Chile Colorado

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I got this recipe from Wesley Avila’s cookbook called Guerilla Tacos, published in 2017. It’s probably one of the most conservative recipes in the book, but I just had to taste the sauce.

The chef certainly proves that tacos can pretty much be made with anything, highlighting in his recipes some with uni, foie gras, mussels, sun chokes, and more. As Mr. Avila states in the introduction, “A taco is a blank canvas.” Indeed, Chef Avila. But please keep uni out of mine.

Over the years I’ve made lots of Mexican and Southwestern “stews,” but I’ve never made chile Colorado, so it was a perfect recipe, and one that wouldn’t revolt my husband. (I have to admit I didn’t enjoy uni when I first had it.)

The book is fabulous, but to me, it’s mostly because of the story Chef Avila tells, from his childhood with Mexican-born parents, his mother dying, to his time as a teamster, then attending culinary school, working at a fine dining restaurant, then finally with a food truck, called, not surprisingly, Guerilla Tacos.

Although of Mexican heritage, Mr. Avila makes sure the reader understands that the recipes in the cookbooks are “not “authentic” Mexican food. “The truth is there is no such thing as an authentic taco. “Taco makers have always known this.”

Chile Colorado

3 pounds beef, in one piece, like a hanger steak
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 Roma tomatoes, chopped, seeded
1 cup husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 dried pasilla pepper, stemmed and seeded
2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 dried chile morita, stemmed and seeded
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
16-18 corn tortillas, warmed
2 red onions, very thinly sliced

Trim the meat, and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch pieces, like you’re making fajitas. Season with salt and pepper.

In a 10” cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Working in four batches, sear the beef until it is browned, about 2 minutes per batch. You don’t want it cooked too much, just coated with oil and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to another container.

In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the yellow onion and cumin seeds until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. (I added another tablespoon of oil first.) Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, all 3 dried chiles, and bay leaves and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are cooked and the chiles are soft.

Turn the heat to a medium-low and add the water to keep it saucy. (My sauce didn’t require any water, perhaps because I used a lid to cook the tomatoes and tomatillo mixture.) Transfer to a blender and process to make the sauce as smooth as possible. I added about 1 tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste because my Roma tomatoes were not super ripe.

Return the meat to the pan and cover with the sauce.

Serve family style, with the tortillas and red onions, and let everybody make their own tacos.

I noticed a couple of mistakes… nothing huge. But for one thing, why worry about it the beef is from an intact piece, rather than, say, 2 flank steaks? Since you’re going to be cutting it up anyway?

And, Mr. Avila writes to add the pasilla, and dried chiles to the pan, when all three chile peppers used in this recipe are dried.

I also would have preferred a weight of tomatillos, but I know the outcome plus or minus an ounce of tomatillo isn’t crucial. Just some editing issues.

This chile Colorado sauce was a hit. Not much heat, which can always be added, but a lot of depth of flavors.

And, a big thank you to Greg, from Sippitysup.com, for telling us all about Guerilla Tacos.

Pesto’d Lamb Chops

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The thing that I learned about meat a long time ago, is that you have to cook it properly. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Whether it’s grilling a steak, roasting a pork loin, or braising a rabbit, it’s all about cooking the meat properly. It doesn’t matter if you’re adding a sauce to the steak, roasting the pork with sweet potatoes, or braising the rabbit in tomatoes. It’s all about cooking the meat properly.

Now to most of you this might seem like a simpleton statement, but many years ago, it was an epiphany to me.

When I first started cooking a lot, which was when I got married, we couldn’t afford most “fancy” meats, unless it was a special occasion, so I was very used to braises and stews, even if these were globally inspired, such as Ethiopian Doro Wat with chicken, and French Boeuf Bourguignon with beef.

As our financial situation improved, I was able to buy steaks more often, which is my husband’s favorite cut of beef. Such a man thing. But I got to play around with other cuts as well.

Because I hadn’t had much experience with just cooking meat, I bought a few meat cookbooks. And the books really taught me nothing. Why? Because the recipes were all about the icing – a red wine sauce for a veal chop, or a salsa to top a chicken breast, or an orange glaze for duck breasts. No matter what the accessory ingredients were in the recipes, the meat was always cooked the same. For example:

4 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper

4 lamb chops
Salt and pepper

4 – 1″ thick filet mignons
Salt and pepper

Pork chops
Salt and pepper

See what I mean? I really hadn’t thought much about this fact until after I read the meat cookbooks, and I really haven’t referred to them since. As long as you know how to properly cook cuts of meat, the rest is easy.

To me, it’s mostly about the rareness of the meat. I prefer my beef at 125 degrees, or medium-rare. The same with lamb. Both chicken and pork I stop cooking at 155 degrees. A thermometer is a good way to cook meat properly, or to your liking, until you get to the point where you can tell the doneness with your tongs.

So the doneness is quite important when cooking meat, and also the seasoning. There’s always salt and pepper, but of course, other spices and herbs can be used as well. But there’s always salt and pepper. Look at any meat chapter if you don’t believe me. No, don’t. I could be wrong…

Regarding salt and pepper, some chefs believe in adding them after the meat is cooked, mostly, if I understand correctly, so that the pepper doesn’t burn. I do a little of both, but I definitely don’t meat in dried herbs before searing them. They would burn.

So I’ve been craving lamb, and lo and behold my local grocery store had loin chops on the shelf today. Not my favorite cut, but I knew I could manage. And here’s my recipe:

Pesto’d  Lamb  Chops

5 loin lamb chops, approximately 3/4″ thick
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Prepared pesto

Bring the lamb chops close to room temperature before cooking. If you prefer well done meat, then this step isn’t as critical.

Add a little oil to a large skillet over high heat. For a good sear on meat, the oil must be sizzling hot. Also have your ventilation system on.

Pat the chops dry, and season with the salt and pepper, if you believe in doing that.

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Add the chops to the skillet, only about 2-3 at a time.

After a couple of minutes, turn them over and brown the other side.

As with steaks, there are two ways to go about finishing the chops. Because these lamb chops are fairly thin, they could easily have been cooked only in the skillet, lowering the heat after turning the chops over, and cooking until medium-rare, or your preferred doneness.

However, chops and steaks can also be placed in an oven and finished off at 350 or 400 degrees. This works especially well with thicker steaks and chops.

There’s nothing quite as delicious as a lamb chop simply seasoned with salt and pepper, but I wanted to serve myself these lamb chops topped with pesto* (no one else around here eats lamb). So I chose to sear the chops, then put them all back in the skillet, off of the stove. Then I topped the chops with pesto.

I turned on my broiler, but my rack was at the middle level, not at the very top. When the broiler was ready, I placed the skillet in the oven. Within about 4 minutes, the pesto was melted, and the chops had cooked a little more through.

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I served the chops with a sweet potato mash and Brussels sprouts.

It’s not pictured, but I later took some of the oil and jus from the skillet and poured it all over the Brussels sprouts.

Fabulous!!!

* My pesto does not contain cheese, because I make so many jars of pesto during the summer months and freeze them. So it’s quite condensed. But pesto that contains Parmesan would work just the same. You could always grate Parmesan over the top when you serve the chops.

note: Pesto is also good on chicken breasts and pork. Of course, we’re kind of addicted to pesto in this household.