Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ground Bison Empanadas with Fire Sauce and Cilantro Cream

Dear Lauren,

Dad bought ground bison at Costco. Then he just left it in the freezer. I'd say, hey, do you want a bison burger? And he'd say, no. So one day I decided to make some bison empanadas. They were fantastic. The only thing that went wrong with them is the time of day I made them. I'm a daytime photographer. Give me natural light and I can usually make your mouth water. But, I made these at night and I had one chance to take a photo or two before these empanadas were completely gone! What I am saying is, the photos might not make your mouth water, but the empanadas really are incredible. 
Ground Bison Empanadas with Fire Sauce and Cilantro Cream

This recipe requires preparation and planning. Read the entire recipe through and develop your plan of action and complete your mise en place! First, you will make the empanada dough. Then you will make the bison filling and fire sauce while the dough chills. Next, you will make the empanadas and while they bake you will make the cilantro cream. The cilantro cream can be made up to 3 days ahead. The empanadas can be made to the point of baking and frozen for future use*. Once you make the empanadas, expect all of them to be eaten! They are delicious!

Empanada Dough
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon Slap Ya Mama Hot
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick very cold butter cut into small pieces**
1 egg
1/3 cup ice water (more or less)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk together the flour and seasonings in a bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor if you pulse, but I think it's easier and definitely less of a mess to use the pastry cutter. Your choice. Use the method that makes you happy. You've succeeded in cutting in the butter when your flour mixture has small but visible pearls of butter. Set aside.

Whisk together one egg, ice water and vinegar. Add this to the flour mixture and stir a few times. If the dough seems too dry, add a tiny bit more water until the dough will come together, but is not wet. Dump the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form a disc. Wrap it up and refrigerate it for an hour.

**This is how I cut my butter into small pieces for this dough, for biscuits, for any other dough recipes of this kind. I cut the stick of butter into thirds on the long side. I lay the three planks flat and then I cut each plank into thirds on the long side again. Then I make 1/4 inch cuts on the short side from one side to the other. I end up with 1/4 inch cubes. Then I freeze them right on the cutting board for about 20 - 30 minutes before I need to make the dough.

Emeril's Southwest Seasoning
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons paprika
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano

Mix together. You will not need all of this mixture for this recipe, but isn't that great? Use it in other recipes.

Cilantro Cream
1 cup Greek yogurt (can use sour cream or crema fresca or a mixture of any of the three, whatever is on hand)
cilantro, chopped (I used  1/4 cup or thereabouts, you use to your taste)
juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
water to loosen, if necessary

Mix all ingredients together and adjust ingredients until the flavors are how you like them. Can be made up to 3 days in advance. Serve with empanadas. There is room for improvising in this mixture. For example, some limes are juicer than others. Use your taste buds! If you find this is too limey, add a little salt, maybe even a little more. Keep tasting.

Ground Bison Filling with Fire Sauce
1/2 pound bison, ground (you can use whatever you want: beef, chicken, whatever you like, ground or finely diced)
1 Tablespoon Emeril's Southwest Seasoning (recipe above), divided
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 ears fresh corn off the cob, cobs discarded :-)
1 chopped poblano pepper, or other pepper you choose
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use less if you'd rather have less heat)
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 minced shallots
3 cloves minced garlic
2 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 egg
2 Tablespoons water

Sprinkle the meat with two teaspoons Southwest seasoning and mix together with hands so the seasoning is evenly distributed.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the olive oil and meat mixture and stir fry briefly, until you see some color on the meat. Add all ingredients through and including the garlic and stir fry for about 1-2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of beef stock to the skillet and while it comes to a boil, whisk the remaining 1/2 beef stock and cornstarch in a bowl. Add stock/cornstarch mixture to the skillet and stir thoroughly. Cook for a few minutes until you can see the liquid has turned into a slightly thickened sauce. Don't reduce the sauce too much.

Remove skillet from the heat. Drain the sauce into a small saucepan and cook for a few minutes over medium. Turn to low and keep it warm until ready for serving.

Put the remaining meat filling into a bowl. Cool until about room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375°F .

Whisk the egg and water in a bowl to make the egg wash. Set aside.

Roll out the empanada dough (if it is too cold to roll smoothly, wait a few minutes and try again) to 1/4-inch thickness, adding flour to keep it from sticking when necessary. It might crack a little here and there, just smooth it with your  damp fingers, it will be fine. Decide on the size of your empanadas. I cut little 4-inch ones with a biscuit cutter, but you can divide the dough in quarters and just make 4 large ones in a more rustic shape, it's up to you and your needs and creativity. Discard extra dough.

Brush the tops of the rolled and formed empanada dough with egg wash. Do not overfill with the meat filling. Fold the dough over the meat filling and crimp with a fork. Brush the tops of the empanadas with egg wash and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake until the edges are browned. Baking time will depend on the size of the empanadas. Mine took about 13 minutes, larger ones could take up to 30. Just watch them and use your eyes and nose!

Place empanadas on a plate, drizzle with fire sauce, and serve with cilantro cream.


*P.S.  Having empanadas in the freezer, ready to use whenever the mood strikes, is such a wonderful gift to yourself or someone you love. Try it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Smoky Sautéed Shrimp

Dear Lauren,

We just got back from our big, amazing trip to Italy! We didn't want to stop eating amazing Italian food but it had to end at some point (sob), so I decided to cook a recipe from my current cookbook I have from Cook My Book. I am SO glad I did! It was so much more than I thought it would be, the flavors rich and complex, and for simple and quick to make. Dad says it's a keeper and I agree.

Smoky Sautéed Shrimp

adapted from The Pollan Family Table

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3-4 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, cleaned, deveined, peeled (you may leave the tails on if you prefer), patted dry
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 lime
*serve with Jasmine rice or cauliflower rice

Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. When oil shimmers, add garlic and stir until garlic becomes fragrant. Add all spices and stir. Increase heat to medium high and add shrimp in one layer. Cook shrimp without stirring for about 3 minutes. Stir vigorously, turning the shrimp on the other side and cook for about 3 more minutes. Remove pan from the heat, add lime juice and stir. Plate with rice, sprinkle with half the parsley, add shrimp and all contents of pan, sprinkle with the rest of the parsley and serve.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Sausage Dinner

Dear Lauren, 

I met this lady at a conference I went to with Dad. I felt like I'd met my new best friend at camp and then I had to go home, never to see her again! I was sad! Luckily, unlike back in my day, we have the Internet and texting and I get to talk to my new friend all the time. She's shared a lot of her cooking knowledge and favorite cookbooks with me and because of her I am the richer. And now so are you because I want to share this really simple recipe I came across in one of the cookbooks she recommended to me.

When I posted a photo of the dish on Facebook, I was asked what it was called and I said, Sunday Supper. Turns out it's really called Sausage Supper! But since I made it on a Sunday, I decided it will be known as Sunday Sausage Dinner around here from now on!

This dish is excellent at any time of day but I think brunch is a great time to make it and so is any busy evening. Even if it's not a Sunday.

Sunday Sausage Dinner
adapted from A Southerly Course cookbook

3-3 ounce links of your favorite sausage (we used Burton sausage, Dad's favorite)
1 onion, cut in half, peeled, sliced thinly in half-moons
1/2 cup water
olive oil

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450. Add the first four ingredients to a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Stab the sausages with a fork a few times. Put the skillet in the oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water is gone and you have nicely browned sausages and mostly caramelized onions.

While the sausages are cooking, add the flour, egg, and milk to a bowl and whisk the ingredients until there are no lumps. Set aside.

When the sausages are cooked, remove the skillet from the oven and pour the batter over the sausages. Add salt and pepper over the batter. Put the skillet back in the oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the batter is puffed and browned. Remove from the oven and serve.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Greek Lemony Grilled Chicken (that's Not Grilled) with Summer Peach Salsa (in the Winter and with Plums instead)

Dear Lauren,

It's nice to think we always have just exactly what we need on hand when we're ready to cook. But often, it just doesn't turn out that way. Dad and I shop almost daily and by that I mean, I make lists and Dad stops on the way home from work and shops. He likes it, I swear! It's always such a wonderful thing when I come upon a recipe I really want to make and I realize I already have everything here! Or mostly everything. Or enough that I can improvise. And I really love it that I've cooked enough and gained the confidence to try things off the cuff. I credit Dad, prolific cooking on my own, and the various cooking groups to which I belong for this extra bit of confidence. Also, I've eaten at a lot of great restaurants in many difference cities. Also, there are great cooks in the family. I have quite the imagination to boot. Etc.

All of this to say that I wanted to make some peach salsa but I only had plums. I needed jalapenos but alas, no fresh, hot peppers to be found. The salsa wanted a red onion but I had a sweet, white one. Dad was out of town! So, I decided to wing it and I'm so glad. This salsa is delicious and perfect with this chicken. I'm sure many people already know that a tiny bit of salt with plum is incredible but I didn't. Now I do.

Lemony Grilled Chicken (that's Not Grilled)
adapted from It's All Greek to Me cookbook

2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
5 green onions, white parts only, sliced thinly 

extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds chicken breast (about 3-4 breasts), sliced lengthwise in thirds like "chicken tenders", rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel, sprinkled with kosher salt and finely ground black pepper

Place all marinade ingredients directly in a gallon size Ziploc. Zip it and shake it until combined. Or you can use a whisk to combine the ingredients. It's up to you. Drop in the chicken tenders. Squeeze out the air from the Ziploc before sealing it. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight.

Over medium high heat, add a little oil to a cast iron skillet. When hot, add each tender after shaking off as much of the marinade as you can. Leave about an inch between the tenders so they don't steam. Cook for about 4 minutes. Don't move the tenders around during that time. Then cook them on the flip-side for about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan to a serving plate and enjoy with the salsa (see next recipe). You can serve both the chicken and the salsa over a mixed greens or you can serve it over rice. You can also take warm pitas and make yourself some Greek-style tacos.

Summer Peach Salsa (in the Winter and with Plums instead)
adapted from It's All Greek to Me cookbook
2-3 ripe plums, pitted and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 sweet white onion, chopped
1/2 bunch of Italian flat-leafed parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the first 6 ingredients together and then season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve over or along side chicken or fish or anything you like. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Carne Guisada - Love in a Bowl or a Taco, Your Choice

Dear Lauren,

This Carne Guisada is better than homemade. I call it Williemade. You can call it Dadmade. I really hope this recipe will duplicate what he made today. He just cooks and he never really follows a recipe unless he's baking. I've tried to write up his recipes before and sometimes some of the magic is missing. He assures me he's given me all the magic this time!

Carne Guisada
by Willie

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds top round roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups beef broth made with Better than Bouillon*
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon Penzey's Crushed Jalapeno Peppers*
1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 sweet white or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

flour tortillas
cooked white rice
pico de gallo

Brown meat in 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat to sear. Place meat in a slow cooker along with bouillon, garlic powder, cumin, crushed jalapeno peppers, black pepper and can of tomatoes. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or until the meat is tender. 

Heat oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir constantly for 8-10 minutes until dark brown, but not burned. Add onion and green bell pepper and stir until the onion is soft or translucent. Add mixture to the slow cooker. Cook for an additional 2 hours on high heat. 

Serve meat in tacos or serve the meat and broth in a bowl over rice. Garnish with guacamole and pico de gallo.

*You can substitute products other than those named here, but it won't be the same. Just sayin'.


P.S. I ate this on a cold day and it warmed me to my core.