Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Two Steps From Hell Chile Verde

Tami of runningwithtweezers always has some great blog event ideas and her RWT Chile Cook-Off comes at a good time when we are full of elegant and rich Christmas dishes and need a humble pot of good chili to head us into the New Year.

Don't let this seemingly innocuous bowl of chile verde fool you! Upon first taste, your inner fire alarm begins to clang, but before it reaches the three alarm stage, the heat begins to mellow out to a nice glow. I used two jalapenos which was plenty hot for me, but for inveterate chileheads, go for the max-eight! Chile Verde is a great make-ahead dish and seems to improve upon reheating. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro and chopped radishes.

Prior to browning the pork tenderloin, the meat is seasoned with a rub consisting of oregano, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, and freshly ground black pepper. This spicy rub permeates the pork and gives the chile verde depth and some additional heat.

Chile Verde


1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3-3 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin

2 medium onions, chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons oil
2 bay leaves
1 12 oz. can beer
4 cups good chicken broth
10 green chiles, charred, peeled, seeded and stemmed
1 7oz can chopped green chiles
2-8 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, minced
6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

Cilantro and chopped radishes for garnish

Cut meat into 2 inch pieces and rub thoroughly with the spice rub. Brown the meat in batches, using two tablespoons of oil at a time. Set meat aside when browned. Saute onion until soft, then add garlic.

Return the meat to the pan with the onion and garlic. Pour in the beer and simmer briskly, than add the broth and bay leaves. Cook for 30 minutes. Add the chiles and jalapenos, cook for 45 minutes, than add potatoes and carrots. Simmer until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. Correct seasonings.

Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro. Serves 6.

Recipe adapted from "Red and Green Chile Book" by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Buche de Noel

I kept reminding myself that the reason I joined Daring Bakers was to challenge myself to bake new and different dishes that I would never attempt on my own. "You can do it, you can do it," I say the entire time I go through each step of the Buche de Noel recipe. Well, I have done it!! After a few mistakes, none fatal to the Buche, the cake came together. Now whether it is a professional job, the jury is still out on that one.

I followed the recipe, but brushed the baked, unrolled cake with an orange syrup and filled the cake with chocolate whipped cream which another flavor dimension to this rich dessert. It was a humid day when I make my buche, so I chose the marzipan mushrooms instead of the meringue ones.

Orange Syrup

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons Triple-Sec or fresh orange juice

Simmer sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add liqueur. Set aside until ready to brush on cake.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Filling

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl, whip until stiff and thick. Refrigerate.

When the cake has cooled, brush with the orange syrup, then following directions in the recipe, fill with the chocolate whipped cream filling instead he of the buttercream. Continue with original recipe.

To Garnish

Fresh Rosemary cut into suitable lengths-4 inches or so
Dried Cranberries or fresh using this recipe from Cooking Light
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
granulated sugar

Whisk egg white with water until frothy. Using a small pastry, paint egg white onto leaves and stem of the rosemary, Dip into the granulated sugar, shaking off excess. Let dry for several hours before using.

Thanks to Lisa and Ivonne for having the confidence in all of theDaring Bakers' to put forth such a challenging and beautiful holiday dessert.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Babas Au Rhum

This is a post from December, 2006, but it is such a gorgeous holiday dessert I decided to post it again. As I said in the original post, I have made these for years and my family thinks they are fabulous. You can substitute fruit juice for the rum.

Happy Holidays!

As the legend goes, the Baba Au Rhum was named for a Polish king who dipped his stale bread in rum to improve the taste and it was said that he named his concoction after Ali Baba, a folk hero during the 1600's. My near perfect recipe for Babas was lost in a move and I sought to recover the taste and texture I remembered from several years ago. It was a struggle-two unsatisfactory batches were made, one in the bread machine and one in the mixer. The mixer by far had the best texture, but still wasn't my recipe. Cooks Illustrated Baking Illustrated cookbook came to the rescue. Here is my adaptation.

Babas Au Rhum

For the batter

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 envelope rapid dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water, room temperature
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated zest from 1 lemon
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened

1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 dark rum

1/2 cup apple jelly, heated

Have all ingredients for the batter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. In a mixer bowl, combine the water, eggs and lemon zest and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed until well mixed, scraping the sides of the mixer bowl. With mixer running, add butter a tablespoon at a time until batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into 2 lightly greased popover pans, filling each about halfway and let rise at room temperature about two hours. When ready to bake, place in a preheated 375 degree oven on the middle rack. Bake 15 minutes, rotating pans at halfway point. Babas should be a golden brown. Transfer pans to a wire cooling rack. After about 5 minutes, remove babas from pan and continue to cool.

Combine the water and sugar in a pan, stirring to dissolve sugar and bring to a simmer. Remove pan from heat and add the rum.

Using tongs, take a cooled baba and dip into the rum syrup, turning to coat, leaving the baba in the syrup no more that 5 seconds. Repeat with remaining babas. Brush the melted apple jelly on top of the babas. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Makes 12

Can be frozen for two weeks. Glaze with apple jelly before serving.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cinnamon Beef Noodles

The most widely used spice, Cinnamon has a long history dating back to 2000 BC when it was imported to Eygpt from China. A highly fragrant spice, cinnamon is mentioned in the Bible and other classical literary works and was so highly regarded in the ancient world that it was given as gifts to heads of state and other people of status.

Cinnamon is used in nearly all cuisines from appetizers to desserts. Apples and cinnamon have a natural affinity and the smells of cinnamon while cooking evoke an inviting home life. For more information on cinnamon, read here.

Cinnamon Beef Noodles is a very aromatic soup mingled with the flavors of ginger, star anise, cinnamon and garlic. It's flavor is only improved by reheating.


1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 scallions , trimmed and cut into 1 1/2' pieces and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife.
6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and thinly sliced
4 slices fresh ginger, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons hot chile paste
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
8 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
10 ounces spinach leaves, stems trimmed, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound flat noodles, such as udon or fettucine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water and drained

To garnish-3 tablespoons minced scallions.

Combine scallions, garlic, ginger, hot chile paste, cinnamon and star anise in a small bowl.

Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add oil, swirl in pan and heat for 30 seconds. Add scallion mixture and stir fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add water and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add beef and return mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Skim surface. Remove ginger slices, star anise and cinnamon sticks and discard. Add spinach and bring to a boil.

Divide noodles among 6 soup bowls. Ladle the meat, spinach and broth over the noodles and sprinkle with the scallions. Serves 6

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thai Clams and Noodles

I am very particular where I buy fresh seafood and usually go straight to the source, a seafood company or a grocer who buys direct, so I was thrilled to find in a small grocery store that I frequent, fresh clams from Half Moon River Clam company in Savannah Georgia, owned and operated by John Pelli. John has basically a one man operation growing and harvesting his clams and wants to keep his company small. He is licensed and the waters that he puts his clam seeds in are monitored for cleanliness by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The clams I bought for the Thai Clams and Noodles dish are mid-neck clams which are from 1 1/ inches to 1 1/2 inches thick. Clams are graded out according to size from the 3/4 inch pasta on up to chowders which are 2 1/2 inches and up. Clams have a shelf life of about two weeks when the waters are cold, but the
shelf life in the summer is only about one week. When harvesting in the summer months, John Pelli is very diligent in keeping his clams at the proper temperature by putting them in coolers with frozen bottles of water to gradually bring their temperatures down so as not to shock them. His clams are sweet and has a natural briny flavor.

An unpretentious dish, Thai Clams and Noodles is quite simple to prepare and not counting the time needed for scrubbing the clams and soaking them in cold, salted water can be on the table in about 30 minutes or less. Garlic, crushed red pepper and scallions make up the spicy seasonings, water and rice wine or sake make up the liquids to cook the clams in. A heavenly dish that should serve 6, but only the two of us as we were watching the college football games this past Saturday.


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and sliced thin
8 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths and smashed with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup rice wine or sake. (I used a ginger wine that is make by placing the whole pieces of ginger, unpeeled, in a jar with sherry or white wine and refrigerated for several days to infuse.)
3 pounds mid neck clams, scrubbed, soaked in salted water to cover for an hour to allow the clams to purge themselves of any sand and debris.
1/4 pound somen or angel hair pasta, cooked until tender, rinsed under warm water and drained
1 cup Thai holy basil or sweet basil, finely shredded
2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional

Heat a large heavy saucepan over high heat.Add the oil and heat until hot,about 30 seconds. Add the crushed red pepper, garlic and scallions and stir fry for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add water and rice wine, cover and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, shaking the pot occasionally to cook the clams evenly for about 8 minutes, or until the clams open. Discard any clams that don't open.

Divide the noodles equally among six soup bowls. Add the basil to the clams, stir gently, cover and cook for 30 seconds. Add the optional fish sauce. Ladle the clams and broth into the bowls and served immediately.

Recipe adapted from "Asian Noodles" by Nina Simonds