Papa con Chorizo Casserole

Serves 6

Serves 6

8 oz. Mexican chorizo
½ bell pepper, chopped
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (30 oz.) package frozen hash browns, thawed
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes (I used ‘mild’ here, but whichever you prefer)
1 can cream of chicken soup
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 c. panko bread crumbs

Remove casing from chorizo and crumble into skillet. Add bell pepper, onion and garlic and sauté. Drain off excess grease.

Drain potatoes in colander. Wrap them in cheesecloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. Mix Ro-tel, soup and salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Remove potatoes from cheesecloth and add to bowl. Mix well. Stir in chorizo and cheese.

Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and top with panko crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Puffy Tacos

Filling: seasoned ground beef, salsa and monterrey jack cheese

Filling: seasoned ground beef, salsa and monterrey jack cheese

“Puffy Tacos”—those words strike fear in my heart, causing me to put off doing them for this blog for more than a year. I just ‘knew’ they wouldn’t puff for me! So what exactly is a puffy taco? A puffy taco is a corn tortilla that’s fried for 30-45 seconds until it puffs up and hold its shape. Sounds simple, right?

Well, when I read that Chef Bobby Flay couldn’t get his tacos to puff up, I figured we were doomed (we being me and Bill, the master fryer). But we were bored the other day, so…we pulled out the deep fryer and went to work. You need vegetable oil about 3 inches deep in your fryer. Depending on your fryer, heat the oil to between 300 and 400 degrees.

If you read about puffy tacos, you find that professional chefs like Diana Barrios-Treviño of San Antonio say it’s all about the masa, which should be fresh. Well, I can’t get fresh masa here in Queens, so I had to use maseca (the same stuff that Bobby used). I followed the package directions:

2 cups maseca
1 1/3 c. water
¼ t. salt

Mix together to form a soft dough, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if needed until the dough will roll into balls without being too sticky. Make 16 golf ball-sized parts, and keep them covered with a damp cloth until you put them into the tortilla press. I like to line the press with plastic wrap to make removing each tortilla easier (you can hand roll them if you don’t have a tortilla press). Press until flat and not too thin. As soon as you take each tortilla out of the press, put it into the oil.

Take a spatula or a pair of kitchen tongs and gently press down into the center of the tortilla so the sides fold up into a shell as it’s puffing. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain. They should be crisp on the outside but soft within. As you can see, ours didn’t form perfect folds, but they puffed! Fill like you would any other taco and enjoy.

Papa con Huevo Enchiladas

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted red or green salsa for these enchiladas, so I made both. the family sampled both kinds and decided they preferred the red ones. But since both are quite tasty, I’ve included both salsa options and photos.

Papa Enchiladas - Red                                                                                                                            Serves 6
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
Oil for frying and dipping
6 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
12 corn tortillas
4 oz. grated monterrey jack cheese
1½-2 c. Salsa Verde or Red Chile Salsa

Fry potatoes in oil until golden brown*; beat eggs and add in. Add salt and pepper and scramble well. Dip each tortilla in oil to soften and then in hot salsa. Place in baking dish, stuff with a heaping spoonful of egg mixture and a spoonful of cheese and roll. Cover enchiladas with remaining sauce and top with grated cheese. Heat 15 minutes in 350-degree oven to melt cheese. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

*If softer potatoes are preferred, microwave the cubed potatoes for 5 minutes before frying.

Salsa Verde

Papa Enchiladas - Green2 medium bell peppers, chunked
3 (13 oz.) cans tomatillos, drained (or 2½ lbs. fresh tomatillos)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ t. cilantro
1 t. salt

If using fresh tomatillos, stew in covered saucepan with 1 cup water until soft. Combine all ingredients in blender and puree. Pour into saucepan, cover and simmer 30-40 minutes.

Red Chile Salsa

5 T. powdered chile ancho (or chili powder)
3 c. water
2 t. salt
1 T. shortening
1½ t. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. flour

Combine chile powder and water and let sit for at least an hour.

In large saucepan, heat shortening and oil over low heat. Grind garlic in molcajete and add to saucepan. Add flour and brown lightly. Add in chile mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Nachos and more…

No NachosSince Nachos, Tostadas (tortilla chips), Crispy Tacos and Chile con Queso have become part of the American food canon, it seems unnecessary to devote posts to each of them. However, for those unfamiliar with American fast food, here’s the basic lowdown.

Nachos

A basic nacho is simply quartered corn tortillas, shredded cheese (Longhorn or cheddar) and pickled jalapeños, sliced lengthwise or in rounds.

Either fry tortilla pieces in oil until crisp and drain on paper towels (which makes them Tostadas), or, place on cookie sheet and toast in oven or toaster oven. Sprinkle with cheese and top with jalapeño. Place under broiler until cheese melts.

But on menus these days, nachos are anything but basic. Some of our favorite simple additions are:
Bean Nachos: Spread with refried beans first.

Beef Nachos: Spread with refried beans, then top with shredded Carne Asada.
Things can go way beyond this however, and I’ve seen nachos with all the above and corn, whole beans, chicken, guacamole, sour cream—you name it. Just as anything can be a taco, anything can be a nacho according to your individual taste.

Crispy Tacos

For Crispy Tacos, you need taco shells—either homemade or store bought, cooked ground beef, chopped onion, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, salsa or hot sauce or taco sauce and shredded cheese.

To make your own taco shells: Heat oil in large skillet. Dunk tortillas in oil to soften, and use tongs to immediately fold in half, leaving a 1-inch opening. Fry each side until crisp, then drain on paper towels. Fill and eat.

Instead of ground beef, try these options:
• Cooked chicken or turkey
• Avocado
• Sauteed flank steak slices
• Cabrito
• Refried beans

Chile con Queso

This is the only time you will ever hear me speak about using anything other than 100% real cheese. But for Chile con Queso to be the perfect consistency, Velveeta is required. A pound of the stuff, cubed into a microwave safe bowl, and a can of Ro-Tel Tomatoes and Green Chiles (whatever level of heat you like), is all you need. Microwave and eat. For more on add-ins and stuff, see http://www.quesoforall.com/

Avocados with Garlic Salsa

Avocados with garlic salsaServes 6
3 avocados
Lime juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
2 T. crumbled bleu cheese
½ c. olive or vegetable oil
2 T. wine vinegar

Cut avocados in half and peel. Sprinkle lime juice on cut edges so they don’t turn brown. Combine remaining ingredients and chill. Spoon into chilled avocado halves or over sliced avocados.

Crispy Dogs

Crispy DogsPlain:
Frankfurters
Corn tortillas
Oil for frying

Slice franks in half length-wise. Dip tortilla in oil to soften and roll frank half up tightly in it. Fry until tortilla is crisp. Mustard or not, up to you.

Cheese:
Frankfurters
Cheddar or American cheese
Corn tortillas
Oil for frying

Split franks length-wise but do not cut completely in half. Place a length of cheese in the split and wrap the frank in a tortilla. Fry until tortilla is crisp.

Burritos

BurritosFlour tortillas
Refried beans
Picadillo**
Grated cheese (longhorn, cheddar or colby)
Oil for frying*
Shredded lettuce
Sliced tomato
Salsa

Make your own tortillas or use the large commercial ones especially for burritos. Fill heated tortillas with beans, picadillo and cheese. Fold ends in and roll to close. Fry in oil until crisp.* Drain on paper towels. Garnish with lettuce, tomato and salsa on the side.

*For a healthier option (and the one most common today), skip the frying and eat burritos after rolling, putting lettuce, tomato and salsa inside.

**I used Picadillo I, omitting the nuts and raisins.

Filetes Compuestos

Filetes compuestos6 ¼-inch thick beef filets (flank steak or well-pounded round steak)
2 T. lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
1 t. marjoram or oregano
½ t. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. grated cheddar cheese
18 pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
¼ c. sliced bell or Italian sweet peppers
6 slices toast

Sprinkle filets with lemon juice and let stand 10 minutes. Fry in oil until brown. Mix marjoram, thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle on steaks. Place each steak on a slice of toast in a pan, sprinkle with cheese, olives and peppers and place under broiler 1-2 minutes to melt cheese.

Frijole Casserole

Frijole casserole                                                                                                                                               Serves 6
1 lb. pinto beans
½ t. salt
3 cloves garlic
8 T. lard, bacon grease or shortening (ever health conscious, I used olive oil instead)
¾ lb. goat cheese, white cheddar or monterey jack

Remove any stones or debris from dry beans. Soak beans in cold water at least 2 hours (overnight is preferred). Rinse in cold water, then refill pot with water to cover beans. Add salt and garlic to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat and simmer, adding hot water as needed during cooking. Cooking time will vary with length of time beans were soaked; 3 hours is average. Or, to speed cooking, cook partially covered over high heat, adding boiling water as needed. Never allow water level to fall below top of beans. Allow beans to cool in the pot.

In skillet, heat shortening and add beans a cup at a time, mashing well. Heat through.

Thinly slice or grate cheese. In greased casserole, layer cheese and beans (3 layers of each) and bake in 350-degree oven 15 minutes or until cheese melts.

Bean Dips

Bean dip (sour cream)Sour Cream Bean Dip (pictured)

2 c. cooked pinto beans and enough juice to blend
1 t. chili powder
1 T. commercial hot sauce
3 T. minced onion
Salt to taste
1/3 c. sour cream

Combine all ingredients except sour cream in blender and blend smooth. Stir in sour cream and mix well. Serve well chilled.

Miguel’s Bean Dip

3 c. cooked pinto beans and enough juice to blend
1 T. garlic powder
2 T. chopped jalapeño pepper
1 T. chile ancho (or substitute 1 T. chili powder)

Soak a small chile ancho in boiled water in covered saucepan until rehydrated. Grind coarsely in molcajete. Combine 1 T. of the chile and remaining ingredients in blender and blend smooth.

Barbecue Bean Dip

2 c. cooked pinto beans and enough juice to blend
1 T. steak sauce (A-1 preferred)
2 pickled jalapeños, quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese

Combine all ingredients except cheese in blender and blend smooth. Put bean mixture and cheese in top of double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, until cheese melts. Serve warm or cool.