Pipián Rojo

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The story behind my discovery of Pipián Rojo is an interesting one, because my husband told me about it. His massage therapist is of Mexican descent, and obviously they were discussing food during his massage. That in itself is interesting. I mean, I’d do that, but I didn’t think my husband would! In any case, she told him about this sauce, Pipián Rojo, and he asked me to find a recipe for it.

Before going to my Mexican cookbooks, I looked online and found a recipe by Mely Martinez, whose blog, Mexico in My Kitchen, I already follow. It sounded exactly how my husband described it, with peanuts, pepitas, sesame seeds, chile peppers, all combined in a red sauce.

Here’s a photo from Mely’s blog post on Pipián Rojo, and one that shows her lovely face!


Turns out this sauce belongs to the family of sauces called mole, (pronounced mo-lay), which means sauce. Here’s an explanation from Wikipedia: Mole (/ˈmoʊleɪ/, /ˈmoʊli/ Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmole]; from Nahuatl mōlli, “sauce”) is a traditional sauce originally used in Mexican cuisine, as well as for dishes based on these sauces. Outside Mexico, it often refers specifically to mole poblano. In contemporary Mexico, the term is used for a number of sauces, some quite dissimilar, including black, red/colorado, yellow, green, almendrado, de olla, huaxmole, guacamole and pipián. Generally, a mole sauce contains a fruit, chili pepper, nut and such spices as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and chocolate.

Mely writes that this classic sauce originates from her home town of Tampico, Tamaulipas, and although she’s been blogging for years, she only posted on Pipián Rojo in 2016. It just didn’t seem so “fancy” to her I’m guessing!

Well I’m glad she did, because it was fantastic. The first time I made it I cooked chicken in the sauce. Next time it might be beef, or pork, or shrimp…

Pipián Rojo Sauce
by Mely Martinez
printable recipe below

2 Ancho peppers
2 guajillo peppers
1 chipotle pepper
1/4 cup peanuts
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1″ stick cinnamon
2 cloves
2 allspice berries
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small tomato
1/3 medium white onion
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper

Have a pot with 2 cups of water standing by the stove.

Begin by toasting the peppers in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds per side. Notice I was so excited to start making this that I forgot to de-stem the peppers! So I did it after they cooled down. Then place in the water.


Then toast the nuts and seeds. The peanuts will take about 90 seconds, the pumpkin seeds toast fairly quickly; get them out as soon as they brown and start wanting to jump.


The sesame seeds take a few seconds. I actually used my seed toaster for them because I’ve experienced them popping out of a hot skillet all over the kitchen!


Place all of the toasted nuts and seeds in the water.
Next, slightly toast the cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves, and allspice berries. Also place them in the water.

Finally, roast the tomatoes, onion and garlic, turning occasionally to obtain even roasting. Place these in the water as well.


Place the pot on the stove and cook over a medium-high heat. Simmer for about 8 minutes, then set aside to let the ingredients soften.


Place the sauce ingredients in a blender and process just enough to blend the ingredients. Then pour into a skillet.


When the sauce is hot, add pieces of meat, pork or chicken, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


If the sauce seems to thick, thin with water or broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the meat with the sauce with rice and warm corn tortillas.

The only mistake I made with this recipe was not to make a quadruple recipe. This sauce is so good I could drink it.

 

 

Pickled Shrimp

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Would you ever think to name a restaurant based on your childhood nickname? Well Gabrielle “Prune” Hamilton did exactly that. She is chef-owner of Prune, the restaurant, which has been successful since its opening in 1999. The cookbook, Prune, was published in 2014.

I enjoyed reading the recipes in Prune; they all seem unique in some way. But one recipe that grabbed my attention, was pickled shrimp. This was definitely a new one for me.

When I serve a shrimp appetizer, I typically serve it marinated in a garlic-infused olive oil, an oil blended with herbs, or both!

Ms. Hamilton’s recipe has you cooking the raw shrimp in a spice and herb boil, followed by a 24-hour pickling. I just had to make it.

Pickled shrimp
Printable recipe below

2 pounds shrimp in shell

Boil
10 bay leaves
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1 piece cinnamon stick
1 cup kosher salt
6 branches fresh thyme
1 unpeeled head of garlic
8 cups cold water

Pickle
1 cup paper-thin sliced lemons
1 cup paper-thin sliced red onion
1 cup thin-slivered garlic
1 cup inner celery leaves
3 tablespoons celery seeds
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
12 fresh bay leaves
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 cups rice wine vinegar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt, Pepper

Peel the shrimp, devein, and leave the tails on. Oops, I forgot to leave the tails on.

Combine the boil ingredients in a large stockpot with cold water and bring to a boil.

Add the shrimp and cook for just a minute or two until the flesh turns pink. You can pull one out and test if it’s finished before you pull out the whole batch.

Remove the shrimp with a spider. Ice down the shrimp to get them to stop cooking, but don’t let them soak in the melted ice after they are cooled or you will waterlog them and undo all that nice seasoning.

Combine all the pickle ingredients, rub the fresh bay leaves between your hands to open them up a bit, toss with the cooled shrimp, and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. (I only had dried bay leaves.)

Let recover to almost room temperature before serving. To plate, place 4-5 shrimp and a little of all of the goodies, in a neat jumble, in a small, shallow bowl.

Note: The shrimp will continue to “cook” in the pickle marinade, so take care in the initial blanch to keep them rare; we don’t want to end up with mealy, over cooked shrimp after the pickling.



These shrimp were so good that you can almost see the number of shrimp dwindling as I photographed them!

These shrimp require some time and also a lot of good ingredients, so I recommend making 6-8 pounds of pickled shrimp. Then it’s definitely worth the effort and expense.

Gabrielle’s first book, Blood, Bones, and Butter, was published before her cookbook, in 2012.

It’s an award-winning memoir – the story of Gabrielle’s upbringing, her entrée into the culinary profession, and her reluctance to embrace her hard-earned skills and success in the kitchen. I could not put the book down once I started reading.

 

 

Mulled Holiday Port

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We’ve all had mulled wine, but have you ever had mulled port? It’s like mulled wine on crack. It will warm you on the dreary damp days of winter. It’s like medicine for the soul. Yes, it’s medicinal.

I found the recipe for mulled port and adapted it slightly from this cookbook:
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Port is fabulous as is, but I never thought to serve it hot. Or mulled.

So here’s the recipe. If you like mulled wine, you’ll love mulled port!
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Mulled Port

4 Clementines or tangerines, preferably seedless
1 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
About 10 whole cloves
About 8 cloves allspice, smashed
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2 sticks cinnamon
Sprinkling of ground nutmeg
1 bottle ruby port

Slice open 2 of the Clementines and squeeze the juice into an enameled saucepan large enough to hold a bottle of port. Add the water, brown sugar, cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks, and the nutmeg.

Add the segments from the other two Clementines and add them to the saucepan as well.
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Simmer the liquid and Clementines for about 10 minutes. The sugar will dissolve and your whole house will smell good.
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Then add the bottle of port. I happened to be low on ruby port (husband) so I substituted tawny port for the rest.
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Heat the mixture through, without letting it boil.
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Sieve the mixture into a bowl with a spout.
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Pour the mulled port into 2 or 4 heatproof glasses or cups. Serve immediately.

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I also put a couple of Clementine segments into each glass, but that’s optional.

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If I’d used shorter glasses, I also would have placed a cinnamon stick into each one.

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verdict: This stuff is perfect. I wouldn’t alter anything with the recipe. Sweet enough without being too sweet. The original recipe called for 2 cups of water, but let’s not kid ourselves. While we’re warming our bodies, we want a buzz. We’re not drinking watered down port. Amen.

Spiced Pear Liqueur

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I’ve been making liqueurs for years, especially in the fall so that they are ready for gift giving at Christmas time. Initially inspired by this adorable book, I began by following recipes, and have since realized that recipes aren’t really critical at all when making a liqueur.
download

This book is still available on Amazon. The author is Mary Aurea Morris, and it was published in 1999.

You have to decide on the spirit you want to use, decide on the sweetness level, and then the flavor. Vodka is my go-to spirit for most all of my liqueurs, because of its “neutral” flavor. When I refer to the sweetness of the liqueur, I’m of course referring to the amount of sugar. A simply infused vodka, for example, is to me a liquor, not a liqueur. A liqueur is sweeter, and much more to my liking.

Fruits are fabulous in home-made liqueurs. Since I started my blog, I’ve posted on black cherry vodka, and strawberry vodka. Hands down, my favorite of all time is the strawberry version.

But besides berries and cranberries, citrus fruits, pomegranates, and just about all tree fruits can be used. (note to self – peach vodka next summer!)

So this fall I decided to make a pear variety. The recipe is quite simple, and is definitely less expensive than the popular Poire William. But it will be about 6 weeks before the big reveal.

Spiced Pear Liqueur

1/2 cup sugar
Small handful whole cloves
Small handful whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 ripe pear, I used red D’anjou
Few pieces of orange peel
Vodka, approximately 3 cups

Place the sugar, cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks in a large, clean bottling jar with a lid. Slice up the pear, avoiding the core, and place wedges into the jar. Add the orange peel.

Using a funnel, pour vodka until it reaches the top. I used approximately 3 cups. Shake well until the sugar dissolves. Then store away.


I’ve marked my calendar for 4 weeks to test out the liqueur, but I’m pretty sure another 2 weeks after that will be necessary.

note: The only disaster liqueur I’ve made is one with hazelnuts, and I’d even followed an exact recipe. I ended up with a bunch of soggy drunk bit of hazelnuts, and nothing to speak of as far as the liquid. Don’t bother.
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Pickled Beets

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Fresh beets don’t usually last long in my house. I typically roast them, remove the peels, and add them to salads. I eat salads pretty much every day in the summer.

But I decided it was time to actually make my fresh beets last by pickling them.

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I just started canning last summer, and canning is the perfect way to make these pickled beets last even longer. Normally, pickled beets would only last in the refrigerator for a few weeks, and that’s just not enough time. Especially if you want them during the winter months. So, pickling plus canning equals a winning combination!

I won’t do a canning tutorial just yet, but stay tuned. And if you haven’t canned, try it. It’s incredible what varieties of foods and condiments you can create, and trust me – no one will get botulism if you just follow the rules.

So the recipe is in two parts – one is the pickling water, and the other, the beets.

Pickled Beets

The Beets:

6 beets, scrubbed, ends removed
A 3″ long piece of fresh horseradish, quartered
Bay leaves, about 6-8
Few peppercorns
Few whole cloves

scrubbed and rinsed beets

scrubbed and rinsed beets

Place the beets in a large pot on the stove. Don’t peel them, otherwise you’ll lose too much beet juice.

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To the pot add all of the remaining ingredients, then add purified water until the beets are fully covered by at least 1″ of water.

Bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, count 1 hour on the clock.

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If you want to make sure the beets are fully cooked, pierce the largest one with a cake tester or point of a knife.

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Immediately drain the beets into a colander and let them cool.

The Pickling Water:

2 cups purified water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 smashed garlic clove
A 1″ piece of garlic, sliced into quarters
Few peppercorns

Combine everything in a medium pot. Place over high heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it’s dissolved, remove the water from the stove and set aside to cool.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, gently peel them, and trim away any hard, woody parts with a sharp knife.

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If you’ve never worked with beets before, be aware that they stain everything. Skin included.

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Have jars and lids available that have been washed through a dishwasher cycle or sterilized.

Slice or cube the peeled and trimmed beets and place them in the jars. Today I cubed mine.

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When you’re all done, add the strained pickling water to the jars; the beets should be completely covered. Alternatively, you could include the pickled onions.

I placed a couple of horseradish pieces in two jars, and the star anise in a third. The fourth I left alone.

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I then covered the jars with clean and dry lids, and stored them in the refrigerator. I wasn’t quite ready to begin the canning process, but when I do, I will bring the tightly sealed jars to room temperature before proceeding.

Pickled beets are one of my favorite additions to salad, which I eat often. the one in the featured photo includes avocado, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Beets, pickled or not, go well in salads with salmon, steak, or grilled chicken. They’re also wonderful with red bell peppers, grated carrots, and cucumbers. And don’t forget the goat cheese!

verdict: These beets are delicious. I’m glad I didn’t add any more sugar to the pickling water. The horseradish isn’t very strong. And I love the addition of the star anise. Will make these again.

Vadouvan

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Vadouvan. Sounds like a piece of furniture, doesn’t it?!!

I first heard the word while watching Top Chef, and just had to look it up. Sometimes it’s difficult to look up unknown culinary terms or names because you don’t know if they’re being pronounced properly. But this one was easy, and I’d definitely never heard of it. I so love coming across new things!

Vadouvan is a combination of French influence on African curry – probably from during French rule. But wow! Doesn’t that sound like a perfect combination???!!!! It’s onions, shallots and garlic combined with a Berbere-style curry.

So I found a recipe and here is my version because I can never leave a recipe alone:

Vadouvan

4 onions, I used 1 purple, all coarsely chopped
6 shallots, halved
Dozen cloves garlic
3 tablespoons plain oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon crushed dried curry leaves
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground mustard
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

Place the onions, shallots, and cloves in a jar of a food processor and pulse away until they are chopped.

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Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion mixture to the oil and sauté the mixture for about 20 or 25 minutes.

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The mixture will have reduced in volume and softened.

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Meanwhile, get all your spices measured out. If you have whole spices, like cumin and mustard seeds, you can just use the approximate amount and grind them up. Also, I know that any whole spices could be roasted first for extra flavor in this recipe. When I make my own curry powder I pretty much toast every spice. Just don’t let them burn.

Have any of you used this? I can’t remember where I bought it, but I not only toast whole spices in it, but also sesame seeds, which tend to hop around when they’re hot. It’s very handy.

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Add all of the spices and stir well. Oops, I forgot to crush the curry leaves first!

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Pour the vadouvan onto a parchment-paper lined jelly-roll sheet and spread into uniform thickness as thin as you can get it.

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Place the jelly-roll pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. It will brown, but make sure it does not burn. After that, turn off the oven and leave in the oven for about one hour.

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Place the vadouvan in a sealable jar and refrigerate until use.

Verdict: I’m excited to use this mixture in all kinds of dishes. From the smell alone I know it’s going to be good. But I don’t understand why it’s dehydrated. Why can’t it just be left in the mush stage? Since I wasn’t familiar with vadouvan, I googled it to see what it’s supposed to look like, and it definitely looks like this. We’ll see…