Friday, July 27, 2012

Ancho Chicken Tacos

When I was in school, I used to have these great fantasies about all the extra time I was going to have once I was in the real world.  There would be no more homework, no more study groups, no more intermural flag football practices and games.  Instead of managing a schedule of two different and distinct tutoring jobs with a full class load, I would only have work.  Oh, the things I would get done!  Cooking every night, delicious paper bag lunches every day.  I'd buy a sewing machine and I would use it.  Maybe I would actually get serious about learning German and take a class or two.  And, oh yeah, start a little thing called a blog and blog at least once a week!  Sigh... life was going to be some much more blissful once I was in the real world.

We all know where this is going.  Somehow, even with having only 1 job to be responsible to I still end up feeling as if there will never be enough time for accomplishing both enough sleep and my ever growing pile of laundry.  Yes, maybe intermural flag football was replaced with co-rec work softball.  And study groups replaced with volunteering for SWE.  And, having a larger living space does in fact mean that cleaning it takes exponentially longer to clean than previous living quarters.  And the blog thing, well, that actually happened, and who would have thought, it actually takes some time.  All those fantasies of me having nothing but buckets of free time have vaporized.  It is shocking, although I probably really shouldn't say surprising.  And let's face it, it's also probably a good thing.  I've never really been good with free time, I usually just use it to get caught up on Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.  

This has nothing to do with ancho chicken tacos, which by the way, were delicious.  Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that I have a public forum in which I am allowed to lightly complain occasionally... even if my mother and college roommate are the only people that ever read it.

Ancho Chicken Tacos
Adapted from BA's June 2012 Issue

The fact of the matter is, you can't go wrong with cumin + ancho + tacos.  I would imagine this would taste equally amazing whether chicken thighs, chicken breasts, shrimp or tilapia were used as the taco filling vehicle.  This one is a keeper, a BGCB-er.  A you-should-make-this-for-dinner-tomorrow-er.  Ok, that was a stretch.  But still completely true.

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chx. thighs (~6)
3 Tbsp. ancho chile powder
3 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. kosher salt
Canola oil, for frying
Corn tortillas, for tacos

Place chicken thighs in large bowl with lid.  In small bowl, mix together ancho chile powder, cumin and salt.  Sprinkle over chicken thighs, toss to thoroughly coat and pat in.  Cover bowl and refrigerate, letting marinade for at least 2 hours.

Pour enough oil into large cast iron skillet to completely cover bottom by at least a quarter inch.  Begin to heat over medium high heat.  Once oil is hot, lay chicken thighs in skillet in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd.  If necessary, cook chicken in batches.  Let chicken cook 6-7 minutes undisturbed so crust forms.  Flip chicken and let cook an additional 5 or so minutes, until chicken thighs are cooked through.  Remove from pan and let rest on paper towels, to drain oil, about 5-10 minutes.  Shred chicken.

Load shredded chicken up in corn tortillas.  Top with any combination of the following, or your favorite taco topping: queso fresco, onions, cilantro, radishes, etc.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blueberry Crumble Meringues

The other day while shopping I came across blueberry crumble bread, just sitting there all nonchalant next to the cinnamon raisin bread, as if it had been there all it’s life.  I admit, I gaped at it a little while.  I couldn’t believe it at first.  Blueberry Crumble Bread?  Where had this been all my life and why was I just finding out about it?

Of course I bought a loaf and of course I had eaten two slices, toasted, with a small smear of butter, before I had even finished unpacking groceries.  And it was good, it really was, but by the time I bite into slice number two, I was thinking “ha.  I could so do this better”.  

Needless to say, since then, I can not get that combination out of my head.  Brown sugar! oats! blueberries!  It will be mine!  But, seeing as I am impatient (as well as unwilling to make bread when it is flirting with triple digits outside), I had to find a more practical way.  And then, well, by golly, then I remembered my love of meringues.  I think it was meant to be.  Gah, sometimes I even surprise myself with ideas of pure perfection.

If we were dating, you totally would realize how often I have these ideas of pure perfection and you might blow this one off too, like some people did...  Because of all of my ideas of pure perfection, this is one of the very, very few I've actually ever acted on.  What?  It's just rare that the stars line up in such a way that I have an idea of pure perfection roughly around the same time that I'm actually motivated to do something besides sit on my butt and read all night.  So, it's pretty exciting when it actually does.  Even if an idea of pure perfection works out to be an actuality of slightly less than perfection, like these did.  These have great potential, they just aren't there yet.  Maybe a crumble isn't supposed to be a meringue... but it is very much supposed to be a bread, coming soon to an oven near me

.Blueberry Crumble Meringues
Based on Deb's Chocolate Chip Meringues

If you're a fan of previous meringues found here, don't expect these to be the exact same.  They are tasty, but are different consistency-wise.  The hollow crunch of the chocolate chip meringues is not present; rather, these guys are much more marshmallow like.  I'm thinking the moisture from the brown sugar is the cause of this, but not sure.  Just a heads up!

2 egg whites, room temp
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. dried blueberries, chopped
1/4 c. pecans, chopped
1/4 c. oatmeal

Preheat oven to 300°.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In small pan over medium heat, toast chopped pecans for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Toast oatmeal in pan until fragrant, about 1 minute, watching carefully so it doesn't burn.  Remove and set aside.

In clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites till frothy.  Add salt, baking powder and vanilla, continue to whip until egg whites hold soft peaks.  In small additions, start adding in sugar, letting mixture whip a few seconds in between each addition.  Whip until stiff.  Gently fold in blueberries, pecans and oatmeal.  Spoon batter by rounded tablespoon onto a prepared baking sheet.  Bake in over for 25 minutes, till undersides are browned and tops are golden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Raspberry Gin Fizz

When I first introduced my summer drink quest last month, all there was were visions of me sipping happily away on my adult beverage, book in hand, sitting on my porch in the late afternoon soon.  Happy, content, with a cool breeze coming along and tying the whole picture together.  

Unfortunately, this weather, today and now, in a word, sucks.  I am an Arizona girl at heart (even if my license plate no longer has a cactus on it... but that's a sad story for another day) and even I find this heat punishing and unbearable.  Dreams of sipping a cold drink outside waft away like the heat waves rising up from the asphalt.  I wish I was exaggerating here, but the unhappy truth is that there will be more perspiration on you then there will be on the outside of your glass.  While this doesn't make for the end of the world, it also doesn't make for a dry tank top.  

Lucky for us though, berry happy gin has a way of making problems like this melt away.  As long as it is consumed ice cold, in a tall glass, safely in the vicinity of functioning AC and (if you are lucky enough) an overhead fan.  I stuck with the fresh, seasonal berry + liquor motif for round 2 of "Let's find Liz a good summer drink" with similarly happy results.  Here, beautiful raspberries are pureed with sugar, mingled with fresh squeezed lime juice and then the whole lot gets together with some gin and the happiness begins.  Top it off with a pour fizzy and you are in for some good summer drinking.

Raspberry Gin Fizz
Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2012

In regards to my summer contest, blackberry mojitos are still on top, but just barely.  Maybe the fact that they were consumed on a porch pushed them just ahead of the competition.  The one thing that these gin fizzes really have going for them though (and the reason I will come back to them again, very, very soon), is that unlike the mojitos, these very easily are made in a batch.  I had a small pitcher of the raspberry, lime, gin in the fridge all weekend and was never a pour of some tonic away from a wonderful summer cocktail. It was a very good weekend.  

For 8 servings:

6 oz raspberries, well washed
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. gin
1 c. fresh lime juice (about 12 limes)
Mineral Water, club soda, tonic

In blender (or magic bullet) whir raspberries and sugar until pureed.  Let stand, shaking occasionally, until sugar is dissolved.  Meanwhile, juice limes into pitcher.  Set a fine-mesh sieve over pitcher and slowly pour raspberry puree through.  Discard seeds remaining in sieve.  Pour gin into pitcher and mix into all components are incorporated.

In tall glasses with ice, pour about 1/2 cup of gin mixture.  Top with whatever fizzy you like best.  Enjoy immediately, preferably in a tank top and flip flops.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Peach Raspberry Crisp

Somewhere in my mother's house, hidden in a box under some dust, unfit for internet publication, is a picture of my sister and I dressed up in our bedding, acting the part of Arabian princesses.  We were told to strip our beds and bring the sheets out to my mom to wash.  When she yelled at us 30 minutes later to hurry our butts up, that is what she found.  Luckily she thought it was cute, her idiot daughters, and grabbed the camera to save the moment forever.

My sister and I have a history of being idiotic and silly together.  It shouldn't really come as much of a surprise that when asked to take pictures of me cooking this fabulous peach raspberry crisp, she said yes and soon adopted the personae of a Russian photographer, accent and everything.  Why Russian?  Because that's what came out.  And did I play along?  I crumbled that crisp with as much passion and flying flour I could muster, much to the chagrin of my time-crunched mother who was trying to get a family meal on the table.  It ended in laughs, a minimal amount of flour and oats on the floor, hilarious pictures (unfit for internet publication, of course) and one damn good peach raspberry crisp.

Love to my Russian photographer sister, saintly mother and fresh peaches and raspberries!

Peach Raspberry Crisp

This was inspired from Martha Stewart's new cookbook, Martha's American Food.  My mom pulled it from some magazine.  It started as a blueberry crisp, but mom had raspberries in the fridge and the peaches at the store were delicious and cheap.  A few more subs and this came out.  I couldn't be happier.  I think several fruits could be subbed in (just end up with 6 cups of fruit), as well as different nuts.  The original recipe called for regular sugar, but I switched to brown because I thought it would go better.  This was delicious.  This is a keeper!

3 c. peaches, pitted and sliced
3 c. raspberries
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Juice from half of a lemon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together peaches, raspberries and remaining filling ingredients.  Pour into an 8 x 8 baking dish.  Squeeze lemon over top.

In large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar.  Add remaining crisp ingredients  (mixed in a small dish before hand would be best) and incorporate into butter/sugar mixture with your hands.  Pinch and squeeze crisp to get a crumble clump like effect.  Sprinkle crisp evenly over fruit filling and do not pack down.

Bake crisp at 375 for 50-60 minutes (mine was closest to 50, but we used a glass dish).  Crisp should be golden brown on top and juices from filling should be bubbling.  When done baking, let cool on wire rack before servings.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sweet and Spiced Country Spareribs

Low and slow.  That is how you get here: to fall into pieces at a touch kind of ribs.  Low and slow.  Trust me here.  Don't ask silly questions like "cooking ribs in the oven for six hours?", or "who has that kind of time?", or even more bewildering "who actually plans dinner that far ahead??"

Because the answer is now you.  Follow me here, you cook ribs for 6 hours, in your oven, and you figure it out so you're not eating at 11 o'clock at night.  It's so simple, I promise you.  Because I did it.  And we ate dinner at 7.  Not 11.  Amazing, right?  Here's how it goes down.

In the morning, after sleeping in at least till 10, mix together the spice rub.  Slather and rub it very thickly on ribs.  Wrap in foil.  Ignore for an hour while you eat breakfast and watch TV.  If you feel like it, at some point before noon, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  If you don't, no biggie.  It only has to get up to 200.  Remember, LOW.

At noon-ish, stick the ribs (which are in foil) in the oven on a wire rack.  Position your oven thermometer so you can actually see it when the oven door is closed.  Close the door, keep it closed.  Check occasionally to make sure your oven is staying around 200 degrees and isn't trying to creep up on you.  Go to the pool party hosted by your apartment complex and drink free pina coladas and beer from a keg hidden in the bushes.  Don't worry that you left the oven on and you're not in the house.  It's only 200 degrees and you're just across the way.  Besides, it's free booze.  You  don't want to be cooped up in your apartment all day, suffering from the smell of pure deliciousness, while the ribs cook for 6 lloonngg hours.  Remember, SLOW.

And these will be on your plate and down your gullet by 7 pm.  There are three key points to remember here: sleeping in, free pina coladas and an 200 degree oven that won't heat up your apartment even if you do keep it on for half the day.  Oh, and low and slow.  Cause it's totally, completely, mouth-wateringly worth it.  Now stop with the silly questions.

Sweet and Spiced Country Spareribs
Adapted from my crush, the Smitten Kitchen

1.  These are delicious.  According to Ben, they sort of smell like Christmas morning (thank you cloves!).  They taste hot and spicy (two different things).  They may cook for 6 hours, but there's about 20 minutes of actual work involved.  30 minutes, tops.  These are in the BGCB.

2.  Deb calls out for spareribs.  Which I thought I had in my freezer, when really I had country spareribs.  Is there a difference?  Apparently, because mine looked different.  Who knew?  The country worked splendidly, the normal spareribs looked like they did Deb proud.  I think you're safe either way here.

3.  In case you didn't notice, tomorrow is Sunday.  Sunday is a good day for ribs.  Just saying...

Spice Rub:
1 c. dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

4-5 lbs. spare ribs
2 tsp. smoked paprika (I used Hungarian)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

In small bowl, mix up the spice rub.  Lay out spareribs on enough foil to create a sealed packet (if needed, slice ribs into more manageable sizes.  I made 2 packets).  Slather on (seriously, nice and thick here) the spice rub all over the ribs.  Rub it in.  Coat it completely.  Fold up foil into packet around ribs.  Let sit 30 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  On rimmed baking sheet, place a wire rack.  Place ribs on top.  Cook in 200 degree oven for 4 hours.  If possible, drop temperature to 175 degrees, and finishing cooking 2 more hours, until it is easily fork tender.  Carefully open packets and set ribs aside to rest.

Pour accumulated juices into medium sauce pan.  Boil until reduce by half.  Add paprika and vinegar and cook until desired consistency is reached.  Deb says you can now put the ribs under a broiler to get a crisp grilled like finish.  We couldn't make it that long.  Generously spoon sauce over ribs.  Devour, making sure to have lots of paper towels nearby...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Vanilla Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce

Remember way back when I tried to teach you all something?  Like, way back when, in blog post numero diez, if I remember correctly.  Well, guess what!  I'm actually going to give you another recipe to try it out on.  Because, that's what we are all about here at the BGCB.  Teaching you something and then never mentioning it again for over a year and ninety-nine (because 100 would just be too perfect) post later...

But that just means you've had 14 months of practice under your belt, right?  You have perfected the parchment heart folding technique?  Yes?  Fantastic, because this is what you want to be folding your heart around just as soon as possible, because rhubarb is here now and it's known to be flighty.  Plus, it's hanging out with some bourbon.  And bourbon for breakfast is a happy, happy thought.  

Vanilla Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce
Adapted from June 2012's Bon Appetit

Very much BCBG worthy.  Because, one, there is bourbon and two, it's delicious.  Most especially on top of some yummy, floppy German Pancakes, courtesy of none other than the lovely Smitten Kitchen (really, who else)?

1 lb. rhubarb (3-4 stalks)
1/2 lb. strawberries, halved
1/4 c. bourbon
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 4 inch piece vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 425.

Cutting on a sharp diagonal, slice rhubarb into 2 inch pieces.  Combine with strawberries, bourbon and sugar, mixing well until sugar dissolves.  Using a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  Scrape seeds from inside bean and add to rhubarb/strawberry mixture.  (Here BA had you add the actual bean.  I was afraid of eating it and I wanted vanilla sugar, so instead I cut it up in a few pieces and added it to a little sugar.  Soon, I will have vanilla sugar!).

Anyways, lay out 4 parchment paper heats as seen here.  Divide fruit mixture evenly among the four. Fold up hearts into well sealed packets.  Place on rimmed baking sheet (might not be a bad idea to line the baking sheet too, in case of leakage).  Roast 12-14 minutes.  To test doneness, carefully open packet and check rhubarb with fork (needs to be fork tender).  Carefully cut open the packets, being careful to watch for escaping steam.

Serve over pancakes, greek yogurt, ice cream, etc.  With crushed pistachios if you want some crunch!