Feb 102013
Fideo: A Spin through Mexican Culinary History Takes Us to the Ultimate Comfort Food

The Mexican dish “Fideo” first came to my attention several years ago, when my grandmother spoke of it while reminiscing about the dishes her mother used to make for her as a child. I’d never had it, but recently my grandma reported that she’d tried making it for herself and her youngest grandchild, and that it had been a hit with both of them. I filed it away in the “things to cook one of these days” section of my brain. (It’s right behind the amygdala.)   I’m not sure what brought fideo back to the forefront of my consciousness […]

Jan 272013
Making a Vinaigrette is Just This Easy

If you’ve been suffering the unbalanced flavors of most store-bought vinaigrette– frequently too sweet, with suspicious ingredient lists, a viscous mouth feel, and way too heavy a hand with the celery seed, (I’m looking at you, red wine vinaigrette from a certain quirky alt-grocery chain), keep reading. A vinaigrette is incredibly easy to make, and is based on a simple ratio of acid to oil that you can memorize. (Yes, that’s right– you’ll be able to whip up a vinaigrette any time and anywhere. No salad will go undressed in your presence.) And once you have the basics down, you can […]

Jan 132013
Good Luck Gumbo and a Guide to Developing the Right Roux

  A couple of weeks ago, I was walking around the house, preparing a grocery list and plotting some upcoming meals, including for New Year’s Day. I asked my wife what she wanted for New Year’s dinner, and she said, “Black-Eyed Peas, and Greens, of course!” Now she’s from the North and I’m from the West, but an aunt from the South has gotten us firmly entrenched in this New Year’s Day tradition. Those dishes are meant to be good luck, and to foretell a prosperous year, (the greens represent paper money; the black-eyed peas represent safety from hunger, dating […]

Dec 222012
The Christmas Tamale. Yes, It Is Time.

I grew up in California, one side of my family is Mexican, and let me be the first to tell you that it simply is not Christmas without tamales.   Some people will tell you that the proper Christmas tamale is sweet; the masa infused with cinnamon and raisins, or for the even more wayward, pineapple or strawberry. These people are wrong. The tamale you really want, this time of year, is one of savory meat in a spice-inflected red chile sauce, encased in flavorful, airy masa (treated ground cornmeal mixed with liquid and fat– more on that below), and […]

Oct 042012
Formulating a Salsa Recipe; Roasted Heirloom Tomato Salsa

  Salsa is my go-to project whenever tomatoes are so abundant I’m not sure what to do with them all. (Which isn’t to say you must be navigating an overabundance of tomatoes in order to make it– it’s delicious even when not strictly necessary.) I’ve made Roasted Heirloom Tomato Salsa twice recently, due to a profusion of tomatoes on offer from our landlords/neighbors’ beautiful and extensive vegetable garden. This morning my inbox held a last-minute request from friends in Portland looking for a good salsa recipe. (Always a happy occurrence.) The friend that wrote said her husband needs to whip […]

Jul 082012
Working With Dried Chiles; Making Chile Colorado

  Dishes derived from Mexican and Southwestern US culinary traditions have a special place in my heart; I grew up on them, and when I’m apart from these foods while traveling, I crave them. One of the primary keys to these cuisines are the variety of sauces that underpin the traditional dishes.  Nail these sauces, and authentic flavors will burst from your kitchen. So let’s talk about a red chile sauce, known as chile colorado. Making dried red chiles into a delicious sauce is easier than it might have appeared to you previously, if you ever peered dubiously into a […]

Mar 112012
The Pilaf Method

  There are three official (i.e., of Western tradition and taught in French-influenced culinary school) techniques for cooking rice and other grains– the risotto method, the pilaf method, and the simmering  method. A brief review of the techniques: To use the risotto method, you first heat up your chosen fat (e.g., olive oil, butter), with any aromatics you might be using, such as garlic or shallots. Then add the rice to the hot fat and make sure all the grains are coated, but not browned. Next, add a little liquid at a time (usually wine first, then an already-warmed stock you’re […]

Feb 192012
Roasted Pumpkin and Red Pepper Soup

  This post is a little out-of-season, but file it away for next autumn and make it then. Why am I writing about garden pumpkins and red peppers at this time of year, you ask? Well, I received a fun email from an old work friend whom I haven’t seen in many years; she’s part of an email-based recipe exchange and looped me into it. Since the email specifically asked for quick, go-to sorts of recipes, I figured I’d add this old favorite to my blog, and then send the recipe link as instructed to the first person in the […]

Jan 142012

[swfobj src=”http://indieculinary.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/stock_making_quiz.swf” width=”500″ height=”400″]   Stocks form the basis, (used in one form or another), for the flavoring of most classical French dishes.  Since classical French cuisine has so widely influenced other Western cuisines, stocks are important in general. You can buy them pre-made, of course, but the results are often insipid. It’s worth your time to learn how to make a good stock, even at home. You’ll find that dishes in which you incorporate a good stock are elevated beyond your expectations. A classical stock is a combination of bones, vegetables, and liquids (usually water), with the addition of […]