Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mexico One Plate at a Time - Rick Bayless

If Mario Batali is our go-to source for Italian cooking, Rick Bayless plays that role when we turn to Mexican. Mexico One Plate at a Time is the book of his that we have used the most - it is a great overview of authentic regional Mexican cooking. Each recipe has a lengthy, yet interesting discussion of the dish and its numerous potential variations.

Favorite Recipes:

Cochinita PibilCochinita Pibil
(Slow-Roasted Achiote Pork in Banana Leaves)

The Mexican province of Yucatan embodied in a dish - sour orange and achiote marinated pork slow-cooked wrapped in banana leaves. It makes great pibil tacos.
Salsa VerdeSalsa Verde
(Green Tomatillo Salsa)

We use this salsa in all sorts of things, including our Huevos Verdes. The 'Roasted Version' is especially good.
SopesSopes (Masa Boats)

Thicker than a tortilla and cooked until crisp on the bottom, but softly chewy inside, these have a addicting toasty corn taste. We've filled them with anything from the traditional (spicy Salsa Roja topped with sharp queso anejo) to the rather nontraditional (pulled pork).

Pollo Adobado con Papas (Red Chile-Marinated Chicken Roasted with Potatoes). The marinade for this chicken is a bit of a pain to make, and definitely somewhat messy (you should see the red splotches spattered over the recipe page), but the result is well worth it. The deep, spicy - not hot - flavor of the toasted chiles permeates the chicken and gives a terrific burnished color to the potatoes roasted alongside.

Sopa de Tortilla con Chile Pasilla, Queso Fresco y Aguacate (Tortilla Soup). We've been making this version of tortilla soup for years, however I always thought the idea of avocado in a hot soup was odd and so omitted it - without giving it a try, strangely enough. During our travels in Mexico this past year we were often served soups dotted with cubes of avocado. I learned that it's delicious! I guess there's usually a good reason for the ingredients in a recipe...

Arroz Blanco (Classic Mexican White Rice). We call this 'Lime Rice'. The rice is loose and fairly soft with a lovely savory base of chicken broth, onions and garlic, and an unexpected fresh lime scent and light tang.

Friday, September 26, 2008

O'Brien's IPA, Alpine Brewing Company

O'Brien's IPA

No, that's not a bad pour - that's what you want with a good San Diego Pale Ale. All of the fantastic aroma is up there in that white, lacy goodness. And since it was poured at home, there was no worry about getting maximum volume in the glass.

But enough about pouring - the beer is O'Brien's IPA from Alpine Brewing Company. Named for the fantastic San Diego pub of the same name, this beer is currently (in my opinion) the best offering from the best brewery in the best brewing county in the country.

The beer was reportedly inspired by Russian River's Blind Pig. I tasted them side-by-side yesterday (at, quite appropriately, O'Brien's), and I can definitely see the similarity - they both have an amazing citrusy hop aroma that carries over nicely into the taste. I think I like O'Brien's IPA just a bit better, though - it has just a touch more malt sweetness.

O'Brien's IPA

I've raved before about how reasonable Alpine's growler prices are. Our recent fills of O'Brien's IPA were only $8.59. Amazing. I just wish they had this beer available more often - they seem to be making it a couple of times a year and the generally sell out in just a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dogger's Tri-Tip

Marinade Ingredients

Several years ago, an issue of Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer" published the secret recipe for Dogger's Tri-Tip Marinade. Dogger was apparently a surfer from Santa Barbara who would barbecue some fantastic tri-tip at the beach using a cheap little hibachi. The recipe has found frequent use on our grill at home, so it was an easy choice for a campout dinner in Yosemite.

All you need is a cup of soy sauce, a bottle of lager (we usually use a Mexican beer like Pacifico), and a handful of whole garlic cloves. Put it in a ziplock bag along with a hunk of beef tri-tip and let it chill - in our case we left it on ice in the cooler while we went hiking for the day.

Marinating the Tri Tip

Back at camp, tired and hungry, the dish was easy to finish. We fired up some coals in our chimney:

Heating Coals

The tri-tip just needed a quick pat with some paper towels and it was ready to go.

Tri Tip on the Grill

Tri-tip is really an amazing cut of meat. It looks like a big roast that'll take forever, but in reality, it only takes about 25 minutes on the fire. The marinade helps give it a nice, caramelized crust.

Dogger's Tri Tip

Normally we'd cook this more rare, but I admit I'm a little out of practice with fire pit cooking. Nonetheless, it was still tender and juicy - with a flavor slightly sweet from the malt in the beer and perfectly seasoned by the soy.

Sliced Tri Tip

Wrapped in a warm tortilla with some fresh, chunky salsa, it made for a mighty successful - and easy - campfire cookout.

Tri Tip Taco

Here is the original story and recipe from the Fearless Flyer:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Campfire Cooking - Breakfast

Bacon and Biscuits Cooking

We just got back from a brief camping trip up in Yosemite. Sure, we enjoyed the sights to be seen in one of our nation's most impressive national parks, but we were most excited about doing some outdoor cooking!

When camping in the past, we have usually cooked over a propane stove. On this trip we were inspired by posts over at Cowgirl's Country Life and decided to do all of our cooking in the fire pit.

The most important camping meal is breakfast. Thick slices of homemade applewood-smoked bacon, eggs cooked sunny-side-up in the drippings (of course), and tin-pan-oven baked biscuits - all hot off the fire. What's not to like?

Campfire Breakfast

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Holiday Food - Mario Batali

Holiday Food

We've been fans of Mario Batali ever since we first saw his show Molto Mario on the Food Network (back when there used to be cooking shows on the Food Network). Now he's a celebrity and über-restaurateur, but has still managed to keep his success from turning him completely lame.

We own a number of Batali's cookbooks and like them all, but Holiday Food was our first and remains a favorite. It is a collection of recipes traditionally served during Christmas and New Year, but there is no reason not to make these dishes year-round.

Favorite Recipes:

Basic Tomato SauceBasic Tomato Sauce

Not really a recipe on its own, but a component in many other dishes. This simple tomato sauce (which we now just call "Mario Sauce") has become our household standard. You can find the recipe here.
Eggs In PurgatoryUova In Purgatorio
(Eggs In Purgatory)

Eggs poached in a fiery-red tomato sauce with caramelized onions and sprinkled with fresh basil.
Ravioli Alla SpigolaRavioli Alla Spigola
(Sea Bass Ravioli with Marjoram and Potatoes)

After making this dish initially according to the recipe I have to admit that we are now often lazy and omit the fish. Instead we add some cheese and have dubbed the modified version "Raviogies".

Polpette Alla Napoletana (Neapolitan Meatballs). Pecorino cheese and toasted pine nuts make these hefty meatballs truly different from any other meatball recipe we've tried. And the tomato sauce they simmer in becomes extra rich - perfect for a simple side of penne.

Broccoli Soffriti (Braised Broccoli). The Broccoli in question here is Broccoli Rabe, a somewhat bitter, more leafy version of the vegetable. Historically we've shied away from bitter greens, but this recipe, with it's garlic and salty anchovies has gotten us past that aversion.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Smoked Mackerel Mac N' Cheese

Smoked Mackerel Mac 'N Cheese

We recently smoked some mackerel, and for some reason it occurred to me that it might be good in Mac N' Cheese. It was. Maybe it should be called Mack N' Mac N' Cheese?

We like to use a nice, creamy cheese sauce for our Mac N' Cheese. We start with a basic milk-based white sauce to which we add sautéed shallot and a variety of cheeses (generally whatever we have in the fridge). This time, we used Gruyere and Irish Shannon, along with some Emmentaler, Mozzarella, and Sharp Cheddar that we had cold-smoked with apple and pecan wood.

We purchased the mackerel at Zion Market, a Korean market in Kearny Mesa. Here it is after being beheaded and cleaned:

Smoked Mackerel Mac 'N Cheese

After a quick brine, an overnight dry and 3 hours in the smoker (hot-smoked with hickory wood), here is what it looked like:

Smoked Mackerel Mac 'N Cheese

The smokiness from the mackerel and the smoked cheeses blended really nicely with the saltiness of the fish - this is a combo we'll definitely make again. Maybe with smoked salmon next time?