You've probably seen this dish discreetly placed at the bottom of the menu at your favorite Mexican restaurant. However, faced with the dazzling array of choices and because you were already very happy from the margaritas, you haven't given it much thought. Who chooses a simple egg dish when you can have tacos al carbon? I do, now. Please forgive me, huevos rancheros, for not trying you sooner. I'll try to make it up to you.
I only decided to try this dish because I had leftover corn tortillas, a small amount of chorizo, eggs, and nothing else to make for breakfast one lazy Sunday. I'm glad we didn't go out for brunch. The humble ingredients of this dish belie the end result--it is truly much more than the sum of its parts.
Of course, my recipe strays from tradition because I used canned tomatoes to make my salsa, and because I added chorizo. Traditional or not, it was damn delicious.
I began by making my favorite fast salsa: a can of diced tomatoes (Muir Glen fire roasted are perfect), onion, garlic, fresh jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, salt & pepper, quickly whizzed in a blender to just the right texture. Then I put this salsa in a small nonstick pan in which I had browned a small amount of spicy, locally-made chorizo. Once the salsa simmered, I cracked a couple of eggs into it and let them poach in the salsa.
I heated up the leftover tortillas, wrapped in foil, in the toaster oven while I waited for the eggs to poach. And waited, and waited some more. But the end result was well worth the wait. For those who don't eat meat, this would be fine without the chorizo.
1/4 pound of Mexican chorizo (not Spanish chorizo, which has a firmer texture) (optional)
1 (14 oz.) canned diced tomatoes
1/2 small onion, cut into chunks (about 1/4 cup)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped (remove inner membrane & seeds for less heat)
1 small bundle cilantro, to taste (I used about 1/4 cup loosely packed)
Juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
4 corn tortillas, warmed
Brown chorizo in a small pan (you can use a skillet or a saucepan, nonstick works better). Warm corn tortillas, wrapped in foil, in a 250 degree oven. Put a couple plates in there, too, so they will also be warm. But be careful, because 250 degrees makes for a pretty hot plate. (Alternately, you can zap the tortillas in the microwave--sans foil, of course--for a few seconds just before serving, and use room temperature plates. I won't tell anyone.) If chorizo is browned before salsa is ready, remove pan from heat until you add the salsa.
While chorizo is browning, place tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice in a blender or food processor. Pulse until the onions and garlic are broken down into small bits, but it's okay to leave a few chunks if you like. (You can use more jalapeno if you like. Or more cilantro. Or less. You get my point.)
Add salt and pepper to taste; pour into pan with browned chorizo. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Crack eggs into the simmering salsa. (Everyone tells you to crack the eggs into a bowl, then carefully scoop into the poaching liquid with a ladle. This is excellent advice that I never follow, because I don't cry over a broken yolk. But feel free to follow this method, especially if you like doing dishes.)
Cover, and cook until eggs are done to your liking (about 6 to 8 minutes, maybe more). Peek at the eggs about every couple of minutes, and turn down heat if the salsa is spattering too much. (How much is too much? I trust that, as with porn, you will know it when you see it. Like it if squirts you in the eye. Wait, do not equate that last statement with the porn reference. Eewww.)
Place 2 corn tortillas onto a warmed plate. Gently remove 2 eggs from the pan, placing on top of tortillas. Spoon salsa around eggs. Repeat with remaining tortillas, eggs and salsa. Eat!
I know, I know, it's been over a month and no bacon posts. But I do have an excuse - I've been busy on my other blog, A Yankee Bakes the South. Lots to see there, please check it out.
That's really no excuse, however, for neglecting the ever important pork belly. A friend graciously shared the fruits of her family's hard labor--over ten pounds of farm-raised, tenderly cared for pork belly. It doesn't get any better than that.
But what to do with all of it? I decided to make two different types of bacon. The photo above shows the bacon frying gently in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. A bacon tip: cook bacon over medium heat, no hotter. This reduces splatter as well as making superior bacon.
Since bacon is easier to slice if it is a neat square, I decided to make salt pork with the pork belly trimmings. The pieces I used for the salt pork are shown below in their raw state. Interestingly, it looks almost exactly the same when it's cured, although with a firmer texture.
Making bacon could hardly be easier: you mix up a cure, rub it on the belly, refrigerate for about a week, then cook to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. We smoked ours over hickory chunks, but you can finish it in the oven if you don't have a smoker.
The two kinds of bacon I made were both sugar cured--one with crushed peppercorns, the other with maple. I forgot that the recipe I used is a little sweeter than I like, but even so, it's fantastic. There is a satisfaction that you get from making bacon yourself that really adds to the end product (or so it seems to me). The flavor is more complex, and you can take the flavor in whatever direction you fancy by adding herbs, garlic, and spices.
New this year was my attempt at guanciale, which is a cured pork cheek that is used similarly to bacon. You can actually make pork cheek bacon (aka jowl bacon), but I wanted to try guanciale because it's an aged product. There is nothing like going to your upstairs bedroom closet and seeing meat hanging in it. It really makes you feel like a pioneer, even though you couldn't possibly live without central air, the internet, and pedicures.
Guanciale photos and a longer explanation will follow, depending on what the final product looks like. When last I checked it, there was a spot of mold on it (not necessarily a deal breaker but we'll see how it goes).
If you are a mood to make your own bacon, here are instrutions directly from Michael Ruhlman:
(adapted from Charcuterie)
—Order five pounds of fresh pork belly from your grocery store, the pork guy at your farmers market, or from a local butcher shop.
—Buy a box of 2-gallon zip-top bags if you don’t have a container big enough to hold the belly.—Mix the following together in a small bowl:
2 ounces (1/4 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt
2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1 (I use this DQ Cure from Butcher-Packer, $2)
4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
—Put your belly in the zip-top bag or on a sheet tray or in a plastic container. Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly. Close the bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator for seven days (get your hands in there and give the spices another good rubbing around midway through).
—After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.
—Put it on a sheet tray and put it in the oven (put it on a rack on a sheet tray if you have one) and turn the oven on to 200 degrees F. (if you want to preheat the oven, that’s fine, too). Leave it in the oven for 90 minutes (or, if you want to measure the internal temperature, until it reaches 150 degrees F.).
—Let it cool and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it. But I know. You won’t be able to wait. So cut off a piece and cook it. Taste it, savor it. Congratulations! It’s bacon!
Notes: If you don’t have five pounds of belly, either guesstimate salt based on the above or, if you have a scale, multiply the weight of the belly in ounces or grams by .025 and that’s how many ounces or grams of salt you should use.
If for any reason you find your bacon to be too salty to eat (it happens, especially if you measure your salt by sight, which I sometimes do), simply blanch the bacon and dump the water before sautéing it.
Pink curing salt means “sodium nitrite,” not Himalayan pink salt. It’s what’s responsible for the bright color and piquant bacony flavor. You don’t have to use it, but your bacon will turn brown/gray when cooked (you’re cooking it well done, after all), and will taste like pleasantly seasoned spare ribs, porky rather than bacony.
If you have a smoker or a grill, you can smoke the bacon (strictly speaking, it needs to have the pink salt in the cure if you’re going to smoke because, in rare instances, botulism bacteria from spores on the garlic could grow; pink salt eliminates this possibility; but I never worry about this, you’re going to cook it again in any case).
I started 2011 off with a bang participating in the Charcutepalooza adventure, but due to a lot of changes at work and home, I fell off the meat wagon.
My baking wasn't as prolific either, for the same reasons. I did get a few cakes made, like the one at the left.
So what am I going to do in 2012? Hopefully a lot more baking, much of it to be chronicled on my new blog, A Yankee Bakes the South.I will also get back to bacon, too (I have 10 pounds of pork belly thawing as I type).
If the Mayans are correct, I need to really put in an effort this year, as it will be the last! But at the very least I have nearly 12 months of baking and bacon before the apocalypse, so I better start crackin'. I hope you will join me on my journey.
During the long, cold, dark Minnesota winters, thoughts of spring keep me going. I dream of the day when the snow is gone, the tulips pop up from the still cold ground, and the wrinkled leaves of the rhubarb poke through the soil.
Those days arrived a few weeks ago, and the rhubarb is now ready for harvest. I divided it last year as part of the plant was growing too closely to the ever-expanding peonies, and the new location I chose is better than the last. The rhubarb is taller, thicker and more lush than ever before. Last weekend we picked three of the best stalks and made the first rhubarb pie of the season. It's a rhubarb custard pie, and the recipe was handed down to me by my grandmother. Of course, I can never leave well enough alone so I've tweaked it a bit - pumping up the amount of rhubarb and adding a dash of vanilla. It's easy to make and the perfect pie to kick off the spring season.
The recipe below makes a 9" inch pie, but depending on the pie pan, you may have a little more filling than the pan will hold. If that is the case, bake any leftover filling in a small bowl and eat it warm out of the oven.
Makes 1 - 9" pie
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rhubarb, diced small
Pie crust for 9" pie, plus extra for lattice top (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and adjust rack to lower-middle position. Roll out pie crust and place in 9" pie pan, crimping edges decoratively. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar into cream. Stir in vanilla extract and then rhubarb. Pour into pie shell and add lattice crust if using. Place in preheated oven and bake until bubbly, 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until firm.
The weather here in Minnesota is nothing if not exasperating.Today there was a tornado close to our friends' house (luckily they are okay, but at least 1 person died). This disturbing, violent spring weather comes on the heels of a long, snowy, cold, snowy winter (did I mention snowy?).
But even though the days may be stormy, there is always an oasis waiting in the liquor cabinet. Recently I tried something new--Applejack. I still don't know what it is, really, but that didn't stop me from mixing it with orange juice, lime juice, and Grand Marnier for a tasty drink. A couple of these and the edge is gone; I can sit on the front porch and laugh at the rain. (And curse the weeds in my yard. Why can't my tomatoes grow that fast?)
Even though I am not baking right now, my sweet tooth is still calling out for treats (my other tooth is calling out for a dentist, but I am afraid...very afraid...). Since the weather has warmed up all the way to the 60s (mental note: move farther south), I have been craving ice cream. But I couldn't decide on what flavor, so my indecision as usual caused me more work as I decided to make Neapolitan ice cream. And what better use for three ice cream flavors than a banana split?
The recipes are as follows: Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream by David Lebovitz, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (registration required) - modified from the original recipe by Cook's Illustrated, and Chocolate Ice Cream by Pierre Herme.
I have two bowls for my Cuisinart ice cream maker, so I was able to do one right after the other, and then re-chill the bowl while the second one was churning. That worked okay, but the last ice cream took a lot longer to churn and the texture was a bit more icy than desirable which I attribute to the bowl not being quite cold enough. However, they all turned out great.
The strawberry sour cream is the best of the bunch. The sour cream adds a tang but the strawberry flavor shines through. It also has the best texture of the bunch, probably because it has alcohol in it. The chocolate ice cream is very simple, a Philadelphia-style ice cream (no eggs) and with only 4 ingredients. It's very, very rich and also sets up rock hard but counterintuitively melts very quickly. It's best eaten the day it's made.
The vanilla ice cream is miles better than anything commercial. I use fewer yolks than Cook's Illustrated recommends because I don't care for the texture or the taste if the custard is too...custardy.
To round out the banana split, I diced fresh pineapple and, channeling my inner Paula Deen, simmered it with butter and sugar to make a rich and delicious topping. The chocolate sauce was also utter simplicity: equal parts cream and chocolate. Of course I whipped up some cream for gilding the lily and tradition forced me to use the jarred maraschino cherry. That will probably be my next challenge: canning my own cherries for toppings like this. It's about the only thing that I don't make from scratch!
Between my last post and this one, I've baked up another storm of tasty treats, a few of which are pictured here. First up are yummy s'mores cupcakes. Each of these little gems contains a graham cracker base, chocolate cupcake with a chocolate ganache center (recipe from Cook's Illustrated), and a fluffy icing that I torched with my handy-dandy propane torch. A word to the wise: cupcake papers are extremely flammable. Stick with the foil cups for this project. The final touch is a square of the ubiquitous Hershey's chocolate bar. Sometimes you just gotta stick with the traditional.
Up next is a coconut-lemon layer cake with Italian meringue icing, one of my favorite cakes. The flavors and textures marry so well and it's easy to decorate since the sides have toasted coconut to hide all the flaws.
Last, and in this case least, we have a cake on which I suffered an utter lack of artistic thought. I had really wanted to make a cherry blossom cake, very sparse, modern and clean, but I didn't have time to break out the gumpaste. So I just mixed up some lavender icing, put on a drop flower tip, and went to town. Luckily the people for whom I made it enjoyed the taste and weren't put off by the decorating, so all ended well. It was a vanilla cake with lemon curd filling and just a touch of raspberry between the layers. It too had an Italian meringue icing (gosh that stuff is addictive).
Not pictured are all the treats I made for our employee appreciation luncheon at work. I made a layer cake (kinda sorta an Italian Cream Cake), two kinds of cheesecakes, eclairs, and triple chocolate brownies. I did all of this in the midst of a bad cold/sinus infection from which I am still recuperating.
So after all of this baking I gave myself a baking vacation. I'm into week 2 of not baking anything. People are wondering if something is gravely wrong with me, but I just need a break. After I get over this nasty sinus crap I'm sure I'll be rarin' to go on another project.
I'm in the midst of a spring baking frenzy. Pictured at left are mini-cupcakes made for a friend's business open house. I made dark chocolate cupcakes with a milk chocolate icing, lemon cupcakes with a white chocolate-lemon icing, and vanilla cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream.
The milk chocolate icing was a case study in fixing my mistakes. I wanted a milk chocolate ganache but forgot how much cream to use. I ended up making sauce instead of ganache, so I decided to add powdered sugar. After adding a lot of powdered sugar the ganache was still too soft and now way too sweet, so I beat in some butter (two sticks to be precise). Holy cow that turned out to be genius! The icing was silky, with a divine milk chocolate flavor - it's true, everything is better with butter. I can't wait to try it with malted milk powder. It could be an epic recipe once I tinker with it.
Pictured below the cupcakes is a first birthday cake featuring Elmo from Sesame Street. I am undecided about putting beheaded children's icons onto cakes. While Elmo's eyes are always look like that, the fact that only his head is on the cake makes it look like he is in shock with his mouth gaping at the awful fate that befell him. Luckily the birthday girl adored the cake and had no qualms about the rest of his body being missing. The head is a round cake made from sandwiching two hemispheres from Wilton's small hemisphere pan (6 cavities in one pan). The rest is just icing including the eyeballs and nose.
Below Elmo are two "adult" cakes that accompanied him to the birthday party. They are are orange cakes with an orange whipped cream filling and an Italian meringue buttercream icing.
I sprinkled the cakes with a Grand Marnier syrup and coated them with apricot preserves before adding the whipped cream filling to the layers (there were four layers). Even though I used gelatin in the whipped cream filling, it was a little loose to hold up the cake and there was some sagging on the ends.
The daisies and leaves are made of gum paste (my first foray into this medium). I used the pre-made Wilton gumpaste and it was very easy to work with. While it is technically edible, it sure doesn't taste good. I would like expand on my gumpaste ability and create mums or lilies with it, using an airbrush (which I would need to purchase) so I can create ultra-realistic flowers. Or maybe not.
I also made a pineapple upside down cake this weekend but there are no photos. And, there are more cakes to come later this week! I had hoped to do Easter egg cakes but it doesn't look like I'll have the time this year. Maybe I can use that pan to make football cakes for tailgate parties this fall. Does anyone have other suggestions for the use of egg-shaped cakes?