4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the tag “Recipes”

Smokey Red Enchiladas (by Nathan)

Plated red enchiladas

The food that comes from Carmen and my kitchen can only be described as internationally eclectic.  One week we are turning out spicy Thai, another week it is French desserts, but for me I always find balance and joy with Mexican food.  I originally tried this recipe from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday, but I have adapted it over time by not straining the sauce, and adding queso fresco and onions to the enchiladas.

This is my go to recipe for Sunday night when I know that there is a rough week ahead; and I need a stockpile of leftovers to get through it.  It is challenging to make it as a small batch so plan on a few meals of the same delicious thing or invite several friends for a feast.

The delicious roast chicken made by Jonathan and Julia

Typically I make this recipe with leftover roast chicken, but I have made it numerous times vegetarian (see * below).  I’ll use an organic chicken that was roasted by me or my grocer the day before.  We’ll consume some for the thighs and breasts on their own and use the rest of the meat for the enchiladas.  Get full use of the chicken by making a stock from the bones, cartilage and slimy parts of skin.  *In the vegetarian option I use strips of roasted yams and sweet potatoes that go wonderfully with the spicy sauce.

I have never had enchiladas better than these.  The flavors are smoky, and slightly sweet with a spice and heat that keeps the fork in constant motion from plate to mouth.

Inspired by Rick Bayless’ Red Chile Enchiladas with Chicken and Melted Cheese
Serves 8-10 (18-22 enchiladas)

For the sauce:
6-8 dried guajillo chiles – stems removed, split on one side and remove seeds
6 cloves garlic
1-28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes ( I like Muir Glen brand)
1/2 – 1 cup chicken broth*
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and sugar to taste

For the enchiladas:
*1/2 leftover roast chicken– approximately 4-5 cups
24 high quality tortillas (I like La Tortilla Factory or a pliable pack that is still steamy and warm at the Mexican grocery store)
1/2 red onion – chopped fine
6 oz queso fresco (casero) – grated

For the garnish:
1/2 cup cilantro – chopped
2 oz queso fresco (casero) – grated
2-3 finely sliced red onion rounds

*Vegetarian substitutions:
Vegetable broth may be used in place of chicken broth
2-3 sweet potatoes and/or yams – Cut into 1/4″ fries and halved
2 garlic cloves – smashed and finely chopped
Olive oil, salt, black pepper, 2tsp chopped fresh rosemary
*One day ahead or two hours before dinner. Toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic.  Roast on a baking sheet at 450°F (230°C) for 20 minutes, stir and flip potatoes and return for another 20minutes.  Remove when slightly soft to bite, but not mushy. Let cool.

Guajillo chiles with seeds removed

1) One hour and fifteen minutes ahead.  Prepare the guajillo chiles, open up and wipe the outsides with a damp paper towel.  Heat a cast iron skillet (or normal frying pan) to medium heat and add a little olive oil to coat.  Add the garlic and half of the peppers.  Press the chiles into the pan for 10-15 seconds each, then flip and cook the inside of the chile.  The fumes usually become intoxicating so have the oven fan on and a plan to step away for a sneezing and coughing attack.  Return to the pan and put the slightly browned peppers on a plate.  Stir the garlic and cook the rest of the peppers.  Cook both sides and cool the peppers and roasted garlic on a plate.

Roasted chiles and garlic

2) One hour ahead.  Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).  Add the can of tomatoes, roasted chiles, garlic and cumin to a blender or food processor.  Puree for a minute to create a fine and smooth liquid.  Pour the sauce into a large skillet at medium-low heat.  Stir in 1 tsp salt and half of the broth.  Cover with a splash guard and simmer for at least fifteen minutes.

While the flavors meld together in the sauce it is time to prepare the filling.  Pick all the useable pieces of meat and skin from the chicken carcass.  The crispy chicken skin is essential to make these good, so don’t omit it. Pick through the meat one more time to remove any accidental bones or cartilage.  Chop the meat into 1/4 inch chunks and place into a large bowl.  Mix in the chopped onion and grated cheese.

Return to the sauce on the stove, stir and taste.  Add sugar and salt to taste.  The sugar will allow the sauce to better coat the tongue and bring the spice to all areas of the mouth.  1-2 tsp maximum, the sauce is not supposed to be sweet, just balanced.

The consistency of the sauce should be that of half-and-half; a liquid with an obvious depth to it.  Add more broth to thin or stir constantly over medium heat to thicken the sauce.  Scoop 1 cup of the sauce and mix into the chicken, onion and cheese mixture.  Spread another 1/2 cup into the bottom of a 9×13 glass Pyrex dish.

Blend ingredients to make sauce

Combine cheese, chicken (or potatoes) and a little sauce

Completed enchilada filling mixture

3) 45 minutes ahead.  Heat 4-5 tortillas on a comal or griddle, flip and when pliable add the tortillas to the enchilada sauce.  Coat the tortillas on both sides.  Place 2-3 of the wet tortillas on the pirex dish.  Spoon the filling mixture onto each tortilla.  Roll tightly and fit into a row.  Repeat by adding additional tortillas to the comal, dunking the hot tortillas and assembling the rest of the enchiladas.  Fill the entire pan and pour the remaining sauce over them.

Rolling of the first enchiladas

Filled pan of enchiladas

Pour over the remaining red sauce

4) Fifteen minutes ahead.  Top with the garnishing cheese and onion slices.  Bake for at least 10-15 minutes until heated through.

Smoky red enchiladas ready to serve

5) Serve.  Remove from oven, top with chopped cilantro.  Place 2-3 enchiladas on a plate; sprinkle with a pinch more cheese.  Mmmm.


The Best Garlic Noodles (by Nathan)

We are hiking the Camino de Santiago, enjoy this recipe while we walk our butts off.

Thai has a special place in Carmen and my kitchen.  The food is spicy, sour and sweet; these are flavors that we just can’t get enough of.  Last year I took a four week Thai cooking course and this was one of my favorite recipes.  The instructor was Kasma Loha-unchit who teaches more courses and dishes than you will ever have time to fully take.  I like this one because it was easy enough for me to make on a weeknight, but with flavors that made me excited to have leftovers for several days afterwards.

Finished garlic noodles

Inspired by Kasma Loha-unchit
Serves 5-6 as main course (8-10 with additional dishes)

For Noodles:
1 lb package thin Chinese noodles (fresh chow mein from Chinese market)
1-1/2 heads garlic – chopped fine
1/4 cup peanut (or coconut oil, other high-heat oils may be substituted, for a loss in flavor)
1/4 cup Tianjin preserved vegetables – chopped fine
1/2 cup roasted and unsalted peanuts – chopped
2-3 Tbs. fish sauce (Golden Boy or brand without preservatives)
2-3 tsp. sugar to taste
Lime juice of 1/2 to 1 lime to taste

Fresh vegetables to be mixed in:
4 cups bean sprouts- washed and drained
8 green unions- slice finely and separate white and green parts
5-6 Thai chilies or 1-2 fresno peppers – chopped fine
1 small bunch of cilantro – chopped; reserve 2-3 stems with leaves for garnish
1/2 of large remain lettuce heart – chop into bite-sized portions

For the toppings:
12-16 oz. Charsiew BBQ pork – chop in thin slices
Ground roasted dried chilies
Finely sliced rounds of serrano peppers in 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 tsp. fish sauce and 1 tsp. sugar
Chopped peanuts
Chopped Thai chilies or fresno peppers in fish sauce

Chopped and assembled vegetables

Sliced charsiew

This dish really cannot be successful without fish sauce.  The aroma and salty savory qualities from fish sauce really bring out the flavors of the garlic noodles.  Charsiew is very common in the Bay Area and can be found at most Chinese grocery stores.  In hangs in big dripping slabs that have been roasted and glazed in a red sweet sauce.  A highly flavorful roasted chicken or tofu could be used.  The Tianjin vegetables are a very salty and pungent cabbage stored in a clay pot.  We had been using these for Sichuan cuisine and found them in SF Chinatown.  You may need more fish sauce if you choose to omit these.  Fresno peppers are a red jalapeño.  I sometimes substitute fresh baby spinach for the romaine.

Garlic frying in peanut oil

Golden garlic goodness

1) One hour ahead.  Bring a pot of heavily salted water to boil and cook the noodles until soft, but not mushy.  When cooked remove noodles from pot, drain and set into extra-large bowl.  In a steel wok or cast-iron skillet heat the oil until almost smoking.  Add the garlic and stir until almost fully golden.  In the last 30 seconds add the white parts of the green onion.  Pour the garlic, oil and onion remnants into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

Mix in garlic into cooked noodles

2) 45 minutes ahead.  Mix garlic, oil, Tianjin vegetables, peanuts, chili peppers, green onions and bean sprouts into noodles.  Douse the noodles with about 1 Tbs. of fish sauce and 2 tsp. of sugar and toss again thoroughly.  Taste it, the noodles need to be salty enough to taste the garlic and sweet enough deliver the spicy peppers.  Add more fish sauce and squeeze in 1/2 of a lime, toss again.  Continue to alternate tasting and adding fish sauce, sugar and lime until the balanced.  Let sit for a couple minutes, toss and taste again.

Fine tune flavors with fish sauce, sugar and lime

3) 15 minutes ahead.  Fold in the romaine lettuce and cilantro. Lay the charsiew over the top.  Place a few sprigs of cilantro around the edges.

Vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and chilies to be added to taste be each diner

4) Serve.  I typically eat these noodles tepid or just slightly warm.  Place a heaping mound of noodles on a plate.  Pick out a few pieces of barbecued pork to lay over them.  Sprinkle with additional peanuts and ground chili peppers.  Additional fish sauce or vinegar with chilies can also be added to bring out an immediate freshness to the dish.  Serve second, thirds and walk away stuffed.

Summer Satisfaction With Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (by Nathan)

Summer is here! Well, for us, summer has been ongoing for the last seven months.  As the heat rises there is one food that I find essential.  I find all sorts of excuses to eat it because it is my most favorite meal in the world, but this dish is particularly refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day.  My favorite food is coctel de camarón, a Mexican shrimp cocktail packed with vegetables and shrimp and a cold broth that I can eat by the gallons at all hours of the day.

Summer Satisfaction in a bowl

This dish is perfect because it pulls together all of the wonderful qualities of every great meal.  The shrimp broth provides an underlying savory and salty flavor that is made sour and fresh with lime juice.  Jalapeños provide a spicy kick and the ketchup a touch of sweetness and a pink color to the broth.  Together these flavors combine with a trilogy of textures with crunchy vegetables, creamy avocado and crisp tostadas.  Simply put, it is perfection for the mouth.

My love for this dish began in April of 1992. My family traveled to Durango, Mexico to visit my stepdad’s family.  It was so hot there that I remember much of the daytime was spent alternating between tamarindo paletas (tamarind popsicles) and shrimp cocktail.  We would find pushcart vendors on the street and the four of us would enjoy huge, cold goblets full of the stuff to escape the roasting sun. Most recently I was inspired to prepare this dish for friends on a stiflingly hot day in New York. Taylor and Andrew let us use their Brooklyn apartment for a shrimp cocktail feast.  We supplemented the cocktail with my much loved guacamole, aguachile shrimp ceviche and an epic game of Settlers of Catan for a fun evening.  Good luck Andrew when you make this for your family in Australia this week!

I should note that there are many ways to enjoy coctel de camarón.  My little brother bites into heaping mounds that are precariously laid on the crackers.  My eldest brother and sister-in-law add extra hot sauce and spoonfuls of additional peppers, my step-dad more salt and my mom several extra limes.  Whatever the style, we ultimately all sit laughing together and enjoying our favorite meal.  Some families have a roast around the holidays, but every Christmas Eve you will find me consuming bowls and bowls of this delicious soup.  There are restaurants that make it, but they shortcut and it will never turn out as good as I am going to share with you.

I love this stuff.  Share it with family, friends or hoard it all to yourself.  This dish is something to be enjoyed, savored and prized. ¡Buen provecho!

RECIPE FOR COCTEL DE CAMARÓN (Mexican Shrimp Cocktail)
Serves 6-8 bowls

Coctel de camarón ready to eat

For the shrimp and broth:
1lb shrimp (16ct/lb) – shelled, tails removed and deveined
1/4 onion, onion skin, and root end – kept whole
3 cloves garlic – smashed, skins left on
2 Tbs salt

For the cocktail solids:
2 large cucumbers – peeled, sliced lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch cubes
1-3/4 onions, red and white – finely diced
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 bunch cilantro – finely diced
1/2 celery stalk, minced
1/2 jalepeños or seranos – finely diced

For the broth:
Fruit sweetened ketchup – ¼ cup + several Tbs
Sea salt – several tsp
Lime juice – 6-10 limes

For the garnish
1 large avocado – halved and sliced into thin half-moons
1-1/2 jalepeños or seranos – finely diced
2 limes – halved and sliced into 6 wedges
Saltine Crackers
Tostada shells or tortilla chips

Vegetables for shrimp cocktail

1) Six hours ahead.  Boil 3 quarts salted water in a large pot.  Meanwhile, de-shell, remove tails and devein all the shrimp.  Rinse and set aside.  Quarter an onion and toss into the pot  ¼ and the skins and the ends that usually end up in the compost.  Add the smashed garlic and boil for five minutes.  Grab a stopwatch and a spider strainer and drop in the shrimp.  At 60 seconds taste a shrimp by biting it in half and looking at it.  Pull them out at roughly 75 seconds or 85% cooked.  The shrimp will continue to cook in the bowl, add a few ice cubes and stir.

Remove the boiled onion, skins and garlic from shrimp and discard; pour liquid into broth pot.  Wrap shrimp bowl in plastic and store in refrigerator.  Top the pot with the shrimp broth and move into refrigerator.  If you are pushed on time, the broth may be cooled in the freezer over a couple hours or placed in the sink with cold water and a few pounds of ice.

Notes on shrimp: Gauge the boiling time based on size of shrimp, jumbo shrimp may need to be sliced lengthwise to equalize cooking time. The rubberiness of overcooked shrimp really comes out in the fresh soup, don’t do it.

Boiled shrimp with onions and garlic, strain and cool rapidly.

2) One hour ahead.  Chop vegetables and add to a large bowl.  Halve and squeeze at least 6 limes into a small bowl.   If you are using the little key limes plan on 12.  Use more if you have dry limes.

Remove pot of cooled broth from the refrigerator and place set 2 cups of the broth aside (this is in case you mess up).  Toss in all the vegetables, some of the jalapeños, ¾ of the lime juice and a few tablespoons of ketchup. Stir to combine with a ladle. Look at color and taste.

Now is the time for iteration; we have three flavors to work with: salty, sweet and sour.  The broth is going to taste a little bland at first, but gradually the favors start to come together.  The iteration is necessary because we do not want to over-salt, over-sweeten or over-lime the cocktail.  Add more salt and the flavors of the broth with start to become more prominent.  Squeeze another half a lime or two and taste again as we bring out the brightness of the fresh vegetables.  The ketchup will bring about a nice balance to the broth, but if too much is added then it is difficult to fix.

Repeat the iteration, tasting and observing the color.  The addition of ketchup will transform the broth from murky translucency to a light pink (see picture).  Red broth means you have too much ketchup, add the reserve broth and re-iterate.  The lime, unfortunately takes a few minutes to meld with all the flavors, if you think you have too much lime, wait ten minutes and try again.  Add more jalapeños to give it some kick.

When the broth has flavors that make your mouth want to explode, then it’s almost ready.  Return it to the fridge to let the flavors mingle for 20-30 minutes.

Chopped vegetables, ready to add to broth

3) Fifteen minutes ahead. Assemble the garnish of jalapeño, avocado, limes, crackers and tostada shells on a plate accessible to everyone. Squeeze lime over the avocado to keep it from browning.

Remove the cocktail from the fridge and taste again.  Add another lime and maybe some salt. Taste again and doctor to perfection.

Iteration of salt, lime and ketchup with breaks to eat guacamole

4) Serve in large glass goblets if you have them. Place a few slices of avocado on the top.  Squeeze a fresh lime wedge and eat.  From this point consumption becomes the style of the hungry eater, and in my house there always seems to be plenty.

Finished bowl of coctel de camarón

5) The day after.  You will likely end up with too much broth.  Chop up more onion, cucumber, tomato, cilantro and jalapeño and you can stretch it into a few more bowls.

Notes on additional and substitutions:  Oftentimes octopus is added, but I find that it adds a whole other texture that takes away from all the vegetables.  Lemon has a whole different flavor, don’t use it.  Other chefs use clam juice as a shortcut, this is not necessary because you will have an excellent broth from cooking the shrimp.

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