Hatch Chile Season in Full Effect

Hatch Chiles are truly a marketing marvel of modern times. Typically, from around the beginning of August through the end of September, you will see many of your local stores featuring the mild New Mexican chile pepper, and many of them will offer free roasting as well.

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I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a “Hatch bag” from the Lazy Acres Natural Market in Mission Hills (on Washington Street, if you’re in San Diego). It’s a wonderful natural foods market, and they make a ton of their own products. I was given a bag not just of the chili peppers themselves, but a plethora of items made with Hatch chiles.

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That’s pie, cornbread, wine, crackers, cheese, cream cheese, beef patties, orange juice, guacamole, cream cheese, fiesta mix, and of course, some Hatch chiles, both fresh and roasted. Wow! Who knew they even made Chile Wine? (Not me.)

The first thing I did was grate up some of that Hatch chili cheddar cheese, and I used it in my Sunday meal prep to spice up my breakfast casserole.

The recipe for the casserole is wicked simple: the crust/bottom layer is crumbled up biscuits, then cooked sausage with mushroom and onion, then scrambled egg mixed with a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Top with cheese and bake til done, like 30 minutes on 400 degrees.

 

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Next, I used the Hatch chili cream cheese and the grated Hatch chile cheddar cheese, plus ranch dressing and chicken breast, to make this amazing little snack.

If you’re ever stuck needing a quick, easy, potluck dish, or just a regular appetizer or snack, this is for you. Simply mix the chicken (canned or fresh/cooked) with ranch and cream cheese, then top with grated cheese and bake until bubbly. This is a very versatile  – the original recipe is buffalo sauce and regular cream cheese instead of Hatch-flavored cream cheese and cheddar cheese – and will be an instant crowd-pleaser.

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I also used the spicy orange juice (I was too chicken to drink it) in my Instant Pot to make some delicious ribs … just cook the ribs (on their side, like pictured below) on a rack inside the pot, pressure cook on high pressure for 25-30 minutes (and natural release), and then finish off on the grill or under a broiler with your favorite BBQ sauce. You won’t be disappointed!

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I also used the cornbread for a few dishes … it was a perfect accompaniment to the sweet taste of the Mississippi “Coke” Roast I also made in my Instant Pot.

Coke Roast is one of those recipes that sound really crazy when you read the ingredients, but you know it’s for real as soon as you taste it. This particular insanely easy and fast Instant Pot recipe is a pork loin (or beef chuck roast, but I think the pork is more tender), a can of Cola-Cola, a stick of butter, half a jar of pepperoncinis (with the juice), a packet of ranch dressing mix and a packet of au jus gravy mix. Pressure-cook for about 30 minutes with natural release, and serve over something spicy.

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I used the Hatch chile cream cheese and cheddar cheese for variations on a few of my favorite recipes. In addition to the chicken-cheese dip, I also made one of my favorite side dishes with a spicy twist.

These onions are usually made with Asiago cheese … simply wrap a slice of bacon around a half an onion, then add broth, cream, and roast until tender. Then add a bunch of grated Asiago cheese on top. I followed this same recipe but added Hatch cheddar instead of Asiago. It doesn’t have the same funky Asiago flavor, but the spiciness certainly made up for it.

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I think my favorite item in the bag was the delicious beef patties … they were clearly handmade, stuffed with cheese and lots of chunks of Hatch chiles, and the meat was very tender and fresh.

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I served the burgers on cauliflower sandwich thins with ketchup, mustard and mayo, and topped it with some sautéed mushrooms and fresh Hatch guacamole from the Hatch bag.

It was EPIC.

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What’s your favorite Hatch chile recipe? Let us know in the comments and your recipe might be selected for our Hatch feature next summer!

Latin Food Fest 2018

What a weekend!

This Saturday I enjoyed an afternoon of Latin food and music from all over southern California, including tons of delicious wines and sangrias, and more than one type of tequila (hiccup). I got a little sunburned, but it’s a small price to pay to enjoy all the bites and drinks I want for three hours, while partying at the Embarcadero Marina Park.

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It was a beautiful day, and the sangria was flowing like … wine.

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Most of the vendors were drink companies, so the few that were food had pretty long lines. Luckily they were all delicious, so who can complain? I really loved the bacon-wrapped hot dog con todo (with everything)…

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… and the Sheraton’s sample of marinated pork loin, savory sourdough bread pudding, house salsa roja and pineapple mostarda:

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There were many other fine offerings, like this fancy short rib appetizer:

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… potatoes with three “Mojo sauces” from Driana (Chef Adriana from the Food Network):

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… this gorgeous ceviche …

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…this amazing beef tartare from Born and Raised

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and even this simple classic from Northgate Market: the humble carnitas street taco.

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Definitely some honorable mentions go to the Gallo Pinto (beans and rice)…

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… the Brazilian torta …

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and the Peruvian steak:

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The annual event is about $27-40 per person (depending on when you buy tickets) without VIP. The general admission lasts from noon-3 p.m., which is plenty of time to sample everything at least once.

I’ll definitely be back next year!

 

 

Maybe it’s because it’s Canadian? Eh?

I’ve always been a huge fan of carrot cake. It’s by far my favorite non-chocolate dessert. So when I stumbled upon a recipe for Carrot Cake Jam, I knew it must be love. And it was. It was all the best things about cooking. It was fun and simple to make, it was very pleasing to the eyes …

However, strangely (to me anyway), the recipe left out raisins. The second time I made this, I added raisins, as well as a little extra nutmeg and cinnamon.  If you eat it, slightly warmed — not heated, but just to take the chill off, on a bagel with cream cheese, it’s like a recreation of the carrot cake itself. Mmmm….

Adventures in marmalade

My family is Scottish and as such I feel it is somehow in my blood to enjoy and be good at making and cooking with marmalade. But after sampling a few different marmalades and making my own (courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa here) I discovered the unthinkable. I really don’t care for traditional marmalade. It’s too bitter and you can’t make a peanut butter sandwich with it. It’s lovely, and it’s easy to make, but I had my doubts.

I tried another batch, this time instead of navel oranges using fresh and local mandarin oranges (although they were very seedy and required lots of seed removal), as well as a large can of crushed pineapple. While still generally unusable for a sandwich, it works on toast, and is also insanely good as a base for a meat marinade. Here’s a nice steak marinated in a vinagrette with the orange/pineapple marmalade on the grill. The smell is fabulous.

Call me mint jelly, cause I’m on the lamb!

 

The lamb was tender and perfect … but I can’t take the credit. It was all Paula Deen’s recipe. However, it went fabulously with a jar of homemade mint jelly. This is a super-easy jelly recipe, basically boiling mint and sugar together with a few drops of green food coloring and pectin. The fresh mint in the marinade and the sweet juiciness of the lamb are heavenly …

Pepper Jelly, aka the first time EVER that something was not spicy enough.

One of the perils of a good jam, jelly or preserve is that you really can’t taste it without burning your face. By the time you can sample and possibly make any change to the taste, it’s already cooled and in cute little jars.

Jam Lesson #5:

Quit being such a p**sy and go for the spice.

Since I have never made (or really eaten, to my knowledge) any kind of pepper jelly, I figured I would follow the easiest recipe (calling for a red bell pepper, a green bell pepper, and 6 jalapenos with the seeds and ribs removed). It looked like it was going to be pretty mild, but I was unprepare for how sweet it was.

Anyway, it makes a lovely jelly, it is awesome spread on a tortilla before the hot carnitas and cotija cheese is added, and it was great mixed with soy sauce as a spring roll dip. I plan to make a spicier version … perhaps more than a couple of versions, I’d like to have a variety in my pantry, from wimpy to pants-on-fire.

And then there was … bacon. Bacon jam.

I felt triumphant. I had gone from being a jam virgin to making three relatively successful jams that people seemed to enjoy eating and hadn’t lost their eyesight or anything. I had some empty jars left over and was wondering what to attempt next when I came home to check my mail, just to find that Martha Stewart had dedicated a large section of the December 2010 issue of “Everyday Food” magazine.

Page 100. Slow-cooker bacon jam. What.

Martha, why do you mock me? I will make that bacon jam. Show you.

Jam lesson #4:

But it’s not jam.

Ok, I’ve had enough of your attitude. Just because it doesn’t have pectin and mounds of sugar? Just because it’s slow-cooked instead of forced to the rolling angry boil?

Well, I am no expert. It might not technically be jam. But people love to eat it and people love to get it as a gift, neatly wrapped in a pretty piece of fabric.

This was by far the most popular jam I made in 2o10 … even though I suppose it’s technically more of a tapenade or dip. Here goes: render a massive amount of bacon – the recipe says  1 1/2 lbs but I doubled it to three and may have (ahem) used a little extra – in a big pot. When it starts to smell like victory, add chopped onions, garlic, chives, and assorted things you like to use.  I added some extra herbs. Then add a cup of strong coffee, maple syrup, cider vinegar and some brown sugar. Put it all in your slow cooker, on high, with the lid off. Your kitchen will smell amazing.

Smells like victory

 

After the mixture starts to thicken and get bubbly and a little darker, it’s ready. I learned after two batches of this awesomeness that although bacon fat is … well, kind of the idea, it is a little bit greasy for some. If you’re giving it as a gift, skim off some of the fat, if for nothing else then because it doesn’t look pretty through the glass jar.

This stuff is delicious on any sandwich. I also tried some with hot sauce and cream cheese as a tasty dip for tortilla chips. It is amazing.

Pretty bacon jam

Why not share?

Of course, it wasn’t an accident that the magazines are putting ideas like homemade jams and jellies in our heads around the holidays. From Halloween til New Year’s, people everywhere – like me – are looking for ways to wow their friends and acquaintances with the deliciousness coming forth from your kitchen. Something that can be done on a budget? Even better. Something that can be decorated artfully and delivered personally? Lovely.

Pom-Pear Jam

Ginger-Peach Jam

I have always loved ginger and peach together. A few years ago my ex and I ran a bartending company, and I was experimenting with different flavors in simple syrups. One of the tastiest ones I made was the ginger/peach.

Really it’s a very simple recipe, as are most jams and jellies. A tasty fruit or two, in this case a fruit and candied root (packaged as “sugar ginger” at the asian foods store), a citric acid (usually lemon juice but sometimes wine or even a vinegar), sugar and pectin.

I boiled the peaches (fresh or frozen, not canned, you definitely don’t want the extra sugar and preservatives in even a “light” syrup) with the chopped candied ginger, added sugar and pectin, and that was it.

Jam lesson #3:

The deal with jam

The whole jam-making process is way, way easier than I thought it was. Once the measurements are worked out, it gets even easier. I used the Certo brand pectin gel, which is sold in packets of two. It comes with an easy-to-use instruction sheet detailing the ideal ways to measure the fruit for certain kinds of jam, and how much sugar to add. For example, for a berry jam, you would use 4 cups of fruit, 7 cups of sugar and one packet of pectin. My layperson’s understanding of it is that the consistency depends on your ratio of sugar to fruit/citrus to pectin, so follow the instructions on whichever pectin you use. Once the three components are mixed together at a rolling boil, it is ready to ladle into jars and seal.

 

“Jam? Hell, I can do that!”

It started innocently enough … I was flipping through my issue of Cooking Light magazine, reading a nice little feature on the awesomeness of pomegranates, when I see a recipe for a fresh pomegranate-pear jam. Sounds tasty, right? Looked easy at first glance, too, until I realized it called for the cook to physically extract the juice and seeds from the pomegranates.

Now, I don’t like lazy cooks any more than you do. But really? Unless you have a juicer or a strong-armed pirate hanging around, it’s not likely that you can pull something like this off in less than a couple of hours. And the recipe yields 2 cups of jam? OK, some modifications clearly needed to be made.

Jam lesson #1:

Measure. No, really.

But what the hell do I know about making jam, much less converting the recipe of someone clearly more qualified? Is jam making like cooking, an art, that can be altered according to the mood of the cook? Or is it like baking, which is basically chemistry that eventually is tasty? Well… there’s only one way to find out.

The recipe calls for pomegranate juice, seeds, rose wine, pears, sugar, and pectin. Fresh rosemary is tossed in at the end.  I mushed up the cooked pears and added the juices and perhaps a little too much wine. I left out the pomegranate seeds since I don’t particularly care for them (and why make something you won’t eat yourself), and I think that might have contributed to the gelling failure. I added the sugar and, since I probably tipped a little extra wine into the pot, the measurements were off and the jam barely set.

It was strange; I sealed a few jars of this non-setting jam, and the half-cup or so that I simply refrigerated gelled perfectly. I also later attempted another batch where I kept the seeds in, measured the fruit to the sugar exactly (using the charts in the packet of Certo pectin), and it was perfect, although much sweeter than the previous batch.

Jam lesson #2:

Who says it has to stay jam?

The best lesson I learned from the pom-pear failure was that it wasn’t a failure at all. I had attempted making it into jelly donuts and jellied candies, but they weren’t sweet enough. I glazed pears with it in a pie crust, and it was total liquid. (*Disclaimer: I can’t bake. This failure could totally be a failure of me to bake properly instead of a failure of the failed jam. Wait.)

I wasn’t until weeks later when my friend, who had asked me for a jar of the failed jam, informed me that she had used it for a glaze on some chicken breasts. I did the same thing, also glazing some carrots, and they were divine.

Strongly considering making a batch of jam that doesn’t set and labeling it “chicken glaze” instead.