Pasta Chimayo

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There is a restaurant in Park City, Utah, called Chimayo. We’ve been going to it since it opened in 1996. Although I haven’t lived in Park City since I left for college, my mother still lives there, so we visit often. And I can’t think of a time when we didn’t dine at Chimayo.

Not only is the food exquisite at Chimayo, known for its “distinctive” Southwestern cuisine, it’s a dining experience that exhilarates all of the senses. From the furniture to the dishes, everything is unique. They have a website, if you’re interested, or plan on visiting Park City.

The restaurant remains highly rated even after all of these years, so it’s a real joy to dine there. Here we all are in 2012, with my older daughter and husband to my left, and my beautiful mother on my right. The guy on the very left of the photo is my husband.

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Unfortunately, there’s not much to see in the photo beyond the pewter water glasses, because we’d either not ordered yet, or had already finished dinner. But trust me, everything is topnotch at this restaurant, including waiters who are willing to take photos of your family.

I did fortunately have some other photos from this same dinner, starting with a Southwestern fondue on their menu called Queso Fundido, topped with roasted poblanos and chorizo, which was beautifully presented at the table.

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And my daughter’s entrée is a vertical stack of chipotle-glazed spare ribs. It was easier to eat than it looks!
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So why do I mention this restaurant, when most all of you will never get a chance to go? Simple. I created a pasta dish in their honor. They don’t know I did, but I did, calling it Pasta Chimayo.

I wrote in a post a while back that my husband and I absolutely love Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. Mexican food, for me, is something that I must have recipes for, because it is a very involved and complex cuisine that I fully respect. It’s way more complex than you’d think, actually, if your take on Mexican food is enchiladas and burritos. But Southwestern cuisine, I feel, is something that really can be made up. Because it’s a relatively new cuisine, with no rules.

I posted on inspired Southwestern cuisine a while back, and have been thinking of ways to help you change up recipes to make them Southwestern. As I mentioned, anything can be made Southwestern style, as long as you use the right ingredients. So case in point, I’m making a pasta recipe today, which one might expect to be Italian, but instead I’ve made it with a Southwestern twist. It’s an ancho-spiced pasta with black beans and spicy shrimp. I hope you like it!

Pasta Chimayo

Spicy Shrimp
1 pound of shrimp, shelled and cleaned
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves fresh garlic
2 teaspoons spicy paprika
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse the shrimp with cool water, and let them drip dry on paper towels.

Meanwhile, place the olive oil, garlic, paprika, chipotle powder and salt in a small blender jar and blend until smooth.

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In a medium bowl, toss the raw shrimp in the marinade.
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Cover and marinate the shrimp for 4-6 hours in the refrigerator. Overnight would be good as well. The only times I don’t marinate shrimp very long is when there’s an acid in the marinade, like citrus juice.

About one hour before the final preparations, remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and let them warm up slightly. Then place them in a colander to drain. Don’t rinse.

Pasta
1 – 12 ounce package corn pasta, or any spaghetti-type pasta you prefer
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
8 ounces canned goat’s milk
2 tablespoons ancho chile paste, or to taste
1 – 15 ounce can black beans, well drained
Fresh cilantro

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Cook just al dente, then drain. Set aside
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Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat – large enough to hold the pasta. Add the onion and sauté it for 4-5 minutes. You want it soft because there won’t be any more cooking time.
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While it’s cooking, add the ancho chile paste to the goat’s milk and whisk together.
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I use this kind of goat’s milk in a can, because it’s the only kind I can get. If you don’t want to use goat’s milk, or can’t get it, simply use a cream substitute. But I’d recommend adding some crumbled goat cheese to the pasta!
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When the onion is ready, add the goat’s milk mixture and stir well.
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Add the cooked pasta to the pot and stir gently until all of the pasta strands are coated with the creamy mixture.
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Add the drained beans, and heat the pasta through.
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Remove the pot of pasta from the heat and set it aside. But toss the pasta occasionally to help it to absorb all of the goat’s milk.
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Place a grill on the stove over high heat. Add the shrimp. Don’t overcrowd them. And be diligent. They cook very fast.
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After less than a minute, turn them over quickly using tongs. They should be fully cooked after 30-45 seconds.
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Keep them warm while you give the pasta a turn in the goat’s milk, if there’s any remaining in the pot, and serve the pasta.

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Add the grilled shrimp and sprinkle the pasta with some cilantro leaves.
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You can always add some crushed red pepper if you like things really spicy. I kept mine as is, which allowed the ancho chile pepper, the paprika, and the chipotle pepper to create the Southwestern flavor profile.
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note: So many different ingredients could be used in this simple pasta, including red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and corn. And if you prefer, grilled chicken could be substituted for the shrimp.

Cajeta Crêpes

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I’ve only had cajeta crêpes at one restaurant, and that restaurant is Javier’s, in Dallas, Texas. They’re so good we keep ordering them when we’re lucky enough to go there, even when we’ve overeaten after appetizers and dinner. And we’re not even dessert people!

They’re very simply prepared and served – crêpes folded in quarters, topped with cajeta*, which is essentially caramel made from goat’s milk.

I’ve been going to Javier’s since shortly after I moved to Dallas, which was in 1978, for my first job. It was the first time I learned about cajeta. But it was in the book, New Southwestern Cooking, by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger, where I saw the first recipe for cajeta. The book was published in 1985, and I still reference it.
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However, their recipe is involved, and I’m not sure why. Cajeta is simply the reduction of goat’s milk with sugar. But in their recipe, some of the sugar is caramelized first, and then added to the milk, which is a combination of goat and cow milk. Plus, their recipe includes cornstarch and baking soda. Maybe I’ll try it one day.

But for now, here’s my version of cajeta. Just like many of the best recipes, this dessert is so simple, yet so perfect.

Cajeta Crêpes

1 dozen prepared crêpes
24 ounces (2 – 12 ounce cans) goat’s milk
3/4 cup sugar

Combine the goat’s milk and sugar in a medium-sized enamel pot. Stir well, then turn on the heat and simmer over the lowest possible heat. It will take about 1 1/2 hours to complete.
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Continue stirring with a rubber spatula throughout this process, scraping down the sides of the pot occasionally. A whisk isn’t necessary, because any cajeta that is scraped off of the pot sides gets remelted into the bulk of the hot cajeta.
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You can see the goat’s milk and sugar mixture get darker and thicker as it reduces, until it’s ready to use. The cajeta should be still a little thin when it’s hot, but it will thicken as it cools slightly.
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Have the prepared crêpes on the serving plate, and drizzle the warm cajeta over them.

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Serve these crêpes warm or at room temperature.
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They would also be good with some whipped cream, but it’s totally unnecessary to me.

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*It’s really hard to decipher the difference between cajeta and dulce de leche. The very similar product is made in Spain, Mexico, and in many South American countries. Sometimes it’s only from cow’s milk, sometimes only goat’s milk, and sometimes a blend of both. I’m sure they’re all good, but I like my cajeta from pure goat’s milk!

note: This recipe can be doubled or tripled. I just didn’t want to make a huge batch. This recipe made almost 1 1/2 cups.
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Berry’d Crespella

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Five years ago I made this dessert for my mother’s birthday. It’s a delicious puff pancake that I topped with a warm chocolate-hazelnut sauce. It was nice and light for after dinner, which involved a raclette experience. Even though it was April, it was still really cold outside, so the warm puffy pancake was a perfect dessert.

I got this recipe directly from epicurious.com, so if anyone has an issue with the name “crespella,” please take it up with epicurious! I don’t know how crespella came about – I am aware that the Italian crespelle is more like a crèpe. And this puff pancake is more like a German version of a puff pancake, which is like a flat soufflé.

Instead of using a nutella sauce over the hot pancake, I’m using chilled, sugared berries. After all, it’s summer, and berries are delicious right now. Plus, I love the combination of hot and cold, just like sweet and savory.

So here is the recipe I used from epicurious. Be ready to serve it as soon as it comes out of the oven. Oh, and I just did one little thing different – I used goat’s milk instead of dairy cream.
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Oven Crespella with Berries

3 cups of berries of choice, halved if necessary
Sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, mine included the seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups goat’s milk, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Confectioners sugar

Place the berries, I obviously used blueberries and raspberries, in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the sugar. I didn’t use much, maybe only 1 tablespoon, but if you like your berries sweeter, use more like 1/4 of a cup. Toss the berries together gently and set them aside to macerate. The crespella itself is not very sweet, so sweeter berries isn’t a bad idea.

Another option for the berries is to mash a few of the berries and mix that purée in with the whole berries. That will make them more sauce-like.
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Put a 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Whisk together flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and 1 1/2 cups goat’s milk in a bowl.
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Add butter to skillet and heat over the stove until golden brown, less than 1 minute. Pour batter carefully into the skillet.

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Immediately place the skillet in the oven and bake until puffed, set, and golden, 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes to make sure everything is going well.

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It will puff up in the oven.
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Cool pancake in skillet on a rack 5 minutes (it will sink).
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Cut wedges and serve warm along with the sugared berries.
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Dust with confectioners sugar if desired.
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A dollop of crème fraiche would also be good with this crespella!
verdict: Since I made this before, I knew it already was good. But unfortunately, it didn’t benefit from the goat’s milk, which I was hoping it would. I love the flavors of goat’s milk and berries. Live and learn!