How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Grape Snausages

"Sausages with Grape Sauce" was a nice mid-week meal, as simple as its name. We found the recipe in Intercourses, a fun little cookbook that we have featured several times on this blog.


I began by cutting one pound of locally-raised sweet Italian sausages from Crescent Ridge into 4-inch chunks and placing them in boiling water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 425. I diced one shallot and put it with 1 T olive oil to cover the bottom of a one-quart baking dish (essentially a loaf pan).

I then used tongs to place the sausages in the pan, covered with about 3/4 cup of dry white wine and baked for 35 minutes (during which time I should have turned them once to brown evenly).

The last step was unusual but simple. Using the tongs, I removed the sausages to a shallow, warm bowl and then placed the baking dish on the stove top -- it had the wine, shallots, and some fat from the sausage in it. Over medium-low heat, I whisked in one tablespoon of dijon mustard. I then stirred in one cup of halved, red seedless grapes. When all was blended, I poured this sauce over the sausages and brought it to the table.

This was delicious with some Italian bread and butter, and of course the rest of that bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Coq au Velouté

Note: The Hayes-Bohanans met in French class, when we were Hayes and Bohanan, respectively. Pam went on to some level of competence in the language while James was not a stellar student and was lucky he remembered to switch to the Pass?Fail option just before the deadline. We both gained a lot in the long run though, namely each other, as the New York Times has reported. All of which is to say that I can barely pronounce the title of this blog post, though I did prepare the dish.

Its more pedestrian title in the Tabasco Cookbook is Chicken Hash, but the rich sauce makes that seem like rather an unworthy label. It is a fairly basic hash, except that it is baked with a complicated sauce. In other words, it is a dish with relatively few ingredients that will use every dish in the kitchen.

A velouté sauce in the book is similar to Emeril's version, except that the good people of McIlhenny call for a bit of their pepper sauce and the use of TWO saucepans. The hash itself simply requires boiling and chopping a couple of chicken breasts and potatoes, and then adding them to sliced mushrooms, chopped onion and yellow bell pepper, and parsley cooked in butter. The velouté  is poured over this and baked.

The result was amazingly delicious for a chilly evening. Sadly, a week has passed by before I got a chance to write, so we are not exactly sure which Malbec we had with it!

Northern Hash

The best thing about being a teacher is what I gain from my students. Usually these gains are intangible -- lessons learned and the satisfaction of lessons taught. But sometimes my students bring small but tangible gifts, occasionally things I would never find on my own.

I have been especially fortunate this pre-holiday week, in which students have given me highball glasses etched as globes, a beer home-brewed from tea, a coffee-themed deck of playing cards, and a can of salmon caught and canned just this side of the Arctic circle at Naknek, Alaska (58°44′23″N; 156°58′18″W). Feel free to explore the map at the end of this post.

Each of these gifts comes with a story, in the case of the salmon, the student had been living in nearby King Salmon last summer, when she was taking my online class that included a lot of discussion of Carl Safina's writings on Alaska and other places at the front lines of climate change.

So this week I found this can of salmon perched (pun partly intended) on the doorknob of my office, with a note about its provenance, and this morning Pam helped me figure out what to do with it: hash. Seems to be hash season, so this did not take much convincing. Especially since we have had a very hectic week, and Pam identified leftovers that would work perfectly with this gift.

So when I got home today, I fired up the indispensable cast-iron skillet and got to work on a quick and delicious dinner.

First, I heated a generous dollop of olive oil in said pan while finely chopping one half of a white onion. I browned the onion on high heat with a generous sprinkling of black pepper and then added leftover diced, roasted potatoes (see below), and then stirred in the can of salmon. I cooked until crispy -- as Goddess intended hash to be -- and turned and cooked some more. Then I made two divots, placing an egg into each one. I covered the pan and lowered the heat, cooking until the whites were set and the yolks still soft.

This was delicious with bread, butter, and Pinot Noir.

Diced Roasted Potatoes

This is a staple in our house that I "invented" while we were in grad school. I often see commercial packages in the produce aisle that I think allow the purchaser to make an inferior version at greater expense. It goes with many kinds of other dishes, or if those grad-school paychecks are being stretched thin, it can be the main dish.

Quite simply, I pre-heat the oven to 425 and then dice a handful of potatoes (the number depending on the number of diners and the size of the potatoes, perhaps 3 small spuds per diner. I usually peel them, but not completely, leaving about half the skin on. I put the diced potatoes (about 1/2-inch cubes) into a casserole dish with a generous dollop (there it is again) of olive oil. I then add a large amount of paprika, oregano, black pepper, and perhaps a couple other herbs. I roast until it reaches desired crispness, stirring and scraping occasionally. We sometimes serve this with sour cream or plain yogurt.

Usually, there are no leftovers, regardless of how much I've made. But today there was just enough for some perfect hash.

Putting the Marsala in Chicken Marsala

When I go to familiar restaurants, I often debate (with myself) whether to get "the usual" or try something new. At nearby Crispi's Italian Cuisine, the result is usually a a quick decision to have the chicken marsala, because it is always satisfying. I never even really thought about making it myself, and was actually uncharacteristically uncurious about what it actually is.

That all changed a couple nights ago, as I contemplated what to do with  mushrooms remaining from the hash I had made recently (about which I apparently have yet to blog).  I found this delicious recipe, for which we already had all the required ingredients except for the Marsala fortified wine itself.
Photo: AllRecipes. Food photography is difficult, as I've often noted. Here is another example. The AllRecipes photo is  far better than anything I could have taken. I'm not sure how their version turned out so orange, though.
The rest of the story is simple: I followed the recipe without any modifications, and it was delicious. I do need to share something amusing from the web site, though. Listed as the "most helpful critical review" is this gem:


     January 22, 2003
This was good but not great. I'm terrible at flattening meat and poultry so I didn't bother. I didn't add mushrooms either as my fiance hates them. The chicken was tender and flavor pretty good but I like the marsala dishes more from my favorite Italian restaurant. My fiance was neutral on this. I doubt I'll make it again.

In other words, "I did not make chicken marsala." Pouring Boone's Farm over fried chicken does not count.

Lagniappe

In researching the Marsala wine, I figured out that Pinot Noir would probably be the perfect pairing, so I bought a bottle. When I got to the kitchen, I realized that there was a bottle of Malbec already open, so we used that instead. (Already-opened wine left over from the previous day is a rarity in
Casa Hayes-Boh.) The Malbec worked very well, but I now know both my food and wine selection the next time I am at Crispi's.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cheesy Bacon Egg Brunch Casserole

I think the recipe for this casserole just appeared on my FaceBook feed recently. I had some bacon so I decided to give it a try. I sent James to the grocery store with instructions to purchase any ingredients we needed to prepare this. He did an excellent job of checking to see what was already in our larder, so he skipped buying mozzarella cheese of which we had plenty. It was unfortunate then that I neglected to check the recipe when I was packing up the ingredients we would need in order to make this at our beach house where we would be spending the weekend. I did manage to bring everything else, so I just went ahead made the dish sans mozzarella. The recipe says prep time is 25 minutes and bake time is fifty. I do not know where these numbers came from, unless the chef also has a sous chef. I took almost an hour to prepare everything, and I felt I was being rather efficient with cutting, chopping, and shredding other ingredients while the bacon cooked. The baking time was close to one and a half hours. After the first fifty minutes we saw how runny the casserole still was and bumped the oven thermostat up to 380 (from 350). I recognize that if I'd used the appropriate amount of cheese it might not have taken so long, but even after 90 minutes it was still a bit runny. We were so hungry at that point though we didn't want to wait any longer (plus the top had gone from "golden" to "brown" and was starting to move toward "black". It actually tasted pretty good, and there were plenty of leftovers for the next day, when it tasted even better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Indian-Spiced Tomato and Egg Casserole

Another winning recipe from the New York Times. Be aware that this one takes some time, and requires a lot of pots and pans, so prepare to do some dishes afterward.

I prepared the tomato sauce while the potatoes cooked. I used less curry powder than the recipe called for, and a lot more mint in order to suit our own tastes better. The pan was very full by the time I made the wells for the eggs and so I had to be extremely careful when adding them. This dish also took a bit longer to bake than expected in order to get the egg whites to set. I eventually put it under the broiler for two minutes, which finished cooking the whites, but also made the yolks harder than I wanted. The finished product though was very tasty, and filling. It paired nicely with Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cranberry Gingerbread

James' post about the Cranberry Noir describes how he got the fresh cranberries from a former student. Said student actually brought so many cranberries (6 cups!) that not only was he able to make the sauce that we'd been salivating over, there were still plenty of cranberries so that I could make the Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread recipe I found in the New York Times. Sticky is definitely the right adjective to use when describing this gingerbread. These adjectives are also appropriate:


  • Spicy (I used even more spices than the recipe called for including fresh ground cloves and allspice)
  • Sweet
  • Yummy

It took longer to bake than the 50-minutes indicated in the recipe (more like 75) and it stuck badly to the parchment. Next time I will just grease a pan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cranberry Noir

Teaching is a great job because of the students. We gain at least as much as we give them. I learn something from a student every day, and because on Fridays my students are usually in elementary or middle school, I gain even more fresh ideas than the average university professor.

Photo: Leah Nash for NYT. Food photography is definitely best left to the professionals, especially for a dish like this.
And sometimes what I get from students is not just fresh ideas, but actual cool stuff. In this case: very fresh cranberries. A few years ago, I played a small role in a student getting an internship with a major cranberry grower. She is still with that grower, and this Thanksgiving I am thankful that she has brought us berries!

She did so just as I learned of a recipe that calls for Pinot Noir and cranberries. I was prepared simply to put equal amounts of each in a pan and cook until it was sauce, but I found the actual recipe is a bit more interesting, full of spices.

I used a spice grinder rather than a coffee grinder, because spices would definitely taint coffees. I also used vanilla extract because our local store did not carry vanilla pods. I then heated all of the ingredients in an indispensable cast-iron skillet. I cooked it for a bit longer than called for, but otherwise stuck pretty close to the recipe.

When Pam walked in the house she exclaimed, "It smells like Christmas!" Which of course it did.

We are going to let this chill overnight and will pair it with another Pinot Noir, but for now we can rely on taste tests of the warm sauce to confirm that this is delicious!

  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 cups fresh or thawed frozencranberries
  • 1 ½ cups Oregon pinot noir
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 cup clover or wildflower honey
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 6 strips orange zest, about 1 inch by 3 inches, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 (4-inch) sprigs rosemary
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • PREPARATION

    1. Combine allspice, cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground.
    2. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, wine, brown sugar, honey, orange juice, orange zest, rosemary, cinnamon stick and ground spices.
    3. With the tip of a paring knife, split vanilla pod lengthwise. Use the back of the knife to scrape seeds from pod. Add seeds and pod to pot.
    4. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring often, until cranberries have burst and liquid thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and discard zest, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon stick and vanilla pod. Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mint Chocolate Chip Glazed Popcorn

I love the color combination of light green and brown. Ever since I first saw a house painted with this fun mix I have always wanted to live in a "mint chocolate chip" house. A few years ago when we did a small renovation on our house and added a half bath and I was able to at least have it painted in my dream colors, but it wasn't the same as having a whole house with the hues I sought. This summer when we bought our beach house (aka "whaling house") James suggested that I could finally realize my dream. And so it came to fruition.

Last week I found this recipe when I Googled "healthy popcorn recipes" and I knew it would be the right thing to try at our whaling house. It takes a bit longer than standard salt and butter popcorn, but with about 20 minutes more time you can have a much superior snack. This wasn't too sweet even though it used both chocolate chips and honey and it has a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth quality. James immediately dubbed it the "official snack of whaling house".





Roasted Potatoes with Figs and Thyme

I really like the New York Times cooking section for suggestions of food combinations I wouldn't have thought of myself. This recipe for fingerling potatoes with figs was a prefect example. The figs were seeped in tea before being cooked in with the potatoes. Although I didn't let it sit overnight as the recipe called for, by pouring hot water over the figs along with three tea bags and letting it seep while everything else was prepared the subtle flavor of the tea came through. Otherwise we followed the recipe as written and had it as a side dish with some haddock cooked in lemon oil. A wonderful meal with leftovers to boot!

Mini Thanksgiving Feast

Cover art from a taste of cranberries and some tales too ....
We've been cooking new recipes at a cada semana pace lately, but have fallen a bit behind on the blogging thereof. It has been about a fortnight ago that I prepared Chicken Cape Ann, a stuffed chicken breast preparation from P. Ann Pieroway's delightful little book of cranberry recipes.

We are not quite sure how long we have had this book or where we got it. Living in the erstwhile cranberry capital of the world, we could have found it in any number of shops in our region. The author is from Cape Cod, where the berry still grows wild (if you know where to look), and has a number of food and non-food books about this corner of the world.

We chose this recipe because we happened to have most of the ingredients on hand -- that is the nature of our kitchen. It turned out not to be quite the quick dinner we anticipated, but it was delicious and rewarded the small bit of work it entailed.

I began by sauteeing the first three ingredients in 6 T of butter (I know, that's decadent and could probably be reduced):

1/2 yellow onion, diced (we did not have the called-for celery)
1/2 C fresh cranberries
1 ounce chopped walnuts

To this I added two ounces each of chicken stock.and cranberry juice. Here the recipe called for poultry seasoning and white pepper -- I used black pepper and a few herbs. I tossed this with about 8 ounces of bread cubes, and then chilled it while preheating the oven to 350.

The chilling is the time-consuming part I had not noticed when scanning the recipe prior to making it. In future, it would be good to do this part of the recipe the night before or morning of....

The recipe calls for 10 chicken breasts -- I think I used two, so there was plenty of stuffing for each. I could have stuffed a total of four, but stretching it out to 10 would be a bit thin. I split each breast and wrapped it around some stuffing, and put both breasts in a baking pan, along with the remaining stuffing.

Then came the somewhat tricky part. I heated two cups of chicken stock and 6 ounces of sparkling wine in a pan. I then stirred in one cup of light cream and continued to heat. In a separate bowl, I whisked 1 T of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of water and added it to the mixture, along with 1/4 cup of butter, cut into small cubes. I then stirred constantly as the butter melted and the sauce thickened and reduced.

When the chicken was baked through - about 30 minutes -- I plated it with the sauce.

A bit tricky, but a nice mini-feast that we will try again some time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

MOCHA MOLE (MO-ka MO-lay)

Today's post will be a bit odd. Many entries in this space follow a by-now familiar pattern -- a recipe is described or summarized, and then we describe any deviations from the recipe before describing (or bragging about) the results. 

For this entry on mole, I will follow the pattern; what is odd is that the recipe from which I deviate is one I created myself as I was preparing the meal. The deviations are small, however, and as is often the case simply have to do with what ingredients were readily available.

The recipe calls for several of the ingredients from Equal Exchange, for two reasons. First, it is an excellent company committed to just treatment of farmers worldwide. Second, it was having a recipe contest.

Equal Exchange is best known for its coffee, and in fact its coffee director Rodney North is in large part responsible for the way in which coffee has taken over my life. It is now also importing fairly-traded chocolate and more recently tea, as well as some domestic products such as cranberries and raisins.

Because two of its most important products are coffee and chocolate, I decided that I should create some sort of coffee variant on mole. And because the unconventional use of a balsamic from Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium had helped me to win a recipe contest before, I decided a L.O.V.E. potion would be on the agenda again. The recipe calls for some of Lebherz vinegars and is also modified from a mole recipe that we first included on this blog as Mole L.O.V.E. in 2012.

For further good luck -- and just because we enjoy their company -- we reassembled the winning team from that 2012 Bob Marley Coffee recipe contest to share this meal with us.

Before going on I should clarify that mole is a Mexican sauce more properly known as mole poblano, after the state of Puebla where it originated, and where Pam and I spent the summer of 1989. It is pronounced "MO-lay" and has nothing to do with those mouse-like critters. This blog now has several mole variations. 

Here's the newest one. It cites EE and L.O.V.E. ingredients, though substitutions can be made.


INGREDIENTS
One red chili pepper or one small jar roasted red pepper
One cup dry, finely ground Equal Exchange coffee, preferably a Central American blend (NOT brewed)
¼ cup brown sugar
4 T chili powder, divided
1 T paprika
Zest of one orange, divided
1 t black pepper
1 t salt
Whole chicken in pieces or equivalent of chicken, bone-in preferred
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Chipotle-infused olive oil
One onion or two shallots
1 t cumin
1 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
4-6 cloves
½ cup Equal Exchange raisins
½ cup slivered almonds
1 T Lebherz espresso-flavored balsamic vinegar
1 T Lebherz chocolate-flavored balsamic vinegar
1 Equal Exchange dark-chocolate candy bar, either strictly dark chocolate or with nuts
2 ounces espresso-infused tequila or Kahlua, optional
2 T sesame seeds, for garnish
Corn tortillas
Equal Exchange English Breakfast Tea (because it is smoky), Sangre de Toro, other Spanish red wine, Negra Modelo beer

DIRECTIONS
If using a fresh chili pepper, place it directly over flame on a gas stove, and turn with tongs until well charred. Remove from flame and place in a small zip lock bag or plastic-covered bowl for 10 minutes. Then remove stem, outer skin and seeds, and cut into small pieces. If using jarred peppers, simple cut into pieces and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine dry coffee, sugar, 2 T chili powder 1 T orange zest, pepper, and salt
Roll each piece of chicken in the coffee mixture until coated.
Photo: Ashley Costa
Heat chipotle oil in skillet, cook garlic so that the oil absorbs its flavor
Heat brown chicken pieces in the oil, 3-4 minutes per side; work in rounds if necessary
Transfer chicken to baking dish
To the oil, garlic, and residual chicken fat, add onion or shallot and roasted peppers; cook until onions are translucent
Add spices, tomatoes, tomato sauce, raisins, and almonds. Simmer on medium-high, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.
Continue simmering, uncovered, and preheat oven to 350 F
Pour in the vinegars and optional liqueur
Place entire candy bar in the center of the skillet. Feel free to take a photograph at this point!
After one minute, or when the candy bar has melted sufficiently, stir to blend vinegars and chocolate into the rest of the sauce.
Pour sauce mixture over chicken and bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes or until done and tender.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and allow to cool for ten minutes.
While chicken is cooling, warm tortillas in a dry, cast-iron skillet on high heat for a few seconds each. Place in tortilla warmer or cover with a towel.

Serve with a favorite beverage. Use tortillas to enjoy all of the sauce!

DIGRESSIONS
Normally I would roast a red pepper on the stove top, as shown in my Busy Kitchen post. In our Whaling House, however, we have an electric stove, so I used red peppers from a jar.
The coffee rub shown is not quite the one described. It was a rub we had on hand, and we did not have Equal Exchange coffee on hand (even though we live near the headquarters, we can only get the coffee online. So rather than use another brand of coffee, I used the rub. The description above approximates the ingredients on the rub.
We faced a similar predicament with the chocolate. EE was once sold in our local grocery store, and I discovered too late that it no longer is. So I got another brand (the name escapes me) of organic chocolate. It includes some pasilla pepper and cinnamon. Assuming such chocolates are hard to find, I recommend cayenne and cinnamon be added to the sauce.

RESULTS
We did -- thanks to friend and photographer Ashley -- have both of the recommended wine with this. The Toro is definitely the best pairing.
The overall outcome was a sauce that was a bit chunky for mole, but highly delicious. 
Verrdict: Eight Thumbs Up!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cajun Shrimp

We think of our Mini Moosewood (see *note below) as a vegetarian cook book, but it is actually pescatarian, and in it we found a simple recipe for preparing shrimp -- Cajun-style. I began with a pound of fresh, uncooked, huge shrimp directly from our favorite, seaside fishmonger.

I melted butter and olive oil in our indispensible cast-iron skillet while I chopped a small onion and four cloves of garlic. It turns out I could have used half an onion, but I'm glad I included all that garlic. As the aromatics softened over medium-high heat, I peeled and rinsed the shrimp. The recipe suggest keeping them intact, but that seemed like a messy way to eat dinner. Maybe it would have been more authentic, though.

I then added the interesting combination of spices called for in the recipe: rosemary, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and paprika. I did not measure any of this, but I think I was a bit heavy-handed with the peppers, and I don't regret it!

I then added a splash each of Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and Sauvignon Blanc. I continued cooking and stirring for just a few minutes, until the shrimp was pink and opaque.

We followed the book's suggestion and served this with nothing more than some nice crusty bread, and the rest of that chilled, dry wine.

*Readers of this blog will notice that this is one of our most frequently-used books. It is probably the best one for beginning cooks, or anyone who often cooks for just 1-2 people to invest in. Unlike the other books from the same famous restaurant, this focuses on what the Moosewood chefs prepare for themselves, and is therefore the perfect balance between quality and simplicity.

We purchased it in 1996, when I was leaving Pam home alone while doing dissertation work in the Amazon. Pam wanted to be sure she continued our tradition of eating real dinners, but was not sure that would be easy by herself. Because of this book -- plus the kindness of friends and her own determination -- she managed to have an actual dinner every single night of that three-month solitude.

Chicken Courvoisier

Whenever I think of brandy, I think of one of the executives in my defense-contractor days. Yes, I had defense-contractor days, with a food supplier, and we were not operating on nearly the kinds of fat margins that the weapons people make. But there were occasionally business dinners to be had, and this particular VP only ordered Courvoisier with his meals. So it has become the only brandy I usually think of, and I picture a nice meal with Wiggy (as this exec was known) and my other friends back at the food company.

After a hectic early fall, our schedules have become a bit more relaxed this week, so we took the time to do what the Nueva Receta blog project is all about. We pulled a couple of cook books off the shelves and started thumbing through them for something untried (by us). Knowing we had some chicken in the freezer, Pam's eye fell on a tiny booklet called Cooking Seafood and Poultry with Wine, by Bruce Carlson. It is published by Hearts and Tummies Cookbook Co., and we actually acquired it a couple of years ago at the lovely gift shop at Sakonnet Vineyard.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken quartered, which implies skin, bone and a generally different feel. But we had chicken breasts and decided to work with them. Once thawed, I dredged them in flour and placed them heated olive oil in our indispensible cast-iron skillet. I browned the chicken lightly and then set it aside on a warm plate. I then put an onion (cut into chunks) some "baby" carrots (we know there is no such thing, but you know what I mean), and minced shallots in the same pan, again browning lightly.

Before and after the flame. The initial flare was quite intense; by the time Pam could get close enough for a photo, it was the subtle glow seen above, like the Marfa Lights.
I then returned the chicken to the pan, doused it with brandy, and lit it. BOOM! it went briefly before glowing for about a half-minute. I'm not sure what the effect of this was, since it did not caramelize the onions or anything like that, but it was a nice show. I then covered and simmered for 20 minutes. I then added Grüner Veltliner from -- where else? -- Westport Rivers in the stead of the Riesling in the recipe, along with mushroom caps, covered and simmered another 20 minutes.

I will try this again sometime with whole chicken pieces just to see how the sauce might differ. This sauce was very light but pleasing, and I was reminded more than anything of the vegetables we would have with Sunday-afternoon pot roast when I was a kid.  We served this with my signature oven-roasted potato cubes, and of course the rest of that Grüner Veltliner.

The next morning, the "way-back" feature on Facebook reminded me that it was exactly a year ago that we had made our first foray into the flaming-brandy world, with an amazing coffee drink, a café brûlot!
We had a bit better luck with the timing of our photography last year.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lumberjack Stew

In Casa Hayes-Boh, the Sedaris family is a favorite source of high-brow/low-brow humor. We have read and heard almost everything brother David has written, and have made a couple of pilgrimages to see him in person. He once even gave us cake mix, and his inscription "...with the honor of meeting bakers ..." makes his copy of Holidays on Ice one of our household's great treasures. David specializes in tawdry word play for the NPR set; his twisted sister Amy takes the family business to a new level, most notably as a middle-aged former sex worker attending high school in Strangers with Candy.

Amy has a distinctly domestic side that is expressed -- with a bit of a twist -- in I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, which has been our guide for a couple other Nueva Receta entries. The book offers recipes in the context of entire home-entertainment events organized around a particular kind of guest.

As the title of this post suggests, for a few pages she applies her fertile imagination to the prospect of a visiting lumberjack. Queue up the obligatory musical reference, which my own Male Bonding Band has been known to perform on occasion.

Welcome back ...

Amy's Lumberjack Crosscut Stump Stew is part of a (fantasized) evening's entertainment with a strapping arborist, for whom she would also prepare a stack of white bread and her Lumberjack's Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. She also suggests a series of gift ideas for visiting lumberjacks, from an ax guard to tea tree oil shampoo.

The stew itself is rather simple to prepare -- we adapted it slightly to the cookware we have in our smaller kitchen at our Whaling House in Fairhaven. We began with very good, very local beef that we acquired at the farmer's market held each Sunday at Fairhaven High School (a.k.a. Hogwarts -- have a look). It was packaged specifically as stew beef by  J.H. Beaulieu Livestock and Produce Farm in Fairhaven, scarcely a mile away.

I browned the cubed beef in olive oil on high heat and then transferred it to a crock pot (not the casserole that Sedaris calls for). I then cooked a chopped onion and two minced cloves of garlic in the same pan the beef had been in, and added crushed tomatoes (she calls for puree), red wine, and a bit of balsamic (in place of white vinegar). To this I added a bit of sugar (trusting in Amy), salt, pepper, whole cloves and a stick of cinammon. I simmered them all together briefly and then transferred the whole mess to the crock pot.

After one hour, I boiled a package (10 ounces) of pearl onions in water, rinsed them and removed the outer skins, and then added them to the pot for another hour and a half of stewing. (NOTE: Pearl onions are great, though working with them is tedious.)

Meanwhile, Pam prepared drop biscuits from our kitchen bible by Deborah Madison. We enjoyed the biscuits along with some local cinnamon apple sauce, local milk (for Pam) and the decidedly non-local Malbec that had been used in the stew (for James).

The result -- a delicious, hearty stew that served as both lunch and dinner, with perfectly autumnal spice. As good as it was, it will be even better next time, when I will cook it at least an hour longer to make sure that the local, lean  beef has time to get uniformly tender.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Simple Sausage

I'd like to say that I found some wonderful,  free-range sausage for this recipe, and if we do come across some in the future, this might be how we use it. But the reality is that we took the easy way out this time, implementing a simple recipe that sounded scrumptious on the radio, and eager to try it during a very busy time of the semester. And we're glad we did!
Using grape wallpaper, because this dish does not photograph well, as evidenced by the effort made on the recipe web site.
According to a recent broadcast of the radio version of America's Test Kitchen, grapes and sausage are practically a staple in Italy. Who knew? The on-air discussion was mainly about why this works so well and what the best options would be for preparing the dish, but the pairing was discussed as one that would be familiar.

And now it is. I followed the directions almost to the letter, quickly browning the sausages before adding the grapes and onions, with some water to steam the sausages until cooked through. As promised, the result was both charry on the outside and moist in the middle.

The deviations were small. First, since I used turkey sausage instead of pork, there was no fat to drain. Also, I used dried oregano instead of fresh and neglected to go out to the yard for late-season mint.

For the finish, I used a couple ounces of Rkatsiteli from -- where else? -- Westport Rivers, leaving most of a bottle for us to share.

The result was as sweet and savory as the radio folks had promised; the only thing I'll change next time is to be sure we have a good bread to serve alongside this.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Creamy Polenta with Kielbasa and Apples

I adapted this recipe from this one from the New York Times.  I saved the recipe when I saw it a few weeks ago, so when I noticed that James had requested the kielbasa with our weekly milk delivery I thought it would make a fine substitution. James also suggested adding the apples. The other change I made was that I made the polenta with milk, rather than water because, try as we might, we were unsuccessful in slowing the tide of the milk delivery (look for another milk-laden recipe coming soon!).

This was simple to prepare, richly textured with a good combination of sweet and savory flavors, and quite filling to boot!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Roast Chicken with Cumin, Honey and Orange

This one came from the New York Times. I won't detail my experience, you can find the simple recipe here. I will say that it took a lot longer to cook than it should have. After over an hour of baking the thermometer read 167 degrees, but the center was clearly pink when we cut into it. It did taste good, the honey gave it a nice sweetness.

Syllabub

As a member of my town's One Book One Community Steering Committee I help to plan events around the theme of each of our chosen books. This fall we are reading The Remarkable Courtship of General Tom Thumb by Nicholas Rinaldi, and last weekend we held our opening event, complete with refreshments, of course. In addition to the juices, coffee, and pastries we served a drink mentioned in the Tom Thumb book - Syllabub. Tom and his bride, Lavina drank an alcoholic version made with wine, but we served a version made with juice. It was quite simple to make, and only required a few ingredients:

I mixed equal parts whipping cream and apple juice (I used 2 cups of each) with the juice and grated rind of one lemon. Everything was poured into a plastic container with a tight fitting lid and shaken until frothy (the recipe I used said to "shake until the sound changes from sloshing to muffled"). It didn't take long at all. I poured the mix into small sample cups with lids to take to the event. The juice and the cream separated a bit by the time we served it, but this is the way syllabub is meant to be drank. I found it to be a rather fun and tasty drink, and was, therefore, surprised that so few of the attendees tried it, especially since the sample cups were only about the size of a shot glass. Really, what's the worst that could have happened if they didn't like it?

James and I did try an alcoholic version at home later that evening. We used ginger-flavored brandy in place of juice and skipped the lemon. I might try it with a bit less alcohol next time.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

We'll Call This The Acushnet

As we mentioned in an eponymous post in 2012, Sweet Potato Quesadillas are among our favorite dishes -- nutritious, delicious, easy, and cheap -- and something we prepare frequently. This recipe alone has been worth the modest cost of the  "Mini Moosewood"  we purchased two decades ago.

The point of the book is simplicity, so we have always followed its recommendation to use commercial salsa, though we are careful to choose a really good one.

Last week, noticing that we still had a surfeit of fruit in the house, I decided to improvise a salsa that would use some of the fruit. I finely chopped one each apple, peach, jalapeno; two medium tomatoes, and the remnant of a large onion. These I mixed with just a little white vinegar (not having any apple-cider vinegar on hand). I chilled it we spooned it generously onto the quesadillas, along with some sour cream.

This indeed made one of our favorite dishes even better than usual.

Those following along at home will realize that this is quite a lot of salsa for two quesadillas, even if smothered in salsa. Good observation! We made good use of the rest, though, mixing into one of James' famous day-long chili concoctions. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Lagniappe: But What About the Name?

Over the past few months, we have begun making regular drives through the town of Acushnet, Massachusetts, which is between Bridgewater and Fairhaven. A few weeks ago we were surprised to see this usually quiet town buzzing with activity as it celebrated its annual Apple Peach Festival..We later learned that this is a major point of pride in the town, so this dish is named in its honor. We assume that the festival will afford us an opportunity to enter -- and perhaps win -- an apple-peach recipe contest at some future date.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Just Peachy Quesadillas

For Sunday's dinner, James played the role of Pam, concocting a new meal from ingredients we had on hand. On my way to Harvard Forest with students on Saturday, I had of course stopped at the "farm stand" of Bolton Orchards.
The stand is more of an emporium of all things apple -- including apples, applesauce, apple butter, apple candy, apple cider, apple donuts -- as well as all things local. It is such an excellent place to include in a land-protection field trip that we stopped twice -- on the way to the forest and on the way back. I was careful to restrain myself, but still managed to come home with quite a few peaches, apples, cider, and, yes, some cider donuts that the whole family enjoyed.

My dinner idea did not include the apples or the donuts, but it did make use of the peaches and the cider, as well as several other items in the house. I began by slicing two chicken breasts into thin stripps and browning then in olive oil in our indispensible cast-iron skillet. As the chicken was browning, I sliced two of the peaches (ripe but quite firm) and put them in the pan. That is when I realized that this dish had potential, at least to be photogenic.
I added a few vigorous squirts from the Tabasco bottle and a few spoonfuls of some blackberry preserves we had on hand. I stirred over high heat until the chicken was cooked through and the peaches slightly caramelized. I then added a glug of apple cider and allowed the mix to continue cooking until reduced.

To assemble, I used a slotted spoon to fold the mixture into tortillas with some sliced provolone and shredded Monterrey Jack, though other soft cheeses would serve just as well.
We topped these with standard salsa from Newman's Own, though one of his fruit salsas would have been even better. Similarly, we had it with our weekend house wine, a pedestrian Sauvignon Blanc that was refreshing but not quite a perfect pairing. We are open to suggestions on the wine front! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Our Most Important Libro de Recetas

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any DayMoosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day by Moosewood Collective
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be the most important book in our kitchen. When I was getting ready for my dissertation research -- three months in the Amazon without my sweetheart -- we already had the "regular" Moosewood. We liked it, but also knew that most of its recipes were a bit of work. Pam wanted to eat well while I was gone, but we needed something convenient enough for a cooking-for-one lifestyle.

This was just the ticket -- great, simple recipes for anyone who would like to have healthy meals on a weeknight.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Good Read Tortilla

James is adding some old favorites to his Good Reads profile; this is the first cookbook to be included.


The Well-Filled Tortilla CookbookThe Well-Filled Tortilla Cookbook by Victoria Wise
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We purchased this book more than 20 years ago, when we lived in Tucson -- where these things are decided. We do not traffic in "wraps" -- just tortillas. As hard as decent tortillas are to find in New England, this book allows us to put them to good use when we do.

Many of the recipes in this book have become comfort food in our home, but we still open it to a new page fairly often. Anyone who loves to cook will find plenty to enjoy in this book. On our recipe blog, we probably cite this book more than any other -- http://nuevareceta.blogspot.com/searc...

Enjoy!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Salmon with Root Vegetables

This recipe came from the "August" page of out Old Farmer's Almanac Cookbook Calendar. James likes to pick up seafood whenever he goes out with his rowing club. We eat later than usual on the nights he rows, so we try to find quick and simple ways to prepare the fish. Last week he brought some salmon so we could make the monthly meal from the recipe calendar we have in our kitchen this year.

I improvised a bit on the ingredients to use what we had on hand. We used white potatoes instead of red, and scallions instead of leeks, otherwise we followed the instructions combining the diced potatoes, diced carrots and chopped scallions and in our indispensable cast-iron skillet along with a c. of chicken broth. The veggies were covered and simmered over a low heat for 10 minutes. The fish was placed in the pan with them and covered again for another 10 minutes. Here the recipe calls for removing the fish and vegetables, then making a sauce with Dijon mustard, butter, and lemon juice, but I just added everything into the same pan and let it all simmer a few more minutes. A tender and flavorful meal.

James adds: Most recipes with "root vegetables" in the title feature beets and other variations on dirt, so this was much more delicious than the name implied for us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Birthday Simplicity

Image: Food.com. My results were tasty but lacking symmetry.
Among the many things of which we are proud as our daughter becomes an adult is that she has a strong and growing interest in good foods, including fruit. The rule in our house is that a birthday is celebrated with whatever dessert it requested by the celebrant. So when Paloma requested something strawberry-related, I did just a few seconds of "research" to find Fresh Strawberry Cake on Food.com.

This is a very simple vanilla cake with a simple glaze, except that it includes a full quart of crushed strawberries, divided between the two components. I looked for local strawbs, but we are about 6 weeks late for that, so I went with what I found in the store. I then stemmed and halved them, and used our potato masher to crush them (gently) almost to a liquid.

I used a Bundt instead of the called-for pans, which might explain the much longer cooking time I needed, and the messy outcome. As Pam said, "Cake Boss would not be pleased." But our entire little party agreed it was delicious, and it counts as a fruit serving!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Collaborative Chicken Salad

a.k.a. Tarragone Salad

Determined to do better with finding new dishes to prepare weekly, we took out some cookbooks and found a few new-to-us recipes. We like to start our summer weekends with Sunset Music at Westport Rivers Vineyard. Sometimes we eat some of the local fare from the vendors, but usually we bring our own picnic.

This week we tried Tarragon Chicken Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts from the Dishing Up Maryland cookbook. We took turns doing the various tasks in order to get this ready. James started the night before by boiling some chicken breasts and refrigerating them overnight.

While Pam was home for her lunch break she made the Old-fashioned Boiled Salad Dressing that accompanied the recipe for the salad. The dressing was made by starting with 3 eggs and a cup of milk whisked together. To this was added 2 T flour; 2 T sugar; 1 t salt; 1 t dry mustard; 1 t celery seeds and a dash of pepper. This was cooked on low heat while whisking continuously. Finally 1/4 c of vinegar was added.

Next time we'll make a better effort
 to include this beautiful herb.
But really, this recipe is
delicious without it.
When James returned from work he finished putting everything together. He was, in fact, clueless about the complexity of the dressing, having only read the directions in detail while wrapping up this blog post, to which he added the subtitle. The word "tarragone" refers to the omission of targon, both among the herbs to be added and the vinegar that the recipe calls for.

When James got home, he simply diced the now-cold chicken, finely chopped some celery, and combined both with 1/3 cup sour cream, red-wine vinegar, the dressing Pam had made, and some salt and pepper. He then stirred in a cup of chopped hazelnuts he had toasted for a few minutes in our indispensible cast-iron skillet.

Although preparation was spread over a full day, it took us longer to write this than it did to prepare the dish. It is simple and perfect on a roll for a picnic. It paired well with two different wines of medium dryness - Cinco Cães (Five Dogs) from the site of our picnic, and a more pedestrian Chardonnay from Line 39 a couple days later.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Coming Out of the Cold

As mentioned in the "Cada Mes" post last week, our summer has been blessed with everything but at-home leisure, putting us well behind our usual pace of a new recipe each week. Well behind. As we get back on track, today's post is not only a specific recipe, but some of what we have learned about how to plan meals.

It began with Pam making a list of today's goals that included a freezer inventory. After a morning row and some extreme yard work, we got together at the freezer door and used a cooler so that we could take everything out and put it on a list. We threw out one or two items that were of miniscule quantity or unknown provenance, but otherwise made a detailed list of everything in the freezer before returning it there. (I did generously volunteer to save space by finishing off a small quantity of vanilla ice cream.)

With the inventory in hand, we each grabbed a cookbook to look for something that would be new to us, interesting, and most importantly that would use something from the inventory. Pam found a chicken salad that we will prepare at the end of the week for our weekly vineyard outing -- details to follow.

Because I knew we had a fresh package of tortillas in the fridge, I turned to our bible, a.k.a. The Well-Filled Tortilla. I have to admit I was doubtful. After all, we have used this book many times over the past 20 years, and much of what remains is either grandiose (even for us) or uses ingredients on the no-go list (olives, tripe). But we had a half-bag of lentils ("half" being the most common word on our freezer inventory), so I checked the index for that word.

On page 221 is a recipe entitled "Indian-style lentils." We were prepared to use the second half of our Sunday for something more complicated, but this worked out very well indeed. We went to our local farm stand at Hanson Farms after deciding the recipe, so that we could get the needed tomatoes there. We planned a grocery-store run for after the farm stand, for any items that would not be there. This is always a good order to shop -- home inventory then farm stand, then grocery.

The rest came from our shelf, fridge, or modest garden. (Actually, mint is not a "garden" item. It is something that the previous owner of our house planted, and which we can now retrieve from random spots all over our property.)

Preparation was incredibly simple, halving the recipe as printed. I put 3 cups of chicken stock (could have been any stock) in a stock pot, along with 1/2 pound of lentils and three medium potatoes, diced to 1/2-inch.  I then added plenty of turmeric, cilantro (in place of coriander), ground clove, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. I heated to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes.

I then added a generous splash of lime juice (from a bottle in this case). We then diced tomatoes, tore up some mint, and spooned up a little sour cream that was in the fridge. The only thing missing was something the recipe calls "pickled carrots, optional."

The result; Delicious! I had been skeptical of a dish calling for both lentil and potato, but they worked well together in this case. These tacos paired beautifully with a 2013 Wild Oats Pinot Noir from from San Luis Obispo, California. This is a complex wine with dark fruit flavors and just a bit of spice.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cada Mes Salad

It has been a busy summer for the Hayes-Bohs, as we prepare to send one family member off to college while also arranging for the purchase of a second home, a small retreat near the sea. We have not managed to maintain any thing like the weekly pace of new recipes envisioned for this blog project, barely managing one new recipe a month.

Despite distractions, we have managed to enjoy our tradition of vineyard concerts nearly every week, though we have wimped out on the picnic preparations, relying on a combination of deli salads and on-site catering most of the time.

Pam saved the day -- and our reputation -- by finding a recipe for a salad that we could bring to the vineyard this week. In the New York Times, she found Mark Bittman's recipe for Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Mint.

This is a recipe whose title is the recipe. James prepared it by simply putting all of the ingredients listed in the title into a bowl, and tossing with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We put it with some ice in a cooler, and had a wonderful accompaniment to the Compton Catering hot dogs and Cinco Caes wine we enjoyed on the lawn at Westport Rivers.

Although we have now skipped from June to August on the blog, we did prepare this dish right under the wire for a recipe per month. Not to worry, though: cada mes is not our new standard. This is still the cada semana recipe blog!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Key Lime pie-wiches


Here's a simple summer treat that works as a breakfast, lunch, dessert, or snack-no cooking, or baking involved:

Put a schmear of cream cheese on a graham cracker, and add a dab of Key Lime jelly. Eat either open-faced, or put another graham cracker on top. Sweet, crunchy, and creamy. I invented this myself. Especially good with a nice cold glass of milk.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Simply Hot

Pam and I scanned the recipe shelf as we contemplated a Nueva Receta for this week, and for some reason our eyes rested on the same title: The Tabasco Cookbook, a slim volume written by a scion of the McIlhenny family on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of my favorite sauce (almost my favorite beverage).

Every page exudes Paul McIlhenny's upbringing in the midst of culinary legend. Many of the recipes we will save for seasonal ingredients, a larger crowd, or the availability of seafood. The vignettes of Tabasco lore sprinkled throughout make this a particularly good cookbook for browsing.

After a few minutes of noting recipes best suited for a different day, we chose "Craig Claiborne's Ultimate Hamburger" on page 88. (The name was familiar, but it is only upon finding his obituary that I realized he was both a food writer for the New York Times and a native of the Mississippi Delta.

The recipe is simplicity itself. Start with good ground beef and handle it minimally, just enough to form patties. Heat a cast-iron skillet to a searing temperature, sprinkle it with salt and then sear each side of the burgers. Once flipped, cook for three minutes or to desired doneness and then top with salt, pepper, Tabasco, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and fresh parsley. Transfer to buns and serve.

I digressed just slightly from this recipe. My one failing is that I got the skillet -- which I had just reseasoned -- hot but not searing hot. I will be braver next time. Second, I added a little Mexican cheese. I also used basil because we had it fresh and a little lettuce and tomato. Next time I will skip the cheese, cut back on the salt (the cheese combined with Claiborne's prescribed salt was just a bit much), and also skip the vegetables.

Regarding the salt, Pam pointed out that it was nicely balanced by the Wild Oats Shiraz we paired with this meal, and I agree.

It is fitting that as I prepared this, I listened to an interview about simplicity, food, and flavor that I am writing about separately under the title We Eat Giant Babies, forthcoming on my Environmental Geography blog. It was a hopeful interview, in which a food writer expresses the view that people really are starting to understand what we have lost in big-ag food systems, in terms of both health and flavor. A simple recipe works well if the food -- in this case the beef -- is real food with its own inherent flavor.

Actually, the title of this post is a bit of a lie. The pan was hot, and hot sauce was involved, but the author rates this as one chile on a four-chile scale, and we have to agree. Even New Englanders can try this without fear of excess Scovilles.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting Figgy with Breakfast

One of our favorite places to visit on the South Coast is Partners Village Store (and Kitchen), which is a great collection of small businesses, all of which thrive where none of them could survive alone. That is, about a dozen retail shops share both the space and the staff of 2-3 friendly and helpful clerks. The stores are full of charming gifts, books, toys, garden items, and clothing. Some of it is a bit expensive, but some of it is not. This is a business model that could work just about anywhere that a community wants to break the big-box-store cycle.

It was in the bookstore section of Partners that we discovered the kitchen calendar (aka Casa Hayes-Boh Nerve Center) for the current year. How could we not purchase a calendar made not only for the kitchen, but for this very blog? Besides having a folksy title, The 2015 Old Farmer's Almanac Recipes Calendar has una nueva receta cada mes -- a new recipe every month!

Careful readers will notice that this is MAY and we have not yet made anything from the calendar, but today was our day to start, and the result was delicious. I will stipulate for the record that this recipe turns healthy, vegan food (an apple and some figs) into food that is neither (with the generous addition of pork sausage), but it still was delicious. And maybe a clever reader will figure out a way to apply this concept to healthier and more sustainable ingredients.

The recipe calls for six large "baking" apples and a pound of sausage, I adjusted both quantities downward. As I browned the sausage, I cut the top 1/2 inch from each apple, leaving it with a flat top. Then I removed the core and most of the flesh, keeping the bottom and sides intact, about a half inch all around. This was not easy -- I used a small knife and a grapefruit spoon to get what I could without wrecking the cups I was forming. I chopped the apple into small bits. I added this and a few figs (the recipe calls for dried, but I used a few whole figs, again in small bits) back into the pan, along with cinnamon, brown sugar, and lemon zest.

I mixed this thoroughly and spooned it into each apple. There was plenty that would not fit, which I put in a small baking dish. I put the apples in a larger baking dish and sprinkled each with a bit more cinnamon and brown sugar.

I baked at 375F for 25 minutes, because I thought 40 minutes was too long. The result was an apple cup that was still firm to the bite, filled with deliciousness. It was not, alas, very pretty, even had my phone managed to focus better than this:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tostadas Mayoníficas

This recipe puts the mayo in Cinco de Mayo.

We are still catching up from the culinary bounty of two weeks ago, when three feasts in a row preceded a flurry of academic work. We did blog about the delicious tartlets that we made for my attainment day on Saturday the 3rd.

We did not blog separately about my birthday feast on Sunday the 4th, -- which was a re-enactment of the first meal I prepared for Pam -- because the recipe is already on my web site. I prepared the main course as described, noticing a few problems with the ingredients lists in the process; I'll update those soon. This remains a major endeavor, and one worth undertaking at least once a year. I will add that our ability to pair wines has greatly improved over the past thirty years, with Westport Rivers far outshining Paul Masson. Aside from cooking, I spent my birthday reflecting on the day itself, and ending the day by indulging in a movie starring the most famous person to share my birthday.

All of this was prelude to a very nice dinner with friends on Monday the 5th, Mexican Independence Day.

JUST KIDDING! As Latin Americanists who have spent a lot of time in or near Mexico, we know that Mexico's Independence Day is on September 16 and celebrates Miguel Hidalgo's famous Grito de Dolores in 1810. May the 5th, in fact, marks neither Mexican independence nor any other date significant to the entire country. Rather, it is a local holiday in Puebla, akin to Bunker Hill Day in Boston. The holiday celebrates the defeat of French invaders in Puebla on May 5, 1862, and because Pam and I spent the summer of 1989 in that city, we have taken an interest in the holiday, and I have included some information about the battle and about Puebla more generally on my geography blog for kids.

It was shortly after our summer in Puebla that marketing geniuses at a San Antonio beer importer decided to start promoting the holiday throughout the United States. Clearly they were on to something, as our country suspends its 364-day-a-year antipathy to celebrate Mexico, or at least the excessive consumption of Mexican beverages. Thus has May 5 has become, for us, a date to celebrate Mexico, but as far as possible from Mexican restaurants!

To make this happen, we invited over a couple of friends and turned to our old standby The Well-Filled Tortilla, in which Pam found a tostada recipe entitled "crab, watermelon, and breaded chili strips." This is another of those recipe titles that includes have the ingredients, from bottom to top, this recipe is simple:

  • tostada shell (this is like a giant, round tortilla chip)
  • lettuce
  • watermelon cubes
  • breaded chili strips
  • lump crab meat
  • tomatillo mayonaise
  • abundant cilantro

Since I never liked watermelon much, we substituted a chilled honeydew melon, which was a perfect compliment to the crunchy, savory ingredients. A single large melon also left plenty to be used in fruit salads and smoothies for the rest of the week.

The recipe -- like several in this book -- is a sort of Russian nesting doll, in that some of the "ingredients" are actually other recipes. The first of these is the chili strips. I wondered how slices of chili would hold batter, and it turns out that the answer is "not well" so that in this instance "breaded" was more like "fried with corn meal." This was not a bad thing, though, and this layer added crunch and a lot of flavor.

The recipe calls for lump crab meat to be picked from whole crabs. This is not really possible this far from Maryland, but I hoped to find some lump meat in local fish markets. What I found was simply imported, canned crab, but since we were fairly well committed to this recipe, I bought some. And since I had no idea how much crab we would actually use, I bought two, one-pound cans, one of which turned out to be plenty for for adults to enjoy this meal.

The tomatillo mayo is an even better example of a nested recipe, as it calls for combining mayonnaise with salsa verde and a few other ingredients, and of course salsa verde is an entirely separate recipe. It was well worth the effort, though, to make a cool, tangy mayo that allowed for the weak pun at the top of this article! More importantly, it was a fabulous topping for this recipe and held up well in the fridge as a more flavorful substitute for mayo all week.
4Matic Crab
This dinner far exceeded the 20 to 40 minutes indicated for preparation time, and was messy both on the plate and in the kitchen as a whole. It was delicious and highly satisfying, however, and paired well with both Negra Modelo (one of those beers at the center of reinventing the holiday) and margaritas.

We are likely to try it again some day, but for the remaining can of crab in our fridge, we are mostly likely going to "Crispy Crab and Breaded Chili Strips" recipe -- another of the nesting-doll variety. It calls for cooking the crab with some wine and garlic, and placing it in a soft tortilla with the same chili strips as those used above.