Tag Archives: cajeta

PAELLA AND SOFT-BOILED EGGS. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: COOKING FOR A FOUR-YEAR-OLD

It is a challenge to cook for Sarah and Evan. They are always gracious and polite, but you worry that whatever you cook might not be up to their standards. During their recent visit, they stayed in a resort hotel near the Plaza for a couple of nights. Their reports on meals were, “Oh, they were OK.” Hardly a resounding testimonial.

In the meantime, Susan and I took care of the 2-year old and the 4-year old. We had a lot of Cheerios, hamburgers, Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner, and hot dogs. That seemed to work as long as Susan could buy them off with ice cream on a stick from the Village Market.

Still, I accepted the challenge to cook outdoors on Independence Day. I decided to have “Spanish Night” actually Spanish/Mexican Night. We started with Sarah’s well-known watermelon margaritas along with olives, manchego, membrillo, and crackers. We were also going to have marcona almonds fried in olive oil and Spanish paprika, but I forgot them. Then gazpacho – not the mushed up kind, which I don’t like, but instead coarsely chopped vegetables in a double consommé. Evan told the four-year-old that it was a kind of special tomato soup, and he got very excited. He said he loves tomato soup. He was disappointed when it came out and refused to eat. Fortunately, we had a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, the kind that his best friend’s mother serves. We heated that up, and a dietary crisis was averted.

Then came the main course. I cooked  paella over an open fire in our outdoor fire pit. The dish had chicken, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and chorizo. Again, I forgot something – this time it was the calamari. Nonetheless, the paella cooked well over the open fire and wound up with a good crust. Not surprisingly, the four-year-old would have none of it.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rich

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rich

He did eat the home-made churros and cajeta.

Then we watched the fireworks displays from several locations all around us. Of course, the conversation turned to family times in the past, and favorite foods while growing up. Sarah said that one of her favorites was Susan’s soft-boiled eggs for breakfast, served in egg cups. The four-year-old was very excited.

That inspired Susan to get up early, select egg cups from her big collection of family treasures and antiques. Then she made soft-boiled eggs, served them in special egg cups, and topped them with hand-knitted egg cozies. The four-year-old would have none of it. Fortunately, we had some Campbell’s tomato soup left over from the night before.

All of this proves that it’s harder to cook for a four-year-old than a professional chef. It is also hard to get decent photos with a four-year-old. Ah well, we all still had a good time.

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COCONUT MACAROONS

It is the perfect season for coconut macaroons. They have no leavening. They have no gluten.  If you are lactose intolerant and can drink goat’s milk, they may work if you use Mexican cajeta instead of sweetened condensed milk. I wish I could say they have no calories. Ah well, you can’t have everything.

Traditional macaroons are usually made from almonds, and some say that coconut is the poor person’s almond. I don’t know where that comment originally came from. As for me, I think I prefer coconut.

It is also said that macaroons were first created by the Sephardim. I don’t know whether that is true, either, but before becoming ubiquitous, macaroons were considered to be a North African/Southern European delicacy.

RECIPE

Coconut Macaroons

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk or Mexican cajeta
  • 2 egg whites

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, almond extract and salt.
  2. Stir in the condensed milk to make a thick paste.
  3. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Then fold into the coconut mixture.
  4. Using a #50 food scoop or a tablespoon, drop the mixture into mounds about 2 inches apart on baking sheets either lined with Silpat or parchment or greased aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes in the top third of an oven preheated to 325°F. until very lightly browned on the edges.
  6. Cool on a baking rack. Peel from the Silpat or the greased aluminum foil.
  7. Makes about 2½ dozen. Serve immediately or store in a container with a tight lid. (If there are any left.)

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CAJETA

It’s May! And I think that Spring may be here. Lots of flowers are in bloom, but we have experienced freezing weather for the last week. As well, it is a month of birthdays: three of our circle of friends are having birthdays within a week of one another, so we are planning a mass celebration. I am making the dessert. My plan is to make takeoffs from Sarah’s Rich Table desserts – salted chocolate sablés and buttermilk panna cotta. Neither of these is an authentic recipe from Sarah (Do you think Dad could talk her out of trade secrets?) but they should be close. I also plan to gild the lily – it is Spring, remember? – with Mexican cajeta to pour over the panna cotta.

The recipe for cajeta comes from the superb cook book, Authentic Mexican, by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless (William Morrow and Co., New York, 1987, p 293). Even though the recipe calls for regular white sugar, in the past I have used piloncillo, the small cones of unrefined sugar that you can find in Mexican and Central American markets. This time, though, I decided to go with turbinado. The other decision was whether to use goat’s milk or cow’s milk. The authentic version calls for goat’s milk, and it is easy to buy from the stalls selling goat cheese at the farmers market or in cartons at health food groceries, so I went with that.

The only tricky things about the recipe are: (1) don’t let the mixture boil over when you add the baking soda, (2) stir occasionally so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom, and (3) watch for the change in the size of the bubbles as it boils, because that is the sign to let you know it’s almost done.

Cajeta is akin to caramel or butterscotch sauces, and it can be used in exactly the same way. It is delicious over ice cream, fruit, cake, etc. I guess you could just eat it straight out of the bowl, and some folks probably do.

RECIPE

Cajeta

Ingredients

  • 1 quart goat’s milk
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1½ inch stick of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon light rum

Method

  1. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the goat’s milk, sugar, and corn syrup, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the cinnamon
  2. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil and then  remove from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda. It will foam up, so stir it vigorously to prevent boiling over.
  3. Return to the heat and adjust the temperature so that it simmers gently with a low boil. Stir frequently from the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.
  4. Check frequently and stir. After about 30 – 45 minutes, the mixture will have reduced to about half or less, and the bubbles on the surface will change in size and become more glistening.
  5. Turn down the heat to medium-low, allowing the mixture to reduce still further, but stirring very frequently to prevent burning.
  6. When it has thickened sufficiently  – it should coat the spoon but still be fluid – remove from the heat. Cool for a few minutes, and then stir in the rum.
  7. Allow to cool completely and then transfer to a serving dish or to a wide-mouthed jar. It can be refrigerated for later use, but reheat gently before serving.

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PAELLA AND CHAMOMILE/LIME FLAN

The other evening we had some friends over for dinner. I had tasted a bottle of Spanish granacha, Cruz de Piedra, at our neighborhood wine tasting the week before, so of course I thought of making paella in our back yard over our open fire pit. It turned out to be Spanish night with manchego, membrillo, white anchovies, paella, and chamomile/lime flan with home-made cajeta. I was pretty proud of the result, and then I discovered that our friends’ daughter, who runs the first food truck in our town, serves paella on a regular basis. Not only that, she writes a food blog where she has done a very complete and scholarly description of the history and traditions of paella. You can read all about it on her blog, http://www.foodtruckclick.com/

Paella on the fire pit

We still had a good time at our gathering, and cooking the paella over an open fire was the hit of the evening.

We enjoyed some of the Cruz de Piedra, along with some vinho verde in deference to the Portuguese and a warm evening. Our friends brought a tasty green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette along with a crusty batard of farm bread.

Dessert was a classic flan except that it was flavored with chamomile and lime. I served it with the traditional caramel topping but along with cajeta made with fresh goat’s milk.

As evening came, we just relaxed on the patio and watched the sun go down.

Paella is one of those things where you can just do whatever you please except for the required rice and saffron. The recipe that follows is the version I chose for the evening.

Ready to eat

RECIPES

Paella

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 2 chorizo sausages, one diced and one sliced crosswise
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼ x 1½ inch strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2½ cups Arborio rice
  • 2½ cups fish stock
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon Spanish saffron (no other)
  • 8 clams
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 large shrimp, shelled except for the tail and deveined
  • ½ cup fresh or thoroughly thawed frozen green peas
  • 4 medium squid tubes, each cut into 4 pieces

Method

  • On the stove, heat half of the olive oil over a medium high flame. When it is just shimmering, add the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Brown the chicken until the skin is crisp and brown, turning frequently so the chicken cooks through completely. Drain the chicken on paper towels and set aside. You may want to refrigerate if dinner is a long way away.
  • Add the sliced chorizo to the hot oil and chicken fat. Turn frequently until lightly browned. Drain the cooked chorizo on paper towels and set aside.
  • Add the pancetta and diced chorizo to the still hot pan. Stir frequently until the pancetta is just slightly browned but not crispy. Then add the onion, tomato, pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are well wilted, liquid has boiled  off, and the mixture is a thick sauce. This is the sofrito. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • About an hour before you plan to start the paella, build a fire in the fire pit. Although a wood fire is traditional, charcoal briquettes are perfect.
  • Back in the kitchen, pour out the oil and chicken fat from the pan. Add the remaining olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Then add the rice, stirring frequently until it is well coated.
  • In the meantime, combine the fish and chicken stock in a large pot and bring to the boil.
  • When the rice is evenly coated stir in the sofrito, salt, and saffron. Then pour in the boiling stock, and bring it back to the boil.
  • It is now time to take the pan out to the fire pit. Be careful not to spill.
  • When the pan is firmly set on the grate, make sure it is bubbling gently. From now on, don’t stir.
  • Now it is time to add the other ingredients. First arrange the chicken thighs around the outside of the pan. Then put in the sliced chorizo. After a few minutes, place the clams, hinge side down, deep into the rice. Next add the mussels, and then the shrimp.
  • Sprinkle the peas over the top. Then check to see how everything is going. Add more water if needed. Stir only if the bottom seems to be burning.
  • Cooking should take around 20-30  minutes, depending upon the heat of your fire.
  • Just 3 or 4 minutes before you think things are done, bury the pieces of squid in the rice. They will get tough if you cook them too long.
  • Serve immediately.

Chamomile/Lime Flan

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 bags pure chamomile tea (some have mint or other herbs)
  • rinds of 2 limes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 quarts boiling water

Method

  • Preheat oven to 300° and set out 4  6-ounce ramekins
  • In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir but continue to boil until the mixture is a light amber color.
  • Working quickly, pour some of the caramelized sugar into each of the ramekins, turning them so the caramel coats the bottoms and sides. Set aside.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan,  heat the cream to a simmer along with the added tea bags and lime rinds. Heat for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the sugar, and remove from the heat.
  • Let steep off the heat for another 10 minutes. Then strain into a bowl.
  • In the meantime, combine the eggs and egg yolks in another bowl, using a whisk. Make sure that they are very well mixed.
  • Whipping constantly, Pour a small stream of the heated cream into the egg mixture/ Not too much so that the eggs don’t scramble. Add a little more of the heated cream to temper the eggs, and then pour that mixture into the cream, whipping to combine completely.
  • Pour the egg and cream mixture into the prepared ramekins.
  • Arrange the ramekins in an oven-proof pan which will hold them comfortably.
  • Pour the boiling water into the pan ust to the level of the tops of the flans, being careful not to get water in the ramekins.
  • Transfer to the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. The centers of the custards will still be soft.
  • Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow the flans to cool completely in the water bath. They will finish their cooking as they cool.
  • Cover the cooled ramekins with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and even over night.
  • To serve, run a thin spatula around the edge of each flan. Invert over the serving plate. The flan should slide out easily. If it does not, twist gently and it should come free.

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SANTA FE RESTAURANTS 3: TERRA AT ENCANTADO RESORT

This has become one of our favorite restaurants in Santa Fe. We also like it for special occasions and celebrations. In an earlier post, I mentioned that our younger daughter was visiting with her 10-month-old from San Francisco. During her visit, she and her husband completed the negotiations on space for their new restaurant. That of course called for a celebration, so we made reservations at Terra.

Part of the charm of Terra is that it is several miles north of town, and the drive is beautiful. Another part of its charm is the beautiful view of the Jémez Mountains from the deck and huge picture windows of the bar and restaurant.

We chose the earliest seating so that we could arrive before the sunset to enjoy one of New Mexico’s incomparable evening displays.

We arrived at the front door of the resort and were immediately greeted by the friendly valet. The traditional Santa Fé scent of piñon smoke hung in the air as we passed the blazing fire in the huge fireplace on the deck.

As we entered the bar, we were greeted by the bartender and welcomed into a beautiful room flanked by another fireplace – this time modern and chrome – and huge windows looking over the distant mountains. We tried to sit outside in the cool early evening, but the heaters failed to work, even with the attention of the bartender and the manager, so we came back in. That was ok, because it was warm and we still got to enjoy the beautiful sunset along with flutes of New Mexico Gruet sparkling wine and some tasty truffle French fries.

Lights in the bar at Terra

Dinner kept up the excellent experience. The room was spacious, beautifully decorated, and blessedly quiet. Another breathtaking fireplace anchored the room with a glass-enclosed wine cellar on either side.  Our server was attentive and knowledgeable but not intrusive. The wine selection was enormous. Many of choices were well beyond our budget, but there were enough modestly priced bottles that we easily found an excellent option.

The menu presented a lot of hard choices, but eventually we made our decisions, and we were not disappointed.

Diver scallop and crispy pork belly with edamame purée was beautifully presented, the flavors blended.

Crispy sweetbread salad had its high and low points: the sweetbreads were crisp yet delicate, just as sweetbreads are supposed to be, and the “potato wheel” was amazing – a single spaghetti-sized strand of potato coiled into a perfect circle and fried to a delicate golden brown. The sauce was bland and needed salt (no chef ever wants to hear that).

Crispy sweetbread salad with potato wheel

The mains, though, were flawless. The venison two ways included a creative red chile venison tamal and a perfectly roasted venison lin with Cumberland sauce.

Venison two ways

The duck cassoulet was complete with a crispy duck leg and green chile sausage along with the traditional bread crumb crust. The big surprise was that New Mexico chicos substituted for the beans.

Duck cassoulet

The hot smoked salmon was topped with a crisp “chicharrón” of salmon skin and served with a delicate cauliflower mousse flavored with almond along with roasted kale.

Hot smoked salmon

Dessert included the traditional street food, churros, but raised to a new level and accompanied by rich cajeta.

This last week, we went back with our older daughter, Carol, and her two children. The scene was just as magical, and we now had an opportunity to try more things on the imaginative menu. I had the “West of the Pecos Winter Posole”, which was unlike any posole I have ever had. A big bowl was brought to the table with a nest of shredded ham hocks, posole, and micro cilantro nestled in the middle. The server then poured a steaming pitcher of fragrant broth into the bowl. The seasoning is not for the faint-of-heart, but it was a beautiful and flavorful start.

West of the Pecos winter posole

Carol had the warm chicory salad with crispy prosciutto and topped with a glistening, perfectly poached farm egg just begging to be opened so that the yolk could flavor the whole dish.

Warm chicory salad

She also chose the Guajillo prawns with – white chocolate molé! What’s not to like about that?!

The venison from the week before looked so good, that I chose that. As before, it was well-prepared with interesting seasonings. There was a delicate “cloud” of fois gras foam as an accompaniment.

Susan chose the wild mushroom ravioli with rabbit ragu. She pronounced it delicious.

 

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