Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Creamy Poblano-Tortilla Casserole

What's your favorite kind of vacation? Do you like to relax all day? Visit a new city? An action packed adventurous trip?

While I love island and beach vacations, I'm not a fan of sitting on the beach all day. I can take a few hours of it here and there, especially at the pool when there is a swim-up bar, but I'd much rather get out and explore, eat where the locals eat, and bar-hop around the island (oh how I miss St. John for that!!). Luckily my husband has the same vacation philosophy, so we have taken some great trips together.

My best vacation memories usually revolve around food, and two of my favorite food destinations (besides Vegas), have been in Mexico. Every time we make Mexican food at home, we reminisce about the Love Shack in Cabo - a family run "dive bar" with grandmom cooking in the kitchen (literally, the family's grandmother was in the kitchen cooking all of the food... amazing food!). And then there were the street tacos in Playa del Carmen - I could eat them every day and dream of going back just for those tacos. And how could I forget breakfast on the water in Cabo while watching the whales migrate - of course chilaquilies were on my plate. See, it always comes back to food. I may not remember what we learned on a tour, but I sure as hell could tell you where we ate that day and what we had.

I've recreated a lot of these dishes at home, but still have chilaquilies on my "must make soon" list. As soon as I saw Josie's post for this Creamy Poblano-Tortilla Casserole and read through the ingredients and directions, I knew it would satisfy by chilaquilies craving. Crisp tortilla chips softened by a savory cheesy sauce and packed full of peppers, tomatoes and onions? Yes, please.

This dish can take some time to pull together, but that's probably because I made it all at once (and the three year old was a bit crazy this afternoon so I did have to step away from the stove a few times). You could certainly do some prep earlier, like make the chips or roast the peppers. Alternatively, you could buy your own corn tortilla chips, but honestly there's nothing like chips made from soft corn tortillas.

Whatever you do, just make this. The flavors took me right back to Cabo, the cheese sauce was creamy and salty and gooey, the filling was bright yet slightly spicy, and the chips were soggy in the best possible way. As soon as I had my first bite I decided that I'd be eating seconds, and then I'd have the rest alongside some scrambled eggs the next morning. And that's exactly what I did. I think I'd even make this one again JUST to be able to have it the next day for breakfast! Think deconstructed huevos rancheros.

 Josie, thank you so much for making and sharing this recipe!

Creamy Poblano-Tortilla Casserole
Source:  Pink Parsley (originally adapted from Gourmet Today)

Filling Ingredients
  • 9 (6- to 7-inch) corn tortillas
  • 3/4  pound poblano chiles, roasted and peeled (about 3 large poblano peppers)
  • 2  Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2  cups chopped white onions
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1  (14- to 15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Sauce and Topping Ingredients
  • 2  Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2  Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2  cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated  Monterey Jack cheese 
  • 1/2  tsp salt
  • 1/4  tsp pepper


Toast the tortilla wedges: Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Stack tortillas and cut into 8 wedges. Spread tortilla triangles in one layer on two large baking sheets and bake, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until crisp and pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool tortillas, and leave the oven on.
Prepare the chiles: Open chiles and spread flat; discard seeds and stems and cut out ribs. Cut chiles lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Reserve about 1/4 cup for garnish, and roughly chop those strips into small pieces.

Make the filling: Heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Add onions, jalapeño, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in salt, tomatoes with juice, and remaining poblano strips and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.
Make the sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over  medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream, whisking, and continue to cook and cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually add 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until cheese is melted, then add salt and pepper.

Assemble and bake: Arrange half of the tortillas in a greased 2-quart baking dish. Spoon filling evenly over top. Cover with remaining tortillas. Pour sauce over tortillas (tips of tortillas will stick up) and sprinkle with the remaining cup of cheese and reserved poblanos.  Bake, uncovered, in the upper third of oven until gratin is bubbling and top is golden, about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Grilled Orange-Soy Chicken

Last week we had our first peek at spring and it was glorious! 70s, sunny and low humidity - I could take a few more months of this before the heat and humidity settle in.

Grilling last week was a must so I put together a quick marinade for chicken. It was sweet and spicy with hints of citrus - just perfectly light and fresh for a warm day.

Grilled Orange-Soy Chicken
Original recipe

For 2 large boneless chicken breasts:
  • 1/4 c light olive oil
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour over chicken. Cover and place in fridge for 8 hours until ready to grill.

Jon grilled the chicken over medium high heat until the internal temperature reached 165. The marinade caramelized on the chicken a bit, creating a crispy glaze, and the chicken stayed moist on the inside. We let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before eating it.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Seared Scallops with Garlic Chile Butter

I need to let you know that I can't take credit for these scallops... I may have found the recipe, but my husband is the one who executed them perfectly. From making clarified butter and expertly searing the scallops to the perfectly seasoned sauce and beautiful plate, complete with garnish, it was all him.

You may remember that I'm not a big seafood eater but I do try it whenever Jon orders it at a restaurant, and we sometimes cook it at home. Several months ago he had a really good ceviche at a restaurant and I couldn't get enough of the scallops - I've been wanting to try making them at home ever since. A few weeks later a recipe popped up in my feed that I immediately bookmarked - this one for Seared Scallops with Garlic Chile Butter comes from one of my favorite blogs, Annie's Eats. So when Jon suggested scallops on Saturday, I immediately pulled out that recipe.

He's the one with experience cooking scallops and most seafood, so he took over this one. I love that he likes to cook and that he's good at it, and boy did he impress with this one!

The first step in the recipe was to clarify your butter - clarified butter doesn't burn as fast as regular butter so it's great for sauteeing. This is something that neither of us had done before, so he looked up a few different methods. He ended up melting the unsalted butter in a pan and then skimming off as much of the foam (milk solids) that he could. Then he poured what remained in the pan (the clear golden liquid)  through a coffee filter that he put in a small mess strainer. He got about 4 Tbsp of clarified butter out of one 8 Tbsp stick.

 Once that step was done, the recipe was a really quick and easy one. The scallops cook in just a few minutes, and the sauce also took only a few minutes to make. I loved the crust on the scallops, but the sauce is what made this dish - slightly sweet, spicy, and aromatic from the garlic. The original recipe called for a sweet chile sauce but he used Sriracha and I'm glad he did - the sauce would have been to sweet on naturally sweet tasting scallops. The only change he'd make next time is the put the garlic through a garlic press instead of mincing it. Otherwise this recipe is perfect.
Seared Scallops with Garlic Chile Butter
Source: Annie's Eats
  • 1.5 lbs sea scallops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ tbsp. sweet chile sauce (note: we used Sriracha sauce for some heat
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. clarified butter (see method above)
  • ¼ cup white wine, such as sauvignon blanc (we used Chardonnay)
  • Pat the scallops dry on both sides with paper towels.  Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper. Set aside
  • In a small bowl, combine the room temperature butter, chile sauce (Sriracha) and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and mix together until evenly blended.  Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Add the clarified butter and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the scallops to the pan in a single layer and let cook without flipping or stirring for 2 minutes. Flip the scallops over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, just until cooked through. Remove the scallops to a plate.  (Jon's note - start with less butter as the scallops release a lot of water when they cook. You don't want your pan so full of liquid that you can't get a good sear on the scallops).
  • Add the wine to the now empty pan to deglaze any browned bits from the bottom.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  When the wine has mostly bubbled off, add in the chile butter mixture and stir until just melted.  
  • Serve the scallops warm with a bit of the butter sauce drizzled over the top.