Friday, May 28, 2010

Orange Chipotle Carnitas

Sheesh! It’s been a bit of a break since my last post but alas, I am back with another. I was trying out a vegetarian “fast” of sorts for a few days but am now back to carnivor-ism ☺ I had already made this dish a few weeks ago but didn’t do one of the steps that really and truly make it what it is. Any traditional-styled carnitas cannot begin to be deemed traditional if it is not fried in fat ☺. TRADITIONAL traditional carnitas (“little meats”) are fried in lard after being roasted or braised in the cook’s choices of liquid and spices. Outside of the flavor, the most crucial thing about carnitas that make them so weak-in-the-knees yummy is their texture.. melt-in-your-mouth tender yet crispy and caramelized.

You can simplify this kind of dish by skipping the frying as an afterthought and go straight to braising the meat IN melted lard and then finishing by cranking the heat so the meat crisps up. Shred and enjoy.

My Orange Chipotle Carnitas

3# Pork Shoulder/Butt – cut into 4 manageable peices
3 canned Chipotle chiles + 3 T. Adobo sauce
2 Oranges – zested & juiced
2 cloves Garlic – peeled
2-3 T. Lard or Shortening

~ In a food processor, combine chipotles, adobo, zest, juice and garlic – process til well combined.

~ Lay pieces of pork in a medium sized crockpot – pour orange chipotle mixture on top of meat and let cook on low for about 8 hrs (or dutchoven @ 300*F for 3 ½ - 4 hrs).

~ Remove meat from liquid (set liquid aside). Shred meat with a fork or by hand and set aside.

~ In a large sauté pan, heat left over liquid to a simmer & let reduce for about 5 minutes. Add shredded meat to the pan and toss to coat meat in the liquid. Let the meat brown for a minute before tossing a few more times until there is barely any liquid left in the pan and the meat is uniformly browned. Serve warm with desired accompaniments.

Warmed corn tortillas
Sliced onions
Diced tomatoes
Chopped Cilantro
Sliced Avocado
Sliced Radishes
Sour Cream
Refried Beans

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I used an extra orange (clementine) here for shits’n’giggles – who knows if it actually imparts more flavor? Lol
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See all the leftover liquid? A mix of rendered fat from the meat and the orange/chipotle liquids
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Shredded meat
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Rendered liquid reduc.
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Finished “frying”
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Heating my tortillas for tacos – Double the comal , double the fun!
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So that’s that. So simple. So satisfying.. You may see recipes out there that call for coke or pepsi, etc. I believe they even use soda for carnitas in mexico! Those are alright but I’ve made it that way and it produces a very sweet meat – something I didn’t much care for as a taco filler. (And that’s SUPER weird coming from me, the gal with the insatiable sweet tooth). I find the orange juice lends juuuust enough sweetness and won’t overpower any kind of chili/spice you put in there. I’ve seen a recipe floating around online that uses pineapple juice and soysauce, smh. Just say NO yall..


Orange on Foodista

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chili-Spiced Dark Fudge Brownies

Not really chipotle, but still chili related.. My recipe for rich dark fudgey brownies with delightful undertones of spice (in the flavor sense, not in the heat sense – these aren't hot brownies but they have lots of sensuous spicey flavor). I fashioned this one from a few recipes I'd found but decided to make the flavors more intense by using not only the chili powder but also brown sugar, freshly ground cinnamon & organic dark chocolate (the really good stuff, not the generic baker's chocolate).

The kids wanted so badly to bake something and I'd been meaning to re-do a batch so to the chefcave we went..

Chili-Spiced Dark Fudge Brownies

6 oz. Bittersweet/Dark chocolate – chopped
1 c. Butter – cut into pieces
1 ½ c. Brown Sugar
2 t. Vanilla Extract
4 Eggs
1 ½ c. Flour
1 T. Pasilla/Ancho Chili Powder (you can try chipotle too, but I'd add just a smidge less)
1 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Salt

~ Preheat oven to 350*F and grease a 9x13 in. baking dish.

~ In a microwaveable bowl, melt chocolate and butter in the microwave just until smooth. Mix in sugar to the melted chocolate and let this mixture cool a bit.

~ Whisk eggs into chocolate mixture, 1 @ x – blend well before each addition.

~ Whisk in flour, spices and salt. Pour the brownie batter into the greased dish and bake for 30-35 minutes – until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before serving (better the next day though IMO).

Makes 12 brownies.

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Cuttin' the buttah
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The fudgey finished result
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Feel free to make this with standard baking chocolate and whatever have you. Also, feel free to make it as organic as possible. Organic eggs, sugars, flour.. After writing that piece on child labor in chocolate production I decided to use organic chocolate as often as I possibly could. I would like to start becoming a more responsible consumer – an extraordinary feat in this day and age of mass production and bountiful sweatshops. But.. I'm going to do as much as I can and that's all anyone can do..

I was worried about the kids taking to the dark chocolate. They don't have chocolate much to begin with and when they do it's usually that toned down milk variety we're all used to, thanks to umpteen sugar-laden Halloweens and Easters.. BUT! They scarfed them down in no time flat. True, not the savoring approach I take and would like them to emulate BUT.. they ate them and liked them so I consider it ground covered in the battle of refining our tastebuds :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Roasted Mango Chipotle Shrimp w/Rice & Chilled Blackbean Salad

Second entry in my “Chipotle Theme” week. I can't rightly remember how I got the idea for this one, surely a rift off of something but I made it my own. Roasting the mangoes added a sweet complexity to the sauce in this dish, exactly what I was aiming for.

I really would have rather used raw fresh shrimp for this dish, and certainly will the next chance I get but.. the only shrimp I had available was pre-cooked frozen or arabian gulf shrimps. And if you've heard anything about Kuwait's recent-ish leaky sewage issues, you'll understand why I bolted for the frozen. But I believe the sauce would have penetrated the raw shrimp much better, making for a more comprehensively flavored dish.

Roasted Mango & Chipotle Shrimp

2 dz. Jumbo Shrimp – peeled & deveined
2 med. Mangoes – cut into strips
4 canned Chipotle Peppers + 2 T. Adobo sauce
1 Lime – juiced
¼ c. Olive oil
Salt – large pinch

~ Roast mangoes under a broiler for 10-15 minutes or until they just begin to char – Combine these in a blender with the chipotle + adobo, lime juice, olive oil and salt. Puree til smooth & let cool to room temp.

~ In a shallow dish, coat shrimps with mango/chipotle puree, cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. In the meantime, soak 8 bamboo skewers in water.

~ Skewer 3 shrimps to a bamboo skewer & grill shrimps for 2-4 minutes on either side or until the flesh turns milky white. Serve with Garlicky White Rice Pilaf.

Serves 4

Garlicky White Rice Pilaf (per Rick Bayless)

1 ½ c. med. White Rice
1 small White Onion - diced
Olive Oil
2 Garlic cloves – minced
1 ¾ c. Chicken Stock
1 Lime – juiced
Salt TT

~ Preheat oven to 350*F

~ Heat an oven proof 3qt saucepan over the stovetop - saute rice and onion in a swirl of olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic to the pot and saute another minute. Add in stock & cover with lid. Place the pot in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before seasoning with lime juice and salt. Fluff with fork.

In addition to this I made a chilled blackbean salad. It's got a few things going on in it but for simplicity sake, I'm just going to call it a blackbean salad.

Chilled Blackbean Salad w/Lime Cilantro Dressing

2 cans Blackbeans – drained & rinsed
1 c. fresh Corn off the cobb
2 vine ripe Tomatoes – diced
1 med. Chayote – diced
1 small Red Onion – thinly sliced
1 Bell Pepper (yellow, orange or red) – diced
2 lg Limes – juiced & zested
1 lg Jalapeno – seeds & membranes cut out & diced
½ c. Cilantro
¾ c. Olive Oil
Salt TT

~ In a large bowl combine blackbeans, corn, tomato, chayote, onion & bell pepper.

~ In a blender, process the lime, jalapeno, cilantro and olive oil til smooth. Toss with the diced vegetables and blackbeans and season with salt. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Mise – I love these indian alfonso mangoes. They have a certain creamy quality to them that I think make them stand out from other varieties. However, do with what you have. Any mango is a good mango in my book! Look for mangos that give a little when you squeeze them, to denote their ripeness. And generally when they begin to yellow and/or redden a bit like the ones pictured, that's another indicator of ripening (though not true for every type of mango).
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Roasted mango slices
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Sittin' happy – drinking up that spicy mango-ey goodness
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Let ch'ya see my grill..
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What you need for Garlicky Rice – tres simple
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Mise for Blackbean Salad
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Not a bad meal at all if I do say so.. This meal was made only for adults so I didn't skimp when it came to the spiciness of the chipotles. Went full strength on that. Admittedly though, the heat punch of a chipotle/jalapeno is not that hot. And funnily enough, I am one of those kinds of people who don't enjoy a very high level of heat in their food but I looove chili peppers and their flavors. So much so that they're the theme of my home kitchen.

But back to what I was saying about chilies and their heat, and I was talking with a friend about this a bit today.. Most chilies hold the hardest-hitting part of their heat in the seeds AND the white membrane/ribbing that anchors the seeds to the flesh of the chili. Some level of heat IS present in the flesh but for the most part, you can really cut down on the heat by discarding the innards of the chili.

And that “heat” I keep mentioning has a proper chemical name – Capsaicin. This was discovered by Christian Friedrich Bucholz in 1816 - and almost a hundred years later, in 1912, a man named Wilbur Scoville created a “scale” by which we could measure the spiciness of every variety of capsicum (pepper) family member known to man.

Mr. Scoville's test's accuracy however, is subject to the human palate as this is the medium by which his test registers heat. Some found this to be in error – not illogical since as humans we are apt to inaccuracy. Another unit of measurement was created by the American Spice Trade Association, using something called “High-Performance Liquid Chromatology”. Basically science science science and hey, I majored in food not chemistry so you're on your own figuring out the rest.. But essentially, Scoville's unit of heat measurement is still used in conjunction with the ASTAHU – they multiply their findings by 15 and come up with a number very close to what would be found on that pepper according to the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU).

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Just how I was saying I'm not a fan of spicy heat, some people are actually hardwired to enjoy the pain that is inflicted by capsaicin via consuming hot peppers/sauces. It is thought that the pain induces release of the euphoria-inducing hormones called endorphins. These neurotransmitters, oddly enough, help reduce pain so it's like this chemical paradox – consume, cause pain, release hormone that dulls pain, repeat. Ahh the human body..


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Raspberry Chipotle Lamb Chops w/Cilantro Lime Couscous

In honor of my great love for "sweet dinners" and piquant Mexican flavors, I've decided to do a 3 part blog on dishes using a fruit/chipotle flavor coupling. First in my series is a Mexican/North African fusion of Raspberry Chipotle Lamb Chops with Cilantro-Lime Couscous. I had found a delectably robust raspberry/chipotle barbecue sauce in the Sultan Center many months back and paired it with Lamb Chops (one of my husband's favorites). It came out so exquisite that I told myself I should try a “from-scratch” version of my own someday. With the abundance of canned chipotles stocked up in all markets here, I figured someday should be today..

Raspberry Chipotle Lamb Chops

2 dz Lamb Chops ½ in. thick – frenched
1 bag frozen Raspberries - thawed (or 2 cups fresh if you can afford/find them)
4 canned Chipotle peppers + 1 ½ T. Adobo sauce
1/3 c. Raspberry Vinegar (or red wine or a flavored balsamic works well too)
2/3 c. Vegetable Oil
2 T. Brown Sugar
2 cloves Garlic
Salt TT

~ In a blender, combine all ingredients aside from the chops (I remove the hot seeds from the peppers when cooking for the kids - otherwise the kick is rawther nice). Puree til smooth.

~ Divide chops between 2 large ziploc baggies or place them in a large container so that they can be arranged in a single layer. Divide puree between the 2 bags or coat the single layer of chops and cover with clingwrap. Set in the fridge to marinate overnight. (When ready to cook, grilling will be the best option but you may also use an indoor griddle or a cast iron pan. Ensure whatever you'll be using is screaming hot, in order to get a good sear).

~ Preheat oven to 350*F – On a white hot cooking surface, sear chops for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Season with salt, place chops in an oven-safe dish and slide into your preheated oven for 8-12 minutes until desired doneness (I like most of my meats on the medium side so around 8 min for me, longer for the kids obviously).

Serves 4-6

Cilantro Lime Couscous

1 ½ c. Quick cooking Couscous
2 ¼ c. Water
1 Lime – zested and juiced
½ c. Cilantro – chopped
1 T. Olive Oil
Salt TT

~ In a medium sauce pan bring water and lime juice to a boil then turn off heat – add couscous to the pot and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes to let the couscous absorb all the liquid,

~ Fluff couscous with a fork and mix in cilantro, lime zest, olive oil and salt. Serve in a warm dish.

Mise – don’t forget the garlic cloves. I did and I know they would have made the marinade that much better.
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Frenched/French-style simply means that the rib bones have been scraped clean

That sauce came out smooth – who knew a cheap black & decker blender could be so craptastic and so good @ the same time (R.I.P my beloved red beehive Oster)
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It’s too hot out to grill and I just wanted to get dinner done so I didn’t bother doing batches on my griddler. Cast iron it was!
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Couscous mise
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And eet is done!
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The sauce didn't come out looking anything like the bottled one I had bought, and was less intense on the heat and sweetness but this recipe still made for a nice juicy chop.. The kids went YUM for them!

Chipotle Peppers

Chipotles are a traditional Mexican ingredient that is wildly popular in the US, especially the southwestern region that has easier access to the good stuff. Majority of us know their spicy smoky goodness, and we know that they’re peppers, but not everyone I’ve met seems to know that they are the smoked & dried version of jalapeños. (Jalapeños are medium sized chilies (2-3 ½ in.), ranging in color from deep green to bright red and have a medium spicy heat (2500-8000 SHU) according to the Scoville scale).

The ancient Aztec peoples would smoke-dry jalapeños because traditional sun-drying would take too long to thoroughly dry the thick-skinned pepper before it rotted. The drying process has little effect on the heat of the chili.

The product most US consumers are familiar with is the chipotle morita – morita, meaning “little blackberry”, is a description of the black/dark-red/purple dried jalapeño that is produced in the Mexican state Chihuahua.
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Most Mexican consumers use chipotle meco (a.k.a ahumado, tipico), produced in south-central Mexico. These dried chilies resemble cigar butts, are tannish-grey in color and have a smokier flavor than their US preferred counterpart. It is known as the “authentic” chipotle pepper.
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*Side note, I tried getting a definition on “meco” out of the husband. He thought I was asking about “mecco”, which I won’t even mention the definition here but it was funny. Worth a mench.*

Chipotles are sold either in whole dried form, ground into powder, pickled, as a paste or canned in adobo sauce. They can be used in numerous ways – in salsas/sauces, rubs, salts, marinades, soups/stews and even in some creative desserts for those willing to step outside of their preconceived sweet comfort zone.

..More to follow :)


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Orange Mascarpone Crème studded with Cocoa Nibs & a Foodie Cause

Here's a new creation I made this week after looking through my pantry and noticing the pack of cocoa nibs I'd bought from Dean & Deluca a few weeks back. I immediately thought they'd be great mixed in with a tiramisu-type dessert, except my husband hates coffee so I had to back peddle a bit. Of course I've already shared my love of mascarpone, so that was alright as it was. I made a dinner the night before utilizing some clementines and thought that orange, chocolate and cream would be an attractive combination (there aren't a lot of fruits that don't pair well with chocolate, if any).

What ended up happening..

Orange Mascarpone Crème studded with Cocoa Nibs

1 8 oz. Tub Mascarpone
1 8 oz. Tub Cream or Neufchatel Cheese
1/2 c. Sugar
2 small Oranges – 1 zested & juiced
1/2 c. Heavy Cream
¼ c. Cocoa Nibs
2 oz. Dark Chocolate – broken into small bits & put in microwave safe bowl
4 delicate long Cookies (like pirouette, lace, tuille etc)

~ With an electric mixer blend mascarpone, cream cheese, sugar, orange & heavy cream on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Fold in cocoa nibs by hand then transfer this mixture to a large plastic ziploc baggie or pastry bag. Place the bag in the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

~ Gently melt the chocolate in a microwave, in small 10 second increments, until almost all the chocolate bits are melted. Stir continuously until completely smooth and let cool for a few minutes. Take a chilled glass (wine, parfait or other) and drizzle melted chocolate along the sides of the glass. Place the glasses in the fridge.

~ Cut remaining orange into decorative wedges

~ Snip off one corner of the baggie holding the cream mixture and pipe into chilled glasses. To serve, stick a long/thin cookie into the glass and garnish with an orange slice. Top with a few more cocoa nib

Serves 4

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Cocoa nibs..
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Chocolate Pirouette Cookies
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This is an incredibly easy dessert that you can prepare in less than 10 minutes (mascarpone is wicked awesome like that). You can dress it up with different flavors, types of chocolate and kinds of cookies like.. keylime, melba (raspberries/currants), blood oranges, meyer lemons, coffee, caramel, balsamic strawberries, figs, pistachios, almonds, mint, mangoes, white chocolate, tuille cookies, lady fingers.. A lot of possibilities. Ooh, I think next time I'm going to go with a white chocolate/melba combo!

Now I'd like to discuss for a bit, a new social issue that is very concerning to me as both a chef and a mother especially.. Child slave labor in chocolate production.

I think it's relatively safe to say that not many of us give a second thought to where that hershey bar/ kit kat/ butterfinger that we're in the middle of enjoying originated from. The United States is the top importer of chocolate in the world (worth $80bn!). And the top 2 cocoa producing countries lie in West Africa – Ghana & the Ivory Coast (together producing more than ½ the world's supply of chocolate). Both are known for their huge child labor trafficking problems. Over a quarter of a million children, some as young as 10, work the cocoa fields of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. They often do this in lieu of attending school and are frequently stolen from their parents and/or sold by family members to cocoa farmers. To learn more about this disconcerting issue, I recommend watching the BBC documentary “Chocolate - The Bitter Truth” (available for viewing as a 6pt series on youtube).

It's a pretty demented reality that while our children are enticed to sell candybars as a means of school fund-raising, it comes at the cost of another family giving up on their own children's education.

I know what you're thinking. How on earth am I supposed to know what products are child labor-free? I know... a lot of producers don't readily market the means of acquirement on their packaging. Luckily, modern consumers are starting a revolution. Fair Trade farming is making a splash – a concept meant to give farmers fair opportunity to sell their goods and fair payment for said goods. The hope is that if these farmers are paid an honest wage, they'll be less likely to need to drive down costs by using slave labor and if they do use children on their farms (which in some instances is completely socially acceptable) that they will compensate these families for their children's work monetarily or by providing them an education. There is a lot more to understand about the issue so I urge you to read through the link.

So when looking to buy chocolate, keep an eye out for fair trade labels on the packaging (reading labels is our most important resource as consumers). Chocolate is also one of those items that are smart to buy organically. West Africa doesn't really grown organic cocoa so, more than likely, chocolate marketed as such is child labor-free.

Let's start saying no to this..
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Where to buy Fair Trade Chocolate and other FT items: