Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese Recipe

This soup is fantastic; it's Rick Bayless again. I love using the chicken meat from the stock in a similarly flavored dish, like chilaquiles, or the chicken enchiladas I made this week. It is less expensive to use the whole chicken, makes good use of it, and the soup tastes phenomenally better with homemade stock. This dish works well for the whole week because the components can be stored separately in the refrigerator until you want to assemble them. The broth is delicately flavored and provides a nice vehicle for the bold chipotle and goat cheese richness. Comforting and delicious, this soup has become one of my favorites.

Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese
from Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time

Serves 6 as a first course, 4 as a casual main dish

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rich-tasting pork lard, plus a little oil to spray or brush on the tortillas
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 small white onion, sliced
One 15 ounce good-quality whole tomatoes in juice, drained OR 12 ounces (2 medium small round or 4 to 6 plum) ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
6 cups good chicken broth, store-bought or homemade (I used homemade, see below)
8 ounces full-flavored mushrooms (I love shiitakes here), stemmed (discard the woody stems or finely chop them) and sliced 1/4 inch thick (you'll have a generous 2 cups slices) OR 1 1/2 ounces dried shiitake, chanterelle or porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then drained and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 corn tortillas
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, removed from the canning sauce
4 ounces goat cheese, cut or broken apart into roughly 1/2 inch cubes
1 large ripe avocade, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large bunch watercress, leaves only

1. The Soup. In a medium-large (4 quart)saucepan, heat the oil or lard over medium. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the garlic and onion, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible transfer to a food processor or blender; set the pan aside. Add the tomatoes to the garlic and onion and process to a smooth puree.

Set the saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly until it has thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and sliced mushrooms and bring to a boil, then partially cover and gently simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Tast and season with salt, usually 1/2 teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of your broth.

2. Toasting the Tortillas. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the tortillas in half, then cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips. Spread out the tortilla strips in a single layer on a baking sheet and spray or lightly brush with oil and toss to coat evenly. Set in the oven and bake, stirring around every couple of minutes or so, until lightly browned and crispy, about 8 minutes.

3. Serving the Soup. Cut open the chipotle chiles and scrape out their seeds. Cut the chiles into thin strips. In each soup bowl, place a portion of the cheese and cubed avocade, a generous sprinking of the watercress leaves and a few strips of chipotle. Ladle the broth into the bowls, top each with a little handful of crispy tortilla strips and you're ready to eat.

Working Ahead: Step 1 can be done several days in advance -- in fact, the soup gets better with a day or two for the flavors to mingle. Store made-ahead soup in the refrigerator, covered. Complete Steps 2 to 3 shortly before serving.

Caldo de Pollo Basico
From Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time

1 medium 3 1/2 pound chicken, preferably a good-tasting free-range one, cut into pieces (that's what I used) OR 3 pounds chicken wings or bones (such as necks or carcasses)
I medium white onion, sliced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
3 to 4 bay leaves (use the skinny Mexican bay laurel leaves for authentic flavor)
2 to 3 sprigs EACH fresh marjoram and thyme OR a generous 1/2 teaspoon EACH dried marjoram and thyme.

In a medium (6 quart) soup pot, combine the chicken, onion, garlic, bay, marjoram and thyme. Add 4 quarts of water, set over medium-high heat and let come to a simmer. Skim off the grayish foam that rises during the first few minutes of simmering, then partially cover and reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a very gentle simmer. If using a cut-up whole chicken, cook for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces, let cool until handleable and pull the meat from the bone (reserve it for enchiladas or the like); return the bones to the simmering broth for another hour. If using chicken wings or bones, let simmer for 2 hours.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Let the broth rest long enough for the fat to rise to the top, then spoon it off. Covered and refrigerated, the broth will keep for several days in the refrigerator. It freezes beautifully.

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Ancho and Guajillo Chile Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

This week was the premiere of Merce Cunningham's "Nearly Ninety", a tour de force of a dance created by the choreographer I performed with, whose dances I stage, whose technique I still teach. Ex-Cunningham dancers from all over the world descended on Brooklyn's Academy of Music to see Merce's latest creation, and to celebrate his ninetieth birthday. My dear friend and ex-colleague, Jeannie, now living in London, was one of them. She requested Mexican food (can't get it in London), and I happily obliged with ancho and guajillo chile chicken enchiladas and my version of Mexican rice and beans. What? I'm writing about Merce Cunningham and Mexican food? Merce's long-term partner, John Cage, loved a particular vegetarian tamale; is that a connection? Sure, I hear Merce say, and if not, we can just call it chance.

The choreography in "Nearly Ninety" is superb; tender, affectionate moments replace absurd ones, replace off-balance duets, replace nonchalant moments punctuated with humor, replace frenzied steps and near misses, replace sublime rhythmic changes, bizarre singular arm movements, and breathtaking subtlety. The dancers are exceptional, too, and perform leggy adagio of incredible strength and traveling jumps that change direction mid-stream. They are languid and sensual, and the next minute they dance so fast and sharp you nearly miss it. This ninety year-old man, whose physicality is now largely confined to the intellectual, created this? I was in awe. Again.

Humbled by our experience, and starving, Jeannie, my husband and I returned home to eat these cold enchiladas out of the pan, and reflect on our time with Merce. We all had important dancing to do while we were in his company, and, even though we knew it to be a significant part of Merce's philosophy that no one be seen as more special than another, now, witnessing again the grandiosity of his contribution to the world of art, we were able to recognize our truly small part in the more than 55 year history of Merce's work. It is bigger than all of us. Bigger than the many of us who share the honor of having worked with him put together. Maybe even huger than a theater built to house his collective audience over those 55 years. More collossal than that, I am sure. Happy birthday, Merce, and thank you for enriching my life in such limitless ways.

Ancho and Guajillo Chile Chicken Enchiladas

This is a very liberal adaptation from two recipes in Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time, but I changed things significantly, so I'm pretty sure I can call this my own.

For the sauce:

2 jalapenos
4 ancho chile peppers
4 guajillo chile peppers
1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes in sauce
4-6 ounces of creme fraiche
(1 teaspoon honey)

For the enchiladas:

The shredded meat from a cooked chicken (see the post Mushroom-Studded Tortilla Soup with Chipotle Chiles and Goat Cheese)
16 (or so) corn tortillas
2/3 of a cup shredded mild white cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, mixed
cilantro, for garnish

To make the sauce:

Toast the jalapenos, ancho and guajillo chiles in a dry pan over medium high heat until the jalapenos' skin turns black and blistery and the anchos and guajillos get toasted, but not burned. Set aside to cool.

In a large pot, heat the oil, and add the onion. Saute over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and stir a minute or so.

When the chiles are cool, add them to a food processor with the tomatoes, and puree into a smooth paste. Add the mixture to the pot of onions and garlic, and cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.

Add the creme fraiche to the pan, and taste the sauce. If it's a little bitter, add a touch of honey to balance the flavors. If not, forget the honey. Add salt to taste.

If the sauce looks too thick, add some water to thin it. It shouldn't be too thick, or your enchiladas will dry out in the oven.

Assembling the enchiladas:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the shredded chicken with a little of the enchilada sauce (about 1/2 cup) and add a little salt to taste.

Warm a few tortillas at a time in a pan until they soften. Fill them with a bit of chicken, and place the enchiladas, seam side down, side-by-side in a baking pan (I used two pans: one 8 x 8 inch pan and one 9 1/2 x 13 inch pan). Spoon the sauce over the rolled enchiladas (don't be stingy, I had extra sauce, even, for freezing.)

Top the enchiladas with the shredded cheese, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or so, or until the cheese browns. Serve with the chopped cilantro as garnish.

Banu's Rice and Beans

For the rice:

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 1/2 cups brown rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
5 cups water
juice of one lime

In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil, and saute the onion over medium-high heat until translucent. Add the tomato paste, and stir until the color darkens. Add the paprika and salt and stir a minute or so, until fragrant. Add the rice, stirring until all the grains are coated with the onion mixture, and then add the water. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice for about 30-35 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Take the rice off the heat, and stir in the lime juice.

For the beans:

4 bacon slices, cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 cup red wine
3 cups dried pinto beans
7 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 sprigs fresh epazote (you may leave this out, if you can't find it where you live)

Heat a large pot over medium high heat and cook the bacon until it is a little browned. Add the onion to the pot and cook until translucent (if there is not enough oil from the bacon in the pan, add some olive oil or vegetable oil). Add the jalapeno and cook until it softens. Add the garlic and the dried spices. Pour in the red wine, and stir everything until the wine reduces a bit. Stir in the pinto beans, and then the water, the oregano and the epazote (if using). Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the beans until tender, about 2 hours, perhaps more.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Good Friday Pancakes and Homemade Sausage Patties Recipes

My great grandmother, Elsie Berlin, born in the United States to German immigrant parents, made these yeast pancakes on Good Friday for her family. Her daughter-in-law, Ethel Berlin, continued the tradition, and, like her husband's mother, served warm fruit sauces and sausage patties on the side. The fruit was from the garden: home-canned summer apples and cherries, and additional fresh strawberries, announcing spring's arrival. My mother modified some things, added lemony blueberries, and, despite our pleading, she reserved this special meal for one day of the year. When I make Good Friday pancakes, I not only connect with my immediate and extended family, remembering the boisterous family gatherings of my childhood, but I connect to relatives long gone. We all worked from the same recipe afterall: we all beat six eggs, added flour, spilled the batter into a skillet, waited as the pancakes bubbled before flipping. Food as equalizer and catalyst for reflection. For more than four generations, these Good Friday pancakes are still conjuring memories and helping us to create new ones.

German Good Friday Pancakes
From Elsa Berlin

6 eggs, beaten with a mixer
2 cups warmed milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast, softened in a 1/4 cup warm water.
3 1/4 cups flour (I used 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour with germ, and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour.) You might need more or less flour. Add flour slowly, until you have a medium-thin batter.

Mix the beaten eggs with the milk, sugar and salt.
Add the flour, and stir until all lumps are gone. This should be a rather thin batter.
Add the yeast mixture.
Let stand, covered with a dish cloth, until it rises, usually more than an hour.
Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the batter, perhaps a little more, into a heated and oiled skillet. When the surface looks cooked on one side, flip to the other and cook briefly. These should be thicker than crepes.
Keep the stack warm in the oven while frying the others.

Blueberry Sauce

(adapted from a recipe from Christine Ogan)

1 cup frozen blueberries (I used wild blueberries.)
a little water, about 1/4 cup
juice of 1/2 lemon
1- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (or more, just to give a little body, not to turn the blueberries into a gluey mass)
a little lemon zest
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more, to taste)

Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until the cornstarch thickens the mixture slightly, and the blueberries are warm.

Cherry Sauce

(adapted from a recipe from Christine Ogan)

1 cup frozen cherries
a little water, about 1/4 cup
1- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (follow instructions as above)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more, to taste)

Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring, until the cornstarch thickens the mixture slightly, and the cherries are warm.

Fresh Strawberries with Tarragon

Slice some strawberries and mix with tarragon leaves. Add a little sugar, or agave nectar, if you like.

Homemade Sausage Patties

1 pound ground pork
2 shallots, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
sprinkle of cayenne, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
black pepper, to taste

Mix the ground pork with all the other ingredients. Form into patties, and cook in a wide skillet over medium high heat. When the patties are golden brown on one side, flip them, and cook for another 2 minutes or so on the other side.

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