Farfalle with Chorizo and Cream

Here’s an easy, ridiculously satisfying dinner for any budget: a simple, quick pasta dish that’s creamy and comforting while delivering a little kick of spice.

Adding some diced cremini mushrooms, onions, or fresh chopped basil would also be great!

1 lb. dried farfalle (bowtie) pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil, halved
15 oz. Mexican chorizo
1 tsp garlic powder
8 oz. tomato sauce
2 Tbsp Cholula sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
~15 black olives, sliced
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (optional)

1. Bring a medium sized pot of water to the boil and add pasta. Boil for about ten minutes, or until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, warm half the olive oil in a large frying pan. Squeeze chorizo out of its casing into the pan and break up with a spatula or fork. Cook over medium high heat for about ten minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium low.

3. Add garlic powder, tomato sauce, and Cholula and stir. Allow chorizo to simmer until the liquid is well mixed and absorbed, about another seven minutes. Add heavy cream and olives, stir thoroughly, and reduce heat to simmer.

4. Drain pasta, return to pot, and then stir in the remaining olive oil and the black pepper. Add cheese and turn over repeatedly with a large wooden spoon until the cheese has fully melted into the pasta.

5. Spoon pasta out onto your serving plates and top with creamy chorizo. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

I like to make a big pot of this, have it for dinner with the boy, and then put the rest in Pyrex leftover bowls in the fridge, for workday leftovers or a lazy weeknight dinner.

Gluten Free Tex-Mex Fried Chicken

We’ve been eating this once a week, so I had to share!

I’ve been developing the perfect gluten free batter recipe for a few weeks; last Sunday, while we were at Sagra for their amazing weekend brunch, our waiter surprised us with a gift of mixed pepper flakes!  They’re serious about locally grown, organic ingredients.  They even have their own greenhouse in South Austin.

And they accept vegetables from their customers!  Eric often takes batches of homegrown produce to Sagra (squash, chiles, pumpkins). Our chiles have made their way into infused olive oils, for instance.  Sometimes we get to sample the latest cocktails dreamed up by the amazing bartender.  This week, we got these amazing pepper flakes.  I can’t remember the whole litany, but I know it included jalapeño, habanero, poblano, anaheim, serrano, and hatch chiles.

I decided to incorporate them into my fried chicken batter, and they took the result from good to fantastic!

We’ve been buying chicken tenders from Wheatsville lately, so that’s what I fried.  Note that frying whole pieces will take longer, depending on the part, and bone-in chicken will take considerably longer.  In fact, that would be a whole different recipe, involving a lot more frying fat and a lot more splatter.  But this recipe is perfect for smaller pieces of meat.  It would also be excellent for veggies, such as zucchini (which I served roasted, as a side dish).

Another secret is the bacon fat.  I keep two Mason jars in the fridge at all times.  Every time I fry some bacon (so, practically daily), I drain it through a paper towel and into the jar.  I then use it for all manner of things, such as extra decadent scrambled eggs, perfectly fried corn tortillas, or Yorkshire puddings.

If you have a problem with deep frying things in bacon fat, you’re on the wrong blog!

~2 lb. chicken, cut of your choice (I used boneless breast tenders here)
2 eggs
1 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes (mixed varieties, if available)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
~6 Tbsp strained bacon fat

1. Using two shallow dishes (I have stainless steel dredging pans just for this purpose), crack eggs (white and yolks) into one and lightly beat until well mixed; thoroughly mix dry ingredients in the other to create your batter. Set them up in order, depending on whether you’re moving the chicken left or right, with a large plate at the end for your dipped and battered meat.

2. Dredge each piece of chicken as follows: dip the meat into the egg mixture, turning it over so that the whole piece is coated in a thin layer of gooey egg. Immediately drop it into the batter mix and thoroughly coat it, turning over a few times. Gently place the battered chicken on the plate to the side. Continue until all pieces are battered. Allow them to sit for at least ten minutes to give the batter a chance to set. This will help prevent batter from sloughing off in the pan.

3. Meanwhile, in a large, preferably cast iron, skillet, heat half the bacon fat over medium high heat until melted and popping. The fat should be at least a half inch deep, preferably an inch. You may need to adjust the size of skillet you use or amount of fat in order to get just the right amount.

4. Next, gingerly lay pieces of chicken into the grease until the pan is full, with room to maneuver each piece with a scratch-proof spatula. You may have to do two, or even three, rounds of frying. The chicken will immediately begin to pop and spit; if this presents a problem, use a splatter screen when not turning the meat.

5. Allow the chicken to cook for about five minutes on each side, turning them over carefully with your spatula, until the batter is nicely browned and crisp. Gently scoop each piece up and place it on paper towels aside on a plate to cool and drain the excess grease. Repeat until all the chicken is fried.

If you’re unsure whether the chicken is fully cooked, just cut one of the tenders open with a knife and see. The meat should be white throughout and tender, but not rubbery. If it is rubbery, you’ve cooked it too long. Adjust your times accordingly for the rest of the batch. Fully cooked chicken should be 165° in the center. Use a cooking thermometer to test if you are unsure. After you do this a few times, you will become an expert on the cooking times for different meats based on the combination of your particular oven or stove and chosen cooking method.

After the meat has drained for a few minutes, you can wrap it up in clean cloth to serve a bit later with sides, or serve it immediately while it’s piping hot.

I like this Tex-Mex fried chicken with hot sauce (we keep a bottle of Cholula on hand at all times), but Eric also likes to dip his tenders in Ranch dressing, which is also delicious with the side dish I like to make: roasted zucchini wedges drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dill. Go crazy!

Serves 2-4.

Green Monster Tacos

I told you the lime and cilantro trend would continue, and here’s another easy and scrumptious recipe—this time with chicken!

2 chicken breasts
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper

six corn tortillas
2 Tbsp bacon grease, halved
1/3 yellow onion, finely diced
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
salsa verde of your choice, to taste (y’all know which one I use!)
handful cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Place chicken in a roasting tin or oven-safe pan, and rub both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper over it.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until cooked throughout (the internal temperature should be 160°, with no pinkness).

2. For tacos: In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp of bacon grease over medium heat.  Fry each tortilla briefly, 1-2 minutes, until it begins to soften and then brown.  Set each tortilla aside on paper towels, while still soft and malleable, to drain.  Repeat with each tortilla.  If using a large skillet, you should be able to fry two at once.  After doing the first few, your bacon grease will probably be burned and dark.  Pour it out, wipe out the skillet, and start afresh with the other half of the grease.

For tostadas: Melt half the bacon grease over medium heat.  Fry each tortilla just until crisp and lightly browned, then set aside on paper towels to drain.  If using a large skillet, you should be able to fry two at once.  After doing the first few, your bacon grease will probably be burned and dark.  Pour it out, wipe out the skillet, and start afresh with the other half of the grease.

3. Once your chicken is done, it’s time to assemble the tacos!  Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to cool for about ten minutes.  Then shred the chicken with your hands.  It’s pretty easy to pull the meat apart into nice, bite-sized pieces.

4. Place the tortillas on serving plates and top with shredded chicken, chopped onion, grated cheese, salsa, and cilantro.  Top with some salsa verde and serve immediately.

Other recommended optional garnishes includes sour cream and raw jalapeño slices!

Enjoy!

Hot Sauce Marinated Peachy Pork Stir Fry

My former colleague Melissa recently brought me a sweet and spicy gift from South Carolina: a bottle of Vidalia Onion and Carolina Peach Hot Sauce, from Spring Farms Peach Stand (did you know that South Carolina produces more peaches annually than Georgia?). I’ve been pondering how best to enjoy it for a few weeks now, and I had some kind of marinade in mind. So when Eric brought home some pork chops this week, it all came together.

Vaguely Chinese-inspired, this is a pretty straightforward stir fry. I was really pleased with the way the marinated pork turned out: just a little sweet, and quite juicy and tender. The combination of the other flavors resulted in a nicely spicy dinner, the kind of hotness that slowly creeps up on you with each bite. You could of course add any other vegetables you have on hand, too. I’d quite liked to have added some peas, but I didn’t have any.

I think I might already be addicted to this hot sauce. It’s amazing. Luckily, you can order a variety of sauces, marinades, salsas, etc., from their web site! And I bet we make something similar around here, too. I’m going to be on the lookout for fresh peach hot sauce—any recommendations?

1/2 lb. pork chop, fairly thinly sliced (~1/4″ thickness)
3 oz. peach and onion hot sauce, halved
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups cremini and/or button mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup red wine
splash sesame oil
1/2 lb. dry rice noodles
splash wheat-free tamari
2 raw jalapeños, finely sliced

1. At least two hours in advance of cooking (preferably six): in a large easy-seal bag or sealed container, shake pork slices and half the hot sauce so that all pieces of meat are thoroughly covered in sauce. Refrigerate.

2. In a large sauce pan, sink rice noodles in room temperature water. Let them sit for about fifteen minutes. They will slowly soften. Keep an eye on them; they may need to sit longer, but if they’re left too long, they will become mushy. The key is to take them out when they are just al dente, and ready to be added to the stir fry.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or wok, melt coconut oil over medium high heat. Add onions and stir frequently for about three minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Throw in garlic, continuing to stir. Add pork and red pepper flakes. Continue to stir often as pork cooks. Once it is about half done—only about two or three minutes—deglaze with the red wine, then add mushrooms. Stir fry for a further few minutes until mushrooms are just done—tenderized but still firm, and not burned. Add splash of sesame oil and stir thoroughly.

4. Once they are near-cooked-through, add the rice noodles to the skillet. Pour in the remaining hot sauce, and then stir gently but well, so that all ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Continue to stir for a few minutes, until all the ingredients are done, with an eye on the noodles. If unsure, taste one to see if it’s done! Again, be careful not to overcook, or they will go mushy. Add one final splash of tamari, to taste.

5. Carefully slide the servings out into bowls; you may have to cut a few noodles! Top with freshly sliced, raw jalapeño, and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Reheats surprisingly well, as well.

Stella’s Green Beef Curry

My stepmother has been eating gluten-free for the past ten months, and reports a real turnaround in the way she feels. Meanwhile, my best friend was recently diagnosed with a medical condition that may be treatable with a gluten-free diet, so she’s also eating that way. And, though no one told me when I was diagnosed six and a half years ago, apparently gluten-free is the way to go for those of us suffering from Hashimoto’s Disease (the auto-immune form of hypothyroidism, suffered by about one in every thousand people, mostly women).  So I’ve been trying to cut back lately, too.  Not because it’s a trend, but because I want to achieve optimum health.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to crave bright, fresh flavors in the summer: lemon, lime, pistachio, berries, gelato, sorbet, and fresh herbs from the garden.  And we’ve been on a real cilantro and lime kick at our house.  So I decided to try my hand at a Thai-inspired green curry.  Since I had a whole pound of fresh ground beef from Wheatsville on hand, that’s what I made, and the result was luxurious.

This one’s actually pretty darn easy; so if you like the flavors like I do, and you’ve never tried to make a curry at home, this is a great place to start.  Using coconut oil and coconut milk infuses this dish with that unmistakeble, creamy flavor, and blending in practically a whole armful of fresh cilantro results in a refreshing and aromatic curry.

If you like these flavors, you might also try my popular Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream and Cilantro Sauce.  And check back next week for another lime-doused, cilantro-sprinkled meal for summer.  August may well prove to be the Month of Green.

The meat and veg
1 heaping Tbsp coconut oil
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 medium head of broccoli, washed and chopped
1 medium head of cauliflower, washed and chopped
1 cup cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 lb. ground beef
fresh chopped cilantro for garnish, to taste

For the curry
~2 cups of cilantro, washed and chopped
12 oz. coconut milk (one standard can)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp green Thai curry paste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
~2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
lime wedges for garnish

1. In a large skillet, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add bell pepper and onion and sauté for about five minutes, until onion is translucent and fragrant. Add broccoli and cauliflower (you can used frozen veggies, but thaw them first). Cook for another ten minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and cook for about two minutes, just until they begin to soften.

2. Add beef, breaking it up with your spatula. Stir thoroughly and allow to cook for about ten minutes, turning the meat and veggies over a couple of times.

3. Meanwhile, add all the curry ingredients to a blender and liquefy. Taste the curry, and adjust seasonings to suit. Set aside.

4. Once beef is cooked through, pour curry into skillet and mix well. Reduce heat to low, and allow to warm thoroughly (about ten minutes), stirring occasionally.

5. Spoon out mixture into bowls and serve topped with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. Squeeze the lime juice over the bowl before digging in!

Serves 4.