Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the year end of the years year end end of the year stuff

Everyone seems to do a "best of" post at the end of the year - not me since that would involve posting every single post all over again - if you have any favorites you might remember what they are and you can go back and look on your own, nope for me its a day just like any other day - sort of. January first is the exact day I moved to New York City - I did that so that I would never forget, I planned it that way and waited outside of the Holland Tunnel so that I could drive in just a little after midnight (it took a little bit to get through the tunnel.) That was 1985 - some of you were not even born yet and some of you were cute little pre-schoolers and some of you were already over the hill - me I was 24 years old and fresh from New Mexico (well I did turn 21 in Paris and I had lived in Texas and Florida so I wasnt that fresh from New Mexico)...

Yes, I have changed a lot on the outside but not too much on the inside - for many, many years I had very long hair, in fact I only got rid of the long hair when my son was 2 and that was 2000.

This is how I look now - New York has given me much and I have given NY much in return. So there you go - the best of issue for 2010. I HOPE EVERY ONE HAS THE MOST ABUNDANT AND GENEROUS 2011 - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve - stockings stuffed - traditions galore - bring on the abundance

No matter what I will never get tired of tamales. Tamale making is a big part, no a huge part of my cultural heritage and while we may not gather around in huge extended family groups here in New York City we still get the job done, well I get the job done. I am pretty fast at throwing together a couple dozen tamales and I do it often throughout the year but it is at this time of year that these little wrapped packages of chile goodness take on their magic. Modern decor can abound but the simple tamale will always shine in its perfection. How perfect is a corn husk wrapped around corn masa wrapped around your favorite filling?

When I was a kid in New Mexico my mom and grandmothers and aunts would get together and make massive quantities of these bad boys and because of the sheer volume of of tamales produced the "tamalada" was a big deal. (a tamalada is simply a tamale making party but you can google it for a more specific definition) As a result we all grew up thinking making tamales was a lot of work and it is when you are making enough for our huge clan - that translates into dozens and dozens and dozens and then dozens more.

Around these parts I make a couple dozen whenever the mood hits, 24 tamales is really no big deal and if you want to search "tamale" on my blog you will see how often I make them throughout the year. Did I tell you how much I love tamales? I think of my old friend Buffalo Dick now whenever I make them since he always thought making tamales was similar to climbing Mount Everest, complete with Sherpas and extreme conditions and I wish I could have had the chance to show him how easy it really is - Buffalo you will always be on my mind.

Nostalgia is a big part of the end of the year and I wanted to take the time to reflect back on what a wonderful year it has been. Sure there have been some setbacks and some loss but when it is all said and done the beauty and the hope always shines through. We have all grown as people, as bloggers, as writers, as artists, as cooks and most importantly as a community. What ever holiday you celebrate I hope it brings you joy and if you were anywhere near me you would be receiving a little tamale gift(s) because someone told me once that giving tamales at the end of the year will bring both the giver and the receiver a wealth of abundance so my virtual friends I give you ALL tamales! (vegan, vegetarian, chicken, pork and sweet - you can have your pick and just so you know how non traditional I keep this tradition the tamale plate pictured above is wild mushroom and queso de oaxaca with simple red chile sauce - vegetarian all the way and take out the cheese and its vegan). HAPPY HOLIDAYS and A PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

holiday cookies, holiday cheer, holiday ornaments and no bahumbug

When the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful and the weather man says it will snow, it will snow, it will snow - that is when you wished you lived in a tropical climate. New York City is a beautiful place in the snow and at the holidays but you have to brave the cold to enjoy it and the best way to do that is with a little hot chocolate and some biscochitos.

Biscochito? Whats a biscochito you might be asking yourself. Well, a biscochito is literally a little cookie. Anise and cinnamon are the driving flavors behind these little shortening crumbles that my grandmother used to make pretty much year 'round but for some reason I always associate them with the holidays. Dont expect some old hand me down recipe here - pretty much like everything else I take what is old traditional and I put my own little spin on it.

Christos Biscochitos

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening (I made the lavender flower batch with butter)
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
4 cups flour
1/2 tp salt
1 tp cinnamon
1 tp anise (I also made a batch with lavender flowers so 1 tp of lavender flowers)

(I altered the traditional cinnamon and sugar coating to include unsweetened mexican chocolate, anise seeds and lavender flowers)

traditional coating
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tps cinnamon

Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy (extra fluffy even- if you want) add the rest of the ingredients and mix until a dough is formed adding more flour if necessary. Roll out on a floured surface and cut like you would sugar cookies. Bake in 400 degree oven on greased cookie sheets or sheets lined with parchment or on a silpat (like I did) for 8 minutes until the bottoms are golden. While still warm sprinkle on the coating mixture and let cool till firm.

Put them on a plate and invite your guests and friends over for some hot cocoa.

We sat around sipping our cocoa and nibbling on our biscochitos making christmas tree ornaments, like we do every year. Every year we make ornaments out of something different. We have made them out of the bakeable clay, we have made them out of wire , we have made them out of sticks and pine cones - you name it - this year they are made out of used soda and beer cans.

I think you will agree that they are absolutely beautiful. Its the season of joy and I hope each and every one of you find more joy than you can handle.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

you better crack out your mexican cookbooks or ask rick bayless - this aint yo' mamas taco

Dont think this is a sope or even confuse it with a hurache and if you said taco or chalupa you are not even close. (start googling - now) Tlacoyo (pronounced tlaw - coy - yo) is in a class by itself and while these are typically served simply with crema and cotija they are even better with a little fresh salsa of jalapeno, cilantro, avocado, tomato and onion - according to me.

Corn masa. You can use blue corn, red corn, yellow corn or white corn its up to you and I dont care what anyone tells you I can taste subtle differences in each of the corns, some are sweeter some more earthy so in my book its more than just color.

Anyway, you make these similar to a pupusa, fat like a sope, shaped like a huarache and they are stuffed. Cheese, beans, guajes, chicharron you have some filling choices, these are stuffed with refried black beans.

Tlacoyo is ready when you are, if you want to break away from the tacos of everyday then this is the dish for you.

What is wrong with this picture? I will tell you - its the knife and fork - tlacoyos are meant to be eaten with your hands - I cheated because I didnt want to get any on my new shirt.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

fresh flour tortillas and a recipe -I know - totally insane.

Growing up we had flour tortillas with almost every meal - no let me make that clear - we had flour tortillas always. I was probably a teenager when I had eggs with toast for the first time and I have to tell you it put me off a little bit at first - I wasnt sure what I was supposed to do. In fact this played a big roll in why I turned down sleep overs at my friends houses when I was little - I didnt know what was going to happen if they didnt have tortillas at breakfast. Tortillas were and still are a mainstay in my household and they are so easy to make.

Basic Flour Tortillas

2 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of shortening cut into small pieces
(I use bacon fat that I keep in a container in the fridge)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3/4 cup warm water

In a bowl, blend flour, salt, baking powder and shortening (cold bacon fat) until it resembles fine meal.

Add warm water a little at a time to flour mixture and knead gently until liquid is incorporated. Water amount will vary with different flour types. Form dough into a ball and kneed on a floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic, careful not to over work it or the tortillas will not roll out instead they will bounce back.

Divide, and make 12 smaller balls. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes.

Cooking Tortilla:
Roll each ball of dough on a floured surface to make 6 or 7 inch sized tortillas. Place on a pre-heated griddle (comal) or cast iron skillet and cook till medium golden on both sides.

Remove to a basket lined with a cloth towel or put between a towel until cool. After the tortillas have cooled completely, store them in a plastic bag.

This recipe will make approximately 12 flour tortillas.

Fry up some eggs, make some red chile and you are living like a champion.

If you are in a huge hurry have a quesadilla to tide you over.

I put a little cheddar, a little powdered red chile and some scallions in my quesadilla. Make yourself some fresh hot tortillas and your life will never be the same. If you havent voted yet the Iron Foodie 2010 contest is still on and I am not even close to winning.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

butt, but picnic shoulder turned into mofongo, yup

Pork, it isnt for everyone but picnic shoulder sure does want to be, in a real bad way.

I picked up a pretty little picnic shoulder.

Trimmed and scored and salted and peppered and plugged with garlic it was ready for the oven.

Roasted slowly till the fat was creamy the skin was crispy and the meat was silky soft and juicy.

I made mofongo.

Mofongo is a delicious dish from the Caribbean made with mashed green bananas this time but plaintains usually and typically roast pork or Pernil- thats how I did it my way and it sure was good.

Oh yeah , I made a couple of pulled pork sandwiches with bbq sauce for my son.

Picnic shoulder, it sure does want to be your friend. Please be my friend and vote for me - Iron Foodie 2010!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

grilled swordfish, poached baby octopus and fresh cured sardines for the Iron Foodie Challenge 2010

The time has come to post the goods. I have been hanging on to this post for days now anxiously tweaking each and every word waiting for the day to arrive and it is finally here. When the box from MarxFoods was delivered and I opened it up and took a whiff I knew instantly what I was going to do. The list of ingredients are: dried Aji Panca Chiles, Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Fennel Pollen, Dried Wild Porcini Mushrooms, Tellicherry Peppercorns, Dulse Seaweed, Maple Sugar and Smoked Salt. Each ingredient on its own is fantastic but we, the contestants, need to use at least 3 of these little gems. I went ahead and used them all. Get comfortable this is going to be a long ride.

First thing that came to my mind was a barbecue sauce so I ground up the aji panca chile and the tellicherry peppercorns and added them to the maple sugar, the scraped out bourbon vanilla bean, the smoked salt and the fennel pollen.

A little water and I let it steep over a low flame until the flavors were fat and juicy, once everything was engorged I added a little corn starch to thicken it up and et voila my barbecue sauce was alive. Smoky, sweet, spicy and exotic.

Secondly I decided it would be tasty to make dulse pasta with a dulse pesto so that was whipped up in a jiffy. I rehydrated the dulse and added it to a basic pasta recipe you know egg and semolina flour. The pasta came out great with its dulse freckles and sweet and salty taste of the sea. I took some of the softened, moist and pureed dulse and added a little wasabi powder and sesame oil and the pesto was born. This dulse pasta with dulse pesto was going to be the perfect side to go with my collard green puree and grilled swordfish with my 5 ingredient bbq sauce. Lets call it Tellismoky Panca Sauce, or something like that, strong flavors all living happily together and mellowing each other out if you can believe it - swordfish, collard greens, dulse and my sauce - now thats a menage a trois but with 4 - kind of like swingers.

How could I stop there? I couldnt, so I slow poached some baby octopus and the dried porcini mushrooms in olive oil for about an hour and a half on super low heat.

When the octopus was tender like butter I served it and the mushrooms on top of some thin cucumber slices that were dusted in tellicherry peppercorns, fennel pollen and smoky salt and the whole thing was drizzled with some of the poaching oil and a dressing made from white vinegar and some of the maple sugar then over it all - a touch of aji panca chile powder.

An absolutely delicious first course and thats all I have to say about that one.

Sardines. I picked up some fresh sardines and they were screaming to be cured with the smoky salt so I said ok and I also added a sprinkle of aji panca chile that I powdered and some tellicherry peppercorns because I am fun like that.

These cured sardines were then lightly grilled and then served with grilled carrots and grilled green onion drizzled with good virgin olive oil.

Who needs to even tell you how good this was. The fishy goodness of fresh sardines is in love with the smoky salt and subtle yet sweet bites from the chile and the peppercorns, the carrots and the scallions, they were the icing on the cake. There shouldnt be any doubt that I am THE IRON FOODIE of 2010 but I cant do it without you.

Everything was "kid" approved, even with homework.

Oh wait, did I forget dessert, I dont think so. Pull up a spoon. Dulse ice cream with fennel pollen and maple sugar caramel and Aji Panca and bourbon vanilla bean sorbet with maple sugar syrup and smoky sea salt.

Creamy, potent and refreshing these desserts capped off a delicious journey of flavors, the fennel pollen added the right "tang" to the sultry seaweed while the smoky salt held hands with the aji panca and they both bathed happily in their caramels and syrups.

The only thing you need to do is decide which spoon to choose.

Since I didnt make one "signature" dish I guess I would have to say that the Tellismoky Panca Sauce would fit into this category - if I need to pick one, no wait, pick the baby octopus, no pick the sardines or the ice cream - no, pick them all. I am a true Iron Foodie - implementing all the ingredients creating unique and delicious dishes from start to finish, that is what you should really look at. Voting begins on December 7th on FoodieBlogRoll - so, if you are not a member yet you still have time to join.
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