Taco Tuesday

Lately, we’ve been let down by our favorite Taquerias. They just aren’t doing it for us anymore. Prices have been raised and the waits can be long. Plus, I’ve been feeling like Burritos are overkill. I’m trying to be a bit healthier, so I really should be eating half a burrito. But who wants to eat the other half re-heated for lunch the next day? The hot/cold magic of a Burrito just doesn’t work re-heated.

In addition, Mrs. Flannestad’s commute has gotten longer, so we are now eating closer to 8 PM many nights of the week.

I’m not an Iron Chef, but I’ve been working on a few meals I can execute in the hour, hour and a half, between when I get home and she gets home.

The last couple disappointing Taqueria experiences led me to say to myself, I can do that in an hour.

Well, it’s not quite so easy, but not so bad, either.

Whatever you do, do not use canned Tomatillos or purchased tomatillo salsa. It is almost universally awful. Mexican citizens and immigrants have penetrated America to the extent that you can likely find most of these ingredients at your local mega-mart. If not, a trip to the ethnic grocery is always a nice way to spend the afternoon.

Salsa Verde

1 Pound Tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 Garlic Cloves
2 Serrano Chiles (or to taste)
1/4 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon Minced Cilantro

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Place Tomatillos, Garlic Cloves, and Chiles in a roasting pan or other oven proof non-reactive container. Cook until Tomatillos are soft and starting to split. Remove from oven and add Chiles, Garlic, onion, and one tomatillo to the bowl of a food processor. Process until well pureed. Add rest of tomatillos and pulse to blend. Remove to a container, salt to taste and stir in Cilantro.

I like traditional Pico de Gallo, but I also like to mix it up a bit by adding some beans. If I am opposed to buying Tomatillo Salsa, I am vehemently opposed to buying Pico de Gallo. It’s 5 minutes of work, and if it’s canned, it’s not Pico de Gallo.

Pico de Gallo, with Beans

1/4 White Onion, Small Dice
2 Serrano Chiles, Minced (Or as spicy as you like, really. The chiles I’ve been finding at the grocery store lately have been ridiculously, weirdly, mild.)
1 clove Garlic, Minced
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, Minced
1 Tomato, Small Dice
1 cup Cooked Beans, drained (Ranco Gordo Yellow Indian Woman above) or drain a can of small-ish beans
Splash Olive Oil
Splash Vinegar (or lime)
Salt

Combine, onion, garlic, chiles and cilantro. Add Tomato and Beans. Splash in Olive Oil and a little Vinegar (or citrus). Salt liberally. If using canned beans, you may need to salt in a way that is no longer fashionable in the US. Think FDR or Jimmy Carter.

Fish Tacos

1/3 of a pound skinned Fish Fillet per person (Rock Cod and Tilapia are our current favorites)
Salt
Olive or other cooking oil

For seasoned Flour Mixture, place in a resealable bag:
1/4 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Cornmean
1 TBSP Salt
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Paprika (Spanish Smoked Paprika even better!)

Garnishes:

Chopped Avocado and sliced lettuce

Corn Tortillas, 2 per taco

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Check Fillets for bones and remove if necessary. Pat dry with paper towels and salt generously. Drop into bag with seasoned flour mixture and shake, shake, shake. Remove fillets from bag, shaking off excess. The remaining flour can be refrigerated and reused if you aren’t too picky. Otherwise, make a smaller batch and discard. Heat a large enough pan on the stove to hold all your fillets and add oil. When oil is hot, gently add filets, good side down. Brown and flip. Remove from heat and place in oven to finish cooking. When they are cooked through remove. Using a spatula, break the fish fillets into serving size pieces, about 2 per 2/3 pound.

Heat the tortillas by steaming, on a griddle, or in the microwave.

Build the tacos:

Place two tortillas on a plate. Add a piece of fish and some lettuce. Spoon on pieces of Avocado. Top with Pico de Gallo and Tomatillo Salsa.

Re: Tilapia. I’ve been reading that the farmed version of same isn’t super healthy. It has good oil, but also bad oil because of the stuff they feed it. About on par with farmed catfish, I guess. Depending on the source, it also may or may not be farmed in a particularly happy way for the environment. But it is very tasty and pretty forgiving to cook with.

Cold Tossed Sichuan Noodles

This is my much “loved” copy of “Classic Chinese Cuisine” by Nina Simonds.

Classic Chinese Cuisine

Hot as it was this week, I decided I would make “Cold Tossed Sichuan Noodles” from this book. No way I was creating any more heat than necessary in the house. Plus it is a quick and easy to make dish.

Cold Tossed Sichuan Noodles.

This is actually a great weeknight meal, if the weather is intolerably hot or not. If you have these ingredients in your pantry it takes minutes to throw together the sauce, chop a few veggies, and boil the noodles. You can also make it with any other nut butter, if you don’t like Peanut Butter. Almond, Cashew, whatever.

Cold Tossed Sichuan Noodles.

Quite possibly the trickiest thing in this recipe is poaching the chicken, without making it dry or tough. Even many restaurants *cough*Pomelo*cough* can’t seem to manage this. If you bring it to a boil too quickly it turns into chewing gum. Ideally, you’d seal it in a cryovac bag with rice wine, ginger, soy sauce, and garlic and sous vide it. Lacking sous vide equipment, place the bone on breast in a pan large enough it can be covered with cold water. Add a splash of soy sauce and rice wine. Crush a garlic clove and a couple ginger slices and drop them in the water. Using medium heat, bring the water up to not quite a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat as low as you can. Continue to cook until the breast reaches 145 at its thickest point and the broth is clear. The dish would also be tasty made with tofu instead of chicken.

Cold Tossed Sichuan Noodles.

“Classic Chinese Cuisine” is one of the first cookbooks that opened my eyes and tastes when I was in college and had my first food service jobs. One of the first time I realized that if I followed a recipe from a cookbook, I could make something much tastier than many of the restaurants I had been going to. Chinese cuisine was my first enthusiasm, thanks to this book. “Cold Tossed Sichuan Noodles” is one the first recipes I remember making from it. Just between you and me, I checked out “Classic Chinese Cuisine” from the public library. It was due for return on April 22, 1989. I’m sorry if you have been trying to check it out. The “Cold Tossed Sichuan Noodles” were just so good, I knew I needed to make far more things from the book. It’s not something I’m proud of.

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Mrs. Flannestad has been a bit under the weather this week and requested chicken soup last night.

This is what I made…

Corn Chowder

Chicken and Corn Chowder

2 Chicken Leg Thigh Combo
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 celery, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
sprig thyme
few whole black peppercorns
1 whole clove

1/2 pound bacon
Olive Oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Dry Oregano
Dry Thyme
Bay Leaf
1 TBSP Chili Powder
2 TBSP White Flour

2 Russet Potatoes, Peeled and diced

1 Package Frozen Corn
1 Cup Half and Half
3 Green Onions, sliced
Cilantro, Chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

Add Chicken to a pot, add onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and thyme. Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook until chicken runs clear.

Meanwhile chop you veggies for the stew proper. Add the bacon to a heavy pot large enough to hold a quart or so of soup. You may need to add a touch of olive oil to get this started faster without burning the bacon. Render fat from bacon and cook until crispy. Reserve bacon. Remove most of the bacon fat from the pan and add chopped onion, bell pepper, and red pepper. Sweat over low heat until they begin to soften and add garlic and spices. Cover and sweat for a few minutes more. Add 1 TBSP bacon grease back in (or olive oil if you prefer), and add flour, stirring to cook for a few minutes. You are creating a roux.

Hopefully, before now, your chicken will be done. Pour off the cooking liquid, strain, and reserve. You should have a couple cups. If not, add extra stock to make it up. Add strained cooking liquid to the vegetables and roux above, whisking quickly. Bring to a simmer rapidly. Add potatoes and lower heat. Cook until potatoes are almost done.

Remove chicken from bones and dice. Add chicken, reserved bacon, corn, and green onions to the soup. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes stir in the half and half and check seasonings. When it again comes to a simmer, ladle into bowls and top with chopped cilantro. Serve with crusty bread.

Stacked Enchiladas

When I worked at a “Southwestern” restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin, we would sometimes offer these as a special.

If I remember correctly, we would call them New Mexican Enchiladas.

Instead of rolling the ingredients in the corn tortillas, you would build a stack.

Put down a sauced corn tortilla, add an ingredient, add another sauced tortilla, then an ingredient, tortilla on top, sauce, and cheese. Then microwave the whole shebang.

Sort of like a tortilla lasagna.

Tonight I had some leftover chicken. I bought some salsa verde, spiced it up with minced chipotles en adobo, reserved half the sauce, and then stirred the leftover chicken into the remaining sauce. Then I put down a layer of spiced salsa verde, a tortilla, some chicken, another tortilla, some more chicken, a tortilla, the remaining sauce, feta cheese, and cheddar cheese. I baked it in the oven until browned.

At the same time I had crisped some bacon, then sautéed some onions, garlic, and chile powder in the rendered fat. Added a small can of black beans, and simmered. Added the crisped bacon back in.

Yep, not bad for a quick Sunday night dinner.

Fish Provencal-ish

One of my favorite fish preparations is baking it in a spicy tomato sauce with olives and capers.

Unfortunately, the only decent looking fish at our local market was Pollack, the world’s most tasteless fish. There’s a reason some Asian genius decided to use this as a base to create artificial crab.

Pre-heat your oven to 325 F.

Make a tasty tomato sauce. I actually kind of like leeks a bit better than the yellow onions I used here.

I like line a baking dish with sliced lemons, then place the fish on this.

Then top the fish with some herbs, in this case thyme, and salt and pepper. Cover the fish with the tomato sauce and put it in the oven.

“Wait, what are all these unusual stainless items which arrived at our front door,” sez Ms. Sweetpea?

Acting on a tip from DrinksCompanion I scored a set of 28 oz stainless tins and 18oz cheater tins from BarSupplies.com. Not to mention a full set of stainless jiggers in varying sizes. Interesting posts will follow explaining, if you don’t feel like reading DrinksCompanion’s exegesis.

Linguini is one of my favorite dry pastas. I don’t exactly know why. Versatile?

Take the fish out of the sauce and plate, toss the pasta with the sauce.

Served it with some olive bread from Arizmendi Bakery.

It was only OK this time Again, Pollack is really a pretty boring fish. Probably fish balls or fake crab sticks is the thing to do with it, rather than just eating it. Halibut or Cod would be preferable. But, there you go, a fast and easy to make dinner for a weeknight.