Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Achiote chicken tacos

 I love Mexican food more than any other food on the planet. If I had to choose one food to eat for the rest of my life it would not be a burger, pasta, lobster or steak; it's all about the taco. And this taco is all about the sweet and savory meat.

You need:
2 lbs chicken thigh
flour for dredging
2tsp canola oil
@ cups Orange juice
2 tsp achiote paste
4 Jamaican peppers, rehydrated and seeded
salt to taste

I like to use chicken thighs when cooking -- there tends to be more flavor and the meat is just more tender. Dark meat also has a higher fat content, so you will want to trim off as much of the fat as you can. Dredge the thighs in seasoned flour and brown them on medium heat with a little oil. In a bowl mix your Achiote paste and orange juice. Pour the mixture over the cooked chicken -- bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover until the meat falls apart with a fork. Uncover and reduce the sauce until very thick.

1 can Black beans
1can roasted tomato
handful of cilantro chopped
Chili Powder, salt and Cumin to taste

I use canned black beans. Dry beans are more inexpensive, but I don't usually have time to soak them. Simmer your beans in a pan with tomato, cilantro, chili powder and cumin. Salt to taste.
Check out the spread:
Top your excellent taco creation with avocado and some queso fresca and enjoy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sliding sideways. The perfect cupcake.

 I returned this week from one of the most enjoyable beach vacations I have ever taken. There are few entities more powerful and awe-inspiring than the Pacific Ocean on a stormy January morning -- or the friends you are fortunate enough to enjoy it with.  It was a weekend free from cellular phones, television, and distractions from our Monday-through-Friday grind lifestyles. Simply put, it was bliss. It was also a weekend of celebration, albeit a quiet reverie, of the 30th birthday of one of the most youthful and hip chicks I know. And since no birthday is complete without cake, I made these delightful little cupcake treats: amaretto cupcakes with Baily's butter cream and edible gold adorned toasted almond slices. The sparkles add an alien, daring deliciousness to the cupcake. They really do. Or maybe it was the Cafe Negro Porter I was drinking -- Caffeine + alcohol -- sliding sideways through the weekend.  

For 12 cupcakes you will need:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter cool, but not cold
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cream your butter and sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl until light yellow. Slowly add your eggs, almond, and vanilla and mix until fluffy. Add your flour and baking powder until fully incorporated then mix in your milk. This recipe is really hard to screw up. Just make sure your batter is smooth. Fill your cupcake papers about half way and bake about 10-15 min or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

There are quite a few different versions of butter cream. My favorite is Italian butter cream because it's by far the smoothest, it doesn't feel too much like you have a mouthful of butter, and it can be kept at room temperature. No salmonella! Any day I don't have food poisoning is a good day.

I used a recipe posted by Louise Dueholm on her awesome website: CakeJournal. Honestly, this recipe beats the one I learned in culinary school 10-1 and her step-by-step instructions should make it easy for you even if if this is your first attempt at making Italian meringue Butter cream. I flavored mine with just an ounce of irish cream. A little goes a long way.

My recommendation for you this weekend, even if you can't make it to the beach, is to make a dozen of these pretty little cakes, open a bottle of Cafe Negro Porter and slide sideways until the Monday monster comes to bring back the work-week grind.