Chiles en Nogada

WIN_20150924_182712 Chiles en Nogada is an amazing dish from Puebla, Mexico. The green poblano peppers, white creamy sauce, and red pomegranate seeds bring the colors of the Mexican flag together in one bright burst of flavor. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love Mexican cuisine… and of all of the Mexican dishes we’ve sampled, we love Chiles en Nogada the very most! It’s a beautiful, memorable dish to serve at a dinner party, and the completed dish freezes very well.

Many versions of Chiles en Nogada include Continue reading

Margaritas on a Budget (Cinco de Mayo, Part IV)

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! We’re capping off our four part series with margaritas, the ubiquitous Mexican dinner party beverage! It’s not difficult to find recipes for delicious margaritas – just do a quick web search. Every celebrity chef seems to have their own concoction, featuring one (or more) top shelf tequilas blended with other top shelf indulgences such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and Combier. I’m sure they’re delicious. The problem is, the ingredients for these celebrity-endorsed blends can easily set you back $100 or more… I am not joking. To Crowded Earth Kitchen sensibilities, shelling out that kind of cash for mixed drinks is simply insane.

Let’s plant our feet back on the ground and blend up a batch of Margaritas on a Budget. While you won’t find a recipe quite like this one endorsed by a celebrity chef, I’m confident that one taste will convince you… these are pretty darn good. Better still, you won’t have to choose between making a margarita or buying groceries for the rest of the week!

WIN_20150424_213323Ingredients (Makes 2 Margaritas)

1/2 of a lime, peel and all, cut in small pieces

1 teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 heaping tablespoon frozen limeade juice concentrate

10 ice cubes

1/4 cup white tequila (any brand)

2 tablespoons water (or use an extra 2 tablespoons of tequila)

For garnish: 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, plus 2 slices of lime

WIN_20150424_211814Directions

Step 1) Sprinkle sugar, salt, and grated lime zest on a small salad plate. Pour a few tablespoons of water onto another, separate salad plate.

Step 2) Dip the rims of two glasses into the plate of water, then dip into the plate of salt/sugar/lime zest. Stand glasses upright and place a slice of lime on each rim to complete the garnish.

Step 3) Combine chopped limes, juice concentrates, ice cubes, tequila, and water in a blender. Puree until smooth. If mixture is too thick to pour, add another 2-3 tablespoons of water.

Step 4) Pour into prepared glasses and serve immediately.

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Spiced Dulce de Leche (Cinco de Mayo, Part III)

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If an old fashioned caramel candy and a chai tea latte had a baby, the result might be Spiced Dulce de Leche. Pronounced “DOOL-say de le-CHAY”, this decadent dessert item is easy to prepare. Note that I said easy, not fast. We’re going to start with a quart of whole milk, add some sugar and spices, and s-l-o-w-l-y cook it down until it turns into caramelly goodness suitable for spooning onto ice cream, cookies, or just sampling right out of the pot!

WIN_20150423_150905Ingredients (Makes about 1 1/4 cups)

1 quart of whole (full fat) milk

1 cup of sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 vanilla bean, sliced in half the long way

1 star anise

WIN_20150423_1513302 whole allspice

2 whole cloves

Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients in a large skillet. Turn heat to low-medium, and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved.

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Appearance after 1 hour

Step 2) Cook and stir, cook and stir, cook and stir, for THREE HOURS. This process cannot be rushed… keep the heat low, give the ingredients a stir every few minutes, and be patient!

Step 3) After three hours, remove from heat and pour Spiced Dulce de Leche through a fine sieve. Pushing the sauce through with a rubber spatula is helpful.

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Appearance after 2 hours

Step 4) Don’t throw the spices in the sieve away… add them to your next cup of coffee for a homemade Caramel Macchiato. Divine!

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Appearance after 3 hours

Step 5) Either enjoy your Spiced Dulce de Leche within the next hour or two, or store it in the refrigerator. After being refrigerated, Spiced Dulce de Leche should be warmed slightly and stirred well before enjoying.

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Last step!

 

 

Dark Chocolate Mole with Chicken (Cinco de Mayo, Part II)

 

WIN_20150423_182747Mole (pronounced Moh-lay) is a “sauce” like Venus de Milo is just another statue. There are literally thousands of varieties of mole, most of which prominently feature chili peppers and branch out to include countless combinations of additional ingredients. Mole has been central to Mexican cooking since ancient times, and is considered by many to be the most widely recognized “Mexican food” in the world.

WIN_20150423_180012Moles are complex, slow simmering sauces… many ingredients may seem disharmonious at a glance, but when the flavors are properly teased out by grinding, roasting, and simmering, the end result is nothing short of magical.

If you’re hosting a dinner party, you can make mole two or three days ahead of time. The flavors will actually improve when allowed to rest for a few days! On the day of the party, you can offer the mole in it’s own dish for guests to enjoy however they wish, or spoon the mole over your featured meat. Today we’re enjoying Dark Chocolate Mole over roasted chicken, but the mole is just as delicious over pulled pork, grilled shrimp, or even cubes of roasted sweet potatoes and other root vegetables.

One last suggestion before we get started… mole is a great dish to prepare WITH someone rather than FOR someone! Pop in some mariachi music, make a few margaritas, and spend the afternoon creating this magical sauce with a friend. It’s a lovely way to spend the day!

WIN_20150423_153419Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups)

3 dried chili peppers (any varieties which smell good to you)

2 cups pork stock (or use chicken broth)

1 small tomato

1/2 of an onion

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 small corn tortilla

1/2 of a ripe banana

2 ounces dark chocolate (NOT milk chocolate)

Optional ingredients (See Step #8 below): lime juice, chili powder, peanut butter, salt

WIN_20150423_154611Directions

Step 1) Remove stems and seeds from dried peppers (I used one Ancho chili pepper, one Cascabel pepper, and one Chipotle pepper). Place dried peppers in a large skillet and heat over low-medium heat for three minutes, turning once. This step releases the fragrant oils in the peppers.

Step 2) While the peppers are heating, microwave 2 cups of good quality pork stock in a medium size bowl. The stock doesn’t need to boil, but should be pretty hot. Remove the bowl from the microwave, add the dried peppers to the bowl, and cover for 20 minutes. This softens the peppers and blends the “first layer” of flavors.

WIN_20150423_160528Step 3) While the peppers are soaking, let’s get started on the “second layer” of flavors. Add one small, chopped tomato, half of a chopped onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to your skillet. Sautee over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and are a pale golden color.

WIN_20150423_162211Step 4) Next, add 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 small corn tortilla (torn into pieces) to the skillet. Stir everything around over low-medium heat for another 5 minutes.

WIN_20150423_162611Step 5) Then, add 2 tablespoons of water and 1/2 of a banana (sliced) to the pan. Reduce the heat and sautee over low heat for 5 minutes.

Step 6) Transfer the contents of your skillet AND the bowl of peppers and pork stock to a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour the contents of the blender back into the skillet. This is where the real magic begins to happen…

WIN_20150423_164835Step 7) Sprinkle 2 ounces of chopped dark chocolate (at least 50% cacao, the higher the better) to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 8) Make your Mole your Own! Taste your Dark Chocolate Mole and decide if it needs one or more of the following… but don’t get carried away. Remember, you can always add more of an ingredient, but it’s not so easy to remove once it’s already in the pan! I recommend trying ONE extra ingredient at a time. You might add (optional!):

  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice to brighten things up
  • 1/2 teaspoon of hot chili powder for heat
  • 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter (whisked in) to add body
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (not my preference, but this is YOUR mole!)

Step 9) Serve with chicken – roasted in your own oven, or a rotisserie chicken that you picked up ready made… it doesn’t matter. The Dark Chocolate Mole is the star of this meal!

 

 

Mexican Chayote Salad (Cinco de Mayo Dinner, Part I)

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Cinco de Mayo is a great celebration not only in Mexico, but also in Mexican-American communities throughout the United States. Celebrated on May 5th (obviously), Cinco de Mayo is akin for many to the 4th of July. Both days offer an opportunity to celebrate heritage with family, friends, and great food. Crowded Earth Kitchen is happy to help you out with the great food part! Over the next few days, we’ll build the components of a delicious Cinco de Mayo meal.

WIN_20150419_121058Today we’re beginning with a simple salad featuring chayote, a vegetable native to Mexico. Chayote is a gourd, along with melons and squash. Resembling a wrinkled pear, chayote is low in calories and high in Vitamin C. Most chayote recipes are cooked… but chayote is actually quite crisp and delicious raw. The entire fruit – peel, seeds, and all – is completely edible. We’re taking advantage of that fact by simply washing our chayote and shaving it on the side of a box grater (a mandolin slicer would work just as well). From there, all we need is a bit of acid and spice. Delicious!

Ingredients (Makes 6 side dish servings)

Two chayote (should be firm when squeezed and the size of large pears)

Juice from one lime

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

WIN_20150419_121759Directions

Thinly shave chayote using the side of a box grater or a mandolin slicer. Toss chayote with lime juice and chili powder. Sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.