Sunday, February 28, 2010

Enchiladas Verdes

We've tweaked this recipe a few times, and we're still working on it. Its not hard to find good enchiladas in Chicago, considering the number of authentic Mexican restaurants. Still, we want to learn how to make them ourselves when we don't feel like going out. This recipe comes from (guess who?) Rick Bayless.

Enchiladas Verdes

3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 fresh hot chiles, stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 pounds (10-12 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut into quarters
3/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth
red onion or shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (rotisserie or grilled works nicely)
12 corn tortillas
3 tablespoons Mexican crema, sour cream, heavy cream, or creme fraiche
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco, or shredded melting cheese like chihuahua or Monterey Jack

Blend the garlic an chiles in a food processor. Add the tomatillos and cilantro, and process until smooth.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add the puree and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of thick tomato sauce, about 7 minutes. The more you cook down the base, the richer and sweeter the tomatillo sauce will be. Add the chicken broth and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Lay out the tortillas on a baking sheet and spray or brush lightly on both sides with oil, then stack them in twos. Slide the tortillas into the oven and bake just long enough to make them soft and pliable, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and stack them in a single pile; cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.

Stir the crema (or its replacement) into the sauce. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Spread about 1/2 a cup of the sauce in large baking dish. Dip each tortilla into the sauce, fill with chicken, roll up and place seam side down into the dish. Repeat, placing the tortillas neatly in the dish. Cover the tortillas with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with melting cheese (if you decide to use it). Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with queso fresco, scallions, and sliced red onions (or shallots).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Polenta is one of my absolute favorite things to eat, and in my opinion it appears way to infrequently on restaurant menus. Why is that? It is super easy to make and is a perfect side dish in the winter -- Try serving it with these braised beef short ribs! You can buy polenta in the bulk section at Whole Foods if you just want to buy one cup at a time.

4 cups water
pinch of salt
1 cup yellow corn meal (coarse)
fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp butter
1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Boil water in medium sauce pan. Pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly until combined. Bring polenta mixture back to a boil then turn heat to low to keep polenta at a simmer (large bubbles will form).

Stir occasionally and cook about 60 minutes or until polenta tastes creamy. If it starts getting too thick to stir add a little more water in 1/3 c increments. I added 2/3 c to mine. Add salt and pepper to taste. After 20 minutes remove from the heat and stir in butter and cheese.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Since we're clearly on a health kick this winter--we recently made this incredible dessert to go with our Valentine's dinner of beef short ribs and polenta. This cake tastes kind of like a melted brownie, and is best served warm with ice cream.

molten chocolate cakeIngredients
1 stick unsalted butter, plus melted butter for brushing
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
6 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush four 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of the flour; dust the ramekins with the cocoa mixture, tapping out the excess. Transfer the ramekins to a sturdy baking sheet.

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter with the chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly.

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the granulated sugar with the eggs and salt at medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 2-3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate until no streaks remain. Fold in the 1/4 cup of flour.

Spoon the batter into the ramekins. Bake in the center of the oven for 16 minutes, until the tops are cracked but the centers are still slightly jiggly. Transfer the ramekins to a rack and let cool for 5 to 8 minutes.

Run the tip of a butter knife around each cake to loosen. Invert a small plate over each cake and, using pot holders, invert again. Carefully lift off the ramekins. Dust the warm cakes with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Low Fat" Beef "Short Ribs"

This recipe is only relatively low in fat. And the meat is actually chuck steak, which is basically the same cut of beef as short ribs, but without the bone. Excluding the bone doesn't result in a regrettable loss of flavor, but does cut down on the fat. But don't fool yourself into thinking this is healthy. Try serving with polenta.

beef short ribs

3 1/2 lbs chuck steak, trimmed of fat (see figure below)
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups red wine
1 cup beef broth
4 large carrots, peeled and cut crossswise into 2-inch pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon powdered gelatin (a substitute for bone marrow, which helps thicken the sauce)

Remove excess fat from the meat. There should be plenty of fat marbled in already, so don't worry about losing flavor. Pat beef dry with a paper towel. Season beef with salt and pepper up to a day in advance.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Add some of the beef without overcrowding the pan and cook, without turning, 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a bowl and continue browning beef in batches. Properly browning the meat is critical to obtaining a rich flavor.

Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, 12-15 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it browns on sides and bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high, add wine and simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until reduced by half, 8-10 minutes. Add broth , carrots, thyme, and bay leaf. Add beef and any accumulated juices to pot; cover and bring to simmer. Transfer pot to oven and cook, using tongs to turn meat twice during cooking, until fork slips easily in and out of meat, a little over 2 hours. Remove carrots (they should be too soft at this point, but will have added some flavor to the sauce). Add new carrots if you like. Cook meat and carrots for another 20-30 minutes until carrots are a nice texture.

Place water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top; let stand at least 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer meat and carrots to a bowl and tent with foil. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator or bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Restaurants make short ribs a day in advance, refrigerate the sauce, and remove the fat the next day. Consider doing this, because there is really no way to get the fat to congeal quickly enough to spoon it off any time soon. Return cooking liquid to Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture; season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over meat.
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