My “Dirty” Little Secret

16 May Dirty Rice

My cooking is often influenced by memory; these memories being the food that my father cooked when I was a child. He used to tell me stories of how he would remember his mother taking various pieces offal and creating wonderfully simple, but delicious dishes. He often recreated these dishes at home, often to the displeasure of my sisters. One of these dishes was rice and chicken livers. I fell in love with this dish, I love the flavor that chicken livers bring to a dish, and it is delicious in a bed of rice. I never knew it until years later, but this dish was the Cajun classic, dirty rice!

Don’t be afraid, “dirty” rice really is not dirty or unclean as the name suggests. Dirty rice is a traditional Cajun dish made from rice cooked with small pieces of chicken liver and/or giblets and like most recipes, there are countless ways to prepare dirty rice, including a few recipes that don’t even call for chicken livers and gizzards, but use sausage or ground beef. Personally, this dish just is not the same without the chicken livers and giblets. I really savor the flavors of the chicken livers and the snap of the giblets, they both add contrasting textures to the rice. I too have made this a couple different ways, I have a version which uses saffron and red beans that is just as delicious. This recipe is a simple, yet an authentically full-flavored version.

I would suggest serving with Halibut Braised in Chipotle or  Pan Seared Bay Scallops ,it is even hearty enough to stand on its own legs. Just be sure to serve it with and a quality Pinot Noir!

This post is the first of a series of rice dishes that will be coming this month as I “train” for the upcoming Marx Foods Integrale Gaunlet. So please come back and find out how I plan to take my second consecutive recipe challenge from Marx Foods!

Dirty Rice

  • ½ lb. Chicken Livers
  • ½ lb. Chicken Giblets (hearts and gizzards)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large jalepeno, diced
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups White Rice ( I used Jasmine)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. Fresh Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
  • ½ tsp. White Pepper
  • Salt to taste
  1. In colander, rinse rice several times until water runs clear.
  2. Take the chicken livers and soak in milk for about 10 minutes.
  3. Take the giblets rinse well, and pat dry. Place in a food processor and pulse a few times to get a nice dice.
  4. Rinse the livers and chop well.
  5. Take a large sauté pan and heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the giblets, season with salt and white pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the livers and the dried thyme, continue to sauté for another 5 minutes
  8. Remove the livers and giblets from the heat and place in a dish and set aside.
  9. Put another tablespoon of olive oil in the sauté pan and put back on the heat.
  10. When the oil shimmers, add the onions, garlic and sauté until the onion just turns translucent.
  11. Add the red pepper and the jalepeno pepper, continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
  12. Add the rice and continue to sauté for about another 2 minutes, constantly stirring.
  13. Add salt to taste and the fresh oregano.
  14. Take the livers and giblets and add to the rice, mix well.
  15. Add the warm broth and cover.
  16. Reduce the heat to low
  17. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  18. Serve, garnished with diced scallions.

    Dirty Rice

    Dirty Rice

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The 4th Annual Morel Challenge Champion!

5 May

For all of those readers who supported me in this great content challenge from Marx Foods I am proud to announce that The DelGrosso Food Blog was just announced the WINNER of The Marx Foods 4th Annual Morel Challenge with my Morel, Wild Ramp, Poblano & Goat Cheese Soufflé!

The Winning Dish!

It feels so great to have been recognized by everyone as having the best recipe! It really validates all the work I have put into this blog in the last 8 months. Thank you to everyone who has ever read, commented, voted, talked about, or cooked one of my recipes! I hope this is the first of many accomplishments for The DelGrosso Food Blog.

The prize for this recipe challenge is 2 lbs. of FRESH morels from Marx Foods, so look for a few wonderful morel recipes to come in the next few weeks.

Vote for The DelGrosso Food Blog!

1 May

You all remember the last post I made regarding my Morel, Ramp, Poblano and Goat Cheese Soufflé. Well this soufflé was my entry in the Marx Foods 4th Annual Blogger Morel Challenge. I humbly ask for all of my subscribers, followers, and casual readers to head on over to their site and please VOTE FOR MY ENTRY! The winner receives 2 lbs. of FRESH Morels, and as an added bonus, the winners friend receives another 2 lbs! So if The DelGrosso Food Blogs entry wins, maybe one of you will win also! Voting starts today 5/1 and ends on 5/3 so please HURRY!

Morel Madness and the Audacious Soufflé

23 Apr Morel, Wild Ramp & Goat Cheese Souffle

This week I have the extraordinary opportunity to be a participant in the Marx Foods 4th Annual Blogger Morel Recipe Challenge.  This is an annual contest open to bloggers like me or, to coin a phrase, “morelnauts”, to help celebrate the Morel mushroom, which comes into season in a few short weeks. I simply offered up my interest, and was dutifully accepted!  So, having received my free sample of dried morels, it was time to suit up.

Dried Morels

My first thought, after consulting with my wife, was to make a fresh ramp and morel quiche, but I really wanted to put some sizzle into my entry. So after pondering it for a bit, I thought, “Fortune favors the audacious”, I instantly said, SOUFFLÉ! Problem number 1; I had never made a soufflé before! I had all the flavor affinities in my head, the eggs, the morels, the ramps, the goat cheese. I just needed to learn how to make the vehicle! So on Saturday, I went about my research and even took a test drive and made a Mexican Chocolate Soufflé! I soon learned that a savory soufflé is nothing more than an enriched bechamel sauce with some egg whites folded in! I can make a bechamel with my eyes shut, so this should be fun!

Morels have a unique earthy flavor and a musty aroma that pairs quite well with the pungent, garlicky-onion flavor of the fresh ramps. They are both at their prime in the spring, so why not use them together! I was able to find some fresh ramps at a local purveyor this weekend, and I thought why not deepen that earthy flavor with the deep smoky flavor of the poblano chile and toss in some rich, tangy goat cheese.  Finally I added a bit of freshness with the chopped cilantro plus,  I cannot be too far away from my Mexican flavors!

Fresh Ramps!

Fresh Ramps!

 

Well, here it is, my entry into the Marx Foods 4th Annual Blogger Morel Recipe Challenge! Enjoy…

The lucious Morel Soufflé

The lucious Morel Soufflé

Morel, Wild Ramp, Poblano & Goat Cheese Soufflé

  • 2 oz. dried morels
  • 2 chile poblanos
  • 4 oz. fresh ramps
  • 2 oz. fresh goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Take 4 – 8 oz. souflee cups and grease with some butter.
  3. Soak the mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, drain and dry very well with some paper towels.
  5. Roast the Poblanos in the oven, then peel, remove the seeds and de-vein. Chop to a nice dice and set aside.
  6. Wash the fresh ramps and remove the roots and the greens
  7. In a food processor, place the morels and the ramps and pulse several times to a nice coarse chop.
  8. In a medium sautee pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Then saute the ramps and morels for about 3-4 minutes, ensuring that any liquid is cooked off.
  9. Add the chopped poblanos and the dried thyme and continue to sautee for another 2 minutes to incorporate all the flavors. Then set aside.
  10. For the bechamel, heat 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  11. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook until the mixture has a slightly golden color and smells a bit nutty, about 3 minutes.
  12. Take the milk and add it a bit at a time, continuously whisking as you add the milk. I usually add it in 1/4 cup portions. Make sure to whisk out any lumps!
  13. Once all the milk is added, add the goat cheese and season the bechamel with white pepper and salt.
  14. Now, incorporate the mushroom, ramp, and poblano sautee, and the chopped cilantro, mix well.
  15. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  16. Separate your yolks and whites, whisk the egg yolks until they are a pale yellow.
  17. Take about a large spoonful of the bechamel and temper the yolks so they do not cook once you add them to the bechamel.
  18. Once they have been tempered, add them to the bechamel and mix well. Cover the pan with some plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the sauce.
  19. Take the egg whites and whisk until the have hard peaks (I take the bowl and invert it over my head, if they do not fall out and hit me, the whites are ready!) TIP: For greater lift make sure you use egg whites that are at ROOM TEMPERATURE!
  20. Now fold the whites into the sauce in 3 different stages. Simply divide the whites into thirds and fold each section separately.
  21. Take your greased souflee cups and spoon the sauce into each one a little more than 3/4 of the way up each one.
  22. Place in the center of your oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
  23. Quick!!! Serve immediately before they deflate!

Morel, Wild Ramp & Goat Cheese Souffle

Caldo de Camarón

12 Apr Caldo de Camarron

Can any two words be more delicious than Shrimp Soup? Now take that simply delicious shrimp soup and add a little Mexican flavor and you have the classic Caldo de Camarón.

Caldo de Camarón

Caldo de Camarón

Among all the tacos, tostadas, enchiladas, and tamales, Mexico also has a very large repertoire of soups, especially seafood based soups. Among those is the classic Caldo de Camarón. This hearty, slightly spicy soup is built upon a base of chile guajillo, a delicious shrimp broth, chunks of potatoes and carrots, and finished with fresh peeled shrimp. Luckily, I was able to find some fresh native shrimp at the local fishmonger, so this was a welcome treat to our Easter Sunday brunch!

In Mexico, this soup is often given complimentary in many restaurants, served in little shot glasses! It is a very delicious way to welcome you to their restaurant…

So as you welcome those special guests to your table, just remember to serve it very hot and always have fresh limes ready to be squeezed in the soup!

Buen Provecho!!!

Caldo de Camarón

  • 4 Red Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 8-10 Chile Guajillo
  • 1.0 lbs. Shrimp.
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  1. Peel and devein shrimp under cold running water, reserving peels and shrimp separately; set shrimp aside.
  2. Take shells, the onion, 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic, and ½ tsp of salt put in a stockpot and add about 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
  3. Strain broth and put liquid back into a stockpot and keep warm.
  4. Toast the chiles on a comal and then soak in hot water for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the stems and seeds and place in a blender with 1 clove of garlic, a peel of onion, and about 2 cups of soaking liquid. Blend to a puree.
  5. In another stockpot, heat about a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat, Strain the puree over the oil and then simmer for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat, allowing the puree to season and thicken.
  6. Add the shrimp broth that you had set aside, add the carrots, potatoes.
  7. Bring broth back to a simmer, and simmer  for 5 minutes.
  8. Turn heat to high, add shrimp, bring to a boil, and simmer briefly until shrimp are done.
  9. Add the chopped cilantro and add salt to taste.
  10. Ladle soup into large soup bowls, and serve with lime wedges.

    Caldo de Camarron

    Caldo de Camarron

Mixotes de Pollo

5 Apr Mixotes de Pollo

I love waking up in Mexico City… Each morning in my suegra’s house is to awaken every sense in one’s body. The first to awake is sound; you can hear the commotion of the city, car horns going off, the sounds of the street workers yelling “Glooooobos” or the occasional “Tamales Oaxacaños” recording. The next is sight; the bright sun of the Valle de México shining through your eyelids, kick starting your brain. Then comes smell; there is nothing quite like the aroma of my suegra‘s kitchen wafting up the stairs and into the bedroom. It often brings me back to the old cartoons, where the aromas were like hands, grabbing the antagonist and leading them to their savory desires.  Finally, there is touch; to walk downstairs, sit down and take a fresh corn tortilla, a cup of café de olla, and a plate of  freshly prepared mixotes is the final step to waking up in Mexico City!

Mixotes de Pollo

Mixotes de Pollo

Among all the delicious dishes my suegra makes, one of my Top 5 favorites is Mixotes.  Mixotes is a dish typical of central Mexico and the name derives from what I believe to be the method (traditionally the meat is wrapped in the leaves of the Maguey cactus the ‘Mix’ ) and the cooking technique ( the ‘otl’ part or the ‘otes’ plural) , but I am not a Nahuatl expert so don’t quote me as the source of this linguistic synopsis. I digress, Mixotes can be made with almost any type of meat. I have had ram, lamb, and of course in the case of this recipe, chicken. The traditional way is to season the meat with a chile paste and wrap in the leaves of the Maguey, very similar to barbacoa, add a scoop of nopales, and to pit roast the packages for several hours. The modern preparation is to prepare En Papillote  and steam the packages. In this case, we use foil instead of parchment paper. The chipotles used in this dish smell particularly delicious because of the smoky, earthy flavor that dried chipotles bring to the party. Those smells are the little hands that bring me down those stairs in the morning!

The final result is a wonderful spicy dish in plenty of chipotle flavored broth, tender cactus, and succulent chicken. I open up that package, close my eyes, and I am transported back to my suegra’s kitchen! Enjoy!

 

 

Mixotes de Pollo

  • 6-7 Chicken Quarters (Legs & Thighs)
  • 12-13 Dried Chipotles Moras
  • 1 cup cilantro leafs, loosely packed
  • 6-7 Nopales (cactus paddles)
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Put the chipotles in a saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  2. While the chipotles are boiling, clean the nopales and cut into thin 1 inch or less strips.
  3. Place the nopales in a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 3-5 minutes. Then drain and rinse with cold water, and let drain.
  4. Take the chicken and remove the skin, rinse well and pat dry. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Slice the onion thin using a mandolin and combine with the chicken in the mixing bowl.
  6. Add the nopales to the mixing bowl.
  7. Wash the cilantro and remove the stems, add to the mixing bowl.
  8. Once the chipotles are tender, put on some food service gloves and remove the stems and seeds, place in a blender with the clove of garlic and about 1/4 cup of the liquid you boiled the chipoltes in. Puree the mixture well and add to the mixing bowl.
  9. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the chicken time to marinate in the chile mixture.
  10. Grab some aluminum foil and make 6 sheets, make them large enough to wrap two pieces of chicken and some of the chile & vegetable mixture.
  11. With a large spoon, scoop out two pieces of chicken and some of the vegetables, place in the center of the foil and fold up the package, do this until all the chicken is wrapped into individual foil pouches.
  12. Place the pouches in a large pot with about 1.5 inches of water, you can place a bowl inverted in the bottom and then place the packages on top of and around the bowl, this will allow the packages to steam. OR you can use a spaghetti cooker (the one with the strainer insert).
  13. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and steam the packages for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, take out a package and check the chicken to ensure it is fully cooked.
  14. Serve with Saffron Rice or Frijoles de Olla.
Mixotes de Pollo

Mixotes de Pollo

Flan Napolitano

2 Apr Flan Napolitano

In the center of Mexico City, not far from where the Aztec main temple, Templo Mayor, once stood, there is the famous restaurant, El Cardenal. El Cardenal is an elegant place with white table cloths, white coated staff, and wonderfully delicious traditional Mexican cuisine. We go to this restaurant each and every time we are in Mexico City, primarily because they have the most decadent desserts to be found anywhere in Mexico. Among my favorites is Flan Napolitano, a delicious creamy custard covered in a sugary caramel, it is one of Mexico’s most famous desserts!

Flan Napolitano

Flan Napolitano

Flan has a long and glorious history that reaches back as far as Ancient Rome. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the custard recipe they developed became popular throughout medieval Europe.  As the recipe was replicated and adapted, it became more and more sweet. In Latin, the dessert was known as flado, for custard, it is from the French that it eventually became Flan.

In Mexico, flan was taken to a whole new level. Traditional flan is made with eggs, cane sugar, vanilla,  and cream.  It is prepared by first making sugar syrup cooked to a caramel, poured into a mold, or in my case, small soufflé molds, then finally adding the custard. It is cooked in the oven in a water bath to prevent the custard from curdling and to keep the top of the custard moist. Flan Napolitano is a bit different, in that it is made by adding cream cheese and queso doble creama to the custard. This gives the flan a much more rich and creamy texture. Flan is perfect for cooling the palatte after a spicy, chile based dish, this is why it is so popular in Mexico. There are other flavors as well; pumpkin, almond, and even coconut. But my favorite is still the classic vanilla.

In my interpretation, I decided to try to use marscapone instead of queso doble creama. The result was simply MexItaliano!

Right from the oven

Fresh from the oven taking a little bath!

 

Flan Napolitano MexiItaliano

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 9 ounces cream cheese
  • 9 ounces Mascarpone Cheese
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

For the caramel:

  1. Combine 1 cup sugar with the a bit of water in a saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
  2. When the sugar begins to melt, swirl the pan over the heat for 10 minutes, until it darkens to a honey-amber color.
  3. Remove from heat and immediately pour into each flan mold, tilting it so the caramel evenly coats the bottom.
  4. Place the molds in a large roasting pan and set aside.

    Making the caramel

    Making the caramel

For the flan:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Bring about 4 cups of water to a simmer and keep it hot. You’ll use this for your water bath.
  3. You will need to slice the vanilla bean down the sides and remove the inner seeds, to do this take a pairing knife and slice it lengthwise, open it up and scoop out the inner seeds and place it in the bowl.
  4. Combine  the condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream cheese, crema and vanilla in a saucepan and place over medium-low heat.
  5. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, but don’t allow it to come to a full boil, once it is throughly combined into a cream, remove from heat.
  6. Whisk together the eggs and remaining 1 cup sugar in a large bowl, add a pinch of salt. Whisk vigorously until thick and pale yellow in color.
  7. Now, GRADUALLY whisk the cream into the egg mixture, but be careful not to add it too quickly or the eggs will cook (What I do is combine the cream and the eggs together a ladle at a time)
  8.  Pour the custard into the caramel-coated flan molds.
  9. Carefully pour the hot water from the kettle into a roasting pan so that it’s about halfway up the side of the molds. 
  10. Transfer to the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  11. If you notice during this time that the surface is starting to turn golden-brown but it’s not fully cooked yet, cover it with foil so it doesn’t burn.
  12. You may also periodically insert a knife into the center of the flan to check for doneness. When the knife come out clean, it’s done; when the custard is just set and slightly jiggles, it’s time to take it out.
  13. Let custard cool completely in the water bath. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  14. To serve, run a knife around the inside of the mold to loosen the flan. Place a serving plate over the mold and invert it to pop the flan out

    Flan Napolitano

    Flan Napolitano