Mexican Beef with Eggs

Apologies for my absence as of late. Allow me to sum it up by way of doling out some pearls of life wisdom:

  • Don’t have prolonged mold exposure in your apartment. It can make you sick.
  • Don’t get the flu. Especially don’t get the flu at the same time as your husband, i.e. the only other competent adult in your household. Turns out, cats are completely worthless when it comes to replenishing paper towels, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry!
  • But if you do get the flu, do binge-watch both “The People Vs. OJ Simpson” (now on Netflix), AND “30 for 30’s OJ: Made in America”, on ESPN. Both excellent, particularly the latter.
  • Do go to Mexico for a week’s vacation!
  • Do give yourself the time and space you need to catch up on work after all that crap happens.
  • Do eventually get back to blogging because you’ve missed it. J

So, if you have had a few weeks like mine, you too will probably find yourself needing a quick, weeknight meal that also happens to be intensely comforting and incredibly tasty, budget-friendly, and right up your alley if you love Mexican flavors as much as I do. Oh, and it happens to be low-carb! Yea! Anytime I can feel like I’m eating a decadent feast when the net carbs are quite low is a win for me. Not that you couldn’t serve this with bread or tortilla chips. I will never judge that. Oh, and believe it or not, leftovers work beautifully. I know, I’d never believe me either if I hadn’t personally experienced it. But I would never lie to you, this really does reheat just fine. Enjoy!

Source: What Katie Ate On the Weekend by Katie Quinn Davies

Ingredients:
4 tsp olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
4 tbs chipotle hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1 (28 oz.) can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 large handful of cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish if you like
4 large eggs
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) skillet (I used my cast-iron) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no traces of pink remain and the meat has nicely browned. Add the onion, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and cooked through. Stir in the chipotle hot sauce, tomato, and cilantro, season again with a dash of salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until slightly thickened. It should have the texture of slightly loose chili.
Using a large spoon, make 4 indents in the beef mixture and crack an egg into each one. Lightly season only the tops of each egg with salt and pepper. (I like to first crack my eggs into small ramekins or prep bowls, that way you can start over without consequence if you accidentally crack the yolk or get a bad egg or something).
Cover the pot and cook 5-7 minutes, or until the whites are set. They’ll look unset when it’s ready if you, like me, are going for a runny yolk. You can cook it longer if you want your yolks set. When done, turn off the heat and garnish with the sliced jalapeno and extra cilantro. Serve immediately.

Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs #SundaySupper

Welcome to Sunday Supper, the Easy Dinners for Two edition! As an aside, I believe this is my first 2017 Sunday Supper. Thrilled to be back!

So anyways, dinner for two can actually be a challenge – most recipes are written in base 4 or more; so I’m betting this week’s theme will be a popular one!

I’m feeling a bit breakfast-for-dinner at the moment, and wanted to try a new technique with eggs. To be perfectly candid, I’m still working on perfecting eggs. They are deceptively hard to cook well, so I love finding new-to-me recipes that showcase a new cooking method.

This one is AWESOME!! I think if I lived a hundred more years I never would’ve come up with this particular method: place two small cast-iron skillets stovetop, then essentially crack two eggs into each so they cook on a bed of parmesan frico. Yeah. Talk about fabulous!

This endeavor is a little tricky the first time, but fortunately you can benefit from my trial and error. The eggs will look underdone when it’s time to take it off the heat. But it’s still time to take it off the heat. Because if you leave it on until the eggs look “just right”, they will have overcooked and your parmesan will have burned. No Bueno.

Follow the directions exactly and ignore any panicky instincts that arise, and you’ll have absolutely perfect Creamy Parmesan Skillet Eggs. So delicious. Enjoy!

And do not forget to check out my fellow Sunday Supper peeps – some wonderful ideas and recipes for when you’re only cooking for two!

Source: Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

Ingredients:
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tbs butter
4 large eggs
Buttered toast, for serving, optional

Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk together Parmesan, heavy cream, thyme, plus salt and pepper to taste.
In each of 2 (6-inch) skillets, heat 1 tbs butter over medium-high heat. Divide the Parmesan mixture evenly between the two skillets and cook until the mixture is bubbling all the way through, 1-2 minutes. Crack 2 eggs into each skillet. Sprinkle the tops of the eggs with salt and pepper, and cook exactly 2 minutes. Shut off the heat and let stand and carryover cook for 1 minute.
Serve immediately with toast for dipping, if you wish.

Chicken Recipes

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Red Meat Recipes

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Naked Condessa

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Women’s March these past few days. I regret that I did not participate in one. I purposely took a break from any sort of news leading up to the inauguration, so while I was of course aware of the D.C. March taking place, I actually was not aware of all the sister marches taking place, and realized a little too late that two of them happened to be within a thirty minute drive from my house. Facepalm.

I followed as much news and social media last Saturday as possible, feeling buoyed and positive for the first time in a few months. I really have no adequate words for how inspiring it was to see such a thing. I’ve been searching out first-hand accounts and articles and ran across this excellent blog post. Kind women versus nice girls. Like the vast majority of GenX females, I was most assuredly socialized to be a nice girl – from every corner of my life. And you know what? Being nice sucks. Putting yourself last, managing all the egos around you, worrying what perfect strangers think of you, and the list goes on and on. It’s no way to go through life.

The Women’s March crystallized, for me personally at least, that this world doesn’t improve from any of us being nice. Progress occurs when we are kind. When we stand up for ourselves and those being disenfranchised. When we don’t hide our basic needs to save another from feeling uncomfortable. When we are badass and awesome.

Oh, and to be clear, no longer being nice doesn’t mean every female in your life turns into an insufferable bitch. It doesn’t mean we are thin-skinned and butthurt over the smallest little things. It just means we stand up for what’s right. We embody empathy, and tell the truth, even when it hurts. Badass Kind Women.

A spicy cocktail seemed apropos for this writing. This drink is upfront and in your face, while being incredibly delicious and fun. Plus, the title is appropriate, as I feel a bit naked writing this personal post! You need to use Cholula for it, no other hot sauce will do. If you have to go out and buy it just to make this cocktail, I’m confident you’ll be so happy to have discovered it. Fairly new on the food trend scene, it’s gaining well-deserved traction, and perhaps is on its way to being a classic. Then again, look at Sriracha. Post is not sponsored in any way, I buy my own Cholula! Enjoy!

Source: Brooklyn Bar Bites by Barbara Scott-Goodman

Ingredients:
¼ oz. grenadine
¼ oz. Cholula
½ oz. fresh orange juice
½ oz. fresh lime juice
1 ½ oz. tequila blanco

Directions:
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the grenadine, Cholula, orange and lime juices, and tequila. Shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

As written, makes 1 drink.

Blood Orange Week (In Lieu of Featured Cookbook Friday)

Not to worry, I am indeed quite happily up to my ears in new cookbooks since December 25th, thanks family!!! – but lately I haven’t been able to resist the blood oranges available for who even knows how much longer, probably not very. So instead of a Featured Cookbook Friday, I’m basically sharing my blood orange endeavors of the last week – a Blood Orange Friday, if you will indulge me.

First up:

Grilled Swordfish with Blood Orange Sauce (except I seared mine as it’s the dead of winter), from A Great American Cook by Jonathan Waxman.

This was wonderful! The swordfish sits on a bed of southwest-inspired relish, made from roasted poblano, blood orange segments, jicama, and cilantro – except I couldn’t find jicama the day I made this, so I subbed in thinly sliced red bell pepper. Then you make a buttery blood orange sauce that drizzles over everything. It tasted incredible after the overindulgence of the holidays.

Secondly:

Blood Orange Roast Chicken from Adventures in Chicken by Eva Kosmos Flores (recipe at the end of the post!).

There simply aren’t enough raves for this one! It was just beautiful, and I highly, highly recommend making it asap while blood oranges are still available!!

Third:

Blood Orange Stout Cake from Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady

This is quite tasty, almost like a gingerbread that also happens to be an upside-down blood orange cake. It’s very earthy and spicy, with the simultaneous bitter/sweet of the oranges cutting into every bite.

Lastly:

Blood Orange Shaker Tart with Rosemary Almond Crust from Marbled, Swirled and Layered by Irvin Lin

This is a lot of steps, but oh so worth it – both to look at and to eat! A play on Shaker Lemon Pie, we use blood oranges instead, and it goes into a tart pan instead of a pie plate. But, Lin twists this up some more by adding rosemary and almond flour to the tart dough, and you put a dash of minced rosemary into the tart filling as well! Rosemary is strong, but the amounts here are just right – it doesn’t hit you over the head or anything.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe for that AMAZING roast chicken. Enjoy!

Source: Adventures in Chicken by Eva Kosmos Flores

Ingredients:

BRINE:
4-8 cups water*
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3-6 tbs kosher salt*
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds, innards removed

GLAZE:
¼ cup chicken stock
3 tbs blood orange juice
3 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs white wine
2 tbs rendered duck fat
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cardamom

CHICKEN:
1 tbs rendered duck fat
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp kosher salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 blood oranges, cut into eighths

Directions:
First, make the BRINE: to a large plastic storage or brining bag, add the water, orange juice, salt, and cinnamon. Squish it around until combined. Add the chicken, seal the bag, and refrigerate overnight.
*Depending on the size of your plastic bag, you may not be able to fit all 8 cups of water. That’s fine. If you use 4 cups instead, reduce the amount of salt to 3 tbs. If you use all 8 cups water, use the full 6 tbs salt.
Preheat your oven to 425 F.
Make the GLAZE: in a small saucepan, bring the chicken stock, blood orange juice, brown sugar, wine, duck fat, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool at least somewhat.
To roast the CHICKEN, remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Combine the duck fat, minced rosemary, and salt in a small bowl, then use your hands or a pastry brush to slather the chicken with the whole thing. Place the chicken in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or other roasting pan where it will fit snugly, and stick the rosemary sprig into the cavity. Truss the chicken, then arrange the blood orange slices in the pan around the chicken. They can overlap. Pour the glaze into the pan around the chicken, then lightly brush the chicken with the glaze.
Roast 15-20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375 F and continue to roast, brushing the chicken with the pan drippings every 15 minutes until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of a breast reads 160 F. This will take 50-60 minutes, approximately. When the bird is done, remove from the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes (carryover cooking will take care of the remaining 5 degrees). Carve and serve, drizzling any pan juices over the chicken pieces as you so desire.

Sriracha Caesar Salad

If you read food news sites, January is the time of year you see everyone making their best guesses at what the year’s foodie trends will be. You also see articles dedicated to foods and food trends we’re all supposed to be just so over by now. I think it was maybe two to three years ago that I saw Sriracha on one of those It’s So Over lists.

Ask me if I care.

Sriracha is one of my absolute favorite condiments. I have personally elevated it to the status of A Classic Never Dies, and if you ever find my pantry without a bottle, you may safely assume I have developed a terrible brain injury or a fatal allergy to it. This beautiful hot sauce is from the gods. End of story.

Thankfully, cookbook author Chrissy Teigen agrees with me. Her cookbook debut features Sriracha in almost every recipe (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but a ton of recipes call for it). This could not make me happier.

{Don’t you love my cat photo-bombing my picture? I know I could’ve (perhaps should’ve) edited that out, but hey, we keep it real around here!}

And, as a self-proclaimed Caesar salad fiend, I was outright giddy at the thought of combining one of my favorite condiments with one of my favorite salads. If you’re like me in this respect, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, it might be a little silly to be this excited about a salad recipe, but I highly doubt I’m alone here. Enjoy!

Source: slightly adapted from Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

Ingredients:

CROUTONS:
2 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp crushed red chile flakes
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
About half a regular baguette or 1 mini-baguette, cut into crouton-sized pieces

DRESSING:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 ½ cups grated Parmesan
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tbs Sriracha, or more to taste
1 ½ tsp anchovy paste
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper

SALAD:
About 8 cups chopped or torn romaine lettuce
¼ cup shaved Parmesan
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Grilled chicken, optional

Directions:
To make the CROUTONS: preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, chile flakes, salt, and pepper. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat. Transfer to the baking sheet in a single layer, and bake until crisp, 11-12 minutes. Let cool before serving.
Now make the DRESSING: in a food processor or blender, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, Parmesan, lemon juice, Sriracha, anchovy paste, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Assemble the SALAD: arrange the lettuce on a plate, drizzle with dressing to taste (plus chicken if using), then toss in the croutons. Shave on the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

NYC Bodega Breakfast Sandwiches

One of the best parts of my holiday break was a little stay-cation Matt and I took for about three days between Christmas and New Year’s. We booked a hotel in the East Village, made a bunch of restaurant reservations*, explored an independent bookstore, found some really cute bars, went to a cat cafe (swoon!), braved a bad rainstorm to get to Kalustyan’s (totally worth it!), and just generally enjoyed a few days off.

Believe it or not, I actually brought my laptop with me and had planned to post at least one or two blog posts while we were “away”, and this one was my top priority. I’d even planned out what to write – like, oh hey, I’m in NYC for a few days and have easy access to these iconic bodega sandwiches, woohoo go me.

But, two problems emerged with that little plan: 1) our hotel was nowhere near a bodega, so we didn’t end up eating any of these; and 2) more importantly, I forgot to download the pictures off my camera before we left home. So, yeah…

It’s all good, I’m here now. And whether you live next door to an NYC bodega or you’ve never heard of these even once, it matters not, because we all need this recipe. These are incredibly fun to make at home, unbelievably delicious, and a little bird told me they are a foolproof hangover cure (wink).

Sometimes, I think we all need a little New York in our lives. The kitchen is good for that. And this is one amazing breakfast sandwich. Enjoy!

Source: recipe from Lucinda Scala Quinn, found on Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
1 everything bagel, or other bagel of choice, cut in half and toasted
1 tbs unsalted butter, plus more for buttering bagel
2 large eggs
1 deli slice of American cheese
2 to 3 slices cooked bacon
Hot sauce and/or ketchup, for serving (after testing a few hot sauces, we determined Frank’s RedHot Original to be the winner)

Directions:
Butter cut sides of each bagel half. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add butter to skillet. Carefully crack both eggs into skillet. When whites begin to set, immediately puncture yolks. If they don’t do so on their own, spread the yolks around a little.
Top one egg with cheese, then bacon. Flip remaining egg, yolk-side down, on top of bacon (like an egg-on-egg sandwich). Transfer eggs onto one toasted half of the bagel (this seems to take 2 spatulas, just FYI); top with remaining bagel half and lightly press together. Use a serrated knife to cut the sandwich in half, then serve immediately with hot sauce or ketchup, or wrap halfway in parchment paper or aluminum foil for a portable breakfast.

Serving size: 1 breakfast sandwich, can be multiplied up easily

*Restaurant Recommendations:
Gato NYC
Stanton Social
Ngam
Blue Smoke
Sushi Samba
Mighty Quinn’s Barbecue

Note: this post is not sponsored in any way, the aforementioned staycation was paid for in full by the author and her husband. Links are provided for reader curiosity/information only.

Mesa Grill Black Bean Soup

Happy (belated – gulp) 2017!! With some extremely notable exceptions – a new nephew! a wonderful extended vacation with Matt! a good friend getting married! – I didn’t like 2016 any more than anyone else, so I decided to skip all the food blogger end-of-year countdowns and just jump into 2017 with good vibes. Mold in my apartment has hampered that a little, but take heed, it will not win!

I’d been planning to jump back into blogging yesterday, but seeing as it was MLK Day, and this particular MLK Day seems more … I don’t know, pertinent? Important? … than usual, given the current political climate and happenings, I didn’t feel that I personally could add much to that conversation. So today it is!

I want to begin this New Year with one of my favorite recipes, one that I first cooked years ago and never forgot, yet have never committed to my blog. What you have here is perfect comfort food for cold weather or grumpy days that will not interfere with any fitness/weight loss/lose those holiday pounds goals. In fact, it might even help! And this soup is SO delicious. The genius of this recipe is in the garnishes. Garnishes to soup or chili are usually in the vein of just throw whatever you like on there, if you like anything at all – and of course that’s totally fine! But it’s just not how this particular soup works. On its own, it’s a solidly built yet kind of non-special black bean soup. But when you garnish it as instructed, the entire bowl sings and makes everyone all kinds of happy.

On a different note, I do aim to be a better blogger this year. When your blog is not your primary source of income, it’s too easy to back-burner it, but that’s lame. I want this to be a fun, inspiring, and of course delicious space, so I vow to be better at time management. And feel free to hold my feet to the fire, my dear readers whom I love!

Source: slightly adapted from The Mesa Grill Cookbook by Bobby Flay

Ingredients:

SOUP:
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 cup red wine
3 (15 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 jalapeno chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, and seeded
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 tbs fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

GRILLED ONION RELISH:
1 large red onion, sliced ½-inch thick into rounds – do not separate the layers of the rounds
2 tbs olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

TOMATO-SERRANO RELISH:
2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 serrano chile, diced
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

CUMIN CREMA:
8 oz. crema, crème fraiche, or sour cream
1 scant tbs ground cumin
1 tbs fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

AVOCADO-TOMATILLO RELISH:
2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
2 large tomatillos, husked, scrubbed, and chopped
3 tbs finely chopped red onion
1 small jalapeno chile, finely chopped, seeded if desired
3 tbs fresh lime juice
2 tbs olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
First, make the SOUP: heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add carrot, onion, and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent but not browned. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half.
Add the beans and reduce the heat to medium. Add the jalapenos, poblano, and stock. Simmer 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the lime juice, salt and pepper. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. If the soup has cooled, rewarm before serving.
While the soup is simmering away, make the garnishes. I recommend starting with the GRILLED ONION RELISH: preheat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Cheater’s note: a griddle pan or nonstick or cast-iron skillet works fine as well. Just sayin’. Anywho, brush the onion slices with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Grill on each side for 4-5 minutes, until lightly charred and cooked through. If the rounds start coming apart when you flip them, it’s fine. Remove the onions from the grill and chop.
For the TOMATO-SERRANO RELISH: combine the tomatoes and serrano chile in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
For the CUMIN CREMA: place the crema in a small bowl, add the cumin and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to thoroughly combine.
For the AVOCADO-TOMATILLO RELISH: gently combine the avocados, tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, lime juice, and oil in a bowl, then season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls, then spoon at least one tablespoon of each garnish on the soup, laying them side-by-side as much as possible. And it’s totally okay to add more of any or all garnishes when your bowl of soup is halfway gone. That’s why you make so much of each garnish!

Frito Pie Packets

Frito Pie Packets

I know it’s the middle of December, and we’re in the throes of Christmas and Hanukkah prep and celebrations, and present-wrapping, tree decorating, and cookies, and yada yada yada, but let us pause and not forget that it is still football season! Let us also not forget how freaking amazing the Dallas Cowboys are doing this year. Only TWO losses, neither of which we will be discussing at all! Frito Pie is the perfect game day food, especially once cold weather sets in.

Frito Pie Packets

Frito Pie is apparently a Texas thing, but I think its popularity is spreading quite nicely. You basically put beef chili on top of a big pile of Frito corn chips and garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, and whatever else your heart desires. It’s awesome.

Now, I’ve eaten more Frito Pie in my life than you want to know about, but thus far it has always been in a bowl, mainly because my family of origin is made up of civilized people who do things like, well, eat on proper dinnerware with proper utensils. Enter Chrissy Teigen, quite possibly one of the most creative home cooks on this planet, a home cook and cookbook author who encourages well-mannered souls such as myself to forgo the boring bowl and eat our Frito Pie right from the Frito’s bag. It was a revelation for me.

Frito Pie Packets

And I think it’s totally brilliant! Matt and I completely loved this one. This is a quick-cooking chili (as chili goes), and the presentation and experience is basically the coolest thing ever (does me saying that indicate I should get out more? Nah…). The only problem with it is that now I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to eat Frito Pie from a regular bowl again! And I think we all know, I will be eating Frito Pie again. And again, and again…. Enjoy!

Frito Pie Packets

Source: adapted from Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

Ingredients:
1 tbs olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef (I used sirloin)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs seasoned salt
3 tbs chili powder
1 heaping tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (12 oz.) bottle of beer
2 (15 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained
2 tbs brown sugar
6 individual bags Frito corn chips (not scoops)
Shredded cheddar cheese, or a Mexican blend, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Pickled jalapenos, for garnish
Chopped scallions, for garnish

Directions:
Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then add the ground beef. Cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no traces of pink remain. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened. Now add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the seasoned salt, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Stir to coat thoroughly and cook about 1 minute. Pour in the beer and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato sauce, kidney beans, and brown sugar. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chili thickens and the liquid reduces, 35 to 40 minutes. Stir occasionally and lower the heat if necessary to prevent the chili from scorching on the bottom of the pot.
Once the chili is to your liking thickness-wise, taste for seasoning and add a little salt if needed (it probably won’t be needed). Now comes the fun part – serving it! Carefully slit each bag of Frito’s with scissors. You can do this across the top, across one side, or lay the bag down and slit down the middle of the logo. Ladle some chili over the chips in the bag, then top with cheese, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, and scallions in the amounts you prefer. Serve immediately.

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

I have a bone to pick with America’s end-of-year food-centric holidays. Why is it that all the flavors of Thanksgiving are still acceptable to serve at Christmas, except pumpkin? I mean, sweet potatoes, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, green beans, sage, turkey, pecans, apples – they’re all carried over past the fourth Thursday in November, but pumpkin is abruptly dropped and seemingly considered verboten even one day past Turkey Day. Why? I mean seriously, who made that rule?

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

I’m not accepting this. Pumpkin isn’t that different from the rest, and too many people love it to just wantonly disregard it with such a thud. It should be in our collective repertoire until at least December 25th.

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

If you agree, then you just have to make this superb pumpkin dessert for your Christmas feast. It’s more work than a typical pumpkin pie, but it’s also much more special, and more than delicious enough to be worth it. One small change I made to Fine Cooking’s recipe: they call for candying raw unsalted pepitas. I didn’t do that for two reasons. One, because it’s yet *another* step in an already involved and time-consuming recipe; and two, because online reviewers said it made the tart too sweet. I was extremely happy with my results. Enjoy!

Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

Source: slightly adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Ingredients:

CRUST:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbs fine cornmeal
1 tbs granulated sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
8 tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vodka

CARAMEL:
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup bourbon

FILLING:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup plus 2 tbs canned pure pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
½ cup half-and-half

A few handfuls of salted, roasted pepitas, for garnish

Directions:
First make the CRUST: pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal or wet sand. Combine the egg, egg yolk, vodka and 1 tbs ice water in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture to the processor and pulse until the mixture just comes together, adding more water 1 tsp at a time as needed, up to 2 tbs. Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to help gather the dough into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
On a floured work surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 13-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a greased 9-inch springform pan, gently pressing it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan without stretching it. Tear any high areas of the dough so that the height is about ½ an inch below the rim of the pan; the edge will look ragged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350 F.
Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork at 1-inch intervals, line it with aluminum foil, and fill it to the top with dried beans, gently pressing them against the sides. Bake until the edges are firm, 15 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and beans. Return the crust to the oven and bake, rotating the pan once and popping any bubbles with a toothpick, just until the bottom is firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Leave the oven on.
Now make the CARAMEL: in a 2-quart saucepan, cook the brown sugar, butter and salt over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts and begins to darken around the edges, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cream (some sugar may seize) and simmer, whisking occasionally, until smooth and thick, 7-9 minutes. Whisk in the bourbon and simmer, whisking occasionally, another 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof measuring cup. Pour 1/3 cup caramel over the bottom of the cooled crust and spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to set the caramel. Leave the remaining caramel at room temperature.
Make the FILLING: in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and then the egg yolk, beating until combined. Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix thoroughly until combined. Reduce speed to low and add the half-and-half. Mix until just combined.
Slowly pour the filling into the crust. Bake until filling has puffed slightly and its surface no longer appears wet, 35 to 40 minutes. It’s okay if cracks form, they’ll be covered later. Cool the tart on a rack until the filling is completely cooled and warm, about 1 hour.
If the remaining caramel sauce is no longer pourable, warm it in the microwave until pourable. Drizzle the remaining caramel over the custard and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the pepitas around the edges of the top caramel and press lightly. Cover the tart with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. To serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the tart and remove the side of the pan. Transfer to a serving plate and serve chilled.

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Classic Mexican Picadillo

I must apologize for my absenteeism, right before blaming the walking pneumonia-turned double ear infection that’s had me quite derailed the past couple weeks. I do not recommend it. Starting to feel just this side of human again = let’s blog some more!

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Unlike the end of 2015, December 2016 has been, well, cold, and we’ve even seen some snowflakes! And since I’m well aware it’s not just me battling illness – the season for that has begun, grrr – I figured some healthy comfort food to soothe embattled senses and perk us up was in order.

Classic Mexican Picadillo

I believe Mexican Picadillo to be Mexico’s precursor to Texas’ chili, but without the extra calories we all love to pile on in the name of garnishes, which let’s face it, sounds much fancier and more virtuous than admitting we made chili solely to eat copious amounts of shredded cheddar, sour cream, and Frito scoops. No, you don’t do any of that to Picadillo. The most you do to Picadillo is maybe serve some warm corn tortillas or tortilla chips on the side.

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Which, if you’re now wondering what the point is, 1) I don’t blame you; and 2) let me assure you it’s incredibly delicious. This isn’t chili. The flavors and textures are familiar, yes, but different – less heat, more subtle sweetness, and if this makes sense, it just feels more pure than chili. Not that I’ll ever say a bad word about chili – that’s certainly not what I mean. I will recommend this (highly!) to both chili-heads and those who aren’t so crazy about chili. If you, like me, adore a bowl of chili, this will broaden your horizons and introduce a lovely, easy one-pot weeknight dinner into your repertoire with far less calories than chili; and if you don’t groove on a bowl o’ red, I’d say this is distinct enough that you should definitely give it a shot. Everyone, enjoy!

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Source: The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown

Ingredients:
2 tbs olive oil, divided
1 lb. ground beef (I used sirloin)
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded and diced
3 tbs chili powder
1 tbs sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup beef stock
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with their juice (can be fire-roasted if you prefer)
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup raisins
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
Chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish

Directions:
Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs olive oil and tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Add the ground beef and cook it, breaking up lumps until browned. Add the second tbs of olive oil and add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook 30 seconds more, stirring to evenly combine.
Now stir in the stock, tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce, wine and raisins. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the beans and olives and cook 15 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve hot, sprinkling each serving with cilantro.