Dining Outside the Home: El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia! You know you’ve hit the jackpot when it’s BOGO on a Saturday night. That translates to buy one margarita, get one free, no matter what brand of tequila you choose. A nice Mexican tequila that is 100% pure de agave goes down smooth and perfect. The cocktail was crisp and citrusy from a squeeze of fresh lime, rather than green and sugar-laden. Perhaps that’s their secret. Being in the mood for a salad did not disappoint. The Grilled Shrimp Salad was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had. There must have been at least a dozen perfectly-seasoned grilled shrimp served in a crispy flour tortilla shell. Refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, cheese and sour cream turned this simple salad into a meal-in-a-bowl. Our waitress, Jasmin, was very accommodating in meeting our needs. Great food is a must, but customer service makes it memorable.
Dining Outside the Home: Mexi-Wing Restaurant in Athens, Tennessee! When you’re passing through town and the parking lot of an authentic Mexican grill is lined with vehicles, it’s usually a good sign. As we slid into a cozy booth, a basket of freshly-baked tortilla chips, accompanied by a carafe of chunky salsa, was dropped off at our table. A few minutes later, two margaritas on-the-rocks were going down easy. If you’ve never tried a sugar-rimmed lime margarita, you should. It’s amazing. The extensive menu boasted the biggest and best hot wings around, hence the name. House Specials and Combination platters were too numerous to count. It was beginning to look as though deciding what to eat was going to be tough. In a situation like this, try something a little different. Ubaldo, the waiter, was very helpful. He explained things like tostaquac, molcajete, and carne asada. For incredible Mexican food with an unforgettable name, bookmark Mexi-Wing Restaurant.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Mexican Tarragon Turkey Breast! If you’re tired of the “same old, same old”, ways of preparing poultry, try something a little different. Mexican tarragon can easily catapult chicken and turkey to gourmet status. First of all, that slight hint of licorice may go unnoticed in a café chicken salad sandwich. Yet, something tastes extraordinary. If only you could put your finger on it. So, you go on with your day perhaps thinking you were hungrier than usual and would have devoured anything. Until memory flashback, in the form of a craving, stimulates the taste buds for an encore. The quest is on for the heat-loving herb with the green narrow leaves and golden flowers. Who knows, it may end up as a regular plant in your garden herb bed.
MEXICAN TARRAGON TURKEY BREAST
3 tablespoons Mexican tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3-pound turkey breast, bone in
Sprigs of Mexican tarragon, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°. Combine chopped Mexican tarragon leaves, olive oil, poultry seasoning, seasoned salt, and white pepper. Wash turkey breast; pat dry. Using your fingers, loosen skin of turkey breast. Rub half the mixture under the skin. Secure skin to the underside of breast with toothpicks. Brush outside of turkey with remaining mixture. Place turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 170°, about two hours. Remove from oven; tent with foil. Allow to rest 15 minutes. Remove and discard turkey skin and toothpicks before carving. Transfer turkey slices to a platter. Garnish with sprigs of Mexican tarragon. Serve warm.
Experience the Holidays: 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? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Quesadilla Chile Relleno! Before you shake your head and walk away, hear me out. Green poblano peppers are a pretty mild distant cousin to the jalapeño and habanero. You could almost say they’re from the “other side of the tracks”, so to speak. Personally, I think they’re underrated. If you look up their classification, they might even be referred to as sweet. Now, I don’t know about that. What I do know is they smell somewhat earthy, tend to hold their shape, and are absolutely scrumptious when bathed in Mexican cheeses. In my opinion, they definitely deserve a second chance. What have you got to lose?
QUESADILLA CHILE RELLENO
2 large flour tortillas
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup Mexican-style four cheeses, shredded
2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and sliced in strips
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup ranch dressing, prepared
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce
Butter one side of each flour tortilla. Set aside. Warm an iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the skillet, butter side down. Add half the Mexican cheeses. Arrange the poblano peppers in a single layer over cheese. Scatter chopped onion over all. Add remaining Mexican cheese blend. Place the remaining tortilla on top, butter side up. Press down lightly. Cover the pan with a lid. Cook 3-4 minutes until tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is melted. Using a spatula, flip over the quesadilla. Cover with lid. Cook 2-3 minutes longer until golden brown. Do not burn. Transfer quesadilla to a cutting board. Let rest for 2 minutes to avoid a flood of gooey cheese. In a small bowl, combine prepared ranch dressing, cayenne pepper, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Cut the quesadilla into 6 triangles. Serve with sriracha ranch dipping sauce.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Queso Chicken Flautas! Are you as torn between corn tortillas and flour tortillas as I am? There are days, and certain dishes, where nothing but corn will do: tamales, taquitos, enchiladas, tacos, and chips. Corn tortillas, generally, are much smaller and easier to hold. When they are soaked in sauce, they are more pliable and suitable for baking. If you like the taste of toasted corn as well as the chewy texture, corn tortillas are for you. The same applies to flour tortillas: quesadillas, flautas, fajitas, chimichangas, and burritos. Flour tortillas are bigger, not to mention softer for folding. You already know this if you’ve ever eaten a monster burrito or ginormous chimichanga. One is baked, the latter is fried. Today’s recipe features the sturdiness of a flour tortilla to hold the juicy chicken and melted cheese filling without turning soggy or falling apart. What a delicious dilemma.
QUESO CHICKEN FLAUTAS
Ingredients for Herbed Sour Cream:
8 ounces sour cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4.5 ounce can green chiles, drained and diced
1 envelope taco seasoning mix, less 1 tablespoon for remaining recipe
12-count flour tortillas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
15-ounce jar queso cheese dip, warmed
To make the herbed sour cream, combine sour cream, honey, lime juice, and sea salt in a bowl. Stir until smooth. Gently fold in chopped cilantro leaves and green onions. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. In a medium bowl, combine shredded chicken, Mexican cheese blend, cream cheese, and diced green chilies. Sprinkle with taco seasoning mix (less 1 tablespoon of mix). Stir thoroughly. Set aside. In a small dish, whisk vegetable oil with reserved taco seasoning mix. Set aside. Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. To assemble flautas, place 1/4 cup chicken mixture on bottom third of each flour tortilla. Roll up tightly, leaving ends open. Place seam-side down on prepared baking sheet. Brush filled chicken flautas with seasoned oil mixture. Repeat until all tortillas are filled. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until flautas are crispy. Serve with warmed queso cheese dip, herbed sour cream, and chunky salsa.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: X-otic Black Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream! Creamy concoctions are so decadent with swirls of tangy sweetness mixed in. You control the tart flavor among the smooth texture by making this version of gourmet ice cream at home. No special gadgets required, except that counter workhorse stand mixer. But how hard can it be to flip a switch and scrape down the sides of the bowl? This “tried and true” no-churn ice cream recipe has been reliable on more than one occasion. The secret to my success is chilling the utensils overnight in the freezer. Also, begin with ingredients that are refrigerator cold. The greatest hardship is waiting 24 hours for the ice cream to chill. Don’t believe me? Guess you need to see for yourself.
X-OTIC BLACK RASPBERRY SWIRL ICE CREAM
2 cups heavy cream
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon Mexican vanilla extract
1/2 cup black raspberry sauce*
Using a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed for 4-5 minutes. Transfer half to the chilled loaf pan. Smooth with a spatula. Add dollops of black raspberry sauce on top. Swirl the sauce with a knife to create a design. Pour the remaining ice cream mixture over top. Smooth. Repeat swirling process. Cover tightly. Place loaf pan in the freezer overnight. To serve, scoop ice cream into bowls and garnish with fresh mint leaves.
*To make the black raspberry sauce, click on the link below.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: X-Tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer! Ever since I visited a popular Las Vegas restaurant, I’ve been looking for a cheese appetizer like this one. It’s not the traditional gooey soupy cheese dip you swipe tortilla chips through before gobbling down. The waiter set the iron skillet in front of us and said, “This is a cheese you need to use a knife and fork with. It’s not going to jump onto the chip.” Come to find out it was flambéed over an open fire in the kitchen. Wow! And they used tequila to ignite it. I wish I could tell you that’s what I did here, but sorry, “no comprendo”. Instead I baked it at a high temperature and dredged it through a spicy honey. Show compassion. I tried.
X-TRA CHEESE, PLEASE, APPETIZER
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon garlic habanero sauce
2 tablespoons ranch dressing
Chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 475°. Using a 10” iron skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and kosher salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix thoroughly with onions. To make the spicy honey, in a microwave-safe dish combine raw Tupelo honey, sriracha, and garlic habanero sauce. Stir well. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir again. Set aside. Transfer cheese-filled iron skillet to the oven. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Turn oven setting to High on Broil. Allow dark spots to appear on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully as this happens very quickly. Remove skillet from oven. Drizzle with spicy honey and ranch dressing. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with tortilla chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Tequila Tacos! Do you follow any of the chef’s on the Food Network? It seems they are always thinking outside the box when it comes to expanding our palates. Take Guy Fieri and his famous hamburgers. Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit Guy’s Burger Joint can see how he very casually broke the mold when it comes to men in the kitchen. Anything Goes! Today’s “nod” of adding silver tequila to ordinary tacos definitely gets the party started!
1 pound lean ground beef
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup tequila, silver
8 flour tortillas
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 romaine lettuce heart, torn
1 tomato, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium skillet, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Drain. Stir in garlic powder, cumin powder, sea salt, black pepper, and tequila. Reduce heat to simmer on low until liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally. Set aside. Brush one side of tortillas with melted butter. Spoon about 1/4 cup crumbled meat mixture onto center of unbuttered side. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Fold in half; place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas are filled and meat is evenly divided between them. Bake in oven 10-15 minutes or until tortilla shells are crisp. Remove from oven and serve with lettuce, tomato, green onions, and cilantro. Spoon salsa over top; add a dollop of Greek yogurt. Garnish with black olive slices.