20 September 2009

Chile Rellenos Casserole

My mom and I used to be Mexican food connoisseurs while I was growing. I mean, we used to frequent Casa Ole AT LEAST once a week. ;) My mom used to always order chile rellenos, I could practically bet money on it that she would order them. I attempted to eat one once and thoroughly did not enjoy it. It was mushy and peppery and soggy and just plain gross. Since that day, I had never tried once again.

The dish that started it all. It's the little dude on the right.

UNTIL, I went to New Mexico this summer. I inadvertently ordered one. It came on the New Mexico special plate. A green hatch chile stuffed with white cheese and fried. Ohmygosh, it was delicious, I couldn't believe I had missed out on this for so long. Since July, chile rellenos have been my weakness at Mexican food restaurants. But on Friday, I had my first bad chile rellenos incident. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it just didn't live up to my standards. I decided to take the task of making chile rellenos myself but I decided to try and bake them in a casserole style so I don't have to worry about frying. My results was TASTY but not too pretty. I'll keep working on it though. I had an odd amount of chiles so you can either go down to four for two layers or up to six/seven for three layers. Your choice. And once again, I'm using some regional ingredients, so I don't have a substitution suggestion...yet. I'll keep working on that for you.

Serves 4

1 14 oz. can Hatch 5 Pepper Enchilada Sauce
8 poblano chiles
1 round sliced queso asadero cheese
6 eggs
1/3 c. crushed tortilla chips
Splash of milk
Salt/Pepper to taste

Turn over to broil and move rack to top shelf. Place chiles directly on oven rack. Blacken chiles on each side (just be warned, they will pop and hiss at you). Once chiles are thoroughly blackened, remove and place in a plastic sack (an old HEB one works fine) and tie the bag to let steam for 15 minutes or so. Go ahead and change the oven to 375 degrees. After 15 minutes, remove chiles from bag, (and it works best if you work over said bag), remove skin from chiles. It will be a thin layer that should have blackened. It should come off relatively easy. Then, seed chiles, remove stem and spilt in halves. Do with all remaining chiles.

Pour half of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Place chile halves down to cover the sauce. Think about putting them in a single layer, much like you would lasagna noodles. You might need to tear some of the chiles to fit. Next, tear your queso asadero cheese slices with your hands and place them on top of the chiles. You don't want them next to each other because they will melt (and oh so nicely I might add) and spread. Repeat chile/cheese/chile.

In a bowl, mix/whisk eggs, splash of milk, crushed tortilla chips and salt and pepper throughly. (Here, I made the mistake of not whipping the eggs thoroughly and I had some patchy areas in my casserole.) Pour this layer over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.

When eggs are set, but not browned, place remaining slices of cheese on top. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. This next step is VERY important, but will be very hard to do. Remove from oven and let it set for ten minutes! If not, you'll end up with a short layer casserole with cheese sauce in your dish that you'll have to spoon over tortilla chips, and while tasty, it would be much better in between the chiles. Queso Asadero is a very melty cheese. It WILL run out of the layers if you don't give it time to set. That's why my picture looks short and small. Slice into pieces and spoon remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Serve with some refried black beans and you are done!

19 September 2009

Cold Brewed Coffee

I've been hearing all the rage about cold brewed coffee. It's supposed to be "all the rage." Benefits boasted are that the coffee is less acidic, more caffeinated and less bitter than conventional coffee. You also preserve the oils like you would in a french press. What I'm banking on is the convenience of it, you make a concentrate and then you can either use it for iced coffee or heat it up and have traditional warm coffee.

This is fairly easy to make. The hardest part for me was straining it. I only had a normal plastic colander. I think a metal sieve lined with a coffee filter would work MUCH better. As for the coffee, make sure you pick something you like. I went to the bulk aisle in my local HEB, picked out my favorite whole bean and then grounded it in the store on the coarsest ground they had. For those of you with bulk aisles in your local HEB, I'd recommend the Houston blend. It turned out so nicely and I didn't even need any sweetener! This will be one of those no recipe recipes. The ratio of coffee to water should be about 1 parts coffee to 4 parts water, but I fudged a little bit and it turned out great. Then this will make you concentrate and you theoretically should add 1 part water to 1 part concentrate, but who has time for measuring these days? I mean, really? So do as your hearts content, if you concentrate ends up weak, add less water when you make or if it ends up too strong, add more water. It's your coffee! Drink it how you like it!

Sorry, pictures of coffee aren't that exciting.

1 c. coarsely ground coffee
4 c. filtered water (yes, this will make it taste better, promise!)

Mix coffee grounds and water in a sealable container. I used a 1 qt. mason jar. (Yes if you do the math, I fudged a little bit on the coffee.) Steep the grounds over night. In the morning, strain coffee through a coffee filter lined sieve. After initial filtering is done, strain through a double lined coffee filter, just to remove any last bit of grounds. Store in the refrigerator. When you are ready to drink coffee, add 1 part concentrate to 1 part water. Either warm in microwave or serve over ice with cream, my personal favorite. It really does taste different from your traditional brewed coffee. You'll definitely be happy you don't have to deal with coffee breath afterwards!

18 September 2009

Dos Leches Pan Dulce Bread Pudding

I've been in Harlingen for 5 weeks now. I must admit I'm a HUGE fan of Mexican cuisine. I've become addicted to the Mexican bakeries around here. Each of them sells the same thing for the most part; various kinds of cookies, empanadas and pan dulce which is a round loaf of bread that has a slightly sweet flavor. At a few of the bakeries, they have day old pan dulce loaves 5 for $1.00. Since I love bread pudding and it's a great deal, I decided this would be a good medium to try it with. I'm also in love with the different items you see in the grocery stores down here that generally aren't found in the rest of Texas. One such is Media Crema. It's in the baking aisle with sweetened condensed and evaporated milk. It's a thick cream in a can basically. It's even thicker than half and half and probably heavy whipping cream. If you can't find Media Crema, whipping cream would probably do the trick though.

Most Mexican desserts aren't sweet by American taste buds. This dessert hits it's right on the spot. Since the bread is slightly sweet you don't need to add any additional sugar to the custard mix. The end result is delicious, sweet enough to qualify as dessert but not overwhelming. If I had to do it again, I might add a little bit of piloncillo to the dos leches that goes on top just to make it an wee bit sweeter and add some depth to it. The neat thing about this dessert is that the colors from the icing on the bread stay intact while baking so you end up with colorful bursts as you slice into it.

Dos Leches Pan Dulce Bread Pudding

8 Pan Dulce (day old), torn in about 1" pieces by hand
raisins (to taste)

6 eggs
4 c. milk
1/2 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 can (7.6 oz.) NESTLÉ Media Crema (can be found in Mexican Grocery Food Store)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 9x13 baking dish.

Place about half pan dulce pieces on bottom of baking dish in one single layer. Let bread sit for about ten minutes to dry out. Sprinkle with half the raisins (I used about 1/3 cup here). Repeat process with remaining bread slices and raisins.

Combine milk, butter, cinnamon, first half of sweetened condensed milk and eggs either by whisk or by blender. Mix until smooth. Pour over pan dulce layers in dish. Let stand for 10 minutes, pressing down on bread so that bread is soaked in liquid.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake.

While bread pudding is baking, combine remaining sweetened condensed milk and media crema. After pudding has come out of oven, pour the two milks (dos leches) over the cake. It will not absorb fully, but you will have a layer of sweet cream sitting on the top. Serve warm (although it's not too bad cold either)!

Heavily adapted from Nestle Meals

06 September 2009

No Leftovers Cake

I made this for a family gathering on Labor Day. I was looking for something easy and that would fit in a cake pan and not have to roll out or scoop out cookies. This is a take on a cake that my mom used to make, but I just changed it ever so slightly due to my recent obsession with Tres Leches Cake. Seriously, in less than 24 hours, this cake was gone. I had to fight for the last piece. This takes no longer than a normal cake to prepare and it will win over everyone!

I didn't even get a picture of a slice because it was gone so quickly!

1 chocolate box cake mix, to be prepared as directed
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 jar of caramel topping (can be found in the ice cream aisle)
1 large container cool whip
2 large Heath bars, crushed

Prepare chocolate cake as directed on box. While cake is warm, poke holes in cake with straws or end of a wooden spoon. Pour can of sweetened condensed milk over warm cake. After milk has soaked in, pour caramel topping over cake. Let cake cool. Right before serving, top with Cool Whip and sprinkle with Heath bars. At first, you might want to serve smaller pieces, but I found people came back for seconds anyways. ;)

BBQ Stuffed Peppers

I had been eyeing dishes to make for Labor Day at my grandparent's house. I had found a stuffed pepper recipe online but decided it was too much work so I didn't pick up the ingredients. When I got there, my grandfather must have been thinking the same thing because he bought almost exactly what I needed. I made a few adjustments to suit the ingredients we had on hand. Also, I had problems with the bacon sticking to the outside AND the stuffing falling out. To remedy that, I changed the recipe below to what I think will work. So the pictures won't match and if the changes don't work, don't sue me. ;) I plan to make these again when I have a crowd, so I'll be sure and post an update. Even if you make them as pictured (which would be saving the bacon for the outside), they'll still be delicious, just a little messy. I can say these went quicker than the No Leftovers Cake. They even beat out the crab stuffed jalepenos that my aunt is famous for! They smokey flavor of the peppers melds together with the meats and make for a delicious savory treat which can even work as a full meal because the peppers are so big.

15 large evenly shaped poblano peppers
16 slices of bacon
2# ground beef
2# ground sausage
2-4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 c. ranch dressing
BBQ sauce

Wash, remove tops from peppers (carefully, you will use them later) and remove seeds and membrane while leaving peppers whole.

In a skillet, fry bacon until cooked but not crisp. Brown beef and sausage in a skillet until brown but not crisp. Drain off all fat. Crumble bacon into meat mixture. Let cool. Add cheddar cheese to your liking and ranch dressing to meat mixture until mixture is coated but not runny. Loosely stuff mixture into peppers Replace tops on peppers to hold everything in and secure with a toothpick.

Either on a grill or under a broiler, place peppers. Cook until peppers are soft and begin to char on the outside. Rotate peppers on all sides until thoroughly cooked. After peppers are cooked, brush on BBQ sauce and continue cooking until sauce is warm and acts as a glaze on the peppers.

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen