Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kitchen Comeback Update 4

January 2016 ended with two Thai dishes. My second attempt at Thai peanut sauce was more successful. Adjustment is still needed, less red curry paste, more soy sauce, and more of the sweetener. The massaman curry was good, but again some adjustment needed there too. That I need to lower the amount of tamarind and lime juice just a tad.

                                          Thai chicken massaman curry

In the beginning of February 2016, I made Tortilla Española, again. This time I used a smaller frying pan and half of the recipe. This worked out wonderfully. It looked and held together the way it was supposed to. I ate it with piquillo peppers, chorizo Español, and salchichon (Spanish salami). I had bought manchego cheese and Serrano ham, but I ate them the night before. I have been eating bagel and lox sandwiches with cream cheese onions, and capers in February and March of 2016.

                                                    Tortilla Española

My work to increase the amount of vegetables in my food continues. I worked with calabacitas (Mexican zucchini) in February 2016. In March 2016, I made chayote squash and taro leaves. The calabacitas were great and the taro leaves were amazing. I do need to adjust the amount of lemon juice on the coconut milk braised taro leaves. The chayote was made into a great hash. The recipe called for eggs. I removed the eggs since this was a dinner side dish. The hash had chayote squash, recaito, tomatoes sauce and some seasoning. With my inarizushi I made a cucumber namasu salad using the Veggetti device.

                                                   Indian saag paneer

In February 2016, I made two spinach dishes; Indian Saag Paneer (Indian curried spinach with paneer cheese) and a Greek inspired spinach egg bake (spinach, garlic, onion, feta cheese and eggs). The Saag Paneer could have used a bit more heat. I made a variation of my Grandma Mac’s 7 Layer Salad. I made serrano pepper coleslaw and added vegetables to much to what I made. I chose the Cuban style yellow rice over the Puerto Rican version, because the Puerto Rican had rice, seasoning, and annatto oil. The Cuban style yellow rice included peas, onions and red bell peppers.

Enchiladas Suizas

                                                   Calabacitas ralladas

I made Hawaiian chicken teriyaki in March 2016. I over compensated with the amount of soy sauce. Using the juice from canned pineapple and lowering the amount of honey worked very well. The drinking pineapple juice I used the first time was too dang sweet. I also paired this dish with the coconut milk braised taro leaves. Uwajimaya in Beaverton and H-Mart in Tigard are becoming great resources of Asian and Polynesian ingredients.

Rick's tacos with serrano coleslaw

I discovered a variation of the enchiladas Suizas, I have yet to do. That is adding sour cream or crema Mexicana to the salsa verde. I will try that next time. I am remaking dishes I forgot to take pictures of. Enchiladas Suizas was the first. The next was Cuban mojo marinated pork shoulder. I think the roast was slightly overcooked on the second go around. I also did a better pairing with the sides. I made Cuban style yellow rice and Puerto Rican chayote hash. I also did not remake the sauce. I used the discarded marinade, the roast pan drippings and cornstarch.

Inarizushi special

Cucumber namasu salad

I worked to recreate my Grandma Mac’s hamburger hash. That was a fun experience trying into to make something from memory, actually my mom’s memory as well as my own. It was a great exercise in cooking. I also made another pot of beans this time using a ham hock. I prefer the smoked pork shank, more meat less salt and less fat. That is just my preference. I tried a variation of the serrano coleslaw. I removed the dry mustard and caraway seeds. I added the juice of half of a lime. It turned out to have the right balance of heat, sour, and sweet.

                                       Grandma Mac's hamburger hash

With saag paneer, inarizushi, Thai massaman curry, enchiladas Suizas, and the bagel and lox sandwich, I am making things I crave instead of going to a restaurant, deli, café, or diner. These are dishes I missed and wanted again. Some of them are still works in progress, others I have perfected like my tacos, chili con carne, and others.

Cuban mojo marinated pork roast

                               Cuban mojo marinated pork roast sliced

January 2016

Rice noodles in Thai peanut sauce, ham and mashed potatoes, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and Thai chicken massaman curry with jasmine rice.

Cuban style yellow rice

                                             Puerto Rican chayote hash

February 2016

Tortilla Española (Spanish tortilla) with Spanish chorizo, piquillo peppers, and salchichón (Spanish salami), cream cheese and lox bagel sandwiches with onions and capers, Saag Paneer (curried spinach with Paneer cheese) with basmati rice, enchiladas Suizas with calabacitas ralladas (shredded Mexican zucchini), shrimp salad (shrimp, avocados, spicy sushi mayo), crunchy tacos with homemade taco meat and serrano coleslaw, beef and bean burritos with homemade meat filling, spinach egg bake (spinach, onions, garlic, egg and feta cheese), 11 layer salad, ground turkey tacos with serrano coleslaw, beef and bean burritos, pork chops with rice and coleslaw, pork loin roast with coleslaw, peas and corn, and beans with ham hocks.

                                                  Cuban mojo sauce
March 2016

Cream cheese and lox bagel sandwiches with onions and capers, turkey cheese bratwursts with mashed potatoes, Hawaiian chicken teriyaki with coconut milk braised taro leaves, chorizo and eggs with corn tortillas, inarizushi special (fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice and topped with salad shrimp, avocados spicy Japanese mayonnaise, and sesame seeds) with cucumber namasu salad, hamburger hash, cucumber noodles with tonnato sauce, bean and cheese burritos, Cuban mojo marinated pork roast with mojo sauce, Cuban style yellow rice, Puerto Rican chayote hash, ground turkey tacos with serrano lime coleslaw, beans with ham hocks, eggs with hash browns, chili con carne and shoyu chicken with jasmine rice.


I have a long storied history with quesadillas. For the longest time, I did not know what they were called. When I was ten, I started making something I called fried cheesy tacos. These were cheese filled corn tortillas fried in butter. It was not until I was in college that I discovered the typical quesadilla of cheese filled flour tortillas and the name associated with any cheese filled tortilla dish.

In Mexico, they are made with corn tortillas typically filled with Oaxaca cheese. They are made in a cast iron or earthenware griddle called a comal, which is also used to make tortillas. Typical fillings are potatoes with chorizo, squash blossoms, mushrooms, epazote, huitlacoche, and different types of cooked meat. They are cooked dry on the griddle. When they are fried with oil they are called quesadillas fritas. Typically they are one tortilla flipped in a half moon shape. When cheese and meat, typically ham, are sandwiched between two tortillas and cut into wedges, that is called a sincronizada. In Mexico the use of flour tortillas is more common in the Northern region.

Quesadillas tradicionales (corn tortillas Oaxaca cheese, and cotija cheese)

With the restarting my cooking from scratch, I originally made them using the microwave. I later was frying the corn tortilla versions, first in butter then in olive oil. I stopped frying them for two reasons. First reason was I needed to eat healthier. The second was I wanted to see if I liked the more traditional version. I did like the traditional version. Now I use my electric skillet/kettle for the corn tortilla quesadillas. I started using my toaster oven for the flour tortilla version. My typical fillings have been a Mexican cheese blend, taco sauce, and/or hot sauce. Sometimes I use various chile powders instead of hot sauce. The powders are a combination of chipotle, ancho, guajillo, and New Mexican chile.

         Quesadilla (flour tortilla, Mexican blend cheese, taco sauce, hot sauce)

I have experimented. I have added various lunch meats and Spanish style chorizo. Spanish chorizo is more like a mild pepperoni. Another of my weird quesadillas is my Quesadilla Española: Spanish chorizo, manchego cheese, and piquillo peppers. The piquillos cut the saltiness of the Spanish chorizo and the Manchego cheese. I have made my Jalapeño Popper Quesadilla, cream cheese and pickled jalapeños. I could see using nopalitos, pickled nopales, in a quesadilla as well. I also make my Pepper Jack Quesadilla: Monterey Jack and pickled jalapeños. It has a good flavor, next time I may use pepper jack cheese to see how that goes.  Lately I have not been too big with the frills, so I have served them without any salsa or guacamole. The idea of me posting about my history with this dish was due to a friend’s post about Mexican cooking. I brought up my Jalapeño Popper Quesadilla. I hope you, my readers, get ideas from what I have wrote. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

One of the things I started doing was finding recipes for dishes I enjoyed that I ate in jarred, canned, frozen, boxed, or pre-prepared forms. So far they have included Cajun dirty rice, chili con carne, enchiladas Suizas, pepián rojo de pepitas, picante sauce, roasted garlic hummus, tzatziki sauce, Thai peanut sauce, Russian Stroganoff, and more. One of my favorite boxed meals was Zatarain’s Red Beans and Rice. I decided for May 2016 I would make it from scratch. I looked for recipes. I found one on Food Network’s site by Emeril Lagasse. This version is closer to the version found at Popeye’s fast food restaurants than the Zatarain’s version. The Zatarain’s version is rice with whole beans. The Lagasse version was a creamy red bean mixture poured over rice.

In the past, I had added various ingredients to the Zatarain’s red beans and rice to mix it up. I have used Portuguese linguica, Polska kielbasa, Cajun andouille, and Spanish chorizo. I added fresh onions, roasted garlic, tomatoes, corn, and green chiles. I wanted a more traditional version of this dish. I have only eaten two versions of the dish one from Zatarain’s and the version sold at Popeye’s chicken. Popeye’s version is closer to a traditional version than the Zatarain’s.

I decided to make this on May 12, 2016. The ingredients are red beans, onion, green onion, green bell peppers, celery, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, cayenne, andouille sausage, ham, rice, salt, and garlic. It takes two and a half hours to cook. I used my electric skillet/kettle. Towards the end one quarter of the beans are mashed to thicken the mixture. I surprised with the ease of this dish. It is time consuming to make, due to the two hour simmer. The electric skillet/kettle lowest simmer setting is 200 degrees Fahrenheit, I had to watch the liquid and add water as needed.

This was tasty, but could have used some more salt. I was wary to add too much salt because of the ham used. The heat was just enough to get the taste buds buzzing. The recipe called for smoked ham hocks. I wanted to use smoked pork shanks, I do not care ham hocks. I was unable to find smoke pork shanks, so I increased the ham amount. I am toying with using turkey ham, smoked turkey wings, and a chicken or turkey andouille sausage. That way I can continue my lowering the amount of red meat I eat. I loved this dish. Now anytime I crave Cajun red beans and rice I can make it myself.

Red Beans and Rice

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pollo con Crema

Pollo con Crema is a Mexican dish I discovered at La Sierrra in Dundee Oregon. It is like a Mexican Alfredo sauce. It has a sourness to it. It is chicken, a cream sauce, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms. It is usually served with Spanish/ Mexican/ red rice and refried beans. It is one of my mother’s favorites. The cream sauce is usually made with crema Mexicana (Mexican crema). Typically the store bought varieties have quite a few additives. In preparing for this dish, I found some recipes to make my own crema Mexicana. It is like a cross between heavy cream, sour cream, and buttermilk. Two of those are ingredients to make the crema.

                                                       Pollo con crema

I have been choosing to make more dishes that my mother likes. Luckily I chose to make this on Mother’s Day weekend of 2016. I had two recipes and was fusing elements from both. My first batch was made on May 6, 2016. The ingredients were homemade crema Mexicana, olive oil, chicken breasts, sweet onion, mushrooms, paprika, chicken base, chipotle powder, and sour cream. I made the crema the night before using a recipe from Mexican Cooking for Dummies by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. It is heavy cream and buttermilk left out for 8 to 12 hours. The crema came out perfect. The two sides I made were calabacitas ralladas (shredded sautéed Mexican zucchini) and Mexican style red rice (also from Mexican Cooking for Dummies). I added grated cotija cheese. The cotija plus the salt the dish called for made it slightly saltier than I had wanted

                                               Mexican style red rice

On Sunday May 8, 2016, I made the second batch with twice the onion. I also used yellow onion instead of sweet onion for more flavor. I used less chipotle powder and more sour cream. The sides were another batch of Mexican style red rice and refried black beans. The reason for the onion changes were mom did not notice the onion in the previous batch. Much of it was cooked down to nothing. Plus she did not taste it as much. Sweet onion is mild in flavor, so I decided to go with yellow onion instead. There was a little less mushrooms and chicken for this batch too. I also did not add cotija cheese to the sauce. I used it more as a garnish in the second batch.

                                                 Calabacitas ralladas

I was happy with both batches, but mom and I preferred the second batch. Traditionally Mexican cuisine uses mushrooms, but the most common edible fungus is huitlacoche. Huitlacoche is a corn smut that grows on ears of corn. It is a staple in Mexican cooking. There are other varieties of mushroom common in Mexican cooking, but they differ from the varieties found in the U.S. This was a successful outing and this dish will be in my list of recipes. It may get a few more tweaks, like adding bell peppers, Anaheim chiles, or poblanos chiles. Time will tell.

Pollo a La Crema
Pollo Con Crema Ala Donna