Cinco de Mayo — Steak with Mexican Flavors

steak mexicana

Steak with Mexicana flavors, is not one of those things I traditionally think about when doing Cinco de Mayo, but there’s no reason for that. It’s a quite a delicious treat, relatively easy to make, and makes a small four-person treat as part of a bigger meal or a great two-person dish. 

The real trick here is to roast the chiles poblano, which takes a few minutes, but makes an ordinary dish into something a bit special. The trick here is to blacken the skin so it can be removed quickly, then seed the peppers and chop them up into small pieces. The blackened skin is don by roasting the peppers over an open gas burner (or electric) or, if you would rather, cut them in half and place them on a broiler pan. Honestly, it really is that easy.

The steak is even easier. I tend to like ribeye, but you can also use tip steaks, sirloin – basically anything that’s lean and serves well as a medium rare steak. The end-result is dynamite.

The original for this recipe came from Bobby Flay’s Authentic Mexican cookbook, altered to fit my taste.


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Lucious Beef Stroganoff and Noodles

beef stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff is one of those dishes that seldom comes up very often on restaurant menus, but when it’s done right, it’s about as luscious a beef dish as your likely to find, just about anywhere. Fortunately, if you like a really good portion of beef with onions and mushrooms, you can easily make a nice Stroganoff, even if your local restaurants aren’t likely to be serving it.

The trick, if you want to call it that, is to make the beef as rare as you can. That means a good top sirloin steak cut into nice thin slices, a really hot skillet, and paying very close attention to the beef while you’re searing it. That also means taking your time and using two or three sessions to get the meat done without overcrowding it in the skillet. The rest, is to season the meat very lightly — the sour cream, onions and mushrooms do most of the work — with maybe just a little thyme.

Lay the Stroganoff on noodles and you’re all set.


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Harissa Chicken and Chickpeas

harissa chicken

Harissa Chicken and Chickpeas is a fairly simple recipe, and yet that incredible harissa sauce makes it something special despite the simple design.  In fact, apart from the pan-roasting, which takes about 25 minutes, the whole thing can be done in well under an hour, from start to finish.

I’ve probably mentioned harissa one or more times here, but it’s something that every kitchen should make sure is on hand, any time something just needs a little spice to it. It’s a red pepper sauce, I guess, but it is made with plenty of heat — almost a lot like a good chili but with it’s own kind of flavor profile. And the good news is, you can start with a small amount and increase it until you hit the right level of flavor, with almost anything you’re cooking. It’s perfect, in fact with almost any kind of saucy kind of vegetable preparation, especially.

I believe this recipe came from a Bon Appetite, originally, but it’s been modified a bit, especially with the garlic and onions.


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Classic Beef Bourguignon

beef bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is one of those dishes that everyone who aspires to be a great cook should have to master. One the surface, its beef stew. And yet, calling beef Bourguignon a beef stew is like calling Beethoven’s Fifth a song. Technically accurate, to be sure, but nowhere near to conveying the subtle beauty of the dish. The great thing is that this dish is easy to make, but still requires the kind of attention and care that defines good cooking.

There are many versions of this dish around, and there is a great deal of variation from one version of beef Bourguignon to the next. The classic preparation uses whole small white onions, carrots and mushrooms in addition to the beef, some thyme and a red burgundy wine, which is 100% pinot noir. (I have this on the authority of no less than Julia Child, and that’s enough for me.)


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Chicken Donbori with Coriander and Pomegranate

chicken donbori

Donbori, in a nutshell, is a Japanese word for what amounts to a rice bowl — a steaming bowl of rice topped with whatever you happen to have on hand (within reason). And in most senses, this bowl from Chef Jordan Sclare is just that, but sometimes calling this a chicken donbori tends to disguise the amazing flavors and textures in this dish.

In this case, the rice is topped with zucchini flavored in a tangy miso and kim chi base, then sliced raw onions and pomegranate seeds, then lavished with chicken flavored in a cilantro (coriander) marinade that’s like, why didn’t I think of that before? I can sincerely promise you, you’ve never had anything quite like this dish, ever before in your life. 

I picked this recipe up somewhere. I don’t remember why or how, but dig in, guys. This one gives chicken a whole new flavor.


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Chicken Sous Vide Sandwich

chicken sous vide sandwich

I’ve made a number of different chicken sandwiches over the past couple of years for Discovery Cooking, and yet, strangely enough, I somehow hadn’t put the idea of a chicken sous vide sandwich in my roster just yet. Not sure why, but it seems it somehow didn’t register. So, I’ve decided to give it a try.

As always, I started out with a chicken breast, soaked in some oil and a little garlic, done to a low medium in the sous vide, allowing it to a.) first cook at about 150 degrees and b.) to keep it there for about an hour and a half. By cooking the bird and allowing it to stay that way, you in essence pasteurized the chicken to the point that whatever was unkind in the poultry is long gone by then, but without overcooking the chicken. Nice trick that. Add a little grill on the outside to give it a nice fresh look we’re cooking.

As for the sandwich, I decided on a western style of preparation, one that focused on the garlic, onions, some avocados, tomatoes and a spicy Jalapeno/mayonnaise sauce that was, in essence, the perfect combination with the chicken and the avocados. Add a slice of jack/cheddar cheese and you’re in business.


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Roasted Lamb with Onions

roasted lamb

If you find yourself some day looking for a rather easy and sane quick dinner, this roasted lamb is a very simple but a really nice complement to some green veggies and a nice little wine. It doesn’t require a huge preparation, some lamb shoulder, a couple of onions, a little garlic, a little bit of tomato paste, some white wine and a little saffron. 

I’m guessing by now you might have noticed that little bit of saffron. First, yes, it really is essential. It does something to the meat and the veggies that makes it special. For one thing, it adds a little floral note to the preparation and it most definitely adds a wonderful fragrance to the sauce. Second, yes, I know it tends to be a bit pricey from the supermarket, but it is also available from decent sized Latino or world markets at a reasonable price. 


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