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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

08/15/2017

~ Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer) ~

IMG_2650When it comes to worldly or exotic recipes, I always do my research and my best to keep them as close to authentic as I can.  When it comes to Indian food, I always reply upon the advice of my four Indian girlfriends, and the woman who owns Krishan, Happy Valley's Indian grocery store, because you're all such good cooks.  That said, when it comes to kheer, a delicately-spiced addictively-rich rice pudding dessert, if you're one of my Indian girlfriends, you might find yourself wincing in one or two spots while reading my recipe.  Why?  While the flavors in my recipe are authentic enough and the end result divine, I've strayed off the beaten path a bit in terms of the method, because you, my Indian girlfriends, all have a slightly-different way of making it. 

IMG_2656Kheer, also called payasam (which means "milk" in Sanskrit), is one of the oldest desserts in the world, having been made in Indian and neighboring cultures for over 2000 years.  It's a pudding made by boiling ghee-toasted rice, broken wheat, tapioca or vermicelli with cardamom-and-saffron-spiced milk and white sugar, and, it's additionally flavored with plumped raisins and toasted nuts (almonds, cashews and/or pistachios).  Some cooks add cream to the milk for added richness, and, in some regions of India, they use coconut milk to make kheer.  It's perfect at the end of a spicy meal.  In India, kheer is served at festivals, temple, weddings and all special occasions.  Kheer is believed to have come from the city of Puri.  Legend says:  A man who had loaned money and rice to a poor king, took pity on the king when he couldn't repay him in time. The lender requested that the king use whatever he had and make offerings to Krishna, instead of paying him back.  In many temples today, kheer is cooked daily, as an offering to the gods.

It's time to add this American girl's kheer recipe to the internet: 

IMG_26051/2  cup basmati rice

1/4  cup golden raisins

1/4  cup nuts (slivered almonds, chopped cashews &/or chopped pistachios)

2  tablespoons salted butter

3 1/2  cups whole milk, plus 1/2-1 cup additional milk, if necessary, to control consistency

1/2  cup sugar

IMG_26071/2  teaspoon cardamom powder, or, the seeds from 2-3 green cardamom pods, processed to a powder in a spice grinder or pulverized in a mortar and pestle

(Note:  Cardamom powder is traditionally used in kheer.  That said, I am not the biggest fan of the flavor of green or black cardamom -- and if you use too much, your recipe will taste like medicine rather than food.  I have found ginger powder to be a delightful substitution.)

pinch of saffron threads, crushed

additional lightly-toasted nuts (almonds, cashews &/or pistachios), for garnish

IMG_2610 IMG_2613 IMG_2615 IMG_2618~Step 1.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, melt butter over low heat.  Add rice, raisins and nuts of choice. Increase heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring constantly (like a stir-fry), until rice is lightly-toasted, raisins are plump and nuts are fragrant.  Remove from heat and set aside.

IMG_2620 IMG_2623 IMG_2627Step 2.  In a 4-quart saucepan, place the milk, sugar, cardamom or ginger powder.  Pick up a pinch of saffron threads, whatever you can pick up in your fingertips, and crush it into the milk too.  Take a moment to stir the mixture, to dissolve the sugar.  Over medium heat, bring milk to a boil, stirring frequently.  When boiling milk, it's important to keep an eye on it as it can and will boil over quickly.  Adjust heat to simmer for 15 minutes, to allow milk to reduce by 1/4, thicken a bit, and allow the spices to work their magic.  I started out with 1" of milk in this 4-quart saucepan and now have 3/4".

IMG_2633 IMG_2636~Step 3.  Add all of the toasted rice mixture to the simmering milk mixture and give it a good stir. When the mixture returns to a simmer, continue to cook, uncovered and stirring almost constantly, until rice is very tender and mixture is nicely-thickened, but still a bit soupy, about 30-35 minutes.  If, for any reason, the rice is not very tender, add an additional 1/2 cup of milk and simmer another 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside about 10-15 minutes, to thicken up a bit more, prior to serving warm.

Note:  Kheer can be served chilled, or it can be chilled overnight and reheated the next day.  To reheat, place 1/2 cup additional milk in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Stir kheer to the simmering milk and gently reheat, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes.

Serve kheer warm or chilled -- your choice:

IMG_2661Rich, Toasted Indian Basmati Rice Pudding (Kheer):  Recipe yields 2 cups/4, 1/2 cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  10" skillet; large slotted spoon; 4-quart saucepan

IMG_0354Cook's Note:  I don't profess to be an expert at cooking Indian food, but, thanks to my girlfriends, what I do cook is very, very good.  For another "American girl's take on an Indian classic", I think you'll enjoy my recipe for ~ Easy Indian Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 

08/10/2017

~ Red or Green: New Mexico-Style Enchilada Sauce ~

IMG_2599Red or green?  That's the question you'll be asked in every New Mexican restaurant.  In fact, New Mexico is the only state in the USA that has an official state question:  "Red or Green?"  I learned that on my first trip through New Mexico, and, I was further told, "if you're not asked this question in a New Mexican restaurant, you're not eating New Mexican food."  While many of us out-of-staters (who love our Mexican and Texican fare) generically refer to this type of red or green chile pepper- or powder-based sauce as "enchilada sauce", and, mistakenly assume it's reserved for enchiladas, in New Mexico, you'll learn that almost everything gets smothered in it.  You name it, the dish gets sauced.  Can't decide?  Just answer "Christmas" -- they'll bring you both.

IMG_1907Enchiladas are one of those Tex-Mex specialties that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them.  In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn tortillas that have been dipped in either a deep reddish-brown chili-powder-based sauce, or, a roasted green chile and tomatillo-based sauce.  After that, they're filled, rolled up, topped with cheese and baked.  The filling can consist of a seemingly endless variety of meats (beef, chicken or pork), fish or seafood, cheese and/or beans and/or various other vegetables (for a vegetarian option).

IMG_2588The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to" as well as "to season or decorate with chile pepper".  In English, the phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing" or "the entire situation".  In Mexico, they're sold by vendors in the streets, much like hot dogs are sold in the United States.  The practice of rolling maize (corn) tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  In their original form, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings. There are many varieties of enchiladas, which are distinguished primarily by the sauce (most commonly a red chile and/or tomato-based sauce or a green chile and/or tomatillo sauce). That said, if you're not using corn tortillas to make your enchiladas, technically speaking, you're not making enchiladas.

Chil"e" or Chil"i" -- know the spelling, know what's in it:

Depositphotos_1944824-Red-and-green-chili-peppersCHILE:  Spelled with an "e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family (example:  chile peppers grow in the garden).

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (example:  white chicken chili, chili con carne, chili sauce).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with an "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more types of dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of chile powder and ground, dried spices (common examples:  ground cumin, garlic and/or onion powder), meaning: the manufacturer has added various spices to pure chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

A bit about Easy New Mexico-Style Red Chile Enchilada Sauce:

IMG_1650Red enchilada sauce, also referred to as "red chile gravy" is said to be the heart and soul of Tex-Mex cuisine, and, it isn't reserved solely for enchiladas -- it's often served with burritos, tamales and other Tex-Mex specialties.  As for its history, the rich, brownish-red flour-roux based gravy is described as neither truly Mexican nor American (it's Mexican-American).  It's said to have been invented by Anglo-owned Mexican restaurants in San Antonio, Texas.  Recipes for it have been in print since the early 1890's, and, by the 1900's, "enchilada sauce" was being sold in cans.

New Mexico is known for its fresh and dried red chile peppers, so, it should come as no surprise that any recipe for New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce would revolve around high-quality chile powder, most commonly:  ancho, guajillo and/or New Mexico chile powder (which is pricier than generic chili powder).   Some versions of this sauce contain tomatoes, tomato sauce, or, tomato paste, which add acidy tang and gives it a brighter red color -- my version does not.  I fell in love with New Mexico-style red chile enchiladas in San Antonio, Texas, and, I was told the bold-flavored amber-red sauce (that I couldn't get enough of), got its tang from vinegar, and its color from chile powder -- not tomatoes.  I didn't question it.  I went shopping for chile powder.

I don't proclaim my recipe "easy" because I have an easy or easier version of a hard recipe. I'm saying it's "easy" because:  it is easy.  It's so easy, I don't understand why anyone who loves enchiladas with red sauce would purchase any of the brand name enchilada sauces (and there are plenty to choose from) -- unless they don't realize how quick and easy red enchilada sauce is to make.  I know, because for a number of years I bounced around from label to label, sampling store-bought brands, trying to find "the one just for me" in which "the spice was right". 

A bit about New Mexico's Green Hatch Chile Enchilada Sauce:

IMG_2385In New Mexico chile peppers grow in abundance everywhere.  It's believed they were brought to NM, from Central America, by the Spanish, in the 1500's.  The most common New Mexican chile is long, narrow and picked while green and is mostly grown from much-coveted heirloom seeds.  

Hatch-chile-split"New Mexico chiles" can be from anywhere in New Mexico, and, when buying any green or red NM chiles, they're usually offered up as mild, medium, hot, or extra hot, meaning:  not as a specific variety. That said, the Hatch chile is from Hatch, a small village in the southern part of the state, and, while it's not a variety of chile pepper, both inside and outside the state of New Mexico, it's sold as a "Hatch chile". It's become so popular that every Labor Day weekend, Hatch, known as the Chile Capital of the World, hosts the Hatch Chile Festival, which draws more than 30,000 people each year.

What's the difference between red & green enchilada sauce?

IMG_2311New-Mexico-style red enchilada sauce uses red ingredients: red chiles or red chile powder and/or red tomatoes. Their green enchilada sauce uses green ingredients:  green chiles or green hatch chiles and tomatillos.  Both contain spices, garlic and/or onion, and vinegar, and, like salsa, they can be enjoyed raw or cooked.  A common misconception is:  green chile sauce is mild and red chile sauce is hot.  Not true.  Both range from mild and soothing to knock-your-socks-off hot.

TomatilloTomatillo, also called "tomate verde", means "husk tomato" with "verde" meaning "green" in Spanish. The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, which, while related to the red tomato family, and remarkably similar in appearance to the green tomato, cannot be used interchangeably with green tomatoes.  It's a staple in every Tex-Mex gardener's garden.  The fruit of the tomatillo is green and relatively small compared to red tomatoes (about the size of a large, cherry tomato).  They grow to maturity inside of an inedible husk (which gets disgarded), and, range in color from pale green to  light brown.  The tomatillo is a staple in Mexican ethnic cuisine.

IMG_2303That said, here in Happy Valley, fresh tomatillos are sometimes hard to find, and, even when I find them, it's always a bit of a hassle to ask the produce manager if I can peel back the husks to insure the fruit is firm (not squishy) and ripe (green).  

In case you don't know, always look for tomatillos that have filled their husks or broken through their husks (photo to right) -- no matter their size, this means they're fully mature. Avoid tomatillos that look withered or dried out (see photo below).

IMG_2306Once you get them home, remove the husks and rinse the tomatillos off (because they will be sticky), then use them as directed (which typically requires simmering or broiling as the first step) and/or store in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.  That said, high quality canned tomatillos are a staple in my pantry. They've already been simmered until soft -- all I have to do is thoroughly drain them. Speaking in approximations, I've deduced:

one 28-ounce can = 2 pounds fresh

New Mexico-style red & green "enchilada sauces" are both relatively simple to prepare w/the green sauce being more refined & requiring a tad (not much) more effort.

My green enchilada sauce starts out in the food processor, simmers on the stovetop, then, ends up back in the food processor at the end.  It's easy, it just takes more time than the 15 minutes it takes me to make red enchilada sauce.  I use chicken stock to make it, because I like green sauce served with chicken enchiladas, whereas I use beef stock in my red sauce, because I like it served with my recipes for beef and cheese enchiladas. In a stockpot:  Use beef, chicken or vegetable stock to make red or green enchilada sauce, depending on what filling you're making. 

Meet my Spicy Ground Beef Enchiladas:

IMG_1802Meet my Cheese Corn & Bean Enchiladas:

IMG_1917Meet my Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas:

IMG_2567"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

08/08/2017

~ New Mexico-Style Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas ~

IMG_2557Enchiladas are one of those Tex-Mex specialties that taste a bit different everywhere you eat them.  In a Mexican-American restaurant or in the home kitchen, they are lightly-fried corn tortillas that have been dipped in either a deep reddish-brown chili-powder-based sauce, or, a roasted green chile and tomatillo-based sauce.  After that, they're filled, rolled up, topped with cheese and baked.  The filling can consist of a seemingly endless variety of meats (beef, chicken or pork), fish or seafood, cheese and/or beans and/or various other vegetables (for a vegetarian option).

IMG_1803The word "enchilada" comes from the Spanish word "enchilar" which means "to add chile pepper to" as well as "to season or decorate with chile pepper".  In English, the phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing" or "the entire situation".  In Mexico, they're sold by vendors in the streets, much like hot dogs are sold in the United States.  

The practice of rolling maize (corn) tortillas around other food dates back to Mayan times.  In their IMG_1933original form, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings. There are many varieties of enchiladas, which are distinguished primarily by the sauce (most commonly a red chile and/or tomato-based sauce or a green chile and/or tomatillo sauce). That said, if you're not using corn tortillas to make your enchiladas, technically speaking, you're not making enchiladas.

IMG_1650In my Happy Valley kitchen, the two kid- and tailgate-tested favorites for my New Mexico-style Red Chile Enchilada Sauced enchiladas are ground beef, lots of onion and green chiles, and, grated cheese, black beans and sweet corn -- the two pair well together on the same plate too. The favorite filling for my New Mexico-style Green Hatch Chile Enchilada Sauced enchiladas is coarsely ground chicken, lot of onions and green Hatch chiles. There's more.  While we IMG_2385prefer our chicken enchiladas smothered in green enchilada sauce, we also prefer our green sauced-chicken enchiladas made with flour, not corn tortillas.  For authenticity sake, feel free to to use corn tortillas -- they'll turn out great.  My green enchilada sauce starts out in the food processor, simmers on the stovetop, then, ends up back in the food processor at the end.  I use chicken stock to make it, but, feel free to use beef or vegetable stock, depending upon the filling you are using.

Part One:  Making the Chicken, Onion & Green Chile Filling

IMG_2468FYI:  I make 12 cups & freeze 8 cups for two more meals.

IMG_2417For 8 cups of the chicken mixture:

2  tablespoons neutral-flavored cooking oil (avocado, canola, corn or vegetable, etc.)

3  pounds chicken tenders

12  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

16  ounces Santé Fe Seasons Hatch green chiles, hot or medium, your choice, or, canned green chiles (your favorite brand) (Note:  The Hatch green chiles I order from Apple Canyon Gourmet, are roasted and contain garlic and lime juice, instead of vinegar, which I like a lot, and, their product is far and above better than other store-bought brands.)

IMG_2420 IMG_2423Step 1.  Cut the chicken tenders into 1"-1 1/2" chunks and place them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken.  Do not over process the chicken.  

Note:  My large-capacity Cuisinart DLC-X Plus food processor easily grinds 3 pounds of meat or poultry chunks in one batch.  If using a smaller food processor, grind the chicken in 2-3 batches. 

IMG_2425 IMG_2427 IMG_2430 IMG_2433~Step 2.  Place oil and chicken in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides.  Dice the onion, adding it to pan as you work.  Add the garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Using a large spoon or spatula give the mixture a thorough stir (to incorporate onion and spices throughout).

IMG_2435 IMG_2438 IMG_2439 IMG_2441~Step 3.  Adjust heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is just cooked through, onions are very soft and there is almost no liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan, about 15-18 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary so the chicken remains steamy and moist.

IMG_2445 IMG_2448 IMG_2450~ Step 4.  Turn heat off. Add and stir the green Hatch chiles into the steaming hot meat mixture. Remove from heat. There's no need to cook the chiles, they were previously cooked during the canning process.

Go ahead, take a taste, it's scrumptious:

IMG_2455Part Two:  Assembling & Baking the Enchiladas

Before starting, it's worth mention that I use 2, 8" x 8" x 2" square casserole dishes, rather than 1, 13" x 9" x 2" dish, to make 12 enchiladas.  They fit in the two pans perfectly without squeezing them to oblivion, and, they bake up perfectly.  Next.  I don't dip my corn tortillas in the sauce, which gives them a heavy coating, because my homemade sauces are bolder-flavored than watered-down store-bought versions.  After frying the tortillas, I prefer to use a pastry brush to paint them, on both sides, with the sauce.  It works nicely.  One more item.  I fry my corn or flour tortillas one-at-a-time in a small skillet, not all-at-once on a griddle -- it controls the texture better.

IMG_2473For the assembly:

12  6"-round flour tortillas

1 1/2 cups my recipe for New Mexico's Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (store-bought enchilada sauce will be a compromise)

3  cups grated jalapeño Jack cheese

no-stick cooking spray

an array of your favorite toppings (shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, scallion tops, cilantro, Mexican crema or sour cream and/or guacamole)

IMG_2475 IMG_1967 IMG_1970 IMG_1974~Step 1.  Spray the inside of 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes with no-stick cooking spray, then, add and evenly distribute 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of each dish.  Spray the bottom of an 8" nonstick skillet with no-stick spray and place it over medium heat.  Place one flour tortilla in the skillet and spray the top of the tortilla too.  Cook the tortilla over medium heat, flipping it over once or twice, until it is soft, pliable and starts to bubble up in random spots throughout its center, about 1 1/2-2 total minutes.  Transfer the tortilla to a plate and repeat process with remaining tortillas (spraying and cooking), stacking the warm tortillas on the plate as you work.

IMG_2481 IMG_2483 IMG_2486 IMG_2488~Step 2.  Working one-tortilla-at-a-time and using a pastry brush, generously paint both sides of tortilla with enchilada sauce. Distribute 1/3 cup ground chicken filling lengthwise across the center.  Lastly, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated Jack cheese on top of the poultry.

IMG_2493 IMG_2495 IMG_2497 IMG_2501~Step 3.  Roll each enchilada up and place, seam-side-down, in baking dish.  Continue filling and rolling until six enchiladas are filled, rolled and placed side-by-side, seam-side-down, in each dish. Evenly drizzle and distribute 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce over the tops of enchiladas in each dish. Sprinkle a generous 1 cup of remaining grated cheese over the tops of enchiladas in each dish. Bake on center rack of 350° oven, until bubbling and cheese is melted, 18-20 minutes.

Bake on center rack of 350° oven, 18-20 minutes:

IMG_2519Serve ASAP w/your favorite "green stuff":

IMG_2567Go ahead, take a taste, they're scrumptious! 

IMG_2582New Mexico-Style Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas:  Recipe yields 12 cups filling (enough to fill 36 enchiladas (I freeze 8 cups, in 2, 4-cup containers, enough for two more meals)/12 enchiladas/4-6 servings/2-3 per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon &/or spatula; large slotted spoon; 8" nonstick skillet; pastry brush; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes

IMG_2177Cook's Note:  Can't make up your mind between guacamole or Mexican crema?  Whir them up together in a food processor with a bit of Sriracha sauce and give my recipe for ~  Spicy Avocado Crema: Avocado, Crema & Sriracha ~ a try. It's luxuriously smooth, refreshingly cool, and, there's just enough vinegary spice in the Sriracha to make it addictively interesting.  Live dangerously -- cha, cha, cha!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)