Archive for May, 2010

HOMEMADE SESAME SEED BUNS

If you’re at all like me, you absolutely loathe the crappy, mass-produced, light-as-air hamburger buns that they have on hand at most major supermarkets.  I’m talking about the ones that you throw your hot, juicy burger onto, that in turn dissolves into a condiment-laden sponge within minutes.  Last Summer, I’d finally had enough and decided to try making some of own.

While significantly more substantial than those found at most fast food establishments, these little guys are still very tender and delicate, retaining a resiliency that not many sesame seed buns can boast.  Unlike those at the grocery store, these will not melt or crumble in your hands.  They can stand up to a good amount of juices and have a flavor infinitely more complex than your typical factory-made variety.

With Memorial Day hours away, grilling season is finally upon us. Do yourself a favor this summer and try making these buns from scratch at least once.  I promise, your burgers will thank you.

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RED CHILE & CHORIZO CHILAQUILES

I love chilaquiles.  In fact, I crave them so often that I drag myself out of bed early on a Saturday morning at least once a month to feast on one of my favorite versions from Primavera at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal Farmers Market.  That’s what you have to do if you’re going to try to beat the hordes of people that line up for this delicious Mexican breakfast dish every weekend.

We’ve all had huevos rancheros at one crappy diner or another at some point in our lives, but for those that have never tried authentic chilaquiles, it’s understandable how the concept could sound a bit bizarre.  Admittedly, the idea of crispy tortilla chips drowned in a sea of flavorful red chile sauce seems a bit unorthodox.  I mean who likes soggy nachos anyways? But for those that simply can’t wrap their head around the idea of a somewhat soggy nacho, I’d encourage you to think outside of Latin American cuisine to another ethnic group that also marries sauce and carbohydrates so beautifully — the Italians.

I an effort to convey the craveable aspects of this dish, I’d encourage you think of chilaquiles as you would the perfect bowl of pasta.  Here, the thick-cut (preferably homemade) tortilla chips play the role of al dente pasta that has a bit of soft crunch and resiliency left to it, but has also absorbed some of the delicious sauce that surrounds it.  Topped with spicy chorizo, tangy Mexican crema, crumbled cotija cheese and ripe avocado and you have a breakfast dish that will set you up for a whole days worth of activities…or an early afternoon nap.

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PHRIK KHING CURRY PASTE

Every once in a while I’ll spend a Sunday afternoon making some Thai curry paste. Like I mentioned in my recipe for panang curry paste, a quick trip to the Asian market for a few hard to find ingredients and about an hour in the kitchen with your mortar and pestle will set you up for a good month of authentic Thai cooking at home.

As far as I’m concerned, this stuff is money in the bank.  It keeps for a  up to a month in the fridge and is perfect for pulling together a bona fide Thai meal in minutes.  Stir-fry the paste, some meat and a few handfuls of seasonal vegetables in your favorite wok, add in some stock, palm sugar, fish sauce and Thai basil, throw it all on top of some sticky rice and you’ll be set up for some truly delicious eating.

Unlike a red, green or yellow curry, phrik khing is considered a “dry-style” curry, free of any coconut milk.  Instead, the paste is fried in oil and moistened with a bit of stock to create a sauce that clings to the protein and veggies.  The resulting dish can be characterized as smooth and a bit peppery with fragrant notes of galangal and lemongrass throughout.

So, next time you’re looking for something to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon, consider making some homemade curry paste and look forward to reaping the rich culinary dividends of delicious Thai meals in the weeks that follow.

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GRAVLAX

This past Sunday, I set out to put together the mother of all Mother’s Day brunches for the woman who is largely responsible for my undying passion for food.  In an effort to pull out all the stops for this year’s celebration, I decided to cure my own gravlax for an over-the-top meal that would show my appreciation for all that she has done for me. Convinced my offering would exhibit a bit of advanced culinary know-how and finesse, I was certain that such a meal would surely outdo any boring old Benedict.

Having never cured salmon before, I was completely caught off guard by how simple and hands-off the whole curing process was going to be.  Here I was planning an elaborate, intricate and involved meal, and I was nearly done with all of the “advanced” prep work three days before the big event.  Flash forward to Sunday and a few careful, paper-thin slices later and we were sitting down to an elegant brunch that went down as “one of the best in years.”  Placed atop a toasted bagel with rich cream cheese, crisp red onions, juicy tomato and briny capers, the lox stood out as a true hero with its subtle essence of dill and lemon on a delicate backdrop of sweet, salty salmon.   There might not have been pillowy poached eggs and velvety hollandaise this time around, but served alongside fresh seasonal fruit, soft scrambled eggs and refreshing mimosas, it was as elegant a meal as any.

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CINCO DE MAYO RECIPES

If you celebrate Cinco de Mayo the way folks around here do, you’re going to need some serious grub to soak up the booze. The following recipes will not only satisfy any Mexican cravings, they’ll also lay down a base coat before your night gets going. Best of all? They can pretty much all be scaled up to feed a crowd. So enjoy responsibly and leave other Cinco de Mayo menu ideas in the comments.

TACOS, TOSTADAS, APPETIZERS

Tacos de Barbacoa

Chile-Braised Pork Tacos

Tacos de Cochinita Pibil

Red Chile Beef Tostadas

Taquitos

SALSAS & DIPS

Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

Guacamole

Habanero Hot Sauce

Chipotle Bean Dip

Crema Mexicana

ON THE SIDE

Smoky Chipotle Black Beans

NICE & REFRESHING

Agua de Horchata