Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mexican Street Food -- Beef on a Stick (or Not)

Ever watch those cooking shows where they travel the world and sample the local cuisine?  It seems like no matter where they go-- be it Asia, Africa, or South America-- there's always some street vendor cooking up tasty looking meat on some sort of stick, grilled on a flat top or over an open flame.  Sometimes it's chunks, but more often it's ground and liberally seasoned, so that they can make use of the tougher cuts of meat and scraps.

Here's my version, inspired by the streets of Mexico.  Quick, easy and tasty, this is great on it's own or wrapped in fresh tortillas.  I threw into it what I happened to have on hand, but this is a very flexible recipe and you can easily make it your own.  Don't have an ingredient or want to use something else-- no problem.  As long as there's meat and generous seasoning, it should be great, though I will say I think the sour cream is a must since it keeps the meat tender and moist.

INGREDIENTS

1.5 lbs ground beef (I used 85%)
1/2  cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
generous pinch of oregeno
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
Dash of cayenne
1 minced clove of garlic
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper (according to your tastes, but on the liberal side)

a few tbs. oil for cooking in if using a pan (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

1) If you are planning on grilling these and using bamboo skewers, then soak the skewers in water for at least 20 min.  However, the skewers are not absolutely necessary, and if you decide to cook these in a pan, the skewers will only get in the way.  To skewer or not-- the choice is yours.

2)  In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients until incorporated (except for the oil used in the pan).  Taking a small handful of meat, roll it into the size of a small sausage (about 3-4 in. long and an inch wide).  Continue until all the meat has been rolled into lengths.  If using the skewers, squeeze the meat around the skewer.

3)  If you are planning on cooking these in a pan, heat the oil in a nonstick pan over med. high to high heat.  If cooking on a grill, preheat to med-high.  Cook the meat lengths on one side, and then once browned, turn and brown the other side.  Make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked before removing from the heat.

4) Serve either in a tortilla or on its own, with a side of fresh salsa, guacamole, and queso. [The picture here includes a mango salsa I made after roasting some anaheim peppers and a bit of fresh guacamole.]

NOTES

This can easily be made with any type of meat, and you could also add some fresh cilantro or mint to give it a fresh taste.  Also, the spices can easily be changed to a different flavor profile and region (cumin, garlic and mint for Middle Eastern; curry, ginger, garlic, turmeric and garam masala for Indian, etc.)

Quick and very easy!  Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chocolate Espresso Flourless Torte

Just in time for Valentine's day! Who can say no to chocolate? And trust me when I tell you this is a chocoholic's dream come true.  Extremely dense and rich, a little goes a long way, and even better-- this is easy to make.  A definite favorite at the restaurant I work at.  The recipe comes from In the Hands of a Chef  by Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant.  Please note-- this makes A LOT considering how rich it is-- 1 9 inch torte or approx. 22 mini cakes (standard muffin tin).


INGREDIENTS

3 sticks (3/4 pound)   unsalted butter
1 cup   sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbs.   espresso or very strong coffee
12 oz. (1 bag)   semi sweet chocolate (in pieces)
1/4 lb (4- 1" squares)   unsweetened chocolate (in pieces)
6   large eggs (room temp.)
6   egg yolks (room temp.)

DIRECTIONS

1)  Over low heat, melt in a sauce pan the butter, sugar, and coffee. [I have used instant coffee in a pinch and just made it extremely strong-- about 3 tbs of instant coffee for the amount of water required.]  Once butter has melted, add in both kinds of chocolate, making sure not to bring it to a boil.  Remove from the heat, and whisk until smooth and silky.  Set it aside and let it cool.  [The recipe calls for it to sit at room temp for at least 12 hours, but I've let it cool all of half an hour and haven't had any problems.]

2)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut a piece of round parchment paper to fit inside of a 9" cake pan. [I use the nonstick aluminum foil. LOVE that stuff!]  Grease sides and bottom with butter or baking spray.  This cake WILL stick to even a non stick pan, so grease liberally.  [As an alternative, I have used a muffin tin, but haven't had great success with keeping the cakes from sticking, though you could also bake and serve it in a ramekin and just skip the parchment/foil in the bottom.]

3)  Beat the eggs and egg yolks until just mixed-- not foamy.  Stir in the chocolate mixture.  Pour the batter into your baking dish/pan of choice.  Place in a large roasting pan, and pour enough water into the roasting pan so that the water comes almost half way up your baking dish.  Carefully slide into the oven.

4)  Bake approximately 50-60 minutes for the 9" cake pan, and approximately 18-20 for a muffin tin or custard cup size-- you may have to play with the time depending on the size of your baking container.  The batter should be set, but still have a slightly wiggly center.  Remove from roasting pan and let cool for at least an hour.  If possible, let it rest overnight, if possible, in the fridge.  When ready to serve, invert onto a serving platter.  Sift with a little cocoa powder for presentation [optional].

MY NOTES

This is a very rich cake so a little goes a long way.  You may want to serve with some vanilla or coffee ice cream. 

Regarding the chocolate mixture, make sure you do cook it long enough that all the chocolate does melt.  Also do NOT put the mixture in the fridge to cool, if you choose to let it sit.

I'll post updates if I find a way to keep the cakes from sticking in the muffin tin.  I did try cutting out little mini circles of non stick foil and putting them in the bottom of each tin, but in some cases the foil floated away from the bottom, leaving me with a slightly uneven bottom.  I'll try it again, and perhaps just push down the foil to see if that ends up working out.

IDEAS

I'm awfully tempted to switch out the coffee for milk or cream to lighten up the flavor as an alternative.  I'm also curious to see what a little bit of flour might do to the mix (only about 1/2 cup or so).  I'll let you know how any experiments turn out.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Welcome to my Cooking Blog!

I wanted to welcome you all to my new blog.  I've thought about writing a cooking blog for some time now.  Though I spend most of my time chasing after my two girls or writing (I primarily write romance), I also spend a fair amount of time cooking.

I love experimenting in the kitchen, and I hope to share with you not only recipes, but also what seemed to work, what didn't work so well, and any other thoughts I had during the process.  It seems like as of late, I've been scouring through recipes and experimenting even more than usual, since I'm now working part time at a new restaurant.  There's no doubt this will offer up some inspiration.

For the most part, I tend to wing it when I cook-- not too unlike my writing really.  But I promise to do my best to keep track of measurements so that you'll have an accurate recipe to follow.  Though I prefer to cook savory over sweet, my recent job has me baking more than I ever thought possible.  The recipes have been great, so I think there will be a wide variety offered in the postings.

So let the cooking begin!  Thank you for stopping by and happy cooking!