Archive for September, 2011

September 11, 2011

British Style Scrambled Eggs

It’s all about the method.

Dry, tasteless and crumbly. That’s what I usually get when I order scrambled eggs in most American diners.  British eggs are quite different.  They’re creamy, soft and velvety and I usually eat them with a spoon.  They aren’t like the American ones most of you are used to; what makes them different is the cooking method.

I’ve added some spice and tomatoes, but you can keep them plain or add anything you like.  I usually rummage through the fridge for leftovers, chicken, bacon, sausage, veggies… you really can’t go wrong.  If you want to add a little onion flavor, don’t bother sautéing onions at 8 o’clock in the morning.  Just throw in some dried onion flakes, they add nice subtle flavor without the harshness of fresh onion.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 eggs*
  • Pinch of salt*
  • Pinch of pepper*
  • Splash of milk*
  • Tsp. oil*
  • Tsp. butter*
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Dried onion flakes
  • Parmesan cheese

*Ingredients for basic British eggs

Method

  • Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, onion flakes and milk in a bowl
  • Heat oil and butter in a small saucepan on medium heat.  Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes and cook for 3-4 minutes
  • Add eggs and begin stirring with a wooden spoon before they begin to set
  • Stir continuously for about 5 minutes, it’s a similar method to making risotto.  You don’t want to let the eggs set like they do when you make American style eggs.
  • Whip the pan off the heat, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately

Always take your eggs off the heat about 30 second before you think they’re done.  They will continue to cook when you take them off the heat, and if you wait they’ll over cook on your plate.   The results are eggs that are wonderfully rich and creamy… who wouldn’t want to start their morning like this?

September 9, 2011

Pesto

Break out the food processor; it’s attack of the basil plant!

It all started with two small, innocent looking basil plants I picked up at Lowe’s.  I went with two plants, thinking they’d both be dead within a week based on my record.  The leaves would start to wilt on the way home knowing they were about to be subjected to over watering and lack of sunlight in my small apartment.  I’ll admit I do not have the necessary gardening skills to keep even a cactus alive.  So you can imagine my surprise when I found 3-foot plants with more basil than I knew what to do with?  I guess my luck changed in Houston… sadly not due to anything I did, but thanks to the hot, humid weather.

Basil’s pervading, clove-like aroma is intoxicating; it’s extremely aromatic with a scent of pepper, anise, and mint.  The minute the smell hits me I’m transported to an Italian café where I wait for a fresh margarita pizza.  The taste is sweet, but savory, and just like the smell it’s peppery with a hint of spicy mint.

In an effort to control my garden, I went on a pesto fest, and started making jars of herby goodness to share with family and friends.  Below please find 3 of my pesto recipes.  All you need to do it combine all ingredients in a food processor and process on high-speed till evenly chopped and mixed.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Walnut Pesto: Substitute pine nuts for 1/2 cup walnuts; it has a slightly nuttier flavor and can also help you stretch your dollar since pine nuts can be quite pricey!

Mint Pesto: Substitute 1 1/2 cup basil for 1 1/2 cup mint leaves


While basil is abundant at the moment, I also suggest that you experiment with other herbs.  Pesto does not need to be basil based; I’ve tried mint, cilantro, rosemary and arugula.  Each one has a unique flavor, and can be added to bread, fish, meat, or enjoyed straight from the jar with some cheese.  With a basic formula you can come up with a myriad of variations by replacing the basil and pine nuts. Try these combos:

  • Arugula & toasted walnuts
  • Mint & toasted almonds
  • Cilantro & cashews
  • Basil, Rosemary & toasted walnuts
  • Cilantro & toasted pumpkin seeds

The other great thing about basil is it can be frozen and stored successfully for a few weeks.  The best method I’ve found is to place a small bunch in a clean Ziploc bag, blow some air in to inflate it, and place in the freezer where it won’t get squashed. You’ll find it quite convenient to then snip off a few leaves any time of year to add to pasta sauce, salads, or dressings.

September 8, 2011

Alicia’s Chicken a.k.a Pollo de la Bandera

I tend to do most of the cooking in our house, but my boyfriend definitely has a few secret recipes up his sleeve.  This is one of them.  He made this for me when we started dating, and I loved it so much I forgo the tortillas all together so I could get a healthier portion of chicken.  Alicia, a family friend, taught him this recipe, which he later shared with me once it passed the taste test! Its true name is Pollo de la Bandera, “Mexican Flag Chicken”, because the green cilantro, red tomato and white chicken make up the colors of the Mexican flag.

The best thing about this recipe is it’s almost impossible to mess up. The chicken always comes out perfectly tender and moist, and you don’t need to fuss over it.  Just stick it on the stove and leave it alone, could that be any easier?  Of course, I encourage you to experiment with the spices, I LOVE cumin so I tend to go a bit crazy with it, but if you prefer something else go for it!  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 pound chicken
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 diced large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Corn tortillas

Method

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  • Place whole chicken (with skin), peppercorns, salt, and half the onion in boiling water.  Leave it on a light boil for 1 hour with the lid on (start on high and then lower to medium once the water returns to a light boil)
  • Remove chicken and discard cooked onion.   Let the chicken cool and make sure to reserve the chicken stock.  You will use some of the stock in the recipe and the rest can be used throughout the week
  • Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the chicken with a fork.
  • Heat a large skillet on medium; add oil, left over onion, and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Add the minced garlic once the onions are translucent and cook an additional minute.
  • Add chicken and sprinkle with cumin, paprika and cayenne, and mix until the chicken is coated in spices
  • Add 1/2 cup of stock (or more as needed) and diced tomatoes
  • Simmer on stove for 5 mins and garnish with cilantro
  • Warm a few corn tortillas in the microwave.  Place the tortillas in a clean damp cloth and heat for 20 seconds.
  • Fill the tortillas with chicken and serve with a side of salsa or sour cream.
  • Enjoy!

I used the left overs in an omelet the following morning, throw a little cheese on top and you’ve got yourself a gourmet breakfast!

September 7, 2011

Hatch Chile and Chicken Enchiladas

I grew up in a very British household, my mom being from South Wales and my Dad is from London. With two British parents, Mexican chiles weren’t a common ingredient in our home.  It wasn’t until I moved to Houston a year ago that I discovered the varieties available and the subtle differences between each one.  One month into my Houston arrival, the Hatch Green Chili festival was being held at the local Central Market grocery store.  Of course, I came home with bags of roasted Hatch chiles with little idea of what to do with them.  So, I made it up as I went along.

We were having people over for dinner a few nights later and figured it would be a good way to use up a bunch of chiles and make my fellow Houstonians feel at home.  I don’t think Shepherd’s Pie would’ve gone over so well in 102-degree heat.   I settled on Chile chicken enchiladas, I’d never made enchiladas before so this was an experiment, and one that turned out quite well!

You should know, I don’t usually make this dish from scratch (unless I want to spend 2 hours making dinner).  We have this dish the night after cooking chicken;  I always cook extra the night before and it saves me at least in hour in the kitchen.

I also take another shortcut; I buy roasted hatch green chiles.  You can get these in August at most grocery stores, and can be stored in the freezer for use year round.  This will save you time and mess. If you need to roast them yourself, I recommend doing it in the oven.  Put the chiles on a baking sheet and broil, turning with tongs, until the skin is blackened. Skin the peppers; then seed, core, and dice them.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups roasted, chopped hatch green chiles (roasted poblanos also work)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional if you want to add some extra heat)
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 flour or corn tortillas
  • 1 cup grated Monterrey jack cheese
  • 1 cup grated queso fresco Mexican cheese (if you can’t find this you can substitute with a mild Feta cheese)
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cooked and shredded

Method

Sauce

  • Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat
  • Add onion and sauté on low-medium heat for about 5 minutes, add garlic for the last-minute so it doesn’t burn
  • Raise heat to medium and slowly stir in spices, stirring for 2 minutes
  • Then sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring, 1 more minute
  • Gradually pour in the stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  The liquid will slowly thicken.
  • Add the chopped chiles and simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so

While sauce is cooking, shred the leftover chicken.  If you’re starting from scratch, dust the chicken with cumin, salt and pepper and place on oiled grill.  After cooking shred and leave it on the side for assembly.  (You can also chop the chicken, personally like the texture of it shredded).

Now it’s time to assemble!

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Place a tortilla on your cutting board; add a few dollops of the chicken, and then spoon on the sauce.
  • Sprinkle with a little cheese, and roll the tortilla to enclose the filling.
  • Place it seem side down in the baking dish. Continue to fill all the tortillas and put them in the baking dish.
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until bubbly and cracked on top.
  • Serve hot with a side of sour cream, salsa or guacamole.

If you want to make this dish vegetarian friendly, just omit the chicken and replace the stock with water.  I usually make one of each when we have friends over.  You can assemble it earlier in the day and then just pop it in the over when your guests arrive.

September 6, 2011

The Pappas-Mitchell Grilled Cheese

Cashew butter.  Fig Jam.  Sourdough bread.  Brie.  It’s like one of those mystery baskets on chopped.  Ok don’t walk away yet… I know you’re intrigued.  I had my doubts too, but trust me – this is one adult grilled delicacy you have to try.  Stephanie Pappas and Chris Mitchell, a couple very close to me who decided to leave me for the cooler mountains of Colorado, discovered this sandwich on a trip to Chicago at the Hop Leaf Tavern.  I’ve named it the “Pappas-Mitchell” sandwich in honor of them, and hope that if I name a few more dishes after them they might come back to Houston! J (I know, very unlikely but it’s worth a try right?!?)

Ingredients

  • Sliced Sourdough (or any kind of hearty bread you like, it can’t be too soft or it will fall apart)
  • Brie (any brand you like, I like the ones that aren’t too rich since it’s being paired with cashew butter.  Save the expensive cheese to eat solo with a glass of red wine!)
  • Cashew Butter
  • Fig Jam
  • Thinly sliced apple or pear (optional)
  • Butter for grilling the bread

Method

  • Butter both side of sourdough
  • Toast one side until golden brown in skillet
  • Remove from skillet and spread a healthy layer of cashew butter and fig jam to the toasted sides of each half.
  • Add a layer of sliced brie to one side and sliced apple to the other (apple is optional but adds another layer of texture
  • Assemble the sandwich and return to the skillet to finish toasting the other side
  • Cut in half and enjoy!

The last time I made this sandwich for Steph is was part of her going away dinner.  She said, “This sandwich just keeps getting better and better.  Philippa, you’re definitely mastered this one”.  Maybe she was just being nice, but I’ll take the compliment. J  I hope you enjoy this distinctive sandwich as much as I do.

September 3, 2011

Roasted Corn Perfected

Not only is this the easiest method I’ve found, I promise it will ensure you’ll always have perfectly crisp, flavorful corn.  I’ve always found heating up a huge pot of boiling water in the middle of the summer to be quite ironic.  It’s summer and I’m trying to stay cool… especially in Houston.  If I had kids I could employee to husk the corn, maybe I’d feel differently, but I hate doing it and would find trials of sink across my kitchen floor a week later.  So, I found the easiest possible recipe and haven’t turned back.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Soak the corn, in husk in cold water for 15 minutes.  This helps the corn stay moist and makes it much easier to peel when it’s ready.  I also cut off the very tip where the sink hangs out, if you leave it on it tens to smoke and burn in the oven
  • Pull the corn out of the water and place directly on the over rack and roast for 30-35 minutes until the corn is soft.
  • Peel down the husks and use as a handle when eating.  Coat with butter, salt and pepper.  Enjoy!
  • If you’re looking to liven up your corn, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Savory Butter
3/4 c. soft butter
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
2 tsp. chopped chives or minced green onion

Rosemary Butter
1/2 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

Spicy Parmesan
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese                                                                                                                                                                                    1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup Mayonnaise

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