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Roasted Red Pepper Soup

I had this at the Blue Boar in Midway years ago, and liked it so much that I started experimenting to recreate the flavor.  Its now a family favorite that I’m asked to make for the Christmas Eve jause and other special occasions.

Special tools:  Stick blender (no kitchen should be without one…)

1 medium onion, chopped
5+ garlic cloves mashed to paste
2 celery stalks chopped
8 whole red peppers, roasted, peeled with the seeds removed*
6 c. chicken stock
2 T tomato paste
bouquet garni of rosemary
1/4 tsp finely ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp butter
1/2 c. heavy cream

* I thought I should add that you remove the skin by roasting the whole peppers.  Canola oil all over, and then place on the BBQ or under the broiler, turning frequentlyl.  You want the skin to blister and blacken a little, not make charcoal.  When completely roasted on all sides, remove and place in a sealed container (a gallon size zip lock bag works well).  Allow to ‘sweat’ and cool enough to be handled.  Simply rub the skin off, and open up the pepper to remove the seeds.

In a 5 quart vessel, melt the butter over medium heat and introduce the onion and celery and cook until translucent.  Introduce the garlic and cook a couple of more minutes while stirring regularly.  Add the tomato paste and red peppers, stir and cook another five minutes.  Add the chicken stock and the bouquet garni (this simply means that the rosemary is tied in a pouch of cheesecloth, so you get the rosemary flavor, without have to pick the woody pieces out of your teeth ;-).  Add the pepper and salt.  Cook for 45-60 minutes, reducing heat slightly after about 15 minutes.Remove the bouquet garni and blend the soup smooth.  Adjust the seasonings, turn off the heat and add the cream.  Blend again until smooth.

Alternately, you can add the cream to individual servings, which gives you the opportunity to do a little expresso artistry (leaves, Christmas trees, etc…).  Basil leaves also make a nice garish.

(source: Andrew Piererer)

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I ended up making the chicken salad myself because I was not pleased with the commercial preparations we tested–and we tested a bunch of them. Most of them were unbearably bland and all of them seemed to ignore the concept of ‘mouth feel’, which means simply that it should ‘feel good’ in your mouth. Most of that has to do with ingredient size and texture–the size of the chop is more important to a good result than most people realize.

I’m going to give you two recipes–one is for a big batch, and the second for a small batch suitable for a lunch for four people or so.

OK, first the big batch:

3 rotisserie chickens, skinned, and carefully defleshed to remove fat and connective tissues.
1 whole celery bunch (you can use either hearts or regular)
1 large package of green onions (packages vary from place to place, but this would be about 36 small green onion stalks, or 24 thick ones)
8-10 whole pickles
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
8 tsp ground dillweed
2 c. good quality mayonnaise

The small batch:

1 cooked chicken breast or about 2 c. finely chopped white and dark meat chicken
2 stalks celery, sliced length-wise into four strips, then finely chopped
3 green onion stalks, thinly sliced
1 large dill pickle, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2-3 tsp ground dillweed
1/2 c. mayonnaise

Mix it up, taste, add more dill, salt or pepper as needed and serve on toasted bread.

Sounds good. I think I’ll go have some now.

(source: Andrew Pierder)

Eggs Mimosa (Deviled Eggs)

The biggest trick is to hard boil eggs correctly, which surprisingly, a lot of people don’t know how to do.  They are a versatile and easy to prepare appetizer with an unbelievable number of variations.  The ingredients that don’t change are egg yolks, mustard and Mayonnaise.  After that it’s all imagination.

12 large eggs
1/2 cup  Mayonnaise
2 TBSP Dijon Mustard
2 oz (1/2 can) Deviled Ham
1 stalk green onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1 Gallon freezer bag

Garnish:

Minced Spanish olives
Crumbled bacon
Paprika

Place a dozen eggs in a sauce pan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and turn it down to medium, allowing to boil another five minutes or so.  Turn off the heat and let stand (on the burner) for 15 minutes.  About five minutes before the eggs are finished cooking, fill a bowl with water and ice and let stand.  When the eggs are ready, drain the water and place the eggs in the ice water.  Leave them there until they are fully chilled (ice is melted).

While you are cooking the eggs, do your mis-en-place, mincing the scallion and celery and measuring out the spices.

Peeling the eggs is also a little bit of trick–I recommend breaking the shell on the fat end, and peeling from there.

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yokes and break them up with a fork in a medium-sized bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place the mixture in a gallon freezer bag and store in the fridge until your ready to assemble your appetizer.

I have a special tray for egg appetizers of this type, which makes it easier to handle the egg white halves, but a plate will do.  Cut one corner from the freezer bag and use it to pipe the mixture into the egg hollows.  Garish with olives, bacon and dust with paprika.

(source: Andrew Piereder)

Montreal Smoked Meat

Montreal smoked meat is not Pastrami, which all Canadians seem to know, but Americans don’t.  It is the same cut of meat, but the process and the spices are different.  Montreal smoked meat is sweeter, milder and with a more pronounced smoke flavor.

This is not easy.

It takes several days, special equipment and attention to detail.  You will need a smoker.  Go electric.  A charcoal smoker may be cheaper, but charcoal often produces off flavors.  You can buy a canister-type for about 50-60 bucks at Home Depot or Lowes.  I bought this one, and have been very pleased with it.

http://www.amazon.com/Brinkmann-810-7080-8-Gourmet-Electric-Smoker/dp/B0009WG6RA/ref=sr_1_17?s=garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1316699452&sr=1-17

  • Buy a five pound brisket and some aromatic wood (sold wherever they sell barbecues and smokers…).  I recommend Applewood.
  • You will also need some Prague powder, which is a type of curing salt.  There are two kinds–one for wet curing (No. 1) and one for dry curing (No. 2).  You will need the former.  It’s tough to find this locally, but you can purchase it on the internet (Amazon, eBay) inexpensively.  You will need about 2 oz. for one brisket, so a pound makes a lot of smoked meat.
  • Also by some dextrose, which is a chemical variant of sugar.  A pound of it is plenty for several briskets as well.
  • Also a big plastic container, with a tight-fitting lid,  that can hold a gallon of water with the brisket fully submerged AND that still fits in your fridge.
  • You will also need pickling spice.  There are commercially prepared varieties, but I think it’s best to roll your own.  You will need about four ounces in total.  The following basically just provides proportions, and I expect I will be changing them in the future.

Pickling Spice

• 3 Tbsp. Peppercorns
• 1 Tbsp. Dill Seed
• 2 tsp. Coriander Seed
• 1 Tbsp. Mustard Seed
• 1 tsp. Celery Seed
• 1 tsp. Fennel Seed

OK.  Assuming you have everything at hand, you will first make a brine in which the brisket should be completely submerged, under refrigeration, for 3-5 days.  A three pound brisket will be fine in three days.  A larger piece of meat will need four to five for the curing salt to fully penetrate to the center.

  • Set about a quart of water to boiling.  In the plastic container, dump 6 oz. of salt, 2 oz Prague Powder No. 1 and 2 oz. dextrose.  Place the boiling water over this mixture and stir to fully dissolve. (for a 12 lb brisket, double everything)
  • Add 3 qts cold water (or iced water) to bring the temperature down.(for a 12 lb brisket, double everything)
  • Put a pan on the stove and set the heat to medium high.  You are going to toast 2 oz. of the pickling spice mix until it’s nice and fragrant–usually in about five minutes.  I toast the peppercorns and dill seed together, then the Coriander and Fennel and then finally the celery and mustard seed.  Dump the spice mix into the water, wiping out the pan with a paper towel.  Add three cloves of crushed garlic and then the brisket, making sure that it’s fully submerged.  Cover and place in the fridge and forget about smoked meat for a few days.
  • The next step will be the smoking, which you will only do for a three hours.  The canister-type smoker I use has a bowl which holds a gallon of water, which adds moisture to the process.  Place chunks of applewood all around the burner, but don’t allow any wood to touch the burner where it could lead to flaming.  Place the water pan and then the grill into the unit, and your ready to smoke.
  • Remove the brisket from the brine.  Some people say you should rinse the meat, but I don’t subscribe to that view.  What you should do is toast another 2 oz. of spice mix as before and then grind it to powder.  You can do this with a food processor, but many prefer a specially-designated coffee-grinder just for spice grinding.  Add a 1/2 tsp of onion powder and 1/2 tsp of garlic powder to the ground spice mix and then pour half onto the brisket, speading it over the surface evenly.  Turn the meat and use the other half of the mix to complete the spice rub.
  • Now place the brisket onto the smoker grill and replace the cover, plugging the burner element into the power outlet and watch for a minute to insure that it starts smoking.  Check every 1/2 hour to insure that it’s still smoking.  If not, add more applewood.  I buy the big chunks to insure that I can get a good smoke on without having to replenish the wood. A word of warning here.  It’s a nice smelling smoke, as far as smoke goes, but it’s still smoke.  You would do well to move the smoker to some place away from the house and the neighbors if possible.
  • Believe it or not, you aren’t done yet 😉  The brisket will need to braise (Add 2 cups of water) for10-12 hours in a large roasting pan, with a tight tin-foil seal over it.  Set the temperature to 250 F. It will cook without the tin foil, but your whole house will smell like smoke 😉
  • When it’s done, allow to sit for 10 minutes and set the juices, then slice thinly, against the grain.  Seriously–the way you cut this makes a significant difference.

Serve on fresh, soft rye bread with French’s yellow mustard.  Traditional sides include a Kosher Dill pickle, coleslaw and French fries.  If it’s not all gone in one sitting, place it in a zip lock freezer bag and refrigerate.  It will stay good for quite a will since it’s a cured meat at this point.  It’s actually easier to slice when it’s cold, but warm the sliced meat in the microwave or in a steamer before serving again.

(source: Andrew Piereder)

Chicken Marsala

I eat this in restaurants fairly regularly so I decided I better learn how to make it.  It’s basically a chicken cutlet with a pan sauce which are all made basically the same.  In this case, you must use Marsala wine, available at your state liquor outlet or at the grocery store depending on where you live.

Serves 2 (multiply for more servings)

1 Large chicken breast
4 oz. Crimini mushrooms (any type of mushroom will do…)
1/2 c. Marsala wine
Juice from half a lemon.1 tsp white flour
1 tsp butter
1 tsp chopped parsley

Set a large (big heavy) pan on the stove on medium high heat.  Introduce a table spoon of oil (Canola or Olive oil are my preferences–Omega 3s…)Chicken breasts are HUGE these days, so one usually serves two people.  Lay the chicken breast on a cutting board and using a sharp, broad-edged knife, slice parallel with the cutting board to get two planks.  Salt both sides, pepper one side.  Lay into the pan.  Turn the oven on to 200 F.  Get a oven safe dish ready.Slice the mushrooms while you brown the chicken cutlets on both sides.  When done,  place into oven-safe dish.  Place in pre-heated oven.

In a sauce pan, combine the wine and lemon juice and reduce over medium heat.Add the butter and mushrooms and lower the heat to medium.  When the mushrooms are cooked, add the flour and make a roux (flour mush).  Add the wine/lemon juice and stir to get a smooth sauce.The chicken should be done at this point.  Put it on a plate and cover with mushrooms and sauce, then sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with a green vegetable (asparagus, broccoli) and risotto (see risotto recipe).

(source: Andrew Piereder)

Pot Roast (plus tips & tricks)

Pot roast is a testament to my belief that two people making the same recipe can produce completely different results.  I’ve had really, really bad pot roast.  Dry, tasteless and tough.  On the other hand, I’ve had pot roast so delicious that it makes my mouth water any time I think of it.  Like so much of cooking, the secret lies in the technique.  My pot roast is *ahem*, really good, and I’ve been asked to share my methods. 

Meat

I find that most people are ignorant about not just meat quality, but the ‘quality’ of certain cuts of meat.  Cuts from the center of the animal are tender and fatty, because the muscle groups don’t receive the same kind of workout say, the front quarters do.  This is why a rib roast is roasted ‘dry’.  It’s internal fat and muscle structure will produce a tender, succulent cooked product without the need to denature (break down) the protein with a lot of heat and long cooking times.  On the other hand, ‘chuck’ comes from the shoulders of the animal, which makes it a tougher cut of meat, with a lot of connective tissue, but also a generous endowment of fat.  It’s one of the cheaper cuts, ostensibly because it’s less desirable than say, the tenderloin or the rib.  It’s the preferred cut for making hamburger, because the grinding process takes care of the connective tissue, while availing itself of the rich flavor of the chuck.  It’s also the best cut for making pot roast.  Go right by the rump roast and other ‘cheap’ roast cuts and insist on a nice chuck roast.  The reason is that the cooking process for pot roast–a ‘braise’ (cooked in liquid) and a long cooking time, will turn that connective tissue into delicious natural gelatin, break-down the muscle fibers into tender morsels, and distribute the flavor from the fat throughout the pot.  Rump roast will get tender under the same cooking regime, but it doesn’t have the natural gifts that chuck roast does, so it will be comparative tasteless (and even a little ‘gamey’).  Roasts are generally from 3-5 pounds, but that won’t be your finished weight.  A small roast will feed about 3-4 people.  I used to get a roast for five dollars, but prices have doubled recently.

Preparation

If the roast is frozen, let it thaw for a day.  If simply refrigerated, let it come to room temperature (about four hours).  When the meat is ‘warm’, I start with a spice rub.  Now you can make the rub ahead of time and pat it onto every surface of the roast, or you can do what I do, which is a progressive rub.  I start with a generous salting, then a equally generous portion of ground black pepper.  I pat each into the meat to make sure it doesn’t fall off.  Next I sprinkle with onion powder, the garlic powder and finally, sweet, smoked paprika.  At this point you are free to customize your spices to your own taste.  Bunny doesn’t like thyme, so I exclude it, but I find I like a spice blend called ‘Italian, which contains rosemary, oregano and a host of other typically Italian spices.Now the flour right?  Well, a lot of recipes will say to flour the roast, but I don’t.  Typically flour is used to coat meat to create a natural gravy, but there is so much liquid in this recipe, and so little flour on the roast, that I find it redundant.  I use the drippings to make a gravy on the stove top while the roast is resting. 

The Sear

I’ve known people to throw a frozen roast in a slow cooker.  The roast will be cooked, but it sad how much potential flavor was lost.  Always brown your beef, whether it’s hamburger or chuck roast.  I don’t me ‘gray’ it, I mean sear it in a hot frying pan with some oil to get a mahogany crust all over.  This is technically called the Maillard effect, and it produces a chemical reaction with the proteins that yields an incredible flavor.  The more ‘brown’, the better the meat will taste.  Because there is a lot of smoke involved in doing this right, I do this outdoors in a large cast iron skillet over a propane burner.  Put a generous amount of Canola or Olive oil in the pan and when you see wisps of smoke, you are read to sear.  A long-handled fork is the proper tool, because there can be a lot of splatter and you will want to keep your distance even as you turn the roast every which way to get every surface nicely browned.The seared roast can be placed back in the refrigerator if you need to interrupt the process.  It doesn’t matter if it gets cold. 

Making the Bed

Before you get started, pre-heat your oven to 425 F.

The actual pot roast is generally a whole meal in a single pot, so you’ll need a covered roasting pan, into which you’ll create a nest of vegetables and then place the roast right in the middle.  The nest consists of a foundation of aromatic vegetables–celery, carrots and onions–the essential elements of what the French call a ‘mirepoix’, which is used as a base for soups and stews.  I alternate a celery stick and whole carrot until the bottom is covered, but since we like to eat the roasted carrots (I throw the celery and onions into the compost), I tend to put more carrots.  Now place the roast on the carrot and celery and distribute a couple of (or four small)  peeled and quartered large onions around the periphery of the roast.  [To quarter an onion, cut the top off (the stem side, not the root side), cut in half, peel and then cut each half again.  Leave the root attached to keep the onion together…]  Throw in several cloves of garlic according to your preference.  I put in about half a bulb of garlic.  Now put in as many peeled potatoes (either whole or quartered) around the roast as you think you’ll need for your guests.  I generally calculate that as two small potatoes per guest, with an extra couple to be safe. 

Drawing the Bath

Now you’ll need to introduce the liquid, which will eventually become your gravy.  There aren’t many bad ways to do this, in fact, you could just put in four cups of water and the roast would taste pretty good, but this is also an opportunity to create flavor complexity than can turn the merely good into the great.  Some people might use a soup mix, which is fine, but my go to braising liquid consists of one cup of good red wine, a half cup of tomato sauce and 2-1/2 cups of beef broth.  Mix and pour over the roast and vegetables.

Into the Oven

Cover the roast with aluminum foil and put on the cover to create a nice tight seal.  Place in the oven that has been pre-heated to 425 F and set the timer for 90 minutes.  This is going to dry out the outer layer of the roast, creating a kind of ‘crust’ that will lend texture to it in contrast with the very tender interior.

After 90 minutes, turn down the heat to 325 F, remove the aluminum foil, baste, re-cover with the lid and replace back into the oven.  Set the timer for 2-1/2 hours.  You should baste the roast every hour.When cooking is finished. Let set 20 minutes.

Making Gravy

Distribute the vegetables you are going to serve, as well as the roast, to various serving dishes.  I slice the roast at the last minute, and recommend you do the same.Place a sauce pot on the stove over low-medium heat.  Pour the drippings through a sieve to remove the ‘chunks’.In a bowl, place a heaping tablespoon of all-purpose flour and introduce a small quantity of the drippings, stirring until you get a smooth paste.  It’s important that the paste be very smooth, free of flour nodules.  Keep incorporating the drippings until they are all into the flour mixture and it is smooth.  Place the mixture into the sauce pan and add a cup of water.  Bring to a low boil.  Add more water if the gravy is too thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste.When the gravy is done, you are ready to serve.  Slice the roast, pronounce a blessing and eat!

(source: Andrew Piereder)

Perfect Risotto

When I first contemplated making risotto, people told me it was a difficult dish, requiring constant stirring.  As usual, I ignored them 😉  Nevertheless, it has taken some time and a little experimentation to get a result that I think is outstanding–as good as any I’ve tasted anywhere (actually, better…).  It’s a wonderfully flexible dish that you can serve as an entree or as an accompaniment.  It does take some time, so if you are serving it with something else, start with the risotto and then make whatever else you are making when it’s nearly done.  You can in fact, cook a risotto ‘mostly’, put it in the fridge and then finish it later (which is what restaurants do–the few there be that serve it…)

Serves 2

You will need:

1/4 c. Italian (Arborio) rice (don’t even bother trying to substitute some other kind…)
1/2 medium onion (chopped fine)
2 cloves garlic (chopped fine)
2 TBSP pine nuts (optional)
2 TBSP chopped Italian parsley
1/2 c. finely grated Parmagiano Regiano or Grana Padano
1 TBSP Olive oil
2 tsp butter
1/4 c. white wine
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Put a medium sauce pan on the stove at medium high.  Add the olive oil, then the pine nuts.  Toast the pine nuts, shaking frequently until they are a nice golden brown.Turn the heat down to medium. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent.  Add the finely minced garlic and cook another couple of minutes.  Add the Arborio rice and then the wine.  Stir vigorously every couple of minutes until all the free moisture is gone.  Add half the chicken stock, salt and pepper and repeat the process.At this point, you can stop cooking and store your mostly-done risotto to finish later.Add remaining stock, stir vigorously every couple of minutes.  When it sets up (no liquid chicken stock is visible when you pull a spoon across the bottom of the pot), taste a few kernels to be sure that they are soft.  If not, add a little more stock, cook and stir until you consider the kernels ‘done’. Add butter, cheese and parsley and stir vigorously to mix.  Serve quickly as it cools rapidly.

(Source: Andrew Piereder)

Chicken Enchiladas

(With Homemade Sauce)

What makes my enchilada’s extra good according to some of my regular dinner guests, is a few minor difference in ingredients and technique.

First thing to do is run down to Costco and buy a rotisserie chicken for five bucks.  The combination of white and tender dark meat is way-y-y better than just cutting up some chicken breasts.  It’s a bit of a mess, but you can minimize that by placing the chicken on a large cutting board along with a big bowl to place the chicken pieces in.  It is also optimal to do this when the chicken is warm, but not too hot to handle.  Put you knife away–the is manual labor.  Tear off the legs and rub off the skin, which won’t be going into the enchilada mix.  To remove the chicken from the bone, simply press to separate and then strip it off.  Make sure to discard pieces of tendon and cartilage, which isn’t hard since the chicken is well-cooked.  Next, tear the wings off and perform the same operation.  Now put you hands inside the cavity and rip the chicken in two, separating the breasts from the back.  Pick off the flesh from the back, especially the ‘oysters’ just above where the legs used to attach (these never make it into the chicken pile–I eat ’em on the spot ;-).  Finally, pull the breasts away from the rib cage and breast bone (that shark fin-like think that runs down the middle of the rib cage.  Pull this apart into bite size pieces.  Discard the carcass or save for soup.

One rotisserie chick makes a lot of enchiladas–two full pans.  Make the whole recipe and then freeze a pan for future consumption.You are going to make two components at this time–the sauce and the filling.  The ingredient list is as follows:

(t = teaspoon, T = tablespoon, c = cup)

Filling:

Shredded chicken meat from one rotisserie chicken
3/4 c enchilada sauce (see sauce recipe below)
1-1/2 c. thinly sliced green onion (a couple of bunches as sold at the grocery)
3 c. shredded cheese.  (I use a blend of various Mexican and traditional American cheeses available here in the southwest, but any mild-tasting melting cheese that isn’t Velveta will do fine.)
1-1/2 c. shredded cheese set aside for topping the pan…
3/4 c sour cream (fat-free is perfectly acceptable)
3/4 c (three 2 oz cans) diced green chiles
1 bunch cilantro chopped moderately fine.
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Sauce:

6 T. Canola oil
6 T. all-purpose flour
6 T. chili powder (ground Ancho chilies)
3 t. ground cumin (freshly ground is preferred)
42 oz chicken broth (3-14 oz cans)
24 oz tomato sauce (3-8 oz cans)
3 t. kosher salt (2 t. table salt)
1 t. garlic powder

You will also need about 30 corn tortillas or a portion thereof if you are planning a mix of flour and corn tortillas.  A word about the flour tortillas–precooked flour tortillas are an abomination.  Here on the west coast, we can get commercially-available raw tortilla rounds that must be cooked before use.  They are not bad, but still vastly inferior to hand-made tortillas, preferably by small Mexican ladies who have learned the craft at their mother’s knee.  Corn tortillas on the other hand, lend themselves well to commercial preparation.  The bottom line is, if you can’t get acceptable flour tortillas, use corn. 

Step 1: Make the sauce, because it’s incorporated in the filling and is required before actually cooking the enchiladas.  Introduce the oil into a sauce pan and heat to medium-high.  When it’s suitably hot, add the flour and chili powder and cook for a minute or two until bubbling and thickening to a paste.  Stir in the broth so that you are evenly dissolving the paste and then introduce the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Step 2: Make the filling. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, green onion, 3 cups of shredded cheese, sour cream, green chiles and cilantra.  Mix in 3/4 cup of enchilada sauce, the salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

Step 3:  Construction:  Take out a baking pan and light coat with some enchilada sauce.  Heat up a pan (preferably a cast iron tortilla pan) to medium-low heat.  This will take some experimentation on your part because stoves vary considerably in performance.  Ideally the tortilla should cook at a moderate pace and certainly shouldn’t have any char on it.  Corn tortillas need to be fried to develop the proper flavor and flexibility (for rolling).  I spray each side with cooking spray and then place them in the pan, cooking each side until I see a little browning.  As one (or two) come off the pan, place one (or two) more on the pan and start rolling enchiladas!For corn tortillas, about two tablespoons of filling is satisfactory.  Fill, the roll them up and place seam-side down in the pan.  It’s important to do this as the tortillas are coming off the pan because they lose their flexibility when the cool.  Cracked tortillas are not ideal.  Flour tortillas the size of typical corn tortillas are often hard to come by, so just use the larger ones and 3-4 Tbsp of filling each.  Remember to cook the raw flour tortillas if you bought packaged raw flats (same process as the corn, but ‘bake’ them–no oil).

If you are freezing the enchilada rolls, omit the underlying sauce and place them on a cookie sheet;  then freeze the whole cookie sheet.  After a few hours, retrieve the cookie sheet, knock off the frozen enchiladas and place them in a gallon ziplock bag, the return the bag to the freezer.  When you want to eat, lay them out as described below, but increase the initial cooking time by ten minutes to accommodate thawing.  Enchilada sauce will keep quite well in the refrigerate for some time. 

Step 4: Place in the oven (to desiccate the tortillas…).  After ten minutes, retrieve the pan and coat with enchilada sauce and then the reserved shredded cheese.  Return to the oven for another ten minutes, or until the cheese is thoroughly melted. 

Step 5: Serve with warm enchilada sauce, sour cream and cilantro garnish.  Optionally, you can provide a pico de gallo fresh salsa, sliced black olives or whatever you prefer.

Canned Tomato Salsa

I’ve made fresh salsa for a very long time, but never canned.  I looked at a lot of on-line recipes, which were basically the same ingredients by in different proportions.  I decided to start with my fresh salsa recipe as a base (since I get a lot of compliments on it…) and taste my way to something I’m happy with.

My recipe depends on how many ripe tomatoes I have, which is why I’m expressing this recipe proportionally rather than in absolute volumes of ingredients.  I scald the tomatoes for a few seconds in boiling water and then put them in an ice bath to loosen the skins.  I most use Roma tomato varieties, which are very easy to skin, are less watery and are generally an excellent sauce tomato.

A word on the chiles–Jalapenõs, Poblanos (Pasillos), Anaheims and Serranos are all different sizes and different Scoville units (a heat scale).  The smaller the pepper, the hotter it usually is, so three Jalapeños per lb is roughly equivalent to three Poblanos, which are much larger peppers.  I prefer larger chiles because aside from the heat, they have a more fruity flavor than the smaller ones.  Please note that fully ripe (red) poblanos/pasillos are much hotter than the green ones.  I recommend adding chopped chile peppers in thirds, letting it simmer for a few moments, tasting and then deciding whether to add another third, and then finally the last third.  Once you’ve established how many chile peppers are appropriate for the salsa batch, you are probably safe to repeat that for all your salsa batches since chile pepper heat tends to be consistent at the time of harvest, but varied from early to late season.Wear gloves while handing the chiles unless you don’t mind being uncomfortable for a few hours 😉

My proportions are:

5 parts fresh, peeled tomatoes.
2 parts green pepper
2 parts onion
3 Anaheim, jalapeño, poblano or pasillo peppers per pound of tomatoes
2 cloves garlic per pound of tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste per lb. tomatoes
Juice of one lime per lb. tomatoes
2 tsp vinegar per lb. tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt per lb. tomatoes
1/2 bunch cilantro per lb. tomatoes.

Omitting the lime, vinegar and cilantro, combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes to reduce and concentrate the flavor. Take off the heat and add vinegar, lime and chopped cilantro. Let sit for 30 minutes the bottle and place in hot bath to finish.

Salsa Verde (green salsa) is the same except the tomatoes are replaced with tomatillos and I omit the green pepper.

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