Monday, February 24, 2014

Ancho Chile Relish

The doyenne of Mexican regional cooking, Dame Diana Kennedy, calls this relish Salsa de Tia Georgina, or Aunt Georgina's Sauce. It's an eccentric take on table condiments and while suggested primarily for use with grilled or broiled meats, Cafe Drake HRV enjoys it equally with pinto beans and cornbread, scrambled eggs and warm tortillas, sometimes even strewn over buttery salad lettuces.

The original recipe calls for 8 ancho chilies but we had 3 enormous ones and altered the measurements accordingly. You'll need either 3 gigantic ancho chilies or 5 smaller ones. Toast the chilies lightly in an iron skillet over a medium flame; in a pinch, a non-stick skillet will suffice. Turn the chilies frequently so they don't burn, pressing down on them as they soften. This takes about 5 minutes. We've added another step which is to then remove the pan from the stove and add 1 cup or so of water. Cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the chilies to soften further. When cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds from chilies.

Cut each chile into longish thin strips with a pair of scissors and add to a small mixing bowl. Add: 1/2 onion (minced), 2-3 cloves garlic (minced), 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar (both work well) and at least 1/4 t. salt. Stir everything together and let rest for 2 hours before serving.

Traditionally crumbled white cheese is added moments before eating but it's still superb without. If you want it, use a couple of tablespoons of queso fresco

Carefully roasting ancho chilies in a dry cast iron skillet enhances their smokey, complex flavors.

A quick soak softens the chilies further.

The chilies have softened and darkened slightly as above, after soaking and draining.

Seeding the chilies is a messy but necessary step. Best to do it over the sink!

Ancho Chile Relish
Of course Cafe Drake HRV loves cerveza with Mexican food but this one went into our pinto beans.

Frijoles borrachos are Monterrey's unique twist on simmered pinto beans, though now cooking the legumes with beer is popular throughout Mexico and the American Southwest. If you're in a hurry or forgot to leave beans to soak overnight, try this acceptable solution: rinse well and then drain 1 can of pinto beans. Set aside while you saute 1 small onion (chopped, sliced, whatever) in 2 T. oil. If you're feeling brave try it the authentic way and sub bacon fat for the oil. Add to the onions 2 cloves of minced garlic and a couple of serrano chilies, chopped. Just use 1 jalapeno if that's all you have. When the onion is soft but not browned, add the beans along with 1 large, chopped tomato. Cook for a few minutes until the liquid from the tomato has been absorbed then add the drained beans and 1/2 bottle of beer - we prefer dark, your choice entirely. Bring to a low boil then reduce heat to low and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Do not cover the pan. A few minutes before the beans are ready, season to taste with salt and black pepper and simmer a bit longer. Garnish with chopped radishes and/or minced cilantro.

above two photos: ancho chile relish with warm corn tortillas, queso fresco, roasted chicken thighs, salsa cruda, beer-braised pinto beans and radishes

Slightly longer cooking times and high temperatures help ensure a crispy, deep golden skin on roasted chicken. Bone-in chicken thighs are Cafe Drake HRV's preferred piece of poultry, being almost impossible to dry out.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Our Famous Chickpea and Brown Rice Burgers with Roasted Balsamic Onions

You've probably had these before, in a small Italian restaurant in Carroll Gardens or at a friend's dinner party a few years ago. Guess what? They're still as good as ever, a once ubiquitous dish that has aged as gracefully as the finest balsamic you're gonna be using for this recipe. Cafe Drake HRV has tweaked the original a wee bit and here's how we do it these days: to make 4 servings, begin with two huge yellow onions. Cut into halves horizontally and peel. Place in a shallow casserole dish and drizzle with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 400 degree F. oven. Flip with a spatula and roast for another 15-20 minutes. Flip back over - this is the last time, we promise - and drizzle very lightly with honey. Roast another 25 minutes or until onions are softened and blackened. Carefully remove onions to a plate, not fretting too much if they fall apart a bit. Immediately sprinkle onions with about 1 T. good balsamic vinegar. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Optional garnishes include minced fresh tarragon, basil, mint or oregano.

Grab Cafe Drake HRV's recipe for chickpea and brown rice burgers in THIS PREVIOUS POST.

Roasted onions and chickpea-brown rice burger, served with tossed salad, toasted baguette and a carrot and tahini dressing/dipping sauce. One day we'll remember to finally write down/estimate measurements for this sauce, based on one served by defunct East Village institution DoJo's. This should help: peel and chop two carrots and throw them in a blender along with a healthy splash each of soy sauce, mirin and rice vinegar. Add about 2 T. of minced ginger and 1-2 chopped scallions. Add a little water - maybe 1/4 cup - along with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and around 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Finally stir in 1 T. tahini; though optional, the sesame paste adds a nice creamy texture to the dressing. If you choose to nix the tahini just add an additional T. of oil. Blend until smooth and adjust seasoning as required.

Honestly, we could eat these roasted onions on a bun instead of a burger!

Toasted baguette sliced were gently pressed into the "pan juices" from the roasted onions. This is a technique to file away anytime you're serving toasted bread with roasted meats or veggies. Why waste all that flavor on the bottom of your baking sheet?

Winter Naps

Consistent frigid temperatures and perpetually falling snow have kept Arabella and Lloyd Page indoors around the clock. Both share afternoon napping as a favorite pastime.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stuffing Ourselves, the Winter Edition

Ben Terziani left behind last weekend a few of his decadent desserts. They didn't go to waste. above: chocolate pot de creme

above: Leftovers that just keep improving in flavor include Pork and Pozole Stew and Lentil Tostados.

Lazy Dinner of Ziti with Rao's Marinara Sauce and Tossed Salad. The dressing is one to catalog for future reference, especially useful as that pint of buttermilk bought three weeks ago nears its expiration date. Put all of this in a blender: 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, 1 cup buttermilk 1-2 T. lemon juice or white wine vinegar, 3 sliced scallions, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, salt and black pepper to taste and a handful of chopped parsley. Blend until smooth and then, with the blender still running, drizzle in slowly around 1/3 cup olive oil. It's best to refrigerate the dressing for at least an hour prior to serving; flavors meld well and the consistency thickens.

Need croutons for tonight's salad? Just toast them on the same baking pan with roasting veggies. You'll have one less thing to clean afterwards and conserve energy at the same time! Be sure however to take the croutons out well before the roasted vegetables unless you want a salad with cinders.

Roasting asparagus intensifies the flavor just as the process does with most vegetables. Like broccoli the trick is to not wash or rinse the asparagus. Just toss with olive oil, salt and black pepper and roast on a baking sheet at 415 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until the spears are tender and darkened.

Browning sesame seeds and coconut for our Sweet and Sour Bell Pepper Curry.

Typically kairas, or sweet and sour green pepper curry, are made with only green bell peppers. Cafe Drake HRV's version mixes the green with the red alongside an errant poblano pepper tossed in for a bit of heat and spice. So to begin, rinse and chop finely 3-4 medium large peppers of your choice, using at least half green bell peppers. Set aside while you heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a non-stick or iron skillet over a medium-high flame. When the oil is very hot toss in 3 T. sesame seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Now add 2 T. dried unsweetened coconut and stir constantly just until the coconut begins to change color. Immediately remove from heat and after cooling slightly, scrape skillet contents in to a mini- food processor or coffee grinder. Grind to a fine powder/paste. Set aside. Add 1 more T. of oil to the skillet - no need to wipe clean - and when very hot add 1/2 t. black mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop add the chopped peppers. Stir well and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in at least 1 t. salt, 1-2 t. tamarind paste/concentrate and about 2 t. dark brown sugar. Cook gently just until the peppers are soft. Now add the sesame and coconut mixture and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Serve hot or warm with rice or flat breads.

above two photos: our bell pepper curry was savored alongside a meal of basmati rice, tarka dal, raita, chickpea flour roasted peanuts and sweet mango chutney.
Leftovers the following afternoon, accented with pickled eggs and marinated, roasted red chilies.

Lloyd the Book Worm

Lloyd can't put down, or rather, get off, the latest novel from Joyce Carol Oates, Carthage.

The House In Winter

Monday, February 17, 2014

Easiest Pull Pork Evah!

And it's all about the slow cooker a/k/a crock pot. We began with 2 lb. piece of boneless pork shoulder but bone-in is fine as well. Chop 1 really large - or two smaller - onions and place on the bottom of the crock pot. Add 4 or 5 cloves of peeled garlic, broken in halves. Throw in a bay leaf or two, why the hell not? Now dust heavily on all sides your pork shoulder with salt, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cumin and smoked paprika. Place in crock pot atop onions. We added, like 5, whole dried red chilies but that's just us, your call. Pour 1 small can of chicken broth over the pork and cook on the high setting for 3 hours. Turn to low setting and cook an additional 2-3 hours. Do nothing. Don't even stir. When the pork is falling apart remove to a carving board and shred into strands, discarding large chunks of fat and all of the skin. Pour remaining contents of crock pot through a fine mesh strainer and return solids to crock pot, reserving all liquid.. Also, add shredded pork back to the pot. Moisten as you like with strained liquid, 2 T. tomato paste and 2 T. white or rice vinegar. Adjust seasoning adding more salt, pepper or sugar if required. Keep warm in crock pot for up to 2 hours on low setting or cool then refrigerate until ready to pork major! Best garnished with sliced onions, jalapeno peppers and bread and butter pickles. Serve on toasted bread or rolls or with hot cornbread. Appropriate sides include baked beans and creamy coleslaw.

Thai Glass Noodle Salad / Indonesian Coconut Veggies

Cellophane Noodles with minced lemongrass, ginger and sliced red onions

Sometimes called "glass noodles", pasta made from mung beans becomes translucent when soaked in warm water. The Recipe for our glass noodle salad: Start with 4 oz. of dried bean thread noodles, available at all Asian markets and most supermarkets. Place them in a large bowl and cover with boiling water; let soak for 5 minutes before draining well. Using scissors, cut the noodles into manageable pieces, i.e. bite-size. Have patience - these noodles are slippery and unwieldy! Transfer noodles from colander to a large serving bowl. Separately mix together in a small bowl; 2 T. lime juice, 2-3 T. Sriracha chili sauce, 2 T. fish sauce and 1 T. sugar or honey. Pour this over the noodles and toss. Now add 1/4 cup or so thinly sliced red onion, 1-2 T. grated ginger and 2 stalks of chopped lemongrass, using only the bottom third of each stalk, inner leaves. Frozen, pre-chopped lemongrass is widely available at Asian grocery stores if preferred. Toss everything really really well and marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour or until ready to eat. When serving, fold in equal parts chopped cilantro and mint leaves, about 1/4 cup each. Fire-breathers feel free to garnish insanely with sliced red and green chilies.

Thai Glass Noodle Salad with Indonesian Coconut Squash (Zucchini) and Cabbage Salad

Baby bok choy - or any leafy Chinese green -  prepared in this manner is easy and utterly delicious, sporting flavors greater and more complex than ever imagined: just rinse very well and then chop Chinese greens of choice into bite-sized pieces. Heat 1 T. vegetable oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet over a high flame. When the oil is shimmering hot toss in 2-4 whole dried red chilies and let them sizzle and darken for 30 seconds. Now throw in some thinly sliced onions and stir constantly for 30 more seconds. Add some minced garlic immediately followed by rinsed and chopped greens. Cook on high heat for a minute then reduce to medium-heat and cover the pan. The greens will cook quickly depending on variety used so check after a couple of minutes. When the veggies are done to your liking, remove from heat and season with equal parts soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Leave covered for a couple of minutes then serve hot or warm. A final seasoning with white pepper adds a flourish of flavor without additional heat.

Our Indonesian Coconut Vegetables begin as simply as seen above. You can use anything you like in this dish - baby eggplant, string beans, carrots all work well. Make 'em tonight, like this: heat 1 T. of oil in a deep skillet until quite hot. Add 1-3 sliced green or red small hot chilies, 1 T. grated ginger (or 1 t. dried) and 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2" pieces. Cook for 1 minute and then add 1 lb. of zucchini, cut into large chunks. Stir for 2-3 minutes before adding 1 cup coconut milk (canned) and up to 1 t. salt. Toss in a few whole black peppercorns, bring to a boil, reduce flame to low and simmer gently until veggies are tender. Stir now and then and if needed, add a tablespoon or so of water to prevent sticking or burning. Check for seasoning and serve as a warm side dish.

Glorious Leftovers for lunch, garnished with sawtooth herb a/k/a/ culantro

Presidents' Day Weekend Visit from Jen and Ben

Deep . . .

deep . . .

DEEP snow upon Jen and Ben's evening arrival.

Fresh powder daily made for excellent conditions at nearby ski mountains.

As seen above, Mexican food was on the menu Saturday evening at Cafe Drake HRV.

A micro first course of radish and apple salad, dressed with a wintery cinnamon vinaigrette, was quickly dispatched by hungry and weary travelers. Appetites were previously whetted via Manhattans and cheese biscuits.

For an appetizer, Lentil Tostados with mole sauce, queso blanco, tomatoes, cilantro, cashew and chile de arbol salsa and pickled egg

Pozole Stew with salsa cruda
Ben Terziani prepared a special dessert of chocolate pots de creme!

Arabella was thrilled to see her Auntie Ruske. As always.


Fabulously fresh tasting and under-appreciated in this country, salsa cruda works wonders as both general table condiment and garnish to most Latin soups and stews. Stir a big spoonful into your next bowl of lentil or vegetable soup for a surprising blast of extra oomph! Cafe Drake HRV makes it just like this. We add to a food processor 3 fresh jalapeno peppers (chopped), 1 ripe tomato (chopped), 1/4 cup chopped red onion, about 3 T. roughly chopped cilantro, 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano and 1 t. fresh lime juice. Pulse until very finely chopped but do not puree smooth. If using a blender, chop by turning it on and off until you reach the right consistency, similar to a coarse, chunky applesauce. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and black pepper.