Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chile Rellenos

Chile Rellenos

I've written before about my friends' mom in Tampa, Florida, who first introduced me to Mexican cooking. They were an Air Force family who came to Tampa by way of California. In Cali, they had an Hispanic maid, who taught them her way of cooking. My friends' mom taught me at the tender age of 14, because I was SO taken with this way of cooking. I've been cooking the dishes she showed me ever since, and they are always a big hit!

When she first taught me how to make chile rellenos, there was no great abundance of fresh peppers in the markets like there are now. Over the years, I've tried this dish with different kinds of fresh peppers, but I always come back to the original canned peppers. They are peeled, ready to use and just the right size for an appetizer or a side dish! If you want a bigger version, like the ones sold in so many Mexican Restaurants, you can try a poblano pepper or any that you like, but this is what I've used for many years:
Canned Chilies for Chile Rellenos
Whole Chilies draining on paper towels
First, you need to lay the chilies out on a paper towel and drain them, like this:
Next, mix up the batter:

1/2 c. Bisquick

1 large egg

1/4 c. beer

Mix this well, pressing a fork into the mixture to get rid of all the lumps. You will have enough batter for about 6 of these smaller sized chilies. Most cans have 3 to 5 chilies in them, so if you need more, you'll have to buy 2 cans. I made four and discarded the rest of my batter. (NOTE: this batter is good for onion rings too!!)

Now, stuff your chilies:

1/4 med. onion, finely minced

about 2 ounces of white cheddar cheese, cut into rectangles and slightly tapered at the bottom

Put a few pieces of onion into the bottom of the chile, then slide in the cheese and stuff in a little more onion. Make sure to cut the onion VERY finely and slice the cheese into a shape that will fit your chilies!

Preheat about half an inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. The oil is ready when a drop of the batter sizzles and floats to the top when dripped into the skillet. If the the oil starts to smoke or the drop to burn your oil is too hot.

While the oil is preheating, put the chilies carefully into the batter and turn them over until they are completely coated, including the open tops. Plenty of batter will prevent your cheese from melting out of the chile.

Place them carefully into the hot cooking oil, and drizzle a little more batter on the side facing up ( a small tsp. works well for this, just be careful so the oil does not pop and splatter). Let them fry for a minute or 2 and turn them over, keeping the oil hot enough to sizzle but not burn. Cook them until they are golden brown. Serve with a little salsa if desired. Enjoy!

Yummy Chile Rellenos, topped with salsa and cheese oozing out!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Joys of Baking Bread

Rustic Italian Bread, with a pesto swirl in the middle

Ever since I received my first bread machine as a birthday gift, way back in the early '90's, I have loved making bread. I ALWAYS loved eating homemade bread, but never had the patience for all the kneading and rising and more kneading and waiting. The bread machine takes the dull part out and leaves you free to enjoy the satisfying part. You get to pick the type of ingredients you want to use, flour, herbs, amount and types of oil and salt and the machine does most of the work, or even all of it, if you so choose. And the aroma of baking bread is probably the most appetizing and welcoming of cooking aromas to come home to.

When my kids were little, I knew that no matter what I was serving for dinner, if I made bread, they would eat dinner! You know the trick, eat a bite of everything on your plate and you can have another piece of bread...

I am now on my second bread machine -- I wore the first one out! -- and I still love making homemade breads, pizza dough and rolls. The way I do it these days is to make the dough in the machine and finish the loaf in the oven. That way, I get to choose a more natural attractive shape and get the option of some last minute additions to my dough. Lately, since I have so much basil in my garden, I've been adding pesto to my dough and rolling it up into an Italian style loaf, so that each slice has a swirl of pesto in the middle. Really yummy and looks pretty also! Here's one way I make bread. This is great served with any full bodied pasta with red sauce, or a grilled meat dish.

Rustic Italian Bread with Pesto

1 cup water
3 T. olive oil

3 cups bread flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. dry yeast

Simple Pesto (recipe below)

Put your ingredients into your bread machine in the order your manufacturer recommends. Mine calls for wet ingredients first, with dry on top. So, water, olive oil, flour, salt, sugar and yeast (the pesto comes later!). if not using a bread machine, soften the yeast in warmed water, then mix in your flour, salt and sugar.

Choose the dough setting on the bread machine, or get to kneading if you aren't going to use one! After the final rise, when the machine goes beep, beep, beep, turn the dough out on a floured, dry surface and shape into a rough rectangle. Spread on the pesto sauce, about 1 -2 tablespoons, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top and an inch at each end with no sauce. Begin to roll up the bread dough, jelly roll style, at the end with the pesto. Roll it into a long cylinder and let it rise about 45 more minutes, covered, in a warm dry place (I use my oven with the light turned on and the door closed.)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and bake the loaf for 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing. (Don't forget to take the bread OUT of the oven before turning it on to preheat!!)

Simple Pesto

1/4 c. packed clean basil leaves

1 clove garlic

1 T. Parmesan

1 tsp. toasted pine nuts or walnuts

2 T. olive oil

Blend this together in a mini food processor or food chopper until nice and smooth. Use to fill the bread or serve over pasta, on pizza, or grilled fish or chicken.
I've posted a slightly more complicated recipe for pasta earlier but this one is quick and easy.