Manzana Rellenas (Stuffed Manzana Peppers)

Manzana (or manzano, depending on who you ask) peppers are often times called “rocoto peppers” or “locoto”, depending on the region you’re in. Biologically they are different, but in terms of practicality, they’re really the same. Rocotos are more red, while Manzanas have a vibrant orange color with large, round black seeds. Indigenously, they both grow high up in the Peruvian Andes and, unlike most chiles, grow best in cooler weather. This recipe is a traditional Peruvian recipe and is typically served with simple potato gratin, Arequipa style.

The peppers are extremely hot and since this heat is like breathing in fire, I strongly recommend (from experience) covering your nose and mouth when cutting and boiling them.

When using this recipe, be sure to add salt, pepper, herbs and spices throughout the cooking time rather than all at once. This will help to layer the sweet-salty-spicy combination in every bite. Add the egg at the very last minute and stir minimally to keep the eggy flavor and texture in tact.

These peppers are also fantastic when pickled and used in tacos, sandwiches, pizzas. To pickle, first seed and de-vein the peppers and soak in ice water, the same as below, to cut some of the intense heat before using your favorite pickle recipe. If you want to cut the heat even more, boil them for a half hour or so. When chopped oh-so-finely, they’re already great additions to a seriously spicy salsa.

You can substitute jalapenos, pasilla chiles (which will be easier to find and MUCH less hot) or Bulgarian carrot peppers, if you happen to find them (and let me know if you do, I want some too…) Alternatively, you can also use this filling to fill empanadas; just use the refrigerated canned crescent dough if you don’t want to make your own and make sure to add a decent amount of red chile flake to have some balance in the flavors the you’d be missing without the peppers. The beef, the egg, the olive and the raisins make for a fairly traditional Chilean empanada filling.

Ingredient Amount How
Manzana peppers

8

oz

cotija cheese

1

tbsp

queso oaxaca or jack cheese

1/2

cup

shredded
beef

1/2

cup

finely chopped (not ground)
eggs

4

—-

boiled and chopped
black olives

1/2

cup

sliced
black raisins

1

tbsp

rehydrated in water
cream

3

tbsp

olive oil

1-2

tsp

butter

1-2

tbsp

dried oregano 1-2+ pinch
red chile flake

1

pinch (optional)
garlic

3

tsp minced
shallots (sub white onion)

3

finely diced
cumin 1-2+ tsp
dried bay leaf

2

salt and pepper layered, to taste
    Directions

  1. Cut the tops off of the peppers and scoop the seeds and white veins from the inside, then soak peppers in bowl of ice water with 1T white vinegar for 1 hour to overnight.
  2. After soaking, boil peppers until just softened, then remove and let stand at room temperature.
  3. In a deep skillet, sauce pot or dutch oven, add olive oil, bay leaf, garlic and onion and cook until fragrant, seasoning with salt, pepper, chile flake and oregano.
  4. Add cubed beef and tablespoon of butter, cook until beef begins to brown on the outside (about 3 minutes)
  5. Add cream and bring to soft boil, reduce for app. 6 minutes
  6. Add crumbled quest fresco, cumin and more oregano, salt and garlic powder. Stir in and let cheese melt.
  7. Turn heat down and check meat for doneness. Once cooked through, add olives, egg and raisin and stir in. Add more cotija cheese and stir in.
  8. Once the beef is cooked through and all ingredients have been incorporated, spoon the mixture into the hollowed-out peppers and top with the oaxacan or jack cheese.
  9. Bake on a sheet pan at 400 degrees until warmed through and cheese is melted and browned.

 

Sops & Leeks: Medieval Comfort Food

We all know what leeks are: the perfect mild blend of their cousins, garlic and onion. They’ve been part of our diet since somewhere around 2000 BC in Egypt, they’re one of the official emblems of Wales (wearing one on your helmet in battle identifies you as a fellow countryman) and for their easy re-usability to grow, regrow, and keep growing through less than ideal weathers, they’re a great produce for peasants. So what about “sops”? The word “sop” has become a common place verb now; i.e.: using bread to “sop” up the remaining sauce. And that’s what “sops” are: pieces of crusty (usually stale) bread, in the bottom of a bowl or plate, used to soak up (or “sop”) the juices and sauces and flavors from everything else in the bowl.

This particular recipe was a common one among monks during lent. However, since it includes white wine and white bread, it was certainly not for the poorer monks. These were more expensive items to produce and no – not all monasteries have/had the same resources.

The original medieval recipe of Sops and Leeks does not call for ham, chili flake or cream, but as long as you’re not a monk during lent, this updated recipe is great to elevate a medieval dish while still keeping it fairly true to form.

I like to use it for lunch or as a dinner side paired with simple roasted chicken. Including the poached eggs could make it a great addition to a creative brunch menu.

Ingredient Quantity How
Leeks

2

White and greens, sliced and washed
Butter

2-3

Tbsp
White wine

1/4

cup
Heavy cream

1/2

cup

Ham

3/4

cup

Cut into cubes
Red Chili Flake

1

tsp

Shredded Parmesan Cheese

1/4

cup

(optional)
“Sops” (thick sliced crusty bread, buttered)

4

Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. On stove top, heat dutch oven (preferably) or cast iron pan with deep sides, add butter until sizzling, then add leeks and ham. Allow leeks to just soften, about 2 minutes, then add white wine and cook until just soft.
  2. Add cream and red chili flake. Reduce heat to a simmer; allow to simmer until cream is very thick and no longer has any “soupy” quality.
  3. While cooking cream down, butter both sides of slices of crusty (traditionally stale) bread.
  4. Once cream has thickened and you have a pot of creamy leeks, top with toasted bread and bake in 400 oven until butter on bread is just browned. Feel free to top with optional parmesan cheese at this step.
  5. Remove, flip leeks and bread so bread is on the bottom and serve immediately, hot out of the pot and topped with soft boiled egg, if desired .

Pole Beans, Soft Poached Eggs, Soy-Yuzu Dressing

Gardening in central Texas is great – and such a change from trying to grow anything in northern California! Here it’s hot, it’s humid, Spring is at least a month of heavy rain alternating with hot sunny days – basically, a little heaven on Earth for all those fruits and veggies that are waiting to take flight.

However, I must be honest… last year’s garden didn’t go so well. There was quite a learning curve for me. This year, though, it seems either I have figured it out, or the plants have. In the last week, I have harvested 1lb of hatch chiles, 15 padron peppers, 1lb of mixed pole beans, multiple pounds of zucchini, 4 pumpkins, and a single 1.5lb eggplant.image

Next weeks harvest should be about the same, maybe more.

So my big job now is to figure out how to use all this before next weeks harvests fills my fridge all over again.

Beans and Eggsimage

This is a simple recipe that seems a lot fancier than it is. I like it for lunch, but it can be used for brunch, dinner, whenever.

Double or triple the sauce to keep the extra on hand in the fridge; reuse it for rice, salad, marinades etc.. Keep the more unusual ingredients on hand in your pantry; they’re so versatile and great to have around when a dish is lacking that unidentifiable pizzazz.

Some of the ingredients sound elite, but most are available at your local Whole Foods or asian grocery stores and – true story – Amazon actually carries all of them. Worse comes to worst, many can be substituted with more ubiquitous products, noted at the end of this article.

Make your dressing first and set aside so you can pay attention to the eggs and beans. Recipe is for 2 people. Adjust amount of beans and eggs as necessary.

Mixed Pole Beans, Soy-Yuzu Dressing, Soft Poached Eggsimage

Dressing 

Whisk together the following; taste and adjust as necessary, set aside

  • Large palm full of Galangal, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon Black vinegar (Kong Yen brand recommended)
  • 1 Lime, juice and zest
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tableslpoon yuzu ponzu (Marukan brand recommended)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar

Beans

  • Rinse and trim ends of beans
  • Blanch large handful in boiling, salted water until slightly tender
  • Remove from water, quickly stop the cooking process by shocking in bowl of ice, then while still warm, toss with coarse citrus salt (substitute coarse sea salt), coat heavily with dressing (saving the extra) and plate in shallow bowl

Poached Eggs

  • Bring pot of water with tablespoon of rice vinegar to a strong simmer.
  • Crack fresh, refrigerated egg into ramekin, small tea cup or measuring cup and drop slow and easy into water. Repeat process for 2-3 eggs.
  • Poach in water for about 4 minutes.  (Here’s a great lesson on poaching if you need some guidance.)
  • Using a slotted spoon, top beans with poached eggs

Finish

  • Top eggs and pole beans with Togarashi (shichimi), black sesame seeds, and sambal

Continue reading “Pole Beans, Soft Poached Eggs, Soy-Yuzu Dressing”

Mmmm,Tasso!

 

 

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If you’ve never had Tasso ham before, it probably means that you don’t live anywhere near the south. Before visiting New Orleans and moving to Texas, I had only heard about it in Emeril recipes, always to be followed by the obligatory asterisk – “*if Tasso is unavailable, substitute with bacon or ham”. I suppose it’s a little true – if Tasso is totally unavailable, bacon is better than nothing – but I surely wouldn’t call it a substitute. Tasso is it’s own beautiful, wonderful, glorious beast that allows no substitution.

It is important to note that while it’s called “Tasso Ham”, it is not actually “ham”. Ham is made from the hind leg of the pig, while Tasso is traditionally made from the shoulder. As many of the best southern traditions have been, it was created out of necessity – a way to use up the left over scraps of the least used cut of the whole pig.

A good way to get a better perspective on how any traditional dish is supposed to be made is to think about that – how it started, where it came from. Then, grab Michael Ruhlman’s “Charcuterie” as a great reference and read as many additional recipes as possible. Everyone does it a little bit different.

Here is my way:

First, make sure you have a large enough pan (or pans) to hold all of the meat comfortably without overlapping. Cut up the big pork butt into large, thick pieces, leaving on all the fat and cutting against the grain.

Next, give the meat a good salt cure:
2 parts kosher salt to 1 part white granulated sugar. (Enough to fully cover the meat in a thick, even coating.) Pour the salt cure as evenly as possible and massage into the pork, leaving a fairly thick coating. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.IMG_1873

Third, while the meat is curing, mix up your dry rub with the following ingredients to your preferred taste:

  • Ground white pepper
  • Ground black pepper
  • Ground cayenne pepper
  • Ground allspice
  • Ground paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Dried thyme
  • Dried oregano

Then, after 3-4 hours refrigerated, rinse the cure off of the meat, dry with paper towel and and cover with a nice hefty coating of the dry rub; cover and refrigerate to cure overnight.

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Finally, while the shoulder is sitting in the fridge, find access to an awesome smoker.

If you don’t have access to a smoker, you can use your oven. In order to get an imitation of the rich smokey flavor that is so important, try wrapping smoking chips in tin foil and putting on the bottom of your oven, on the rack beneath the meat. Heat the oven to 220 degrees, make sure the heat is nice and steady, and put the pork in for 4 or so hours. Try your best not to open the door to look at it so you can maintain that good steady heat.

If you do have access to a smoker, I suggest using pecan chips and if you can control the heat, try to keep it at 220. Cram the meat in there with excitement and don’t open the smoker for 3 hours. IMG_1882

To check the done-ness of the pork (smoker or oven) use a meat thermometer, which should read somewhere between 150 – 180 degrees. Poke the meat a little as its finishing to see how done it is: is it solid but tender? Then it’s good to go.

Once done, here are some ideas on what to do with it:

Pizza:

  • Remoulade sauce (mayo based, heavy on the mustard)
  • Medium Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Very thinly sliced and quartered green tomatoes
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Tasso, sliced long and thin (like pastrami)

Layer pizza with all ingredients (Tasso on top) and bake at 500 on a thin crust, until crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Also try it:

  • cubed in jumbalaya, gumbo or sauteed greens like spinach or chard
  • use the same pizza ingredients as a po’boy sandwich
  • use anywhere in place of normal ham for a little extra pizzazz.

Have any more great ideas? Let me know! And enjoy!

IMG_1887

Red Beans & Rice!

Austin has a surprisingly strong NOLA prominence. Saints t-shirts everywhere, plenty of transplants, the famous muffelatta and po’ boy sandwiches. It’s not exactly the same (I have yet to find a roast beef po’ boy) but love it just as much! I suppose the influence shouldn’t be so surprising considering we are only 7-ish hours away and we’re close enough to the coast for the most dominant New Orleans ingredients: fresh gulf oysters, gulf shrimp and even crawfish just about anytime in the season.

Red beans and rice is no exception. I see it commonly, all over menus from a range of establishments from New Orleans-themed dive bars to classy cajun restaurants. The only problem is, I find it difficult to pay for a meal that was historically created to use the cheapest, easiest ingredients. Using the bones from Sunday ham day, the ladies of the house could put on a pot of beans Monday morning and get started on their chores without having to tend to the stove.

I guess we mostly work out of the home at this point, and Monday is no longer washday, so give it a try any day of the week. You can use any kind of scrap ham bones from your local butcher, meat market, or even grocery store but I strongly prefer the smoked hocks with a bit of meat left on. They’re usually something like $1/lb.IMG_1772

So, with that, here is my recipe for red beans and rice, complete with the quintessential “holy trinity” of celery, onion, and green bell peppers. I’m sure many would argue it’s not Creole food without this combination.IMG_1779

For One Pound of Beans:

      3 cloves garlic, minced
      green bell peppers, diced
      1 medium yellow onion, diced
      3 stalks celery, diced, top leaves roughly chopped and reserved
      2 jalapenos, finely diced
      3 Bay leaves
      1T granulated garlic
      2-3T butter
      48oz. chicken stock

      2 smoked ham hocks (app. 1.5lbs, combined)
      1/2 cup chopped ham, Tasso ham, thick cut bacon, or combination, diced

      A few shakes of a good, southern, vinegary hot sauce such as Texas Pete or Crystal
      48oz. chicken stock (sub: veggie stock if you like)
      1lb red beans (duh)

      1 bunch green onion, sliced

      Kosher salt & ground black pepperIMG_1778

      In a medium stock pot, quickly brown bacon and/or ham on medium-high heat, then add butter slowly to heat but not brown. Add garlic, onion, bell peppers, celery and jalapeno, cooking until just soft and fragrant. Add beans, bay leaves and ham hocks and cover with chicken stock, stir, cover pot with lid. Once liquid is boiling, stir and continue adding stock or water a little at a time to keep the beans completely covered. Add hot sauce and granulated garlic, turn heat down to slow simmer and replace pot lid. Check and stir often until beans are softened.IMG_1774

      Taste the cooking liquid often to test flavor before the beans are softened and add salt & pepper appropriately throughout cooking.

      Serve with cooked white rice (see note), and top with chopped green onion and reserved celery leaves.
      IMG_1777
      (feel free to serve it with some Andouille sausage, too….)

    *Note: Instead of dull, bland white rice, I prefer to give it just a tiny pizzaz by cooking the grains in a liquid of half stock, half water, throw in a few bay leaves and some black pepper.

    Enjoy!