Mexican Brunch: Chilaquiles

chilaquiles

A decade ago (yes, a decade!  feeling old!) my friends and I spent spring break in Playa Blanca.  Sitting on the beach, drinking Long Island Iced Tea and napping in a big hammock, we may as well have been in Daytona.  The only part of Mexico we actually explored on that trip was the bathroom at the gas station on the road from the airport to the hotel.

corn tortilla chipsNeedless to say, I’ve learned a thing or two since then about how I prefer to travel.  Sadly, I have yet to return to Mexico.  But I will. And when I do, I will explore as my younger self didn’t know I always wanted.  Of course, with limited vacation time, and lots of family to visit right here in the U.S., I know that trip might not happen for a few years.

But I can cook my way to Mexico in the meantime.  I may be in Boston, but my apartment certainly smells like I’m a lot further south.  I can’t honestly claim authenticity, since I’ve never even eaten chilaquiles in Mexico, but I will say that this brunch was fantastic.  I did do my reasearch, reading dozens of recipes and searching for the tricks to this Mexican breakfast classic.  We’ve already covered my Rick Bayless crush, so it should come as no surprise that I took a bit of inspiration from his direction.  But in the end, turning leftover tortillas and salsa into breakfast isn’t rocket science, so I pretty much just winged it – and I learned a few things along the way.

corn trtillas and salsaFirst of all, for proper chilaquiles, frying up your own tortillas is certainly the way to go.  This simple dish is all about the tortillas and substituting chips makes for a mealy mess. Secondly, the toppings and garnishes are key, so if you can get Mexican crema and cotija cheese, do it.  And finally, while not necessarily the most traditional way of eating chilaquiles, the dish is lovely topped with a fried egg.  But if you want some more authentic protein, you might add a bit of shredded chicken breast, or some browned Mexican chorizo. I made my own salsa, but if you’re short on time, I think a good jarred version would work just fine.  I might go for a tomatillo salsa next time, but certainly play around with what you like, as the dish is extremely adaptable. 

I’ve now made it to the second challenge in the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog!  So exciting!  And this comforting Mexican classic will serve as my entry into challenge number two.  So please don’t forget to vote for me. Click here to vote.

chilaquiles

Chilaquiles

Serves 4

1/2 cup vegetable oil

15 ounces corn tortillas (about 15 small), cut in wedges

salt

3 medium tomatoes, halved

1 white onion, quartered

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 jalapeno, halved lengthwise (seeds removed if desired)

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

1 cup cojita cheese, divided (substitute feta if you can’t get cojita)

1/2 cup crema (substitute sour cream thinned with milk if you can’t get crema)

4 lime wedges

4 eggs (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat.  Fry the tortillas in batches; they will soften at first and then begin to brown.  Remove the tortillas to a paper-towel lined plate when they are still slightly pliable, and not too brown.  You don’t want chips! Sprinkle the cooked tortillas with salt.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Arrange the tomatoes, onion, garlic and jalapeno in a greased baking dish.  Roast until the edges of the onion and jalapeno are very brown and the tomatoes shrivel, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly.  Puree, adding a few tablespoons of water if needed.  Add the lime juice, half of the cilantro, and salt to taste.

In a large skillet, warm the salsa with about 1/2 cup water over medium heat until bubbling.  Add the tortillas and toss to coat well.  Cook, tossing, for 3-5 minutes.  In the last minute, add half of the cheese and mix well so that the cheese begins to melt. Meanwhile, if using the eggs, heat a well-greased pan over medium.  Crack in each egg and cook until bottoms are set.  Flip once and cook for just a few moments more for over-easy.

To serve, mound the chilaquiles on 4 plates.  Top with the remaining cheese and cilantro, drizzle with the crema and top with an egg, if desired.  Serve hot with a lime wedge.

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Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm  Comments (51)  
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Voting Is Open!

In my last post I talked about an updated version of my grandmother’s traditional noodle kugel. This simple casserole recipe ties together the threads of Cozy, Delicious – creative twists, nostalgic recipes, and delicious eats. Recipes like New England Noodle Kugel are why I should be the Foodbuzz next Food Blog Star!

Now it’s time to vote:

Click here or on the side bar button to go to Project Food Blog and vote for Cozy, Delicious.

Thanks for your support!

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 6:43 am  Comments (14)  

New England Noodle Kugel

 noodle kugel with cranberries

Tinkering with my grandmother’s recipes feels a bit like suggesting to Mozart that he might have been off a note or two. 

But even when I follow her recipes to the letter, the dishes never come out quite like Nannie’s.  And it’s more than the ambiguity of her pinches and dashes, I swear there was some kind of alchemy in her little kitchen. What is lost in translation from generation to generation is a long-standing mystery.  Even my Nannie had trouble, she could never quite manage her mother’s babka and it plagued her for decades!  

noodle kugelWhich is why it’s perhaps not really sacrilege to mess around with Nannie’s noodle kugel.  Although Nannie’s kugel was the iconic holiday dish of my childhood, who’s to say it can’t be just as tasty with a twist? I’ve certainly messed with the recipe before. The year we studied in France, my college friends and I endeavored to treat our host families to our American classics. Sasha’s mom sent her a packet of Old Elpaso seasoning so that she could make tacos, and Bonnie’s dad mailed a bag of Tollhouse morsels for chocolate chip cookies.  But for my host family, I attempted my Nannie’s noodle kugel. No easy task, let me assure you.  As I tried to explain the concept of cottage cheese to the woman at the fromagerie, I began to understand what I was in for.  And when I found that there was no translation for kugel or for casserole in my French-English dictionary, I did my best in calling the dish a pudding, confusing my host mother to no end. But after a few tentative glances, my host mother took a bite and was entranced; and better than that, my little host sisters gobbled up the kugel.  Maybe it was the creme fraiche or the tangy cheese, but Nannie’s kugel had morphed into something distinctly French, and a hit with French toddlers.

noodlesAnd with a bit of spice and berries, this kugel has once again been transformed. Nannie’s version was heavy on the butter, sugar and raisins.  But the hint of spice and the brightness of the dried berries makes this kugel not just a side-dish but a perfect brunch star all on its own. And when we devoured this kugel after a day of fasting for the Yom Kippur holiday, even my picky brother and nostalgic mother agreed, everything (even kugel) tastes better with a bit of rum!

This recipe marks my first entry into FoodBuzz’s Project Food Blog.  New England Noodle Kugel epitomizes me and Cozy, Delicious… a bit nostalgic, a bit funky, and 100% tasty.  The voting starts on Monday the 20th so please head over to FoodBuzz to vote for me!

noodle pudding

New England Noodle Kugel

Serves 12-15

18 ounces (about 1 1/2 packages) wide egg noodles

2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1/4 cup dried blueberries (optional)

1 cup boiling water

3 tablespoons spiced rum

2 cups reduced fat cottage cheese

1 cup reduced fat sour cream

3 tablespoons milk

6 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

pinch of ground cloves

3 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the noodles in boiling water until almost tender (you want them slightly undercooked).  Drain and rinse the noodles in cool water.  Meanwhile, soak the cranberries and blueberries (if using) in the hot water and the rum for at least 15 minutes, then drain.  Stir together the cottage cheese, sour cream, milk, and eggs.  Add in the cinnamon, ginger and cloves and mix well.  Toss the noodles with the cottage cheese mixture. Spread into a buttered 9 by 11 inch baking pan.  Dot the top of the kugel with bits of butter. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the kugel is set.

Published in: on September 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm  Comments (24)  
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Apples ‘N Honey Pancakes

apple and honey pancakes

I’ll turn pretty much anything into brunch. Breakfast pizza, ham and egg quesadillas, pumpkin brunch cake.  We’ll talk about all of those some time soon, I promise.  But the point is that I love twisting just about any recipe to make it fit the morning hours.  It probably started in the years I ran a Bed & Breakfast, when all of my creative cooking energy was necessarily channeled into that one meal.  After three hundred plates of Eggs Benedict one simply has to branch out! 

pancake

During Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, we celebrate life and wish each other a sweet new year by toasting with chunky wedges of apple dipped in honey. As a kid, I loved the blue-striped dish my Aunt Beth brought out only for Rosh Hashanah. The dish had a little well in the center, which held just enough honey to dunk as many apples as she could pile around the platter. I was probably in college before I realized that this magical dish was simply a repurposed chip-and-dip tray.

Crisp apple wedges slathered with sticky honey make a fantastic snack, but as with so many holiday treats, they seem to make an appearance but once a year. A shame, really. But these apple pancakes are simply fantastic. Drizzled with a bit of good, local honey, this is the decadent breakfast version of Rosh Hashanah’s signature dish.  Which is why the pancakes appeared in my September Cozy, Delicious column for the Dedham Transcript (you can read it here).  If you have never drizzled pancakes with honey instead of maple syrup, try it now!  And if you can, go for a deep, rich local honey instead of that supermarket squeeze-bear stuff.

I love the double apple impact in these pancakes.  The grated apple imparts flavor and the apple slice is not only beautiful, but gets a wonderful caramelized texture as it cooks.  I go for granny smiths myself, but it’s up to you. I think that a nice crisp pear  might work well here too, and the shape of the slice would be really fun, if you prefer pears to apples. 

pancake with apples

Apples ‘N Honey Pancakes

Serves 4

 2 medium apples

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup plain yogurt

½ cup milk

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter

Additional warm honey for serving

Grate one apple.  Cut the other apple into thin slices (you should get 10-15 slices from the apple). 

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, yogurt, milk, honey and lemon zest. If the honey is too viscous, warm for 10 seconds in the microwave. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture, along with the grated apple, and stir just to combine.

Heat a griddle (or large pan) on medium.  Grease the griddle with a bit of the butter.  Drop the batter the by the half-cup onto the hot griddle. Top each pancake with a slice of apple.  When bottoms are set and bubbles appear around the edges, flip the pancakes.  Cook until the apple slice begins to caramelize and darken (carefully lifting an edge to check after a minute or two).  Repeat with additional butter, batter, and apples until all of the batter is used.  Serve hot with plenty of honey.

breakfast pancakes

Published in: on September 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm  Comments (36)  
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Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Home

chocolate chunk cookies

Home isn’t so much a place as a feeling. A feeling that can happen anywhere. Curling up on the couch, with Jeff’s legs warming my toes.  My purple toothbrush in the bathroom next to Jeff’s red one.  Snapshots, save-the-dates and coupons stuck to the fridge.  A full cookie jar.  

chocolate chip cookieBefore we’d even unpacked, I had the butter softening on the counter. I’ve heard that realtors recommend the scent of baking cookies to entice a buyer, and I can understand why. You can’t help but feel comfortable, relaxed, and simply like you just belong when you’re enveloped in the aroma of chocolate chunk cookies.

Jeff and I have long engaged in the great cookie debate.  He is on the side of soft and chewy.  I, on the other hand, go for crisp edges and plenty of texture.  I love oats in all kinds of cookies, and nuts and dried fruit.  He wants none of the above.  And because I am a wonderfully adoring wife, I occasionally indulge him.  These are Jeff’s cookies – soft and lovely.   

chocolate cookie recipe

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

about 2 dozen cookies

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1  teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Stir together the flour, salt and baking soda.  Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add the egg, milk and vanilla and beat to combine.  Add the flour mixture a little at a time, mixing well with each addition.  Stir in the chocolate. Scoop the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving plenty of space between each cookie.  Bake 12-14 minutes until golden brown.  Cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

cookie jar with chocolate chunk cookies

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm  Comments (22)  
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