Monday, July 27, 2015

Prickly Pear Cactus Noodles con Guisado de Longaniza y Vegetales

     Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Flavored Noodles with Stewed Longaniza Sausage and Vegetables!
     Today's western style pasta creation has comfortable flavors.  The stewed ingredients are mildy spicy and healthy.  The selection of vegetables was limited to only Mesoamerican varieties.  The list includes toasted calabaza seed, jalapeño, chile negro, tomato, blue speckled maize, bell pepper, onion and pinto beans.  Cilantro and epazote also flavor the stew.
     Longaniza Sausage is similar to Spanish Chorizo, but there is far less paprika in the sausage mixture.  Local butcher shops in Mexican food markets in Las Vegas usually stock fresh Longaniza.  Longaniza has a rich pork flavor that is mildly spicy.  This sausage is in a natural casing and it can be cooked whole.  
     Prickly Pear Cactus fruit is called "Tuna" in Mexico.  Prickly Pear Cactus fruit has a light strawberry flavor.  Modern Asian noodle makers offer many new noodle flavors and cactus flavored noodles are a popular item.  Asian style Cut Noodles are made by rolling out sheets of noodle dough, stacking the sheets, then cutting the stacked layers of dough into thin strips.
     I purchased a bundle of artisan crafted cactus flavored fresh Cut Noodles at the Greenland Supermarket in Korea Town, Las Vegas.  The first thought that came to mind was to create a few western fusion noodle recipes.  Taken for granted, fresh Cactus Cut Noodles are not available in every food market, but these noodle are fairly easy to make from scratch.  Either powdered prickly pear fruit or the juice can be used to make the noodle dough.
     Dried Chile Negro is not always easy to find.  Chile Negro is native to Oaxaca Mexico.  When dried, they look like a dark black stubby dried pepper with a smooth skin.  The flavor of chile negro is like a combination of deep intense fruit flavors, dried plum, licorice and tobacco.  Chile Negro is used to make the famous Oaxaca Black Mole Paste.
     The corn in today's recipe is an heirloom breed.  I chose Blue Speckled Yellow Maize.  Blue Speckled Maize has a rich flavor that is not sweet.  Heirloom corn varieties are Non-GMO.  Purchasing heirloom corn varieties helps to preserve biodiversity and native culinary tradition.

     Prickly Pear Noodles con Guisado de Longaniza y Vegetales:
     This recipe yields 1 noodle entrée.
     This stew does not take all day to cook!  The stew only simmers till the vegetables are tender and till a thin broth sauce is formed.
     Step 1:  Place a 5 ounce piece of raw longaniza sausage on a small roasting pan.
     Roast the sausage in a 300ºF oven till it is fully cooked, with minimal browning.
     Let the sausage cool to room temperature.
     Cut the longaniza sausage into bite size slices and set them aside.
     Step 2:  Place a pot of water on a back burner set to high heat, so the fresh cactus noodles can be cooked later in the recipe.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped seeded jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add the reserved cooked longaniza sausage slices.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1 plum tomato that is cut into thin wedges.
     Add 1/4 cup of fresh blue speckled maize kernels.
     Add 2 tablespoons of toasted pepitas.  (toasted calabaza seeds)
     Add 1 crushed seeded chile negro.
     Add 1/4 cup of rinsed pre-cooked pinto beans or rinsed canned pinto beans.
     Add 3 tablespoons of tomato puree.
     Add 2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced epazote.
     Add 10 to 12 whole cilantro leaves.
     Step 6:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the vegetables are tender and the excess liquid evaporates.  There should be about 1 cup of stewing broth in the pan.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 7:  Place 1 portion of Asian Style Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Flavored Fresh Cut Noodles in the pot of boiling water.
     Boil the noodles, till they are fully cooked.
     Drain the water off of the noodles.
     Step 8:  Add the noodles to the Longaniza Sausage and Vegetable Stew.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the the noodles and sauce on a plate or in a shallow stew bowl.
     *Use a carving fork to spin the noodles to form a tall peak of noodles on the center of the plate.
     Garnish with a split lime slice.
     Garnish the lime slice with cilantro leaves.

     The aroma and flavor of this western style noodle entrée spells comfort in any language!  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fusilli col buco with Beef Chorizo Chicken Ragù and Queso Manchego

     A Southwestern Ragù Pasta!
     The rules of Italian pasta are not merely arbitrary rules.  There are reasons why certain shapes of pasta are prepared with certain ingredients and sauces.  There are reasons why pasta should never be swimming in sauce.  There is a reason why cream sauces are rarely used to make traditional pasta entrées.  It takes a few years for a novice cook to understand the traditions of Italian pasta.  After learning something about Italian pasta tradition, it is easier to apply that knowledge to designing a new pasta entrée that falls within the bounds of good taste.  
     A chef that only dreams up cream sauces for pasta creations is a chef that shows limitations.  The world is not some kind of a big sphere of creamed spinach!  
     Cheesy cream sauce pastas lose their appeal when consumer demographics shift toward healthy eating.  No matter how a cheesy cream pasta entrée is described on a menu, cheese and cream add up to well over 60% fat.  A high fat diet might be good for icy cold winter weather, but it sure acts as a Lead weight when getting physically active in a temperate climate, like the Desert Southwest.  
     Pasta is a good selling item and it is an item for tourists that travel abroad easily recognize.  The problem is that most tourist trap restaurants always seem to offer only two token pastas on the menu.  A cheesy cream sauce pasta and a pasta made with canned tomato sauce are usually the only choice.  Travelers do get burnt out when they only see these two kinds of token pasta offerings on the menu from one tourist trap restaurant to the next. 
     The solution for tourist trap token pasta entrée burnout is breaking the mold.  Learn a little something about traditional Italian pasta and apply the knowledge to creating a pasta that has more appeal.  Do something like featuring local ingredients in the pasta recipe.  Choose a more interesting pasta shape.  Design a pasta that supports the regional cuisine theme or the tourist trap theme is definitely a good start.  Anything is better than just offering the same old burnt out cheesy cream pasta and cheap canned tomato sauce pasta.  Tourist trap restaurants are supposed to be entertaining and the food should not be boring at all, especially when it comes to pasta!
     Today's pasta recipe would be a good item for a Southwestern tourist trap restaurant that has a steady flow of tourists.  The sauce can be made in large batches, then it can be reheated to order, so waste cost percentages are minimized.  Spanish style stewed beef chorizo and chicken is a flavor combination that most travelers can recognize.  Ragù for pasta tends to be meaty and full of flavor, yet there is very little sauce.  Fusilli col buco is an interesting long corkscrew shaped pasta that picks up a meaty ragù nicely.  Just the look of today's Southwestern style pasta entrée will capture the interest of guests.   

     Beef Chorizo and Chicken Ragù:
     This recipe yields 1 portion. 
     Step 1:  Place a 4 to 5 ounce chicken breast filet on a roasting pan.
     Brush the chicken with blended olive oil.
     Season the chicken breast with sea salt and black pepper.
     Roast the chicken breast in a 325ºF oven, till it is fully cooked.
     Allow the chicken breast to cool to room temperature.
     Shred the chicken breast into small bite size pieces and set it aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon small chopped celery.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped green onion.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 3 ounces Mexican style uncased fine ground beef chorizo sausage.
     Sauté and stir, till the sausage is fully cooked, but not browned.  
     *Mexican style chorizo will release a fair amount of Spanish Paprika flavored fat when it is cooked.  This is what flavors the ragù! 
     Step 4:  Add the reserved diced chicken breast.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped plum tomato.
     Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
     Stir and sauté the tomatoes, till the tomato paste begins to lightly caramelize.  (French pincer technique.)
     Step 5:  Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of small chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram. 
     Stir the ragù.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the ragù, till the excess liquid evaporates and sauce easily clings to the meat.
     Keep the ragú warm over very low heat, while the pasta is cooked.
     Fusilli col buco with Beef Chorizo Chicken Ragù and Queso Manchego: 
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of fusilli col buco pasta in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta is al dente.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Step 2:  Add the pasta to the warm ragú in the sauté pan.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Toss the pasta and ragù together.
     Take the pan off of the heat.
     Step 3:  Use a long tine carving fork to mound the pasta on a plate.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of finely grated Mexican Manchego Cheese over the pasta.  
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onion over the pasta.
     Place 1 quenelle shaped dollop of sour cream on top of the pasta.

     No paprika, cayenne pepper or ground red chile pepper needs to be added.  There is plenty of Spanish Paprika flavor in the Mexican beef chorizo sausage.  
     As can be seen in the photographs, the old Italian rule of "just make enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor" applies to this Southwestern style ragù pasta.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mayan Chocolate Mousse

     Mayan Chocolate Mousse!
     Chocolate Mousse is even better when prepared with one of the earliest chocolate recipes in history!  Ingredients from the original Mayan Chocolate drink create an interesting mousse flavor!
     The Mayans of Central America made a potent fermented drink made with roasted cocoa beans, cannela, achiote, corn flour, vanilla beans and chile peppers.  The Aztecs also enjoyed this interesting beverage.
     Cannella is one of the more dominant flavors in the Mayan Chocolate Beverage.  Cannella is Central and South American cinnamon tree varietal.  Cannella bark has a lighter color than Asian Cinnamon and it has a milder flavor.  Cannella and bitter dark chocolate taste good together.

     Classic French techniques are used to make today's mousse recipe.  Some of the techniques are best learned with practice, study and hands on instruction.  This is especially true for making the Crème Anglaise and Italian Meringue components.
     A key thing to keep in mind when making mousse is that the finished components must be thoroughly chilled before they are combined.  The components are Italian Meringue, Flavored Crème Anglaise and Sweet Whipped Cream.  If the 3 components are warm when they are combined, the mousse will separate or deflate.
     The dark bitter chocolate needs to be melted above 89ºF, but no more than 110ºF.  If the chocolate is not tempered, it will remain in a viscous state when it is combined with the pudding and chilled.
     Couverture chocolate is best for today's recipe, because cocoa butter is returned to the cocoa nibs instead of cheap vegetable oil.  Vegetable oil is used to make cheap low quality chocolate.
     The melted chocolate becomes part of the crème anglaise in this recipe.  All of the spices are added to the dark chocolate crème anglaise.  The Mayan Chocolate Crème Anglaise used to make today's mousse can also be used to make Mayan Chocolate Ice Cream!
     Italian meringue is made by whisking egg whites till medium peaks appear, then adding hot molten soft ball stage sugar while briskly whisking.  The meringue finishes with a very tight textured glossy looking finish.  Italian Meringue is very stable and it will not easily deflate when combined with other ingredients, like when making mousse.

     This recipe yields 2 to 4 servings, depending on the serving size!  (About 3 cups.)
     Mayan Chocolate Creme Anglaise:
     Crème Anglaise is a simple egg & cream custard.  Crème Anglaise can be made thin for ice cream making or it can be made thicker for mousse applications that require the addition of melted chocolate, like today's recipe.  Adding 1 extra egg yolk does the trick!    
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of cream in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 egg yolks.  (from large eggs)
     Whisk the ingredients together and set the mixture aside.
     Step 2:  Heat 3/4 cup of cream in a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of ground pilancillo.  (Piloncillo is raw unprocessed hard sugar.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of ground cannella.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of achiote paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground ancho chile powder.
     Add 2 tablespoons of brandy or Straight Corn Whiskey.  (Corn Moonshine adds the classic fermented flavor but it is not always available.)  
     Gently whisk the mixture as it heats.
     Step 3:  When the cream mixture heats to 145ºF, remove the pot from the heat.
     Very slowly add the hot cream mixture to the cold egg yolk & cream mixture in the mixing bowl, while constantly whisking.
     Step 4:  Return the crème anglaise mixture to the sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Constantly whisk, till the sauce heats and it thickens to a custard consistency.
     *Do not allow the sauce temperature to go higher than 140ºF or the pudding will separate!  The custard will be like an extra thick sauce at this point.  After it is chilled it will thicken even more.
     Step 5:  Keep the anglaise warm on a stove top away from direct heat.
     Melt 2 ounces of dark bitter couverture chocolate in a double boiler.  The chocolate temperature in the double boiler should be less than 110ºF.
     Add the melted chocolate to the warm crème anglaise, while gently stirring with a whisk.
     Step 6:  Chill the Mayan Chocolate Crème Anglaise in a refrigerator to 41ºF.

     Whipped Cream:
     Place 1 cup of cream in a chilled mixing bowl.
     Add 2 teaspoons of sugar.
     Whisk the cream, till stiff peaks are formed.
     Refrigerate the whipped cream to 41ºF.

     Italian Meringue:
     The egg whites should be whisked to medium peaks, shortly before the sugar reaches the softball stage!  The two components must be ready at nearly the same time.   
     It is important to add a very thin stream of the hot softball stage sugar to the whisked egg whites while constantly whisking.  Adding the molten sugar too fast will scorch the egg whites.
     Wear protective gloves when working with molten sugar!
     Step 1:  Heat 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of water over medium high heat in a small sauce pot.  (Do not shake the pot!)
     Cook the sugar till the water evaporates and the molten sugar reaches the soft ball stage.  (235ºF to 240ºF.)
     Step 2:  A few minutes before the sugar reaches the soft ball stage.  Place 2 egg whites (from large eggs) in a mixer with a wire whisk attachment.
     Whisk till medium stiff peaks form.
     Step 3:  Slowly add a thin stream of the hot soft ball stage sugar to the meringue, while constantly whisking.
     *When all the sugar is added, the Italian Meringue should have a tight texture and it should look very shiny.
     Step 4:  Turn off the mixer as soon as the Italian Meringue is finished.
     Place the Italian Meringue in a container.
     Refrigerate the Italian meringue to 41ºF.

     Mayan Chocolate Mousse:
     Step 1:  After all three of the mousse components are thoroughly chilled, chill a clean mixing bowl to 41º and get rubber spatula ready.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 of each component to the chilled mixing bowl.
     Very gently fold the ingredients together.
     Add 1/3 more of each component at a time, while folding, till all of the ingredients are combined as one.
     *Do not over mix!  Just barely combine ingredients.  The idea is to keep the tiny air bubbles in the mousse, so it has a light texture.  
     Step 3:  Cover the mixing bowl.
     Refrigerate the mousse for at least 4 hours.  (12 to 24 hours is best)
     1 cup is a generous mousse portion.  The 1 1/2 cup portion of mousse in the photos above was kind of huge! 
     Load the Mayan Chocolate Mousse into a star tipped pastry bag.
     Pipe the mousse into a chilled soufflé ramekin or chilled champagne glass.
     Garnish the mousse with a dark chocolate garnish of your choice.

     The great flavor of Mayan Chocolate Mousse will certainly please guests and inspire conversation! 

Asian Pear Mazamorra Morada with Finger Banana and Raspberries

     Peruvian Purple Corn Pudding Flavored With Asian Pear!
     Peruvian Purple Maize was traditionally used by native Peruvians for flavoring beverages and it was also used to color food.  Purple Maize has a unique sweet corn flavor that compares to the flavor of soda pop.  In modern times, Purple Maize is actually used to make soft drinks.  There are several brands of South American soda pop that feature the flavor of Purple Maize.  
     Chicha Morada is a traditional South American beverages that is made with boiled Purple Corn water, pineapple, cloves, cinnamon and sugar.  Chicha Morada is a very refreshing drink on a hot summer day!
     Mazamorra Morada is Peruvian Purple Maize Pudding.  Mazamorra Morada is a simple corn starch pudding.  Corn starch puddings are by far the easiest of all puddings to make.  
     To make Mazamorra Morade, Purple Corn is mashed and boiled to make a purple color broth.  The Purple Corn Broth is strained.  Fruit, sweetener and spices are added.  Quince is the number one choice of fruit flavor.  The Purple Corn Broth and fruit is reheated, then it is thickened with corn starch or potato starch till it is a pudding consistency.  The finished Mazamorra Morada has a deep purple color that is very appealing when served in a dessert glass.

     Purple Peruvian Maize is not exactly easy to find at common food markets.  Hopi Blue Maize has just started to appear on store shelves in recent years, but Purple Peruvian Corn is still a rarity.  Peruvian Purple Corn is not the same thing as Hopi Blue Maize, even though these two corn varietals have a similar color.  Hopi Blue Maize is not quite as sweet and it definitely does not have a light soda pop flavor.   
     Fresh Peruvian Purple Maize is sometimes available fresh at local organic farmers markets.  Local farmers have taken an interest in this unique corn varietal, because it can be marketed as Non-GMO.      
     Using Bottled Purple Maize Soft Drink to make Purple Corn Pudding is an option.  Some brands are 100% natural and they are only made with sweet Peruvian Purple Corn.  Of coarse the Purple Corn Soft Drink has to be heated till the carbonated bubbles dissipate.  Peruvian Purple Corn Sodas can occasionally be found in international food markets. 
     Dried Powdered Purple Maize Starch and Instant Mazamorra Morada Pudding Mix can be found at some international markets.  Both of these products can also be found at internet shopping websites, like Amazon.  The key thing to look for is a Mazamorra Morada Pudding product that contains no artificial color.  Most of these products are lightly sweetened with sugar.    

     Asian Pear Mazamorra Morada:
     This recipe makes enough for 3 to 4 servings!
     Today's recipe describes the old fashioned way of making Mazamorra Morada.  If you have to adapt Purple Corn Soda or Instant Mazamorra Morada Pudding Mix to the recipe, figuring out which steps in the recipe to skip is easy to do.  
     Step 1:  Cut the kernels off of 2 ears of Peruvian Purple Maize.  (Save the cobs!  The cobs add a sweet flavor.)
     Place the purple maize cobs and kernels in a sauce pot.
     Cover the ingredients with 5 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer till the liquid becomes a deep purple color.  
     Allow the liquid to reduce to about 4 cups.
     Step 3:  Pour the purple maize liquid through a paper filter lined strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Bring the purple maize water to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Step 4:  Add 1 pinch of cannela.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 4 tablespoons of sugar.
     Step 5:  Mix about 1/3 cup cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water to make a slurry.  (The amount of slurry needed may vary.  Thickening a pudding with cornstarch slurry has to be done by eye!)
     Slowly, add just enough of the slurry, while stirring with a whisk, to thicken the purple maize liquid to a medium thick pudding consistency.  (Save any extra cornstarch slurry for another recipe.)
     Gently boil the pudding, while stirring for about 1 minute, till the corn starch becomes translucent.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 peeled seeded Asian Pear that is cut into 1/4" thick slices.
     Simmer till the Asian Pear slices are tender.
     Keep the Asian Pear Mazamorra Morada warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF Bain Marie. 

     Asian Pear Mazamorra Morada with Finger Banana and Raspberries:
     This recipe describes a single portion presentation.
     Spoon about 1 cup of warm Asian Pear Mazamorra Morada into a tall stemmed dessert glass.
     Cut a peeled finger banana in half lengthwise.
     Place one half of the finger banana in the purple maize pudding.
     Use a pastry bag to pipe a small amount of whipped cream beside the finger banana.
     Garnish with a few raspberries.
     Garnish the whipped cream with fresh lime zest.

     Mazamorra Morada is a nice change from heavy rich cream puddings.  The soda pop purple corn flavor is light and appealing.  The deep purple translucent color definitely creates nice eye appeal!  

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Mango en Ancho Chile Rum Syrup

     A Tasty Southwestern Style Ice Cream Topping!
     Throughout history, sweet and semi spicy chile pepper flavor combinations are a recurring theme in Mayan, Puebla, Incan and Aztec cultural cuisines.  Ancient Mesoamerican cuisines used this flavor combination to make tasty grain snacks, stews and beverages.

     Sweet agave nectar, honey or dried sweet fruit combined with mild chile pepper and toasted nuts or seeds was the Mesoamerican equivalent of the modern Granola Bar.  Toasted Amaranth Seed or Pepitas, ground dried chile pepper powder and honey can be combined to make a nutritious hard chewy snack bar for long hikes and the origins of this highly nutritious concoction date back before the Aztec civilization.
     Modern health food manufacturers have recently started to offer sweetened ancient super grain snack bar products, but none of the snack makers throw mild chile peppers into the ingredient mix.  More often than not, the health bars are actually sweetened with sugar caramel or cheap corn syrup instead of honey or nectar.  Mild chile pepper is left off of the ingredient list.

     One of the most famous chile pepper dessert flavors originated in the Mayan and Aztec Chocolate Beverage recipes.  In ancient times, the Mayan Chocolate Beverage had a semi bitter flavor.
     In modern times, raw sugar was added to the Mayan Chocolate recipe to make it more appealing for European tastes.  A modern ice cream company actually marketed Mayan Chocolate Ice Cream in recent years, but the proportion of mild chile powder and achiote was reduced to the point where those flavors were not noticeable.  Only Cannella, Vanilla, Cocoa and sugar could be tasted in that ice cream product.
     Because I am a chile pepper fanatic of sorts, I have developed a few Mayan Chocolate recipes over the years that do retain the mild chile pepper flavor.  The Mayan Chocolate Mousse recipe that I published about 6 years ago has the full spectrum of classic Mayan Chocolate flavor.  The mildly spicy dried fruit flavor of Chile Ancho can be tasted in that Mousse.  The Chile Ancho flavor really awakens the senses, just like the original Mayan Chocolate Drink recipe was intended to do.  
     Using mild savory chile peppers to flavor sweet beverages or dessert recipes is fairly common in modern Mexican and South American cuisines.  Modern Southwestern cuisine chefs make use of this flavor combination too.  Modern Mexican cuisine chefs often combine mild chiles and sweet tropical fruit to make some interesting dessert flavors.
     Chile Ancho and Chile Puya both have rich dried fruit flavor undertones.  Chile Puya can be medium spicy hot, so its application for dessert recipe is limited.  Chile Ancho is about as mild as a Bell Pepper.  Ancho chiles have a classic Southwestern chile pepper flavor and the deep dried fruit flavor undertone is easily noticed.
     Chile Ancho combines well with sweeteners, like piloncillo, agave nectar or honey.  Chile Ancho flavored syrup naturally tastes great with fruit and vanilla bean ice cream.  Today's ice cream topping syrup recipe will appeal to those who have never explored sweet chile pepper dessert flavors.
     Mango en Ancho Chile Rum Syrup:
     This recipe yields 2 servings!
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 cup of peeled seeded firm textured ripe mango that is cut into thick slices.
     Gently sauté the mango for 30 seconds.  (Till the mango is aromatic.)
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of piloncillo or light brown sugar.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.
     Add 1 pinch of cannela.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice.
     Step 3:  Simmer and reduce till the syrup is a thin consistency.  Flip the mango slices occasionally, so they cook evenly.
     Step 4:  Add 3 ounces of amber rum.
     Simmer and reduce till the syrup can glaze a spoon.
     Step 5:  Keep the Mango en Ancho Chile Syrup warm over very low heat.  Serve before the mango slices become too soft and break apart.
     Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Mango en Ancho Chile Rum Syrup:
     This recipe describes 1 dessert portion.  
     Whole Vanilla Beans are very expensive these days.  I write ice cream recipes, but it is not cost effective to make Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from scratch.  Currently, the better choice is to purchase a high quality Vanilla Bean ice cream product.  Some brands are better than others.  Vanilla Bean Ice Cream that is made with natural ingredients tends to be the best. 
     Place 1 portion of the Warm Mango en Ancho Chile Rum Syrup in a shallow dessert bowl.
     Place 1 large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the mango and syrup.
     Garnish with a mint sprig.
     This simple dessert recipe is easy to make and it is a crowd pleaser.  Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Mango en Ancho Chile Rum Syrup is refreshingly sweet!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Perciatelli with Mushrooms, Hickory Smoked Bacon and Chipotle Cilantro Jack Cheese Crème

     Perciatelli Pasta With A Mildly Spicy Southwestern Style Crème Sauce!
     Perciatelli is similar to Bucatini Pasta.  Perciatelli is a long tube shape pasta with thinner walls than Bucatini.  A sauce made with cream does cling to Perciatelli, but there is only one problem.  Perciatelli is a lively pasta that wiggles all over the place when eaten.  This wiggly pasta can sling pasta sauce all over a shirt, so it is necessary for guests to wear pasta bibs when eating Perciatelli!

     By the description of the ingredients in this southwestern style pasta, one might assume that the sauce is heavy.  This is partially correct!  Any cheese and cream sauce can be heavy on the tummy. One small chipotle pepper en adobo is enough to flavor the sauce, without adding excessive spicy heat.  The chipotle and cilantro make the sauce feel lighter on the palate than what the ingredients would suggest.  Even so, today's pasta entrée would be best when served on a chilly winter day in the high desert.

     Perciatelli with Mushrooms, Hickory Smoked Bacon and Chipotle Cilantro Jack Cheese Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty pasta entrée.  
     This is a simple reduction sauce.  The sauce for this pasta can be made in the same amount of time as it takes to cook the pasta!  For the best results, the sauce and pasta should be finished at the same time.  
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of perciatelli pasta in boiling water over high heat, till it is al dente.
     Immediately start making the sauce after placing the pasta in the water.  (Stir the pasta occasionally so it does not stick.)
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped hickory smoked bacon.
     Sauté till the bacon turns a light golden color.
     Use a spoon to remove any excess bacon grease.
     Step 3:  Add 1 teaspoon of pomace olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic and bacon are a golden brown color.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced button cave mushrooms.
     Sauté till the mushrooms start to become tender.
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 cup of milk.
     Add 3/4 cup of cream.
     Add 1 tablespoons of Mexican Crema.  (Thin sour cream)
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced chipotle en adobo.  (Canned chipotle en adobo is good for this recipe.)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 6:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Stir the sauce as it comes to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a very thin cream sauce consistency.
     Add 1/4 cup of grated Monterey Jack Cheese while stirring.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 8:  If the pasta is not ready, then take the sauté pan off of the heat.  Otherwise, reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 9:  Drain the water off of the perciatelli pasta.
     Add the pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan over low heat.
     Add about 20 whole cilantro leaves.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 10:  Use a chef's long tine carving fork to twist the pasta, as it is placed on a plate.  (Spin the carving fork and pasta together to increase the height of the pasta on the center of the plate!)
     Sprinkle 1 bias sliced green onion top over the pasta.
     Garnish with a cilantro sprig.

     Using a long tine carving fork is the classy professional way to plate a pasta!  This way, no loose ends of the pasta are hanging out and a swirling visual effect is created.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Picadillo de Monterrey

     The flavor of Picadillo appeals to all of the taste senses!  Picadillo is sometimes mistakenly described as being some kind of a Mexican style breakfast hash.  Tex-Mex recipes and a few Mexican recipes for picadillo do resemble hash, because a large amount of potatoes are added.  Looks are deceiving.  The flavor is nothing like a meat and potato hash.
     Picadillo has a flavor that combines sweet, spicy, fruity, savory, familiar and exotic elements.  The spices in Picadillo are not what one might expect when thinking of Mexican cuisine.  There are many regional Mexican Picadillo recipe variations and this complicates the definition of Picadillo even further.  Some are dark and rich colored and some are very light.  For the most part, all Picadillo recipes involve creating a balanced, yet complex flavor combination.

     Today's picadillo recipe is one that I learned while cooking in a cutting edge Mexican seafood restaurant.  The Mexican chef was very talented.  I had never tasted Picadillo, till he cooked a batch for a sandwich special du jour one day.  Picadillo has a great flavor that one never forgets!
     After we ran the Picadillo special du jour, I spent some time trying to figure out the combination of spices in his Picadillo recipe.  I was making a few sauces for the dinner business, when the chef walked over to me and said "I bet you are wondering how Picadillo is made!"  It did not take a mind reader to see what I was thinking about.  He then told me the ingredients and the proportions for his Picadillo recipe.
     The chef also mentioned how Picadillo is served antojitos style back in his home town of Monterrey, Mexico.  Sandwich size Bolillo Bread Loaves are hollowed out with a long handle spoon. The bread pith is removed, then Picadillo is stuffed inside the Bolillo.  This style of Picadillo Bolillo Torta prevents the filling from falling out when the sandwich is eaten.  
     The chef explained how important that raisons and honey were for creating the unique flavor.  The chef's Monterrey style Picadillo was made only with minced ingredients, so it in no way resembled breakfast hash.  As I later found out, Picadillo loosely translates to the word minced.
     Multiple reductions and very slow simmering releases the flavor of the spices.  Once the Picadillo is finished cooking, the flavors do take time to meld.  Many Mexican chefs suggest cooking picadillo a day ahead of time, then chilling the Picadillo overnight in a refrigerator, so the flavor balance mellotiple reductions and very slow cooking for the last part of the picadillo recipe releases all the flavors of the seasonings.
     Piloncillo raw sugar is the sweetener for old classic Picadillo recipes.  Honey takes the place of piloncillo in today's Monterrey style Picadillo recipe.
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 portions, depending on the application.
     The vegetables can be minced in a food processor.  
     This recipe involves multiple reductions to achieve a balanced flavor.
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 12 ounces of lean ground beef.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced carrot.
     Add 1 minced small seeded green serrano pepper.
     Step 2:  Stir and sauté the ingredients together.
     Mash and break up any lumps of ground beef in the pan.
     Sauté the ingredients, till the beef starts to lightly brown.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1/4 cup of minced raisons.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of ancho chile powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground chile arbol.
     Add 1 bay leaf.
     Step 4:  Stir and simmer the picadillo, till the excess liquid evaporates and you can hear the ingredients start to sizzle in the pan.
     Sauté and stir for about one minute.
     Step 5:  Add 3/4 cup of water.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of ground clove.
     Add 2 pinches of allspice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cannella or 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
     Add 1/2 cup of minced peeled cored apple.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce the liquid again, till you hear the ingredients start to sizzle.
     Stir and sauté the picadillo for about one minute.
     Step 7:  Add 3/4 cup of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of minced fresh tomato.
     Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree.
     Add 2 pinches of Mexican oregano.
     Add 1/3 cup of small chopped peeled russet potato.
     Add 5 minced California Black Olives.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Step 8:  Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of honey.
     *Taste after adding each spoonful.  The flavor should be slightly sweet.  The apple and raisons also sweeten the picadillo, so it is important to taste after each addition of honey, so the flavor is not too sweet.
     Step 9:  Simmer and reduce the liquid, till the excess liquid evaporates and you hear the picadillo sizzle again.
     Step 10:  This time, add 3 cups of water.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Do not cover the pan!
     Allow the liquid in the picadillo to very slowly simmer and reduce, till almost all of the liquid has evaporated.  This takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
     Stir the picadillo occasionally.
     When the picadillo liquid has reduced to a thick consistency and the sauce is a rich dark reddish brown color, then the Picadillo is finished.
     Step 11:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Place the Picadillo in a container and let it cool to room temperature.
     Chill the Picadillo overnight in a refrigerator.
     Step 12:  To serve, reheat the Picadillo in a pan over low heat with a small splash of water.  Be sure that the  excess liquid evaporates before serving.

     Mexican Rice:
     This recipe yields enough rice for 1 or 2 accompanying portions.  
     Step 1:  Boil 1 cup of water in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of long grain rice.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 2:  Add 2 pinches of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 2 pinches of ancho chile powder.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of tomato puree.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped green bell pepper.
     Step 3:  Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer and steam the rice, till the water is absorbed and the rice becomes tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil while stirring.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top.
     Tomato Corn Salsa:
     This recipe yields 1 or 2 accompanying portions.
     Step 1:  Cut 1/2 cup of corn kernels off of an ear of corn.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add the corn kernels.
     Add sea salt.
     Blanch the corn kernels for 1 minute.
     Pour the corn kernels into a strainer to drain off the water.
     Step 2:  Place the corn kernals in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of small chopped tomato.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped seeded green serrano pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1 clove of finely chopped garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro leaves.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Step 3:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the salsa for 30 minutes.
     Picadillo de Monterrey Presentation: 
     Spoon aboy 5 or 6 ounces of the Picadillo into a medium size soufflé ramekin or small bowl.
     Set the bowl of Picadillo on a serving plate.
     Garnish the plate with:
     - endive lettuce leaves
     - 1 portion of tomato corn salsa
     - 1 portion of Mexican rice
     - 1 portion of warm black beans
     - a dollop of sour cream
     - cilantro sprigs
     - 1 roasted red jalapeño pepper
     Serve with 3 or 4 small warm corn tortillas or flour tortillas.
     Picadillo takes some time and effort to cook, but it is well worth the wait!  The flavor of this Monterrey style Picadillo is very rich!