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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tortilla Soup Quest/Challenge roundup #5

I can hardly believe that I started this quest almost a whole year ago.  Time definitely flies when you're having fun.  This is roundup numero cinco!  You  have linked up so many fantastic variations of Tortilla Soup over the last 11 months...and these are no exception.

I have been compiling a list of my favorite components to come up with my "ULTIMATE" version.  I hope to make a couple more versions in this last month...and to have as many more as possible linked up from YOU.  Yes, you!  Please join me in drooling over these bowls of Tortilla Soup...and hopefully adding more version to this caldo gigante!

Miranda from Mangoes and Chutney made a delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup that has "so much going on in this soup, it is fantastic. The white hominy gives it a flavor and texture I have never tasted before."  Okay.  I'm a believer!

Kate from Kate's Konfessions brought a Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup sure to warm us up in the winter...or anytime for that matter!

Next up is Christi from Grey Umbrella with a Chicken Tortilla Soup she calls "the easiest chicken tortilla soup!  (It's) delicious and filling, plus it freezes well."  Yum.

And just when you were beginning to wonder how many versions of Chicken Tortilla Soup are actually out there, Judy from Savoring Today brings another version to the table!  She likens it to having a burrito in a bowl and shares some great tips on how to make the best version possible.

Over at Uncanny Goodness, Milda put time and thought into her Roasted Chicken Tortilla Soup.  From the roasting of the chicken to the layering of the flavors, she brings us a fabulous SUPERbowl!

AmiNYC says "This soup comes together so quickly, you’re done almost as soon as you start. Everything in one pot, everything at one time. Can’t possibly be easier than that."  Check out her delicious Tortilla Soup with toasted spices I can almost smell from here over at From the Bookshelf.

Glennis of Can't Believe We Ate brings us Christina's World Famous Tortilla Soup, of which she says "Seriously yum...this is one of the very best Tortilla soups I’ve ever had.  So far."

Next up is this gorgeous Low Calorie Chicken Tortilla Soup brought to us by Candy of Eating Well on the Road, who developed this version because she loves a good hearty Tortilla Soup, but not the calories and sodium that sometimes accompany it.

Inspired by the film Tortilla Soup, my friend Deb from Kahakai Kitchen decided to go nuevo and bring some beautiful "arty" bowls of Tortilla Soup.  Not only was it tempting to the eyes, but also satisfying and delicious in the belly. I'm loving the guacamole in the bowl. So fun!

Trying my first version that was actually sort of sweet and laced with cinnamon here at girlichef, I loved the deep red satisfying broth in this Ancho Chicken Tortilla Soup.

I hope you'll join me in the last month of my quest to find the ULTIMATE TORTILLA SOUP!
Friday, April 29, 2011

Potato, Chickpea, & Radish Greens Curry w/ Lamb Sausage

Lamb sausage = tasty.  Hearty veg-laden green curry = magnificent.  Both combined = meh.

I thought this was going to be a brilliant combo.  Turns out I was incorrect. Ha!  I mean, it wasn't inedible or anything, but in my head, I pictures such dazzling results.  I imaged a meal that I'd be raving about for the rest of the day.  I'm not exactly sure "why"...but so goes life.  We decided to forge a little lamb sausage this month over at forging fromage and that is how these little sausage meatballs came to be.  I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my lamb sausage after I'd made it.  Links would have been ideal, but I didn't order any casings, so that was out of the question.  So, I thought perhaps patties placed atop the radish salad suggested in our forging fromage challenge.  But I'm not too fond of just radish greens raw and alone.  I suppose I could have combined it with other lettuces and green, but... I do however love any type of green once cooked.  And then I thought green curry and couldn't get it out of my I thought...why not!?

Well, I thought the combo of the potatoes with the chickpeas and radish greens tasted brilliant, but the sausage didn't end up "fitting".  I will definitely eat this curry again, but next time I will bulk-up on all of the veggies.  Really, I'd eat the sausage again, as well...just in a different application.
Lamb Sausage
yield: 1 lb.

1 garlic clove, minced
 2 Tbs. shallot, minced
 olive oil
¾ lb. lamb shoulder
¼ lb. pork fatback
1 tsp. smoked paprika
 scant tsp. cayenne
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. hatch chile powder
 ½ Tbs. kosher salt
 ¼ tsp. sugar

Sweat garlic & shallots in a little bit of olive oil in a pan over medium heat until translucent, ~2 minutes.  Cool completely.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Grind in a meat grinder, or pulse in batches in a food processor.  Chill for ~30 minutes.  Stuff into casings, or form into patties, etc.  Keeps, refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Potato, Chickpea, & Radish Greens Curry w/ Lamb Sausage
from the kitchen of girlichef
serves ~4-6

1 lb. lamb sausage, formed into ~32 mini-meatballs
(or make it a meatless curry and bulk up the veggies!)
1 sm. onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 jalapeño, sliced thinly
2 heaping Tbs. green curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand)
2 small potatoes, diced small (peel if you wish)
1 c. cooked chickpeas
3 c. water (or use ½ coconut milk)
2-3 big handfuls radish greens (sub other greens, if you wish)
salt, to taste
radishes, sliced thin to garnish
cilantro, to garnish
yogurt, to garnish

Heat a little glug of olive oil in a large, deep-sided pan over medium-high heat.  Add meatballs and sauté until browned all the way around (at which time, they should also be cooked through), ~7-8 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium and add onion, garlic, & jalapeños.  Sauté another couple of minutes, stirring, until softened.
Stir in the curry paste, then add potatoes, chickpeas, and water (& coconut milk, if using).  Raise heat and bring to a boil.  Partially cover, reduce heat to a simmer and let bubble gently for 5 minutes.  Stir in radish greens, partially cover again and continue to bubble gently for another 10 minutes or so.  The sauce should have thickened at this point.  Remove from heat and taste then adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary.

Serve with radish slices, cilantro, and yogurt to garnish.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes + Ham with Apple Cherry Maple Glaze

Val told me that her "ideal Easter menu would be ham and scalloped potatoes."  (I'm going to have to agree with you, BBFF.)  Since we just stayed home and had a quiet Easter meal this year, I wound up simplifying the menu a bit more than I'd originally planned. What resulted was the perfect balance and a meal that made everybody happy and content.
Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes
makes ~6-8 svgs.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small bits + more for pan
1/3 cup sharp Cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup garlic & fines herb Boursin, crumbled
2 pounds Idaho Russet Potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 cups heavy cream
 freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
4 fresh bay leaves
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 425° F.  Use a bit of softened butter to coat the inside of a 12" cast-iron (or other nonstick, oven-proof) skillet lightly.  Combine cheddar, mozzarella, and boursin in a bowl; toss and set aside.  

Set the prepared skillet over medium heat while you peel & thinly slice (~⅛"-¼" slices) the potatoes.  Do not rinse the potatoes once they have been sliced because you want to keep the natural starch on them.  Working quickly, layer half of the potatoes on the bottom of the skillet.
Sprinkle with half of the salt, half of the pepper, half of the butter, and half of the cheese mixture.  Layer the other half of the potatoes on top of that, then sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper.  Pour the cream evenly over this layer.  Grate a bit of fresh nutmeg evenly over the top, dot with remaining butter and set the bay leaves in.  Bring to a simmer for ~3 minutes.
Once this has simmered for ~3 minutes, sprinkle with the remaining cheese blend and top with the parmesan. 
Slide into the oven and bake for ~25 minutes, until top is golden and a bit bubbly.  Let sit a bit before serving.  I think the bay leaves make for a gorgeous presentation, and you can serve them, but just be sure to tell everybody to pick them off before eating.  That's one favorite bonus of mine...grabbing the bay leaf and carefully peeling the melty, chewy, salty, thin layer of cheese from the top and popping that in my mouth.  I'm such a cheeseslut.
As far as I'm concerned, if this were the only thing on my plate at any given meal, I'd be happier than a pig in mud.  You may even hear the leftover calling your name from the give in and try some cold.  I'm actually sitting here wishing that they were not long gone already.
And while I said that they were fantastic all alone, and I'd be satisfied with just a big plate may want to serve them along side a gorgeous ham.  If you do, might I recommend using a fantastic Apple-Cherry-Maple Glaze?

Apple-Cherry-Maple Glazed Ham
makes one 8 lb. ham

8 lb. smoked (fully-cooked) Ham, shank end
whole cloves
1/2 cup apple cherry juice concentrate
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chunky apple preserves
1/4 cup chunky cherry preserves
1/4 cup Belgian mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
freshly ground nutmeg, to taste

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Cut the skin off of the ham and score the fat in diamond shapes.  Stud the intersection of each cut with a clove.  Place ham on a rack inside of a roasting pan that has been lined with foil (or not...your choice...just makes for easier clean-up), cut side down.  Add a bit of water to the bottom of the pan (a few tablespoons).  Roast for ~2 hours (~15 minutes/lb.)

While the ham is cooking, bring the juice concentrate, maple syrup and both preserves to a bowl, lower and simmer for about a minute or so.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Set aside.

After 2 hours, crank the heat up to 425° F.  Brush about half of the glaze all over the ham and shut the oven door.  Cook for ~45 minutes more, brushing with the remaining glaze every fifteen minutes.  The skin should be shiny and browned when finished.
While these were our "perfect" meal this Easter, don't wait a whole 'nother year if you want to try them. These potatoes will make regular appearances at our table...and the flavors on the ham are brilliant.  Every once in a while, I'll make my own ham and slice it thin for sandwiches (or dice/shred it for salads or casseroles, etc.) throughout the next couple of weeks.  You can also use a butt end ham for this purpose to make for more useable meat (the shank is just slightly easier for presentation/slicing).

MAITRI ----> mystery, intrigue, and foodie fun

Soon I will receive a mystery box.  In this box will be a secret ingredient.  I will then use my culinary prowess to identify said ingredient.  Once this initial task is complete, I will head to the kitchen to create something magical with said ingredient.  I am sure drumming of fingers and crinkling of forehead will follow shortly, as I prepare my own mystery box to send to another participant eagerly anticipating their own adventure.
Intrigued?  Foodie and Mystery Lover? Just follow THESE CLUES to learn more.

(watch for my MAITRI post coming soon...)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sesame Seed Toffee Snaps (...or brittle for short)

I love buying those gigantor disks of brittle-type snacks when I stop by the Mexican market.  Do you know the ones I'm talking about?  They are basically the size of one of those huge rainbow-colored, twisted lollipops.  Minus the stick.  It's a hardened caramel or toffee packed with cacahuate, pepitas, mixed nuts, or sesame seeds all formed into a neat disk and wrapped in cellophane.  I like any kind and the type I choose usually depends on my mood.  And though I've never even tried to replicate it at home before, it is crazy simple.  I'm just afraid of how much I will eat if it's readily available at any moment of the day or night.  But today I decided to make a batch, just to see what would happen.  And guess what happened?  Exactly what I knew would.  My belly is lamenting are my thighs and bum and love handles.  When it's just sitting there, it really hard to pass it by without snapping off a little bite.  Well, 57 little bites probably equal more than the one disk I bring home from market.  Good thing I only made a third of what the original recipe intended.
Sesame Seed Toffee Snaps
...that's British-speak for Sesame Brittle

~3.34 oz. sugar
3 Tbs. water
2¼ oz. sesame seeds

Put your sugar and water into a pan on medium heat.  Stir a few times until it comes to the boil, then don't you dare stir it anymore (crystals will form and you'll be shnookered).  When the syrup reaches a light golden color, pour in the sesame seeds.  Swirl the pan around a bit so that the seeds get coated, but remember not to stir.  Continue to cook until the color is dark golden.  Immediately pour out onto a silpat (or a nonstick pan that has been oiled).  Use a palette knife to spread it out until it is ~¼" in thickness...or even thinner, if you can.
Let it sit and cool for ~15 minutes.  Now you one big slab of brittle ready to break into shards and bits.
Use immediately or store in an airtight container.  This is awesome crumbled over ice cream...with or without some hot apple pie alongside that ice cream.  Or try with pudding or mousse or anything you want to add a bit of crunch to.  The nuttiness of the sesame seeds tames the sweetness a bit.  Or just eat it out of hand; it is hard to resist.  I'm totally trying it with pepitas next time.  Which will be approximately 159 days from now.  You know, once I've worked this batch off.  Hurry up and get home family of mine, otherwise I'll eat it all by myself...
Our theme at IHCC this week is POTLUCK (anything Jamie Oliver goes).
I am also sharing this post with:
wanderfood-badge flash-back Friday Cookin' for my Captain
Monday, April 25, 2011

GARLIC BREAD (so good you're bound to get lucky...garlic breath and all)

I remember a mere seven days ago when I so naively squeezed gorgeous, roasted garlic from its skin and smooshed it between crusty bread.  And I lived in this ignorant bliss for many, many a year.  I thought that life could not possibly get any better than that.  Throw in a bottle of wine and some good cheese, maybe.  Well, world just got flipped on its head and then spun around by its knees (like watching one of the mind-blowing b-boys from 'So You Think You Can Dance'.  No longer is it required that I squeeze the garlic from the skins with my fingers onto my waiting loaf of bread.  No more licking my fingers to make sure I don't leave any behind.  From now on, I'll take my tender, pungent, deliciously addicting roasted garlic baked right into my bread.  Oh yeah, you heard me right.  One hand is all I need to convey the garlic and the bread into my hungry mouth.  That frees up my other hand for cheese holding ...and my other one for wine tipping...

Never you mind the fact that you need a good six hours from start to finish.  However, just one bite and those moments just melt away.  Your eyes will roll back in your head and something between a moan and a squeak will try to escape from deep down inside.  You will simultaneously be looking around for people to share this with and a place to hide it away so you can have it all to yourself.  If you already have someone to love, this'll keep 'em around.  If you're on the hunt, just keep this in your purse (or pocket, fellas) and see how many numbers you gather throughout the day.  Or, you may wake up to find yourself in a trance on a park bench with crumbs down your shirt and garlic on your breath.
Dan's Garlic Bread
reworked (by Dan) from Exceptional Breads by Dan Lepard to include a longer rise, less yeast, and less sugar via Living in the Kitchen with Puppies w/ my own wording mixed and jumbled in...
makes 3 loaves

200 ml water, at about 35° C-38° C (95° F-101° F)
1 tsp. fast acting yeast
200 grams strong white bakers flour (bread flour)

225 ml water at 20° C (68° F)
325 grams strong white bakers flour (bread flour)
10 grams sea salt
75 ml extra virgin olive oil

garlic filling
3 heads garlic, separated but not peeled
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
50 ml water
1 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. caster sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper I used white
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked & chopped

for the pre-ferment:
Stir in the yeast into the water,  when dissolved, stir in the flour until evenly combined.

Leave the mixture covered at warmish room temperature for ~2 hours, stirring the ferment once after an hour to bring the yeast in contact with new starch to ferment.
for the garlic filling:
Break the heads of garlic into cloves and place in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer for ~4 minutes.  Strain the garlic from the water, cover the cloves with cold water to cool then peel the skin from the garlic.

Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan, add the peeled garlic cloves to it and cook until they are lightly brown on the outside, stirring and shaking from time to time.  Take care not to burn them...this will render them unusable.  Combine the Balsamic vinegar and water, then add to pan along with the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for ~5 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to a thick caramel.  Garlic should be tender.  Scrape it into a small bowl and set aside.  This stuff is like candy to me.  Sooooo sticky and caramely and garlicky delicious!

back to the dough:
After ~2 hours, the pre-ferment should have doubled and look bubbly on the surface.
Measure the water into a bowl and tip the pre-ferment into it. Break it up with your fingers until only small thread-like bits remain (this is the elastic gluten you can feel in your fingers).

Add the flour and salt then stir the mixture together with your hands. It will feel very sticky and elastic. Scrape any remaining dough from your hands, then cover the bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Be sure to scrape around the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the dough.

Pour 2 Tbs. olive oil onto the surface of the dough and smooth it over the surface with your hands. Now rub a little oil on your hands and tuck your fingers down the side of the dough and pull the dough upward...stretching it out.  Rotate the dough around so that every part of the dough gets pulled and stretch.  The dough will begin to feel and look smoother.  Leave the dough in the bowl and cover, letting sit for 10 more minutes.

Repeat the pulling and stretching of the dough, for no more than ~10-12 seconds. You may find that an oily piece of dough breaks through the upper surface. This isn't a bad thing...but it is a sign to stop working the dough. Cover the bowl again and leave for a further 10 minutes.

This time oil a piece of the work surface about 30 cm (~12") in diameter. Oil your hands, pick the dough out of the bowl, place it on the oiled surface and knead it gently for 10-15 seconds. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

Uncover the dough, oil the work surface once more and flip the dough out onto it.  Stretch the dough out into a rectangle, then fold the right side in by a third.  Fold one more time so that you have a rectangle.  Then fold the in thirds one more time, so that you're left with a square dough parcel. Place this back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

Lightly oil the work surface again and stretch the dough out to cover an area roughly 30cm x 20cm (~12"x8"). Spread the garlic evenly over the ⅔ of the surface of the dough. Fold the bare piece of dough over a third of the garlic-covered dough, then roll this fold of dough over so that the remaining garlic-covered piece is now covered by dough, as well. Then fold this piece of dough in by a third...then in by a third again. Finally place the folded dough back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Wipe the oil off the work surface and lightly dust it with flour. Pin the dough out again as above and fold it in by thirds two more times (as you did above). Replace it in the bowl, cover and leave for a further 30 minutes.

Pin the dough out again fold it in by thirds two more times. Leave the dough for 10 more minutes.  I want to take this opportunity to mention how gorgeous this dough is...and what a pleasure it is to work with.  It started out a bit sticky, but once the "oil steps" were complete and after each rest period, it just turned light and fluffy like a pillow or a cloud.  You may be tempted to add more flour at first, when it still seems sticky...but don''ll all come together!

During this ten minutes, cover a large dinner tray (or the back of a sheet tray) with a tea-towel. Lightly dust it with white flour.

Set dough on a lightly floured cutting board and cut the dough into thirds, using a serrated knife.

Place the dough cut side up on the prepared (floured towel) tray, then pinch the fabric between each so that they stay separated.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave for 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 200° C (~400° F) during last 15-20 minutes of this time.  If you have a baking stone, place it on the middle rack of the oven.  Place a metal pan w/ sides on the bottom of the oven and bring a small pot of water to a boil.  If you don't have a baking stone, then simply dust the back of a baking sheet with semolina.

If using a baking stone, dust a pizza peel (or the back of a sheet tray or a small wooden cutting board w/ a handle, like I use) with semolina, then gently scoop the dough up from the cloth, lifting from end to end with your fingers...and place it on the peel.  Quickly slide it onto the hot stone and pour the boiling water into the tray at the bottom (for steam...and a crustier crust) and close the door quickly.  If not using a stone, transfer the loaves in the same manner to the prepared tray.  

Bake for 20-30 minutes (mine took 28), until loaves are a good, rich, golden brown.
I swooned mid-picture-taking when I snatched a slice from the cutting board and placed it in my mouth.  Soft and chewy and studded with sweet, mellow garlic...this is a bread of the gods.  I hurriedly snapped some more shots and half-stumbled in the side door while swooning and shouting to everyone that they HAD to get over here as fast as their legs would take them and eat a slice of this garlic bread.   Common consensus = Out of this world!

I am sharing this post with:
*Bread Baking Buddies (in conjunction w/ Bread Baking Babes) hosted by Babe Natashya at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies this month.
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