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.
Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Café in Key West, Florida! When a restaurant boasts of an abundance of hatch chiles and fresh, local ingredients, you begin to wonder if Santa Fe style Tex-Mex might be a good choice for dinner. Anytime the weather is hot, and the drinks are cold, it draws a crowd on Duval Street for seafood favorites, like skewered shrimp marinated in lime juice and ginger. Take a swig of on-the-rocks margarita. The salted rim offsets the spicy salsa you can’t resist tasting now and then. If you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of Happy Hour specials. There’s no rush here.
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: Mexican Shrimp Cocktail! One bite, one little taste, will leave you wondering how you didn’t know about this version of an old classic. So what’s the difference, you ask. Actually, quite a bit. But I’m not gonna lie to you. If you’ve been following my blog, you can often see there’s a method to my madness. One recipe can be a critical ingredient to another dish. Like today. Recently I featured Jalisco Pico de Gallo. I’m gonna tell you it is a key ingredient in my Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, slightly tweaked. On the upside, it makes preparation a snap. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
MEXICAN SHRIMP COCKTAIL
1 1/2 cups Jalisco Pico de Gallo*
1/2 cup Clamato Tomato Cocktail**
1/2 cup ketchup
1 pound jumbo shrimp, precooked but chilled
1 avocado, cut into medium chunks
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
In a bowl, combine Jalisco Pico de Gallo, Clamato Tomato Cocktail, and ketchup. Mix well. Take at least half the shrimp, discard tails, and cut into chunks. Add the shrimp chunks to the sauce mixture. The remaining whole shrimp will be used for dipping. Gently fold in avocado chunks. To serve, divide shrimp cocktail into parfait glasses. Arrange whole shrimp on the edge of the glass. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
*Follow the link for recipe.
**I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.
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? Be Our Guest: Street Tacos! This is literally Cooking 101. I have been making tacos since I was 16 years old, before microwave ovens and gourmet kitchens were commonplace. My Aunt Gail, in Michigan, taught me the timeless secrets of a classic Mexican staple. First of all, you must use authentic yellow corn tortillas. Forget the box because you’re going to fry up the shells for freshness. It’s worth the effort, believe me.
16-ounce package yellow corn tortillas
2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef, lean
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 green onions, snipped
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
Pico de Gallo or salsa
Preheat oven to 250°. Brown ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the beef is crumbly. Drain, if necessary. Season beef with garlic, cumin powder, onion powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add tortilla; cook 10 seconds per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat until all tortillas have been fried. Reduce heat. One at a time, place a tortilla back into the skillet. Add 1-2 tablespoons ground beef mixture into each tortilla. Fold in half and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas and ground beef are used. Warm in the oven until ready to serve. Assemble street tacos, per taste, with shredded lettuce, onion, cheese, cilantro, and Pico de Gallo.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Desperado Dinner Nachos! The title says it all. I had been running all day long from this to that when I finally returned home to realize I had made no plans for supper. Going back out was not an option. So things got a little desperate. Thank goodness I had some leftover roasted turkey (chicken would work just fine) plus a half a bag of tortilla chips. The rest of the toppings were a given. So you see, sometimes making mediocre effort will suffice, especially if you make it look downright delicious!
DESPERADO DINNER NACHOS
1/2 bag corn tortilla chips
2 cups roasted turkey or rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 cups Mexican-blend cheese, shredded
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cup pickled jalapeños, sliced
2-3 green onions, snipped
Greek yogurt or Sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. In a single layer, line the baking sheet with tortilla chips, covering every space. Sprinkle on shredded cheese, reserving a little as a final sprinkling. Arrange roasted meat over cheese layer. Top with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and green onion snips. Toss on the remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve nachos with yogurt and salsa to taste.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Spicy Poblano Sauce! Try to avoid slurping this sauce by the spoonful straight out of the jar. Poblano peppers are a whole other animal, so to speak. Compared to its fiery cousins, the habanero or jalapeño, poblanos are mild and earthy, especially when roasted. Most of the time they are either stuffed (like the chile relleno you find on restaurant menus) or served as a sauce over roasted chicken enchiladas. Still confused? Think Mexican green sauce with chicken and spicy red sauce with beef or cheese.
SPICY POBLANO SAUCE
4 poblano peppers
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup light cream
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Space poblano peppers two inches apart. Roast poblano peppers in broiler oven on High setting until the skins are blistered and charred, 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Transfer to a bowl and cover for 15 minutes. When cool, peel off the skin and chop the peppers, discarding seeds and stems. Warm butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and light cream. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring often. Add chopped poblanos. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer poblano mixture to a food processor. Pulse to purée. Season with cumin powder, sea salt, and white pepper. Pulse again. Add Greek yogurt. Blend until smooth. Serve warm over burritos or other Mexican dishes.
Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego, California. Tortilla Ladies make it look so easy. It’s probably because they’ve been stretching and rolling dough into perfect tortillas since their youth. Look through the windows. See how easily they handle the rolling pins? After all, handmade tortillas are the staple for practically every single Mexican dish. Not to mention, delicious. At Old Town Mexican Cafe, the food is authentic and has been for decades. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Take the House Famous Carnitas, for example. Crispy fried chunks of seasoned pork are served with chopped onion, leafy cilantro, smooth avocado, garden tomatoes, fresh lime, and refried beans. Wrap them up in warm tortillas right off the grill. Is it any wonder I never tried another dish? Yeah, they’re that good.