Homemade Chipotles in Adobo Sauce

I just have to pass this along–chipotle peppers are something I use rather often. I think this will beat the tinned ones from the supermarket.

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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My favorite kind of chiles are chipotles because of their smokiness. Chipotles in adobo sauce, a sauce made from tomatoes and ancho chiles, are a great condiment. I love them for instance with chicken, mushrooms and cream. Chipotles in adobo sauce are available in cans, but since I like to make everything from scratch, I wanted to try making my own chipotles in adobo. I used a recipe by Pati’s Mexican table. It wasn’t hard at all, and the result was amazing. Chipotles in adobo from a can are great, but these homemade chipotles in adobo sauce have a more complex and well-rounded flavor. I will definitely make them again. I made a few adjustments, most importantly not using fresh tomatoes because they are out of season (and even if they were in season, tomatoes here are not that great). Here’s my version.

Ingredients

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For about 850 ml (3…

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Popcorn….

For the most part I’ll pass on “snacks foods” except for popcorn! I love popcorn–not the microwave bags that come from the supermarket–but made from real popcorn kernels that come in a jar or a bag with nothing added.

Sriracha sauce bottles

“Rooster” sauce

I tend to sprinkle my popcorn with garlic powder, or chilli powder, or…whatever seems appropriate at the time.

While browsing the internet I found two “recipes” for popcorn that I thought I should share just in case there might be other popcorn lovers out there somewhere.

One of the staples in my kitchen is Sriracha sauce–never mind the Texas Pete or the Tabasco, but must have Sriracha around.  I’d not though of using it with my favorite snack of popcorn, so when I stumbled on a reference to that I just had to check it out.

One is for rosemary parmesan popcorn and the other for Sriracha popcorn, both from Taste Love & Nourish–from someone who is obviously a popcorn lover too.

chili garlic sauce

chili garlic sauce

Since I like garlic with my popcorn, I think I’ll try this with my other favorite condiment Chili Garlic (from the makers of Rooster sauce) though the consistency is different, but worth a try as well.

I think I’ll get out the chili garlic stuff and a paper bag–though I do have a microwave popcorn popper that you can use as a bowl, so I guess I dispense with the paper bag.

Now what do I want for a beverage with this one?

Potato and cabbage soup

I like soup for a meal–if it’s a good hearty soup with lots of veggies and maybe some meat in it. All it takes is cold weather and I’m especially interested in soup. Well, we’ve got the cold weather right now and it’s apparently going to last a while, too. I’ve a small “dinner” ham–I’ve sliced part of it to use for sandwiches, and cubed part–some will go in mac ‘n’ cheese (in the rice cooker), and it seemed that part of it would be good for soup–some to eat now and some to freeze for later meals.

Looking in the fridge, I discovered a head of cabbage and some red potatoes, and, of course, ham.

  • a medium yellow onion, chopped and lightly browned in a scant tablespoon of bacon fat (or oil).
  • Two good serving of ham, in 1/2-inch cubes, browned.
  • Garlic, about 6 good-size cloves, coarsely chopped, and cooked with the ham and onion until it starts to smell fragrant.
  • several healthy shakes of hot red pepper flakes added and “toasted” with the ham an onions.
  • about 1/2 teaspoon of kala jeera (black cumin) added to toast just a bit with the contents of the pan.
  • Two bay leaves added to the pan.
  • Three cups water to degaze the good brown fond from the bottom of the pan (add more later if needed when all the ingredients are in the pot). Bring to a simmer.
  • Three medium red potatoes cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and added to the pot.
  • Cabbage, 1/2 small head cut into 3/4-inch pieces, or shredded if you prefer, added to the simmering pot. Add more water if needed to just barely cover.
  • Put the pot into a 250°F oven, and ignore for about 2 hours (I was working on an index and didn’t want to have to mind the pot on the stovetop).
cabbage, potato, and ham soup

meal in a bowl

Since cabbage keeps so well, I almost always have it in the crisper, and potatoes, too. I’ve done similar soups  (starting with the onions, potatoes, and cabbage–varying the seasoning, of course) with various sausages–kielbasa being a particular favorite. I’ve used leftover roast, steak, chicken, or chops in similar soups as well. If the meat is already cooked, I’ll use broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef) instead of water.

The kala jeera has a rather flowery flavor (and you want to use it in small amounts as it could be a bit overwhelming, but the hint of the floweriness was a nice contrast to the smokiness of the ham and the earthiness of the cabbage.

Cabbage with juniper berries

I’ve always liked cabbage–slaw, steamed, and even boiled if it was not cooked to mush. I’ll even just nuke a wedge with a little olive oil and salt sprinkled over it and call it a vegetable dish. It’s a good keeper that doesn’t get foul if it stays in the crisper for a while–especially if you just peel off the leaves from the outside of the head as you need them, instead of cutting the head in pieces.

Cover of book

Nigel Slater’s “Tender”

I’ve read a lot of Nigel Slater lately (Kitchen Diaries, Ripe, and Tender). I like his style: very descriptive of the garden, and the kitchen–almost makes me feel that I’m right there with him. I’m anticipating the followup volumes for Tender and Kitchen Diaries; his website is also well worth checking out.

Tender is a vegetable cookbook (as well as a gardening book)–not a vegetarian cookbook, though most recipes could be pretty easily adapted if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion.  The discussion of each vegetable includes cooking as well as growing information, and most delightfully, a discussion of seasonings for the vegetable.

His recipes are simple, designed to make the most of excellent fruits and vegetables without being at all fussy.  Quantities are rather loosely given, which makes it ideal for my improvisational style of cooking for myself (and the cat). I’ve found all sorts of thing I want to try, but here is one that particularly caught my fancy–perhaps because it’s fall, or maybe just because I had a head of cabbage in the crisper.

One of the seasoning he mentioned for cabbage was juniper berries. I’ve used juniper berries for other dishes, but can’t honestly say that I’d ever thought of trying them with cabbage.  Here’s what I did to try this out.

Cabbage with juniper berries

Ingredients

  • About 6 leaves from a medium head of cabbage
  • 3 juniper berries
  • dash of red pepper flakes if desired for spice
  • dash of salt to taste
  • small pat of butter

Preparation

  • Flatten the leaves on a cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces
  • Add crushed juniper berries, (see note below.), chili flakes if desired, and salt.
  • Toss the cabbage to distribute seasonings.
  • Add butter and 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Cover and microwave for about 4 to 6 minutes, until cabbage is still bright green, but tender (See NOTE).
  • Serve.

Cook’s notes

  • Though I used white cabbage, I’m sure this would be fine with red or savoy cabbage as well.
  • The juniper berries are very oily, so I did not put them in my spice grinder–I used a mortar and pestle that could be cleaned easily.
  • The microwave really seems to bring out the heat in the chili peppers, so add less than you might were you just going to sauté the cabbage.
  • The amount of water needed will depend on whether the cabbage is just washed and still wet, and/or how tight the cover is. I don’t usually use plastic wrap, but Pyrex bowls with vented covers, so I do lose some steam.
  • Sauté or steam-sauté would work as well–I just didn’t want to wash another pan when I was preparing this after a day of indexing work.

I’ve tried it now–right up there with caraway seeds.The combination is a winner–I’m not sure I can easily describe what the juniper berries do for the cabbage, but it certainly puts it in a different class from “boiled” cabbage that I grew up with and what is typical of “southern” cooking. I think it adds background earthiness and complexity to the flavor. It was no longer “just” cabbage!

It was a side for roast turkey thighs, but I can easily see this as a great side for pork, or most particularly for duck legs or duck confit.  I’ll certainly make it again–probably on many occasions.

I didn’t use extra virgin olive as I normally might with cabbage because I just could not get the flavors of that and the juniper berries together in my head. (Cabbage with a little extra virgin olive oil is excellent, though.) If I were making this to go with duck, I make it with duck fat instead of butter.

bowl of cooked cabbage

cabbage with juniper berries

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These links are to The Regulator Bookshop, my local, independent bookstore. I like to use them whenever possible–though I do sometimes go to Amazon.com. I have no connection with The Regulator Bookshop, such as an affiliate status–I just support local independent business when I can.  They are very efficient in processing orders, even if the book you want is not in stock.

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Chilli con carne redux update

I’ve finished the “fast” version of the chilli con carne that I posted about in Chilli Con Carne Redux!  I’ll concede that it’s only sort of faster in terms of the active prep time–it still needs to cook long and slowly, but it is a success.  I don’t think that I can tell the difference (tasted side-by-side with the more laborious version from the freezer) and friends have given it the nod of approval.  So here are the changes and additions to the original chilli con carne that I posted.

  • After the bacon browned, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste was added while the onions were sautéed, and this was browned–again to enhance the umami, not to add tomato flavor.
  •  None of the meat (pork or beef) was browned before adding liquids.
  •  Added bay leaves to increase the earthiness (used five large for this 6 pounds of meat).
  •  Added Mexican oregano–about 2 rounded teaspoons. (You really do want Mexican oregano for this–much different flavor than Turkish or Greek (Mediterranean) oregano–after all it is an unrelated plant, but worth having in the kitchen if you like chili.)
  •  Sun-dried tomatoes (about 1/2 cup chopped) were added for more umami even though this was NOT made in a slow cooker, I was not aiming for tomato-flavored chili.
  • During the cooking time I tasted some in a bowl with a little fish sauce added (yep, I did get up the nerve to try this) and it tasted wonderful; so I added about 4 or 5 tablespoons of fish sauce.  (I suspect that if you don’t have fish sauce a couple of anchovy filets thrown in would have the same effect.)
  • The final thickening was one with a brown roux made with masa harina.  For the fat in this roux I reserved about 1/4 cup of the fat from the de-fatting step.  I heated this and made sure that all liquid was evaporate, then added about 6 tablespoons of masa harina and cooked it until it was a medium brown and toasty smelling.
  • Because of my work schedule, this was cooked in a lower oven (about 195° F) for about 10 hours.

After another run on this I’ll have to post a revised recipe for the “fast” and easier version, but if you feel so inclined you can work with these changes–after all chili con carne is one of those things that really doesn’t need a recipe to be followed strictly.

Fresh rhizomes!

pomegranate tree, culinary ginger, and tumeric in large containers on deck

I’ve had a lovely display of tropical green plants this summer–and the fun (and flavors) of harvesting my own rhizomes from the “garden” on my front deck.  These two plants are worth having for the appearance, as well as the flavors from the leaves, stems, and rhizomes of both these plants.

As autumn progresses towards winter, these both will likely die back, but I can anticipate their reappearance in the spring. I doubt that I have enough light indoors (even with basic grow lights) to keep these plants alive, healthy, and flavorful, so I’ll just protect them from freezing, and wait as patiently as possible for spring! Neither of these seem difficult to grow here in NC: water, occasional fertilizer, and this is what I got to enjoy.

large plant of culinary ginger in pot

culinary ginger

The culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been a pleasure all summer–the rhizome that is most often used in cooking is wonderful when it’s harvested young!  It is not fibrous, and may not even need to be peeled; the flavor is milder than the mature rhizome that we usually retrieve from the market, and can be use fresh to add some spice (but not burn) to salads of both fruit and greens.  Fortunately, the rhizome grows very near the surface so that it’s easy to harvest as needed and allow it to just keep right on growing.  If you have well-established ginger, the young, tender stems are also edible, as well as the rhizome–and since I’m a ginger lover, I sometimes add them to salad greens.

The plants in this picture are from established rhizomes that wintered over undisturbed–I was very restrained in harvesting it last year.  With protection from of the rhizomes from freezing,  it came back this spring.  It’s now on my list of “must have” herbs and spices. I’ll be moving this humongous pot indoors, but I’m afraid that I really can’t provide enough light to have it thrive during the winter indoors, so I’ll be anticipating the reappearance next spring.

Turmeric plant

The other addition this summer (also from second-year rhizomes) was turmeric (Curcuma longa) which I like to use fresh. (The rhizomes can sometimes be found fresh in Latino or Asian food stores.)  This is also a tropical plant so I’ll try it indoors, but I doubt that I can give it enough light either–so I’ll have to wait for spring for more rhizomes.  Turmeric is sometimes called “Indian saffron” because of its flavor and color–and I like to add it to rice just as I would saffron.  (Warning:  It will stain almost anything so handle with care.)  The fresh root can be used in pickles, and I’m sure with some searching I’ll find more ways to use it. The young rhizomes, like those of ginger, and tender and not fibrous like the older, mature rhizomes. Though it seems to grow deeper I harvested it like the ginger, and it did not seem to harm the plants.

As well as the uses for the rhizome, the leaves can be used to wrap food for cooking, and possibly included in other Asian recipes for flavor–I’m looking forward to trying this before these lovely large green leaves are gone for the winter–possibly with some chicken thighs on the grill.  I’ve even found references to use of turmeric leaves and roots in sweet dishes as well as savory ones. I’ve always kept turmeric powder on hand in the spice cabinet just as I do ginger root, but the fresh turmeric has now earned a place in my list of “usual” herbs and spices as well!  Many new flavors to explore.

A son goût! 

Under-appreciated vegetables: celery

bunches of celery in the Harris Teeter produce department

celery

It seems that celery is a problem for many of us who do single-serving cooking!  I’ve seen comments to that effect in several cookbooks dedicated to cooking for one.  One of my “things” to do with that head of celery is to make mirpoix or soffrito and stash it in the freezer so that I’ll have it to facilitate making a quick meal.  That works, but you need only so much of that in the freezer and how many celery sticks can you munch on?  Buying the precut celery stick is the produce department is NOT  an option–they keep even less well than the whole head of celery.  Admittedly, I like celery ribs stuffed with peanut butter and pimento cheese, but again, how many can you–or should you–eat?  Or, buy it off the salad bar at the supermarket–but then you may not have it when you need it unless you’re willing to make a trip

One thing that I’ve found helpful is to store the celery in a partially open zipper-lock bag with a paper towel that’s been dampened and then squeezed as dry as possible.  This extends the storage time, but still I end up tossing a lot of celery on the compost heap.  There must be a better solution.

I think that perhaps the best solution to this is to recognize that celery is a vegetable with nutritional value and learn to use it as a vegetable and not just as a seasoning.  Until I started this research I was not aware of many recipes treating celery as a vegetable on its own.  (I’m not including its use in salads or as a snack, or even to add crunch to caponata.)  I’ve been looking for more celery recipes.

My first stop was my favorite vegetable cookbook (note that I did not say vegetarian cookbook), The Victory Garden Cookbook (see bibliography).  I was amazed at how many recipes were given for celery–I think that this goes to show my  under-appreciation of celery!  (Yes, I know it’s popular in stir-fries, too–but there’s a recipe for a stir-fry of celery as a veggie!)

There are recipes for braised celery (p. 79-80), celery slaw (p. 78), and salads (Celery Antipasto p. 78 and Celery Rice Salad, p. 78) as well as the expected Cream of Celery Soup (p. 81) I found a Chilled Celery-Lemon Soup (p. 81) that certainly looks intriguing as a way to use celery as a vegetable. There are other recipes here that look as if they have potential for celery as a vegetable.  (At least go to the library and check this book out and try some of these.)

I went to Eat Your Books and ran a search on the books that I’ve added to my bookshelf.  Turned out that there were lots of recipes for celeriac (later discussion), but I did not find many for simple stalk celery; here are a few of the ones that I did find:

  • Celery à la Grecque (Céleri à la Grecque) from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.
  • Braised celery stalks with onion, pancetta, and tomatoes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
  • Braised and gratinéed celery stalks with Parmesan cheese  from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
  • Risotto with celery from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

If you feel like trying this approach to the celery crisis that often afflicts those of us who do single-serving cooking here is a starting point–all it really takes is a trip to the library!  If you do an online search you need to search for “stalk celery”, “rib celery”, or “celery stalks” or you will probably get lots of recipes for “celeriac” or “celery root” which is a great vegetable, but likewise under-appreciated in American every-day cooking!

Another solution might be to search for recipes for Florence (bulb) fennel and substitute celery in some of those with possible changes of seasoning.

That is not a lot of recipes–I think that it likely reflects celery as seasoning, not as a vegetable, but I think well worth exploring.   Have celery–I’m going to experiment.  I’ll keep you posted!

A son goût!  

Cornish hen braised in milk

sage, cinnamon, garlic and lemon

I had an earlier post about braising chicken in milk, when I tried the recipe using chicken pieces since that gave me something more like a single serving.  Flavor was great, but I thought that for something a bit scaled down, but more in keeping with the original recipe, I would try this with a Cornish  hen and see how that worked. One of the advantages of these little birds is that they are more in keeping with  Jamie Oliver’s recipe, rather than the chicken parts that I tried originally. This might be a way to keep with the spirit of the original recipe, but scale it down to something closer to single-serving size.  While this is a recipe that might do well on second runs, I really don’t want as much as whole chicken would make.

Well, the weather has turned to fall with blowing leaves, and chilly temperatures so this seems an excellent time to try this again…and my grocery shopping provided me with a lovely price on a pair of (frozen) Cornish hens–about 1 to 1-1/4 pounds each.

A Cornish hen–either male or female regardless of calling it a “hen”–is a special breed of chicken (in the USA sometimes also called a poussin, though that is really French for a very young, small chicken that is usually about a pound in weight).  Since my supermarket does not offer poussins, but does have the Cornish hen (which is a young, hybrid chicken–of Rock Cornish with some other breed–not over 2 pounds by USDA specifications) that’s what I’ll use; I was fortunate enough to find some hens that were just about a pound or a pound and a quarter each.

While browsing some of my favorite blogs, I found a discussion of Jamie Oliver’s recipe–where an oversight  of lid on instead of off for part of the time was compared to the bird braised in an open pot.  This made me think of the French chicken in a pot that I had cook recently–one of the things that was  impressive about that was how the flavors seemed to permeate the meat itself.  I decided to try this with the  lid on for part of the time just for that reason.  (I do have two Cornish hens–so maybe I need to do the same here–one each way!

One of the things I discovered when doing the chicken parts was that just because you are using 1 pound of chicken instead of 4 pounds, you might not want to just take a quarter of the seasoning ingredients–the flavor was good, but perhaps a bit on the wimpy side; so I have to find a way to optimize that when cutting the recipe to single-serving size.  I decided that this time, I will make up the seasonings and milk as if I were doing the large chicken (in the 2 cups of milk).  I thought I’d simmer the seasonings in the milk and taste to see what that was like, cool it and add what seemed appropriate for the size of my bird and my pot.

The petit brasier was a no go–too big around–so I used my 4-quart All-Clad pot as being the closest thing to a “small” dutch oven.  The whole stick of butter was obviously not necessary so I used just enough (about 2 tablespoons) with the olive oil (about 2 tablespoons as well) to brown the hen.  (One thing I did discover is that the skin on a Cornish hen is much more fragile and has much less fat under it than does a more mature chicken.)  Just the smell of the hen browning in the butter and the olive oil is fabulous!

browned bird on plate

There was not much fat in the cavity either so I returned about half of the butter/olive oil mixture to the pot with the chicken.  Giblets were mostly not included–just the neck, but I browned that and included it in the braising pot for  extra flavor.

So here’s my bird, browned, and ready to go back into the pot to braise with the seasoned milk.  (Next time I’m doing a Cornish hen or poussin, I think that I’ll try using just half the milk with half to three-quarters of seasonings even though these birds are only about a quarter the weight of the chicken called for in the original recipe.)

browned bird in the pot with milk and seasonings

After steeping the other seasonings in the warm milk, and then letting it cool a bit, I tasted it–very lemony and sage-y, but not much garlic or cinnamon yet; (that came out later in the braising process).  I divided the milk and the other seasonings in about half since that looked like about the right amount of liquid (the eyeball test!!).  It took about 1 cup of milk (and I added half the solids) so the rest went into the freezer for a repeat, or perhaps just to braise some chicken thighs or poach some breasts. ( I did put the cinnamon into the braising pot with this bird).

braised Cornish hen

Since it was a smaller bird and the braising liquid was already warm, I reduced the oven temperature to 325 ° F since I wanted enough braising time to let the flavors actually get into the meat (as it did in the French chicken in a pot).  I decided to go with lid-on for about 30 or 35 minutes and see how it looked then, and finish the braising with the lid off so that the liquids reduced more.

bird in pot after 30 minutes in the oven with lid off

lid off for about 30 minutes

After another 30 minutes in the oven with the lid off, the sauce has reduced some and it looks falling-off-the-bone tender.

Somewhere along the way, all those unlikely, highly individual, and potent seasonings have turned into a complex, earthy  taste and aroma.

I’m ready to eat!

Admittedly this does not look like it’s going to be a dish that lends itself to elegant presentation, but it’s certainly a keeper for comfort food.  Braised in a container that could go directly to the table it would make a nice casual presentation as the skin does brown more after the lid comes off.

•♦•«»•♦•

The  pot  that I used was just a bit deeper than I might have liked, but better too deep than too wide since that would need too much liquid to reduce by the time the hen was done.  Unfortunately, the bird was just a bit too tall to fit into my small chef’s pan–but this was close enough.  The sauce does look “curdled” but tastes wonderful!  Just the thing for a damp, drizzly, autumn or winter evening!

chocolate mug with sage-lemons IMG_4796The original recipe for a whole chicken would be great for causal company–this is definitely a keeper!   I had this with basmati rice, roasted baby carrots and baby zucchini.  Sautéed  spinach, or maybe broccoli raab would be good too.  I think that the slight bitterness of the broccoli raab would be a great contrast to the way that these seasonings meld into a very earthy background to the chicken.

A son goût!