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Posts Tagged ‘quick dinner’

Nachos_0341

 

We used to do production for clients in a factory near Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. At the end of a long day we would head to this charming Mexican restaurant that welcomed us with sparkling tiny white lights strung through the trees and a gurgling fountain in the enclosed patio. We would immediately sink into relaxation. The first thing on our menu was a frosty margarita followed by my pick, nachos. Until recently I had never bothered to make those delicious nachos at home, but urged on by Steve (who had a yen for them) I decided to give replicating our favorite the old college try. When all was said and done, I think I made nachos that were even better than we remembered.
Here’s what I did.
I covered the bottom of a large jelly roll pan with chips (I use Xochitl brand, Mexican style stone-ground corn chips). I sprinkled carnitas over the chips followed by black beans and pico de gallo. Then I did another layer of chips followed by the same threesome. Sprinkled cheese over the top and put the whole mess in a very hot oven. In about 10 minutes we had a melted cheesy mess that we garnished with guacamole and more pico de gallo. It was delicious. All that was missing was the twinkling lights and gurgling fountain.
Carnitas

 

1 tablespoon lard or peanut oil
5 pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large chunks
Salt to taste
About 2 cups chicken stock or nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pure chile powder (not commercially packed seasoned chili powder)
1 teaspoon ground cumin

 

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pork, season generously with salt, and sear, turning occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until very crusty and dark brown.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned pork to a double layer of paper towel to drain off excess fat.
Add 1 cup of cold water to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the drained pork to the pan. Add just enough chicken stock (or broth) to almost cover the meat with liquid. Make sure you do not cover it entirely. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, chile powder, and cumin.
Transfer to the preheated oven and roast, turning the meat occasionally, for about 3 hours or until the pan is almost dry and the meat is falling apart.
Remove from the oven and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate to cool. Let rest until cool enough to handle.
When cool, pull the meat apart into almost bite-sized pieces. The carnitas may be made up to this point and returned to whatever cooking liquid is left in the pan. Then, stored, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Place the pork pieces in a baking pan along with the liquid and roast, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the pan is dry and the pork pieces are almost charred and crispy. This meat may be used for tacos, nachos, burritos, or enchiladas.

 

nachos

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As you can tell, lately I’ve been on a Mexican food kick – burritos one night, mole the next, and then for breakfast a big plate of beans and eggs in the form of huevos rancheros.  As much as I love pico de gallo (the ubiquitous dip served with chips in every authentic or wanna-be Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant), it is impossible to make at this time of the year ‘cause the tomatoes are so anemic and tasteless, so I try to make my own “authentic” Mexican cooked sauces to keep on hand when I need a south of the border fix.

To make the huevos, griddle up some corn tortillas (one for each serving and a couple for dipping and cleaning the plate).  Top with refried beans, then with 2 fried eggs, sunny-side-up, drizzle with tomato sauce, and serve as is or with a side of yellow rice.  On this morning, I grilled some of those sweet little peppers that come, pre-bagged, in a colorful mix that I found languishing in the back of the fridge to accent the plate as we were having friends join us.

Here’s my sauce:

1 pound ripe (ha!) tomatoes

Couple of chiles – jalapeño, Serrano or whatever is available, cut in half, lengthwise

3 cloves garlic

Cilantro or epazote to taste

Salt to taste

            Place the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic in a stovetop grill pan over medium heat.  Grill, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until nicely charred and soft to the touch.  You might have to step away from the stove from time to time as the fumes from the cooking chiles can be powerful.

Remove from the grill and set aside until cool enough to handle.  When cool enough to handle, core the tomatoes, stem the chiles, and push the skin from the garlic.

Combine the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Add the cilantro or epazote and season with salt.  Process, using quick on and off turns, to make a chunky sauce.

Scrape the sauce into a clean saucepan and place over medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes just to allow flavors to blend.  Taste and, if necessary, add more cilantro and salt.

Serve or transfer to a container and store, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week or so.

And here’s my refried beans: 

2-3 tablespoons bacon fat or lard (if you want to be good use canola oil, but why?)

Any amount of cooked beans you like – either pinto or black (with cooking liquid separately reserved if you have it) – I usually make about 4 cups

3 cloves garlic, minced or more if you like

3 sprigs epazote or cilantro or more if you like, finely chopped

1 jalapeño serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

Salt to taste

Heat the fat in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the drained beans along with the garlic, herbs, and chile.  Cook, pushing down on the beans with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, until all of the beans have been mashed into the fat.  Lower the heat and season with salt.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently and adding reserved bean cooking liquid to keep the mixture moist, but not runny, for about 20 minutes or until the flavors are well blended and the mix is very flavorful.  Serve immediately or store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

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We first tried shishito peppers at the Union Square Farmers Market about 2 summers ago.  We loved them – mainly because eating them is such an adventure.  You get one really hot one every so often while the remainder is usually slightly sweet with a lovely hint of acid.  The hot one is always a surprise.  They are often just barely fried in a little extra virgin olive oil and served with a slice of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt.

On a shopping trip to Whole Foods the other day I picked up a good amount to use as a first course for a not-too-fancy dinner party at home.  I combined them with some I’ve-forgotten-what-they-were mushrooms (they were golden and quite tasty) and instead of sautéing in olive oil, I used sesame oil, some sesame seeds, and a touch of soy sauce to finish.  It was a tasty combo that was a big hit with our guests – so much so that the leftovers were requested for a “take home” reminder of a great time at the table.

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