Scallions, scapes bring more savor to rhubarb

The salad recipe featured in this blog’s previous post drew some rave reviews from weekend guests.

The reception perhaps owed something to our friends’ status as home gardeners, although rhubarb is not a crop they cultivate. But I like to think it was the ideal intersection of velvety greens, earthy nuts, salty cheese and a sweet-tart vinaigrette that went a long way toward taming the rhubarb, still assertively sour when I pulled roasted slices from the oven. Voila: A new signature dish for my repertoire.

Of course, I couldn’t be expected to follow the recipe to the letter, not when I had plenty of acceptable — even preferable — substitutes on hand. Like so many dishes, this salad is really more about concept.

Romaine and butterhead lettuces, with a bit of mesclun, all from my own garden, replaced the watercress. I mixed up a balsamic vinaigrette rather than sherry vinegar. My favorite Israeli sheep-milk feta makes for a superior alternative here to goat cheese. And because I had candied pecans on hand, those were an obvious addition, rather than walnuts.

I toyed with the notion of adding garden-fresh scallions, rather than the recipe’s shallots, but didn’t want to upset the balance of key ingredients. Because of their proliferation around the garden, scallions manage to insinuate themselves into so many meals this time of year.

Knowing full well that I had the following recipe at my disposal, I decided to wait a few meals and give scallions their due. This chicken dish also would befit my garlic scapes, rather than the green garlic suggested in the recipe.

Tribune News Service writers are adamant that, despite the sauce’s greenish hue, this is another company-worthy dish.

Tribune News Service photo

Skillet Chicken With Rhubarb

5 1/2-pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon black pepper, more as needed

5 fresh thyme sprigs, preferably lemon thyme

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch spring onions or scallions, white and light-green stalks thinly sliced (slice and reserve greens for garnish)

2 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced, or 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)

1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Pat the chicken dry and season with 1 tablespoon of the salt and the pepper. Place in a bowl with the thyme sprigs and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Remove thyme from bowl with chicken, reserving thyme. Add chicken pieces to skillet and sear, turning occasionally, until golden-brown all over, for about 10 minutes. Transfer pieces to a platter.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir in the onion (white and light-green parts) and cook until softened, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and reserved thyme; cook 1 minute more. Stir in the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits in bottom of pan. Add the rhubarb, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Return chicken pieces to pot in a single layer. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, for 15 to 20 minutes for breasts and 20 to 25 minutes for legs and thighs, transferring chicken pieces to a platter as they finish cooking.

Whisk the butter into rhubarb sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with sliced onion greens.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe from Melissa Clark, New York Times

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Roasting rhubarb riffs on beet-goat cheese salad

Pickled rhubarb, covered in this blog’s previous post, is a delicious addition to salads. Think frisee, blanched asparagus or chopped Belgian endive topped with a poached egg.

But quickly sauteing or roasting rhubarb brings out just a hint of sweetness in the vegetable while softening it. The technique, in combination with goat cheese and toasted walnuts, produces a play on the good, old roasted-beet salad that’s almost achieved ubiquity, as a March post acknowledged.

This recipe, courtesy of Tribune News Service, has all the visual appeal of rosy, roasted beets but a lighter, brighter flavor.

Tribune News Service photo

Roasted Rhubarb Salad

8 ounces rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoon thinly sliced shallot

2 teaspoons minced, fresh tarragon

1 pound watercress, tough stems removed

1/4 cup toasted chopped walnut

3 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss together the rhubarb, syrup and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet and roast in preheated oven until rhubarb is tender, for 7 to 10 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt, shallot and tarragon. Whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons of oil.

In a large bowl, combine watercress, walnuts and rhubarb. Gently toss in the goat cheese and dressing.

Makes 6 servings.

— Recipe from “Fruitful: Four Seasons of Fresh Fruit Recipes” by Brian Nicholson and Sarah Huck (Running Press, 2014, $27.50).

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Pucker up for quick rhubarb-celery-berry pickle

Its nickname, fittingly, is pie plant. And in the pantheon of pie fillings, rhubarb ranks right up there for me.

Indifferent baker that I am, I managed to cobble together a strawberry-rhubarb crostata on the fly as lamb shanks simmered away in my Crock-Pot earlier this week. Slice the fruit, toss it with some sugar, almond extract and a sprinkle of corn starch and dump the lot onto a circle of pastry dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Fold up the edges, pleating them as you go and bake at about 375 F.

The method is ideal for fairly small quantities of fruit that the cook didn’t bother to measure. There’s no need to worry that the filling won’t top off the pie plate. This less-refined cousin of a fruit tart is supposed to look rustic. I still take an extra minute or two, though, to glaze the fruit with melted redcurrant jelly and brush the crust with egg wash, then sprinkle it with coarse sugar.

More such dishes likely are in store all month, as the rhubarb outpaces almost everything else in my springtime garden. If you aren’t a gardener or farmers-market shopper, you probably don’t give much thought to this perennial vegetable related to celery.

But you should. Rhubarb is a specialty of the Pacific Northwest, where the wet climate and wintertime temperatures around 40 degrees make for reliable commercial production. For that reason, Oregon and Washington supply almost all of the country’s field-grown rhubarb. Read more about its cultivation, characteristics and culinary history in a 2012 column I wrote for the Mail Tribune’s erstwhile HomeLife magazine.

Rhubarb’s nutritional profile also recommends it. High in vitamins C and K, it’s also a good source of dietary fiber and one of nature’s top plant sources of calcium. No wonder rhubarb was used for at least 1,000 years medicinally before it was embraced as a food, particularly during cold weather when little other fresh produce was available.

If you lack just the right inspiration for a bundle of rhubarb, don’t worry about rushing to prepare it. Stored in a plastic bag, rhubarb will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to three weeks; it also can be cut up and frozen for up to a year. (Freeze individual pieces separately on a tray before placing them in a bag to keep them loose.)

This blog’s previous post touted rhubarb’s sweet and savory sides, specifically pickling and tossing into salads. But after coming into a new crop of recipes, I’m inclined to share.

Let’s start with more on pickling. To complement the simple method already mentioned, here’s another quick pickle combining strawberries and celery. Tribune News Service suggests serving this condiment with cheese, charcuterie or anything that could use some color and punch.

Tribune News Service photo

Pickled Rhubarb

1 cup apple-cider vinegar

2/3 cup white-wine vinegar

6 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound rhubarb, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

8 ounces celery, sliced 1/8 inch thick

8 ounces strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 cups water with the vinegars, sugar, salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. In large bowl, toss the rhubarb, celery and strawberries. Pour simmering liquid over vegetables and stir to mix well. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate, uncovered, overnight to let flavors meld before serving. Pickle will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 4 cups.

— Recipe from “Made in America: A Modern Collection of Classic Recipes” by Colby and Megan Garrelts (Andrews McMeel, April 2015, $21.99).

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Rhubarb’s sour stalks have surprising savory side

Tribune News Service photo

The most recent post to this blog played into most cooks’ penchant for using rhubarb in sweet condiments and desserts.

While the pucker-provoking stalks do indeed go with strawberries like peanut butter with jelly, they have a surprisingly savory side, one I’ve come to appreciate. In the past few years, I’ve quick-pickled rhubarb for salads and quickly sautéed it in bacon drippings.

Most recently, I let the stalks simmer a bit longer in some vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce and Sriracha sauce to create a warm dressing for shredded cabbage topped with ground turkey cooked in some lemon-grass paste. My guess was that rhubarb’s sourness would add that essential note to a dish inspired by Southeast Asian food. Next time, I’ll add a splash of tamarind liquid and sprinkling of brown sugar.

Incorporating vinegar, teriyaki sauce and tart fruit juice, here’s a recipe in that vein from the Chicago Tribune. It’s ready in 40 minutes.

Pork Tenderloin With Rhubarb Sauce

2 pounds pork tenderloin

1/2 cup bottled teriyaki sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup rhubarb (2 to 3 stalks), finely chopped

1/4 cup minced sweet onion

1/3 cup pomegranate or tart cherry juice

1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar

1/2 cup apricot preserves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Put the tenderloins in a zip-close, plastic, food-storage bag; pour in the teriyaki sauce. Squeeze out air; seal. Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Remove tenderloins from marinade, discarding marinade. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add tenderloins. Cook, turning, to brown all sides, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a hot grill or roasting pan in a 350-degree oven; cook until internal temperature reaches 150-160 F, for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in skillet used for pork, saute the rhubarb and onion in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender, for about 5 minutes. Add the juice and vinegar, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan and incorporating them into sauce. Melt preserves into sauce mixture, stirring to combine. Season with the salt and pepper. Cook to reduce sauce to desired consistency. Makes about 1 cup sauce.

Serve the tenderloins, sliced, topped with plenty of sauce. Makes 4 servings.

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Fruity french toast makes Mom’s, or anyone’s, day

It’s true. There’s no one quite like Mom. And now that I am one, the significance of what begins as the world’s closest relationship truly makes sense.

But so many other close relationships make life rich. I’m fortunate to have a mother-in-law who is close in proximity (readers of this blog may recall that she lives next door) but also close in spirit. She and I have shared a kinship from our first meeting that has developed over 12 years into a real friendship.

Even though my husband couldn’t share a Sunday outing with our little boy, I didn’t spare a moment’s hesitation for inviting Ann to Medford’s Railroad Park. And when I suggest a morning get-together, breakfast is foremost in my mind.

Because Ann and I had been admiring the luxurious growth of rhubarb in the garden that we co-cultivate, I wanted to highlight the rosy stalks. A quick compote pairing rhubarb and strawberries is one of my favorite toppings for french toast, particularly sandwiched with a ginger spread produced by The Ginger People. Ann was skeptical about the spread but ultimately agreed that it was a fine accent to the other flavors.

While my own mom is a french-toast fan, food allergies prevent her from eating rhubarb. So next time we have the occasion to plan a family breakfast, particularly with make-ahead dishes, I’ll suggest this version, which plays almost like bread pudding, another of Mom’s favorites.

Employment at a breakfast restaurant ensures that my mom has a never-ending supply of blueberry syrup, should she want it. But like fruit compote, it’s simple and straightforward to make at home.

Simmer blueberries (frozen actually works better here) with half as much sugar and a quarter the quantity of water to berries. Blend the mixture and, if you want a really smooth sauce, push it through a fine-mesh sieve.

Blueberry-Lemon-Coconut French Toast

1 loaf white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup shredded coconut

5 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk or coconut milk

1/4 cup grade-A maple syrup

Zest of 1 large, organic lemon

1/8 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread cubes, coconut and blueberries. Place in a large baking dish.

In a medium bowl, the whisk eggs, milk or coconut milk, maple syrup, lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon and vanilla. Pour mixture evenly over bread in baking dish.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until golden-brown. Serve with blueberry syrup.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipe courtesy of Tribune News Service, from food blogger Kindra Franzen (

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Sorry, Mom, there’s more than one beef stroganoff

Just in time for Mother’s Day, some friends and fellow foodies shared fond memories on my Facebook page of family-heirloom recipes and cookbooks.

Over the years, this blog has been a repository for a few family-favorite dishes. Kugel, banana bread, popcorn balls, Japanese Chicken and Texas Pecan Candy Cake are sentimental specialties of my mother and both grandmothers.

Strangely, of the recipes that long epitomized my mom’s cooking, one has never arisen in these posts, until now. It must be because I lost my taste for beef before leaving home. Or because my mom started cooking lighter fare, partly in response to my requests. So that left fewer nights for sausage-laden lasagna, sloppy Joes and, my dad’s favorite, beef stroganoff.

Swimming in a salty sauce of sour cream and tomato paste (or ketchup), beef stroganoff obviously is high in fat, calories and sodium. Just what my logger dad needed after a day of hiking around the woods.

I don’t object to using full-fat foods in my kitchen per se. But cutting back on the convenience-food ingredients almost always improves the nutrition profile of a dish.

In their bid to make over beef stroganoff, recipe testers for the Detroit Free Press chose light sour cream, low-sodium beef broth and no-yolk egg noodles. Rice also can be substituted for serving, although I was always a bigger fan of the buttery noodles than the meat.

Remember to keep the heat low when adding the sour cream, or the sauce will curdle. And don’t forget to serve this 30-minute dish with a steamed vegetable, such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts, like any good mom would.

Tribune News Service photo

Quick and Easy Beef Stroganoff

4 cups uncooked, medium, no-yolk noodles (about 8 ounces)

1 cup reduced-sodium, fat-free beef broth

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided

Cooking spray, as needed

1 pound boneless sirloin steak (about ½ inch thick)

1 cup chopped onion

1 (8-ounce) package presliced cremini mushrooms

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley

Cook the noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and oil. While noodles cook, whisk the beef broth in a medium bowl with the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper.

Spray a Dutch oven or large pot with some of the cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with remaining salt and pepper. Add beef to pan and cook for 3 1/2 minutes. Remove from pan.

Add the onion and mushrooms to pan; sauté for 3 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Stir in the flour; cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Stir in broth mixture; cook for 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring continuously.

Cut beef into thin strips; return to pan. Stir in cooked pasta, the sour cream and parsley; cook for 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

Makes 5 servings.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine’s September 2002 issue.

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Teatime is anytime when recipes brew new dishes

Cooking with tea isn’t a novel concept for this blog or A la Carte. But this week’s food-section story was steeped in some intriguing new ways to enjoy the brew. Recipes with tea also have accompanied a previous post on pairing tea — like wine — with foods.

Adding matcha powder imparts a “je ne sais quoi” and unexpected verdant hue to some baked goods, including shortbread cookies from “Steeped: Recipes Infused With Tea.” And ingesting the entire, finely ground leaf, rather than the usual steeped tea, delivers a concentrated dose of the plentiful antioxidants and nutrients found in green tea.

So once you’ve purchased a container of matcha, keep experimenting while the tea is fresh and all its beneficial properties intact. For special tea-tastings and lectures, as well as the most extensive selection locally, stop into Ashland’s Spice & Tea Exchange.

Here’s another recipe that also would make a delicious snack with tea. It’s adapted by Tribune News Service from a recipe by Kiss Me Organics.

And if all this talk of tea makes you thirst for a proper teatime, a few spaces remain for a special event at The Willows Cooking School in Central Point. Chef Sandy Dowling plans to host a little girls’ tea party at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 17. The cost is $50 per child-adult pair.

Tribune News Service photo

Cran-Lemon Tea Muffins

2 cups white whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons matcha green-tea powder

2 eggs

Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup coconut oil, melted (may substitute butter for a richer taste)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a muffin pan with cooking spray or paper muffin cups.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and matcha powder. In another bowl, combine the eggs, lemon juice and zest, honey and buttermilk. Pour wet mixture into dry, then gently mix in the melted coconut oil. Fold in the cranberries. Batter will be lumpy.

Scoop an equal amount of mixture into each muffin cup and bake in preheated oven 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a rack about 10 minutes and then serve.

Makes 12 muffins.

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Variations on potato patties please brunch palates

The topic was brunch. But I was surprised that morning exercise or other physical activity did not come up in a recent interview with personal trainer and cooking instructor Tiazza Rose.

Relaxing with family and friends, rather than squeezing in a workout before breakfast, is behind Rose’s concept for a sold-out Mother’s Day brunch at Ashland Food Co-op. In deference to health-conscious guests, Rose says she is planning some green smoothies to offset brunch cocktails. A fair number of participants likely will reach for both.

Cocktails aside, brunch is a kid-friendly family gathering that appeals to a wide range of ages, says Rose. I couldn’t agree more. When a low-key celebration is in order with family, I usually make it brunch. My son’s second birthday provided the most recent occasion at an hour when a birthday-cake chaser to eggs and potatoes doesn’t seem odd.

Like other cooking instructors quoted in this week’s story for A la Carte, I have my go-to roster of make-ahead brunch favorites. Whether served as frittata, quiche or some other preassembled and baked dish, eggs are a must.

Potatoes, in my mind, are discretionary, but most of my family love them. I compromised for my son’s birthday with curried sweet-potato patties, enhanced with a bit of roasted parsnip and served with cumin-spiced sour cream.

Although I executed the entire dish that morning, potato patties easily can be mixed up and formed the night before a brunch, fried and then kept hot in the oven until ready to serve. Amazingly, my husband who has made his ambivalence for curry known, proclaimed them his favorite potato patty ever!

Since that success, I’ve been awaiting my next brunch opportunity to make these patties with leeks, one of our staple vegetables, and one my son has consumed when disguised in a quiche filling. The recipe’s use of matzo meal is a nod to its place at a Passover brunch. Otherwise, panko, which I used in my sweet-potato cakes, or any cracker crumbs could be substituted.

Tribune News Service photo

Greek Leek Patties

2 pounds leeks

2 large boiling potatoes (not russets), peeled

3 large eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons matzo meal

1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Vegetable oil, for frying

Wash the leeks carefully, slicing them vertically to remove all grit. Dice white base and palest green part of leaves. Parboil in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain.

Boil the potatoes until they are soft. Drain and cool. Using a potato masher or food processor, mash potatoes. Add leeks, blending them in well. Add the eggs, matzo meal, cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Form this mixture into 12 patties.

In a heavy frying pan over medium high heat, pour oil ½ inch deep. When oil reaches 375 F, drop patties into oil, 2 or 3 per batch. Fry until golden-brown on each side. Drain on paper towels.

Makes 12 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from “Jewish Holiday Cookbook,” by Joan Nathan.

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‘Good’ sushi may be more rare than real wasabi

Photos of yellowfin tuna sashimi and raw Kumamoto oysters depicted the “joy” of real wasabi in this week’s A la Carte.

If only there was more joy around so-called sushi, which the mainstream American palate has transformed into another kind of junk food, stuffed with cream cheese and spicy mayonnaise, sometimes deep-fried, to mask the texture and flavor (or lack of) found in inferior fish.

I don’t expect “real” sushi in the Rogue Valley, so close in geography to the ocean yet so far from coastal food culture, any more than I expect superior interpretations of other seafood. But cities like Portland … Let’s just say that a friend visiting from Japan was hard-pressed to ferret out satisfactory sushi in that foodie city long known for fresh, Pacific Northwest fish.

Shoko even shyly implied that a long-standing dispute between my husband and I over the characteristics of “good” sushi had more merits on my side. I don’t like to belabor the point, but as a South Coast native, I expect fresh, wild-caught, properly handled fish, even more so in sushi.

A piece on this very topic recently ran in Newsday. While freshness, indeed, is paramount, training of chefs, like any culinary professionals, is sushi’s make-or-break factor, writes Erica Marcus. She, in turn, cites “The Sushi Experience” (Knopf, 2006), by Hiroko Shimbo, who explains that a sushi chef must have “detailed knowledge of the biochemical changes in seafood after it is slaughtered.” Understanding and controlling this process allows the chef to serve each fish “not just within a window of safety but when it tastes most delicious.”

That’s in addition to spending years learning the proper preparation of “sumeshi,” or sushi rice: Using a bamboo paddle, warm white rice is carefully blended with rice vinegar, sugar and sea salt. During this operation, the rice is fanned (often by an apprentice) to cool it down and give it a nice shine. The resulting grains should cohere, but they should not be mushy or bloated. Nor should sushi rice be served cold but rather somewhere between 90 and 100 F.

Speaking of temperature, cold is the enemy of sushi because it dulls flavors that should be subtle. Unfortunately, so much sushi is purposely filled with all-but-tasteless fillers, including imitation crabmeat, boiled shrimp and mushy roe. Imposters beyond crab are rife in sushi restaurants, whose vaunted “white tuna” is almost always escolar, a tropical, deep-water predator not at all related to tuna (and which consumed in large quantities can cause diarrhea).

And while we’re advocating moderation, I’ll reiterate a mantra of the sushi-savvy: The rice should never be dunked in soy sauce; a little dab on the fish will do. In addition to good-quality soy sauce, Marcus measures the merits of sushi restaurants by the chef’s tamago (scrambled egg), which should be rich, moist, tender and slightly sweet, as well as its house-made daikon, cucumber and eggplant pickles to complement the fish.

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Steep, don’t smother, chilaquiles in red chili sauce

Tacos were a logical conclusion when my husband added corn tortillas, onion, queso fresco and tomatillos to our grocery-shopping list.

Turns out, Will had breakfast in mind, chilaquiles to be exact. The impetus was a disappointing version he ordered at a local restaurant, a lapse we were more inclined to forgive because of its location in a retirement home.

The lackluster plate of refried beans and scrambled eggs atop a baked tortilla shell did warrant sympathy from one of Will’s co-workers, whose wife cooks authentic Mexican cuisine. Jessica was only too happy to treat Will to a lesson in chilaquiles preparation, in addition to all the ingredients for our recent Sunday brunch.

Sarah Lemon photo

Lesson No. 1: The sauce for chilaquiles (at least in Jessica’s family) is red, not green. And it doesn’t have to be spicy to be authentic. Her mom, an immigrant to Los Angeles, usually prepares fairly mild food, she said.

But the recipe did require an entire large bag of dried red chilies, stemmed, seeded and deveined, along with some onion, garlic and Mexican oregano. After soaking the chilies, blending them with the other ingredients, straining the mixture and simmering it for about 20 minutes, Jessica added the corn tortilla wedges that her husband, Chris, had been diligently frying for about as long.

I was surprised at how long the tortilla triangles steeped in the sauce, which I had mistakenly thought to pour over the chips. But it makes sense that the method is a popular way to repurpose leftover tortillas and salsa. The quintessential chilaquiles topping, in fact, is lots of crema, which Jessica piped from a plastic bag in generous squiggles.

She confirmed that chilaquiles should be eaten with eggs, so long as the yolks are runny. She was less enthusiastic about slices of avocado on the side but took a portion anyway. Then everyone tucked into the hearty meal that would hold us until dinnertime.

The chili sauce for chilaquiles also could be used for enchiladas or posole, another of Jessica’s specialties. Here is a similar version from Tribune News Service.

Red Chili Sauce

12 dried New Mexico or similar red chilies

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Wash the chili pods, removing stems and seeds. Place pods in a saucepan with 2 cups water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pods are very tender, for at least 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and pour chilies and water into a blender along with the garlic. Puree mixture well, then strain into a bowl. Set aside.

In a frying pan over medium-high heat until hot, add the lard or oil, then whisk in the flour and cook until flour is light-brown. Stir in pureed chilies and stir until thickened. Season with the salt and bring mixture to a boil, stirring continuously. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to marry flavors, adding additional water, if needed, to thin sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired, then remove from heat and set aside until needed. Sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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