Caramel Pear Galette-and an Ode to CA Grown Food

Thank you to California Grown for encouraging me to connect with California growers and encouraging California consumers to “Choose California Grown” when they can.

I know it’s really winter when I stop eating fruit. Spring through summer we can’t get enough, from the first strawberries that show up at the farmers’ market through the last of the plums. Then pumpkins come in and I get excited about squash and apples and then. It all fizzles out. I am so tired of apples, the occasional banana, oranges and more apples by Thanksgiving. Then I remember the pear.

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Galette is about as simple as pastry gets: a free-form crust filled with fruit. The secret is to use fruit at the peak of ripeness.

Pears can be tricky. I hate getting the rock-hard versions found at most groceries. Even worse are the turns-to-mush-as-soon-as-you-think-about-eating it variety. Bruised and mushy is not my idea of a tasty snack. And then I was lucky enough to receive of box of pears from a local grower, Virgina Hemly Chhabra of Greene & Hemly, Inc.

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Look at that fruit! And a handwritten note from the woman who owns/runs the orchard.

It was like she sent me a box of sunshine. It’s been so busy at my house lately, and the weather unpredictable so I’ve been out of my usual farmers market routine. And the store where I get most of my staples from ( love the low prices on crazy good snacks) doesn’t have the very best in produce. And almost none of it is even from right here in California. Which doesn’t make sense to me, since the nations best produce is grown here. We dove into that box the day it showed up. My little girls adored the diminutive Seckel pears that fit into the palms of their hands while I enjoyed munching on the creamy Taylor’s Gold variety. Of course, the Bosc were the ones I covered in brown-sugar caramel and baked into a flaky crust with a handful of fresh cranberries. Honestly, I don’t know how I forgot about the pear.

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Not just for lunchboxes: a quick and tasty cheese plate I served at Thanksgiving. Note the tiny pears and "red cheese"--the little girls loved it.

I am happy to be in love with fruit again. And happy to be reminded of some of the very good reasons to be eating local: less energy is wasted getting the food to you, the fruit can be harvested closer to ripe, your dollars go to supporting business in your community. It’s enough to make me don a light rain jacket and venture out to one of the all-year farmer’s markets again. I know. I am a total Sunshine State wimp. Still, if you live near me, you’d be silly to buy out of state, out of season foods when the best is right here. Now if we could get that certain small grocery store with a cult-like following to get on board with us, life would be perfect.

 

Caramel Pear Galette

Ingredients

  • Pastry Crust
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup unslated butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4-1/2 cup iced water
  • Filling
  • 4 medium-large ripe Bosc pears, cored and sliced about 1/4
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • raw sugar
  • heavy cream or milk

Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare Pie Crust: This is recipe uses a food processor and makes enough crust for a double crust pie. You'll only need half the recipe, the other half can be wrapped an frozen for up to three months. You can also use your favorite pie crust recipe.
  2. Blend dry ingredients together in bowl of food processor
  3. Add butter and pulse to chop until flour looks like course meal: 10-15 seconds
  4. Add ice water and pulse quickly 1 tablespoon at a time=1 pulse at a time
  5. When dough holds together stop adding water
  6. Remove from the bowl and divide the dough in half
  7. Flatten each piece in to a disk and wrap in plastic wrap
  8. Refrigerate 60 minutes
  9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  10. Take one crust out and gently roll into about a 12" circle
  11. Place circle of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet
  12. Toss together sliced pears and cranberries
  13. Heat skillet over medium high heat, add brown sugar
  14. Cook without stirring until sugar begins to melt and darken
  15. Use a heat-proof spatula to gently stir the sugar until it is all melted and dark brown
  16. Quickly add the butter, stirring to incorporate, remove from heat
  17. Drizzle hot caramel over mounded pears and cranberries
  18. Fold the crust gently up the side of the pastry, creating folds to hold the dough together as a free form pie
  19. Brush with heavy cream or milk and sprinkle with raw sugar
  20. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and fruit is browned at the top, about 20 minutes
  21. Let stand about 10 minutes, slice and serve

Note: Pastry Crust Adapted from Laura of Hey What’s for Dinner Mom. She has a great video on how to make this pie dough, if you’re wary.

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Ready for the oven--and Stella is excited.

Thank you again to California Grown for sponsoring this blog post. Please click here to learn more about all of California Grown growers. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own. #CleverCAGrown #spon

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Crunchy Like Granola

I go through periods of being cereal obsessed. And my girls are definitely cereal lovers. When given a choice between French toast and cereal the other morning, I had one throw a fit over not having her bowl of goodness. On the scale of bad things to eat, I think this is fairly benign. We eat grown-up cereal that is high on fiber and low on sugar. The girls know nothing of highly dyed character laden bowls of fluff and I plan on keeping it that way.  I do like to think I feed us a fairly healthy diet, but I’m not ready to become a WAP family just yet.

Fresh and ready for snacking. I love the texture of the clusters.

Lately I’ve been craving granola. Oh granola. I love the crunch, the stuff inside, how it makes fresh fruit and yogurt a dessert for breakfast. But I don’t like most store made granola. They tend to be very sweet and higher in fat than I want for breakfast. Because, like many women of a certain age, I count those things. The granola I do love is kind of expensive for how long it lasts in my house. So what to do, what to do? Ask Twitter for a recipe, of course.

There are probably enough granola recipes out there to match every single granola eater with a personalized bowl. So what’s one more? My friend Mark sent me a recipe from a vegan cookbook. The page had two recipes and I couldn’t choose between the two, so I smooshed them together, added barley malt powder and threw the whole mess in the oven. And now I can’t stop eating it. I’ve also come to understand that granola is the casserole of cereals. I’ve added various nuts, seeds, spices to each batch to come up with something a little tweaked to fit my mood that week. But I keep the barley malt and maple syrup. The maple has a subtle sweetness and the barley malt adds a depth of flavor, along with some extra stick so the granola chunks up well. The lack of clusters has been my complaint with homemade granola in the past.

Pan roasted peaches with Greek yogurt and granola. Is this really breakfast?

I’ve enjoyed this with all the fresh summer fruit: plums and berries, peaches and nectarines. As the growing season turns to fall, I’m thinking of roasting apples the night before and making a heavenly cinnamon-scented breakfast for the coming chilly mornings.

This is so good, it might make it into my gift rotation this year.

Malted Maple Granola

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Rolled Oats (thick if you can get them)
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Coconut
  • 2 tablespoons Malted Barley Powder
  • 2/3 cup Slivered Almonds
  • 2/3 cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1-2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup Canola Oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Dump everything into a large bowl and stir.
  3. Make sure the oil and syrup coat the oat mixture evenly.
  4. Spread out on a half sheet pan or two 9x13 cookie sheets.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Granola will be golden brown when done.
  6. Let cool and add dried fruit if so desired. Store in an airtight container.
  7. Makes about 8 cups.

Adapted from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer.

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Brownies: Part Two or The Ones That Got Me Fired

There is a dark side to brownies. And I don’t just mean chocolate. The brownies for today are as rich and decadent as they are dream killing…no not really. My first job in the “back of the house” that is, in a restaurant kitchen, was as a pastry grunt at a high-end place in an up-scale town just north of San Jose.

I think the reason they moved me from the serving floor to the kitchen was because the executive chef didn’t like the pastry chef and wanted her out–so giving her an untrained (but earnest and eager to learn/please) waitress as an assistant was kind of an insult. But I managed to outlive her (oh that month and change where I held down the pastry fort with the sous chef, oi!) and cling to my position by hook and crook until. Until. The concept expanded. Not only did they need a full-time pastry chef but they needed a morning breakfast pastry baker and several grunts. Grunts who were more experienced than I. But it’s hard to fire someone who works off the clock and tries. So. Hard. Plus, the hassle of unemployment and yadda yadda…so much better to make her quit, yes?

Enter the brownies.

The brownies were developed by the head baker at the City location. He had perfected all the house-made bread recipes and developed the baked items to go into the lunch-counter concept. The brownies were killer. Nothing but melted chocolate, butter, eggs, heavy cream and caramel. And I had always cut a 1/2 sheet pan into 24 squares. About 2″x3″ squares. HUGE. But it’s what I was told to do. Until the new concept floundered and the hammer came down from the owner to the executive chef, down to the pastry chef and down to me. About the size of the brownies. In the words of social media: I was doing it wrong.

Oh well. A week after the thorough tongue lashing I also got the news that, starting the next week, my schedule would be completely different and my pay cut almost in half. I quit the next day. And thus ended my glamorous restaurant career. I blame the brownies.

So. I like to give the “secret recipe” away, ala the Neiman-Marcus Cookie. It’s a truly rich brownie. As far from my humble brownie making beginnings as one could get. I made these suckers three times a week for months. The recipe is a part of me; making them is an act of muscle memory. You will love them. And please, do share the recipe with a friend. ;)

Chocolate Caramel Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1# 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 9 oz unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cups suagr
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips (divided)
  • 3/4 cup caramel sauce*

Cooking Directions

  1. Spray a half sheet sized baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper. Preheat over to 350°.
  2. Combine 1#12oz chocolate, butter and cream and melt over a double boiler.
  3. Meanwhile, combine sugar and eggs, whisk. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and baking powder.
  4. When chocolate has melted, whisk into egg mixture.
  5. Stir in flour mixture.
  6. Fold in half of the reserved chocolate chunks.
  7. Pour into prepared baking pan.
  8. Drizzle caramel over brownies and top with remaining chocolate chunks.
  9. Bake in a 350° oven until just set, about 20 minutes.
  10. *If making own sauce, do so before starting brownies, allow to cool while putting together the brownie batter.

Brown Sugar Caramel Sauce with Raspberry Jam

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry jam

Cooking Directions

  1. Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and whisk in raspberry jam.
  3. Let cool before drizzling over the brownies.

**Note** This is an industrial-sized batch. Really intended for commercial sized 1/2 sheet pan. And a mob of people to eat them. If that suits your needs, make the big batch. If you have more normal baking sheets, halve the recipe and bake in a well greased 9×13 pan.

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Brownies: Part One

Maia wasn't a cake eater until she turned 3. So I made birthday brownies for her 2nd birthday.

I’ve been having fun lately reconnecting with old friends through the magic of Facebook. Although I lived in the same town from 3rd grade through high school graduation, I haven’t done a good job of staying in touch with the people I grew up with. What’s especially interesting is what these old and far flung friends remember about me. Most of it centers around food. Specifically, me making it. I guess I was bound to circle back to food, because it was a large component of who I was growing up.

These revelations from old friends have go me to remembering what I did do growing up. Like sleepovers. I loved sleepovers. I can not wait until my daughters have them. There is nothing like staying up all night with your girlfriends doing nothing but chatting and laughing at mindless TV and just being while the rest of the known universe slumbers. All that and baking brownies, too.

My go to sleepover activity was baking a pan of brownies at midnight and eating them for the rest of the night. Nothing can compare to a fresh-baked brownie in the evening for comfort food. There is something about the butter, sugar & chocolate squares that send me right back to the happy giggle land of my early teen years.

My first brownies came right out of Betty Crocker’s Everything You Need to Know to Cook. Butter, cocoa powder, eggs, a touch of flour. Super simple (especially for a gaggle of 12-year-olds) but lovely when done. They have the classic crackling top, nice chocolate flavor and a good dense cakey texture.

Of course, I’ve baked all sorts of brownies since then. From insanely rich melted chocolate and heavy cream based ones, to lovely fudgey combinations of melted chocolate and cocoa powder. I’ve made them for countless catering activities, lunches, play-dates, classes and just because reasons. But I still reach for the quick cocoa powder version I first began with when a brownies craving hits. The ease of execution and almost immediate gratification aside, cocoa powder brownies make me feel like a kid again.

Instead of offering up a recipe today, I encourage you to go dust off an old-school cookbook and go make a batch of brownies. My guess is, you’ll be transported right back to your very first brownie in no time flat.

 

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Slow-Cooker Tuesday: Saag Paneer

It’s hard to live in San Jose and not have a love affair with Indian food. It’s all over. From all over India. And it is very very good.

I fell in love with Indian food in my late teens. It was in a small restaurant originally built as a Taco Bell that had been lovingly transformed into a miniature palace. It was my first full thali dinner. I loved the small bowls of exotic flavors. I adored the way the vegetables were served (I was a vegetarian at the time). Especially the spiced spinach pureed smooth and dotted with hunks of fresh cheese. It was so very different from what I was used to. I was hooked that night, and have been hooked ever since. Saag paneer has become my go-to dish when trying out new digs, as well.

It was only natural that I’d try to recreate some of those flavors at home. My first attempts centered around simple Americanized curries. Once I began cooking in earnest, I thought I’d tackle some more authentic recipes. I found a huge tome covering the styles of the entire Indian sub-continent and diligently toasted, ground, and blended my own spice mixes. I spent hours making a meal with the reward of eating some very good food at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, spending hours grinding spices and slow simmering curry is no longer a practical way for me to cook. At least not on a week night. Lately Indian has been relegated to take-out or dine in treats. But then a magical thing happened. Amazon must have realized I was missing some spice in my life when it suggested a book I might like:  The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla.

1/2 the spinach and the veggies and spices getting ready to cook.

Apparently I am not alone in wanting a way to cook tasty food from India without spending all day in the kitchen. I highly recommend picking a copy up if you, like me, love Indian food but don’t have all day to tend the stove top. Honestly, this cook book has been love from first recipe. But the easiest and tastiest so far has been the lovely saag paneer. Continue reading

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Lemon Bars

I kind of have a black thumb. Maybe not really black, but I tend to plant and forget–until it’s too late. It’s a good thing John really picks up my slack in the gardening arena or we’d have a pretty bare-earth plot of suburbia. One of the first things he did after moving into our home was to plant citrus tress. So we have two lovely orange trees, a tasty Meyer lemon tree, and a Persian lime tree. That all currently bear a good amount of fruit. And that I scramble to do more with than add to the *ahem* compost pile.

This is the time of year where I really love living in the bay area. It’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s wet but man, my citrus are erupting. This year I’m trying to save more fruit than I toss by making marmalade, preserves, and freezing juice cubes. But I can’t let go of the classics. Like lemon bars. I like to augment mine with another hardy garden staple–rosemary. Lemons and rosemary make me look like a gardening queen.

Miss M is learning the ways of the lemon bar one sugary scoop at a time.

Lemons and rosemary pair as well together in sweet treats as they do in savory ones. The herbal, piney taste of the rosemary adds to the citrus bite of fresh lemon. In lemon bars, I put rosemary in with the pastry bottom and something almost magical happens when it gets all mixed in with the butter in the short crust. I also gently heat my lemon juice and let a rosemary sprig or two steep in it while I put together the rest of the ingredients.

I love a recipe that can be mixed by hand, and not even my own.

It’s like a bite of summer–but with the freshest fruit and herb available right now. At least right now in my backyard. And if you’re in the neighborhood, please come by and pick a few for yourself.

Rosemary Lemon Bars

makes 16 small bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (plus additional for decorating)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool and firm, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice + 1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup AP flour

Method:

  1. Gently heat the lemon juice either on the stove top or in the microwave. Place rosemary sprigs in the lemon juice to steep.
  2. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350˚. Lightly pan spray a 9×9 (or 8×8) square pan. In a medium bowl, blend together the 1 1/4 cups flour, powdered sugar, salt and chopped rosemary. Add the cubed butter and cut in using a pastry blender or two forks until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour into prepared pan and press down firmly with your fingers to form an even crust.
  3. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  4. When crust is about halfway through baking, prepare the filling: In a medium non-reactive bowl blend the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk until the eggs begin to turn a pale yellow. Add the lemon zest and whisk in. Strain the lemon juice into the bowl, discarding the rosemary sprigs. Whisk. Add the 1/4 cup flour and blend. The filling should be smooth and well incorporated.
  5. When the crust is done, remove from the oven and pour the filling over the hot crust. Bake until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center jiggles slightly when shaken, 10-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Slice into 16 bars (or less if you like a more substantial treat) remove with an offset pastry spatula. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar right before serving–or eat as is. Enjoy!
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Slow-Cooker Tuesday: Pork Chili *Almost* Verde

Even the best laid plans can go awry. My plan was to make a big pot of pork chili verde, a mildly spicy pork and tomatillo-based stew. I thought I had the correct ingredients, but it turns out I was wrong. I still needed to make dinner–so I twisted my recipe around with help from my fairly well stocked pantry. I love my pantry. When I remember to keep it stocked, that is.

So my chili verde turned into something…else. With no sanctioned name that I know of.  I tossed in bit of this and that salvaged from the cupboard and the refrigerator. It did turn out delicious, so I’m sharing the recipe with you. It’s nice on these dry, but still chilly, last-days-of-deepest-darkest-winter. I like mine over rice, but it would be tasty wrapped up in a warm corn tortilla as well.

Pork Chili *Almost* Verde

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds pork loin
  • 1 pound zucchini sliced length wise then sliced into half moons
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 12oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes (I really like the fire roasted with green chilies)
  • 1 cup salsa verde (or green enchilada sauce if that’s what’s on hand)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Method:

  1. Cube the pork loin into about 1 inch chunks. In a large skillet, heat about 2 teaspoons oil and brown the meat in batches. When lightly browned, put the meat and juices into the slow cooker. Pour the salsa verde over the meat.
  2. Toss the onion and zucchini into the hot skillet, saute until just beginning to soften, about three minutes. Add the spices. Stir to coat. Add the tomatoes, plus their juices and red peppers. Stir and pour over the meat.
  3. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Serve over rice as a stew, or spoon into warmed tortillas. Enjoy!
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Blueberry Cornmeal Scones

You know that moment when your mouth/head connection gets going and you want something good to make and eat? And you know just how it should be, so you go looking around for a recipe, certain that someone before you has cracked the code of delicious and made your life easy…then after reading about 10 versions and finding them to all be lacking in some way you bite the bullet, do some tinkering with the basic instructions and hope and pray that you haven’t gone and messed it up? Yes?

The you’ll understand that this recipe is more for me to remember how I managed to make my mouth and head happy with these scones.

Scones are tricky creatures. There are a thousand variations on the theme and dozens of ways to put them together. Plus, I think every baker has his/her own preference as to flavor, crumb and shape. I prefer scones that lean toward a crumbly, biscuit-like texture. Not too sweet, not too cakey, studded with fresh fruit and topped with a generous sprinkling of raw sugar. And they must be wedge shaped.

I went looking for a recipe that satisfied my scone requirements and added a little touch of cornmeal to the mix. I didn’t want the crunch of the cornmeal to interfere with the tender crumb and after paging through a dozen recipes, I wasn’t finding the right combination. So, thinking about some soft and tender cornmeal pancakes I’ve made, I decided to incorporate a technique from the pancakes into the gold standard of scone recipes (from Cooks Illustrated).  Hungry and inspired, I went to work.

In the pancake recipe, medium ground cornmeal is soaked in the batter liquid (boiled water, butter and milk) in order to soften. I took the liquid in the Cooks recipe (1 cup heavy cream) and let my cornmeal soak in it for about 1/2 hour. I didn’t heat the cream first. Also, I used fairly fine-ground meal because I was looking for a subtle crunch. After soaking, the cornmeal/cream became a thick, pudding-like concoction that worked perfectly for my needs. I decreased the original amount of flour and added a bit more milk during the final mix. Fresh blueberries and some lemon zest finished them off.

These were the scones I was looking for. Crumbly texture, but not dry. Lightly sweet and rich tasting, but not cloying. Loads of blueberry with a texture and crunch from the cornmeal that does not overwhelm. Even though this recipe is for me, you are more than welcome to try them. Tinker around and let me know what a scone is for you. I can tell you, these are what a scone is to me.

Blueberry Cornmeal Scones Continue reading

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Slow-Cooker Tuesday: Holy Molé

Back when I was in cooking school, I took an amazing food and wine pairing class. It was held during the evening in the main, huge kitchen. We’d team up to tackle a stack of recipes from around the world and then line up our completed dishes to fill our plates and drink wine. I think we actually did learn something but it was the most fun I’ve ever had in class. Our final project was to cook a recipe and then bring two wines to pair with it; simple enough.

My kitchen partner and I reverse engineered our dish a bit. We found a wine we both loved and decided to cook to it. The wine? Earthquake Zinfandel. The dish? Molé. What could pair better with a lovely smokey, chocolately, bitter-berry wine than a dark smokey chili-chocolate sauce? Not much.

We crafted our molé from about four different recipes. Our master recipe was a cookbook in itself. It was three pages long encompassing two kinds of chocolate, four types of nuts and seeds, six different dried chilies, and almost every cooking spice in the spice isle. It was insanity. We made it twice. It took eight hours of active cooking each time. We scored an A on that project, but I have never attempted that recipe again.

I remain slightly obsessed with molé.

So while poking around the Internet looking for a lovely and different Valentine’s Day dinner idea I was thrilled to come across this: an easy slow-cooker version of my favorite sauce-as-meal. Written by Rick Bayless and published in his cookbook Fiesta at Rick’s the recipe looked intriguing with a handful of key molé ingredients that are slowly cooked for hours and then blended together. It seemed easy enough. I trusted the source, so I thought I should at least give it a whirl. I’m glad I did.

It took me 15 minutes to gather my ingredients, get the first stage of cooking done and the whole mixture into my slow-cooker.

Six hours later I used an immersion blender to puree the chilies, nuts and tomatoes into a smooth paste.

I let it cook on low for two hours longer to make sure all the flavors were fully married. Then, I shredded some chicken, sauteed it in molé with sesame seeds,  and plated it with a generous amount of molé on top.

As simple as this recipe is, it delivers a very good molé experience that tastes even better the next day. The recipe makes a big batch, I made two dinners (straight molé over chicken and then cheese and spinach enchiladas with molé) and had a bit leftover to freeze. That is not a bad thing.

Give it a try. I do think it would make a fantastic Valentine’s dinner–spicy and sweet, exotic and earthy–perfect for a candle lit dinner for two. Or just because. I think you’ll be as happy as I was with the results.

Easy Slow Cooker Molé with Grilled Chicken

serves 12 with about 2 quarts of sauce (you’ll have leftovers)
Adapted from Fiesta at Rick’s by Rick Bayless.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rich-tasting pork lard or vegetable oil, plus a little more if necessary
  • 6 medium (about 3 ounces total) dried mulato chilies, stemmed, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces total) dried ancho chilies, stemmed, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
  • 5 medium (about 1 1/2 ounces total) dried pasilla chilies, stemmed, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) whole almonds—with or without skins
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) raisins
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise, preferably freshly ground (optional)
  • A scant 1/8 teaspoon cloves, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 ounce (about 1/4 of a 3.3 ounce tablet) Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 slice firm white bread, darkly toasted and broken into several pieces
  • 1/4 cup sugar (plus a little more if needed)
  • Salt
  • About 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 12 good-size pieces of chicken—bone-in breast halves or leg-and-thigh pieces—trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds

Method

  1. Prepare the molé base: If your slow cooker has a removable cooking crock that can be placed directly on the heat, measure in the lard or oil and set it over medium heat. Otherwise, heat the lard or oil in a very large (7- to 8-quart) pot or Dutch oven. When hot, add the chilies, garlic, almonds and raisins. Stir slowly and continually until the chilies are thoroughly toasted (the interior of each piece will become lighter in color) and the almonds have taken on a creamy color and toasty aroma—about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes (with their juice), spices, chocolate and bread. Cook until the tomato juices are reduced and quite thick, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water, the sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. When the liquid comes to a simmer, transfer the crock to the slow cooker (or scrape the mixture into your slow-cooker). Cook on low for 6 hours. After 6 hours most of the liquid will be reduced to a glaze. The mixture can hold for several hours on the slow cooker’s “warm” setting.
  3. Finish the molé: Scrape every bit of the molé base into a bowl, then scoop half of it into a blender jar. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, cover and blend until as smooth as possible—for most household blenders this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Set a medium-mesh strainer over the slow-cooker’s cooking crock and press the molé base through it. Repeat with the remainder of the molé base. Stir in 3 cups more chicken broth. Simmer in the slow-cooker for 2 hours or so on high. If the sauce has thickened past the consistency of a cream soup, stir in a little more of the broth. Taste and season with additional salt (usually about 1 teaspoon) and sugar (usually 2 to 3 tablespoons).
  4. Grill the chicken: Light a gas grill, setting the temperature at medium on the sides, off in the center; or light a charcoal fire, letting the coals burn until they’re covered with white ash and medium hot, then banking them to the sides. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces liberally with salt, then lay them, skin side up, in the center of the grill. Cover and cook until the chicken is done (160°F on an instant-read thermometer or a small knife inserted into the thickest part of the thigh draws clear—not rosy—juices), 35 to 45 minutes. With this method of chicken grilling, there’s no need to turn the chicken, only to move pieces on the edge around if they are browning more quickly than those in the middle. The internal temperature of the grill should stay at about 325°F.
  5. Serve: In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds, stirring nearly constantly, until lightly browned and aromatic, about 4 minutes.
  6. Lay a piece of grilled chicken on each dinner plate. Pour a generous 1/2 cup of sauce on and around the chicken, then sprinkle with a generous shower of sesame seeds. Serve right away.
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Slow-Cooker Tuesday: Sloppy Joe’s

A while back we started buying cows. Well, chunks of a cow nicely butchered and vaccu-sealed. We’re not big meat eaters, but I wanted to start eating a better quality meat when we did indulge. So we locally sourced some wonderful grass-fed beef and have loved every bite.

The one problem we have is the 30-40# of ground chuck in the order. Again, we’re not big meat eaters so it’s hard to plow through, even over the course of the 12-18 months it takes us to eat a 1/4 of a cow.

Enter the Sloppy Joe.

Hamburger was kind of a way of life for us growing up, and I ate my fair share of tomato-y sweet Sloppy Joes. As a young adult I became vegetarian, and later, I sought more exciting foods than good old American comfort foods. So what some would consider staple of the American home fell to the wayside for me.  Yet, as soon as I got pregnant, it was nothing but meatloaf and mashed potatoes. And I once again met with the Sloppy Joe.

I like this version because not only is it super easy, it doesn’t rely on a pre-packaged spice mix. I also add in shredded carrot and chopped spinach when I want a more rounded tasting sandwich. Don’t skip the browning in the first step–I did once and ended up with a gloopy mess, not a nice crumbled meat texture. Serve on toasted buns and enjoy a tastier version of a childhood favorite.

Slow Sloppy Joes

Ingredients: (makes 6 generous sandwiches)

  • 1# ground beef
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (fire roasted if you can find them)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot (optional)
  • 1 cup spinach leaves, chopped (optional)
  • Sandwich buns for serving

Method:

  1. Heat 1-2 teaspoons of canola oil in a large skillet on medium-high. Add beef and cook, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon until browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Transfer the beef to a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Stir in remaining ingredients, except the rolls. Cover and cook 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Sauce will thicken as it cooks.
  3. Spoon over buns and enjoy. Don’t forget the napkins.
*I am dead-set against High Fructose Corn Syrup showing up in everything. I use an organic steak sauce as a substitute for the Worcestershire sauce.
(Sorry I’m a day late–this week has been madness. I need to work on scheduling posts out…)
Posted in Bites, Slow-Cooker Tuesday | Tagged , , | 3 Comments