Life Gets In the Way

Back after a little break.

Sometimes life gets in the way.  For the last few weeks, it’s gotten in the way a lot.  First, I was traveling for about ten days - spending time with family over and around Independence Day.  Then, honestly, time and work just got the best of me and I didn’t manage to get a newsletter together for last week. 

Part of life that’s gotten in the way is the new project I’ve been working on for the past few months. 

Another part is just … well, I’m just tired.     This summer’s just taken it out of me.  It’s my habit to talk about the weather, and this week’s edition won’t really be an exception.  It’s like a thousand degrees outside.  I don’t really want to turn on the oven.  Hell, I don’t really want to leave this cold dark corner where my desk is set up. But for you, dear reader I will … um, did.  For a little while.  Not for very long.  It really is extremely uncomfortably unpleasantly hot.  Like 1970’s stuck to the plastic covered seat of a station wagon kind of uncomfortably unpleasantly hot.

So, all that above basically serves as an apology. An apology for not getting my act together last week, and an apology for the somewhat truncated, somewhat lackadaisical nature of this week’s effort.  This week’s menu is a not-quite-Mexican inspired chicken because I had a chicken and – did I mention – it’s hot? 

Elotes Style Corn Salad

Elotes - Mexican street corn -  is delicious.  The perfect marriage of sweet, salty, toasty and vegetal … well, it’s good.  It’s really really extra good.   It’s also messy, and it’s best from a cart just outside an unsophisticated bar/beer garden with a gravel “patio” at an unspeakably late or unspeakably early hour where you’re neither  going to care or notice how much of it has ended up on your shirt.  It’ll be a lot.  A lot of it will end up on your shirt.  Trust me.  I have tested this repeatedly.

This “salad” is really just a cold or room temperature take on Elotes.  The kernels are cut from the cob and you can serve it cold or at room temperature, but otherwise we’re working with the same flavors.  Lime for acid, crumbly cheese for salt, and a little mayonnaise to help that salt and acid adhere to the crunchy, sweet, slightly charred kernels.  That’s it.  You can even dribble some of it onto your shirt for that authentic experience.  I know I will.  Even if I’m not trying.

4 pieces of on the cob corn
4 tbsp crumbled Cotillo or feta cheese
1 serrano pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp good quality mayonnaise
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro plus more for garnish
1 tsp kosher salt

Sliced red chilies for garnish.

Shuck the corn, taking extra care to remove any cornsilk.

Grill or broil the corn until just barely charred.

Once the corn has cooled, use a sharp knife to remove the kernels from the cobs, and discard the cob.

Mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, and crumbled cheese.

Fold into the corn mixture along with the chopped cilantro.

Garnish with cilantro leaves and sliced chilies.

Pan Fried Fingerling Potatoes with Chipotle Cream

This method for cooking fingerling potatoes has become a favorite of mine of late.  It gives you a lot of the texture and taste of oven roasted potatoes without using the oven.  Which is good. Because as I mentioned above, it’s melt-the-soles-of-your-shoes-hot this summer and while our 100-plus year-old house does have air conditioning, it seems to have a “meh, good enough” outlook on doing its job.  So instead of using the oven, I simmer the potatoes in salted water spiked with baking soda until tender, then crisp them up in a pan.  The added baking soda gives the cut face of the potato a rough texture which makes them a lot crisper.  

1 lb fingerling potatoes
½ cup Greek style yogurt
2 tbsp finely chopped chipotles in adobo
1 tsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt

Wash the potatoes and slice in half lengthwise.

Prepare a pot of salted boiling water large enough to hold the potatoes.

Add the potatoes and baking soda to the water and cook until just tender.

Remove from the water, allow to drain, and drizzle with olive oil.

Once cooled enough to handle, add the potatoes and oil to a nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet cut side down and cook over medium heat until browned. 

Turn, and cook lightly on the skin side.

Mix the yogurt, finely chopped chipotles, and lime juice together.

Spoon or pipe the chipotle cream over the hot potatoes or use as a dip on the side.

Garnish with cilantro or other herbs.

Chipotle- Lime Glazed Chicken

1 whole chicken
1 can chipotles in adobo
Juice of 2 limes
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp kosher salt

Cut away the backbone of the chicken and lay flat - skin side up - on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack.

Prepare a pot or kettle of boiling water.

Pour the boiling water over the skin of the chicken.  This will tighten the skin.

Season both sides of the chicken with kosher salt.

Optionally, place the chicken in the refrigerator and allow it to rest uncovered for at least two hours and up to overnight.  This will help dry the skin out and make it crisper when cooked.

Separate the liquid from the chilies in the can of peppers, reserve the peppers for later use (like in the potato dish above.)

Mix the honey, lime juice, and the liquid from the peppers, and brush generously over the skin of the chicken.  Allow to dry uncovered in the refrigerator, then repeat until all the glaze is used.

Grill, broil, or roast at 400°F until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165°F.

Garnish with cilantro, freshly sliced onion, and lime.

Sopapillas

Fried dough may be the true pinnacle of the culinary arts.  Who - other than cardiologists - doesn’t love fried dough?   This quick take on Sopapillas has the advantage of being fried dough – which both means they’re awesome – and that they don’t require you to turn on the oven.  Sure, you might end up with a few spatter burns, but that one room in your house that never cools down won’t get any hotter from sharing your living space with a box full of fire.

2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp kosher salt

Confectioners’ sugar for garnish

Additional honey for garnish

Neutral oil, lard, or shortening for frying.

Add flour all ingredients except the garnishes to the bowl of a food processor or mixer and process until a rough dough has formed.

Cover the dough, or put it in a plastic zip top bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough and cut into triangles – about 3 inches on the longest side.

Set up your fryer and fry at ~350°F until browned, on both sides, turning once.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar, grate some fresh cinnamon over the top, drizzle with honey, and serve warm.