Peasant Food - Chilaquiles

A few weeks ago I was being bombarded by Bayless. Late one night battling insomnia I caught an old episode of "In the Kitchen with Julia" where Julia Child bought in other well respected chefs to make their signature dishes. Rick Bayless, credited with bringing real Mexican food to mainstream America made black beans, and black bean chilaquiles (chee-la-keel-ees. The next day I clicked on the interesting show "A Chef's Story" where the founder of the French Culinary Institute interviews chefs to discover how they got into the biz, and what drives them to continue their work. Bayless again. He spoke of how he travels to Mexico every year with staff members of his successful restaurants in Chicago to inspire everyone and remind them what their food is about.

That same day I was in possession of lots of leftover cooked chicken that needed using. It was too hot outside to make soup, and too hot for the chicken and dumplings I've been planning for months, ditto chicken pot pie - one of my favorite leftover iterations. A search for cooked chicken on Epicurious for inspiration yielded chilaquiles. I decided fate was telling me to make it. My stomach told me to make it with ingredients I knew I liked.

Rick Bayless took some of his cooked black beans pureed them, and poured them over just fried corn tortillas and baked it in the oven. I'm sure this was wonderful, but I wasn't about to begin cooking black beans from scratch, nor was I going to fry tortillas. Epicurious directed using store bought chips and green jarred salsa. I am picky about green salsa and don't often like it. I picked up a jar of roasted guajillo chile salsa with some chipotle in it, added a can of black beans and used my favorite store bought tortilla chips, Tostito's Restaurant Gold Chips. These are as close to the real thing you're going to come across in a supermarket. I sauteed some onion and a jalapeno in a soup pot. I added the salsa and chicken stock, boiled, reduced to a simmer and added the chicken and black beans. When they were heated through I added the whole bag of coarsely crushed chips. Let it heat through and soften the chips. I spooned it into bowls with shredded jack and a dollop of sour cream, the consistency of very thick stew. Thoroughly well received. Note I didn't add salt anywhere, the chips and chicken stock had plenty. Add more hot sauce if you like. Super great. Thinking back, I saw Rachel Ray (make a dish that had no EVOO!) make what she called green chicken chili, that was similar to the Epicurious original recipe.

Rick Bayless explained this is often a dish made to use up stale tortillas or when money was tight. Wikipedia says it's common for hangovers and for breakfast with an egg on top. True peasant food. Yumm. As water fills the basement on this very rainy day, I might finally get to making the chicken and dumplings.


Got Sushi?

Tonight we enjoyed a night on the town to celebrate my first check from my great new job. What better way to celebrate than to spend some of it? It's been awhile since we had a nice date night aside from our anniversary. Time to enjoy some of the best sushi in the 5 county area at Bluefin. The sushi chefs wear sleek black shirts with a mod fish with the phrase "Got Sushi?" below. I always forget it's BYO and forget to bring my favorite sake. Here's a brief recount of dinner complete with bad pictures from my Blackberry.

Wasabi shu mai. Well seasoned pork with wasabi rice dough. The wasabi is almost too much to handle, but these are exciting. 4 to a serving, I remembered the picture when there was one left.

Sushi sampler. Note the minimal amount of rice around the spicy tuna roll. The fish is the star and the rice is only a supporting role. The eel is plump and warm, more akin to a small mackerel than wimpy eel found in other places. I had 3 assorted rolls whose pictures couldn't be saved. Fresh king crab with asparagus and seaweed, and more eel atop spicy hamachi.

Hamachi Kame. Yellowfin tuna CHEEKS. These were truly the highlight of the evening. The crisped outside with rich flesh due to the presence of some bone similar in flavor to salmon but more cucumber-y. The skin was flaky and tender. I could have eaten only this and been happy.

Everyone gets some melon, a piece of tempura banana drizzled with honey, and an orange at the end of the meal. The tempura banana is divine. Why do Asian restaurants have the sweetest, juiciest oranges?

With the return of DINK status I hope to dine out more often and report back here. Do not miss Bluefin. Make a reservation or wait a long time for a table! 1017 Germantown Pike -Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462 Phone: (610) 277-3917.


Chiles Rellenos - Stuffed Peppers - A Mini Pictoral

I'm becoming a bigger fan of football. Not only because my husband has encyclopedic knowledge of every aspect of the game and history of the players, and not only because we have a better TV than most bars on the east coast (thanks to my in-laws!) but because it gives me a bar food audience. With loads of space and a service span of 3 hours of gametime, I can rock. Since I am an Eagles fan by marriage, last week I must say the food was better than the football. My stuffed peppers evolve beyond ground beef, rice and tomato. The way I learned from my Mexican brigade is the roast, stuff, and fry method. I was hoping for Poblano peppers but none were available so I opted for large jalapenos and made a twist on the commercial popper.

Hooray for gas powered cooking! This allows me to roast peppers on the burner. It's my preferred method because it removes the skin without cooking the flesh to mush, a hazard when roasting in the oven. Alternately it can be done under a broiler. After roasting all over, place in an airtight container so they continue to steam a bit. This will make the skin peel right off.

After steaming and cooling they are ready for peeling. I refrain from using water to assist getting the skins off, you wash away some flavor and as these are going to be fried it's best to keep them as dry as possible. After peeling I made an "L" shaped incision on the side, allowing me to remove some of seeds and stem root inside to make room for the filling. I made a rice mixture with chorizo and onion, and put a thick strip of mozzarella in each one so they'd be gooey.

Best beer batter recipe: 1 part dark beer to 1 part seasoned AP flour. Mix, and chill. Batter must be fried very cold to get crunchy, tempura like results. Slightly advanced fry technique - after dipping in the batter, dip 1/2 into hot oil and hold it there. Carefully. Once the batter puffs (about 5 seconds) it's OK to release. If you drop it in without holding, it will sink to the bottom and stick. If it sticks when you release it from the bottom it will most likely tear spilling out the contents. This is something I knew when I cooked professionally on a regular basis and quickly recalled after messing up my first one. Oops! Served over leftover filling minus mozz.

Jalapenos vary wildly in heat factor. Some are as mild as green bell peppers. These were as if they had an affair with a habanero on the vine. Roasting with seeds in also intensifies the heat. Despite having removed most of the seeds while stuffing, eating only 2 left me in a lot of pain. Not as much pain as Paul was in watching his Birds get stuffed and fried themselves.