The Santa Fe Experiment

Recently I had opportunity to travel to Albequerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. To me it seems like the entire state smells amazing, and especially the farmer’s market that I visited in Santa Fe. The smells of sage, chili powder, piñons and fry bread wafted through the air like a savory air freshener, as I walked through sampling any and everything I could find!

When I returned it only made sense to try one of the “edible souvenirs” that I brought back with me. (Those also cost me an extra 20mins and an extra bag search at airport security.)

Posole mixes were abundant at the farmer’s market and after looking over all the choices I selected one that looked fool-proof for a gringo like me to make. Posole is a Mexican (or probably more accurately Aztec in origin) pork and hominy stew. The mix contained dried hominy and several over dried beans/seeds/legumes that I really have no idea what they were. It also came with a spice packet and recipe.

I followed the instructions exactly except for 2 things. I decided to use the slow cooker as one change to the recipe and since I have a smaller slow cooker, I only used 2.5 quarts water, figuring I could always add water. I was glad I used the slow cooker since it took longer then 3 hours on high – I actually ended up leaving on it overnight on low after the first 3 hours on high. And I never need to add the extra 1/2 quart of water.

Here is the recipes in pictures with one notation…after trimming the pork meat from the bones I tied up the bones in cheesecloth to add to the stew for flavor. Remove the bundle before serving. (click on the slide show below to enlarge)

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In full disclosure, I added a generous amount of salt and pepper to this as well as a healthy tablespoon of mild New Mexico red chile powder that I also obtained at the farmer’s market and made it through security at the airport. Without that and the fresh toppings, the stew would have been actually kinda bland. I am not experienced to know if the stew is supposed to be just a rich broth with a somewhat mellow flavor to allow the fresh toppings to shine? ( kinda like vietnamese Pho)

Or maybe I was supposed to season/brine the pork first? And perhaps even brown it first? I do know that it is common practice to add green or red chile to the stew and so I felt justified in adding some red chile to mine.

And while my version turned out pretty good – but not amazing – next time I would get even more elaborate on the fresh toppings… sliced radishes, avocado, thin sliced cabbage to name just a few more.

Here is a nice source for seeds if you want to grow your own chile peppers: https://www.sandiaseed.com/pages/about-us

 

 

Red, White & Blue

A little nod to the holiday that just passed by. Fingerling potatoes in red, white & blue! So simply good – they only need a coating of olive oil, dried rosemary, salt & pepper. (Be generous with the salt, potatoes need it!) Roast on a sheet pan in a 425 degree oven for aprox 30 mins until the potatoes are soft and starting to brown. I served mine with a roast pork loin and a piece charred, toasted bread. There is a green vegetable “off camera.”

Home Opener- A Day Later

ready for the grill

Home opener for the Red Sox was yesterday – Home opener for my grill was today!

Both have some meaning around here. Red Sox means crowded subway lines during games and neon colored tags on ladies purses worn as a small badge of pride that they were recently at a game. Home opener for my backyard grill means an entire category of cooking opens up after along winter of “same old same old.”

I was planning on cheeseburgers but since I had the grill on I decided to throw on a few other items I had kicking around in my fridge – creating the “trifecta” of baseball grill food: sausage, hot dogs and burgers.

I did put a twist on things by not just making any old cheeseburger, but a green chili cheese sauce burger. (on toasted English muffin cause everyone knows they make the best rolls!)

green chili cheeseburger.jpg

A green chili cheese sauce can easily be made by melting 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, creating a roux. Add in about a cup of milk whisking constantly till thick. A pinch of seasoned salt and some black pepper to season. Add in 2 slices of provolone cheese and about 4 oz mild cheddar cheese. Whisk in a few dashes of the green Tabasco® sauce and about 2 oz of chopped green chilies (this is half of the small can – if you want to use the whole can, double the other ingredients and make a big batch of cheese sauce for a crowd!)

Serve warm drizzled over burgers, nacho chips or just about anything!

Retirement Day

or as some might call it … Superbowl Sunday.

I call it Retirement Day because I am hoping a certain quarterback has enough sense to make this his last game. As a Patriots fan I think it’s better to get this guy his last ring and get him outta here.  So that is why today I root for the arch-enemy and not the new young talented star who probably actually deserves the win.

No matter what you call the day, it definitely involves food!

I suggest some nontraditional game day food of stuffed peppers. Filled with spicy Chorizo sausage, rice and tomato sauce – they are big on flavor and easy to make.

(Notice my subtle nod to team colors today.)

The Recipe

2 links ( about 1- 1 1/2 cups) chorizo sausage diced small (I use a fully cooked, locally made version, but you can use your favorite brand)

1 small (about 3/4 cup) sweet onion fine diced

2 large sweet bell peppers – your choice of colors, tops cut off and diced, seed/ribs removed

2 cups +/- cooked rice

8oz can of tomato sauce (I like the “Spanish style”)

(2) 1/4 cup hot water (separate)

1 tsp sugar (or sweetener of choice)

shredded or grated Parmesan cheese to top each pepper ( a couple of tablespoons apiece)

Salt and Pepper to taste

spray a baking dish with cooking spray, add 1 of the 1/4 cups of hot water. Place the peppers in the dish either on their side split in half (as I did in photo) or upright on their ends. Cover tightly with foil and bake 20 mins in preheated 350 degree oven. While those are cooking, saute the chorizo, onion, pepper tops, salt and pepper in a medium hot saute pan till the sausage starts to get a little crispy, the onions are browning and soft. The pan probably won’t need any oil to start as the sausage is quite fatty – but if you feel like it needs it start with a tablespoon of oil or so in the saute.  Turn the heat down and add the rice and the 2nd 1/4 cup of hot water to help re-moisten the cooked rice and de-glaze the pan. Once all combined and the water is incorporated. Add the tomato sauce and sugar and turn off heat. Mix thoroughly and taste for seasoning adjustment. Pull the peppers out of the oven, drain off excess water – they should be a little soft but holding their shape. Fill each of the peppers with plenty of filling, top with some cheese and return to oven uncovered for another 20 mins at 350 degrees.

 

 

A Bowl of Spicy Love

I am not sure what inspired me but I decided to make jambalaya for the first time. And strangely I had everything on hand but the celery and sausage. I know it’s down right amazing I didn’t have any Andouille sausage lying around the house given my love of “encased meats.”  (Sorry mom)

So after a quick trip to the market for those 2 key ingredients, I set about making a serious bowl of spicy love.

For a recipe I went right to an authority figure…. Emeril! I followed the recipe pretty closely – I only left out the chicken. Just decided to keep it to sausage and shrimp. Another small modification was the use of tomato sauce instead of fresh chopped tomato – it was just what I happened have.

Which leads me to an interesting note. Apparently one of the main differences between “Cajun” jambalaya and “Creole” jambalaya is the use of tomatoes. Creole uses tomatoes, Cajun does not. So as a tomato lover it is obvious which kind I am going to favor. But I think this is only a guideline and not a rule.

If you haven’t attempted to make jambalaya because you thought it was complicated or took a long time – you would be wrong. This was easy and quick to make! my only regret is not making it sooner!

jambalaya

Hot “Stuffed”

Stuffed Cherry Peppers are a popular item around these parts.

These are the small, bright red peppers sometimes known as “pimiento” but usually referred to as “cherry peppers” based on their size and color. (Capsicum annuum for those who are really into it) They have a fairly low rating on the Scoville scale of heat but this doesn’t mean they don’t pack a bite of heat. For me they have an initial “prick” of heat but it subsides pretty quickly. But everyone is different so proceed with your level of caution.

Here in New England you will find these little guys pickled and served up along side platters of lamb kebobs or even more popular… as part of an Antipasto platter stuffed with a bit of salty cheese and prosciutto.

After spying fresh ones for sale at the city farm market, I recently decided that these little guys might serve as a nice vessel for a meat stuffing thereby elevating their status to “hot appetizer.” Just imagine these guys feeding the masses at your next football party or even as part of a fancy “passed hors d’oeuvres” affair.

I used a bit of ground pork (fatty butt to be specific) but a more lean cut of ground pork or beef would be good. (or lamb, yum…)  I added only seasoned salt, ground black pepper and fresh minced basil to the meat before stuffing the peppers and pushing a little hunk of Havarti cheese into the center. (Instead of stuffing the cheese in, you could add it as a topping in the last 10 mins of baking instead using Parmesan etc)

Here was my process….

remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down

Remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down.

 

perfect little vessels

Perfect little vessels – They can only hold barely a tablespoon.

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese.

baked for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil

Baked on an oiled sheet pan for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil.                                  Maybe top with minced, fresh basil if you are feeling fancy.

Production notes

A pound of ground meat would fill approximately 24 peppers depending on the actual size of the peppers. You would probably use about 1/2 cup of fresh minced basil per pound of ground meat. About 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt per pound of meat and some good healthy pinches of ground black pepper.  The cheese cubes were tiny at about 1/4″ x 1/4″ in size. Any cheese would be good here, but one that melts willingly would work best.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

Nope not Christmas… tomato season!!

This year my “supersonics” just keep on giving and although not quite as big as promised… (I blame that on the gardener not the garden) they are prolific! And the little yellow “pear” tomatoes are happily producing a handful a day at this point!

from the garden

After a while there are only so many BLTs you can eat before you need a chance of pace…

BLT

What? Wait?!!! did I really just write that? I never get tired of a BLT!

But the ugly truth is that when the tomatoes are producing faster than you can make sandwiches, there is only one thing left to do….

MAKE SAUCE!

(or “gravy” as we like to say around Boston.) Here is all you need for a simple sauce…

assembled ingredients

Brown up the meats in a heavy bottom cast enamel pan in some olive oil, turn the heat down a bit and add the finely chopped garlic, dried spices and tomato paste. Let them “bloom” for a couple of minutes and de-glaze the pan with the chopped fresh tomatoes. I like to smooth things out with a tablespoon of sugar and of course don’t forget the salt & pepper. Note that I do coat the pork roast with plenty of salt, pepper and a little bit of onion powder before I brown it to a nice crust on all sides. The sausage is fine as is.

sauce in the making

Sauce in the making!

I like to let the whole thing simmer for at least 4 hours on lowish-medium heat and only serve it when the pork roast is basically fork tender. If you like a smoother sauce, remove the meats for a minute and take an immersion blender to the whole thing until it’s your level of smooth. Also I leave the seeds and skin on my tomatoes but you could easily poach and peel the tomatoes and strain the seeds out if that is your desire.

The finished sauce freezes beautifully and when you take some out around Christmas time it truly will be “the most wonderful time of the year” again!

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