Monday, March 30, 2009

"Cook, Eat, Cha Cha Cha" & "Cafe Pasqual's Cookbook " & "Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cooking" - Tomatillo Salsa, Meatball Soup, Chicken in Orange Juice

Date I made these recipes: March 29, 2009

Cook, Eat, Cha Cha Cha – Festive New World Recipes by Philip Bellber
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0-8118-1146-8 © 1997
(Note: this book is named for a restaurant in San Francisco. You should try it out if you go there!
Recipe: Tomatillo Salsa – p. 90

Café Pasqual’s Cookbook – Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe by Katharine Kagel
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 0-8118-0293-0 © 1993
(Note: this book is also named for a restaurant in Santa Fe. You should try it out if you go there! Perhaps you already have and are like me—cannot remember!) The book is larger than the photo displayed as the book wouldn’t fit on my scanner screen.
Recipe: Meatball Soup (Sopa de Albondigas) - p. 82

Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta
Published by: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
© 1958
Recipe: Chicken in Orange Juice (Pollo en Jugo de Naranja) – p. 59

So here’s how today’s recipe selections went down: I was cleaning out my refrigerator and I noticed I had leftover (canned) tomatillos from a recipe I made a couple of weeks ago. Being my mother’s daughter, I can’t bear to throw out food so I decided to find a recipe using tomatillos. The recipe I selected was for salsa and it was darned good. But I couldn’t just serve salsa and call it a day so I investigated further and there, on the tippy-top shelf of my collection were two more Mexican/southwestern cookbooks.

Now I’ve been to Santa Fe, home of Café Pasqual’s but sad to say, I can’t recall eating there (In my defense, I was there over 10 years ago and hey, some days I can’t remember where I put my car keys!). There were several recipes in the book that sounded good, such that had I eaten there, I likely would have remembered them, but I was most drawn to the meatball soup recipe (sopa de albondigas). So now I was up to one appetizer and one soup recipe but I still felt I needed just one more item to complete the meal so I pulled Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking from the shelf and made her recipe for chicken in orange juice.

Each dish was relatively easy to make but I spent about 4 hours total in my kitchen either prepping or roasting or blending for one of the three dishes all the while watching Michigan State beat Louisville in basketball to advance to the Final Four. It was probably a good thing my husband wasn’t in the kitchen with me as I found myself waving my kitchen knife several times over in response to a play the team made. After that I switched to golf and would have seen Tiger Woods win on the last hole except I realized I was short two quarts of chicken broth and had to run to the store. I hate it when that happens! (I am now fully re-stocked.)

As to taste, the salsa was fantastic, such that I didn’t bother to add the red onion or red pepper as I worried that it would ruin the flavor. If left to my own devices, I could have seriously eaten my way through the entire batch it was that yummy! The meatball soup was also tasty, probably because I used a quart of my own broth that I had in the freezer although I must say that the taste of cilantro in this was a little strong (read: soapy) and so that took getting used to. Cilantro is a funny thing; when blended in something like salsa, it’s fine but as a star ingredient in the meatballs, it’s another story.

As to the chicken, it was fine but a little weak on flavor. I’m hoping that this type of recipe benefits from overnight refrigeration as all I could taste was the chicken—not the orange juice, wine or even the spices. And might I just comment on the ginormous chicken breasts included in my chicken packet? My god, they took up three-quarters of the pan! Those poor little wings and drummies almost didn’t stand a chance!

These were all good dishes to make on a somewhat gray day where spring is almost here but is teasing the heck out of us. Snow is forecast for later this week—can you stand it? (I can’t!).

Tomatillo Salsa – Makes 2 ½ cups
2 pounds tomatillos, husked (I used half canned, half fresh)
¾ onion, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
2 jalapeno chilies, seeded
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed
5 scallions, finely chopped, including some green tops
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup molasses
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and cut into ¼-inch dice (Note: I didn’t add this)
3 tablespoons finely diced red onion (Note: I didn’t add this)

Preheat the oven to 375. Put the tomatillos, onion and garlic in a baking pan. Drizzle the olive oil over and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tomatillos are slightly brown and soft.

Put the tomatillos mixture in a blender or food processor. Add the jalapenos, cilantro, scallions, vinegar, lemon juice, tamarind juice and molasses, and puree.

Add salt and pepper. Stir in the red bell pepper and red onion.

Meatball Soup (Sopa de Albondigas) – serves 8
4 quarts chicken stock or broth
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 bunch fresh cilantro (coriander), stemmed and roughly chopped
½ large white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish (optional)

Put the chicken stock into a large pot and bring slowly to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the beef, cumin, chopped cilantro, onion, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Mix together well. Form into walnut-sized balls.

Gently slip the meatballs into the boiling stock, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until cooked through, about 25 minutes. Cut the meatball open to test for doneness before serving.

Ladle into individual bowls and serve garnished with cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Note: well, duh, people. I was reading over the instructions to combine the beef and spices and realized I completely forgot to add the ground cumin. That probably explains why the cilantro was so dominant. Oops! But let me just say that the meatballs were yummy anyway! (As my dad would say: If all else fails, read the instructions!).

Chicken in Orange Juice (Pollo en Jugo de Naranja) – Serves 3 or 4
1 frying chicken, disjoined
Seasoned flour
Oil for frying
1 cup orange juice
1 cup white table wine
½ cup raisins
½ cup blanched ground almonds (Note: I bought whole blanched almonds and ground them in my coffee grinder)
½ cup crushed pineapple
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Dredge the chicken with seasoned flour and brown in oil. Place the chicken in a shallow glass baking dish. Combine all other ingredients and pour over chicken. Bake at 325, basting often, for 30 minutes. Raise temperature to 350 and bake 15 minutes longer.

Note: oh my god! I must have been overly absorbed in my basketball game because people, I just realized I left out the sugar! (And no, I didn’t drink any of the wine before adding it to the mix!) I’ve accidentally omitted an ingredient before but never two in one cooking session. Oh the horror, the horror….. (Don’t you think the least Michigan State could do is to offer me courtside seats for next week’s game? So a little road trip to Michigan is in order, so what?!)

1 comment:

Collectible Glass said...

Thanks for the great recipes! I love your creativity along with your inability to throw away good food. Your article was also very entertaining, thanks!