Mexican Tamales

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Authentic Mexican tamales recipe.

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Tamales, Mexican
Authentic Mexican tamale recipe
Course Breakfast, dinner
Cuisine Mexican
Servings
Ingredients
Course Breakfast, dinner
Cuisine Mexican
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the roast in a large pan and cover it with water. Slice half a large onion and add it to the water, along with the bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer til the meat is very tender. Drain and reserve liquid.
  2. Stem and seed the peppers. Place in bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit until soft, about 15 minutes.
  3. Drain peppers and reserve the liquid. Put peppers in blender. Rough-chop the other half of the onion and add to blender. Add garlic cloves. Blend, adding salt to taste and part of the reserved liquid and/or meat stock by tablespoons in turns until the chili sauce is the consistency of thick tomato sauce. Set aside.
  4. Mix shortening or lard with masa harina and baking powder until light and airy. Add 2 cups of the reserved pepper liquid and/or meat stock. Knead until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Add about 5 or so tablespoons of the chili pepper sauce to the masa mix in a food processor until the consistency is about like that of tomato paste and has a beautiful orangey-red color.
  6. Shred the cooked meat and put it in a skillet. Chop half the second onion and add to skillet, along with the chili sauce. Simmer about 10 or 15 minutes to marry the flavors and reduce to a thick consistency.
  7. Slice potatoes or carrots into 1/4-inch thick sticks. These will go inside the tamales.
  8. Soak dried corn husks in hot water in a flat pan held down with a plate or pot lid until they are soft and pliable.
  9. Assemble the tamales: spread a couple of tablespoons of the masa mix on a soaked corn husk. If the masa mixture is the right consistency, it will not stick to the corn husk. Another test is to drop a little ball of it into a cup of water. If it floats, it's the right consistency.
  10. Spoon on about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture. Place an olive and a potato or carrot stick on top.
  11. Fold the corn husk over the filling. It's good if there is masa on the edge because it helps the tamale stay folded. Fold the narrow end of the tamale over the rest of it to make a neat pocket. Continue assembling the tamales until the filling is used up.
  12. Put a couple of inches of water in the bottom of a large pot and put a steamer rack over the water. Stand the tamales upright on the folded end on the rack. There should be enough tamales to fill the pot but not so many that they are packed tightly because they expand when they cook.
  13. Cover the pot with foil and the pot lid. You could also use the extra corn husks to cover them.
  14. Bring to a simmer and steam about 30 - 45 minutes. Masa should be the consistency of firm polenta and the potato/carrot sticks should be cooked and tender.
Recipe Notes

Cooking the meat, making the chili sauce, and even cooking the meat with the chili sauce can be done a day or so in advance.

Do not mix the dough until just before you fill the tamales.

If you want to get fancy, tie off the folded tamales with narrow strings pulled from the corn husks.

Leftover tamales are even better the next day, fried up in a skillet with some eggs for breakfast.

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Egg Nog

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Homemade Christmas egg nog - delicious spiked or plain!

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Egg Nog
SO much better than store-bought!
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine eggs, sugar, milk and salt in the top of a double boiler with simmering water.
  2. Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats the spoon.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in the cream, vanilla and nutmeg.
  4. Chill overnight and serve cold. Garnish each cup with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Spike with brandy or whiskey, if desired.
Recipe Notes

If you overcook the egg nog and it isn't completely smooth, just use a stick blender to smooth it out. It won't affect the taste.

It's important to chill the egg nog for several hours before serving it. The flavors really come together and taste like the real deal. It's good right off the stove, but so much better after a few hours in the fridge.

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James’ True and Perfect Margarita Recipe

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A traditional, old-school, purist's margarita recipe - no fruit, no frills.

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Margarita, James' True and Perfect Recipe
This is a no-frills, original margarita recipe for old-school traditionalists.
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Rub rim of serving glass with squeezed lime rind. Invert into salt to salt the rim. Add a few ice cubes.
  2. Stir or shake the lime juice, agave syrup and tequila vigorously until syrup is dissolved.
  3. Pour over ice and serve.
Recipe Notes

Use a good tequila made with the tahona process, such as Fortaleza, Patrón or Casa Noble Organic. No need for aged tequila here.

For subtle salt flavor, skip the salted glass rim and use a salt shot glass to measure the lime and tequila, the kind of shot glass carved out of pink Himalayan salt.

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Homemade Tortilla Chips Recipe

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Crisp and warm, these homemade tortilla chips are fresher than store-bought. And they're easier than you might think!

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Tortilla Chips, Homemade
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Mexican
Servings
Ingredients
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Mexican
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cut tortilla rounds into triangles.
  2. Toss lightly and let dry slightly.
  3. While tortilla triangles are drying, heat one or two inches of neutral cooking oil to 365F in a heavy pot or skillet.
  4. Carefully slide several tortilla triangles into the oil, enough to fill the surface in a single layer. Do not crowd the pan. The tortillas WILL sizzle and pop. Use a splatter screen if you have one.
  5. After a minute or two, use a long-handled tongs to turn each piece. Let fry another minute or two until slightly brown and crispy.
  6. Remove chips from oil with a slotted spoon or strainer and put in a colander lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with a very small pinch of salt and toss lightly.
  7. Serve warm immediately with your favorite dip or let cool completely and seal tightly in a plastic bag. Use within three days.
Recipe Notes

This method works with commercially-packaged tortillas or with homemade tortillas. It even works with flour tortillas - frying time will be less than for the corn tortillas.

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Matzo Brei Recipe, a Jewish Passover Breakfast Dish

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Traditional matzoh brei recipe for Jewish Passover. Contains the basic recipe plus lots of variations for any taste, savory or sweet. Make it for breakfast or as a side to another main course.

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Matzo Brei Recipe, a Jewish Passover Breakfast Dish
Cuisine Jewish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Cuisine Jewish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Break up matzoh crackers into 1-inch pieces or smaller and soak in warm water or milk for no longer than 30 seconds. Drain well. Alternatively, put matzoh pieces in a colander and pour about a quart of hot water over them.
  2. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
  3. Whisk in 4 teaspoons milk, salt and pepper.
  4. Add softened matzoh pieces and stir well to coat.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add butter or oil.
  6. Add the matzoh mixture. You can add it altogether and stir during cooking to make something like scrambled eggs. Or you could add the matzoh in separate half-cupfuls and cook them like pancakes. Or you can cook the whole batch at once without stirring, but turn halfway through to make a large, omelette-like disk. In any case, cook until eggs are just cooked through. Remove to serving dish or plates.
  7. Serve warm or cold.
Recipe Notes

There are endless variations to matzoh brei. You can make it savory, as above, or sweet.

Making different-sized batches is easy: one egg per each matzoh cracker and season to taste.

Variations for savory: in addition to the salt and pepper, add a pinch of dried parsley, thyme or rosemary, or even a mixture of sauteed onions, mushrooms and herbs. This flavorful savory version can be used as a side dish similar to stuffing.

For sweet variations, omit pepper and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Serve with applesauce, a sprinkling of powdered sugar, grape jelly or some other kind of jam.

You could even go way off script and serve with hot sauce, though I don't think that's exactly traditional!

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Rosemary Pine Nut Crackers Recipe

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Make delicious, savory rosemary pine nut crackers at home from scratch. More tasty than commercial crackers plus simple and easy with this recipe.

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Crackers, Rosemary Pine Nut, Recipe
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen crackers
Ingredients
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen crackers
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Use an electric mixer to whip the butter until light and smooth.
  3. Add half the flour mixture to the butter and mix just until combined.
  4. Add the rosemary, pine nuts, egg, egg yolks and pepper. Mix until just combined.
  5. Add rest of flour mixture until just combined. Dough should not be dry. If it crumbles, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until it is moist and doesn’t crumble when pinched.
  6. Divide dough in half. Flatten it into thick rectangles. Wrap each rectangle in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C).
  8. Unwrap one rectangle of dough on floured surface. Roll to ¼-inch (0.6 cm) thick.
  9. Cut out crackers with cookie cutter. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool and store in airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Use fresh rosemary and chop it very finely for max flavor and to avoid getting rosemary leaves in your teeth when you eat them.

This dough freezes well if wrapped tightly. It will keep for 2-3 months. Thaw it out and bake up the crackers if you need a gift or have unexpected guests.

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Italian Rainbow Cookies Recipe

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Traditional Italian rainbow cookies; my New Jersey/Italian friends make these every year and this is their recipe. LOVE these almond-flavored goodies - so addictive. In addition to the wonderful flavor, they look marvelous, and you can make them any color combination you choose.

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Cookies, Italian Rainbow, Recipe
These instructions are for traditionally-colored Italian rainbow cookies. The photos are of my green ombré type. You can choose whatever colors you like for the layers; see the Recipe Notes at the bottom.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line three 9×13 cake or sheet pans with wax paper or parchment paper and grease with butter or spray with cooking spray.
  3. Break up almond paste in a large bowl, add butter, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in flour and salt. Set aside.
  4. In separate bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold into almond mixture.
  5. Separate batter into equal parts (about 1 1/2 cups each) in three different bowls. Add green color to one bowl and mix well. Add red color to another bowl and mix well. Leave third bowl plain.
  6. Spread batter into separate pans.
  7. Bake each pan for 8 minutes then turn and bake 7 minutes more, for a total of 15 minutes. Place pans on racks until completely cool.
  8. Invert green layer onto a large tray. Spread with half the raspberry preserves.
  9. Invert the plain layer on top and spread with other half of preserves. Invert red layer on top.
  10. Wrap in plastic wrap, place a heavy book or pan on top and refrigerate overnight.
  11. Combine chocolate chips, 4 tablespoons butter and light corn syrup over low heat and stir until melted.
  12. Cover the top of the cake with chocolate glaze and refrigerate until glaze sets. Turn over and cover the other side with glaze and let cool until that side sets.
  13. With serrated knife, trim edges of layers so they are squared.
  14. Cut the cake crosswise into eight sections about 1 1/2 inches wide. Then cut it lengthwise into twelve 3/4-inch sections to make about 96 small, layered cookies.
Recipe Notes

Make the cookies ombré by adding 5 drops of any color to one third of the batter, 10 drops of the same color to another third of the batter, and 15 drops to the final third. Eyeball it to see if you like the color gradation; remember that it's easy to add color, impossible to subtract it. Combine with darkest layer on plate, lighter layer in the middle and plain layer on top. Use seedless jam or preserves that match the color you choose or use a neutral-colored jam like apricot so the lines aren't distinct.

 

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Blue Cheese Sablés (French Butter Cookies) Recipe

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A tangy variation on the plain sablés, or French butter cookies. Adding blue cheese enhances the melt-in-your-mouth quality of these delicate little cookies. They are great for the holidays, they go wonderfully with tea and coffee, and you can keep some dough in the freezer ready to bake for last-minute sweets.

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Cookies, Blue Cheese Sablés (French Butter Cookies) Recipe
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat butter and cheese until completely blended, about 1 minute.
  2. Add sugar and salt and beat just until they are well mixed and creamy, about one minute longer. Do not overbeat.
  3. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating each just until completely mixed in. Stop beating once you have a cohesive batter.
  4. Stir in flour with a rubber spatula, stirring just until there is no dry flour left. The dough should be sandy but form a ball when pressed.
  5. Roll into a 2-inch thick log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerator for 4 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the log into 1/2-inch slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.
  8. Bake until the edges are light brown, about 18 minutes.
Recipe Notes

I recommend St. Agur or any double-cream blue cheese.

Do not overwork this dough. The less handling, the better.

This dough MUST rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before baking. Because there is no leavening, the butter is the rising agent. Therefore, the butter must be very chilled before they go into the oven.

Keep some of this dough in the freezer for last-minute gifts or unexpected guests.

It's traditional to stamp each dough slice before baking with a cookie stamp. This step is optional, but it's very charming in the end result.

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Sablés de Paris (French Butter Cookies) Recipe

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Light, delicate French butter cookies. Very easy to make and quick to bake. They almost melt in your mouth. Perfect for tea and coffee or holiday cookie plates.

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Cookies, Sablés de Paris (French Butter Cookies) Recipe
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8-10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen cookies
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8-10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
dozen cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift together sugar, salt and flour.
  3. Mix in butter and rub butter with fingers into flour until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Stir in the egg yolk(s) and vanilla.
  5. Form dough into two logs about 2 inches in diameter. If dough does not come together, add water one tablespoon at a time until it just forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
  6. Cut the logs into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Optionally, stamp each slice with a cookie stamp.
  7. Place slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until very lightly browned around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and allow cookies to cool for about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.
Recipe Notes

Roll the logs in sugar before slicing to get a crispy, sweet outer rim.

There are many variations of this recipe, including blue cheese and ginger/cardamom flavors. Check my blog post to see how to do them.

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Grilled Sesame Asparagus and White Onions Recipe

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One of my original recipes: grilled asparagus and white onions flavored with sesame oil. A great vegetarian side dish that also works well with green beans.

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Asparagus, Grilled Sesame, and White Onions Recipe
Course Brunch, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Brunch, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Wash and trim the asparagus.
  2. Peel and french cut the onion.
  3. Marinate asparagus and onions in a zipper bag with sesame oil and salt for at least an hour, turning several times.
  4. Preheat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Start grilling asparagus first.
  5. After 5 minutes, add onions to the pan.
  6. Once everything is crisp-tender, remove from heat and sprinkle with sesame seeds or toasted pine nuts for garnish, if desired.
  7. Serve warm.
Recipe Notes

This recipe works equally well with white asparagus or green beans instead of green asparagus.

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