Soup of the Fortnight: Gumbo

Posted by Anita on 02.27.06 4:25 PM

gumbo (c)2006 AECJumping the gun on Mardi Gras a little bit, we made gumbo this weekend.I followed Mayhaw Man’s step-by-step from his eG foodblog, scaling down to about 1/3 of a recipe (4 chicken thighs and 13-oz package of Aidell’s andouille). Had to wing it a bit on the veggie ratios — it’s more of a pictorial than an actual recipe — but it turned out fabulously.

Another gumbo recipe said that you really want the veggies (onion, garlic, celery, pepper) to be really well chopped before adding them, and apparently using a food processor is more than OK in this case. I took that advice, and ended up with a gumbo with plenty of good mouthfeel and body.

Even with the scaled-down recipe, we had enough for 2 generous bowls last night, plus 3 lunch-size servings. We’ll definitely be adding this to the regular soup repetoire.

cooking, food boards, Soup o' the Fortnight
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Memories: Culinary heritage

Posted by Anita on 02.06.06 1:50 PM

(originally published as part of eGullet’s Culinary Memories of your Grandparents thread)

Grams & Gramps and me (c)MREMy paternal grandparents died when I was very young, so I have no memories of them. To hear my father tell it, though, I probably wasn’t missing much, culinarily speaking. They did live on a chicken farm on the outskirts of Monrovia, CA (near Pasadena), though, and that I would have liked to have seen.

My mother’s parents are a source of many food memories. They lived in Glendale, CA (northern L.A. county, near Burbank), so we got to see them quite a lot. My most vibrant food memory of G&G was their pantry, which consisted of 2-x-4s that Gramps had hammered in between the wall studs of the basement stairs. The wall was perfectly deep enough to hold a single row of cans and jars… it was great fun to explore!

My grams, a first-generation Italian-american was a good home cook; I still use her chicken stuffing recipe, and a few others that fit into the day-to-day, down-home American genre. I don’t have any of her Italian recipes, but I do have a few letters that her mother wrote to her when she was first married, nearly all of which end with a recipe for something she thought the newlyweds would enjoy. They’re written in a lovely phonetic Italian-English hybrid that never fails to bring me a chuckle.

Gramps was always something of a gourmet at heart. He loved Julia Child — I have his copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking — and shopped at Trader Joe’s back when it was a single store with a funky selection of cheeses and wines. I also remember the aunts (including my mom) chuckling with amusement as he showed off the unglazed paving stones he’d used to line his oven for bread baking — this in the early 70s, when pizza stones weren’t yet something you could buy. After Grams passed away, my mom sent me to stay with Gramps for a week, probably over spring break. He made me tomato soup for lunch, from scratch… I’m ashamed to admit that I turned up my nose at the stuff, since it was nothing like the Campbell’s I was used to at home. (In my defense, I think I was about 6 or 7.)

Family holidays always started with hors d’oeuvres, known in our clan as “befores”… and Gramps usually brought them. The usual creamy dip with crudites (always including black olives for me), some cheeses, and ‘funny’ crackers.

Gramps was a bourbon drinker, and his kisses always tasted like Kentucky. It’s taken me a long time since his death to be able to bear the taste of bourbon — it’s just too closely tied to my memory of him.

cookbooks, family, food boards, Italian, SoCal
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Culinary Resolutions 2006

Posted by Anita on 12.15.05 1:54 PM

Originally posted as part of eGullet’s Culinary Resolutions thread

In 2006, I will eat… more food that I can trace to its source.

I will make… time for entertaining friends at home.

I will find… a talented architect to remodel my kitchen.

I will learn… where to find better lunch possibilities near my office, and not just lazily fill my belly with convenient crap.

I will teach… the basics to my friends who want to learn to make Thai food.

I will read…. cookbooks from the library before I buy them, to keep my media budget sane.

This is the year I will try… to cook at least one new recipe a week.

I will taste… , at least once, anything that’s put in front of me, no matter how ‘weird’.

I will use… my new smoker (you know, the one I hope to get for my birthday) often enough to justify its purchase.

I will give… my time to the food bank, and not just when my company gives me time off to do it.

I… will fill my new garden with as many edible plants as possible.

We… will finally take our long-awaited culinary tour of Thailand.

My kids… are dogs, so their culinary needs are relatively simple.

cookbooks, food boards, garden, holidays & occasions, kitchen, Thai, travel
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Heyyy… ¡Chilaquiles!

Posted by Anita on 03.27.05 10:54 PM

Was sitting here, jonesing for Mexican food — even though I have dinner already prepped to go in the oven in a few hours — and I thought of my friend Jaymes’ quicky chilaquiles. Boy, am I glad I did! They’ve been the subject of some serious “more Mexican than the Mexicanos” backchat on Mouthfuls, as they’re made in the microwave with storebought ingredients.

I just have one word for the naysayers: Yum.

Salsa verde (tomatilla sauce); torn tortilla chips; queso manchego (or asadero, or ranchero, or fresco, or any other Mexican white cheese that you like); and sour cream.

In bottom of microwaveable dish, spread a little tomatilla sauce, then layer of tostadas or Fritos, then more sauce, then sour cream, then “bastante queso.” Repeat, until dish is full or ingredients are all used up, finishing with cheese. Microwave one minute, or till chilaquiles are heated through and cheese is melted. You’ll probably have to experiment a time or two in order to get all of the proportions just right. Use as much salsa verde as you wish in order to get it as ‘wet’ as you like.

I used a small rectangular pyrex dish (I’d say 5 x 7″), half a cup of the salsa, three handfuls of chips, and two or three tablespoons of the faux-crema. It took about 2-1/2 minutes, all together, for the cheese to melt and the chips to soften a bit. These quantities made a nice snack for two.

I wasn’t planning to share, but Cam came in and said “Mmm, that smells good” so I gave him half, and still ended up having plenty. (Of course, he has a batch of shortbread cooling on the counter right now, so I know which side my bread is buttered on!) For a full meal, I might try making about 2/3 this much and eating it with an egg. Hmm, that’s a good idea for breakfast tomorrow. I can only imagine how good it would be with the right cheese and homemade salsa…!

I had a bag of going-stale blue corn tortilla chips in the pantry, along with a small can of Embasa salsa verde. Good cultured sour cream (which I thinned a bit with half-and-half) in the fridge; alas, no Mexican cheese, so I had to make due with mild cheddar for this try.

Muchas gracias, Jaymes. It’d never occured to me to try doing chilaquiles the shortcut way, and now I can see this becoming a house favorite.

cooking, food boards, Mexican
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Seattle Taco Crawl

Posted by Anita on 03.14.05 6:02 PM

(Excerpted from the MouthfulsFood Taco Truck thread)

tacos (c)2006 AECAnother fabuloso day of taco-ness…

Cam and I had our tamales from Carniceria El Paisano for breakfast this morning… mmmm! Then we headed down Rainier and met up with Lauren and Rocky at the first taco truck on Rainier, Taqueria Dos Hermanos. Once again, I kept things simple and had a carnitas taco at every stop. Lauren stuck mostly with pork adobada / al pastor for the day; Cam was cabeza-boy; Rocky had lengua, substituting buche when available. (I had nibbles of lots of things, but I’ll let the others give you the round-up on their choices.) The carnitas at Dos Hermanos were good, not great. Tacos came in at $1, good mexican soda selection, super-hot (but flavorful) pickled peppers and carrots.

The next stop, the taco bus called El Asadero, was the best of show for me today, probably tied for best carnitas with El Milagro (the market next to Oberto — thanks for remembering, Rocky!). They weren’t quite as crispy or salty, but they were shreds rather than tiny cubes, which makes a difference to me. Asadero wins high marks for its garnish bar (rather than the standard 1 lime, 1 carrot, 1 chile that you get at most places) and for a good assortment of beverages. The imported Mexican coke and pepsi were expensive ($1.50, I think) but at least they had them. The oddball thing about this place was they didn’t include tax in the prices, so a taco comes out to $1.09. huh.gif

Our next stop was supposed to be Gorditos II, but they weren’t open (my fault, I see now that the P-I list says “Monday through Saturday”), so we proceeded to Malena’s in Ballard. As Lauren said when we were discussing it later, it feels odd to call something that costs $2.79 ‘expensive’, but there you have it. Malena’s had very limited taco choices (pork, fish, and I think chicken), they were more than twice the price of any others, they were made with standard supermarket corn tortillas, and loaded up with not-good guacamole, pallid pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce. Carnitas were slightly crispy but totally flavorless. The place was empty, not surprisingly. Another Seattle sacred cow bites the dust for me…

Onward to Taqueria Tequila in Greenwood. Nice selection of tacos, various prices from $0.99 to $1.50-ish depending on the filling. Carnitas were good but unremarkable; other items ranged from just OK to very nice. (I think Rocky liked the lengua and Lauren liked the chorizo, which I agree was tasty.)

We met up with Jan (SeaGal) and her husband Gary at Pancho Villa — the menu now says “Mr. Villa”, but otherwise it remains as I remember it. We’d earned our cervezas by this point, so we took a load off and ate there. Even though it’s a sit-down place, you can order just a single taco, if you like; I think they were $1.50 each. Carnitas were flavorful and slightly crisp, still good. Nice handmade tortillas, lightly griddled. I also couldn’t resist trying a chile relleno, which was tasty but needed more sauce.

Our last stop was the taco truck at Northgate and I-5, which we now know is called La Pasadita. A few folks opted for tortas here, which were huge ($4); I stuck with my program and had a carnitas taco (I think they were $1). These were probably the worst of the trip… even Rinconsito’s yesterday were better. The pork was flavorful, but the taco was probably half-filled with unrendered fat blobs and not a hint of golden crispiness was to be found. I believe the lengua was spoken of highly here, by Rocky and Gary.

Thanks to everyone for a great day. We’re definitely going to have to do another crawl to get the rest of the south end under our belts (literally!), and there was talk of a combined Eastside/Northside crawl, too.

food boards, Mexican, Seattle
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Seattle South-End Taco Crawl

Posted by Anita on 03.13.05 6:01 PM

(Excerpted from the MouthfulsFood Taco Truck thread)

carnitas taco (c)2006 AECMan oh man…

What a great day we had! Jan and Rocky and I even got to bust out with our spanish at a couple of stops where there wasn’t much english goin’ on.

The best thing I learned today: Ambaum Avenue is taqueria central. On the way from Zacatecas in ‘downtown’ Burien to the taco truck in White Center (Fondita II) we passed no less than 6 taquerias — including one with an outdoor parilla — plus a taco bus, and a mexican bakery. The saddest thing was passing them by!

Second best thing I learned today: chicharron doesn’t always mean just fried pork rind. There’s a meaty kind that they sell at Carniceria El Paisano that’s like the best carnitas you ever had. Oh, man. I am regretting not waiting in line to buy some. As it is, we’re looking lovingly at the two tamales in the fridge, waiting to get hungry again…

Here are my votes…
Best carnitas: the ones at the market in Kent, next to the Oberto Factory Outlet
Best tortillas: Zacatecas, where they make them fresh
Favorite overall experience: La Fondita II (“with two, you get garnish!”)
Saddest slide into mediocrity: El Rinconsito
Best thing I put in my mouth this month: Chicharron at El Paisano

Sue, you have to post all of the names of the places we went to, since we did so many substituions.

We definitely need to do another southside crawl: We hardly touched the P-I’s list of trucks, and we literally could do a crawl up and down Ambaum (with a 2-block detour over to 15th for chicharron and tamales at El Paisano).

I’m looking forward to seeing the crew at 11 tomorrow at the first stop on the Seattle tour. We’ll wait there until 11:15 or so in case of stragglers, but if we’ve gone, you can just meet up with us at the next stop.

food boards, Mexican, Seattle
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Yo quiero PIG

Posted by Anita on 03.01.05 11:21 PM

Excerpted from Mouthfuls’ Mexican Cooking Project #2: Cochinita Pibil

Cameron and I made cochinita pibil last night, using a hybrid of two Rick Bayless recipes: we used the small batch from Mexican Kitchen, but cooked it in the grill a la One Plate at a Time. We also made his habanero salsa — just a drop per taco was enough! — plus pickled onions and homemade tortillas.

We used a whole pork shoulder, and had plenty of meat. Ours took about 4-4.5 hours for a bone-in roast about 3.5 pounds and 4 inches thick on our gas grill that we kept at around 325 degrees F. The marinade didn’t completely dry up, but we did add about a cup of chicken stock to it to deglaze the pan, and then simmered that down to reduce back to the right consistency. We didn’t lift the wrapped roast up off the bottom of the dutch oven, nor did we cover it.

I’ve never had cochinita before, and I loved it. The achiote and the banana leaf gave it the most ethereal scent and taste. I had 2 tacos this morning for breakfast, and another 2 with some leftover black beans for lunch today. Man! It’s a good thing I have another project planned for dinner, or else I would eat it again!

cookbooks, cooking, food boards, meat, Mexican
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Bergamocello (Step 1)

Posted by Anita on 01.15.05 10:00 PM

bergamotto botanicalI bought a dozen bergamots today at Whole Foods, and my test-batch of Bergamocello — like Limoncello — is steeping happily on the counter, while I sip a Friday After Five cocktail made from the juice. I’m a happy girl.

Zesting the peels with a fine Microplane works much better (and faster) than a peeler or a traditional zester.

Tweaking Katie Loeb’s recipe from the eGullet Limoncello thread, these are the the ratios used for my bergamocello:

- 750ml of 100-proof vodka for the steep
- 750ml of 80-proof vodka for the dilution
- 500ml of 1:1 simple syrup (or to taste)

Basically, when diluting the mixture, use the same amount of vodka/everclear that you originally used for steeping. If you’re using 100-proof vodka, you’ll want to use simple syrup equal to 1/3 the total amount of vodka.

If you’re using Everclear/grain alcohol for the original steep, you can bring it down to a drinkable level by using 80-proof vodka for the dilution, or making a weaker simple syrup (more water than sugar).

drinks, food boards, preserving & infusing