Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pay de Queso

Sweet Fresh Cheese Pie Pay de Queso is basically a Mexican cheesecake. Rick Bayless refers to it as a "Sweet Fresh-Cheese Pie" in his Authentic Mexican Cookbook. I always thought a cheesecake closer resembles a pie than a cake anyway.

I've never had Mexican cheesecake before so I'm not sure what makes it Mexican. I can say that in this particular recipe, the texture is the biggest difference to traditional cheesecakes I've had. It has an airy almost foamy texture which is created from the whipped egg whites that are folded into the batter just before baking. I discovered a large KitchenAid stand mixer is not the best way to beat two egg whites. I had it running for several minutes without making much progress. The wisk just doesn't get down far enough into the bowl to whip them very well. I ended up getting out my hand mixer to do the egg whipping. It didn't take long to get some nice stiff peaks formed. I did have a little trouble folding the egg whites into the batter because the whites were so stiff and the batter was so thin. I had to fold it in longer than I think should have been to get out all the egg white lumps. it didn't seem to affect the outcome of the pie though.

The other main difference besides texture was the type of cheese used. Traditionally cheesecake is made with cream cheese. A mild goat cheese or German Quark were a couple of the recommended cheeses to use. I had never heard of Quark cheese and wasn't sure how easy it would be to find. I figured my best bet would be Whole Foods. I figure if they didn't have Quark, I should at least be able to find a mild goat cheese. They just happened to have Quark though it wasn't imported from Germany, it was made in Vermont. It was around $4 for 8 ounces of it, much more expensive than cream cheese.

The crust for the pie was a little unusual. It was simply food processed white bread and sugar pressed into the bottom of a pie pan. So it wasn't really a very crispy crust like most pie crusts but it still worked and was a little surprised it came out as good as it did.

There aren't a lot of spices in this cheese pie recipe and no berries or sauces on it like you would normally find on a cheesecake. I had few strawberries in the fridge I was tempted to put on top but decided to stick with the recipe and not add anything to it. Vanilla and cinnamon were pretty much all that flavored this pie. Even though there weren't a lot of ingredients/flavors in the pie, it worked and I didn't even miss the berries.

I did look at a few Pay de Queso recipes online to see if I could find any similarities and they all were pretty different. They didn't all use the same crust or all use the same cheese or all use whipped egg whites. Maybe this is a more traditional or authentic version of Mexican cheese pie.

Quark Vanilla Extract
Bread Pie Crust
Merging Ingredients
Whipped Egg Whites
Cheese Pie Cooling

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pollo a las Brasas y Frijoles Charros

Pollo a las Brasas y Frijoles CharrosI had originally planned on just making the Frijoles Charros (beans with bacon and roasted chiles) but I wasn't sure what to make with them since it's more a side dish than main dish so I looked through Authentic Mexican for another recipe that didn't look too time consuming to go with it. I came across the recipe for Pollo a las Brasas, Estilo Sinaloense (Grilled Chicken, Sinaloa Style). It actually wasn't too hard to find, it was actually suggested as a "perfect Match" in the beans recipe and it looked pretty simple so I went with it.

I started on the chicken first, making the orange juice marinade using fresh orange juice. I used my new juicer attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer. The recipe called for 1 1/3 Cups of juice and it took about 5 oranges to get that amount. I had a little leftover which I served over ice to Mark after I had a taste. I blended the juice with lots of garlic and some other spices in the new Blendtec and coated the chicken I quartered myself with my new cleaver. I decided to get a cleaver for butchering chickens because I didn't want to ruin my Shun knives. I got the cleaver at Bed Bath & Beyond for $45 minus 20% with the coupon I had. I guess I've been getting a lot of new kitchen gadgets lately. At least I am putting them to use!

While the chicken was marinating I got the beans soaking in water. I've been meaning to make some beans for a while. I even had a bag in my cabinet. However I had them so long that I'm pretty sure they were no longer good. I think the bag said 2006 on it. So I got a new bag of pinto beans to be on the safe side. I only ended up using half of the 2 lb bag and it made a lot. I started this stuff early cuz I knew it would take a few hours of soaking and cooking. There were a lot of tasty ingredients in these beans including roasted poblanos, roasted tomatoes, bacon, and pork shoulder.

I used my BBQ for the first time this year for the chicken. The recipe actually called for using a charcoal grill but I used my gas grill and it turned out fine except for burning the skin of the legs which I think Mark rather enjoyed. I thought the two dishes complimented each other well. I'll have to start making my own beans more often and not buy the canned stuff all the time.

Halved oranges KitchenAid Juicer
Pinto Beans Bacon
Roasted Poblano Peppers
Chicken on the Grill Frijoles Charros

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chile Relleno de Picadillo

Chile RellenosChile rellenos are simply stuffed chiles, usually poblanos. They are commonly stuffed with either a cheese or meat mixture. This one in particular that I made from the Authentic Mexican Cookbook was a meat mixture made with pork on a bed of red spicy tomato sauce. Chef Rick Bayless' translation is "Pork-Stuffed Chiles in Savory Tomato Sauce".

This isn't a dish I've ever made before and was yet again another long cooking project. Instead of attempting to do it all in one day I decided to break it up a little and prepared the pork filling using the Picadillo Oaxaqueno recipe referenced in the "Snacks Made of Corn Masa" section of the cookbook on Saturday. It took about an hour and a half to prepare. I opted to roast my own tomatoes rather than using canned tomatoes but I did go with canned tomatoes for the tomato sauce. I made a little extra filling since I had more meat than needed and have been using the leftovers for other things. I made tacos for dinner that night with it and also had burritos last night and still have a bit leftover.

I prepared the rest of the dish on Sunday. First I made the Quick-Cooked Tomato Chile Sauce referenced from the Sauces and Condiments section which only took about a half hour and just set that aside. I again got to roast some chiles. The recipe called for 8 poblanos but since there were just two of us eating, I figured 4 would be plenty. It didn't seem like chile rellenos would be that great as leftovers so I made just enough for dinner.

It had been a long time since I've had chile rellenos. I prefer them crispy but restaurants just don't seem to make them that way so I don't usually get them. I was thinking these might turn out crispy but they didn't. They were still pretty tasty though. I did have trouble keeping the rellenos closed while frying them. Some of them wouldn't stay closed so a lot of oil got inside and I thought they would be too greasy, but they didn't seem to be but I didn't think they looked all that pretty.

I decided to look up some youtube videos to see how you're supposed to make these properly which I probably should have done before making them. This video was one of the best ones I found on how to make them. Unfortunately it's in Spanish but you get the idea by watching it. After watching the video I realized my rellenos looked pretty similar to the finished product on the video so that made me feel better. However I also realized my batter didn't look as thick as the one in the video. He used the batter to basically close up the relleno so it didn't open up. I think my main problem was that I may not have beaten the eggs quite enough. In the video he stirred the egg yolks and flour into the egg whites with a fork while I beat them in with the mixer. I think I also used a little too much oil in the pan. The chiles were almost completely submerged in the oil rather than just half of it. If I ever make these again I'll have a better idea of how thick the batter should be and know how to keep the relleno closed. At least it tasted good!
Fresh Tomatoes Roasted Tomatoes
Tomatoes Peppers and Onion
Poblano Peppers
Peeled Poblano Pepper
Flour Coated Rellenos
Frying Chile Rellenos

Monday, April 11, 2011

Baked Kale Chips

Baked Kale Chips RecipeI first saw these while watching Gardening with Cisco a few weeks ago. They always have a little cooking segment with PCC chef, Lynne Vea, on the show and this one caught my eye and decided I would give it a try. You may know that kale is one of the most nutritious veggies around. 1 Cup of boiled Kale has the following Daily Values 1327% Vitamin K, 192% Vitamin A, 89% Vitamin C and less than 100% of several other nutrients. You can see the full nutrient chart here. I'm not sure how boiled kale differs from baked kale but it must be pretty good for you too. Maybe even better since some of the nutrients might come out in the boiling water.

They are surprisingly easy to make and don't take long at all. You just need to keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn. I just put sea salt on the chips I made but you can put some herbs on them for more flavor. I saw one recipe online that had vinegar on them which I might try doing the next time I make some. They were surprisingly crispy and tasty. Below is the easy recipe I used.

Ingredients:
1 bunch of kale
1 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Remove the center stem from each kale leaf. Cut kale pieces into desired size. (I cut them in 1-2" pieces.)
  3. Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. (I used a salad spinner)
  4. Put the kale in a ziplock bag or bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Shake the bag or toss them in the bowl to evenly coat the kale with the oil.
  5. Spread the kale in a single layer on baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes, until they start to brown on the edges. (I used 2 sheets) Check on them frequently after 10 minutes to make sure they don't burn.
  6. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt and/or herbs

Baked Kale Chips

Monday, April 04, 2011

Pollo en Escabeche

Pollo en Escabeche by gapey, on FlickrRick Bayless' English translation of this dish is Chicken Thighs with Vinegar, Oil and Aromatic Spices. This was a recipe from the Poultry section of his Authentic Mexican Cookbook. This was my 10th recipe from the cookbook and I'm just a few weeks (categories) away from completing this project.

The only ingredient I had trouble locating in this recipe was the Xcatiques or banana peppers. I called around to several locations that I thought might have them and it seems they are not in season and it would be tough to find any until summer time. I did some Googling to see what kind of peppers I could substitute since there were no other options mentioned in this recipe. I ended up going with Anaheims which I was able to find at Whole Foods in Redmond. I also ran out of Oregano. I knew I was getting low and meant to get some during my last grocery trip but forgot to put it on my list so I ran out. I had some Italian Seasoning that I used as a substitute. It had oregano in it so why not? It seemed to work out fine. The only other ingredient I had to buy was the chicken. It seems like every cookbook I go through there's one or two ingredients that is used a lot. The ones I've used most with this cookbook are bay leaves and ancho chiles. I don't use bay leaves too often normally but I've gone through a jar of them that I've had in my cupboard for a while and had to buy more.

It was my first time roasting chiles and the smell brought back memories of when my mom used to roast them when I was a kid. Rick gave a few options for how to roast them. I first tried his favorite method which is roasting them over an open flame (my gas burner). It was taking longer than I would have liked so I decided to skip that method and go with what my mom does and just stick them in the oven on broil until they turn black. It was much easier and faster than standing over the stove roasting them one by one.

One thing I found a little odd is that the chicken was cooked before being marinated. Most marinades I've used are used on raw meat. I used skinless, boneless chicken thighs but the recipe was geared more toward chicken with the skin because the marinade was to be put on the skin side of the chicken. I just put it on the side the skin would have been.,

As the English name implies, this recipe has a vinegar base so it is somewhat similar to the adobo I made previously. I liked the flavor the roasted chiles added to the dish. It gave it a little heat but not too much. It goes pretty well with rice as I found out with some of the leftovers I had for dinner tonight. The rice soaked up the tasty broth.

Anaheim Peppers
Roasting Peppers
Roasted Peppers
Roasted Pepper Strips Onions and Peppers
Marinating Chicken Thighs