Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Football Sunday Chile Verde

Football Sunday Chile Verde
Serves 4-6
Football Sunday Chile Verde
Its cold, rainy – perhaps snowing and it is Football Sunday! There is a crowd expected so double or triple this recipe and you will have a group of happy fans – regardless of the game outcome. One can find a bowl of green chili most anywhere in the American southwest, but New Mexico is particularly proud of its version of chili verde, with chunks of juicy pork shoulder and tart tomatillo-based sauce. This dish gets its oomph from green chilies, ideally the gorgeous ones grown around the town of Hatch.
Various peppers: Large=Anaheim, round=tomatillo, dark=pasilla, long green=serranno
Regional cuisine is a beautiful concept. It means cook what is growing in your backyard and I’ll make the most of what is growing in mine. World wide, regional dishes are celebrated for their diversity and ingenuity. We want to taste what’s growing in everyone’s backyard! New Mexico has fully embraced the concept of celebrating regional cuisine. New Mexicans are proud of their agriculture and the history behind their dishes. In a blazing arid climate, what can you grow? Chiles. So for generations, locals have chosen to honor them with great exuberance. Chiles are not just produce; they are a way of life. Locals would tell you the chili peppers you use matter a lot! The long green “New Mexican” style chilies are a state treasure. They say their dry barren soil produces the hottest and most flavorful chilies. Known commonly as HATCH chilies (grown in Hatch – population 1600 - these chilies are a source of great pride. Unfortunately finding fresh Hatch chilies outside of New Mexico is virtually impossible – the canned or frozen chilies are not a substitute. But using the Hatch Hot Sauce is a doable addition when available.
  • ¼ C canola oil
  • 2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into ½” cubes
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ½ C flour
  • 8 oz. ground breakfast sausage
  • 2 Tb ground cumin
  • 1 Tb green chili powder
  • 1 dried pasilla chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • ½ C chopped scallions
  • 15 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and finely chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 Serrano chilies, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 Green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 C chicken stock
  • Garnish:
  • 2 ears of fresh corn
  • 1 15-oz can green enchilada sauce
  • For serving – Hatch Hot sauce, if in unavailable, use your favorite hot sauce
  • Roughly torn cilantro leaves 

Heat ¼ C canola oil in an 8 Qt saucepan over med-high heat. Season 2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into ½” cubes with salt and pepper; toss with ½ C flour in a plastic bag to coat thoroughly. Remove from bag and shake off excess flour. Working in batches, add pork to hot pan; cook until browned all over, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside. Finish rest of pork.
Diced pork

....after browning 
Add 8 oz ground breakfast sausage to pan; cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with pork. Add 2 Tb cumin, 1Tb chili powder, and chopped, seeded and stemmed dried pasilla chili; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ½ scallions, tomatillos, onions, serranos, Anaheim chilies and bell pepper; cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add reserved pork and sausage, stock and enchilada sauce; cook until pork is tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, husk and clean 2 ears of corn - place them on a grill or over a flame until charred all over, set aside when finished.

Chopped chilies and onions

Grilled corn

Cooking the chili!
Cut corn of cobs and separate kernels. Garnish with corn, torn cilantro leaves and serve with hot sauce. This freezes beautifully and can be made a day ahead. 
Garnished with hot sauce
You could certainly pair this with beer – a lager or pilsner. You could also pair with a refreshing sparkling wine – and if you want to maintain the regional connection, check your local wine shop from some of New Mexico’s most popular and well-distributed wines, the sparklers from Gruet – especially the Blanc de Noir. If looking for a red wine – you will need a big California Zinfandel – which would also pair beautifully.

By the way - if you are admiring that amazing grill surface for the corn - it is truly a gem.  I use it all the time when stove-top grilling any vegetable. In the past, I had held chilies, corn, whatever, over the gas flame but that gets tiresome to stand there and do them one by one.  I found this while visiting Santa Fe at the Santa Fe Cooking School.  Look for their cooking grill. http://santafeschoolofcooking.com/  

Next week I will feature a second Football Sunday entree - take your pick - or better yet with both college bowl games and post-season pro games - have friends over more than once!



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Italian Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos

Italian Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos

Serves: 6
Italian Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos 
This is my second jalapeno appetizer. I mistakenly planted two jalapeno plants and they are prolific. I had to figure out some additional recipes featuring these relatively mild peppers. Removing the seeds and ribs not only makes room for the stuffing but also greatly decreases the heat. A mature jalapeño fruit is 2–3½ inches long and is commonly picked and consumed while still green, but occasionally it is allowed to fully ripen and turn crimson red. Good-quality Jalapeno peppers should be firm, smooth-skinned and have solid green coloring. Dry lines are not a blemish. They are signs of a mature pepper and indicate hotness. Avoid peppers that are soft, bruised, or have wrinkled skin or spots of mold. It is considered a moderately hot chili. However, chili peppers are an amazingly complex product. The region, climate, growing conditions, time of harvest all has an impact on the heat. The only real test is to taste one.

This recipe makes a lot of stuffing. Since it is hard to estimate the size of the peppers for stuffing, I would advise to make this quantity and use any leftovers to stuff tomatoes, poblanos or baked potatoes.
  • 15-20 jalapenos, cut in half, seeded and deveined.
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1-pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 Tb minced red onion
  • 2 Tb minced red bell pepper
  • 1½ Tb minced garlic
  • 1 C mascarpone or cream cheese
  • 3 Tb grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & Pepper
  • ¼ C shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped chives for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack in the middle of the oven. Place seeded and de-veined jalapeno halves on a sheet tray and roast for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

Heat 2 tsp canola oil in a medium sauté pan. Add 1-pound mild Italian sausage and cook 7-10 minutes, breaking it up with wooden spoon. Alternatively, if you cannot get the sausage to adequately break down to small piece – you could put the cooked meat into a food processor and pulse it a few times. Return sausage to the sauté pan, add the onions, red bell pepper and garlic and cook to soften for about 5 minutes. Remove and place in a large bowl to cool to room temperature. Then add mascarpone and Parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
The sausage stuffing
....now with the cheese.
Turn broiler onto medium. Place approximately 1 Tb of mixture into each jalapeno half, and top with ½ tsp of mozzarella cheese. Place the sheet tray of stuffed peppers in the oven and broil until mozzarella cheese melts.  Sprinkle with chopped chives just before serving.

Ready for the broiler
Serve with beer, Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris and enjoy!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chicken Schnitzel with Lemon Caper Sauce

Chicken Schnitzel with Lemon Caper Sauce

Serves: 4

Chicken Schnitzel with Lemon Caper Sauce

Traditional Weiner Schnitzel, a breaded veal scaloppini, is a classic dish served with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. I actually prefer to make it with chicken breast that is coated in Japanese panko crumbs, which are now available in the Asian section of most grocery stores. They make the extra crunchy exterior that works so well with a quick brown butter sauce of capers, lemon juice and parsley. This same technique would work equally well with traditional veal or turkey.

You will find this to be an extremely easy and quick mid-week meal. As always, the quality of the outcome depends on top quality ingredients. Quality chicken breasts are key in this recipe – you will want it nice fat boneless chicken breast halves. In San Diego we are blessed with access to local farmers, humanely raising chickens for distribution at Farmers Markets. I also love Rosie Organic Chicken, a free-range chicken farm located in Petaluma and Organic Smart Chicken located in Nebraska. Rosie’s are distributed on the West Coast – they can be found easily in grocers featuring organic products. Smart chickens are widely distributed across the US.  Both are certified organic and humane.
  • 4 – 6oz chicken breast halves, skinless and boneless
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1½ C panko crumbs
  • 6 Tb (3 oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp small capers, drained, rinsed and minced
  • 2 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tb chopped Italian parsley
  • Canola Oil
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced – quartered – fresh lemon – garnish, optional

Trim away any fat or sinew on 4 – 6oz skinless, boneless chicken breast halves. If the small filet is still attached to the underside of the breast, remove by pulling it off. Cut away the sinew that runs through the fillet. Set aside.

To butterfly a chicken breast, place it on the cutting surface, skin side up with the thickest side of the breast towards the sharp knife. Carefully place your non-cutting hand over the chicken breast to hold it in place. Hold the knife so that the blade is horizontal to the cutting surface in the center of the breast. Draw the knife almost through the breast, splitting the breast horizontally, but leave the far side of the breast attached. Open up the breast like a book. Repeat with the remaining breasts.
Butterflying the chicken breast
Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Top with a butterflied chicken breast and then cover with a second piece of plastic wrap. Pound the breast with a smooth surface meat pounder. Lift the plastic, rotate the breast 45 degrees, replace plastic and pound again. The finished scaloppini will be about 6-inches by 7-inches and even thickness. Set aside and repeat with the remaining breasts.

To cook the schnitzel, season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Spread 1 C flour in a large dish. Place 3 beaten eggs in a large dish and 1½ C panko crumbs in another large dish. Preheat oven to 250 degree F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
 Put ¼-inch of canola oil in a large frying pan. It may be necessary to cook the chicken in a few batches. Be sure the oil is quite hot before adding the chicken to sauté. If it is not hot enough, the chicken may stick to the pan. Quickly dip both sides of the butterflied chicken into flour, then egg and finally panko. 

Breaded chicken
Immediately place into the oil. Do not crowd them. As the bottom browns, tilt the pan and using a large spoon, baste the top of the schnitzels with the hot oil. This will begin to cook the top and will shorten cooking time once turned. When the first side is browned, turn the piece over. Adjust the heat as necessary. The total cooking time should be about 4 minutes. Remove the schnitzels to the paper towel and place into the warm oven. Continue to coat and cook the remaining pieces.

As you finish the last batch of chicken, place a small saucepan with 6 Tb unsalted butter over medium high heat. Let the butter bubble and cook until it is browned. It will be a nutty color, however be careful not to let the butter burn. Add 2 tsp of chopped, rinsed capers, 2 Tb fresh lemon juice and 1 Tb chopped parsley to the butter. Stir for a few seconds.
Browning the butter
Lemon caper sauce 
Arrange the chicken schnitzels on individual serving plates or a platter, and then pour the hot browned butter over the schnitzels.  Serve with sliced lemon if desired.

We love this dish.  It is quick and simple. Normally pairing chicken with wine is a breeze: chardonnay, pinot noir, Beaujolais or even an aged Cabernet Sauvignon.  But this dish with its wonderful lemon sauce could compete with the reds. I would love it with Champagne, especially a rose, but an unoaked Chardonnay, Riesling or a California Sauvignon Blanc would be divine. No matter what you choose, make this dish. You will love it too!