Tea-Smoked Catfish

Tea-Smoked Catfish on Cucumber with Honey Tzatziki

Tonight I experimented with a Chinese cooking technique: tea smoking, that you can do indoors in your kitchen… if you want to stink up your house; ha ha, only kidding; my housemate arrived mid-smoke and said it smelled pretty good. :)

I learned about tea smoking on Chef Ming Tsai’s program, Simply Ming, perhaps a month or two ago.

First, tea smoking typically calls for a covered pan with a lid, and a screen or wire grill that can fit inside to suspend the fish or meat above the smoking materials.  I decided to use an old pan that I no longer use, and should have discarded because the non-stick surface is flaking off.  I figured it was perfect for this application since the food doesn’t come in contact with the pan’s surface and it has a tight fitting lid.

I lined the pan with two layers of aluminum foil, and placed the smoking materials in it: some uncooked Calrose rice, Darjeeling tea, brown sugar, and some tarragon leaves.  (The tarragon was once fresh, but that was a long time ago, so I thought cremating it was reasonable.)  I used Darjeeling, an Indian rather than Chinese tea, simply because that was the only leaf tea I had on hand.  I don’t see why you couldn’t use any tea, even ground tea leaves, though.

Ingredients and tea-smoking materials in a pan.

The fish I chose was an unusual kind of catfish, well, unusual to most Americans: it’s sold here by the name “Swai,” and is a typically farm-raised in the Mekong Delta region.  This fish is just a bit lighter and more flaky (less meaty texture) than U.S. catfish. While technically a catfish, it isn’t allowed to be sold by that name here because it competes with the U.S. farm-raised catfish.  If you’d like to know more about this increasingly popular and sometimes controversial fish, you can read more in my recipe for  Moo Shu Catfish.

I prepared the thawed fish filet (3-4 oz., about 1/2″ at its thickest point) by rubbing it with some five spice powder and brown sugar and placing atop napa cabbage leaves in a steamer to be placed in the smoking pan, with another layer of aluminum foil between the steamer and the smoking materials so that they don’t adhere to the steamer as they burn.  (I didn’t have a screen or wire rack, so I improvised by temporarily removing the plastic handles from my rice cooker’s steamer basket.)

Swai fillet atop napa cabbage, ready for smoking.

Next, I set the burner to a medium-high heat, and when it began to smoke a bit, covered the pan with a tight-fitting lid, reduced to medium heat, and cooked for 15 minutes; luckily the lid was just high enough to accommodate the steamer basket.

After those 15 minutes, I removed the pan from the heat and allowed it to sit another 15 minutes, then uncovered it.

The tea-smoked and cooked Swai fillet.

I served the filet on lightly salted, peeled cucumber slices (overlapped, otherwise they can’t be picked up with chopsticks!) and topped it with a simple tzatziki-like sauce of greek yogurt, minced garlic, black pepper, salt, and a touch of honey.  While I used fresh garlic here, I’d suggest using roasted garlic as the sauce’s garlic flavor was a bit harsh for this mild fish.

Tea-Smoked Catfish

So, the verdict? The fish was moist and tender with a significant smoky flavor, but quite unlike that of wood-smoked fish. It’s a tasty option. I do think, however, I would have experienced the smoky flavor more genuinely had I not been essentially standing in or over the smoke for a half hour or more just prior to dinner. :)

I’ll experiment with different rices and teas, and perhaps tea-smoke a brined Cornish game hen before baking it.

Lastly, I see why some tea smoking demonstrations suggest covering everything with foil (including the lid). The smoke mixes with the moisture and can make for a couple extra minutes of scrubbing during clean-up.  It’s super easy to just discard the foil instead.

Here are the recipes I consulted:

Asparagus & Paneer Masala

Asparagus & Paneer Masala with potato and swiss chard, accompanied by Saffron Rice

It being springtime in my hemisphere, asparagus is de rigueur.
This dish is my melding of that favorite, oven roasted, and combined with a new challenge for me: paneer – a fresh, Indian cheese, that I hoped would complement the asparagus.

First, I prepared the paneer. As it happens, I signed up for a cheese-making class this coming weekend and was looking forward to trying my hand at a fresh cheese such as queoso fresco. Coincidentally, Tahmina post Paneer – 101 just in time for me to give it a try.  I prepared the paneer just as she described, using the juice of a bit more than 2 lemons, and similarly pressed it at room temperature under a cast iron skillet for about 3 hours before using it.  Once the paneer was kneaded smooth, I also added toasted cumin seed (1 1/2 t.) and salt (3/4 t.), that I’d crushed a bit with a mortar and pestle, and distributed it evenly throughout the paneer.

Paneer with Toasted Cumin Seed

I prepared the saffron rice, first, by soaking perhaps 10 saffron threads in a few teaspoons water for an hour or two.  Then I prepared rinsed jasmine rice in a rice cooker; when it was done, I separated half of it into a bowl, and thoroughly mixed it with the saffron and the yellow water in which it was soak.  Lastly, I combined the yellow and white rice, and mixed them until approximately evenly distributed.  (Chopsticks are a good choice of tool to mix rice if it is somewhat sticky.)

I prepared the masala roughly according to these two recipes: Squash, Potato, and Chard Curry and Subzi Paneer Masala.  I used a large red onion and 2 cans of diced tomato for the sauce, puréed in a blender with minced garlic and ginger.  I diced multi-colored small potatoes (brown, red, and purple) and partially cooked them in oil (left from frying the paneer) before adding them to the masala. I cut the chard stems into bite sized pieces, and the greens more coarsely, adding them sometime after the potato, since they need less time to cook.  Also, rather than fresh hot pepper, I used a bit of cayenne powder.

While preparing the masala, I roasted the whole asparagus spears under the oven’s broiler on a foil-lined baking pan, with olive oil, being sure to turn them occassionally and not allow them to burn.  (If you were to serve roasted asparagus as a side-dish, you’d likely add, salt, pepper; since I was preparing it to top the masala, I used only the oil this time.)

To serve, rather than mixing the asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces, and fried paneer into the masala, I simply tossed them together, keeping them warm in the oven, and placed them atop the masala so that their textures and colors were retained.

All in all, I wasn’t completely happy with this dish.  The tomato and yogurt-based sauce didn’t have the smooth consistency nor the bright orange color that I expected and had seen, for instance, in butter paneer masala dishes at restaurants.  I used a low fat greek yogurt, rather than the usual [high fat] greek yogurt that I buy at Trader Joe’s;  that may have been part of the lack of smoothness to the resulting sauce.

Here are a few things that I learned:

  • Making fresh cheese is not difficult, but practice may be necessary to get the desired consistency.  Mine was a bit on the soft side for pan frying;  I should have squeezed just a bit more water from the paneer before pressing it.
  • To present the beautiful colors of vegetables such as various potatoes and rainbow swiss chard, don’t cover them in a tomato-based sauce.  Next time I think I will either use the potato and chard or the blended tomato sauce, but not both. :)
  • I used whole coriander seed, that I toasted lightly with the cumin seed.  In this dish, however, the whole coriander seed was a bit too much of an occassional flavor explosion, so I would grind it next time.  (I have had a shrimp and broccoli dish that is perfect with whole coriander seeds, so it works with some things and not others.)
  • Bright yellow saffron-rice and white rice mixed doesn’t provide quite enough contrast to be as visually dramatic as I wanted.  Some Indian restaurants must use red food coloring as well.

I was quite happy with the paneer, and now I do have plenty masala left-over for meals this week… back to work. :)

A Versatile Blogger Award for me?!

Yay me – I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award!
Ah, one less thing before I die.

I’ve been busy with work this past week so you haven’t seen any new food from me; this post is a nice break.

I just started this blog last month, and I’m really happy to say I have connected with some talented and entertaining fellow bloggers… some of whom already seem like friends.

According to the VBA rules, I have some duties, so here goes:

The nomination and/or award is from Annie; thank you, Annie!
It made me feel warm and fuzzy.  Since the VBA is a kind of a pyramid scheme/chain mail, you can check out Annie’s blog: The Little GSP (and her acceptance speech.) I enjoy it and hopefully you will too. :-)

Next, I am to select 15 bloggers and bestow upon them a VBA nomination.
Wow, 15?  I haven’t been keeping up with 15 blogs lately, so I’ll start with my top choices and add more later.

My nominations are as follows; check out these great blogs!

  1. Tahmina for Kolpana Cuisine.  I use her recipes; what more can I say?
  2. Deb for Terrified Tastebud.  Follow someone who is in school for culinary arts!
  3. Katja for Katja’s Kitchen.  Lots of variety, clear and concise recipes that sound great.
  4. Kate for Summer of Pie.  Great savory dishes mixed amongst the sweets, and a creative baker who takes great photos.
  5. Pam and Jecca for Omnomalicious.  Comfort and other foods… bonus points for energy.
  6. Ribana for Cooking with …. Great photos, beautiful food.  I love it and I don’t even know Italian. :)
  7. TBD

Lastly, 7 things about me, in photos even:

  • I’m happily divorced.
    Some people are married, not that there’s anything wrong with that; I might do it again.
    Perhaps my style of cooking is “bachelor exotic.”  For instance, here’s my breakfast (and lunch) today: a burrito stuffed with scrambled egg and an enchilada, in turn, stuffed with rainbow swiss chard, chick peas and green olives… I think I’ll call it a “walking enchilada,” because you can pick it up. :)

    The Walking Enchilada

  • I was involved in a roller derby league and was a team mascot.
    (Hence my name “advoskater,” for instance, on Pinterest and YouTube.)

    AdvoSkater, i.e., me.

  • I’m a PhD candidate.  That means I’m almost done… ahem.
    Graduate school can be a pretty good place to have a mid-life crisis. :)

    In mathematics you don’t understand things.
    You just get used to them.

  • I’m an amateur visual artist.
    I especially enjoy figure drawing and etching.

    A life-drawing sketch (charcoal)

  • I’m a traveler.
    I’ve been lucky to have traveled quite a bit for my work and studies.
    When people ask which places I’d like to revisit, I say Romania (and Transylvania) is at the top of my list.

    A kick-ass Romanian 4×4 (an ARO M-461, I think)

  • I’m an inline skater.
    I take my skates with me when I travel and have skated in many great cities around the world.

    Tokyo City Run.
    I’m big in Japan…
    relative to the Japanese.

  • I love great beer and beer festivals.
    “Once in a while you need a beer strong enough to make up for a bad day.”

    Happily at U Fleků brewery, Prague, Czech Republic.

That’s it; I hope you were entertained and that you follow the links to discover some great blogs and bloggers!

Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup

Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup

This past week was less than spectacular in my humble kitchen.  I created a weird tofu and bean thread noodle dish with a red wine-based sauce; hmm, it was just OK – I’m guessing no one wants purple tofu :-).  My other effort was a repeat: Pepper Steak, but this time I also made beef stock as a side-effect, owing to the fact that I had a lot of left over beef trimmings.

But, it’s a new week, so, today I’m doing something new (to me): a puréed vegetable soup!

My inspiration for this soup was the puréed shiitake mushroom soup at a local restaurant.  However, I didn’t have enough shiitake on hand, so I decided to mix it with onion, carmelized for sweetness to balance the earthy, but often slightly bitter, shiitake.

Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup Ingredients

Ingredients (yields 6 cups):

  • olive oil (~3 T.)
  • shiitake mushrooms (~2 oz., dried)
  • onion (e.g., yellow or other; I used 2 medium plus 3 small, cut lengthwise in strips)
  • soup stock (4 cups, I used homemade beef stock from trimmings boiled with mushroom stems, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary; fat separated)
  • garlic (4 cloves)
  • fresh ginger (1 thumb, minced, I used half of that shown in the photo)
  • salt (~2 t.)
  • ground pepper (~3/4 t.)

To prepare, first, reconstitute the dried mushrooms in a bowl of warm water.  I placed a small plate over them to keep them submersed; this will take about an hour.

Rehydrating Dried Shiitake Mushroom

Simultaneously, carmelize the sliced onion with 2 T. olive oil in a large pan or pot (8+ cup capacity; I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet) over low to medium-low heat, strirring often, for 45 minutes to an hour.  Be careful not to burn the onions, but rather make them tender and browned slowly, adding a bit more olive oil if it seems they are drying out.

Beginning to carmelize the onions and roast the garlic.

In the same pan, roast the garlic cloves until tender and the ginger a bit.  Since my garlic cloves were already peeled, I wrapped them in foil as well as the minced ginger, so that it could be easily removed when tender.
When carmelized sufficently, the onions should be moist, browned, and very tender; the garlic cloves should be tender as well.  (I removed the garlic from the foil to accelerate the roasting.)

Carmelized Onion and Roasted Garlic

Next, place the rehydrated mushrooms in a colander and press out most of the absorbed water (to avoid excess water in the soup).

Rehydrated and pressed Shiitake Mushroom; save the water!

Coarsely chop the mushrooms and add them, along with the minced roasted garlic, and 2 cups soup stock to the pan with the carmelized onions and bring to a boil, cook for a short time (it seems to me that mushrooms, from dried, should be cooked), then remove from heat.

Carmelized Onion, Chopped Shiitake, Minced Roasted Garlic, and 2 cups stock.

Next, purée the ingredients into a soup, adding the minced ginger, ground pepper, salt, and about 2 cups more soup stock, which you can add progressively to acheive your desired consistency; you can use some of the water used to rehydrate the mushrooms, but be aware that it will impart a bit more bitterness to the flavor.

As with most soups, the right amount of salt is key.  Be sure to be conservative and taste test it as you add the salt.

I puréed the soup, somewhat inconveniently, in a traditional blender by adding some soup ingredients and stock little by little, progressively working up to its “liquify” setting.  Alternatively, you could purée the soup right in the pan or pot by using an immersion blender.

I served the soup topped with sourdough croutons, simply cubed fresh sourdough bread, pan fried in a little salted butter, and some finely sliced green onion, that was luckily growing out the top of one of my yellow onions that had been left in the sunlight on the countertop for too long. :-)

Shiitake & Carmelized Onion Soup

The result: delicious!  It’s got a creamy texture, but without dairy ingredients, and a nice blend of shiitake and sweet onion flavors, and just enough spice to keep you awake, from the ground pepper and ginger.

Alas, the way I prepared it isn’t vegetarian, but it could be done quite easily, of course.  Also, I used less than $2 of dried shiitake and onions as well, so it’s a nice, inexpensive, healthy soup!

Here are some related recipes that I considered:

St. Paul Sandwich


St. Paul Sandwich

Here’s a great sandwich that I had this morning instead of a typical breakfast sandwich: the St. Paul Sandwich; it’s essentially a hamburger made with an Egg Foo Young patty instead of a beef patty.  I was introduced to this sandwich on the public television program, “Sandwiches That You Will Like” some years ago.
Despite its name, the sandwich originated in St. Louis.

To prepare, first make the egg foo young like in my earlier recipe; this time I used leftover chopped Easter ham, thinly sliced napa cabage, and chopped baby bella mushroom.  (I used 4 “large” eggs for 3 patties.)

I served the patty with sauce on a small bun (another Easter leftover), topped with some julienned carrot and a bit of onion, a leaf of napa cabbage, a couple slices of roma tomato, and mayonnaise.

This is a tasty and unique sandwich for any time of the day, but it’s quick to prepare for breakfast or lunch from leftover egg foo young; the patties with sauce will keep for a day or two in the fridge and reheat well in a microwave.

Vegetable Pulao with Egg

Vegetable Pulao with Egg

This is the first dish that I’ve made from a fellow WordPresser’s blog, since I started my blog last month, specifically from this recipe: Vegetable Rice Palao.

This is a great vegetarian dish with a combination of spicy (especially with the quite hot Indian chili powder I had) and sweet (with the raisins, sweet corn, and carrots)!

I had most of the ingredients on hand, except I used a quality garam masala rather than cardamom and whole cinnamon; I put two star anise pieces in as well.  Also, *gasp* I didn’t have basmati rice, so substituted rinsed jasmine rice instead.  I cut the recipe to 2/3 (i.e., 2 cups uncooked rice, but the suggested amount of vegetables, raisins, and cashews), only because it’s quite a large quantity and I meant to eat this as a standalone meal, so I wanted a slightly higher ratio of vegetables to rice.  The suggested pairing with Egg Curry sounds great, but I was being lazy so just made some hard-boiled eggs, and buried them in the pulao to add some more protein to the dish after removing it from the heat.

Hmm, in hindsight, that’s probably too many changes to a desi chick’s recipe, but that made it fun for me; perhaps I have a problem following directions. :-)

Even with the reduced amount of rice, I got 6 full servings, some of which I served to friends with raita and garlic naan (Trader Joe’s).

Raita ingredients, stirred together:

  • greek-style plain yogurt, 16 oz.
  • cumin powder, 1/2 t.
  • garam masala, 1/2 t.
  • garlic, 3 cloves, dry roasted and minced
  • carrot, 1, peeled and finely julienned short pieces
  • cucumber, 1, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  • onion, 1, small yellow, minced
  • tomato, 2/3 can, fire-roasted, diced
  • saffron (perhaps 6 threads)
  • fresh lime juice, from one lime (or add progressively to taste)
  • salt (to taste)

Vegetable Pulao with Egg and Raita

Un Cuento de Dos Chiles Rellenos

A Tale of Two Stuffed Peppers

Chile Relleno de Queso with Ancho Chile Sauce and Scotch Bonnet Beans and Rice

Baked Chile Relleno stuffed with Queso Fresco, Beans and Rice, atop Ancho Chile Sauce, accompanied by Rice Fritters

The ranting chef, in a recent post, asked, “Do you have a `go to’ test dish for the places you go?”
My favorite “go to” dishes for mexican restaurants are: (1) torta and (2) chiles rellenos.  I’d not made either of these at home, so now I’m tackling chiles rellenos.  In my experience, chiles rellenos are typically poblano peppers, stuffed with cheese, batter-dipped, and deep-fried to a golden brown.  As with other stuffed peppers, there are many variations involving the stuffing and the coating.  For instance, many years ago at a restaurant, I enjoyed a nice chile rellenos coated with crushed, multi-colored tortilla chips.  Since I mostly avoid deep-fried foods, that was a great alternative that, instead of submersing in oil, could be baked – like the relatively bland, but convenient bell-pepper-based stuffed peppers my mom used to make with ground beef, rice, and tomato sauce…  and, yes, I know tortilla chips are deep-fried.  But, while shunning explicitly deep-fried foods, I did also allow myself potato chips, but not french fries.  Whatever; live and let me live with my own innocuous delusions. :)

Last week I bought three fresh poblano peppers (about $1.50) and some queso fresco (about $7 for 12 oz. – seemed expensive, but that’s Whole Foods for you) and decided I would make each as a differently-prepared chili relleno.

Making chiles rellanos for the first time is non-trivial.  First, you’ll want an accompanying sauce or salsa.  Then, you’ll need to blacken or blister and peel the peppers (to remove the bitter skin), carefully clean and stuff them, coat them, and then cook them, preferably without the filling falling out and without the result looking disgusting.  I managed that on two out of three of the peppers I prepared: (1) a typical cheese-stuffed pepper, and (2) a baked, tortilla chip-encrusted pepper with a more interesting filling;  the third pepper we’ll appropriately name, “chile relleno not appearing in this post.”  (It will, however, be appearing on my plate of leftovers for dinner sometime soon, i.e., too ugly to post, but not too ugly to eat.  Full disclosure:  I waited too long to batter-dip it and the batter had lost its meringue-ness, and thus did not coat the pepper well.)

To accompany the chiles, I used an Ancho Chile Sauce that I had prepared in advance.  I liked the idea of matching the stuffed poblano with an ancho chile-based sauce, since the ancho chile is actually a dried, ripe poblano pepper.

Typical Chiles Rellenos ingredients:

  • large fresh green poblano peppers (2)
  • canola oil
  • queso fresco (~4 oz., crumbled)
  • all-purpose flour
  • eggs (3 separated, whites whisked until frothy and smooth, yolks carefully folded in)

As an alternative filling, I created a Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice, since I wanted a spicy kick, as chiles rellenos are typically quite mild; I acheived a moderate level of heat by using just a single scotch bonnet pepper, with seeds and veins removed.

Baked, Tortilla Chip-encrusted Chile Relleno ingredients:

  • large fresh green poblano pepper (1)
  • queso fresco (~1.5 oz., crumbled)
  • scotch bonnet beans and rice (see below, or use another stuffing)
  • egg (1, whisked, as a wash)
  • tortilla chips (crushed, ~1/2 cup)

To get started, we need to blacken and blister the skin of the peppers as thoroughly as possible. This is so that we can peel them.  I used a combination of methods: directly placing them over the stovetop gas flame and turning them in a pan over high heat.  Previously I’ve done this under the broiler (turning frequently); in hindsight, I think the broiler works best.
Once blackened and blistered, place them in a plastic Zip Loc bag to steam and cool.

Blistering the Poblano Peppers for peeling

While the peppers are cooling, prepare the stuffing(s).

Scotch Bonnet Beans and Rice ingredients:

  • rice (I used 1 cup rinsed jasmine rice, because that’s what I had on hand)
  • water from reconstituted ancho chiles or soup stock (2 cups)
  • scallions (2 chopped, white and green portions separated)
  • black beans (1 can, rinsed and drained)
  • garlic (2 cloves minced)
  • sweet corn (frozen, ~2/3 cup)
  • pimento (2 oz.)
  • large green olives (~6, sliced, I used jalapeno-stuffed olives)
  • pickled jalapeno (1 T., minced)
  • scotch bonnet pepper (optional, 1, seeded, deveined, dry roasted, and minced as finely as possible, or substitute a habanero, jalapeno, or some other milder pepper)
  • cumin seed (1/2 t.)
  • saffron threads (optional)

Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice Ingredients

I placed most of the ingredients (except for the beans and scallion greens) in a rice cooker, with the corn in the steamer basket, and cooked with the rice.

Cooking the Rice

When rice is done, toss in the steamed corn, black beans, scallion greens, and salt to taste; and using chopsticks; using chopsticks is a good tip if ever you need to mix fine ingredients into a moist or somewhat sticky rice because it won’t stick to the utensils too much.

Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice for stuffing, as a side dish, and for rice fritters

Our simpler stuffing is the queso fresco.

Crumbled Queso Fresco

When the peppers are reasonably cooled, carefully peel them, rinse them in water, cut a slit perhaps 2/3 down one side and carefully remove the seed bunch, any veins, and any loose seeds.  I leave the stem intact for handling and for presentation.

Deseeding and Cleaning Poblano Peppers

Next, carefully stuff the peppers as desired.  For some, simply fill them moderately with crumbled queso fresco.  For others, perhaps stir queso fresco in with the beans and rice to form a stuffing.

To bake peppers rolled in tortilla chip crumbs, first dip the stuffed pepper in an egg wash, then roll in crushed tortilla chips, and place in a greased baking pan.  Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour (occassionally check to be sure chips aren’t too brown), or partially bake (e.g., 1/2 hour) and store to reheat by baking later.

To fry peppers in oil, prepare the egg batter for the peppers by vigorously whip the egg whites with a whisk into a meringue consistency (a large metal bowl is best, but I don’t have one), then carefully fold the yolks in to mix evenly, but be careful not to overstir, which will cause the whites to collapse.

Whipped Egg Whites and Separated Yolks to be folded together for Batter.

For the peppers to be fried in oil, first coat them with flour.

Dipping a Stuffed Poblano in Flour before Egg Batter

Then dip them in the egg batter, and place them in hot oil, e.g., about 1/2 inch deep; I tested the oil temperature by frying some corn tortilla strips.  Be sure to adjust the temperature so that it sizzles when something is dipped in, but doesn’t cook so fast that it will quickly burn.

Blurry Action Shot: Frying Chile Relleno

Turn the peppers occasionally to cook on each side, being careful to avoid spilling the filling.  (Be particularly careful when cooking the side that was slit open.)
After frying, place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Plate the chile relleno atop a sauce or salsa, and accompany with a side, such as my scotch bonnet beans and rice.

Chile Relleno with Ancho Chile Sauce and Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice

As an optional side, and since my beans and rice was a bit sticky, I formed small balls (~1 in.), rolled them in the egg batter and fried them in the remaining oil to make rice fritters.

Frying Rice Fritters

Of the two chiles rellenos preparations (fried and baked), I was more pleased with the appearance of the typical fried chile relleno stuffed with cheese.

Lastly, while I kept this meal completely vegetarian, I can’t help but think that cooked chorizo would be a great additional ingredient to the stuffing. :)

This was a respectable first try, and I enjoyed the result, and even used some leftover rice and beans to make a breakfast burrito this morning.

Let me know your chiles rellenos tricks or tips!  This is definitely a recipe that benefits from experience.

Here are some recipes I consulted for ideas:

Oh ya, and here’s a non-mexican Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe you might like from Katja’s Kitchen. :)

Ancho Chile Sauce

Ancho Chile Sauce, counter-clockwise from left: the finished sauce, the dried ancho chiles used to make it, the poblano pepper (that is called ancho when dried), the water left from reconstituting/steeping the ancho chiles used to make the sauce.

This past weekend I went to a great grilling party hosted by some friends from South Africa; they use the term “braai” the way Americans might use barbecue, and this party was a “bring ‘n’ braai,” i.e., bring what you’re going to grill and share.

I decided to make flank steak tacos, so I prepared this flavorful, dark red sauce as both a marinade for the steak and a taco sauce.

I have been interested in experimenting with the ancho chile for some time and to reproduce some of the great things I’ve had at mexican restauraunts; last week I stumbled across the peppers at an asian grocery for about for about $1.50 for a bag with enough to make this recipe 2-3 times.  The “ancho,” meaning “wide”, is a dried, ripe poblano pepper;  in the photo above I’ve also shown the fresh, green poblano, but it is not used in this recipe!  I guess the dried version is called “wide” because it typically appears wide and flat.

Sauce ingredients (to yield ~2 cups):

  • 4 large dried ancho chiles, pan roasted, reconstituted (save water), stemmed and seeded, rinsed, and coarsely torn
  • water from reconstituted chiles
  • roasted garlic, 6 medium-large cloves (e.g., pan roasted in skin, then peeled)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. Worcestershire sauce (or substitute another fish sauce or soy sauce)
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • salt to taste

Begin by dry roasting the dried ancho chiles and the unpeeled garlic cloves in a pan on medium heat.  For such preparations, Chef Rick Bayless suggests doing this until the peppers just begin to smoke (flipping the peppers to do this on each side); he uses a spatula to push them flat to make better contact with the hot surface.  Roast the garlic cloves in their skin, turning occassionally, until it is tender then peel.

Dry Roasting Ancho Chiles and Garlic Cloves

Next, rinse the dried ancho chiles to clean them, and reconstitute them for at least 1/2 hour in warm water, perhaps 3 cups in a large pan or bowl; place a plate over them during this time so that the peppers stay submerged. (Alternately, you can steep them in boiling water.)  Then remove the chiles, save the water, and tear them over the sink and remove the seeds and veins, and rinse the peppers inside.

Lastly, simply combine the reconstituted chiles and other ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth; use the water saved from reconstituted chiles to acheive the desired sauce consistency.  If you have a blender with narrow-bottomed container , as I do, add the ingredients just a bit at a time with a bit of the water so that they will blend more easily.

An aside: save the rest of the water used to reconstitute the peppers!  Use it to flavor other salsa or rice, such as my Scotch Bonnet Beans & Rice!

If the sauce is too watery, reduce by simmering it in a pan until desired consistency.

Use the sauce as a marinade for flank steak, skirt steak, or other meats; apply it liberally to all sides and marinate for at least 1/2 hour, then get to grillin’!

The sauce can also be used as a dip for chips or to complement tacos and other dishes.

Chile Rellenos with Ancho Chile Sauce

Tonight it accompanied my Chiles Rellenos!
(That post is forthcoming; I’m just too tired to do it tonight.)

Here are some related recipes that I consulted: Ancho Chile Sauce, Red Chile Adobo SauceCarne Adobada, and Pumpkin and Ancho Chile Mole.

P.S. Yay for Pati’s Mexican Table: a wonderful program on PBS that I just discovered this past weekend!  This is a nice addition to one of my favorites: Rick Bayless’ Mexico – One Plate at a Time.