and windy evening.

Caldo de Pescado al Jim

Ingredients to play with

For starters, there are plastic packets of ready cut vegetables for caldo in most of our groceries.  I picked up one that had a wedge of cabbage, two carrots, two small potatoes, a shucked ear of corn, a small onion, a Mexican gray squash, half a turnip, a lemon and two jalapeños.  I picked up another ear of corn and two small potatoes to be sure there was enough. Good thing I did; the corn in the package had started to dry up and one potato was past its prime. That spur of the moment decision saved the day.

Better than Bullion cooking bases are a staple in my pantry and refrigerator.  They are thick pastes reduced from meats and vegetables.  While salty, they are not as salty as bullion cubes and ever so much better.  They come as beef, chicken, vegetable and fish bases and are the company is starting to offer lower sodium versions.

I used a good size dutch oven about 3/4 full of water and roughly three tables spoons of  fish base for starters.  That’s easier than the tradition Mexican recipes calling for boiling grouper heads and bones to make a broth. Besides, being from El Paso, it wouldn’t know a grouper if I met one..

One Mexican thing was boiling the potatoes and carrots separately because they are starchy and can cloud the water.  The other vegetables went into the dutch oven for about 20 minutes. As the veggies were got tender, I added a pound of  bite size chunks pacific cod for an additional 10 minutes.  Pacific cod is firm yet tender and not too fishy tasting. It is still reasonably priced.  Next came a half pound of raw shrimp peeled and tails clipped before going into the soup.  A can of diced tomatoes (non-traditional ingredient) rounded out the flavors of the broth.  Just before serving, the potatoes and carrots went into the big pot and it was all stirred together.

On the side, lemon wedges, a seeded and sliced jalapeño and a bottle of Franks Red Hot Sauce stood by to liven things up.

This first-time fish soup goes on the “Let’s have it again” list.

 

Chicken Pot Pie – El Paso Style

A cold front blew through yesterday.  The temps looked reasonable, but the wind chill was very uncomfortable. It was an evening for warming comfort food. In El Paso, we never tire of chile, red or green.  I remembered making a green chile chicken pie a few weeks ago and thought it would be good to do it again.  In my first attempt, I added cornmeal to a biscuit recipe to complement the chile and chicken.  It was good but I thought it could use a little tweaking.

Ingredients: 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

three cups water and three teaspoons Better than Bullion Chicken Base

one half onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

roughly 1 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp dried oregano

2 medium firm potatoes, peeked and cut into half-inch cubes

about 1/2 – 3/4 chopped green chiles or to taste

baking mix and maseca – prepared cooked and dried masa for making corn tortillas, tamales and other Mexico delights.

2 Tbsp each butter and flour

1/2 cup milk

7X11 inch baking dish

How to:

Heat oven to 450º

Thoroughly mix the chicken base into boiling water. Add  potatoes and cut up chick thighs and simmer until cooked through – 15- 20 minutes. While potatoes and thighs are cooking, sweat onions in oil until translucent, add garlic and sweat until fragrant and soft. Add oregano and allow it to become fragrant.

Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool a little.  Add onion, garlic and chile to pot with potatoes and let simmer.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.  Remember the chicken base is salty, so check before adding additional salt. When cool enough to handle, cut cooked chicken into 3/4 inch cubes and return to pot.

Let ingredients simmer and the broth reduce a little.

Follow baking mix instructions for biscuits. Add 3/4 cup maseca to mix and blend into dry baking mix.  Add liquid per instruction and about half as much more liquid.  Stir until a soft, not soggy dough forms.  Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead about 10 times,  pat into a half-inch thick rectangle about the size of your baking dish.  My dish was too narrow for my biscuit cutter, so I used a wine glass to cut small biscuits from the dough. I got six rows of three and one-half biscuits to top the pie when it was time. I had a dozen biscuits left over, so I baked them along side the pot pie.

Mix melted butter, flour and 1/2 cup milk in a two cup measure and microwave at thirty second intervals.  It will thicken.  Add cooking liquid from the pot and mix smooth.  Microwave again.  Taste and when flour mix no longer tastes raw, this mix again with pot liquid, begin to add mixture in steps back to pot and mix it well. This roux will thicken the mix in the pot.  You want it fairly thick, but not gummy.

Spray your baking dish with non-stick spray. Place on a baking sheet and pour mixture form pot into baking dish.  Top with cut biscuits and place in oven until biscuits are golden and chicken and chile mix is bubbling.  Remove from oven and let set up about five minutes, then serve

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Green Chile Chicken Pot Pie with Maseca Biscuits for a cold winter night.

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Brussels Sprouts and Winter Squash Made Great with Pomegranate

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Sometimes you read something and you have to say WHAT THEY HEY?! The idea is so startling you have to read it over a couple of times to let it soak in.  Then you screw up your nerve, go shopping, come home and give it a try.

The thought of sweet winter squash, the bitterness of roasted Brussels sprouts and the tart yet sweet bursts of pomegranate arils all brought together with pomegranate molasses is hard to grasp. But it works and is wonderful.  It also is beautiful to look at.  Add a little rare sirloin and all you can do is sigh with every bite.

You can do this recipe a couple of ways.  I used kabocha squash, but butternut would work as well.  I chose to pull the leaves of my Brussels sprouts and roast them for a lightly crisp texture.  You could just cut them in half.  I din’t have a red onion, so I used a yellow one and no-one would notice the difference without being told. You might have to go to a middle eastern grocery to find pomegranate molasses.  I found it at the large Specs liquor store on Sunland Park. That store carries some great foodstuffs in addition to adult beverages.

By the way, I had enough squash left that I picked up more Brussels sprouts and a red onion so I can have this dish again tonight!

Brussels Sprouts, Winter Squash and Pomegranate

Ingredients

1 medium to large winter squash (butternut or kabocha)

1 lb Brussels sprouts

½ medium red onion

2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp chile powder

¼ cup pomegranate molasses

1 cup pomegranate arils (seed)

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 400°

Butternut squash: Cut top and bottom off squash, peel, halve lengthwise and scrape out seed. Chop into small cubes and spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Kabocha squash: Cut squash in half vertically and scrape out seed. Cut halves into half-moon wedges and spread in one layer on a baking sheet.

For either squash: Peel and cut onion into strips vertically. Separate and sprinkle over squash. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chile powder, toss to coat with olive oil.

Trim stems of Brussels sprouts and separate leaves from stem. You’ll have to trim the stem a couple of times as you separate the inner leaves. Place on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, and pepper.

Roast squash 30 – 35 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Toss squash about halfway through cooking. Halved Brussels sprouts can be roasted with the squash.

Roast Brussels sprouts leaves 5-7 minutes an toss. Return to oven for 3 minutes more. Remove from oven when leaves are tender and have a little bit of char.

When squash is tender, remove from oven. Put sprouts, squash and onions into a serving dish, drizzle with pomegranate molasses and toss. Sprinkle with pomegranate arils, toss and serve immediately.

 

 

Another shot at playing with your food.

Caperberries have been appearing on relish trays with olives, cheese and crackers around town for a few months. People are always asking what they are. They look like olives on a stem, but they are not related to olives.  I went searching for some and found them in the food section of Specs, an amazingly stocked liquor and finer foods store across from Sunland Park Mall.  Caperberries are now also on the olive bar at the new Whole Foods Market.  The advantage of shopping the olive bar is than you can just get a few to taste instead of a whole jar. I do say that I enjoy ta nibble or two whenever I can find them.

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Caperberries on top; capers on bottom. Both are delightful acid perks in recipes.

Capers, tiny immature flower buds, dried and pickled in brine and used in many wonderful dishes. They are originally Mediteranean and now are grown in many countries. I like them especially with something that has a little lemon juice in it. They enhance the acidity of a dish. Caperberries are the fruit of the same plant. Some say they have a slight lemon taste and others compare them to green pimento-stuffed olives. I lean toward the olive side. Both capers and the berries are pickled in a vinegar and salt brine.  Capers need to be rinsed to cut the brine flavor. Caperberries are crisper and milder than capers.  One resource I used said they may be substituted for olives in salads or chopped as a substitute for capers in recipes.  It did not recommend using capers as a substitute for the berries because they have a strong flavor.

I was intrigued with the thought of using caperberries as a substitute for olives, so I immediately reached for gin and vermouth to see how caper berries would work  in a dry martini.  Of course this was in the interest of culinary science! Both of them were!

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Culinary research. A dry martini, shaken, not stirred, with caperberry garnish. Repeated, of course, for the sake of culinary science.

My usual martini recipe with an olive garnish is pleasantly dry. I use 2.5 oz dry gin and .5 oz dry vermouth, shaken until well chilled.  I used the same recipe with a garnish of two caperberries on a pick. It was quite tasty. Rather than the slight brininess of the olive garnish, the caperberry was very lightly sweeter than I have previously experienced with two pimento-stuffed olives.  I think I’m going to have to re-run the experiment with side by side tasting – olive vs caperberry.

I’ll publish the results after the experiment – probably the day after.

Two martini’s made me remember a wonderful Dorothy Parker rhyme. The challenge here is tell me who Dorthy Parker was and to complete the rhyme

I love a dry martini,

One or two at most!

With two I’m under the table,

and three…

Hasselback Everything!

I’ve done some posts about how much fun (and work) it is to make hasselback potatoes and sweet potatoes. I found a terrific sounding recipe for hasselback butternut squash with a maple/fresno chile sauce that sent me off to the store for a squash and some chiles.  I served it with grilled chicken leg quarters. This recipe may become this year’s Thanksgiving surprise at the family gathering.

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Hasselback Butternut Squash with Fresno Chile Sauce and Bay Leaves. I left the stem on for the fun of it. The basting sauce has maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in to for a bit of sweet bite enhanced by the hit of bay infused during baking. This recipe is a keeper.

Hasselback Butternut Squash With Fresno Chile Glaze and Bay Leaves

 For this holiday-worthy recipe, roasting the butternut with several bay leaves slipped between the slices results in a subtle aromatic backdrop for the chile glaze.

INGREDIENTS

SERVINGS: 8

  • 1 large butternut squash or 2–3 small honeynut squash (about 3 pounds total)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup, preferably grade B
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 6–8 dried bay leaves

METHOD

Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a large spoon. Using a peeler, remove skin and white flesh below (you should reach the deep orange flesh). Rub all over with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast in a baking dish just large enough to hold halves side by side until beginning to soften (a paring knife should easily slip in only about ¼”), 15–18 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring chile, maple syrup, butter, and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally and removing chile as soon as desired heat level is reached (set aside for serving), until just thick enough to coat spoon, 6–8 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and keep glaze warm. Transfer squash to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, score rounded sides of squash halves crosswise, going as deep as possible but withoutcutting all the way through. Return squash to baking dish, scored sides up, and tuck bay leaves between a few of the slices; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash, basting with glaze every 10 minutes or so and using pastry brush to lift off any glaze in dish that is browning too much, until tender and glaze forms a rich brown coating, 45–60 minutes. Serve topped with reserved chiles.

Do Ahead: Squash can be roasted 4 hours ahead. Let cool until just warm; cover and store at room temperature. Reheat before serving.

HINTS

I used a freshly sharpened slicing knife because it helped me make thinner slices than my chef’s knife slightly thicker blade.  I placed a half of squash on the cutting board at a time and put the round handles of wooden spoons on either side of the squash My knife went as deep as the spoon handle and I didn’t cut all the way through the squash. I used a very small squash to make just two servings, but made a full recipe of the glaze. I was able to manage moving the cut squash early with a long bladed spatula.

 

More Fun with Aleppo

My recent posts about Aleppo and Aleppo oil have nothing to do with Gary Johnson’s now famous statement, “What’s an Aleppo.” Rather, they are about a wonderful taste treat you might like.  I’ve been using Aleppo oil I make myself.  My daughter sprinkles crushed Aleppo peppers on salads. It is versatile and mighty good.

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Braised Greens with Aleppo oil and feta and tiny lamb chops on the side.

This recipe uses braising or what the  author called “the cooked to hell” method of tenderizing fennel, Tuscan kale and broccoli rabe.  It takes some prep work and simmering time, but is well worth the effort.

Braised Greens With Aleppo Oil And Feta

The creator of this recipe called braising the vegetables the “cooked to hell” method, for making the greens meltingly tender. If you can’t find Aleppo, use 1½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes instead. Aleppo pepper will me more mild than the red pepper flakes in my opinion.

Ingredients

SERVINGS: 8 – the recipe is easily halved.

½ cup olive oil, divided

1 large fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced

1 large onion, thinly sliced

Kosher salt

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 bunches Tuscan kale, tough stems removed, leaves torn into pieces

1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stems removed, large clusters separated into smaller pieces

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

6 ounces feta cheese, broken into large pieces

Method

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, 5–8 minutes. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just beginning to brown, 5–8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add kale and broccoli rabe to the pot a handful at a time, tossing to wilt after each addition before adding more. Stir in red pepper flakes; season with salt. Add 3 cups water and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce heat and cook, partially covered, until greens are very tender, 35–45 minutes.

While greens simmer, make Aleppo oil. Bring Aleppo pepper, paprika, and remaining ¼ cup oil to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat, swirling often, about 1 minute, let cool.

Add lemon zest and lemon juice to greens; taste and season with more salt.Transfer to a serving platter along with some of the braising liquid and top with feta. Drizzle with Aleppo oil.

Lamb Chops

Coat lamb chops with lemon juice, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and pepper.  Pat dried oregano leaves onto chops’ surface so they will stick to the lemon juice.  Bake at 400º for two to three minutes a side until an internal temp of 145º is reached for medium rare or 160º for medium.  Tent and rest for five minutes before serving.

Steamed Egg Bliss

I read about steamed eggs and got curious.  One recipe was for blending eggs and a little water, putting then mix in a small pan, covering it and placing the pan in a larger one and steaming it in the oven.  The result was a fluffy, puffy egg that, because of the size of the pan, was just the right size for sandwich.  Interesting, but I haven’t tried it yet.

What I did try was cooking eggs in a steamer basket over a half inch of water.  Add water to a sauce pan, place eggs in a steamer basket, bring water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan and steam for about seven minutes.  Remove the eggs to an ice water bath. When cool enough to handle, peel them.  The result is tender white and a silky smooth  yolk.  I discovered that it takes practice.

The first time I steamed eggs, the ones I was peeling remained in the ice bath.  As the eggs cooled off, the membrane around the white glued the shell and white together making it almost impossible to peel the egg without tearing chunks out of the white.  I was really disappointed by this.  The eggs were delicious, but ugly.  And the ones that had stayed the longest in the ice bath were really chilled through.  This was not what I had hoped for.

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Egg whites torn in peeling are lot the look I’d hoped for.

It was time to get busy in the Gringo Gourmet Academy Test Kitchen and figure out how to make this work. The taste is so good! I wanted the appearance to be just as good.

A couple of days later, I wanted an egg garnish on avocado toasts, so I made hard boiled eggs.  Again, I put the cooked eggs in an ice bath to prevent the gray ring around the yolk that sometimes happens.  Again, the eggs were hard to peel after the ice bath.  I tried a YouTube video inspired peeling method that worked pretty well. It was very entertaining.  Chip away some peel at both ends of the egg, place it to you lips and blow very hard. The boiled egg pops out of the shell into your hand.  It was fun to do this with a couple of eggs but I think it is a technique I will save for Easter eggs after the hunt. The  youngsters will get a kick out of watching and trying it.

This morning, a Sunday, I gave it another go.  I steamed the eggs, and this time plunged them in the ice bath and immediately took them out.  They were much easier to peel while still a little warm. As they cooled, it became a little more challenging.  I tried blowing one. The soft white and yolk didn’t stand up to the blow and I had to clean up the countertop and backsplash.  I did have to laugh about it.  I served the virtually empty and deflated egg white to a friend and told him it was a low cholesterol egg since he takes a cholesterol medication.

My last peeling attempt was to crack the shell on the side and remove enough to allow me to slip a soupspoon between the egg and shell.  Carefully I worked the spoon around the egg and was able to remove it easily and neatly.  A little of that adhesive membrane remained on the shell, but none was on the egg. I was greatly relieved that I had smooth eggs to plate this morning.

While the eggs were  steaming and peeling was going on, I cooked a few strips of thick-sliced bacon and placed them on paper towels to drain.  After removing most of the bacon drippings, I sautéed some chopped onion and coins of tiny fingerling potatoes.  The potatoes were a mix of blue, red skinned and white skinned potatoes.  I had used most of the white skinned ones the first time I steamed the eggs.  This time, I had more blue and red potatoes than white, so the presentation potatoes were dark.  I removed the potatoes from the pan and dumped in the remains of a box of mixed spinach and arugula leaves to add a little flavor and color to the plate. A slice of multigrain toast was included to sop up the silky egg yolk.

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What a difference a smooth white makes on the plate over a pitted one!

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Sunday breakfast bliss. Steamed eggs on wilted greens, bacon, sautéed fingerling potato coins and toast to soak up silky egg white.

 

Crepes – Sweet and Savory, What’s Not to Love?

Sunday morning, I needed to use some macerated strawberries and fresh blueberries that were waiting in the fridge. Rather than top a bowl of cereal with them, I decided to make crepes.

Crepes sound difficult but are only as hard to make as you want them to be. I use a very simple recipe that works with minimal hassle.

After enjoying the berry crepes for breakfast, I still had about half a recipe of batter left. A fond memory of a crepes treat years ago inspired me to experiment.

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Strawberry and Blueberry crepes in a strawberry yogurt sauce.

Back in the 1980s, the Hotel Paso del Norte was renovated and expanded into an El Paso showplace replete with a Tiffany glass dome over what had been the lobby and now is a bar. After the renovation, the historic Trost designed hotel became the Westin Paso del Norte*. I had the pleasure of organizing a number of functions there for the then Texas Tech Regional Academic Health Center at El Paso.

I was invited to a Chef’s Table, a private dining area off the kitchen of the hotel where guests enjoyed an elegant meal with then Chef Paul Bellegarde. We dined on blue corn crepes filled with quail in an exquisite sauce. I was naïve enough to ask Chef Paul for the recipe. He pulled an old chef trick on me. He gave me the list of ingredients, but no quantities and told me to figure that out for myself.

I made the blue corn crepes a few times and filled them with chicken in an herby sauce; they were quite passable. I have never tried to cook quail and don’t really know if I could find them in El Paso. I know there are some in a flood control basin near my house, but I am not a hunter, especially within the city limits.

As I thought about what to do with my leftover batter, I thought about Chef Paul and the many great meals of his I enjoyed. He later served as chef de cuisine for the Hospitals of Providence and for the University Medical Center here in El Paso.

As I worked out what might be a good thing to do with my batter, I decided on savory crepes with a chicken and green chile filling and sauce. I used measurements equivalent to half the original crepe batter and substituted corn meal and mesquite flour for the white flour. Mesquite flour has a nutty/sweet flavor and made a good tasting batter. The corn meal added a little texture and helped hold the batter together. I combined the left over batter and my amended version. That gave me six good-sized crepes and one not so good that became my test taste and reward for all the work. I felt I was on the right track .

It was still morning, so I made my crepes, let them cool, layered them between sheets of waxed paper and refrigerated them until evening.

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Crepe cooking in a shallow skillet.

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A finished crepe.

For my sauce, I sauted onion and garlic, added low sodium chicken broth and then boiled two chicken thighs and about ¾ lb of chicken breast to make an enhanced broth. I skinned the thighs and removed the bones, but boiled the bones in the broth. By the way, this was done without a recipe, but I am giving you the ingredients!

When the chicken was done, I removed the meat to a platter cool a little and strained the savories and bones from the broth. I removed the thighbones and celery pieces and scraped the onion and garlic bits back into the broth. When the chicken was cool enough to handle I cut it into about a 3/8 inch dice, covered it and set it aside. I also diced a few roasted and peeled and green chiles. For garnish and kick, I brushed oil on a couple of jalapenos and lightly charred them on the grate of a gas range burner.

As dinnertime neared, I made a roux using equal parts butter and flour. As the roux thickened and lost its raw taste, I began to add small amounts of the broth and stirred like crazy with a small beater to make a smooth sauce. When the sauce was simmering and of a good thickness, I added the diced chicken and chopped chile and brought it up to temp. I didn’t want the roux and sauce to be too dark in color because mesquite flours cooks dark by itself.

I warmed my crepes in a pan and filled them with chicken and chile removed from the broth with a slotted spoon so they wouldn’t be too soggy. I wanted to tuck the sides and ends of the crepes to make a nice package on the plate. That’s not as easy as it sounds. It is a skill I’ll have to work on another day.

On the plate, I drizzled a bit of sauce over the crepes, sprinkled chopped cilantro and pickled red onions on top and served them with a simple salad.

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Cornmeal and Mesquite Chicken and Green Chile Crepes. A flame roasted jalapeño adds a little kick.

I was very pleased with the texture of the crepes with the corn meal. It added a very subtle rich undertone to the dish. The mesquite flour made the crepes a little darker than they might have been otherwise. There was no sugar in the original recipe. The mesquite made the crepes a little sweet that balanced the rich chicken sauce. I had been worried about the sweetness, but it was just right.

Below are the original recipe for the crepes and the half-recipe with corn meal and mesquite flower I developed. If you choose to try this recipe, you could use all corn meal – white, yellow or blue, and it would work. If you want mesquite, get food grade meal from a reputable source.

I made the half recipe because I had what looked like half a recipe of left over batter to begin with. You could halve the original recipe or double the corn meal and mesquite version.

SIMPLE CREPES

INGREDIENTS

1 Cup flour

1 1/2 cups milk

2 eggs

1 tsp vegetable oil

¼ tsp salt

METHOD

Combine flour, milk, eggs and oil. Add salt.

Heat a lightly greased 6-inch skillet; remove from heat. Spoon in 2 Tbsp. batter; lift and tilt skillet to spread the batter evenly. Return to heat and brown on one side only. Carefully using a spatula, release the edges of the crepe from the pan. Peek under the edge to check doneness. Your batter and subsequent crepe are very thin, so you don’t need to brown both sides. To remove, invert pan over paper toweling.

Repeat with remaining batter. Fill with your favorite filling.

Note: You may add a Tbsp sugar to the batter if you are making sweet filled crepes.

HALF RECIPE CORN MEAL MESQUITE CREPES

INGREDIENTS

¼ Cup plus one Tbsp corn meal

2 Tbsp mesquite flour or meal

¾ Cup milk

1 egg

½ tsp vegetable oil

dash of salt

METHOD

Combine corn meal, mesquite flour, milk, egg and oil. Add salt.

Heat a lightly greased 8 inch skilled; remove from heat. Spoon in ¼ Cup batter. Lift and tilt skillet to spread evenly. Return to heat and brown lightly. This crepe will be a little bit thicker than the simple crepe above. Loosen the edge of the crepe all around and peek under the edge to check for doneness. The surface should be honey colored. Carefully take the edge of the crepe between the thumb and forefinger of each hand and turn it over. After a minute or so, that wide will be done. It will have spots of color and not be an even brown like the first side. Slide the finished crepe out of the pan onto a waiting plate.

Repeat with remaining batter. Fill with a savory filling.

CHICKEN AND GREEN CHILE CREPE FILLING

INGREDIENTS list

Chopped onion

Minced garlic

Celery

Chicken broth

Chicken thighs, skinned and boned, but use the bones in your broth

Seeded and chopped long green chiles

Butter and flour for a roux

 METHOD

Re-read the description above and cook the filling and sauce, or as Chef Paul instructed me, go figure it out and make it!

PICKLED RED ONION

I like pickled red onion as a garnish on dishes with green chile. I slice onion strings using a hand held mandoline (a chef’s knife works, too). I put a generous half cute of the onion strings in a glass measuring cup and cover them with white vinegar. I microwave them for a minute to a minute and a half and let them cool until needed. They become a very tasty garnish.

*A few years ago the Mexican Camino Real hotel chair acquired the Paso del Norte and operated it. Sadly, it has declined considerably. The property has been acquired by and El Paso group who, this month, announced their intent to restore the hotel to its former glory and make it a showplace convention hotel. The city has given them 10 years of tax rebates to encourage the project. Let’s hope it becomes a star in downtown again.

 

Does a Club Newsletter Item Count as Being Published?

Cactus, Chorizo and Eggs

I’ve been a member of the 70+ year old El Paso Cactus and Rock Club for at least ten years. Some time ago, we hosted the club meeting to show off the work we had done on our back yard, including cactus landscaping and a brick patio. I remembered I had a Prickly Pear Cookbook on the shelf and decided it would be fun to do a cactus oriented luncheon. Every dish included prickly pear cactus in it in some form or another.

When the club started an annual public program for Cactus Appreciation Month, I was invited to do cactus cooking demonstrations. My cooking style is cactus  dishes that are more modern than traditional. I have some cookbooks from authors in Arizona who make very exciting dishes featuring prickly pear pads and fruits and flower buds from cholla cactus and many more foods from native plants. I’ve learned from them and have created a few recipes of my own. I say this way of cooking is “estilo Gringo” – Gringo style.

I am happy to say I’ve developed a reputation and have done demonstrations and classes in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. I have become the Gringo Gourmet  My daughter built the Gringo Gourmet blog site for me for Christmas in 2013. I enjoy writing the blog and shooting the food photos. I even get some reader hits on the site! Of course it doesn’t hurt that I post food pix on FaceBook with a link to the blog.

This long winded introduction leads to my being asked to provide a recipe and photo(s) for the El Paso Cactus and Rock Club quarterly news letter. I try to come up with something original for each issue and have fun inventing recipes and doing amateur food-styling for the newsletter. I also come up with new ideas for my demo dishes that way.

The next issue will feature what I consider the most difficult meal to prepare – breakfast. I tend to think of breakfasts fit for a farm hand – biscuits and gravy, pancakes and waffles, sausages, toast, eggs over easy cooked in pan drippings. And of course there must be butter and a variety of jams, preserves and jellies on the table. I cannot conceive of a green smoothie for my breakfast! Once or twice a year I fix what we called “big breakfast” in the good old days. The rest of the time, we try to enjoy more healthy fare and pretty much succeed. It still can be a challenge to make a country boy really want a healthy breakfast.

For the next Cactus Club Newsletter, I wanted to do a Gringo Gourmet more healthy twist on a Mexican egg and chorizo burrito breakfast.  I’ve added prickly pear cactus the mix and serve it in a flour tortilla.

First Gringo twist – I chopped about half a pound of prickly pear paddles into a half-inch dice. I cooked the cactus in about two teaspoons of canola oil. The cactus released its mucousy okra-like sticky secretion. I added a tablespoon of water at a time to the pan which created steam that helped evaporate away the sticky stuff.

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Diced prickly pear cactus pads simmering in the pan.

Second Gringo twist – bulk chorizo sausage made fresh with ground pork at local markets. It is surprisingly lean and just as spicy and tasty as the mushed mystery meat plastic tubes labeled chorizo. I don’t mean to be crude, but I’m told that tube chorizo is made of ground lips and a**holes. I don’t want to visit a processing plant to find out if that is true. I’ll stick with ground real meat as the sausage base.

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Ground pork with chorizo seasonings = bulk chorizo.

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Browned and crumbled and ready to be added to the cactus and eggs.

 

I bought my market made chorizo and browned it with some chopped onion and garlic. There was minimal fat in the pan when it cooked. It was a texture similar to hamburger after been broken up and stirred in the pan.

When the cactus was an Army green color I added four beaten eggs and swirled them until they began to firm up, then I started to stir them and made sure the cactus was well mixed in. Before they were too well set, I placed an estimated half cup of the cooked chorizo and stirred it into the eggs as they finished setting up.

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Cactus, chorizo and egg scrambled and ready for breakfast.

I tried three different platings of the eggs and chorizo for the newsletter. Each plating included the cactus, egg and sausage mixture, some refried beans and a handful of grape tomatoes for color and their special sweet-tart taste.

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First was a breakfast burrito made with a whole wheat tortilla. Please note that what I call a breakfast burrito would be called a breakfast taco east of the Pecos County line. Go figure that out. The second plating was three tacos. I softened the corn tortillas on a cast iron griddle until they were soft tender and had a little color. The final presentation was a griddle crisped flat corn tortilla topped with the egg and chorizo, some grated Mexican cotija cheese and a dollop of red chile salsa for a little extra kick.

The three platings tasted pretty much the same. Their difference was the tortilla and prep of the corn tortillas.

I do enjoy the bulk chorizo because I feel more like I know what is in it. That is important to me. I’ve been researching chorizo recipes and next time I’ll buy ground pork and make my own. I’ll report on that when it happens.

After word

I had left over cooked chorizo in the fridge and decided to add it to stacked red enchiladas the way some cooks add hamburger to theirs. Of course, I had to have an egg on top since it was for breakfast. I liked the enchiladas with a runny egg yolk best of all.

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Enchiladas with chorizo and a runny egg. I may have to run out and buy some  bulk chorizo before fixing dinner tonight!