Food Blog

Food is the only art you can eat.

Ah, Mole Rojo! Probably my favorite Mexican dish is Pollo en Mole but it's REALLY hard to find a restaurant that can make it. I know of three Mexican restaurants in all of Seattle (and there are a lot) that make a decent Mole. La Carte De Oaxaca in Ballard makes an excellent Mole Negro, Fridas in Mill Creek makes a decent Mole Pablano and Todo in Lynnwood makes a decent Molo Pablano. There used to be a restaurant in South Everett called El Pechugon that made a decent Mole Pablano. The problem with mole is you don't eat it all the time and it's a long process to make. Mole Negro has up to 40 ingredients! Because of my love for mole and the rarity of good mole in restaurants I've tried to make it a few times. In Mexican tiendas there are mole pastes and I've tried them all. I've even brought mole paste back from Oaxaca and it was so so. There was a new brand (Teololepan Mole Rojo) in the stores so I decided to try it. The instructions go something like this - "Disolve paste in pan, add broth and chicken before frying". Not very helpful so I disolved the paste in chicken broth and the taste was way way off. Very bitter so I started to add flavor with my many Mole Rojo recipes. And after recreating the entire paste short of the peppers and chocolate I ended up with something that wasn't offensive but I'm not sure I saved any time and I definately didn't create a mole that I'd eat if I had a choice. I think next time I'll just take the day (because it really does need a whole day) and make it from scratch. That would probably be a great time to make tamalles too as Natalya has been wanting them and you basically need to mark a day off the calender for them as well.

Everytime I walk by a Pummelo in the store I have to pick it up and smell it. This wonderful fruit is the grandfather to the grapefruit and according to the scientists a Pummelo and an Orange had too much to drink one night and before the Pummelo finished school and saved enough money to move out of the trailer the orange had given birth to a grapefruit. The grapefruit seemed like it was going to be a complete failure at first but both of it's parents saw something in it and with encouragement it went on to become a star even if it's temperament was a bit sour at times. Or so that's what the scientists say.

The reason I pick up Pummelos and smell them is because they have a nice grapefruity smell that's sweet, not sour. I've been envisioning Pummelo garlic sauces for chicken and Pumelo cream sauces for stuffed pasta. Up until lately they've been too green but the Asian markets have nice yellow ones now so it was time to see what I could do with this fruit.

First of all I think most of the flavor is in the meat. I drained the juice and added it to my shallot/sherry mixture and the Sherry completely overwhelmed it. Next time I'll cut the shallots in half and ax the Sherry completely. If I keep the wine I'll probably go for a nice mild Riesling. Anyway I was also candying orange peals for the garnish in a cardamom syrup so I added that to the cream and it perked up quite a bit. While I was plating it and getting the camera situated the parmesan started to cool giving the sauce a lumpy look. I'll address this next time. Overall it was a good first start but it will take a few more swings before I hit the ball out of the park. My judges (kids) scarfed it all down and licked their plates so I guess it wasn't complete loss.

I actually made these about 4 days ago but forgot to post them...

Mexican Brownies? Maybe brownies aren't mexican but Chocolate was consumed by the Maya 1000 years before the Europeans landed at Veracruz. The Aztecs and most other indiginous groups also drank chocolate for festivals and religious ceremonies.

Even today you can stop in at a Chocolatria and have a cup of Hot Chocolate and some Churros. In Oaxaca there are several Chocolatrias that grind the cacao while you wait just like a coffee shop would here. You get a fresh ground cup of hot chocolate which you can drink in the shop while watching the world go by.

So with that in mind I buy a lot of chocolate from Mayordomo in Oaxaca. When I'm there I bring it back and if I'm not there I mail order it. It's expensive through the post so it makes sense to just pick it up if you're in the city. With that chocolate I make brownies hence the title of this blog post. There's something different about Oaxacan chocolate than European or American chocolate. It has a special smell and taste to it that always brings back nice memories.

To add extra depth to the ganache used for the brownies I also include a couple tablespoons of dutch processed cocoa to the 7 ozs of Mayordomo Oaxacan chocolate.

Oh and I forgot to take pictures until I only had one left so it was a bit weird shaped.

 

I pondered on whether I'd mention Mexico in the title of this blog post because you'd be hard pressed to find fajitas in Mexico. But in fact the Mexican people created fajitas even if they did do it in the States so the title stands. We just finished up the Moussaka and I had a couple of pounds of pork loin in the freezer than needed to be used and some red bells that were starting to wrinkle so we threw together some pork fajitas for dinner. When you're using skirt steak you don't have to do anything to the meat in order for it to taste great but skirt steak is $8/lb which is a bit too rich for my blood right now. Pork or chicken for that matter needs a little something so I whipped up some marinade that I'd created to give them flavor. A while back I'd found a commercial marinade that I liked the flavor of but it had way too many chemicals in it so I recreated it from scratch. It's not too hard to make and I'm mostly satisfied with it outside of the fact that Im using lite corn syrup which I want to cut out of my food. Later I'll spend a little more time to add a bit of heat, depth and get the corn syrup out but for now it stands. I don't eat fajitas that often so I've really not put much effort into the marinade.

 

 

 

The fajita marinade comprises of the following ingredients.

  1. light corn syrup
  2. cider vinager
  3. lime juice
  4. ketchup
  5. mollases
  6. brown sugar
  7. cumin
  8. worchestershire sauce
  9. salt
  10. corriander
  11. garlic powder
  12. cayenne

Yes this means it's very sweet. I want the corn syrup gone and I want more depth so I'll be playing with the spices and worchestershire sauce.

There's a wild Moussaka loose in the theater! When I tell people I'm eating Moussaka for dinner I get some strange responses. At the very least I get a "What's Moussaka?" with a wrinkled up nose. I tell them it's like Lasagna without the noodles, meat, tomato sauce or cheese which is usually followed by an "Oh!" from them. So what is Moussaka? It's a Greek cassarole dish comprised of lamb, eggplant, breadcrumbs, spices and bechemal sauce. Sometimes we cheat and use half lamb and half hamburger if we're poor. The meat is cooked with spices and herbs (cinnamon, cloves, garlic) and then the pan is deglazed with red wine. Tomato puree is added and the whole thing is simmered for a while. The breadcrumbs, meat mixture and fried eggplant are layered in a glass baking dish and topped with Bechamel and baked for 30 minutes. Our recipe is getting closer to being where I want it and when I'm happy I'll upload the recipe. Moussaka is good paired with pita brushed with olive oil and warmed on a comal dipped in Tzatziki sauce.

Although we're out of our "travel to Italy" phase (you can thank the Italians for that) we still eat Italian food. Just so everyone knows Italian is pronounced with a short I and not eye-talian (there is no country pronounced eye-taly). Now that I have that off my chest I'll continue. We still eat Italian but we rarely ever go out to eat at Italian restaurants because just as French food get's lost in the translation to America so does Italian. In Italy most dishes are very simple to make and have a nice clean goodness to them. At italian restaurants in the States the same dishes are complex, expensive and heavy. It doesn't seem to matter if the owners are actually from Italy either because they do the same thing. Mexican's make crappy food in America and wonderful food in Mexico, Italians make crappy food in America and wonderful food in Italy. I'm not sure what the source of this is but it exists nonetheless. So anyway we wanted a simple meal tonight so we fixed Italian (remember Italian = simple, say it three times).

Usually we make our own stuffed pasta but this time we cheated. We bought frozen butternut squash filled ravioli. The problem with store bought ravioli is they have no real flavor. Even though you can look at the ingredients list and see everything is there they come out real bland. For the sauce we browned one stick of butter until it foamed and then added the sage leaves while removing it from the stove. While that was cooling I made some Buerre Monte which is an emulsion of water and butter. Buerre Monte is the coolest thing ever. You just boil about 1 TBs of water in a pan and then wisk in butter a TBs or two at a time. This emulsion process keeps the fats and milk solids from seperating from the butter. I mixed in some of the Buerre Monte to thicken our browned butter a bit and shredded some parmesan over the top and it was ready. The whole meal was done in the amount of time it takes to boil water.

 

 

Baklava is one of those desserts that you see in many cultures but I think it's origins go back to Assyria. Most people have probably had it at a Greek restaurant and some might even claim it to be a Greek dessert but in fact Baklava was one of the many things left behind after the 400 year occupation of Greece by the Turks. If you trace the history of the land we now call Turkey far enough you'll probably run into a bunch of Persians at some point. Not that Baklava originated from Persia because it probably didn't but the version I like the best is Persian. Greek Baklava usually has layers of Phyllo dough interlaced with layers of walnuts soaked in a sugary syrup. Persian Baklava strays from this formula a bit by using Almonds (without skins for New Year) or Pistachios mixed with Cardamom and perfumed with Rose water. This version has a wonderful scent to it and a nice spice kick as well. If you've never had Cardamom then you're missing out. Just go to an Indian grocery and buy a bag of whole green cardamom pods. Break open a pod and chew the tiny black seeds that reside within and you'll be in for a treat. I'm not going to try to describe the flavor because I can't (I've tried), you just need to try it.

If you take the time to blanch the Almonds and slip the skins off you will be rewarded with a nicer cleaner flavor. We're not done with the recipe yet but when we get it perfected (and I mean perfected) I'll post it to my online Recipe book for all to use. For now though, I give you photos.

When I was a kid we have a thing called Goulash which had ground hamburger, tomato juice, elbow macaroni and basically nothing else. I grew up thinking this was goulash until one day I got the brainy idea of going to Eastern Europe which I found out was actually in Central Europe. I'm not sure who decided that Eastern Europe should be in Central Europe but probably the same people that call Kentucky the mid-west when in fact it's in the east. Anyway I digress. The point was that I ate Goulash in several countries and it varies somewhat but for the most part it's very similar in Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary. It always has cubes of beef, sauce with tomatoes, lots of Paprika and various other things. Sometimes it has Hungarian soup noodles in it and other times it may have potatoes instead. We've been wanting to cook real goulash (gulyas in Hungarian) for a while so we did tonight. Overall it had a good flavour with Caraway seeds and Paprika but I'm going to make a few changes to make it taste more like it does in Eastern Europe (the one in Central Europe).

You might be surprised to find out that Goulash is actually a stew of sorts instead of elbow macaroni in tomato juice. The soup noodles are made from a very stiff dough of eggs and flour (no other liquids), squeezed into fingernail size pieces and dropped into boiling water. You can see Piper forming the noodles and Jade fishing them out when done here. It's a very easy process making them especially if you have a mixer.

The soup is made with a high galatin beef like blade steak cut into cubes and browned

in a dutch oven. Added are onions tons of paprika, caraway, tomato paste, garlic and a bit of salt. Later home made beef broth is added or chicken broth from the store and the whole thing is simmered for a couple of hours. Halfway through green peppers and cubed potatoes are added. More broth is added as needed and when done the sauce is soupy and the meat almost falls off the bone. Add the pasta and serve it.

When I mention to people that one of Jade's favorite things about Paris is Meringues they respond with "Oh I like Meringue too, especially on lemon pie!". Notice they say Meringue with no s on the end. This means we're talking about completely different things. Meringue used for Lemon Meringue pie is a soft pillowy substance that when bit into disappears. I've always had difficulty in explaining French Meringues but I've seen them listed in cookbooks as being a cookie and I guess they could be called a cookie so from now on that's what I'll call them - Meringue cookies. A French Meringue is mostly air and sugar but is dried out in an oven at 200 degrees for about 3 hrs. I put my meringue batter in a pastry bag and squirted it onto a sheet pan. They came out crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside just like in Paris. Everytime I make something where I have a bunch of egg whites left over I try to make Meringues and up until lately this act as always ended in failure. I thought the recipe was wrong so I checked another book (Jacque Pepin's) and he says to do them exactly the way the other books say. I finally find a Cook's Illustrated article on them which was what I needed. Thomas Keller says the more simple the food the more difficult it is to cook. I followed Cooks Illustrated's recipe and they came out just like Meringues in Paris! I always like Cooks Illustrated because they explain why they're doing something. It appears you need some sort of acid in order to make them work right. Also I've found that knowing how fast to mixer should be going and for how long is important with this one.

I've been in the mood to make some real pasta in a while and have been wanting to try out agnolotti. Agnolotti are Piedmonts version of ravioli and I have to say that I think Piedmont has something over on the rest of Italy. They're pretty easy to make and you don't need forms like Ravioli plus they hold more sauce than Ravioli do.I filled the Agnolotti with sweet potatoes as apposted to using butternut squash as usual. The sweet potatoes after being spiced up with squab spices (cloves, cinnamon, corriander, black pepercorns, allspice, white pepper toasted and then all ground in a spice grinder) and mixed with butter and diced bacon taste about the same but has more body.

The sauce is a mix of buerre monte and creme fraiche with 1/3 cup of blanched sage leaves blended in and strained. It's then topped with jullienned proccuto, browned butter and deep fried sage leaves.

As a side note: I've noticed my youtube videos don't show up on my main page. To see them go to Food -> Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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