Monday, May 23, 2016

Mole


Mole is a very complex sauce utilizing many different ingredients.  It is considered the Mexican national dish, which makes sense considering it has almost every single Mexican ingredient in, I mean take a look:




Growing up, it was very common to have mole from a store-bought mole paste which was prepared by adding more ingredients.  This makes sense considering how time consuming the process can be, it is common to see various mole pastes for sale in markets.  I wanted to make my own mole, preparing each individual ingredient, and balancing the taste out as necessary. I used as my source Diana Kennedy's The Art of Mexican Cooking.  In there she has a recipe for Oaxacan black mole.  I used some of the proportions as a guide but used some different ingredients I've seen also used in mole poblano. 


 





The process is fairly straightforward, it's just the amount that needs to be done. Each ingredient needs to be toasted on a comal.  For spices and the sesame seeds I used a pan, just to make them easier to handle.  Traditionally a metate is used to grind all the ingredients into a paste, but I used a blender, adding just enough liquid at a time to get it going without make it too wet, it should still be a paste.  Some more detailed steps are included in the recipe below.







Mole



10 chiles guajillo
10 chiles ancho
10 chiles pasilla
5 chiles cascabel
4 tomatillos, peeled
4 cloves garlic
1 platano maduro
1/2 cup reserved chile seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 of a stick of canela
3 allspice berries
4 cloves
6 peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp thyme
2 tortillas
1 bolillo
1/2 cup lard
salt
1 tablet Mexican chocolate
1-2 tsp sugar
5-6 cups chicken broth



Toasting the ingredients
- Toast all ingredients on a comal until golden brown, except for chocolate.  For small seeds, spices, herbs a sauté pan might work best and heat through until fragrant.
- For chiles specifically: toast ancho and pasilla for 2-3 minutes on each side. Toast guajillo and cascabel for 4-5 minutes to get them very dark/black. Place in a bowl and cover with boiled water for 25 minutes.
- Platano maduro can be griddled skin on, the heat will soften it.
- For the bolillo: heat the lard until hot, fry the bread well on all sides.


Blending the ingredients
- This might need to be done in batches depending on the size of the blender.
- Start with chiles and nuts/seeds as these will get the thickest.  Add just enough water at a time to get the blender going, you may need to push ingredients down.
- Blend the remaining ingredients, except for the chocolate, chicken, and lard.
- At this point, it should be a slightly thinner paste


Finishing the sauce
- Heat the lard in a large pot or dutch oven until very hot.
- In one motion, pour all of the mole over the lard, the idea is to fry the sauce and cook it really well. Stir occasionally for 5 minutes.
- After this point, add the chocolate and stir well so it can break up and get incorporated.
- Add chicken broth and allow this to simmer for an hour, stir frequently to avoid sticking.
- Towards the end, use a stick blender to smooth out the sauce a bit more.

Eating the sauce
Boiled shredded chicken mixed into the sauce what I grew up with and still my go to.  I also really love just the mole over red or white rice, I really love the texture difference.  The more traditional would be turkey meat, but beef and pork also work really well.  It is a fairly versatile sauce given how complex it is.  There is also nothing wrong with just drinking it out of a bowl, right?



Monday, April 11, 2016

coconut milk braised greens




Collard greens are something I'm really been enjoying lately. When given the option, I'll get them. I love that they have a bitter and vinegary flavor, but also have a rich texture when eating.  I have been wanting to prepare my own, so I did some research and saw a lot of the typical collards boiled with ham hocks or turkey necks.  All of that sounded amazing, but coming across posts of people braising them in coconut milk with ginger really made me interested.  I love cooking with coconut milk and I could already taste the flavors together.  This was the route I wanted to take: greens braised in coconut milk and a veggie broth with roasted aromatics, ginger, garlic and gochujang to add some heat and umami to the dish.





I had a box of veggie broth to use as braising liquid along with coconut milk, but I wanted to add a lot of additional flavor, specifically the taste of roasted aromatics like leeks, ginger, garlic and shallots.  I placed this in the oven at 500F for about 20 minutes then turned them halfway through to get a nice amount of color on everything. I added these to the vegetable broth and boiled. In the meantime, I started to prepare the greens.




For this dish, I'm using mostly collard greens, but I did pick up some turnip greens as well. As far as I can tell the turnip greens are more tender and not as bitter as collard greens. To begin preparing them, I removed the thick middle stem from the greens.  This was probably the most time consuming part of the dish, but it was also relaxing to focus on one thing for a while. After removing the stems, I rinsed off the greens, rubbing them to make sure the grit comes off.





After the initial wash, I did my best to stack the collard greens, starting with the biggest leaves and placing smaller ones on the inside.  From here, they can be rolled up into cigars as shown above.  I like doing it this way because you can slice across the rolls and make really nice strips of collard greens.  After this it is time for another rinse to make sure they are very clean before cooking.




This is my favorite part of the process, I just think it is very pretty to see the ribbons of greens floating in the water. I like the texture as I run my hand through the water to shake the greens out a little.  By this point, I strained my aromatics from the vegetable broth and set to the side. In the same pan I sautéed onion, garlic and ginger in coconut oil. Once these softened, I added a couple of tablespoons of gochujang.  This is used to add spice as well as umami flavors to the greens, I have used soy sauce and sambal previously which also work well. I added a couple of cans of coconut milk and let it come to a boil.



I reduced the pan to a simmer and added all my greens. I let them braise on low for 2 hours, they should be tender but still with some texture, maybe around al dente. Being hearty greens they should hold up as long as it was a low simmer. They will wilt and reduce in size significantly, releasing their juices into the broth making a nutrient rich and delicious pot liquor.  You should definitely drink all of this up, or us it for a soup the next day.  To finish, I seasoned with salt, pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of vinegar (I did half rice and half white vinegar).


The greens were delicious, the gochujang added a nice layer of flavor that went well with the coconut milk and ginger.  I love the texture of the greens cut in ribbons and their bitter taste balance with coconut, vinegar, and heat make them very satisfying and nourishing. This is something that can be served as a side, or my favorite: served as is over white rice, mmmmmmm.


5 bunches collard greens
2 bunches turnip greens
3 leeks, sliced in half
1 large knob ginger, crushed
1 head garlic
4 shallots
32 oz vegetable broth
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2-3 tablespoons gochujang
2 cans coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-2 tablespoons white vinegar
salt
pepper


1. Begin by roasting sliced leeks, crushed garlic, unpeeled garlic cloves and shallots in a very hot oven. The goal is to get a nice dark brown color or even some charring on them. Turn halfway through to get color on the other side.


2. Add all of the roasted aromatics to a pot with the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, simmer for at least an hour.


3. In the meantime, remove stems from all of the greens and wash by hand. This is easiest in a clean sink or a large container of water. Once this is done, lay the greens flat, starting with the biggest leaves, maybe 10-15 leaves each. Roll each pile of leaves into cigars and cut across to create ribbons.  Place these in a large container filled with water to rinse once last time.


4. Strain the broth, in the same pan sauté onion, minced garlic and ginger until softened.  Add the gochujang to and cook for another minute before adding the vegetable broth and coconut milk, bring to a boil for 15 minutes.


5. Add all of the greens, if there is not room stir to start wilting them, they should reduce in size significantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally.


6. To finish, stir in vinegars as well as additional salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

al pastor sloppy joe

I really love a regular, basic sloppy joe.  It is a comfort food for me. In college it would be a cheap and  easy go to go with anything from a hangover to the munchies.  I guess the same can be said about al pastor tacos, and this is why I combined them into a delicious, sloppy sandwich.


Chile guajillo on the left and chile ancho on the right before and after roasting in the oven.


Adding boiling water to the dried chiles and covered for 20 min to soften.


This is the guajillo/ancho paste after blending with some of the steeping liquid.
I blended this with pineapple, chipotles, cumin, oregano, bay leaves, roasted garlic, salt, and pepper.
I then heated oil and pork fat until smoking and poured in the sauce to fry it.
 I brought it to a boil to denature the enzyme in pineapple that breaks down pork to avoid mush.


I mixed some of the cooked al pastor sauce with browned ground pork and spread in a baking dish.
I topped with chopped up pineapple and roasted on the highest setting to brown and crisp.


The sloppy joe was served as a torta on a toasted bolillo with avocado, rajas, crema, manchego cheese and cilantro. 
I spread additional al pastor sauce on the bottom half of the bolillo.

There was a great amount of heat coming from the sloppy joe without being overwhelming.
The sweetness of the pineapple with spicy pork is always something I always love together.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

leftover fideo soup

I really love fideo. Growing up I would remember helping my mom make a simple noodle soup in a tomato and chicken broth.  This usually involved toasting small pieces of pasta in oil until they went from a yellowish color to a golden brown color, then adding grated tomato, water and some chicken bouillon. The special treat for me was always when my mom would take some of the pasta out before adding the tomato for me to snack on.  It is a simple soup, but I have so many great memories of sitting around the table enjoying this with a meat or beans on the side. We still do it to this day and I see my nieces and nephews enjoying it every time they are visiting abuelita.


I occasionally get a craving, but typically make it more of a bigger meal.  For last night's dinner I did a fideo using leftover ingredients from the lamb birria I made a couple of nights ago. I also used hot dogs as my meat as well as some cheese on top, drawing inspiration from the budae jjigae I have eating lately.



I began by frying sliced hot dogs and garlic in a pan.  I left this on low for a good deal of the cooking time to try to get some fat out of the hot dogs.  I then added my pasta and began toasting it in the fat.  Typically for fideo you want to use a smaller pasta that has a shape, like stars, or broken up vermicelli.  The pasta will begin to get slightly more opaque then begin turning a brown color.  Stir frequently to avoid getting burned pasta.


Once I got the pasta to the color I liked, I added my leftover lamb birria broth. I also added a can of pickled jalapeño and carrots to the pot (again I was thinking kimchi in jjigae) as well as some spinach. 


Any broth any broth will definitely work in this soup.  If using tomato, add the tomato puree first and let it fry in with the pasta as well to get more flavor, then add the broth.   Boil the soup until the pasta softens, and it is ready to eat!




To finish the soup, I topped with shredded Chihuahua cheese, corn, and sliced scallions.  The soup was spicy and the vinegar from the pickled jalapeño really gave it a bite.  The corn and scallion added a nice sweetness and crunch with was a nice contrast to the wheel shaped pasta.  The cheese and hot dog added a very enjoyable saltiness to the soup, definitely an easy and delicious midweek meal.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Lamb Birria Ramen

Over the weekend, I was very much craving the flavor of birria.  This is usually made with goat marinated in a chile sauce with ingredients such as anchos, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and thyme.  I wanted to get some of these same flavors, but in ramen form!  I decided to go with lamb as the base to make a broth, but first I put together my chile.




To begin making the sauce, I toasted chile ancho, guajillo and mulato over a comal.  You can see some of the color differences that come up between the different types of chiles. After toasting, I placed the chiles in a bowl and overed with boiled water for 20 minutes.



Next, I began to roast onion, ginger, and garlic on the comal.  Ginger was a new one to me and was something I didn't really use in Mexican cuisine until now.





After the chiles are done, I add everything to a blender along with bay leaves, Mexican oregano, cloves, canela, thyme, marjoram, and apple cider vinegar.  I think the vinegar is a big part of that birria flavor to me, I think it is because you typically want a type of vinegar in the traditional goat marinade to cut the gamey quality. In my case I used lamb and I wanted to get as much flavor out of it as possible.





I seared lamb shoulder in a little bit of olive oil then just let them sit at medium to render as much of the lamb fat out as possible which took several minutes.  I also tried to brown the meat on all sides.





Once there was a nice layer of fat, I cranked up the heat and tossed in my blended salsa.  I "fried" the salsa in the fat for a few minutes until the color darkened.  I stirred occasionally and avoided splatter where I could!  Once I got the color where I liked it, I added a can of beer, beef broth, water, and my lamb bones along with some beef neck bones. I let this boil for several hours before I started putting together the ramen.




I strained my broth and brought to a boil.  To this, I added instant ramen.  I really like how easy it is to use and it definitely has enough of that texture you want from ramen. After the ramen cooks a bit, I placed a layer in a bowl and cracked an egg on top.  Then carefully I ladled boiling broth over the egg to begin cooking it.  Once I had enough broth, I folded noodles over the egg to help further poach it.




To finish the ramen, I added diced onion and chopped cilantro, corn kernels, chopped beef jerky, a couple of pieces of the cooked lamb meat, and a squirt of lime.


The soup was great, the flavors of the spices and chiles went really well with the flavor of the lamb, and I could taste some of the ginger flavor coming out. The broth itself had a nice richness to it from the lamb fat and the thickness of the sauce.  The ingredients on top added a nice crunch and brighter flavors to balance it. It was a hit and I was definitely craving more the next day.

Monday, February 1, 2016

new salsa

The salsa I made yesterday was a hit!  I really love how it came out, it was great with chips and made the perfect vehicle for a guisado de Puerco.  What I did to make this is take the idea  just a regular salsa verde, but adding habaneros for more heat and mulatos for a more earthy complex flavor.   I will be taking pictures and making an update post, but wanted to make sure I jot this down.


1 chile jalapeño
1 chile serrano
1 chile habanero
1 chile guajillo
2 chile mulato
10-12 tomatillos
1 white onion
4 cloves garlic


1 handful cilantro
3 bay leaves
2 big pinches of Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste


- Turn the oven up to 500 and place the jalapeño, serrano, habanero, tomatillos, onion and garlic into a baking dish.  You will want to cook this over several minutes in the oven, turning over to get some char on various sides of the vegetables.
- Split the guajillo and mulato in half and remove seeds, placing on top of the already roasting vegetables.  The idea is to get some color on these as well, but they do not take as long, After they get toasted and darken, remove the baking dish and place the dried chiles in a bowl with boiling water, they will steep for at least 15 minutes.
- Once the remaining vegetables have a decent amount of charred parts on many sides, add them to a blender with the remaining ingredients. Once the dried chiles have rehydrated, they can be added to the blender.  Blend everything together, using the steeping liquid to loosen if necessary.  Add additional salt and spices to your preferred taste.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

guisado de puerco

pork belly :). 
added cubed pork shoulder after rendering the belly fat.

poblanos, jalapeños, hungarian banana peppers charring over an open flame.

more chile action.

my pretty bowl of roasted chiles, I covered with a plastic bag to let them sweat.

using a knife, I scrap off the seeds on the inside and the charred skin on the outside.

getting some color on onion, tomatillos, garlic.  after, these were put in a blender with cumin, oregano, bay leaves.
chiles going in the molcajete. 
pretty chiles after getting smashed up.

i mixed the chiles and tomatillo mixture together and fried in the pork fat. this is halfway through stewing.

guisado de puerco con frijolitos and tortillas <3