shrimp and andouille over green chile cheese grits

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For breakfast on Saturday, we had waffles and a fantastic sausage we picked up on a recent Texas wine-tasting trip. We had dinner at a friend’s cookout, and there were so many great side dishes there that I really didn’t need any grilled meat, but there were homegrown tomatoes and green chile for toppings, so I grabbed a hot dog anyway. For breakfast Sunday, migas with chorizo. For lunch, BLT salads. For dinner, andouille and shrimp over green chile cheese grits. We like our cured pork products.

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I’ve ordered shrimp and grits several times in restaurants, but it was never so good as this. These grits are enriched with butter and cheese, and if your andouille isn’t spicy enough, a jalapeno is added to the grits (I used Hatch green chiles). The shrimp is browned in butter and andouille drippings, then cooked through in beer and broth. As if there isn’t enough going on, the whole thing is topped with a fried egg.

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For as rich as it tastes and as full as I was afterward, it isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. For two servings plus some leftover grits, I used 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 ounces of cheese, no cream (I was out), and…okay, significantly more andouille than the recipe calls for. It was worth every greasy calorie, like cured meats always are.

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Shrimp and Andouille over Green Chile Cheese Grits (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Serves 4 generously

I replaced the jalapeno with about ½ cup of roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced Hatch green chiles. Anaheim or poblano would be a good substitute, but I’m sure the jalapeno is good too. I used smaller shrimp (60-70 per pound) and skipped the tarragon.

Grits:
4 cups water
salt
1 cup yellow grits (not instant)
1 cup (4 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 jalapeño, seeded, diced
¼ cup heavy cream or milk
freshly ground pepper

Shrimp:
8 ounces andouille sausage
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup beer
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
4 large eggs
salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. While continuously stirring, add the grits. Reduce to the heat to low to maintain a very slow simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more frequently as the mixture thickens, for about 30 minutes, until the grits are softened. Stir in the butter, jalapenos, cheese, heavy cream or milk, and pepper. Cover and set aside.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp, beer, and stock; cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and season with salt. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Serve the shrimp mixture over the grits, topped with an egg and sprinkled with tarragon.

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salad with pancetta, peperoncini, and parmesan

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My favorite way to spend a Saturday night is cooking. It’s the only night of the week I feel like dinner can be a project; I’m busy being busy on weeknights, and I’m busy being lazy Friday and Sunday. So when I finally get the chance to cook a lot of food, I have a habit of cooking too much food.

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One strategy I use to eat as much as possible without stuffing myself silly is to eat in courses, with time between each to allow for some digestion. Another is to serve food that’s fairly light, so I don’t get filled up by just a few bites.

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This salad has become my go-to light salad course. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easy, plus the combination of ingredients is just perfect – briny peppers, salty meat, and parmesan to make it seem hearty and filling when it really isn’t. I’ve served it to pretty much everyone who’s come over for dinner in the last few months. I’ve also served at least four other courses each time, because there’s no better way for me to spend a Saturday night.

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Salad with Pancetta, Peperoncini, and Parmesan

Serves 4 to 6

Before adding garlic to dressings, I always toast it, with the peel on, in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the peel is black where it hits the pan.  It tames the harsh bite of raw garlic.

Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad:
2 romaine hearts, washed and chopped
8 peperocini, stems removed, chopped fine
6 ounces pancetta, cooked and crumbled
½ cup (1 ounce) shredded parmesan

1. For the dressing: Mix everything.

2. For the salad: Mix everything; toss with dressing.

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steak and egg green chile hash

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Where was this Hatch green chile mania back when I lived on the opposite side of the country from New Mexico? Back then, I had to have my mom send me boxes of fresh green chiles from Albuquerque. She’d pack newspaper in the boxes to help keep the chiles dry, poke holes in the box, and pay out the wazoo for overnight shipping. (Clearly I owe my mom a drink or two.) When they’d arrive, I’d broil them in batches until the skins turned black, then peel, chop, and bag them up. One time I forgot about wearing gloves, resulting in the worst burn I’ve ever had, not from temperature, but from spice.

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But that was years ago. Now I just head down to the local grocery store, buy 2 huge burlap sacks of fresh chiles, and bring it out to the guy roasting them in the parking lot. (Actually, I never do this; it’s become Dave’s errand.) Back at home, Dave and I put on latex gloves and start peeling, seeding, and stemming the chiles. At some point I’ll transition from peeling to chopping and bagging. The whole process takes about 4 hours, and at the end, we have a shelf in the freezer dedicated to our stash.

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I grew up in Albuquerque, and my family did this when I was a kid, as well. It’s only recently when anyone outside New Mexico could find Hatch green chiles. In fact, the “Hatch” title is a bit of a misnomer – Hatch is a place, not a variety of chile. Green chiles are grown in Hatch, but they’re also grown in the rest of the state. This year, Dave bought our green chiles from a farm in Artesia, so technically they’re not Hatch green chiles at all, but since people seem to recognize Hatch as a type of chile, we’ll stick with that title.

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Most New Mexicans don’t need a recipe for how to use their green chiles. They just add them to their favorite foods – there’s no Hatch chile macaroni and cheese, there’s just your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe with chiles stirred in. The same goes for cheeseburgers, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches…are you seeing a pattern? Green chile is really good with carbs and cheese.

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In this case, we don’t need cheese, just steak, leftover if you have it. Because green chiles are also really good for breakfast – migas and huevos rancheros are my favorite two breakfasts, and now this is up there too. And fortunately, now that “Hatch” green chiles are making their way to almost all corners of the country, you can actually make this for yourself. That is a very good thing.

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Steak and Egg Green Chile Hash

Serves 4

Depending on how hot your chiles are, you might want to use less (or more) than this.

Photos show a half recipe made in a 9-inch skillet.

12 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, diced into ¼- to ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
salt
1 large onion, diced
8 ounces cooked steak, diced
½ cup Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled, and chopped
8 eggs
ground black pepper

1. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the potatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, then return to the microwave for another minute. Stir again, and if the potatoes are not softened to their centers, repeat the microwaving until they are; larger cubes will need more time.

2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the potatoes and steak and cook, without stirring, until the bottom is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes without stirring. Stir in the green chiles. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

3. Using the back of a spoon, create 8 wells in the hash. Break one egg into each well; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook, without stirring, until the white is set, about 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

chicken curry

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I don’t get too hung up on authenticity. If the food is good and I can find the ingredients, I’m happy. On the other hand, I’m not opposed to authenticity if I can get it. This recipe strikes me as pretty close, and it was good and I was able to find the ingredients, so it was a score on all accounts.

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Indian food might be an easier cuisine to tackle in a town without specialty food stores than something like Chinese food, which always seems to involve ingredients I can’t find. This recipe in particular is a pretty standard list of ingredients – a lot of spices but nothing unusual, chicken, tomatoes, cilantro. The quick marinade of nothing but lemon juice, salt, and pepper was unusual, but considering how good this recipe was, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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The spices are toasted, onions and garlic are processed into a paste that is then browned, then tomatoes are added and the chicken braises in this mixture until tender and infused with flavor.  It wasn’t a difficult or time-consuming recipe, and served with coconut rice and cinnamon cumin roasted cauliflower, we had a fantastic meal of Indian food – something not found often in a small town in southeastern New Mexico.

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Chicken Curry (adapted from Indian Simmer)

Serves 6

I prefer whole canned tomatoes to diced, especially for something like this, because diced tomatoes contain more citric acid, which keeps them from breaking down into the sauce as smoothly.

¼ cup lemon juice from 1-2 lemons
salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2½ pounds chicken thighs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
2-3 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole black cardamom
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 cloves
3 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1½ teaspoons garam masala powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup minced cilantro

1. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken; stir to coat. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, transfer the onion, ginger, garlic, and peppers to the bowl of a food processor; pulse until pureed to a paste. Crush the cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until it flows like water when the pot is tilted. Add the crushed spices, bay leaves, coriander, garam masala, and turmeric; cook, stirring continuously, until they just start to smoke. Add the onion mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is dry and golden brown. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the tomatoes. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and stir to coat in the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the liquid is reduced to a sauce.

4. Add the butter and stir until blended. Cover; let set off the heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve with rice or naan.

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shitake mushroom and lentil asian tacos

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Vegetarian food, for me, means something quick and easy, healthy, perfect for a weeknight dinner. There’s no fussing with the handwashing of cooking with chicken, no long braising times. Most are one-bowl meals that don’t require side dishes. The exceptions to these rules invariably include lots of cheese, almost certainly pasta, and a long prep time – and are relegated to weekend meals.

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Few and far between are vegetarian meals that are not only healthy and delicious, but also feel special. This is one. First, it’s tacos, and I’m not out of my taco phase. Second, so many fillings and toppings in the tacos satisfy all sorts of flavor and texture desires.

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The mushroom-lentil mixture has plenty of ingredients that kick up the umami sensation that usually comes from meat. The miso and soy sauce in the sauce don’t hurt either, but the sauce is about more than just umami; it’s sweet and herbal and a bit sour from the rice vinegar. There’s crunch from the carrots and the buttery richness of avocados. All of it combines to form a special occasional dish that is perfectly healthy and not just vegetarian, but vegan. It’s a far cry from most of my favorite vegetarian dishes, and I love it.

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Shitake Mushroom and Lentil Asian Tacos (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)

Serves 4 to 6

I toasted the garlic, while still peeled, in a small not-nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the papery peel started to brown on a few sides. This softens the bite of raw garlic, making it sweeter and more mellow.

My favorite new way to soften corn tortillas for tacos is to spray both sides of them with oil, then heat them in a 400 degree oven until pliable, about 5 minutes. Even better, add some of the mushroom-lentil mixture to the tortillas at that point and fold the tortilla over the filling; continue baking until the tortilla starts to crisp, another 3-5 minutes.

I grew radish sprouts just for this recipe, but they didn’t sprout in time. Bummer. They made a good garnish for avocado and shrimp-filled tortilla cups the next day though.

Miso herb sauce:
3 garlic cloves, peeled (see note)
2 packed cups basil leaves
1 packed cup cilantro
2 tablespoons white or yellow miso
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Tacos:
¾ cup brown or green lentils
salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, thinly diced
12 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
about 16 corn tortillas, warmed (see note)
2 large or 3 small avocados, peeled and sliced
5 small carrots, peeled and grated
micro greens, for garnish (see note)

1. For the sauce: Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the cutting blade; process until minced. Add the herbs and process until pureed. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the sauce is evenly mixed. Transfer to a serving bowl; set aside.

2. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the lentils and ½ teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain.

3. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and release their liquid. Once the liquid evaporates, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and cook until the mushrooms and onions brown. Stir in the cooked lentils and the cider vinegar.

4. Stuff each tortilla with the mushroom-lentil mixture, carrots, avocado, microgreens, and miso-herb sauce. Serve immediately.

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asparagus bacon and egg salad

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I have a nephew who is so picky that he wouldn’t eat blueberries in the middle of the summer. Blueberries! They might as well be candy that happens to be good for you. He was in elementary school then, but things aren’t much better now that he’s starting high school in the fall. Last winter, he balked at asparagus.

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Dave, understanding teenaged boys all too well because he still thinks like one (I dare you to tell him a poop joke), found the trick to making picky adolescents eat asparagus – tell them that their pee will smell like asparagus later. For better or worse, this is a phenomenon I have never noticed myself. My nephew choked down a few spears, but either it wasn’t enough or he isn’t subject to the asparagus pee smell either, because he responded in the negative when we quizzed him the next day.

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If you’re less interested in discussing (I accidentally typed “disgusting” first, which probably isn’t a coincidence) the smell of urine at the dinner table, perhaps adding bacon is a better way to make asparagus seem tempting. With eggs added as well, this is more like breakfast than a salad – which is exactly how I like my salads, as a light meal masquerading as a decadent one.  Not being a huge fan of asparagus myself, this might be my favorite way to eat it – and I, personally, find the lack of asparagus pee the next day to be a relief.

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Bacon Egg and Asparagus Salad (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table via A Taste of Home Cooking)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bunches (about 2 pounds) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 ounces (about 4 slices) bacon, diced
6-8 eggs
4 cups spring mix
1 avocado, peeled and diced

Dressing:
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and heat to 450 degrees. Once hot, spread the oil over the pan and add the asparagus; season with salt and pepper and stir to coat with oil. Return the pan with the asparagus to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.

2. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all about 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Crack the eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and add 2 tablespoons of water. Immediately cover the pan and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are soft.

3. Mix all of the dressing ingredients.

4. Combine the spring mix, avocado, bacon, asparagus, and dressing. Top each serving with 1-2 eggs.

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shrimp and avocado ceviche

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Both times I’ve had barbacoa tacos for dinner, I’ve made this the same day – but not as an appetizer. When dinner is one of your absolute favorite foods, an appetizer just takes up valuable stomach space. But I love this dip almost as much as the barbacoa, and they’re a great match, so we have it for lunch instead.

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I appreciate that the shrimp are cooked first. Maybe that’s cheating, maybe that makes it something other than ceviche – I don’t care. It means I can have it without worrying about food poisoning, and that’s good enough for me.

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The cooked shrimp are marinated in lime juice, then mixed with avocados, cucumbers, onions, and cilantro. The dressing is made from more lime juice, olive oil, and, oddly, ketchup. I liked the tomatoey sweetness from the ketchup, but I didn’t like a lot of it – the second time I made this, I cut the ketchup down by half, and next time, I’ll use just half of that.

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Not that a little extra ketchupiness has stopped this from being my new favorite chip topper – yes, even more so than plain guacamole.  It has the avocado I love, but balanced by all this citrusy crunch.  This for lunch and barbacoa tacos for dinner make for a ridiculously good day of eating.

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One year ago: Fish Tacos
Two years ago: Tartine Country Bread
Three years ago: Spinach Artichoke Pizza
Four years ago: Tofu Mu Shu
Five years ago: Crockpot Pulled Pork

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Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche (adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexico One Plate at a Time via epicurious)

6 servings

I used 51/60 shrimp for this. The second time, I cut the shrimp in half after peeling so that they’d be about the same size as everything else in the dip – better for getting all sorts of goodies on a single chip.

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 pound unpeeled small shrimp
½ medium white onion, chopped into ¼ inch pieces
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons vinegary Mexican bottled hot sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced peeled cucumber or jicama (or a mix)
2 small ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and cubed
salt
Several lime slices for garnish
tortilla chips for serving

1. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil; add 2 tablespoons of the lime juice and the shrimp. Cover the saucepan and let the water return to a boil. Once it boils, immediately remove the pot from the heat and pour off all the liquid. Replace the cover and let the shrimp steam off the heat for 8 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large glass or stainless steel bowl to cool completely. Once cook, peel and devein the shrimp. Toss the shrimp with the remaining ½ cup lime juice; cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

2. After the shrimp has marinated, in a small strainer, rinse the diced onion under cold water, then shake off the excess liquid. Add to the shrimp bowl along with the cilantro, ketchup, hot sauce, olive oil, cucumber and/or jicama, avocado, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

3. Spoon the ceviche into sundae glasses, martini glasses, or small bowls; garnish with sprigs of cilantro and slices of lime. Serve with tortilla chips.

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beef barbacoa

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I am going through a taco phase, and it might have started out with these. Well, mostly I just really like tacos, because who doesn’t, but things have ramped up in recent weeks. We’ve had all sorts of tasty fillings recently, but it’s hard to beat barbacoa.

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Barbacoa has so many satisfying flavors – it’s a little sweet, a little sour with a squeeze of lime juice, plenty meaty of course. It definitely has a spicy kick. It’s coated in a rich layer of sauce that delivers loads of flavor, with nothing left behind in the pot.

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It only gets better with toppings. Avocado is arguably my favorite part of most tacos (not these; the barbacoa wins by a mile), and queso fresco is the perfect salty fresh compliment to the rich meat. Those two and a wedge of lime are my only requirements, but pickled onions and a smattering of cilantro are nice too.

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This isn’t a hard recipe, although it’s far from fast. The long ingredient list looks worse than it is. There’s a lot of spices, chiles, and condiments, but nothing other than an onion and some garlic require a cutting board. Not even the beef needs to be sliced or cut into cubes. What I thought was going to be a significant project took me about half an hour.

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Of course, you don’t actually get to eat until almost 5 hours layer, after the beef has become tender and rich and the broth has been reduced down to a sauce. It’s getting warm out and you might not want to leave your oven on for four hours while the beef cooks, but the result is worth some air-conditioning. Plus, it reheats great, maybe even better than it was the first day. I have to admit that I haven’t really been in a taco phase, just a barbacoa phase. I’ve got one more batch stored in the freezer, and I can’t wait.

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One year ago: California Roll Burgers
Two years ago: Basic Coleslaw
Three years ago: Quinoa Tabbouleh
Four years ago: Fresh Strawberry Scones
Five years ago: Ricotta Spinach and Tofu Ravioli

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Beef Barbacoa
(very slightly adapted from The Food Lab on Serious Eats)

About 6 servings

I think the crockpot is a definite possibility here, but it’ll take you a lot longer to reduce the liquid to a sauce after the cooking time.  You’ll still need to brown the oxtails and onions beforehand, because that adds tons of flavor.  That’s an easy tradeoff to save 4 hours of oven use when the weather’s warm!

If you can’t find these exact types of chiles, any combination of mild, fruity and bright-tasting chiles will do, such as guajillo or Colorado.  I used a New Mexico, an ancho, and an arbol chile.  I couldn’t find oxtails either, so I used beef ribs.

1 whole dried New Mexico, costeño, or choricero chili, seeds and stem removed
1 whole chile ancho or pasilla, seeds and stem removed
1 whole chile negro, seeds and stem removed
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 pound oxtails
1 small onion, diced
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 chipotle chiles packed in adobo, chopped, with 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 whole chuck roast (about 4 pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 whole bay leaves
Kosher salt
Warm corn tortillas, avocados, queso fresco, pickled onions, cilantro, salsa, limes, and other condiments for serving

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Place the dried chiles in the bottom of a large Dutch oven and heat over high heat. Cook, turning the chiles with tongs occasionally, until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chiles to a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until chiles are completely tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the now-empty Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Cook the oxtails until they’re well-browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Remove the oxtails and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium.

3. Add the remaining two tablespoons oil and heat along with the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until deep brown and just starting to burn, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, cloves, and oregano, and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chipotle chiles, vinegar, and remaining chicken broth. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, simmer until reduced by about half, then transfer the entire contents to the jar of a blender.

4. Add the soaked chiles and their liquid to the blender along with the fish sauce. Start the blender on low (be careful of blowups!) and slowly increase the speed to high. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.

5. Place the beef roast in the Dutch oven. Add the browned oxtails, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, the bay leaves, and the sauce. Bring to a boil over high heat. Place the lid on the pot, slightly cracked, then transfer to the oven. Cook, turning the beef occasionally, until completely tender and a cake tester or metal skewer inserted into the meat shows little to no resistance, about 4 hours. Discard the bay leaves and oxtails (meat from oxtails can be eaten if desired). Transfer the chuck to a large plate. Return the Dutch oven to the stovetop, and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to about 1½ cups, about 5 minutes.

6. Beef can be shredded and served immediately or transferred to a sealed container along with the liquid and refrigerate up to five days. When ready to serve, shred into large chunks with your fingers or two forks. Return the beef to a pot along with the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook, gently stirring and folding until the beef is hot, tender, and coated in sauce. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately, piling the beef into warm corn tortillas with onions, queso fresco, avocados, cilantro, salsa, limes, or other condiments as desired.

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braised potatoes

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I don’t live in a world (okay, a town) where there are duck fat fries. People are always raving about them – except for the few who claim they’re not all that – but my opportunities to try duck fat anything have been limited. So I do what I usually do when I can’t find a restaurant to serve me something I want to try: I make it myself.

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Not that I set out to cook with duck fat; mostly I just stumbled onto a container of it at Whole Foods on my last visit to see my parents in Albuquerque. Also I didn’t exactly make fries, but close enough.

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On my first attempt to discover what makes potatoes cooked in duck fat so popular, I simply melted a half-inch or so of the fat in a nonstick pan, added the potatoes cut-side down, and let them cook until they were tender inside and nicely browned on the flat edges. They were just fine, but I didn’t see what the fuss was about.

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I was planning to give it another try one evening – after all, I had a container of duck fat with no other plans for it – when, a few hours before dinner, I read about Cook’s Illustrated’s braised new potato recipe in their latest issue. In this technique, the potatoes are cooked in a mixture of water, seasonings, and fat (the original recipe uses butter). The water tenderizes the potatoes, and when it evaporates, the potatoes brown in the fat.

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These are now a contender for my favorite potatoes ever. I still haven’t tried it with butter, which I’m sure is delicious, but the duck fat makes the kitchen smell like the best of Thanksgiving.  The inside of the potatoes are soft and creamy, and the flat edge is crisp and browned.  I see what all the fuss is about now.

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One year ago: California Roll Burgers
Two years ago: Lemon Bar (comparison of 3 recipes)
Three years ago: Grilled Artichokes
Four years ago: Fresh Strawberry Scones
Five years ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans and Balsamic Vinegar

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Braised Red Potatoes with Lemon (from Cooks Illustrated)

Did I mention that they’re almost entirely hands-off?

1½ pounds small red potatoes, unpeeled, halved
2 cups water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer, cut-side down, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add the water, butter, garlic, thyme, and salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Remove the lid and use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic to a cutting board; discard the thyme. Increase the heat to medium-high and vigorously simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until the water evaporates and the butter starts to sizzle, 15-20 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, mince the garlic to a paste.  Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice and pepper.

3. Continue to cook the potatoes, swirling the pan frequently, until the butter browns and the cut sides of the potatoes turn spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Off the heat, add the garlic mixture and chives and toss to thoroughly coat. Serve immediately.

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stuffed mascarpone strawberries

mascarpone strawberries 7

We moved into the new house! And less than a week later, we went on vacation! And now we’re back, and although we don’t have internet or television at home, and there are no curtains or pictures hung, and we haven’t bought mirrors for the bathrooms, it’s safe to say that we’re settling in. The kitchen is unpacked and has been through multiple rounds of tweaking, and what else matters?

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With the move, the vacation, and a couple big projects at work, March got a little crazy. It started off with a visit from a friend, here to interview for a job at our company. Which, by the way, she got, so she and her husband will be moving out to our little New Mexican town sometime this summer. After her interview, we showed her around town, but there really isn’t much to see, so we spent most of the evening hanging out at home, drinking wine and eating a nice meal.

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I’d forgotten that she eats like a bird, so I’m glad I kept dessert light. Fruit is a nice ending to a meal of salad, shrimp, bread, and lasagna, but plain fruit is a snack that I eat several times a day. Stuffing the berries with a lightly sweetened and spiced creamy mixture was the perfect way to make these a treat worthy of being called dessert. Plus, it was easy, and last month, easy was extremely important.

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One year ago: Strawberry Lemonade Bars
Two years ago: Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pecans
Three years ago: Vodka Gimlet
Four years ago: Black Bean Squash Burritos
Five years ago: Scotch Eggs

Printer Friendly Recipe
Stuffed Mascarpone Strawberries (adapted from The Quinces and the Pea via Pink Parsley)

1 pound strawberries, rinsed and dried
½ cup mascarpone cheese
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
½ teaspoon cardamom
cinnamon, for sprinkling

1. Halve each strawberry through the stem-end, and use a melon baller or paring knife to scoop out part of the middle.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone, cream, sugar, vanilla, and cardamom until soft peaks form. Using a piping bag fitted with corner snipped off (or a round tip), fill each strawberry with the cream. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon; serve.

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