What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Rum-Topped Ginger Beer Float! I gotta tell you, there are some fantastic-tasting nonalcoholic ginger beers on the market right now. One of my absolute favorites is made with organic agave and extracts of chili pepper, coriander, cardamom, lime, and orange. Don’t get me wrong, ginger is still the star attraction. These flavors go extremely well in a Mexican Mule with chile pepper-infused tequila. But that’s another story. I went with a much lighter version of ginger beer for a refreshingly light twist on an old favorite. Granted, with a dark rum floater, it definitely has a boozy punch. Obviously, this is an adult beverage and should not be served to anyone under the age of 21.
RUM-TOPPED GINGER BEER FLOAT
3 scoops vanilla bean ice cream
6.8-ounce bottle ginger beer, chilled
1.5 ounce spiced dark rum
Lime wedge, for garnish
Place ice cream in a glass or mason jar. Slowly pour ginger beer over ice cream. Squeeze a touch of lime juice into the glass. Top with a spiced dark rum floater. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve with a spoon. Cheers!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Pan-Seared Pork Carnitas! What if I told you this recipe will give you the crunch of bacon and the tenderness of a roast? And what if I also told you there’s no shame in eating a plate of tender, super-crispy meat without tortillas and refried beans on the side? (It’s true. I actually had these pork carnitas for breakfast one day.) If you’ve ever ordered this house special in a Mexican restaurant, I challenge you to give it a try. I simply threw all the ingredients together before I went to bed and let the slow cooker do its magic overnight. The next morning, the aromas will drive you crazy! Be creative. Have tacos, tostadas, nachos, or simply eat them as is. I did, without regrets. Mmmmm.
PAN-SEARED PORK CARNITAS
7-pound pork shoulder, bone-in
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 tablespoon Hawaiian Rub*
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
Rinse and dry pork shoulder. Pat dry. Cover with olive oil. Rub in oregano, cumin powder, Hawaiian Rub, garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper. Place the pork shoulder, fatty side up, in a slow-cooker. Add chopped onion and jalapeño slices. Mix together orange juice and vinegar. Pour over all. Cover. Cook on Low for 10 hours. When done, the meat will be very tender. Remove the roast from the slow cooker. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Shred the meat using two forks, allowing some pieces to remain in bite-size chunks. Strain the juices into a medium size saucepan. Discard solids. Warm the drippings over medium heat to skim off the fat. Set aside. To serve, warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Place shredded pork in the skillet and drizzle in a ladle of juices. Avoid overcrowding. Use a screen lid cover to eliminate splatters. Let the juices evaporate for 2-3 minutes so the bottom of the pork appears charred and crusty. Carefully turn over the pork pieces to cook golden brown. Overcooking will reduce tenderness and juiciness. Remove pork from skillet. Take a lime wedge and squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Garnish with cilantro. Leftovers may be divided into storage containers. Pour the juice equally over the pulled pork in each container. Freezing is also an option.
*Available through Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts. I receive no recompense for promoting their product.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Xanthous Deviled Eggs! Farm-to-Table deviled eggs are growing in popularity at family owned restaurants. Don’t believe me? Check out the appetizer menu for starters. Deviled eggs are not just for picnics and pitch-ins any more. You may find them filled with everything from meat or seafood to cheese, nuts, and hot peppers. Which brings me to today’s version: Jalapeño & Cilantro. The kick of spice mellows nicely with the creamy yolk filling. You determine the heat factor. If you decide to omit the caper liquid, you may want to substitute with salt to taste.
XANTHOUS DEVILED EGGS
6 hard boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
1 tablespoon pickled jalapeño peppers, minced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon pickled jalapeño juice or white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon caper liquid (optional)
Pinch of Cajun seasoning
Pinch of sugar
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, slices for garnish
Halve the eggs lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a small bowl. Gently place white portions in a deviled egg platter. Mash egg yolks with a fork. Add pickled jalapeño peppers, mayonnaise, cilantro, Dijon mustard, pickled jalapeño juice, caper liquid, Cajun seasoning, and sugar. Stir until combined. Spoon mixture into hollowed out egg white shells. Garnish with a fresh jalapeño slice. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. Store leftovers in a covered container.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Mole Sesame Chicken! One of my longtime friends introduced me to this dish after spending some time in the Dominican Republic. The unique mole sauce contains chili pepper, aromatic spices, and dark Mexican chocolate making it a savory sauce over turkey or chicken. It creates a fabulous meal when you have leftover meat. Simply add plain or Spanish rice along with soft flour tortillas for the perfect pairings. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds for a nutty finish.
MOLE SESAME CHICKEN
8.25 ounce jar Doña Maria Mole*
28 ounces chicken broth
1-2 pound rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350°. Shred rotisserie chicken, removing skin and bones. Transfer chicken to a large bowl. Empty contents of mole paste into a blender. Add half the chicken broth. Blend until smooth. Add remaining broth. Repeat. Pour mole sauce over chicken. Stir to incorporate. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Sauce will thicken. Serve with sticky rice or Spanish rice. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
*I receive no recompense for recommending Doña Maria Mole, Mexican Condiment.
Dining Outside the Home: Key Lime Pie Bakery! Key limes are as popular in the Florida Keys as conch shells on the beach. If you’ve never tasted one, imagine this: Key limes are more aromatic as well as a bit smaller than regular limes, thus making them less acidic and more tart. By adding sugar, eggs, and a graham cracker crust, the results are a tangy, sweet, light, and creamy dessert that may or may not cry out for a delicious dollop of whipped cream. Merengue is definitely not out of the question either. Drop in for a single slice or an entire pie. It’s convenient enough to make a second trip.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Habanero Hot Sauce! Let’s kick things up a notch or two with one of the hottest known chili peppers legally sold in grocery stores. And I mean REALLY hot, compared to the average pepperoncini. The adorable orange lantern with its sweet-looking dimples can be deceiving. Its sting may feel as strong as a viper while simultaneously releasing an endorphin rush that’ll knock you off your feet. This is my fourth batch from the garden harvest. I’m hooked! However, it comes with a few words of caution: Wear gloves and avoid the juices near your face and eyes. While oven roasting, set the exhaust fan on High. When taste-testing, keep a wedge of white cheese nearby. It actually cuts the heat almost instantly. Be brave, my Peeps. Heed these simple rules. Then and only then, will you become the master of your own domain.
HABANERO HOT SAUCE
16-20 habanero peppers, halved, stems, and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/8 teaspoon lime juice
Sea salt to taste
Place habanero pepper halves, skin side up in a single layer, on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick oil. Roast habanero peppers on High for 10 minutes, or until black spots appear. Remove. Using tongs, transfer habanero peppers to a covered bowl and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Using gloves, remove any loose skins; discard. Add peppers to a food processor. Pulse to a slightly coarse texture. Add minced garlic, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and lime juice. Pulse until desired consistency. Season with sea salt. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Serve in dips, as a condiment, paired with ripe fruits in salsas, or on grilled meats.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Red Onion Mexican Street Tacos! As promised, today’s feature recipe takes us down the road to Jalisco-style tacos. Forget about the “loaded” tortilla shells you may be familiar with, or even default to when making Mexican food at home. This handheld taco steps “outside the box”. The ingredients are fewer, yet focus on freshness. For those who appreciate it, cilantro is a star attraction. Roasted meat, shredded into small pieces, and chopped red onions with a squeeze of lime wedge create a flavor explosion that, honestly, will pull you back enough to slow down and savor every bite. Perhaps you may even chew your food 20 or 30 times before swallowing to appreciate this virtual trip to a seldom-traveled Mexican village.
RED ONION MEXICAN STREET TACOS
24-count street-size corn tortillas
1 pound seasoned shredded turkey or pork carnitas
1 red onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
Jalisco Pico de Gallo*
Warm shredded carnita meat in a microwave-proof covered casserole dish until steamy and heated through. Set aside. To warm street-size corn tortillas, place a dry iron skillet on the stove top over medium heat. Cook tortillas 30 seconds per side. Wrap a stack of five or six in aluminum foil to keep warm in a 200° preheated oven. When ready to assemble, place a portion of carnitas on each corn tortilla. Layer with chopped cilantro and red onions. Squeeze a lime wedge over all. Top with Jalisco Pico de Gallo.
*Follow the link for recipe.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Jalisco Pico de Gallo! It wasn’t until recently I dined at a family-owned Mexican cantina where the recipes truly originated from Guadalajara. I know this because the waitress explained that Jalisco-style dishes might taste different than anything else I tried before. “For starters,” she explained, “only fresh vegetables are used. We use Mexican oregano for flavor.” I was intrigued. So much so, I made a batch of pico de gallo when I returned home. The Jalisco-style street tacos come later. Stick around and tell me what you think.
JALISCO PICO DE GALLO
7 Roma tomatoes, sliced and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
6 Serrano chile, stems removed
3 jalapeño peppers, stems removed
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, dried
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons cumin powder
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon orange/mango juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
In a large bowl, place Roma tomato chunks. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Using a mini chopper, pulse Serrano peppers until finely chopped. Add to the bowl. Next, place jalapeño peppers in the mini chopper; pulse until finely chopped. Scrape sides and add to the bowl. Add chopped sweet onion to tomato mixture. Sprinkle on Mexican oregano, garlic powder, and cumin powder. Mix well. Fold in chopped cilantro leaves. Drizzle with orange/mango juice and lime juice. Gently stir. Transfer pico de gallo and liquid to covered jars and refrigerate. The flavors intensify as they marinate. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for Mexican dishes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Watermelon Firecracker Bites! Who sprinkles salt on watermelon? Maybe you automatically did it as a child sitting on the back porch steps spewing seeds at your brother. If we saw mom with the salt shaker, everyone did it. Right? No judgment here. Actually, did you know watermelon can be naturally sour or bitter? Truth. By sprinkling it with salt, it brings out the sweetness of the melon. And salt just makes everything taste better. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
WATERMELON FIRECRACKER BITES
2 cups watermelon, seedless and cut into bite-size cubes
1/2 cup peaches, peeled and chopped
1-2 jalapeño peppers, sliced
1/2 teaspoon raspberry chipotle seasoning
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons lime olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Combine watermelon cubes, peach chunks, and jalapeño slices in a bowl. Toss lightly. Sprinkle raspberry chipotle seasoning over all. Whisk together lime juice, lime olive oil, and chopped cilantro. Pour dressing over the watermelon salad. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. When ready to serve, divide salad between four bowls. Drizzle marinade over all.