Pan de Muertos

I know it’s the stereotype and all, but even though I’m female I really hate baking. The cutesy aprons, adorable flour tins, and rainbow cupcake scene just ain’t my bag. Give me pastas and sauces and gravies and roasted veggies and spices. No precise measurements needed- that’s where I’m at home! But baking? Sheesh, recipes have varied instructions based on elevations, and a cup isn’t just a cup… it has to be a sifted cup, or a perfectly level cup, or better yet weigh the ingredients… bah. Also, since I have a generalized disdain for aprons and wear mostly dark t-shirts that much loose flour can be an issue.

But I had pan de muertos to make for Dia de los Muertos. And the thought that the dead wait for no one really kept me to a pretty tight timeline here. Pan de Muertos means BREAD OF THE DEAD!!!!! (but without the overwrought punctuation and capitalization). With a name like that I’m sure a sweet bread that’s great with coffee is like, not what you were picturing. Anyway, I had an offrenda to put this on and so had to make it and did, in fact, quasi enjoy it. I did also, in fact, get flour god damn everywhere.

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I see now I should have made either one loaf or three… two seems like… yeah…

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…like this scene from The Naked Gun, only in bread.

ANYHOO…

Pan/Bread Ingredients

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup milk

3 Tbsp orange juice

3 cups all purpose flour (don’t get me started on how many different flours there are…)

1 package (1 1/4 tsp) dry active yeast

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp. anise seed

1/4 cup white sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2 Tbsp orange zest

 

Glaze Ingredients

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

1 Tbsp orange zest

Turn oven on to 325 degrees. Heat milk and butter over medium/low heat till butter melts. Add warm water and a pinch of sugar to a bowl and sprinkle over the yeast to activate it. (Weird bubbling ensues). Zest off the outer peel of an orange with a zester or by carefully slicing and dicing. Once butter is melted into milk remove from heat and let cool a little. In a large bowl add anise seed, 1 cup flour, 2 Tbsp orange zest, sugar, and salt together and then add eggs, yeast, and milk/butter. This is the part where folks would use a stand mixer, but since they sure as hell didn’t have that in 1932 Guanajato Mexico, I mixed by damn hand with a spoon. Here’s the secret though, get that first cup of flour mixed until smooth before adding the rest of the flour slowly until it’s all incorporated.

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I took the picture so I’ll damn well use it

Once it’s all added together it’s a little sticky and a little shaggy looking. Turn out on a lightly floured counter to knead.

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Turns out that’s an assload too much flour

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Then just knead until stretchy and you’re bored

Once the bread is kneaded (5 minutes or so) put back in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 2 hours.

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I took the picture and I’ll damn well use it

Then once the bread has risen, punch it down and form into loaves. I pulled about 1/4 off and set to the side to do the design on the tops and then divided the remaining dough into two balls. I then made the crossed “bones” and knob on the top (stylized skull? Not sure, but it’s the tradition) by forming it like it was playdough. Then I just pressed them into the top of the balls of dough. (AGAIN, though that’s what I did, maybe form into one big loaf or 3 small ones.) Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, place in the oven, and cook for 20-25 minutes.

While the bread cooks, add the orange juice and sugar to a pot over medium heat and stir to prevent burning. Heat until your glaze is lava.

Once bread is done, remove from oven, drizzle on the glaze, then while still hot sprinkle with white sugar.

It’s tasty, and not too anise-y, which I don’t really like, but this amount isn’t too much. I think Mexicans do anise WAYYYY better than the French do, frankly, so really don’t worry about it- you’ll like it. This bread is great heated up the next day, spread with butter and eaten with coffee. And remember- the dead wait for no one, so like… hurry it up.

 

 

 

 

Carrots Agrodolce with Currants

Like dude, that title amiright? Agrodolce means something about sweet and sour, and I’m 90% sure it’s Italian. You don’t get that kind of half assed explanation outta the Barefoot Contessa, now do you! If you can’t blaze your own path, store bought is fine.

This is the culmination of a long search for a carrot side dish. I don’t know why I made this my thing- the THING- I worked towards for years. But I always knew there had to be more to these orange bastards than I’d run across so far. Roasted baby carrots left me bored. Various other glazed carrot recipes always came out kinda weird or bland or required celery salt.

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The enigmatic jerks!

But this one? Tangy, not cloyingly sweet, and the currants upped the flavor depth. (Upped? Not deepened? Odd choice, brain.) Also, when done in the pan after cooking pork chops or chicken, you also incorporate the fond from the meat and the whole thing then gets served over said cut of meat as a sauce. Bitchin.

Ingredients:

½ smallish yellow onion, chopped
5-7 carrots, cut into rounds about 1/3 of an inch thick. Approximately.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp. currants, more or less
Salt and pepper to taste

In a pan over medium heat (after cooking pork or chicken, or can also be done in clean pan if required) add a good glug ( thats 2 Tbsp-ish) olive oil. If you are cooking the carrots after cooking meat make sure you have enough oil and your heat low enough that you don’t burn the fond. Once oil is heated, add the chopped onion and salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, scraping bottom to loosen fond, until onions are softened and starting to turn golden. Add carrots; stir once and then let sit for 2 minutes before continuing to stir and scraping the fond. Once carrots start to soften a little add honey, currants and vinegar, stirring regularly from here on out (another couple of minutes). If the sauce starts to dry you can add a little water. Continue scraping fond until you have a nice glaze that has coated the carrots and a bit of extra sauce. Serve as a side dish or spoon over meat if at all humanly possible.

I had this tonight with pan seared pork chops, sautéed spinach with red pepper flake and garlic, and wild rice. Spooned the carrots half over the pork and half over the rice. Pretty as a picture and tasted like I’d pay $26 for it in a restaurant.

Linking up with Samantha over at Fake Fabulous Here- check it out!

Caramelized Onion and Jack Cheese Chicken Breasts

Okay, see, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be giving these recipes more obscure names. Like, should I call this Arroyo Ojo Chicken and have you think it’s something I ate in an exotic location in the Southwest? Because the truth is this is one where I started yet another late afternoon staring into a fridge and coming up with something; in this instance it was 2 chicken breasts, some leftover jack cheese from another meal, and a whole heap of onions because I forgot I had bought a bag and then bought ANOTHER bag two days later.

So let’s give it a shot here and say I’m typing this next to an adobe hacienda, sitting in the shaded courtyard, eating this chicken, drinking a michilada and staring across at the Arroyo Ojo. There’s… cactus. Some lizards maybe? Sierra Nevada’s in the distance. And I, your ever vigilant author, am thinking I should adapt such an exquisite meal for my loyal readers once my husband and I are back from our three week vacation.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

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Looking at it right now. Swear.

Cooking time: neighborhood of 45 minutes

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½ inch and cut into 4 pieces, total
1 and a half onions, sliced thinly
Jack cheese, either thin sliced or shredded
Cumin
Adobo seasoning (if you have it)
Mexican oregano
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Serve with sour cream, lime, and sliced avocado

Slice the onions and add to a pan with 2 glugs (about 3 tablespoons) of olive oil over medium heat. You’re going to want to cook these, without burning them, for 10 to 15 minutes. The good news here is that you don’t need to stir them constantly, just stir occasionally and make sure they’re getting brown, not black. Once they’re caramelized remove them to a bowl, wipe out the pan, and return it to the stove, turning the heat up to medium high. Pound the chicken while the onions are caramelizing to ½ inch thick. It will plump back up a bit as it shrinks during cooking, so really wail on it. Cut each breast in half to make a total of four pieces. Season liberally (how much? Free college and outlawing assault rifles liberal) on both sides with cumin, adobo seasoning (If you have it), Mexican oregano, and salt and pepper. Add another couple of glugs of olive oil to the pan as it heats, and once hot add the chicken in batches. Cook for 4 minutes (plus/minus) per side, flipping a couple more times if needed to cook through.

Remove chicken to a cookie sheet, arrange onions liberally on top, then cover in cheese. Place cookie sheet in oven under broiler to melt cheese for just a minute or two- make sure you watch this step LIKE A HAWK! Serve with sliced avocado and dob with sour cream, then squeeze a lime on top.

Impress your spouse! Impress your mother in law! Boggle the minds of your friends! And your kids will eat it in spite of the vast amount of onions!

Mussels in Wine Sauce Recipe

My, how I love me some mussels; and not JUST because you don’t pay for just a TON of shell when you buy them like you can with other shellfish! Can we talk about this issue for a second? I love clams. Love them. But when I go to buy them they, as are the lovely mussels in this recipe, are sold in the shell, by the pound. And that’s all well and good, but clams have extremely thick and heavy shells… so I feel like you’re paying a LOT for the packaging. Alright, here’s an analogy. You know when you go to buy software (you internets pirates wouldn’t understand…) and it’s in a box almost the size of a cereal box? And then you open it and it’s just a normal sized CD? Why so much packaging?! That’s your clam right there. And then you know how old school incandescent light bulbs are packaged in just thin sleeves of cardboard? One of the most fragile objects and it’s in this insanely thin, lightweight, and easy to open package? That’s your black mussels right there. So clams are QuickBooks and mussels are light bulbs.

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Look you jerks, I need that space in the recycling bin for beer bottles!

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I have a bright idea…

I made these mussels for years in just the wine, garlic, and butter sauce- and oh my are they good like that. But the addition of the diced tomatoes, basil, and parsley really takes this recipe to the next level. Crusty bread for sopping up sauce a must.

3 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup finely diced onions (shallots if you want to get all uppity about it)
2 cups white wine
2 diced tomatoes
2.5 lbs black mussels
small handful mixed fresh parsley and basil, chopped

In a high sided sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and onions to melted butter and sauté until aromatic. Add wine, bring to a simmer. Add mussels and diced tomatoes and cover pan. The mussels are cooked when they open- don’t overcook till they’re rubbery BUT WOE BE TO THEE WHO UNDERCOOKS so like, walk that knife edge, okay? Serve over pasta of your choice or just in a bowl by themselves with crusty bread on the side. Garnish with a generous amount of fresh parsley and basil.

Don’t eat the unopened mussels or risk… unpleasantness. I’d have put ACTUAL pictures of mussels in this post, but I’m writing this while still recovering from the stomach bug I wrote about in the last post and thought that a google image search of shellfish was probably bad idea in my current state.

Turmeric Chicken Breasts

Turmeric is not one of those spices you get in the prepackaged 10 count spice racks, but don’t be afraid of it. It is readily available and not expensive. I bought my 1 oz jar for a little under $3 at my regular grocery store (not even the good one on the hill!), and in the spice world one ounce goes a long way.  Besides, it’s the next big thing in 2017, just like coconut oil was in 2014. Google it if you want to see a bunch of millennials smearing it on their faces and then claiming it’s the reason their skin is so good. (Newsflash: it’s because you’re 23, idiot)

This dish is easy, quick, and the chicken turns a beautiful yellow color. And then with the blackened bits from the griddle pan, Mmmm! This one is differently flavorful, but not so different as to require work to get to a point of appreciation. It’s not smelly cheese or sardines or anything, is what I’m saying. My kids loved it the first time they ever had it. Try it, you’ll see.

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How is it we all ended up with those tongs in our first apartments? Did any of us ever buy them or did they just show up somehow? Forget the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory… I want to talk about the red handled shitty tongs conspiracy.   -Image by Sky_24

(20 minutes to prep, 2 hours to marinate, 20 minutes to cook)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
¼ cup coconut milk
3 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. local honey
½ tsp. ground turmeric

(Chili powder or any asian hot sauce aside for Sriracha is a good addition to the marinade if you want this with a kick. What do I have against the cliche of a hot sauce that is Sriracha? Well for one thing the spelling annoys me. And two, it’s very one note on the palette and not worth the hype. And three… I like being contrary, if I’m honest about it.)

Pound chicken to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into smaller pieces to get them to a more manageable, deck-of-cards-esque size. Combine all other ingredients in a storage container and whisk briskly to make the marinade. Add chicken to the marinade, making sure all pieces are coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Heat griddle pan (or skillet, if you don’t have a griddle pan) over medium high heat. Add chicken in batches, being sure not to crowd, and cook until done. The thickness that I pound mine and the temperature of the griddle pan means mine are cooked in about 3-4 minutes a side. But cooking time will vary depending on temperature of your stove, the pan you use, size of the chicken, air pressure (not sure about that), ambient temperature (even less sure about that), and other factors (seems likely and a good way to cover my ass here). Make sure you’re getting some nice and dark browned bits on the chicken as you cook- don’t be flipping too soon, is what I’m saying.

Would be good with rice, a spring greens salad, and a sauce made out of plain yogurt, lemon juice, and herbs. Or with roasted broccoli and couscous topped with some hot sauce and maybe cilantro…

*Full disclosure: your recipe writing food blogger over here just ate cold pizza for lunch after a “breakfast” of two cups of black coffee. Do as I say, not as I…

Stupid Complex but Easy BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

So much, amiright? Yes this has 2 sauces involved, I know, I KNOW- but it’s so good! And let’s face it, bbq chicken sandwiches can be a bit one note- the garlicky white sauce adds such a step up here- and that sauce is so easy and awesome on other things… most notably fries dipped right into it. And no, I am not one of those European weirdos who eats fries with mayo. (World War Ewwww raging with that one.)

And look- this should really be your very simple pantry staple meal. You’re not even cooking a chicken! It’s rotisserie! And while I know that’s a lot of different ingredients I’d really recommend having mustard, bbq sauce, rice wine vinegar (the very best vinegar, really. Screw that dye heavy, overpower-everything balsamic) soy sauce, garlic… you get where I’m going here right? Have staples and you’ll be cooking. I can’t. I can’t let such a bad and unimaginative pun stand. Now I can’t think of anything else. Oh well. You quality staples buy. Good food makey makey.

As for the coleslaw… I buy prepackaged. I usually add rice wine vinegar (I SWEAR the rice wine vinegar cartel hasn’t threatened my family over here) since I find the packaged sauce too sweet usually. Serve it as a side and add some to the sandwiches. Is good.

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One Vinegar to rule them all, one Vinegar to find them, One Vinegar to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Shredded BBQ Chicken
½ rotisserie chicken meat- shredded or cut into small pieces. Good way to maximize all of the … carcass is the only word here, but wasn’t one I necessarily wanted to use…
Sweet BBQ sauce
Rice wine vinegar
Yellow mustard
Water
Pepper

Combine in saucepan and heat through

White sauce
1/3 to 1/2 Mayo
Pinch sugar
Lots of black pepper
Splash rice wine vinegar
Splash soy sauce
Small handful chopped parsley
1 clove garlic through garlic press
(combine and refrigerate for 1-2 hours)

Serve with

Sliced pickles
Small dinner or Hawaiian rolls, cut in half and toasted
Coleslaw

Toast rolls at 350 degrees in the oven for a few minutes. Slather one side of toasted rolls in white sauce, pile on bbq chicken, add sliced pickles and/or coleslaw and enjoy!

(Kids like it too. Don’t let them see you put the white sauce on, but don’t omit it- you’re developing their palates whether they know/like it or not)

Roast Chicken

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So Pretty!

Something about the words “roast chicken” bring to mind table fare of a bygone age. Mother in pearls. Kids playing stickball. Fedoras and credenzas and communist fear along with rampant sexism and racism… you know. The past! (What- you expected rose colors glasses out of an anthropologist with a minor in history? Pashaw.)

This is a delicious and succulent chicken that takes less effort than any chicken breast dish I make and costs half as much… and tastes twice as good! Why aren’t we making this, as a people, weekly!? I’ll tell you why. Bones. I used to be like that too: squeamish of skin and bones and animal-ish stuff.  But it’s time we got over our squeamishness and grabbed life by the pope’s nose!*

And there are an absolute multitude of roast chicken recipes out there; with herbs and spices and lemons wedged into the cavity… and that sure does sound like me, right? But nope. Not this time. A roasted chicken doesn’t need any of it. While chicken breast can be bland with just some salt and pepper, a roasted chicken is brought to perfection with just those two seasoning. It’s so damn easy too. Get it set up in the pan and then don’t touch it again. It’s a great I’ll-be-quasi-napping-on-the-couch-while-actively-cooking-dinner dinner.

2-3 lb whole chicken, thawed
Coarse sea salt
Ground pepper

Rinse of your chicken, inside and out. If this is your first time doing this be forewarned that the neck and gizzards are in the cavity. You don’t want to drop the neck down the garbage disposal and then have to fish it out with your hands like I always seem to find myself doing. I generally discard the neck and gizzards. I know some people make gravy by boiling all of those, but a far superior gravy can be made from pan drippings, so don’t bother. Once your chicken is rinsed, make sure it is very dry, inside and out, by drying with paper towels. The less liquid, the less steam, the crispier your skin will be. The chicken’s skin. You know what I mean.

Once the chicken is dry, place breast side up in the center of a metal baking dish with sides. Sprinkle the entire bird with the salt and pepper, inside and out and be generous. Bake at 475 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on size of your chicken or until temperature reached 165 degrees.(I never measure this myself. I just tilt the chicken and check for clear fluids to run out.)

Why such a high heat? You’re looking for a dry cooking method here- no steaming, so it’s high heat and no basting or opening the oven a bunch of times!
Let rest for 15 minutes and enjoy!

*part of the chicken. By the butt.

(I have more to talk about. A riot of words and feelings and loss… but the day for that is not this day.)