Friday, November 30, 2007

Steamed Clams in White Wine Cream Sauce

Okay, so this isn't my dish. It's just a giant barrier reef clam that looks like she's puckering up to make sweet sweet love to you. Then devour you whole.

My dish had itty bitty littleneck clams, 30 to be exact, and that fed two people with a side dish of salad and roasted veggies. Next time I'm going to add shallots or sweet onions to this dish to give the sauce a little more body--it tasted great, but since it is served with garlic bread, the sauce should be more robust.

30 littleneck clams (other varieties are fine)
1.5 cups dry white wine
3 tbsp butter or extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced/smashed (and, as I suggested, some diced shallots or onions)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
garlic bread

Sautee the garlic and/or onions in the butter, stopping them from burning with the white wine, then throw in the clams and cover to simmer for 10-15 min. Scoop out clams and ladle them into your serving bowls, then finish the sauce by adding the cream and cooking it down to a slightly thick sauce. I added a little cornstarch to thicken mine. Ladle sauce back over the clams and serve with the bread.

It was actually pretty darn good. Next time I'll probably try a bigger clam, and maybe just butter and wine, and try to thicken it without all the extra fat. But hell, we ate it with a salad and roasted cauliflower, how freakin' healthy is that?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cocina de Consuela

Yesterday I ate at Cocina de Consuela, a place I had not liked when it first opened (limited menu, no seating yet!) but which has obviously grown considerably. The menu can be viewed here:

I can't wait to go back. As opposed to my first visit, we had a nice rustic little table, chips and very good salsa, and a broad selection. I had the spinach and mushroom enchilada with green tomatillo sauce and black beans, and a nopalito salad that seemed to have cotija cheese in it. Delicious. Everything was fresh, the tortillas were homemade, and the tomatillo sauce had a lightly tart bite to it. I'm dying to try the queso fresco enchiladas with ancho sauce, as well as the barbacoa.

If you're an Austinite or might be visiting, head to this little cafe at 4516 Burnet Road, next to the Uppity Crusty Bakery where 45th crosses Burnet. But visit her site first, the hours are only just past lunch!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rellenos Pequenas (or, miniature Mexican food)

At one of our local farmer’s markets, the fabulous Boggy Creek Farms (, I found these small, organically grown poblano chiles. Poblanos are ideal for chile rellenos, but bigger is better: as any good Texan knows, the more crap you can stuff into a chile and deep-fry, the happier we all will be.
For my healthier version, I stuffed these little guys with seasoned cotija cheese (doesn’t the pepper on the left look like he’s flashing you?), then baked them with bread crumbs to make it taste crunchy-fried. The pecan cream sauce on top was made from my family’s pecan tree crop, and was seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, and family values. Not really.

Rellenos Pequenas with Pecan Sauce(sauce recipe below)

8 small poblanos

Cotija cheese (about ¾ cup crumbled)

  • 1 jalapeno, diced and mixed into the cheese *skip this if you’re a wuss*
  • dash of cumin and salt in the cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup Panko (japanese bread crumbs)

The best part of making rellenos is burning the skin off your chiles. This is a healthy form of releasing aggression, just like yoga. You leave the chiles on a burning stovetop (gas or electric) and let them blister till blackened, ~5 min with turning. Throw in a plastic bag and seal, leave for ~30 min. This steams the skin loose and makes it easy to peel off. Or, if you’re lazy like me, a clean scour pad skins them like a champ.

After they’re cleaned, make a cut on the top to create a pocket inside, and stuff with 1tbsp each of cheese. Stuff all and press skins tight to the cheese to seal. Dredge in flour, then egg, then lay in an oiled cast iron skillet. Press the panko into the egg coating on each.

Bake at 450° till breadcrumbs brown lightly (~15-20 min).

Pecan Sauce:

  • ½ c pecans, 2 cloves garlic, ¾ c heavy cream

Puree ½ cup pecans and 2 cloves garlic till mealy. In a skillet with 1bsp olive oil/ marg/butter, brown this mixture while adding 2 pinches salt and a dash of cumin and cinnamon. Add cream and simmer till thickened and light brown. Mine needed cornstarch to thicken; different brands of heavy cream have different levels of heart-clogginess.

In the center of the dish is the majick-leftover-salsa-rice from my last post.

A Little Prep Work

Yeah, it sucks, cooking well often takes time. But incorporating leftovers into my plan for the next meal can make my life 12 kinds of easier. Taste testers don't know the difference anyway. Suckers.

To that end, here's the salsa I've been perfecting, which after a few days became the solution to the age-old problem: I need Spanish rice now and I don't have that mix in the yellow bag.
I added this, plus some corn, to brown rice. Which actually means it was preservative free, veggie & fiber rich, and darn tasty to boot*.

Roasted Ancho Salsa:

3 dried ancho peppers, rehydrated with ½ cup boiling water

3-4 medium size tomatoes, quartered

½ medium size white onion, sliced

1 jalapeno, sliced in half and seeded

handful of fresh cilantro

1 large clove of garlic

Roast tomatoes, garlic, onion, and jalapeno at 450° till tomatoes are charred, skin mostly blackened (about 15-20 min). Remove from oven, cool, and then dump everything in a food processor. Blend till it reaches a consistency you like, adding 1-2 tsp salt and the cilantro towards the end. Should be the color of barbecue sauce, a dark red. Spiciness will improve overnight (refrigerate of course).

*does anyone know where that phrase originated? I mean, when did we decide that instead of "indeed" or "also" we would say "to BOOT!"?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Silver's As Good As Gold

I won second prize for the pumpkin lasagna: $25 gift certificate to Williams Sonoma and the humbling knowledge that first place was awarded to a dish of collard greens and cornbread. God bless home cookin'.