Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos & Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca


Happy Taco Tuesday! It's my favorite non-holiday. I love that it occurs weekly, and that there are so many styles of tacos that can be enjoyed in honor of the occasion. Whether you make the basic, tried and true ground beef tacos, or something more complex and time consuming, it's bound to be delicious.

There are definitely some similarities between these Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos and these Guajillo-Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos. They both utilize the same technique, but with some variances in the braising liquid. This particular recipe uses a combination of ancho and dried chipotle chiles as well as beer and tequila. It calls for a whole habanero, which I omitted. The filling was sufficiently spicy without it!

Chicken thighs and much cheaper than beef short ribs, so arguably this recipe is a lot more approachable and cheaper to make than the latter. It's incredibly flavorful, juicy, and just out-of-this-world good!

Although I loved the short rib tacos, these chicken tacos are more accessible (and like I said CHEAPER) to make, and will grace my table more often. You can easily make this filling ahead of time and either freeze or refrigerate and gently reheat the day of. On the side I served up some Rice-o-licious (also from the Tacolicious cookbook), and my beloved refried black beans.

To cool down some of the spiciness from these tacos, I served them with Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca. Agua fresca is one of my favorite things. It's so easy to make, and you can easily adapt it to use whatever fruits you have on hand and enjoy. Most of my family members guessed this agua fresca contained watermelon from the color, but it weighed heavily on pineapple with a hint of blueberry. It reminded me almost of fruit nectar, and had a wonderful and refreshing quality. A couple folks even spiked theirs with vodka or rum and thought it made a wonderful cocktail.

Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos
Makes about 16 tacos; serves 4 to 6
(From Tacolicious)

3 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or more if needed
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 habanero chile, stemmed (I omitted this entirely, and it was sufficiently spicy without it)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (12-ounce) can favorite beer
1 shot (1 1/2 ounces) favorite tequila
1 cup chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
1 cup diced canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa of your choice for serving

Toast the ancho and chipotle chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat, turning once, for about 30 seconds on each side, until fragrant but not blackened. Take care they do not burn. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, add the chicken thighs and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side, until browned. Add an extra drizzle of oil if needed to prevent sticking. As the thighs are ready, transfer them to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion and habanero (if using) to the oil remaining in the pot and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the onion is caramelized. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the toasted chiles, beer, tequila, broth, tomatoes, salt, cumin, and oregano, turn down the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until the chiles have completely softened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

While the oven is heating, pour the chile mixture into a blender and process until almost completely smooth (a little texture is fine). Return the chicken to the pot and pour the pureed sauce evenly over the top.

Cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook for 2 hours. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring if necessary to prevent sticking, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender. If the sauce starts to reduce too much and the chicken begins to stick, add a little water or broth. Remove from the oven and use tongs or a fork to loosely shred the chicken, leaving it in the sauce.

Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, and lime.

Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca
Serves 6 to 8

5 cups (700 g) chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
5 cups water

Add the pineapple, blueberries, sugar, and lime juice to a blender along with 3 cups of water. Puree until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a large pitcher and then stir in the remaining 2 cups of water (the foaminess will eventually subside). Taste and adjust sweetness or acidity if needed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pineapple Pie for Pi Day


Happy Pi Day! It's that time of year to celebrate pi and of course pie. For math nerds, pi is used in the equation to determine the area of a circle, but for pie enthusiasts pi day (March 14 aka 3.14 aka pi) is an occasion to celebrate the most delicious circle-shaped dessert in the history of desserts: pie (sorry cake and cookies).

I love making pie. I love eating pie. I love everything about pie. Last year I started a resolution to bake at least one pie a month, and I've kept that resolution going this year as well. It's a delicious goal, and I hope to maintain it as long as possible.

There are many varieties of pie I could have made this year in honor of pi day, but I decided to try something very outside of the box.

I'd never eaten or made a pineapple pie before this. I have made an amazing hummingbird pie which contains pineapple, but not an explicitly pineapple pie. I found this recipe in First Prize Pies, and it's not just a standard pie filled with pineapple, but rather the fresh chopped pineapple is held together by a beautiful lime custard.

It's a cross between a custard pie and a fruit pie. The filling is very reminiscent of key lime custard with juicy bursts of pineapple, all wrapped up up a flaky crust topped with a shimmering layer of sugar.

I have never before made a predominantly custard filled pie that was topped with pastry crust (they are usually single-crust pies), but this was excellent! I loved the additional layer of crust on top, and the raw sugar adds some additional sweetness to cut through some of the tartness of the filling.

This year Pi Day falls on a Wednesday, but you can still celebrate the occasion with a homemade pie this coming weekend, or even this evening. Yes, homemade pie dough should rest at least an hour or preferably overnight before rolling it out, but you can probably cheat it a little to whip up some homemade pie in honor of this very special day.

Pineapple Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
(From First Prize Pies)

4 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (30 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick/55 g) melted butter
2 cups (362 g) chopped fresh pineapple (from 1 medium-large pineapple)
Pie dough for one double-crust pie
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Raw sugar, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the sugar, lime zest, rum (if using) and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and butter until full blended, then whisk them into the egg mixture. Stir in the pineapple.

Roll out one half of the dough into a circle about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, trim the overhang to 1 inch, and fill it with the pineapple mixture.

Roll out the remaining circle of dough to about 10 inches, lay it over the pie, and trim and crimp the edges to your liking. Brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle with raw sugar, and cut slits in the top crust.

Bake the pie on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, rotating it once halfway through. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake it for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and full baked and the filling doesn't jiggle under the crust when the baking sheet is moved. Allow the pie to cool completely before serving. This pie can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week; allow it to come to room temperature or heat it gently in a warm oven before serving. This pie can also be frozen after baking: Wrap it well in plastic, then in foil, and freeze it for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pork & Shrimp Dumplings


Pork and shrimp is a popular combination in Chinese cooking. I've seen the two brought together before in various dumpling fillings, but the duo really shines in these particular dumplings.

The shrimp is not only chopped and mixed in with the ground pork, but also featured in lump chunks atop each mound of pork within the wrapper. With each bite you'll experience a bit of juicy pork along with a piece of shrimp to really get the best of both worlds.

Although I love the texture of homemade dumpling wrappers, I really appreciate the ease and convenience of using good quality store-bought wrappers. This recipe makes the perfect amount of filling for a 1 pound package of dumpling wrappers.

You can definitely steam these dumplings if you prefer, but my favorite way to cook dumplings by far is to pan-fry them. It's an easy and quick process that yields crispy, chewy morsels perfect for snacking and yet hearty enough to comprise a meal.

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings
Makes about 45 dumplings
(Adapted from Hey There, Dumpling!)

24 extra-large (26/30-count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
12 ounces (340 g) ground pork
2 teaspoons minced shallot
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 pound/455 g) package round dumpling wrappers
Toasted Sesame-Soy Dip (recipe follows)

Cut 15 shrimp into thirds crosswise; cover and refrigerate. Finely chop the remaining 9 shrimp and transfer to a large bowl along with the pork, shallot, soy sauce, wine, ginger, salt, and pepper. Use your hands to work all the ingredients together until well-mixed. It's the best to use your hands because you can get everything incorporated into the meat without making the pieces of meat too small.

If you have time, cover and refrigerate the filling until nice and cold, up to 2 days. The filling will be easier to spoon into your wrappers when it's chilled.

Take out five wrappers and cover the rest with a damp dowel. Lay out the five wrappers like ducks in a row. Wet 1/2 inch of the rim of each wrapper. Scoop a 1/2 tablespoon of filling into the center of each wrapper, shaping it elongated like a football to make it easier to fold. Press 1 piece shrimp on top of the pork. Fold the wrapper in half like a taco and pinch the edges at the top center. Continue folding the dumpling using your preferred folding method.

At this point, the dumplings can either be cooked immediately, covered and refrigerated for up to a couple hours, or frozen.

To pan-fry the dumplings, use a medium or large nonstick skillet (or cook two batches at the same time using two pans). Heat the skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil for a medium skillet and 2 tablespoons for a large one. Place the dumplings 1 at a time, sealed edges up, in a winding circle pattern. The dumplings can touch. Medium skillets will generally fit 12 to 14 dumplings, large skillets will fit 16 to 18 dumplings. Fry the dumplings for 1 to 2 minutes until they are golden or light brown on the bottom.

Holding the lid close to the skillet to lessen splatter, use a measuring cup to add water to a depth of roughly 1/4 inch (about 1/3 cup water). The water will immediately sputter and boil vigorously, Cover with a lid or aluminum foil, lower the heat to medium, and let the water bubble away for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is mostly gone. When you hear sizzling noises, remove the lid as most of the water is now gone. Let the dumplings fry for another 1 or 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and crisp. Turn off the heat and wait until the sizzling stops before using a spatula to transfer dumplings to a serving plate. Display them with their bottoms facing up so they remain crisp.(Alternatively you may steam these dumplings in a bamboo steamer basket lined with parchment paper or cabbage leaves.)

Serve the dumplings with the Toasted Sesame-Soy Dip.

Toasted Sesame-Soy Dip
Makes about 1/2 cup
(From Hey There, Dumpling!)

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients with 2 tablespoons water. If you have time, cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight. Pick out the garlic and throw it away before serving. The dip can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Jamaican Beef Patties


In my last post I shared the menu and photos from my Olympics party celebrating the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Today I'm sharing another recipe from our shindig, the Jamaican Beef Patties, representing the island nation of Jamaica.

I'd like to preface this by once again letting you all know how much I absolutely LOVE Cool Runnings. I've loved this movie for ages, and I love that it's based on a true story, although I know the movie isn't completely true to the original story.

Although it would make more sense to make Jamaican dishes for the Summer Olympic Games because Jamaica has a much larger presence in summer sports, I'd prefer to celebrate them and their bobsled team in the winter.

The filling for these patties is very tasty, but not too spicy. I used a single Habanero chile, which I seeded, but if you want a spicier filling, you can leave the seeds in, or use more chiles. Other traditional Jamaican ingredients include curry powder and allspice. Breadcrumbs help to bind the filling.

Curry powder finds its way into the crust as well, giving the flaky dough a golden hue. It's basically the same method as making pie crust, so if you feel comfortable making pie, this isn't much of a stretch.

A lot of Jamaican Beef Patty recipes have you roll out the dough and cut out circles, but I feel like this is wasting so much of the dough. Instead, I divided up my dough into balls, and rolled each ball out into circles.

No, the circles weren't as perfectly round as if I had cut them out with a round cutter, but many cultures make empanadas using this same method, and the results are delicious and only slightly more rustic than the alternative.

These patties were awesome! My friend Camille's almost-two-year-old daughter loved them. The adults loved them. I made them a week ahead of time and froze them so I could save some time the day of the party. I simply thawed them in the fridge and reheated them in the oven before the guests arrived.

Jamaican Beef Patties
Makes 16

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced (wear gloves!)
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
3/4 cup beef broth or water

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cold water, or as needed

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile, curry powder, salt, thyme, and allspice, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the ground beef and use the edge of a wooden spoon to break it into pieces. Continue to cook until all the beef is cooked through, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn or stick. Add the breadcrumbs, stir to combine, then add the broth or water and mix until absorbed. Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool.

To make the dough, stir together the flour, curry powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture. Using your fingers, or a pastry blender if you have one, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend). If using your fingers, just rub the mixture together, but don't overwork the mixture or the butter will get too warm and soften too much.

Sprinkle in about 1/2 cup of the cold water and gently mix it into the flour with your fingers or a plastic bowl scraper or spatula. Do not overwork the dough. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water, or more as needed until the dough just comes together into a ball.

Divide the dough into 16 pieces, each weighing approximately 1.5 ounces. Roll each ball between your palms to smooth it out. At this point you can chill the balls of dough for a few minutes if they feel too soft.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.

One at a time, place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface, press your palm into a ball of dough to begin to flatten it, then use a rolling pin to roll it out evenly into circle about 5-inches in diameter. They may not be perfect circles, but that's ok.

Evenly distribute the beef filling between the dough circles. Don't be too stingy, it will seem like a lot of filling, but you can press and compact the filling a bit to make sure you fill them generously. One-by-one fold over the dough and pinch the edges to enclose the filling. Use the tines of a fork to press along the edges to seal.

Place the sealed beef patties onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, then chill the sheets in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to help set the dough (it will bake up flakier if you don't skip this step).

Evenly brush the tops of the patties with egg wash, and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom, or until golden brown. Serve immediately. These patties can also be frozen in a single layer and later defrosted and reheated in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes, or until crispy and heated through.


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