Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce

Next up in Mexican week: chicken enchiladas from Truly Mexican.  I love this cookbook because the focus is on flavorful sauces, salsas, and dips, which can then be combined in tons of ways to make different dishes.  Here, the star of the show is a slightly spicy tomato-based sauce with a hint of cinnamon (sounds weird, but it works!).  I was really impressed at how flavorful the sauce was with just a few ingredients.  You can make it ahead of time and stash in the fridge to save time the night of cooking.

Although I love all sorts of enchiladas (as you can tell from the huge number I've posted on this blog!), I think the key to an authentic enchialada is frying the tortillas.  Although it's an extra step and a little messy, it definitely takes them from Midwestern enchilada casserole to the real deal.  The fried tortillas are wrapped around chicken and then baked until just a little crispy around the edges.  Then they're smothered in delicious ranchero sauce and topped with lots of tasty toppings.  Courtesy of my goody bag from V&V Supremo, I drizzled on lots of super creamy Mexican crema and then sprinkled on mild, delicious queso fresco.  A flurry of cilantro finishes off the dish.

Mexican week: Stay tuned for chorizo huevos rancheros later this week, and check out my pescado tacos from Sunday!



Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce (adapted from Truly Mexican)
Serves 3-4

For the ranchero sauce:
750 g package San Marzano diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno chile, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 T olive oil
2/3 cup minced onion
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

For the enchiladas:
Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup minced white onion
2 cups cooked chicken (shredded or chopped)
8 corn tortillas

To serve:
Mexican crema
Grated queso fresco
Minced cilantro

1. Make the ranchero sauce.  Combine the tomatoes, jalapeno, and garlic in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.  When it shimmers, add the onion.  Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato mixture to the pan.  Add a little water to the blender jar, swish around, and add to the pan.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Stir in the sugar, salt, and cinnamon, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use right away or stash in the fridge to use within a few days (gently reheat before using). Keep warm.
3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Spray a baking dish with oil.
4. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat, and add the onions.  Cool about 5 minutes, until softened.  Add the chicken and 1/2 cup of the sauce, and cook until heated through.
5. Set aside a plate for the tortillas and have a stack of paper towels ready.
6. Heat 2 T olive oil in a small skillet until it shimmers.  Add a tortilla, and cook for 8-12 seconds on each side, until softened but not browned or crispy.  The oil should be hot enough that the tortilla sizzles -- if not, wait longer or turn up the heat.  Transfer the tortilla to a paper towel-lined plate, and blot with a paper towel.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas, adding more oil as necessary.
7. When all the tortillas are softened, fill each with about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture and roll tightly.  Place in the prepared baking dish.  Heat in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
8. Spoon the warm ranchero sauce over the tortillas.  Drizzle with crema, and sprinkle with queso fresco and cilantro.  Serve right away. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge without the crema, cheese, and cilantro, and reheat in the microwave for a couple of minutes before adding the toppings.

Full Disclosure: V&V Supremo sent me complimentary cheese and chorizo to sample; all opinions and recipe testing are my own.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Chicken Udon Noodle Soup

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Claire of Claire K Creations.  This month, my sweetie was sick and so I was in search of a chicken noodle soup recipe.  Claire had a fantastic recipe with an Asian twist that seemed like it would be a great choice.  I had to make a few substitutions because the grocery store was pretty sold out of things -- we're on our millionth blizzard of the year here in the Boston area! -- but the soup was still amazing. Ginger, shallots, and garlic make the broth super-fragrant, and the combination of chicken, carrots, and cauliflower is both filling and healthy.  You can definitely be flexible here -- snow peas, broccoli, or fennel would all be very tasty.  The soup is ladled over udon noodles, which are one of my favorites.  Finally, you can never go wrong with a sprinkle of fresh, green herbs on top -- they just brighten up the whole dish.  Fresh mint is fantastic, but cilantro, scallions, or parsley would be lovely too.  This soup will warm you up on a cold day, even if there's another blizzard on the way!



Chicken Udon Noodle Soup (adapted from Claire K Creations, original recipe here)

3 ounces udon noodles
1 T sesame oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 small chicken breast, diced (or sub shredded, cooked chicken if you have it on hand)
3 small carrots, diced
2 cups cauliflower, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
Fresh mint, to serve

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the udon noodles and cook according to package instructions.
2. Meanwhile, in a soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and ginger, and saute for about 5 minutes, until soft and transparent.  Add the chicken, carrots, and cauliflower and saute for another 5 minutes.
3. Add the chicken stock, soy sauce, and sugar.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the veggies are tender and the chicken is cooked through.
4. Rinse off several mint leaves and line them up in a stack.  Thinly slice.
5. To serve, add noodles to a bowl.  Top with a few ladles of soup.  Sprinkle with fresh mint leaves to serve.


Pescado Tacos, Nick's Way

I love living in Boston, but the Mexican food here is pretty sad compared to what we were used to in California.  One of the biggest things Tim and I miss is fish tacos...our favorites were from Nick's Crispy Tacos in San Francisco (in fact, we had these tacos the night we got engaged!).  V&V Supremo recently contacted me about sampling some of their Mexican dairy and chorizo products, and I knew it would be the perfect way to try and recreate some of my favorite Mexican dishes here on the East Coast.

These loaded tacos are crazy good, and while you could certainly make them with shredded cheddar and sour cream, using real deal Mexican ingredients takes them up another level.  Once the fish and tortillas are fried, you'll want to assemble quickly to eat these hot, so make sure to make or set out all your componets ahead of time -- salsa, guacamole, lime crema, and veggies.  This fried fish recipe is based on one from Aarti Paarti, and is originally flavored with Indian spices; with a Mexican twist, it's perfect for tacos.  The fish is piled on layered tortillas (with gooey melty cheese inside!), along with plently of creamy guacamole, crunchy cabbage, spicy salsa, tart lime crema, and herby cilantro.  I guarantee this is one of the best tacos you'll ever eat, and pretty dang close to the originals from Nick's!

This is Mexican week on Cupcake Muffin, so be on the lookout for chicken enchiladas and huevos rancheros with chorizo later this week!


Pescado Tacos, Nick's Way (inspired by Nick's Crispy Tacos, fried fish adapted from Aarti Paarti)

For the fish:
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne (more if you like it spicy)
2-1/2 malt vinegar
1 pound tilapia fillets (or use another mild white fish)

For the lime crema:
1/4 cup crema
Squeeze of lime juice (more to taste)
Pinch of salt

To assemble the tacos:
Thin, taco-sized corn tortillas
Shredded Chihuahua cheese
Shredded cabbage
Cilantro, minced
Guacamole (make your own, or purchase at the store)
Tomatillo salsa (make your own, or purchase at the store)

1. Marinate the fish.  In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, cumin, salt, and cayenne.  Add the malt vinegar, and stir until well combined.  Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces.  Rub the marinade all over the fish, and arrange on a large plate.  Cover with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to overnight).
2. Fry the fish.  Pour oil into a large, non-stick skillet to about 1/4-inch thick. You will probably need to either use two skillets or work in batches.
3. Meanwhile, pour a generous amount of rice flour onto a large plate and season generously with salt and pepper.
4. Test to see if the oil is hot -- sprinkle a bit of the rice flour into it, and if it sizzles right away, you're ready to go.
5. Dredge the fish in the rice flour, and then place into the hot oil.  Cook 3-4 minute son the first side and then flip and cook 2-3 minutes on the second side, until beautifully browned and crispy.
6. Make the lime crema.  Mix together the crema, lime juice, and salt. Set aside.
7. Prepare the tortillas.  Fry half the tortillas until just crispy in the oil.  Heat up the other half in the microwave, wrapped in a damp paper towel.
8. Make a mini stack for each taco: steamed tortilla, sprinkle of cheese, and then fried tortilla.  Then pile on toppings: lime crema, shredded cabbage, fried fish, minced cilantro, shredded cabbage, and a big scoop of guacamole.  Drizzle with green salsa to finish.

Full Disclosure: V&V Supremo sent me complimentary cheese and chorizo to sample; all opinions and recipe testing are my own.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Satay-Style Almond Chicken with Bok Choy

I have come to really love my broiler.  At our previous apartment, we had the sort that was at the very bottom of the oven, and it was very fussy -- things were always sliding out of place at the wrong moment and there was more than one dish that ended up on the floor.  Our new apartment has the type that's just part of the regular oven, so you can use the normal racks and your own pans, and I now use it at least once a week to broil chicken for salads, brown fritattas, and crisp up bar-style tortilla pizzas,  This dish is a perfect example of perfect broiler food -- it's done in just 10 minutes or so, and gets great flavor.

The first step is whisking up a quick almond satay sauce.  You can also use peanut butter here; I just happened to have almond butter on hand.  The sauce requires no cooking, and is insanely good.  I kind of want to make another batch just to keep in the fridge for dipping everything and anything!  The sauce coats bok choy and chicken breasts, both of which cook super fast under the broiler.  I may have let my bok choy go a little long, but I love that charred flavor! Keep a close eye and pull yours out early if you want less browning.  This recipe would also work well with broccoli or green beans on the side -- any quick-cooking green vegetable.  Just adjust the cooking time and pull out the veggies when they are tender.  Also on the side: leftover balsamic onions from this winter chicken salad.


Satay-Style Almond Chicken with Bok Choy (adapted from Sheet Pan Suppers)
Serves 2

Olive oil cooking spray
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 T packed dark brown sugar
1 T Sriracha
1 T rice vinegar
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 large bok choy, trimmed, leaves separated and rinsed well
1/2 to 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded thin and cut into 4 pieces

1. Preheat the oven to broil, and place a rack 4 inches from the heat.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and spray with oil.
2. Whisk together the almond butter, soy sauce, warm water, sesame oil, brown sugar, Sriracha, vinegar, and lime juice until smooth.  Set aside 1/4 cup in a separate bowl for serving.
3. Rub the bok choy and chicken with the remaining sauce to coat, and arrange in a single layer on the prepared pan.  Broil about 4 minutes, then remove the bok choy to a serving plate and flip the chicken. Return the chicken to the oven for another 5 minutes or so, until cooked through.  Keep a close eye throughout.
4. Serve hot, with the reserved dipping sauce on the side.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cheese Fondue

This recipe is an oldie but a goodie. It got pushed way down my Blogger draft list and never got posted, but even though it's been a while since I made it, it's too good not to share!  This recipe was a favorite among my group of college friends, and my family now often makes it on Christmas Eve.  It's pretty much the perfect recipe for sharing with a group because it's interactive and sure to lead to some laughter as people drip melted cheese everywhere.  For dipping, we've enjoyed apple chunks, steamed broccoli, cubes of white or whole-grain bread, and pears.


Cheese Fondue

1 cup vegetable stock
1 cup dry blush wine
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
Cornstarch, to thicken
Freshly grated black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon (more as needed)

1. Combine the vegetable stock and wine in a soup pot or Dutch oven, and bring to a simmer. Add the garlic.  Gradually whisk in the cheese, a bit at a time.  Don't add more cheese until the previous addition is completely melted -- this process will take a while but it's worth it!
2. Scoop about 1/3 cup of the cheese mixture into a small bowl, and whisk in 2 T cornstarch until smooth.  Whisk this back into the cheese sauce.  Add more cornstarch (using the same procedure) until the sauce is as thick as you like.
3. Season with pepper and lemon juice.
4. If the sauce seems lumpy, you can smooth it out by carefully mixing it in a blender until smooth.
5. Pour into a heated fondue pot.  Enjoy with chunks of apple, bread, or anything else you like for dipping.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Orange-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Farro

I'm a huge fan of pork tenderloin -- it's quick, delicious, and inexpensive (at least when we stock up at Trader Joe's). Here, it's slathered with a delicious orange marmalade sauce and then roasted to perfection.  I selected this recipe mostly because we had orange marmalade in the fridge that I wanted to use up, and I was very happy with the results.  On the side is a cranberry farro dish that's loosely inspired by the side mentioned in the original recipe.  Quick-cooking farro is another of my Trader Joe's finds, although you may be able to find it other places.  It's ready in just 10 minutes or so, making it even faster than white rice, and way more nutritious.  Here, the farro is combined with juicy dried cranberries, sharp scallions, and a bold Dijon-lemon dressing.  You could easily substitute brown rice, quinoa, or any other whole grain.  Next time, I will definitely make a double recipe of this side, because I think it would also pack really well for lunch.

Also on the side: simple roasted green beans + onions (just toss with olive oil and pop in the oven with the pork) and cubed honeydew melon.


Orange-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Farro (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 2-3

1/2 cup quick-cooking farro (i.e. Trader Joe's brand)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Salt
Olive oil
2 green onions, minced
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Lemon juice, to taste
1/3 cup orange marmalade
2 T rice vinegar
1 T lower-sodium soy sauce
1 pound pork tenderloin

1. Combine the farro and cranberries in a saucepan and cover with water by an inch or two.  Add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until the farro is tender.
2. Drain, and then add to a serving dish with the green onions, Dijon mustard, and another drizzle of olive oil.  Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and another pinch of salt, then stir and taste.  Add more lemon juice or salt to taste.  Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the marmalade, vinegar, and soy sauce.  Divide into two small bowls.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a cast iron (or other oven safe) skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, and when it's hot, brown the pork on all sides until well browned.  Glaze with half the glaze.
5. Pop the pork in the oven for 18 minutes.  Check to make sure the pork is cooked through (if not, pop it back in the oven for a bit.)  Then glaze with the remaining marmalade glaze.  Let rest about 5 minutes, and then slice and serve.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fried Fish Tacos

I made this recipe a while back, and it's a definite winner.  When we originally made Aarti Sequeira's hometown fried fish, I knew it would be amazing in tacos.  So, I paired it up with some taco fixings, also from Aarti's cookbook, for some really fabulous fish tacos.  Rice flour makes the fish super light and crispy, and the lime-mint mayo is boldly flavored and extra creamy.  We used shredded red cabbage and scallions for our crunchy veggie element, but shredded carrots, radishes, or romaine would be fantastic as well.  Whatever you choose, make sure to have lots of napkins on hand because these are messy!


Fried Fish Tacos (adapted from Aarti Paarti)
Serves 4

For the mint-lime mayo:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
Leaves from 8 sprigs fresh mint (about 1/2 cup)
2 tsp ground cumin
Zest and juice of 1 lime (more to taste)
Salt and pepper

To serve:
Taco-sized tortillas, warmed
Shredded red cabbage
Thinly sliced scallions
Lime wedges

1. Make the mint-lime mayo.  Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or mini prep, and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Set aside.
2. Then layer everything in warm tortillas: fried fish, a generous drizzle of mayo, shredded cabbage, and scallions.  Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over the tacos.