Monday, August 29, 2011

How to cut an onion and a little hiatus

Just so my 2 readers know that I have not dropped off the face of the Earth, I wanted to let you know that I'm having hand surgery on Wed and won't be able to type for about 6 weeks.  My surgery wasn't unexpected.  It was scheduled for the end of September and I had lots of plans for posts as I had planned lots of freezer cooking.  Last Monday I spent the day cooking.  It was my birthday and I decided I was going to do what I wanted to do, and that was get a jump start on cooking meals for the family while I was recovering.  TGIM insisted that he could handle dinner, but I didn't want to have to eat pasta and/or take out every night.  Plus, when he goes back to work (he really can't take 5 weeks off) he doesn't get home until 6pm, that's way too late for dinner to be STARTING!  Anyway, TGIM thought I was crazy for starting already, after all my surgery was another month away.  One thing you need to know about me is generally, I am not a procrastinator, you just never know what's going to happen.  If I have a free minute or day, I'll get a jump on something for the future.  Not 3 hours after he told me I was nuts the doctor's office called and said they could get me in next week if I wanted.  Oh man did I want!  Ever since then, I've been on this mad quest to fill the freezer, and I sure have!  The one thing I didn't do was to take pictures to blog about things.  I just didn't have the time.  I was spending a solid 8-10 hours a day in the kitchen. 

Thankfully my girlfriend, Andrea, was on board with bulk cooking some breakfasts and lunches so we got together this weekend and made our own version of Hot Pockets for our respective husbands and children.  They were so good and we figured they cost us $.50 each to make, plus we can say every ingredients in them!  There are more things that I want to show you how to make and I totally will when I'm recovered.  Andrea and I plan to keep our version of hot pockets around as a staple.

I will leave you with this, how to chop an onion.  It's really easy and generally you can do it in less time than it takes to get out those whacker thingies.  And washing a knife is much faster and easier than one of those whacker things. 
 First, cut your onion in half from tip to root.
 Chop off the tip
 Peel it (and forget to take a picture).  Then make vertical slices being careful not to cut all the way to the root.  You don't want the slices falling apart.
 Rotate 90 degrees and then slice down
Now you've got some nice chopped onions.  If you're most people, you're done.
 You see these big pieces?  They bug me.
 To avoid that, before you make your vertical slices, do some horizontal ones.  Then continue as before
No more big pieces!

Super easy, anyone can do it.  Except Andrea who had to leave the room when I was chopping.  Here's a little tip, if in your meal planning you're going to be using a lot of chopped onions, do them all at once and keep them in a glass container in the fridge.  It makes life so much easier to have things prepped.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flour Tortillas

TGIM loves a good corn torilla, so I learned how to make them.  He's a lucky man isn't he?  ha ha ha.  Personally, I would much rather have a flour tortilla.  I love a good thick, chewy flour tortilla.  Honestly, so does TGIM.  On the rare occasion when he's home AND inside while I'm making them it goes something like this.  Cook tortilla, TGIM eats tortilla.  Cook 2nd tortilla, put in warmer.  Cook 3rd tortilla, TGIM eats it.  Cook 4th tortilla, put in warmer.  This will pretty much go on until I start screaming at him and brandishing my rolling pin as a weapon.  The thing is crazy heavy and TGIM's is a little scared that I might do some damage if I manage to connect.  What he doesn't realize is that with the astronomical price I paid for it (I was at a Vendor Fair and it's hand made in my town from wood from 4 continents, it's magnificent) I would never actually harm it.

Flour Tortillas from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
 Here's what you need - flour, oil, salt, baking powder and milk. 
 Add 2 cups flour to your bowl
 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
 1 tsp salt
 give that a mix
 now drizzle 2 tsp oil over the flour mixture
 like this.  Don't dump it all in one spot.
 give that a mix too.
 The recipe calls for either milk or water but when you use milk, magic happens.
 Mix that up into a sticky dough.
 Then turn it to your floured counter to knead
 knead it for a few minutes.  It should feel like the tip of your ear.
 and form a nice ball
 cover it with plastic wrap and let it set for 30 minutes to relax the gluten
 if you don't have one of these Terra Cotta warmers, go to White Sands National Monument and get one!  Just kidding, you can get them anywhere.  You put it in your hot oven for 15 minutes and then in the bottom of your basket to keep the tortillas warm.
 Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  What I do is divide the dough in half (top left).  Then take 1 half the dough (top right) and divide that in half (bottom).  If you do it that way, you should end up with 8 equal sized pieces of dough.
 roll it into a little ball and then place on your floured counter and roll out until about 1/4 inch thick. 
 You know they're homemade when they're not a perfect circle.
 it's thin and pliable.  Place it on your cast iron skillet or comal
 You can see how it's puffing up.  After about 40 seconds, flip it over
 Cook the 2nd side for 30 - 60 seconds.
 Put them in your basket or plate (my warmer is under the towel) and serve warm
If it looks like this, your comal is too hot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Salsa Verde Carnitas

So we've made Salsa Verde and Corn Tortillas, what do we do with them?  Just kidding, I know you know what to do with them.  Today we're going to make Salsa Verde Carnitas.  Carnitas literally means "little meats" and is traditionally braised pork butt (it's really the shoulder and not the actual butt). After it's braised and shredded with forks it is roasted to crisp up the outside while the inside stays oh so tender.   

 The ingredients are few (just how I like it)  Pork butt (3ish pounds), salsa verde, chicken stock, an onion, cumin, and oregano
 Chop up the onion
 Toss it into a large pot or dutch oven.
 Trim the big pieces of fat off the pork.  Yes there's still that large spot but it was in the middle so I got it out later
 Place it in the pot on top of the onion
 2 cups of chicken stock
 2 cups of Salsa Verde
 1 Tbl cumin
 1 tsp oregano
 bring it to a boil and then cover and simmer 3-6 hours until you can shred it with 2 forks
 It's going to look like this when it's done.
 Next you want to skim the fat off the sauce and bring it to a boil to kill all the yucky stuff.  Reduce it by half.
 Shred the pork onto a baking sheet and place in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes
 until it is nice and crispy on the edges
 go ahead and try a piece right now.  It's just too yummy to pass up.
 spoon some of the sauce over the carnitas
try another piece, you want to make sure it tastes right.  You wouldn't want to serve a subpar meal to anyone, right?
Eat up in your favorite dish.  Here I made a taco with a little cilantro, onion and sour cream.  The next day we had some carnitas quesadillas for lunch. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Homemade Corn Tortillas

A few months ago I went to Chicago to visit a good friend of mine.  She loves to cook as much as I do and we spent several days in her kitchen cooking, enjoying a cocktail or 3 and listening to our "cooking music."  All in all, a wonderful few days.  When it was my turn to cook, we had what we affectionately referred to as.... Mexican Monday.  We spent all day in the kitchen cooking various Mexican dishes that she wanted to learn to make.  We made Red Chile Sauce and Salsa Verde, Albondigas, Guisado de Chile Verde (green chile stew), Chile Colorado, Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas and Tortillas.  With all the yummy food we made, you want to know what the big hit was????  The homemade tortillas.  TGIM wasn't surprised at all when I told him.  He thinks there are few things better than homemade tortillas.  While in Chicago we made flour ones (we'll get to those soon) I'm going to show you how to make corn tortillas. 

 Here's what you need.  Masa Harina, salt and water.  What is Masa Harina you ask?  Literally translated it means "dough flour."  The corn is soaked in lime before it's dried and ground into a flour.  This is what you use to make corn torillas, tamales, and other dishes.  Generally you can find it in the grocery store.

You need 2 cups of masa harina

 and a pinch of salt
 Then slowly add 1.5 cups of water to the bowl.   The child in the background playing with the tortilla press is optional.

 Mix it until it's firm yet springy.  If its too wet, add a little more masa, if too dry more water.  I know it's hard to tell what too wet/dry is.  You're going to have to test it
It should look like this.  Let it rest for 30 minutes or an hour if you have to referee screaming children.

 Line your tortilla press with wax paper.  You don't actually NEED a press, a rolling pin will work fine.  I just couldn't resist a pink tortilla press.  It was less that $20 from the Mexican Grocery store.
 Grab a golf ball size piece of dough.  Roll it into a ball.  Forget to take a picture of that.
 Place it on your tortilla press.  You REALLY need the wax paper or it will stick.

 Give up and let children push the press.  It's just easier to let them do it.  For the purposes of this blog, this is Robin, as in Robin Hood.  He and his little brother are obsessed with Robin Hood and run around most of the day stealing from the tax collectors.  At least they have imaginations, right????
 Here's Little John, shoving his face in front of the camera.

When you open the press, you'll have this little beauty!  Carefully peel the wax paper from the top and then lay it across your hand.

and peel the other piece of wax paper off.  Replace the wax paper on the press.

 I use a comal which is pretty much a cast iron skillet without sides.  If you don't have one, you can use a skillet.  Although if you're going to make tortillas a lot, or quesadillas, grilled cheese etc.  I suggest you invest in one.  This one is mine via marriage, TGIM brought it to the relationship, but I've taken it over.   Cook them on a hot UNOILED comal/skillet for about a minute on each side and either eat immediately, or wrap them up and reheat when you're ready. 

 This made 19 tortillas.
We had chicken tacos a la King Taco.  Just some chicken, onions, cilantro and salsa verde.  I did add a dollop of sour cream.  After all, even though I have a Hispanic last name, I'm not actually Mexican.  LOL!  TGIM said these tacos were almost as good as King Taco.  If you've ever been to Los Angeles and had one, you know what he's saying.  If you haven't, I suggest you get one ASAP!