Monday, September 29, 2014

September 26, 2014 New Recipe: Mixed Paella

September 26, 2014  New Recipe: Mixed Paella  

Suzette left for NY and Pennsylvania in the morning for the funeral of her brother in law.

We were accumulating lots of PPIs  like roasted chicken and asparagus and shrimp, so while talking to a client Rosemary, who owned Rose’s Table that recently closed, about a legal matter, I mentioned wanting to cook a paella.  Rosemary said she knew how to make paella.  So I invited her over to teach me how to cook paella. We set the time to start cooking at 6:15 and discussed ingredients.  .  Rosemary said we needed 7 cups of chicken broth, fresh chicken meat, Spanish sausage/chorizo, bell pepper and short grain rice. I said I had Knorr dehydrated chicken stock, PPI chicken breast, saffron and shrimp but no bell pepper, fresh chicken or Bomba style short grain rice.  We also discussed whether we wanted clams or mussels and Rosemary said, “Mussels would be preferable.”  So after lunch I chilled a French 2013 Le Pont rose from Bandol and when I finished filing a pleading at 5:15 drove to Costco and bought a five pound bag of mussels ($2.99/lb.), mushrooms and eggs.

Shortly after I returned at 6:15, Rosemary arrived with a large shopping bag filled with Smoked Paprika, a small container of Spanish seasoning that included saffron and cornstarch, a large red bell pepper, a jar of saffron leaves, four chicken thighs, a packet of fresh Portuguese Linguica sausage, a two pound bag of short grain rice, a covered plate of goat cheese, kalamata olives and slices of French baguette and in a separate pie container, a lovely pear pie.  I fetched the last of a bunch of asparagus that had seen better days and about ½ lb. of heads on 30-40 count shrimp (TaLin $8.69/lb.) and put the mussels into a large pot filled with ice water.

We discussed how we would prepare the paella.  When I showed her our 17 inch wide paella pan Rosemary said, “Perfect.”  Unfortunately the paella pan had last been used to dry lavender we picked from our garden this year, so we washed the pan and Rosemary cured it by heating olive oil in it to a high heat for a few minutes. 

Then we divided up tasks.  When I told her my traditional task was to prep and Suzette’s normal task was the cooking and since Rosemary knew how to make the paella, it made the most sense for her to cook, she agreed.
We started by heating seven cups of water in a large sauce pan to which we added 3 1/2 Tbsps. of Knorr dehydrated chicken stock.  Then Rosemary selected thirty threads of saffron and soaked the threads of saffron in ½ cup of warm water. 

Saffron (pronounced /ˈsæfrən/ or /ˈsæfrɒn/)[1] is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel.

We used the larger gas burner on our stove for our heat source.  After she cured the paella pan, Rosemary heated about 2 Tbsps. of olive oil in the paella pan.  While Rosemary added the four chicken thighs and squeezed clumps of the linguica sausage out of their casings into the hot olive oil, 

I chopped one medium onion, four large cloves of garlic, four medium tomatoes, the red bell pepper, and asparagus. 

When I had thawed the 1/2 lb. of head on shrimp in hot water Rosemary said, “We need to cook the shrimp to yield their flavor and then remove them so they don't become tough.”  So Rosemary cooked the shrimp for a couple of minutes and then removed them. She then added the chopped onion and garlic and then the chopped tomatoes.  After another ten minutes Rosemary added the seven cups of chicken stock and the saffron plus its ½ cup of soaking liquid that the saffron had reddened and the chopped bell pepper and asparagus to the paella pan.

meat onion, garlic and tomatoes cooking

cooking shrimp after adding liquid, bell pepper and saffrom

After stirring all the ingredients to mix them well and integrate their flavors.  Rosemary said, “This is the most important part of the preparation; we add the rice and then we do not stir the paella again.”  She then sprinkled 2 ½ cups of the short grain rice evenly across the whole surface of the paella and we watched it sink into the liquid. 

Adding the rice
Due to the fact that the burner only covered about ¼ of the paella pan with direct heat, while I discarded the floating, cracked and dead mussels and pulled the beards out of the live mussels with a needle nosed pliers, Rosemary patiently rotated the paella pan every few minutes to evenly distribute the heat across the bottom of the pan.  We could see the rice begin to rise in the pan as it cooked. 

When the mussels were cleaned, Rosemary placed them on top of the paella with their opening facing upward.  She continued to turn the paella pan until all the mussels all opened and the liquid had mostly evaporated.  She then placed the shrimp back on the top of the paella and declared the paella cooked. 

raising heat to open mussels and drive off some liquid
Then Rosemary did something I had never known about that turned out to be the other most important part of cooking the dish.  She asked, “Do you have aluminum foil, so we can cover the paella and let it rest for 10 to fifteen minutes?”  I fetched the aluminum foil and covered the paella pan and covered the paella and crimped the edges to obtain a tight seal. 

At Rosemary's instruction, I then removed the ends of lemon and sliced the lemon into quarters to garnish and flavor the paella and toasted slices of baguette that Rosemary had brought and we then discussed where to eat the paella and decided to eat outside, so I opened the 2013 Le Pont Bandol, which I think is the perfect accompaniment to paella because it is raised in the far south of France and has a uniformly smooth flavor.  I poured glasses of wine and turned on the lights by the pond in the garden.  In another ten minutes we carried the paella and several of the bread slices I toasted and the glasses of wine to the table in the garden. When everything was set on the table, which was probably fifteen minutes after we covered the paella with foil, I scooped spoonfuls of paella into two pasta bowls.

The paella was delicious, the rice was amazingly soft and everything seemed fully cooked and flavorful, with no errant notes of flavor; just clumps of rice encrusted with sausage, chicken and vegetables.  We removed mussels from their shells and peeled shrimp and sipped wine as we enjoyed the paella.  When I opened the aluminum foil to scoop paella onto our plates the heat of the paella released a noticeable aroma of saffron and seafood.  I judge this cooking experience to be the most successful preparation of paella I have witnessed, thanks to the knowledge of Rosemary.  I asked Rosemary what her family’s origins were and she said she was ½ half Spanish from the south of Spain (Mallorca and Seville) and ½ Mayan, and spent her earliest years in Progresso, Mexico.  So perhaps knowing how to cook paella is in her DNA.
This paella tasted like none I have ever tasted before, not scorched on the bottom, which often happens with a single direct heat source with well integrated flavors and a uniformly moist yet cake like consistency, obviously due to all the right ingredients in the correct proportions and careful cooking.  We did not have fresh pimiento peppers, so the choice of a ripe red bell pepper was a not a noticeable difference to me and the addition of the fresh linguica sausage was brilliant because it infused its flavor throughout the paella.

Here is a recipe for linguica sausage: 
Make Your Own Portuguese Linguica Sausage
Photo Linguica Courtesy of MorguefileLinguica is a robust Portuguese sausage that receives far less attention than it deserves. Unlike its cousin, chorizo, linguica is more flavorful than hot, and takes full advantage of its signature ingredient, paprika. Linguica works as well with egg and fish dishes as it does with beef in hearty stews. If you are having trouble finding a local source for this under-appreciated delicacy, try making your own linguica using the recipe below.

Homemade Linguica Recipe

5 lbs. boneless pork butt
8 cloves garlic minced fine or pulverized
4 tbsp. paprika (sweet)
3 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. coriander
1 tbsp. cayenne
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. allspice
¼ cup sherry (sweet)
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup cold water
Sausage casings (optional)
Meat smoker (optional)

Cut pork into cubes and grind on the coarse setting of your grinder. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for 48 hours. Fill casings with mixture or create loose patties, smoke, and freeze. Smoking adds flavor and complexity to the sausage, so give it a try. The raw sausage should lose about 20% of its volume in the process.

You can see by the ingredient list that linguica relies heavily on paprika for flavor, and includes a bouquet of spices that make a distinctive blend. Underestimated as a flavoring agent, when heated, a quality paprika can make a huge impact on a dish. Here it marries well with sherry and pork to create a truly unique and delicious sausage.

One of my favorite ways to serve linguica is fried in iron skillet in two-inch sections and served for breakfast with scrambled eggs. But it is also wonderful when diced and added to green beans or in a variation on the country hearty beans and rice. For a special treat, try linguica with fresh coriander (cilantro), black beans, and shallots. I'll try and dig up the recipe for next time.

Special Note: Don't short change yourself by freezing your sausage too soon. The longer the ingredients marinate, the better the sausage will be. Oh, and use a quality sherry. Sherry is not a traditional ingredient in 'old country' linguica recipes, but it helps to create authentic flavor - really. Try it.

After leisurely savoring the soft mounds of flavor and texture in the paella, we decided it was time to eat dessert.  We went back inside and cut the pear pie into slices and brought it and plates back outside and enjoyed slices of fresh pear custard pie Rosemary had baked with pears from a tree in her neighborhood. 

Pear custard pie
We finally said goodnight and I thanked Rosemary for teaching me the authentic way to make paella including the correct ingredients and all the little cooking secrets that made this paella authentic paella.  The success of the dish was due in no small part to the fact that Rosemary is a great cook.  What a special evening!

I was sad that Suzette was not here to enjoy the making of this authentic paella, but there was lots of PPI paella left that I stored in the fridge to share with Suzette when she returns from her trip.

Bon Appétit 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 24, 2014 Brunch – The Nearest thing to Free Drugs; Chile and Wine Festival’s Trade Tasting Brunch Stir Fried Udon Noodles with Red Snapper, Yu Choy, Green beans, garlic, ginger, tofu and an egg, and a Frontier Cinnamon Roll

Anyone who has forgotten that the wine and spirits industry is an industry should go to the Chile and Wine Festival’s Trade Tasting in Santa Fe.  Seventy to seventy-five tables lined with rows of eight to fifteen bottles of wine each, waiting to be tasted at your request.  Most wineries have a range of wines of differing qualities and dosages, from the great to the pedestrian.  Since Mother Nature is variable in what she gives climatically each year, some years produce really good wines in abundance at really good prices.  For a restaurant such as Suzette’s, those are the super stars. 

Today our goal was to find a really good pinot noir for around $10.00.  Since pinot noir is a relatively delicate wine and must be nurtured and caressed for it to produce its characteristic clarity and fruitiness that is a pretty tall order.  Mixing lots of different pinot grapes typically does not result in a wine with clarity or fruitiness; nor does growing grapes in a warm weather climate that produces grapes in abundance.  Pinot Noir seems to be best when grown in the more northern reaches of wine growing areas, like on hill tops in northern California and Southern Oregon, where the vines are exposed to a mix of fog, rain and sun light.  Special care and special places are not conducive to cheap wines.  Those tend to be grown in California’s Central Valley and have a decidedly baked flavor or a big, heavy flavor, if you prefer.  I like the white wines that are grown in the areas where pinot noir is grown also, because they seem to have a more fruit forward, delicately acidic flavor, like the pinots from those areas. 

Because Suzette had to drive back from Santa Rosa and we had to get gas, we arrived an hour late for the 3:00 to 5:30 tasting, which left us only 1 ½ hours to taste wine, so the solution was to stick to those wines within the target category; moderately priced pinot noirs and anything new and interesting looking.  We must have tasted sixty to 75 wines.  Tasting was one sip and, if interesting, two sips and some discussion with the winery’s representative.  Since the Chile and Wine Festival is one of the important national festivals, you find well informed representatives from each of the wineries willing to pour and discuss their wines and it is favored by wineries and producers for introducing new offerings.  For example, the Kendall Jackson booth was pouring their superior grade of pinot noir called Oakland Hills.  When their representative said they were investing heavily into Anderson Valley, I asked if they had bought the Londer property and he said, “Yes.” and then told us that they were either working with the Londers which means they bought the Londer's grapes or they had bought the Londer’s winery, which abuts one of Kendall’s existing properties.  If I understood Kendall Jackson's pricing, their Oakland Hills pinot was around $25.00 which is about ½ of the price that the Londers sold their best wines for.  Unfortunately, the Oakland Hills pinot that I tasted had a more extracted (processed); less fresh fruity flavor, that was a bit unpleasant to me.  So there are not many perfect wines, those that are inexpensive, fruity, with clarity.  That is why you need to try fifty or sixty to find one or two.  My favorite in that category was Bonnterra's Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, grown organically near the boundary of Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  This year the Mendocino and Lake County pinots, like Lake Placid Winery's, seemed to be among the best tasting pinots that were moderately priced.

A new smooth chalky cab from Mt. Veedrer 

We tried a few cabs and an interesting French chardonnay brut champagne from the Pouilly Fuisse region of Burgundy and several not very interesting Southern Rhones except for Guigal’s Gigondes, which was a star (located west of Chateauneuf de Pape) and a super interesting Chenin Blanc/ Viogner blend from Ridge? Winery and several really good ports, including a glass of 20 year old tawny port poured from a double magnum by Dow’s, which I drank every drop of.

my favorite Sauvigon Blanc

two interesting new Sauvignon blancs from New Zealand 

another good inexpensive pinot from Sonoma

After the tasting, we were invited to Southern Wine and Spirits’ penthouse party on the roof of the Eldorado, where I drank a wonderful ginger beer from Bermuda to sober up and we met and talked to Hal Leonard, General Manager of Buffalo Thunder’s Hilton Hotel and watched golden sun light on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  

the after Party with Hal Leonard, manager of Hilton at Buffalo Thunder, with friends and a Sangre de Cristo sunset 
As we drove home we were accompanied by a peach blossom sunset in the west behind a bank of clouds over the Jemez Mountains in a brilliantly golden sky, which reminded us why we had moved to New Mexico.

Our day started at around 7:00 a.m. when Suzette left to drive to Santa Rosa (110 miles each way) and I rode 10 miles to Montano and back.  It was a cool clear day without much wind and several balloons were floating above the bosque.

bike trail at Montano looking south
 By 10:00 a.m. I was hungry, so I stir fried a package of fresh udon noodles (Costco) with the leftover red snapper and Yu Choy and tofu and added about ½ lb. of shredded Napa cabbage and about 1/2 Tbsp. each of garlic and ginger and the ½ lb. of string beans we bought at Sprouts last week.  I added sesame oil, Chinese rice cooking wine, and tamari and a beaten egg.  The result looked ugly but tasted delicioous.

Then at 11:00 Jennifer and Al Shoman called and we decided to meet at The Frontier for a lunch meeting.  I was not hungry, so I split a cinnamon roll with Jennifer, while Al ate huevos rancheros and then a cinnamon roll.  The few bites of cinnamon roll reminded me why I do not like the Frontier, if you had to pick a something to eat with little or no nutrition and lots of fat and calories, the Frontier’s cinnamon roll might be a great choice: lots of yeasted white flour smothered with a sugar and butter/margarine glaze; Yuck.

When we arrived home from the tasting and after party around 8:30 and I made a chicken and cheese quesadilla with slices of white meat chicken, longhorn jack cheese and some pickled red onions between two whole wheat tortillas sautéed in PPI olive oil from the pork confit.  I then ate a bowl of mocha almond fudge ice cream doused with rum and Kahlua.  Back to normal food, thank God.

After a whirlwind day of activity we went to bed around 9:30.

Bon Appétit

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 23, 2014 Lunch Pasión Latin Fusion Restaurant Dinner PPI Blue Corn Pork Confit Enchiladas

We had shared errands to perform around lunch time, such as dropping off Suzette's car at the auto repair shop, so we went together and stopped on the way at Pasión Latin Fusion Restaurant for lunch.

We were not hungry for a full meal so we ordered from the Appetizer or Bocaditos section of the menu.

I ordered Albondigas: Mexican Meat Balls | Chipotle Tomato Marinara for 8.00.  Suzette ordered Duck Taquitos: Green and Yellow Chile | Pickled Vegetables | Mexican Cotija Cheese 8.00

My meatballs seemed to me to be a combination of pork and beef and were large, covered with marinara sauce made by reducing Sofrito and adding chipolte chili sauce to it. The meat balls were garnished with grated dried cojita cheese instead of parmesan and a slice of pickled jalapeno.  Sort of a Latin take on meatballs, which I guess is exactly what was intended in the term Latin Fusion . The marinara sauce was flavorful, with a bit of a spicy picante kick at the end of each bite, perhaps from the chipolte.  I particularly liked the pickled carrots which garnished the dish.

Albondigas or meat balls and pickled carrot

Suzette’s duck taquitos were also very interesting; stewed duck meat wrapped in a corn tortilla and deep fried and sprinkled with dried grated cojita cheese and garnished with pickled yellow chilis and red onions.  Again I really liked the pickled red onions.  This dish is conceptually a lot like the duck filled egg rolls made by Zinc, minus the dipping sauce, so again another example of a fusion dish.

Duck taquitos

Suzette had a long day, not arriving home until well after 6:00.  At lunch we had decided to not cook dinner, but to eat the enchiladas we had made on Sunday.   Suzette fetched the ceramic baking dish with the PPI Blue corn pork confit enchiladas and 2 Modelo Especial beers and I fetched the PPI guacamole, the Los Altos crema and the PPI green chili sauce.

Suzette placed a large spoonful of enchiladas on each plate and heated each  plate in the microwave.  We then garnished our separate plate with guacamole, crema and green chili sauce and heated them again.  Suzette mixed crema with guacamole for her enchilada garnish.

Enchiladas before garnish

Enchiladas with green chili sauce, guacamole and crema garnish
For dessert Suzette then ate a bowl of ice cream and I sipped a glass of limoncello mixed with Brunello Grappa as we watched the Daily Show and the Colbert Report until 9:30 when we slid into bed.

We had had a long distant telephone conversation with Willy from Dublin at 3:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. Dublin time) and had not slept well and were rather tired.  I had taken a nap in the afternoon, but Suzette had not.

Bon Appétit

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 22, 2014 Lunch Taj Mahal Dinner- Roasted Chicken and Stir Fried Yu Choy, mushrooms and tofu

What a high energy, high protein day of food.  I road ten miles to Montano and back, then worked with Aaron for a couple of hours and joined him for lunch at Taj Mahal at his invitation.

Today Taj Mahal's specials included beef curry and chicken tikka something and another chicken curry with tomatoes and bell peppers and of course tandoori chicken and garlic culcha (naan bread baked in the tandoori oven and covered with garlic and cilantro).

I also took some saag, rice, riata, and fresh sliced onions.  I loved it, although it was a lot of meat.

I went by Los Altos Market (Pro’s sold or was bought out of bankruptcy by a new company) to buy a whole fryer for $.89/lb. and found a nice large five pounder. 

I had to appear in court and go with my client to get a DNA test.

When I arrived home around 6:00 I impaled the chicken through its cavity on a spandex cooking rack  and put it into a roasting pan filled with water to a depth of about 1/3 inch of water, sprinkled the chicken skin with tandoori spice powder and  started the chicken roasting at 425˚ for 15 minutes.  

I then turned down the heat to 375 and cooked the chicken for about 1 hour longer.  I figured 20 minutes per pound to get it to about an internal temperature of 175˚ to 185˚

We had drinks and discussed Suzette's emergency trip to Elizabethtown to spend time with her family and her dying brother-in-law combined with a quick visit to see Luke and perhaps Melissa in NYC. 

When the timer had about 25 minutes to go I began cutting up about one pound of Yu Choy stalks, separating the tough stalk portion from the leave portion.  I also diced about three Tbsp. of onion, 1 Tbsp. of garlic and 2 Tbsp. of ginger and added those ingredients to the tough stalks and diced four King mushrooms and put them in with the leaves.

I started heating the wok with about 2 Tbsp. of peanut oil and 1 tsp. of sesame oil, and when tho oil and wok were heated, added the hard ingredients and stir fried them for several minutes until they began to soften and give off aroma of ginger.

I then added the leaves and mushrooms and diced up about 8 oz. of tofu and added it and then added about 1 Tbsp. of Chinese rice cooking wine and 1½ tsp. of sweet soy and 1 tsp. of sesame oil, ½ tsp. of salt and ½ tsp. of sugar.
I stir fried the mixture to coat the tofu with liquid and then covered the wok and cooked it for a couple of minutes, while I made a thickening sauce of about ¼ cup of chicken stock, 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch, 1 tsp. of sweet soy, 1 tsp. of Chinese Cooking wine and 1 tsp. of sesame oil and poured that into the wok and stir fried the sauce into the vegetables until they sauce thickened and added a bit more chicken stock to loosen up the sauce to my liking and we were ready to serve.  I think stir frying in this manner (cooking the ingredients so they are softened until they give up their flavors to the mixture and then adding a thickening sauce to emulsify those flavors and integrate the natural flavors of the ingredients into the sauce) makes for lovely dish.  I like a loose sauce that allows the natural flavors of the ingredients to flow easily into the sauce as shown in the picture below, rather than coating the vegetables with a heavily thickened sauce that I think obscures the individual identity of the ingredients.  If one was going to serve the dish with rice, one would make more sauce, so it would mix with and flavor the rice. 

We took the chicken out of the oven and the hind quarters literally fell away from the joint, so it was easy to separate the dark meat quarters from the chicken.  The sprinkling of tandoori seasoning onto the chicken is a quick way to give the skin of the chicken flavor and helps brown the chicken.  If you had more time and wanted to add yogurt to the tandoori seasoning and let it sit on the chicken for a couple of hours, you could create a more traditional tandoori effect.

Each of us took spoonfuls of stir fried vegetables and Suzette fetched the PPI bottles of white wine from the fridge.  I drank a glass of Riscal Spanish Rueda and Suzette finished off the Concannon and Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc.

Note how the vegetables are lightly coated with the slightly thickened sauce
We enjoyed the flavorful protein rich dinner that was easy to prepare.

After dinner we had bowls of ice cream; Spumoni for me and Mocha Almond Fudge for Suzette. 

Then Suzette drank a glass of cognac and I drank a glass of Calvados.

Bon Appétit

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 18, 2014 Shopping at Trader Joe’s and TaLin and Red Snapper Fish Tacos.

I had been out of town for two days so I needed to replenish our larder.  I went to Trader Joe’s and bought European yogurt and then went to wine area to pick up a bottle of Chevalier VS cognac ($19.99), which is our house cognac.  I then bought a bottle of La Ferme Julien Rosé ($5.99), a bottle of Amontillado sherry for cooking ($5.99).  There was a wine expert who was very helpful and looked up some information of several wines such as the 2008 and 2007 Harris Late bottled Vintage Ports, he looked at his app on Vivino and found out that the 2007 was more highly rated so I bought two bottles of it ($12.95).  Then he recommended the newly released Bogle Phantom, a blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mouvedre ($16.95) and a light dry bottle of Muscadet and a bottle of Cote du Rhone for $6.99.  I also said I wanted a bottle of Tuella red from the Douro and he found that bottle for me.  When I walked over to the spirits section, I asked him about the Scotches and he said the Lisamore was not as peaty as the Flanagins, so I bought a bottle of Lisamore ($20.99).  

I was happy with my purchases and then drove to TaLin to replenish the Aji Mirin.  After grabbing a 60 oz. bottle ($15.98) of Aji Mirin, I picked up a tempura cooked fish cake, a 2 lb. red snapper ($6.38/lb.) and one pound of 30-40 count shrimp ($8.38/lb.).  I also picked up an 8 oz. bag of mushrooms and a bag of yu choy and several packages of dried noodles.

When Suzette got home we had a discussion about dinner and finally settled on grilling the red snapper whole, like they do in Puerto Vallarta, and eating it in tacos with a cabbage slaw and fresh heirloom tomatoes like in San Diego.

We filled the stomach cavity with a Swedish style stuffing of thyme, oregano and chives mashed into butter.  I pinned the stomach cavity closed with a bamboo skewer and Suzette grilled it.

I shredded ½ head of Napa cabbage and we sautéed it in a wok with onions instead of making slaw.  

In about thirty minutes we were nibbling delicious grilled fresh red snapper in flour tortillas (we had no corn tortillas) filled with sautéed cabbage and tomatoes and sipping beers.

We had ice cream for dessert.

The whole dinner reminded me of a pretty typical evening’s meal in Puerto Vallarta; grilled red snapper and ice cream, minus the ocean view, the incredible sunset and the walking around town.

Bon Appétit

September 21, 2014 New Recipe: Green chili, tomatillo, blue corn enchiladas and Bogle’s new Phantom

A week ago Suzette bought two 40 lb. bags of green chili at the Chili Connection and processed them at the Center for Ageless Living.  She brought home a bag of roasted green chili several days ago.
 For breakfast, we made green chili, bacon and potato burritos in whole wheat flour tortillas.

Then we took bottles to the recycling place and went to see Harry Weil, who is suffering from cancer.  We signed his will and drank the bottle of Bogle Phantom, that I bought at Trader Joe’s on Thursday.  Here is the info on Bogle’s newly released Phantom:
Phantom is second from the left

Bogle Winery - Phantom
Add caption
The wait is over…Phantom has reappeared for the season! Bogle’s tantalizing apparition of rich berry and relentless spice returns to tease wine lovers. Full of flavor, concentration and intensity, this mysterious wine will haunt you well after the last sip is gone.

A spectre of rubies sparkles in the glass, awaiting with its first impression. Bright red cherry fruit and black pepper tempt you to take that sip, with hints of brawny juniper, rich blackberry and briary boysenberry in the background. Succulent in mouthfeel, the wine showcases its versatile grape varietals: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre. Aged for over 24 months in 1 and 2 year old American oak, tones of spicy vanilla and toasted coconut moderate the firm tannins and create a focused and intense finish. Enjoy this passionate and commanding red wine, yet another vintage impossible to ignore.
Petite Sirah 46% - Zinfandel 40%
Cabernet Sauvignon 11% - Mourvèdre 3%
Barrel Program
Over 24 months in American oak
Vineyard Source:
Clarksburg, Lodi and Amador
Release Date:
August, 2014
Wine pH:
Wine Acidity:

We all enjoyed the rich smooth flavor of the Bogle Phantom wine.  I was happy I brought it because it is the type of big, full bodied red that Harry loves.

After visiting Harry, which Suzette cleverly characterized as his retirement party, I decided to drive to Pro’s Ranch Market on our way home to buy limes (3lbs./$.99), because since the change of ownership from Pro’s to Los Altos, the two day specials are now on Saturdays and Sundays.

After we bought limes, we bought 2 large avocados for $3.00 and a about 2 lbs. of tomatillos (2lbs./$.99).  Suzette said she had a hankering to make pork confit green chili enchiladas with the pork we had thawed out before leaving home.  So we bought a 1 lb. wheel of mozzarella/longhorn cheese, a 1lb. container of Los Altos sour cream with salt, 1 lb. of queso fresco and a package of 50 blue corn tortillas ($2.19).

When we arrived home, I de-husked the tomatillos and quartered them and then went to bed for a nap while Suzette made the tomatillo sauce by sautéing onions, garlic, tomatillos and green chili and then pureeing those ingredients in a blender.  She then made pork confit by cutting the pork chops into bites sized pieces and cooking them for 1 ½ hours in a casserole covered with olive oil in the oven at about 250˚ F.

The pieces of pork must have been too small because they became tough, rather than soft.

Suzette filled a ceramic baking dish with two or three layers of blue corn tortillas sautéed in green chili sauce to soften them, grated Mozzarella/Longhorn cheese, sautéed onions, sour cream, and pork confit.  When I awakened around 5:00 she was finishing the top layer and I sliced thin slices of queso fresco and laid them on the top of the casserole and Suzette then topped the enchiladas with a couple of spoonsful of green chili sauce, so it would not dry out.

The baked enchiladas 

Suzette then baked the enchiladas at around 350˚ for 30 minutes.  While the enchiladas were baking, we made guacamole with about 3 Tbsps. of onion, four or five small cloves of garlic, the juice of 1 lime, a couple of dashes of Cholulu hot sauce, and about 2 Tbsps. of fresh cilantro from our garden.

I fetched Modelo Especial beers from the garage fridge and at around 6:15 we were ready to eat.  We scooped large spoonsful of enchiladas onto our plates and garnished them with sour cream and guacamole and watched 60 Minutes.  The fresh blue corn tortillas had softened into a kind of mush, but a delicious cheese, sour cream and green chili sauce mush.  The pork confit had softened also but was still quite hard.  Suzette suggested that she could have kept the pieces of pork larger and they would not have hardened as much.  I said I was not sure but that sounded correct.
blue corn enchiladas garnished with sour cream and guacamole
After dinner Suzette sipped cognac and I sipped Calvados XO to wash down the rich enchiladas, as we watched two episodes of Miss Marple on Masterpiece Mystery.

We went to bed at 10:00 and slept soundly.

Bon Appétit

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 19, 2014 Lunch Mariscos Altamar Dinner Spaghetti Primavera with Shrimp and Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc

I worked with Aaron this morning and at noon I decided on a seafood lunch but without the long delay of sushi, so I suggested Mariscos Altamar.  Aaron was up for it.  I ordered a Coctel Champechango ($14.95) and Aaron ordered (Mixed Seafood) fish, shrimp and octopus ceviche ($12.95). We each ordered a Modelo Negra on draft ($3.25).  I felt like I was back in Puerto Vallarta.  Heaven!.

Suzette and I had talked about going out for dinner before the Lewis Black comedy show, but instead we decided to eat at home since we had lots of fresh ingredients.  Since I had bought a pound of 30-40 count shrimp yesterday at TaLin ($8.29/lb.) and we still had ab out 6 oz. of fresh mozzarella slices, Suzette decided to make shrimp and spaghetti primavera with the lovely fresh heirloom grape tomatoes she had bought from Sterling Farms last Saturday ($4.00/pint).

While Suzette heated a pot of water to boil the spaghetti and sliced the tomatoes in halves, I went to the garden and picked four stalks of oregano, four or five stalks of garlic greens, and about a stalk of basil.  I sliced the garlic greens and about a dozen basil leaves into thin slices and de-stemmed the oregano leaves from their stalks.  I then de-seeded and diced two dehydrated sweet red peppers. While I was chopping, Suzette had minced several cloves of garlic into a skillet of hot butter and olive oil.

She then added the red peppers and sautéed for a minute or two and then added about a dozen shrimp with their shells and heads on to the skillet and sautéed them until they turned from gray to pink and then added the tomatoes and herbs and sautéed them with the shrimp, while I diced 3 oz. of fresh mozzarella slices into cubes.

Suzette put the mozzarella cubes into the bottom of pasta bowls while I grated about ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.

We decided to toast a piece of French sourdough bread.  When the spaghetti was soft, Suzette put some in each bowl and garnish the pasta with the shrimp, tomato and herb mixture and I opened a bottle of 2013 Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc from Marborough, New Zealand.  The wine slightly acidic with a hint of sweetness and lots of citrus fruit.  I liked it a lot, although the shrimp hid its flavor a bit, a better drinking wine than food wine.  The temperature was around 75 degrees and the sun was brilliantly bright and we enjoyed an evening warmed by the late afternoon sun by the pond n the garden. 

We then drove to Route 66 for the Lewis Black show in the large 2,500 seat theater.  Suzette played the $1.00 slots and won $29.00 dollars, which she used to buy us each a glass of Stella Artois for $8.00 each.

We loved Lewis Black, who is much more low-keyed on stage than on John Stewart, but still one of the best Jewish comics in America.

Bon Appétit

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 16 and 17, 2014 Las Cruces, New Mexico Dinner Cha Chi’s and Lunch Giro’s

On Wednesday I went to Anatolia Restaurant for lunch with Aaron and we both ordered the Daily Special of Chicken Donar, a plate with rice on one side and salad on the other.  The salad was garnished with caramelized red onions sprinkled with sumac and a layer of chicken Donar, chopped marinated and grilled chicken, lay on the rice.  A small plastic cup of Tzatziki (cicak) and a grilled sliced piece of pita bread were also served on the plate.  After lunch a plate with small pieces of baklava were served for dessert ($6.99). Aaron wanted to try the falafels, so we ordered an appetizer of four ($5.75), 

Chicken Donar and a falafel with hummus dipping sauce

After lunch I drove to Las Cruces to the Radium Hot Springs Hotel that Scott is renovating.

We went to his and my favorite restaurant near Radium Hot Springs, Cha Chi’s  Mexican Restaurant in Dona Ana.  It receives 5 stars with 100% likes in Urban Spoon and is a superb restaurant.  Since it is September and the height of the green chili harvest, I ordered a chili rellenos plate, hoping to get fresh green chilis.  I was not disappointed.  I was served two of the largest green chili rellenos, I have ever seen approximately 11 to 12 inches long in a soft whipped egg batter and sautéed to perfection filled with a light cheese sauce and covered with a light green chili sauce; perhaps the one they serve as a complimentary condiment with a red sauce for tostadas on the table.  The refried beans were also excellent; creamy, yet full of pieces of whole bean, as if they had been creamed and some whole beans crushed and added back after the refried beans had been prepared.  I loved the dish and consider it the best chili rellenos, I have ever had($8.70).  Scott ordered his usual sirloin steak and enchiladas and his new tenant Marlena, who is a vegan, ordered vegetarian fajitas without cheese and a guacamole salad, which turned out amazingly well, with lots of sautéed mushrooms, as she requested.  I highly recommend Cha Chi’s for Mexican food.

We began Wednesday with a soak in the Radium Hot Springs’ hot radium water pool and made a patty sausage and fried egg breakfast, before dressing and driving to court at 11:00.   At lunch Sammie Singh and Scott and I walked across the street to Giro’s Mexican Restaurant, which impresses me as a down home neighborhood New Mexican restaurant, probably catering to the Courthouse crowd.  I ordered chili rellenos again, but this time got what Sammie described as Gringo style rellenos.  The chili had not been properly roasted and still had lots of skin on them, which caused the batter to not adhere well, the batter was thin perhaps because the egg whites had not been whipped separately, and the chilis were not stuffed with cheese or cheese sauce.  Instead Giro’s smothered the chili with a relatively hot green chili sauce and lots of cheese, which I removed because it interfered with the flavor of the chili; a relatively unpleasant experience, except for the relatively hot green chili sauce.  Perhaps that is why the other diners looked at us slightly askance as we walked in, as if to say, "Are you guys ready for this hot chili experience".  The answer was yes, but the preparation could have been better.  Scott and Sammie both ordered combination plates, Sammie’s plate had a steak taco, an enchilada and a chili relleno; Scott’s had a piece of steak, an enchilada and a steak taco, I think. We all ate to our fill and the chili rellenos powered me through the long afternoon session of court from 1:30 to 4:00 and all the way home.  Here is a picture of Giro’s menudo, which the menu advertises as "The Best in Las Cruces":

 Again it was interesting but ultimately disappointing, the stock was well made and flavorful with nice bite sized chunks of menudo (tripe) but the stock could not hide the obvious taste of canned hominy (posole), instead of homemade.

After court and a couple of conferences with other claimants and counsel, we returned to Radium Spring Hotel and I gathered up my personal effects and I set a new personal best record drive from Radium Hots Springs Hotel to Albuquerque of three hours and ten minutes, arriving home at 8:15.  
Suzette had eaten, so I made simple dinner of onion, tomato and cucumber salad mixed with a couple of heaping tablespoons of Chobani Greek yogurt in an effort to continue my new interest in eating more vegetarian (or should I say my new chili rellenos) diet and try to lose some weight.   I like chili rellenos because they are spicy, filling and have lots of vitamin C, which seems to have a beneficial effect on my respiratory system.  

Bon Appétit