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.
Dining Outside the Home: Miguel’s Cocina in Old Town San Diego, California. When the menu captures the true spirit of Mexico, north of the border, it boasts of Miguel’s Signature Fajitas. What makes it so special, you wonder. Pay attention: Skirt steak and chicken topped with bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and sliced poblano. ¡Ay, caramba! Now, you’re talking. Better order a hand-shaken margarita to wash things down. Look around. Handmade tortillas, crispy chips dredged between bowls of jalapeño white sauce and chunky tomato-fresh salsa. Is it any wonder if feels like a party?
Dining Outside the Home: Los Locos Bar & Grill in San Diego, California. Tucked in the main thoroughfare of Old Town, sits an authentic unassuming Mexican cantina that serves jalapeño margaritas with a twist of outdoor music. It should. After all, this is the perfect corner spot for people-watching. For an afternoon snack, order the special of the day: Spicy Corn Nachos. Under the California sunshine, the cheese transforms into an ultra-melty obsession. Scoop up some black beans and pico de gallo. It’s okay to lick your fingers. Dishes like this are meant to be shared.
Dining Outside the Home: Monico’s Taqueria in Kapaa, Kauai. Change is good, especially when location is involved. Monico’s Taqueria moved up the road where they can serve more customers. Sitting on the outdoor patio at the edge of a coconut grove affords a stunning view of the mountains at sunset. Nice. Kick back, sip on a salt-rimmed margarita, munch on tortilla chips dredged in smoky salsa or homegrown habanero sauce. It doesn’t get any better than this. When the plate of fork-tender crispy pork carnitas arrive, you won’t want to share. Stuff the corn tortillas with beans, rice, pork, and guac. Fold over and bite. As the juices run down your fingers, don’t despair. Lick them. After all, it’s family. There’s no judgment here. The atmosphere is as down to earth as the food itself.
Dining Outside the Home: The Three Amigos in Downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada! Authentic Mexican food is as festive as Mexican blankets, wide-rimmed sombreros, and multicolored piñatas. The “Daily Special” boasted Fajitas Al Pastor—crispy chunks of marinated pork cooked with onions and green pepper strips served on a sizzling skillet. Homemade corn tortillas accompanied sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. We ordered a side of refried beans to use as a binding agent once the shells were filled. The finishing touch of habanero sauce sealed the deal with a nice kick of spice. An agave nectar margarita cocktail culminated the entire meal. Bueno!
Dining Outside the Home: Dos Reales Mexican Restaurant in Champaign, Illinois! When it gets steamy hot in the Midwest , rest assured you can cool things off at a casual spot for classic Mexican cooking and salt-rimmed margaritas that go down smooth and easy. Order a Taco Salad. It’s served in a fried flour tortilla shell, then cradled with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chunky guacamole, and spicy salsa. Saira can add seasoned ground beef or shredded chicken to suit your taste. Either way, you get a healthy dose of veggies that’ll keep you coming back for more…whenever you pass through town.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Easy Empanadas! Imagine this: a light, flaky, buttery pastry pocket filled with tender savory meat. Now add a kick of spice and a finish of pimento-stuffed olives. Mmmm. Sure you can add cheese or go completely vegetarian. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. Make it to suit your personal taste. Either way, in three bites, you’re ready for seconds. Don’t forget the dipping sauce.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound ground beef, lean
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives, chopped
1 egg, whisked
1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry sheets
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add oregano, sweet paprika, cumin powder, and cayenne pepper. Mix well. Add ground beef. Stir and cook until meat is crumbly. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Remove from heat. Fold in pimento-stuffed olives. Cool meat mixture completely, about two hours in the refrigerator. Cut pastry sheets into 4” rounds. Place 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of each round. Brush water around the outer edge of each round. Fold round in half. Press to seal. Using fork tines, press down on edges. Carefully transfer empanadas to the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 1” apart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to prevent leakage while baking. Brush empanadas with whisked egg. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce or salsa.