Oct 032013
 
Three Bean Chorizo Chili

Three Bean Chorizo Chili

I understand from my Facebook feed that something called “football season” has begun. My interest in the sport starts and stops with the prospect of making something yummy to be eaten during a Super Bowl party in January. To this end, I am aware that chili (robust, spicy, pairs well with beer, can be made in advance) is a popular food to accompany football viewing.

There are those who say beans have no place in chili. These people are wrong. Beans add contrasting texture, body, flavor, and color. And they go spectacularly well with cheese. You want to cover your chili with cheese, don’t you?

Chili is all about layering flavor. I like to start by sauteing the meat in a little oil– in this case, the meat is fresh ground chorizo, which besides adding an appealing spiciness, will render some of its own fat for flavor as well.

Other meats I often use are ground buffalo or bison (to give that iron-laden red meat taste) or sometimes ground turkey if I’m aiming for a lighter touch. If I’ve got all day, I might do the chili in the slow cooker with a cut like the shoulder, allowing the meat to get meltingly tender by the time the chili is ready. Just trim and briefly sear the meat before throwing it into the slow cooker. Prepare everything else on the stovetop as usual, but then pour it into the slow cooker to slowly warm, rather than letting it finish on the stovetop. Another favorite, if you have a BBQ handy, is a grilled beef cut such as a tri-tip– shred your leftover meat from a recent BBQ into the chili as a last step (after you’ve added the wet ingredients, and keep the heat low from that point on so you don’t cause the meat the toughen.)

Back to the chili itself. After I’ve rendered the meat, if appropriate, I add the aromatics (in this case, white onion, jalapeno, and a little later on, minced garlic.) Once they’re softened, I add some flour to make a roux, as this will help thicken the chili later.  (I find a roux to be a nice, unobtrusive way to thicken a chili, in that it keeps the texture of the liquid silky.)

As soon as the roux has darkened a little (give it a minute or two of constant stirring), I pull the mixture off the heat and add my dry spices, letting them bloom briefly. Spice choice is important here, as obviously spices– the type and amount you choose– do the most to inform the character of your chili. I like to use a dark red New Mexico chile powder, some smoked paprika, ground mustard, ground black pepper, and ground cumin, at a minimum. If I have other ground chiles on hand, I’ll often experiment with different combinations. And I almost always include cocoa powder amongst the dry spices for my chili- it adds a nice depth of flavor.

Once your spices are bloomed, you can add your wet ingredients. Alcohol can be an interesting addition here–  you could add a stout or a lager– just be sure to bring it to a boil briefly so you burn off the strongest tastes of alcohol. I haven’t done that in this recipe, but I’ve included beer in chili many times to great success. Put in the rest of your wet ingredients, then– your beans and tomatoes, and let the whole thing simmer for a while. Taste intermittently and salt if you need to.

Vegetarian? Or vegan, for that matter? Skip the meat in the first step. I’ve made a riff on this chili several times without the inclusion of meat, and more than one avowed meat eater has approached to say they didn’t miss it.

Garnish time– I’m partial to shredded cheese. Especially cheddar; probably a throwback to my childhood. Diced scallions, jalapeno, and avocado are also good.

So get out there and use these tips to develop your own signature chili. Or just follow the recipe for tonight’s chili iteration– Three Bean Chorizo Chili– below.

Three Bean Chorizo Chili from indieculinary.com

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds fresh ground chorizo (Get it from a carniceria or a butcher counter, or make it yourself. If you have to get a pre-processed brand, aim for Silva, which is most like the real thing. Avoid the kind that comes in plastic casings, if possible.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 jalapeno or serrano chiles, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons ground New Mexico chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 5 pounds chopped fresh tomatoes (or two 28 ounce cans)
  • 3 cups cooked kidney beans (or two cans)
  • 3 cups cooked pinto beans (or two cans)
  • 1.5 cups cooked black beans (or one can)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • For garnish, shredded cheese, diced avocado, scallion, and/or fresh green chile

Instructions

  1. Combine all your dry spices in a bowl-- cocoa, chile powder, cumin, ground mustard, black pepper, and smoked paprika.
  2. In a large stockpot, render your ground fresh chorizo in the olive oil. (If your chorizo is in natural casings, dice it up first.)
  3. Once rendered, add diced onion and chiles to the pot, stir until softened.
  4. Add garlic and flour. Stir for a minute to form the roux and cook it through a bit, and then pull from the heat.
  5. Stir in your spice mixture. Stir frequently so the spices won't stick or burn to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Add your wet ingredients (tomatoes and beans) and return the pot to the heat.
  7. Add salt, and bring to a simmer.
  8. Simmer at least half an hour. Taste and salt more as needed.
  9. To serve, plate in deep bowls and garnish with shredded cheese. Diced avocado, scallions, and/or more green chiles also make a nice garnish
http://indieculinary.com/2013/10/03/three-bean-chorizo-chili-and-some-tips-on-building-and-layering-flavor-in-your-own-recipe/

Sep 152013
 

indieculinary-pumpkin-enchiladas-verdes

I’ve been making these enchiladas for years and years, but seeing the Food52 contest for “Your Best Spicy Recipe” was my impetus to finally write them up. They’re currently a potential finalist in that contest over there– wish me luck.

My write-up from Food 52:

 It was hard to know where to start with this contest, since I love spicy food and probably 80% of the entrees that come out of my kitchen would qualify for this contest. I settled on submitting a long-time favorite, though. I’m not sure when I decided to refine and combine elements of the ingredients and methods I’d learned from a friend for turning out authentic chile verde, with the vegetarian spin of roasted pumpkin and white cheese. But I did, and it was a hit. The spicy salsa verde (don’t be shy with those chiles, and no need to seed them or remove the pith… they’ll be mellowed by the sweet roasted pumpkin and creamy cheese) combined with, as just mentioned, earthy and sweet pumpkin and melted, salty and creamy cheese, was an irresistible combination. 

This is the absolute best time of year to gather the ingredients for these enchiladas– tomatillos, tomatoes, chiles, and pumpkins (at least, Kabochas– also called Japanese pumpkins) are all perfectly ripe and available in the garden at this time of year. And therefore, it’s time for green enchiladas filled with pumpkin and cheese! Oh, and because we’re all busy people and they’ll taste exactly the same– just stack them instead of rolling them. (Method below.) It’s less fussy and time-consuming, and that means you can devour these all the sooner. 

P.S. This recipe makes about 8 hearty servings, but it can easily be doubled to serve 16 (or more in either case, if used as a side dish.)

Spicy Stacked Enchiladas Verdes with Roasted Pumpkin and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 10 medium-large tomatillos
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 5 jalapeno or serrano chiles
  • 1 head cilantro, large stems removed
  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 medium pumpkin of 2.5-3 lbs (such as sugar pie or kabocha)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, in two equal measurements of 1/4 cup each
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin, in two equal measurements of 1 tablespoon each
  • 2 cups shredded jack cheese
  • 2 cups finely grated cotija cheese
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice your pumpkin in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Rub the exposed cut portions with olive oil. Roast cut portion-down at 350 degrees F until the pumpkin is easily pierced with a fork (about 45 minutes.) Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Husk and wash the tomatillos, and roughly chop them.
  4. Roughly chop the onions, tomatoes, and chiles.
  5. Combine the chopped tomatillos, tomatoes, chiles, and onions with the garlic, cilantro, chicken stock, one measurement of olive oil, and one measurement of cumin, into a blender or food processor. Blend thoroughly. (Depending on the size of your blender or food processor, you may need to do this in two shifts.)
  6. Combine the well-blended ingredients into a large saucepan and simmer for 25 minutes.
  7. Taste and adjust salt to your preferences. (You will likely need to add some.)
  8. Preheat the oven again to 350 degrees.
  9. Scoop the roast pumpkin out of the shells and quickly mash and stir fry with remaining portions of olive oil and cumin. Salt generously. Set aside.
  10. Line the bottom of a 9x13 pan with 4 of your tortillas (rip one or two of them in half if that helps with arranging for full coverage of the bottom.)
  11. Ladle 1/3 of your simmered salsa verde over the tortillas. Top with half of the mashed pumpkin and half of the shredded jack cheese.
  12. Then add another layer of tortillas, another 1/3 of the salsa verde, the last half of the pumpkin, and the last half of the shredded jack cheese.
  13. Top that with the last of the tortillas and salsa verde.
  14. Bake in 350 F oven for 35 minutes. Remove and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
  15. To serve, slice into 8 squares. Plate each square individually. Garnish each serving with grated cotija cheese, which is light enough to rest like snow atop the dish and the plate.
http://indieculinary.com/2013/09/15/spicy-stacked-enchiladas-verdes-with-roasted-pumpkin-and-cheese/

Aug 222013
 

Ireland is currently undergoing a resurgence of artisanal cheesemaking, as cheesemakers pop up across the country. I was lucky enough to encounter one of them, Silke Cropp of Corelggy Cheeses, at the Dublin Temple Bar Food Market last Saturday.

Corleggy Cheeses

Silke Cropp – Cheesemaker at Corleggy Cheeses

Silke explained that 30 years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find any good cheese in Ireland. Now, however, artisanal cheesemakers like her are springing up around the country. Not that she’s new to the field– she began making cheese from her own animals 27 years ago. Her initial foray into cheesemaking was a solution for using up the excess milk produced by a particularly prolific goat.

Now, she gets her sheep’s, goat’s, and cow’s milk from her neighbors, preferring to concentrate on the cheesemaking itself rather than the raising of the farm animals to provide the raw materials. And since she gets the milk from her neighbors, she knows its quality and its provenance.

I tried samples of three of her cheeses; all were fantastic but a hard cheese made from raw goat’s milk was my favorite. It tasted of meadows and pastures but was also full, mature, and savory.

Temple Bar Dublin Farmer's Market- Cheese Stand, Corleggy Cheeses

Dublin – Temple Bar Food Market-  Corleggy Cheeses

Smoked Cow from Corleggy Cheeses

Smoked Cow from Corleggy Cheeses

I didn’t get to try the smoked cow (above) to my lasting regret. Oh well. One more reason to go back to Ireland.

You can shop for her cheeses here: http://www.corleggycheeses.bigcartel.com/

Silke also offers cheesemaking classes, and has one coming up on September 15th, (registration details in the image below.) I asked what the class would be making and she said “a gouda,” and that students would prepare the cheese in buckets that could then be taken home and aged. That sounds fun and ambitious; I highly recommend checking it out if you’re going to be in Ireland in September 2013! Her farm is driving distance from Dublin, (looks to be about 76 miles.)

Corleggy Cheese School

Corleggy Cheese School

Who else is ready to start planning an Irish Cheese Tour?

 

 

Jul 082013
 
Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart

This recipe was developed for Slow Food Santa Cruz.

We are flush with berries here on the Central Coast, and it’s been strawberry season for well over a month now. If you’re a local, you’ve eaten them fresh, out of hand. You’ve had them over yogurt, and in salads. Now, it’s time to get indulgent. With our local strawberries still at the peak of ripeness, make a Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart. In this formulation, you will crown crisp, buttery shortbread with glistening strawberries, nestling them into a rich, dark chocolate ganache.

The strawberries used in developing this recipe are from Alba Organics. Alba stands for “Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association,” and the purpose of the association is to generate “opportunities for farm workers and limited-resource, aspiring farmers to grow and sell crops from two organic farms in Monterey County,” according to their website. They’re based in Watsonville, and their strawberries are fresh, deeply red, and sweet.

Now, for the tart. For the base, you’ll make a classic shortbread crust. Shortbread is so named because the butter (fat) coats the flour, preventing long gluten strands from forming. (Hence the “short” in “shortbread.”) The result is a crumbly, crispy, tender crust. To up the crispiness factor even further, see if you can find a good European butter. European butters have a higher fat content, (and correspondingly lower water content), than American butters.

Next, you’ll make a dark chocolate ganache, easily whisked together in the kitchen from just two ingredients, (dark chocolate and heavy cream). It adds a richly satisfying layer and colorful contrast above the shortbread crust.

You’ll arrange your strawberries within the tart, with their wide ends “dipped” into the ganache, and use warmed, thinned apricot jam to glaze your berries. The French term for this technique, common in pastry kitchens, is “nappage.” Not only will it add an attractive sheen to the fruit, the coating will help protect the fruit from oxidizing.

Nappage in action

Nappage in action

As with most recipes, especially those consisting of only a few simple ingredients, the quality of those ingredients will have a noticeable impact on your finished pastry. Seek out European butter, a good-quality dark chocolate of at least 70% cacao, and local strawberries at the peak of ripeness, and you will be rewarded with a rich and flavorful tart much greater than the sum of its parts.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart - The Full Monty

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart – The Full Monty

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart from indieculinary.com

Yield: Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces chilled, unsweetened butter (preferably European)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces heavy cream
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • Juice of one Meyer lemon

Instructions

    Make the shortbread tart crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Dice chilled butter.
  3. Work flour, sugar, salt, and butter together in a bowl with your hands until a large ball of dough forms, and no clumps of butter remain.
  4. Press chilled dough evenly into 11 in. tart pan, (patch any holes or tears with extra dough), to a thickness of ¼ inch. Press edges into an even rim with your fingers, so that the dough does not spill over the top of the tart pan.
  5. Dock the dough by pressing through it with the tines of a fork in several spots in the middle of the tart. (This helps prevent the unfilled crust from rising or bubbling in the middle while it bakes.)
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F until a light golden brown (approximately 30 minutes.)
  7. Leave tart shell to cool.
  8. Make the ganache
  9. Dice your dark chocolate into small pieces, no bigger than 1/2 inch square each.
  10. Place the diced chocolate in a bowl with room for whisking.
  11. Pour the heavy cream into a small pot and bring to a simmer.
  12. Once bubbling, pour over the chocolate pieces, and let sit for one minute.
  13. After a minute has passed, whisk vigorously. A smooth ganache will come together before your eyes.
  14. If chocolate chunks remain despite your best whisking efforts, set your bowl of ganache aside for a moment.
  15. Add some water to the pot you've just emptied of cream and bring the water to a boil.
  16. Set your bowl of ganache above it, completely sealing the pot with the bowl, to create a double boiler.
  17. Give it a minute for the steam from the boiling water underneath it to heat the bowl, and then whisk again, until your ganache is smooth.
  18. Assemble the tart
  19. Pour the ganache evenly into the baked tart shell; spread flat if necessary.
  20. Wash and hull the strawberries; cut flat bottoms onto each of them on the stem side.
  21. Press strawberries, flat side down, into the ganache-filled tart shell. Start with the largest strawberries in the middle and fill the shell concentrically from there, leaving as little space as possible between the berries.
  22. Warm the apricot jam and lemon juice on the stove top until fluid. (If your jam has chunks of fruit that don't break down, strain it.)
  23. Brush lightly onto the strawberries with a pastry brush until all are glossy.
  24. To serve, slice the tart into 12 equal portions. (You may wish to accompany each slice with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.)
http://indieculinary.com/2013/07/08/chocolate-dipped-strawberry-shortbread-tart-and-a-bit-of-tart-theory/

 

Jul 062013
 
Muhamarra Popcorn Crunch

Muhamarra Popcorn Crunch

Sometimes you just need to mix up your home popcorn flavors. We’re hardly popcorn traditionalists in the indieculinary household. Butter and salt are nice, but they’re usually pushed aside in favor of some manner of hot sauce.

This new popcorn recipe is one of my favorite flavor combinations in a while. I came up with it for yet another Food52 contest, (Your Best Roadtrip Snack), and here’s how it came about, from my write-up for their site:

When I think back on the best road trip snack I’ve ever had, I remember driving through wine country with good friends. We stopped for provisions, settling on a tub of muhamarra and a loaf of good, fresh baked bread. Muhamarra is a delicious dip with various permutations in cuisines of the Middle East. As we had it that day, (and as I’ve made it ever since), it’s a mixture of walnuts, red pepper, pomegranate molasses, lemon, and cumin. It’s delicious, but eating it as we cruised up Highway 29 through Napa Valley admittedly took some negotiation from me, the driver. Every time I wanted a bite, I had to talk one of the passengers into ripping a hunk of bread off the loaf and spreading it with muhamarra for me. 

For this new recipe, I wanted to recapture the flavors of muhammara and that perfect summer drive, but in the form of a road trip snack that could be easily enjoyed by the driver, too. So I tossed popcorn and toasted walnuts in pomegranate syrup and crushed red pepper, lemon zest, cumin, salt– all the flavors of muhamarra, but in a new permutation. This crunchy popcorn and nut combination is sweet and sour from the pomegranate and lemon, spicy from the red pepper and cumin, and of course has the salty kick that popcorn demands. I snacked on it while I was making it, I snacked on it– straight out of the oven– while it was crisping up at 350 degrees, I snacked on it while I was trying to take pictures of it, and I am snacking on it now. When I’m done writing this, I’m going to take it for a drive and snack on it some more.

Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranate Molasses

A note on pomegranate molasses, which is used in the recipe below: It’s this fantastically versatile sweet-and-sour ingredient, made by reducing pomegranate juice with some extra sugar and sometimes lemon over heat until it becomes a thick syrup. You can actually make your own that way if you can’t find it already made. It’s hard to nail the exact consistency of the bottled version, though… and if you go too far with the heat, you’ll have pomegranate candy and a very-difficult-to-clean pot. (I can report this from personal experience.) It’s worth just buying it already made if you can find it; most well-stocked grocery stores should carry it.

Muhammara Popcorn Crunch from indieculinary.com

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cups popcorn kernels
  • Enough of your preferred cooking oil to just cover the bottom of a stockpot
  • 2 cups walnut pieces
  • 3 ounces pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of two large, organic lemons

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. To a lidded stockpot, add just enough oil to cover the bottom.
  3. Add 2/3 cup popcorn kernels.
  4. Cover with the lid and turn the burner on to medium.
  5. Once the oil heats, you'll hear the popcorn begin to pop. After it reaches a crescendo and the popping frequency slows, give the pot a few good shakes.
  6. Listen as some more kernels pop. As they slow to only an occasional pop, remove the pot from the heat.
  7. You'll now have about 10 cups of popcorn-- spread it out over a flat surface. (Such as a couple of cookie sheets.)
  8. Briefly toast your walnut pieces on the stove top until fragrant. Toss in the pan frequently as you toast them so they won't burn.
  9. Incorporate your toasted walnuts with the popcorn.
  10. Using a squeeze bottle or similar device, lightly drizzle the pomegranate molasses over the popcorn and walnut mixture.
  11. Sprinkle the cumin, crushed red pepper, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon of the salt over the popcorn and walnut mixture.
  12. Toss everything well, transfer to a 9 x 13 pan, and put in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up. (This step will harden the pomegranate molasses and make the popcorn crunchy rather than soggy.)
  13. Check frequently; toss at the 5 minute mark and return to the oven for the final 5 minutes.
  14. When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle with the reserved half teaspoon of salt. Snack now, or let it cool and then package it up for a road trip.
http://indieculinary.com/2013/07/06/muhammara-popcorn-crunch/

 

Jul 012013
 

I had a plate of spicy, boozy glazed shrimp substantially similar to these in a restaurant a few years ago; after using bread to sop up every last remainder of the sauce, I thought, “I must reverse-engineer these.” (The restaurant is now closed, else I’d link them here; I guess word about these shrimp never got out.)

Spicy Bourbon Shrimp, plated with vegetables

Spicy Bourbon Shrimp, plated with vegetables

I don’t know how similar my final formulation is to the erstwhile restaurant’s, but I’ve grown inordinately fond of this dish and I’m  done revising the sauce– this is a winner.

The sauce is created following general, popular steps for a modern-day pan sauce:

1. Briefly saute your diced aromatics, (such as shallots, onions, garlic) in a cooking fat.

2. Pour off the excess fat if any and add your alcohol; reduce the alcohol over high heat.

3. Add your non-alcoholic liquids, reduce over high heat.

4. Optional step– we won’t be using it for this particular sauce. But if you’re making a cream sauce, lower the heat and once the sauce stops bubbling, add the cream. Reduce on lowered heat if necessary.

5. Monter a buerre (this is a French term used in professional kitchens; it means “to build with butter,”  and in practice it means to add butter to your pan sauce right before serving, quickly swirling it in to incorporate. This makes the sauce glossy and rich.)

Spicy Bourbon Shrimp, plated with vegetables. Obligatory bourbon-based cocktail in the background.

Spicy Bourbon Shrimp, plated with vegetables. Obligatory bourbon-based cocktail in the background.

Here’s my recipe for Spicy Bourbon Shrimp, following the pan-sauce development technique outlined above. Serve these shrimp over grits, rice, or vegetables, or with a hunk of crusty bread.

Spicy Bourbon Shrimp from indieculinary.com

Ingredients

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (and thawed, if you're using frozen shrimp.)
  • 3/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, separated into 2 equal parts of 1/4 stick each
  • 2 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce (I recommend Frank's Red Hot) to start, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Saute diced onions and minced garlic in 1/4 stick of butter until onions are clear.
  2. Add bourbon, turn heat to high. Bourbon should be boiling rapidly. Reduce by half.
  3. Add soy sauce, hot sauce, and brown sugar, and reduce by 1/2. The sauce will quickly become syrupy.
  4. Add shrimp; saute in the sauce for about 5 minutes until shrimp are done.
  5. Remove from heat and immediately add remaining 1/4 stick of butter, swirling to melt and incorporate.
  6. Serve over grits, rice, vegetables, or with crusty bread.
http://indieculinary.com/2013/07/01/spicy-bourbon-shrimp-and-how-to-formulate-a-pan-sauce/

 

 

Jun 212013
 
Frozen Bananas Dipped in Mexican Chocolate Ganache and Spicy Honeyed Peanuts

Frozen Bananas Dipped in Mexican Chocolate Ganache and Spicy Honeyed Peanuts

 

These bananas were the result of yet another Food52 contest– the theme of this one was “Your Best Frozen Dessert.” I batted around ideas for a while… I wanted to create something that wasn’t overly sweet, and that might even be a tad healthy. Then I thought– fruit, nuts, dark chocolate– do a variation on that old-time treat the “dipped banana,” and I think we have a winner. Plus Season 4 of Arrested Development just came out, and there’s always money in the banana stand.

Here’s my write-up from Food52, (the recipe ended up being a Community Pick over there):

This rich and satisfying handheld treat marries the creamy sweetness of a frozen banana with the deep and spicy undertones of a dark chocolate ganache infused with cinnamon. Peanuts roasted briefly in a coating of honey, cinnamon, and ground New Mexico chile, then dusted with flaky sea salt, add the perfect crunchy counterpoint, with a kick that keeps you coming back for another bite. It’s one of my childhood treats — my parents owned an ice cream parlor, and there was always a tray of frozen bananas dipped in crackle chocolate and rolled in nuts available. Now, I’ve recreated it for an adult palate.

Anyway, as the Food52 reviewer mentioned, this really is a quick recipe to throw together, and it was a big hit around the indieculinary household. I could definitely see making these as a light dessert for a summer dinner party or barbecue. And the extra dipped bananas around here may even have been enjoyed for breakfast. (Hey, they’re mostly fruit and nuts.) If you’re feeling nervous about the ganache, A) Don’t; ganache is really easy to make, and B) Check out my post on how easy it is to make ganache, and clear up any lingering anxiety.

Frozen Bananas Dipped in Mexican Chocolate Ganache and Spicy Honeyed Peanuts- from indieculinary.com

Ingredients

    Spicy Honeyed Peanuts
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground New Mexico chile (or another spicy ground chile, like cayenne)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • Frozen Bananas Dipped in Mexican Chocolate Ganache and Spicy Honeyed Peanuts
  • 6 medium, ripe bananas
  • 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate
  • 4 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups Spicy Honeyed Peanuts

Instructions

    To make the Spicy Honeyed Peanuts
  1. Preheat an oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Dice the peanuts into small pieces; each peanut should be roughly quartered.
  3. Stir the honey, ground chile, and ground cinnamon together, and microwave briefly (20 seconds is sufficient) or heat briefly on stovetop. You just need to warm the honey enough that it flows freely.
  4. Toss the warm honey and spice mixture with the peanuts until coated.
  5. Spread the peanuts on a silpat over a cookie sheet, and roast for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them and make sure they don't burn.
  6. Cool. Once cooled, break apart with your hands into small bits, for coating the bananas.
  7. Sprinkle flaky sea salt over the roasted peanut bits.
  8. To make the Frozen Bananas Dipped in Mexican Chocolate Ganache and Spicy Honeyed Peanuts
  9. Peel bananas and slice each in half at the midpoint on a slight diagonal.
  10. Insert a popsicle stick carefully into the center of each banana half, pushing in as far as you can go without the stick coming out the other side.
  11. Place the bananas on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet and place in the freezer to chill and firm while you make the ganache.
  12. Chop your chocolate into chunks no bigger than 1/2 inch each, and place in a bowl with room for whisking.
  13. Combine the heavy cream and cinnamon in a small pot and bring to a simmer.
  14. Once bubbling, pour over the chocolate pieces. Let sit for one minute.
  15. After a minute has passed, whisk vigorously. A smooth ganache will come together before your eyes.
  16. (If chocolate chunks remain despite your best whisking efforts, set your bowl of ganache aside for a moment. Add some water to the pot you've just emptied of cream and bring it to a boil. Set your bowl of ganache above it, completely sealing the pot with the bowl, to create a double boiler. Give it a minute for the steam from the boiling water to heat the bowl, and then whisk again, until your ganache is smooth.)
  17. Once your ganache is smooth, dip a banana in it to coat. (Note: I've had you make a little more ganache than you'll need, for ease of banana immersion in the dipping phase. I trust you will find a yummy way to use any leftover ganache.)
  18. Set the dipped banana onto some peanuts and press additional peanuts onto the top side.
  19. Set the banana back on the wax paper-covered cookie sheet and press peanuts by hand onto any side left uncovered.
  20. Repeat ganache-dipping and peanut-coating process with each banana.
  21. Return tray of bananas to the freezer. Freeze at least two hours before serving.
http://indieculinary.com/2013/06/21/frozen-bananas-dipped-in-mexican-chocolate-ganache-and-spicy-honeyed-peanuts/

 

Jun 102013
 
Braised Peanut Curry Chicken with Thai Gremolata, Over Soba Noodles

Braised Peanut Curry Chicken with Thai Gremolata, Over Soba Noodles

I used to make my Thai curry paste from scratch; it was an afternoon-long affair, (longer, if you count the time I spent running down all the ingredients), but I was smug in my commitment to authentic flavor. I had learned to make green, red, and Panang curry pastes at the Somphet Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from the wonderful chef who runs the school out of a six-station kitchen attached to her home. She was adamant that using a food processor ruined the taste and soul of the curry paste, and that it must be done with a mortar and pestle. And so, each (admittedly rare, given the time commitment involved) occasion on which I made a Thai curry in the two or three years that followed, it was a major undertaking.

Then one day I was sitting in a well-regarded Thai restaurant here in California, lunching with my uncle, when we struck up a conversation with the chef-owner. He mentioned he was thinking of offering Thai cooking classes out of his kitchen. “That’s wonderful,” I said. “So you’ll be teaching people to make the various curry pastes, that sort of thing?” He laughed. “No one makes the paste from scratch!,” he said. “That’s way too much work. We get it from a can.”

That day, I felt freed. I soon experimented with various Thai curry pastes available at the Asian grocery, and found that Maesri brand, from Thailand, had by far the best flavor. I recommend seeking it out, or just ordering it online if you can’t get it locally. Now I can make a Thai curry on a weeknight and save the curry-paste-from-scratch efforts for social cooking occasions, when there are other hands to help and the extended curry paste prep is part of the fun.

Maesri Thai Curry Paste

Maesri Thai Curry Paste

Speaking of making a Thai curry at home: caveat time. I do usually cook it on the stove top in a wok, a more traditional method of Thai cooking than you’ll see described in the recipe below. However,  it’s basically impossible to recreate actual Asian wok-style cooking in a Western kitchen. Asian stove burners are sunken and you set the wok down into them– this means your wok gets much hotter and you can quickly stir-fry your proteins and vegetables, and get a much better and faster caramelization (when the sugars in the vegetables brown) and Maillard reaction (when the surface of the meat browns) than you’ll ever achieve with a wok set atop the stove top.  So Western style wok cooking is always an approximation, and always takes longer.  Caveat complete.

So why go the braising route if the wok is traditional? I got the idea from a fantastic Thai restaurant in Hercules, California, called Won Thai. They have a Panang curry beef (Panang Nur) on their menu that the waiter described as “homestyle,” that is, slow-cooked. The beef is shredded and fall-apart tender, the dish is topped with a crunchy chiffonade of kaffir lime leaves, and to have it once means to crave it forever. I filed the slow-cooked curry idea away for a rainy day.

Today it is raining. Well, drizzling. And foggy. Even though it’s almost summer, it feels like a slow-cooking kind of day. I decided I wanted to do a variation on Won Thai’s Panang Nur, but in this case with chicken, and with an even more intense peanut flavor. (The different between red Thai curry paste and Panang Thai curry paste is the addition of peanuts in the latter.)  I’m not sure if they do theirs in the slow cooker or the oven, but I decided to do a straight-forward braise in the oven. (Braising can be done in the oven or on the stove top; the idea is that there is some liquid used in cooking, but your main ingredient isn’t entirely submerged. This way, you benefit from both types of heat– the un-submerged portion will roast with dry heat, and the submerged portion will simmer in liquid– they’ll both cook, and some slightly different flavors and textures will develop in each portion.) I pulled out the cast iron dutch oven, put in a couple of pounds of chicken breast, whisked together a thick, peanut-forward Thai curry sauce on the stovetop, poured it over the chicken, and put the whole thing in the oven to braise.

Next, I thought about plating. The chicken will be tender and shredded by the time it’s done; it should go equally well over rice, noodles, or a salad. I decided to go the noodle route tonight– nestling the chicken into a nest of buckwheat soba noodles– and save the salad solution for lunchtime this week. (Yay for leftovers!) Finally, for a finishing splash of color and flavor, I thought I’d develop a Thai-inspired variation on gremolata.

Thai Gremolata

Thai Gremolata

Traditional gremolata is an Italian condiment consisting of minced parsley, garlic, and lemon zest; it’s typically used to add a bright and herbal note to rich, meaty dishes. I thought a similar concept would work well with Thai flavors and add a fresh accent to this curry, so I subbed lime zest for the lemon and minced cilantro for the parsley, kept the garlic, and added shallots and peanuts. Here’s the recipe for the Thai gremolata, followed by the recipe for the Braised Peanut Curry Chicken. Enjoy!

Thai Gremolata from indieculinary

Yield: 4-6 servings, used as an accent or garnish

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro, packed
  • Zest of two organic limes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small shallot cloves, peeled and minced

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, briefly dry-saute the minced shallot, garlic, and peanut, stirring frequently, until toasted and fragrant. (Do not leave unattended, or you risk developing burnt or bitter flavors.)
  2. Remove from heat and cool.
  3. Toss the peanut, shallot, and garlic mixture with the lime zest and minced cilantro to complete the gremolata.
http://indieculinary.com/2013/06/10/braised-peanut-curry-chicken-with-thai-gremolata/

Braised Peanut Curry Chicken from indieculinary

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup red Thai curry paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut oil (okay to sub a neutral oil)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter
  • Juice of one lime or a chiffonade of 4 Kaffir lime leaves (worth it if you can find them!)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown or palm sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a wok or large sauce pan, stir-fry the curry paste and peanut oil together until the paste is softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the coconut milk and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the peanut butter, and whisk to combine as it softens and melts into the sauce.
  5. Add the lime juice of kaffir lime leaves, the sugar, and the fish sauce, whisking to combine.
  6. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then remove the sauce from the heat.
  7. Add the chicken to a dutch oven and pour the peanut curry over it.
  8. Place in the 350 degree F oven and braise until the chicken is tender and easily shredded with a fork; approximately an hour.
  9. To serve, plate a serving of chicken over rice, noodles, or salad, and garnish with Thai gremolata (recipe above.)
http://indieculinary.com/2013/06/10/braised-peanut-curry-chicken-with-thai-gremolata/

Jun 032013
 

Have a bowl, a whisk, some chocolate, some heavy cream, and a few minutes to spare?

Good. Let’s make ganache.

Whisking a Dark Chocolate Ganache

Whisking a Dark Chocolate Ganache

Your ratio of chocolate to cream determines the consistency of your ganache. But the ratio for a good, all-purpose ganache– pourable when warm, firm enough for truffles when chilled– is simple: 1 part cream to 2 parts chocolate.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of rich, dark chocolate ganache– enough to pour over a cake for an elegant frosting, chill and then roll tablespoonfuls into balls dusted with cocoa for dozens of truffles or, say, dip a bunch of frozen bananas for a cold and decadent treat.

One use for dark chocolate ganache-- frozen dipped bananas

One use for dark chocolate ganache– frozen dipped bananas

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 6 fluid ounces heavy cream
  • 12 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into small (no bigger than 1/2 inch) pieces

Instructions

  1. Place your chopped chocolate in a bowl with room for whisking.
  2. Pour the heavy cream into a small pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Once bubbling, pour over the chocolate pieces, and let sit for one minute.
  4. After a minute has passed, whisk vigorously. A smooth ganache will come together before your eyes.
  5. If chocolate chunks remain despite your best whisking efforts, set your bowl of ganache aside for a moment.
  6. Add some water to the pot you've just emptied of cream and bring the water to a boil.
  7. Set your bowl of ganache above it, completely sealing the pot with the bowl, to create a double boiler, (see picture below.)
  8. Give it a minute for the steam from the boiling water underneath it to heat the bowl, and then whisk again, until your ganache is smooth.
http://indieculinary.com/2013/06/03/chocolate-ganache-is-deceptively-simple-to-make/

 

Whisking a ganache over a double boiler

Whisking a ganache over a double boiler

 

May 272013
 

I’ve been on a pancake kick lately. (See Building the Better (For You) Flapjack.) It’s a holiday Monday– time for another variation.

I had some extra shredded coconut in the pantry following a misadventure last week in developing a recipe for a sweet and savory Thai macaroon, and a subsequent success with a Toasted Coconut and Tamarind Cocktail. I also had a couple of ripe bananas– past the point where we’d like to eat them out of hand, but perfect for baking.

Banana Coconut Pancakes-- Gluten-Free and Vegan

Banana Coconut Pancakes– Gluten-Free and Vegan

 

I spent a little time in Thailand in the summer of 2001, (hard to believe that’s been over a decade), and the food was uniformly delicious. It was rare to get a meal that was anything short of spectacular– Tom Yum Goong with cartoonishly large prawns, perfectly-balanced curries. I had banana pancakes almost every morning. I remember sitting on the beach on Ko Samet, (a small island accessible by ferry from the mainland, about an hour and a half’s car ride from Bangkok), eating banana pancakes and pineapple fritters, enjoying the morning sea breeze, and gazing at the deep blue of the South China Sea. Some fire ants on the sand may have interrupted the reverie, but the pancakes were still fantastic.

It occurred to me last night that I’ve somehow never made banana pancakes at home. Between that and the leftover coconut, this morning’s breakfast course was set.  Since I prefer to make pancakes that give good energy rather than inducing naps, I prefer buckwheat flour to all-purpose flour, and work in nut flours, etc., when possible. I knew these pancakes would be gluten-free as a result, and when I thought about cooking them in coconut oil for extra flavor, I realized it would be easy to just do  a vegan pancake, while I was at it. Pancakes for everyone!

The thinner you can get the pancake, the crispier it will be. And the crisp exterior is the best part. Press the center down a bit with the ladle after you pour your pancake, to get it as thin as possible.

These pancakes are deep golden brown and crispy on the outside; moist and flavorful on the inside. We liked them drizzled with a little maple syrup, but we also tried them plain and they were tasty enough that way to stand on their own. So be as indulgent– or not– as you like with these.

Banana Coconut Pancakes - Gluten Free and Vegan - from indieculinary.com

Yield: 4 large pancakes

Serving Size: 1 large pancake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 cup shredded unsweeted coconut
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium, ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, (it needs to be liquid to incorporate into the batter, so briefly melt and cool if necessary), plus more for cooking

Instructions

  1. In one bowl, stir to fully incorporate the dry ingredients, (buckwheat flour, coconut, almond meal, baking powder, sugar, salt.)
  2. In another bowl, stir to incorporate the wet ingredients, (banana, almond milk, vanilla, coconut oil.)
  3. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until a batter forms.
  4. Heat a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil on a non-stick pan or griddle.
  5. Once hot, use a large ladle to pour one round pancake at a time, pressing down on the center of the poured pancake quickly with the ladle to produce a thinner pancake (important to maximize crispiness.)
  6. Once you see the pancake bubbling with small fissures in the middle, flip the pancake.
  7. The pancake is done when it's deeply golden and crispy on both sides. If you're making these in a smaller pan as opposed to a large griddle, keep the earlier pancakes warm until serving time by putting them on a cookie sheet in an oven set to low heat.
http://indieculinary.com/2013/05/27/banana-coconut-pancakes/