Tag Archives: Mushrooms

Chicken Stuffed Poblano Chilies with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

When you live in San Diego, it’s not difficult to find great Mexican food as long as you’re willing to avoid the more obvious chains.  Each neighborhood seems to have a local favorite and as much as many can agree that there are special places tough to compete with, sometimes, close to home is just better — especially when dinnertime is approaching and the resident cook isn’t in the mood to fire up the stove.  My husband and I might email one other on a day like that with a question about dinner.

Me:  Not sure I’m into cooking tonight.

Him:  Want me to pick something up?

Me:  Smack your lips together and tell me what sounds good.

Him:  Not Chinese.

Me:  Mexican?

Him:  Carnitas plate?

Although this wasn’t necessarily an every week event, it was very nearly that.

If you asked me what I miss most about the change in eating habits I made four months ago, I’d say I miss Mexican food — not chocolate, not pasta, or bread.  Mexican food from the neighborhood favorite we call Los Dos on Garnet in Pacific Beach across the street from Albertson’s is what I miss.  It’s the most tiny place you can imagine, barely large enough for more than a couple of people to stand inside to place an order, and an enormous stainless steel range I swear the shop was built around.

It isn’t that one taco shop’s menu is  different from any of the dozens of other shops within a reasonable driving distance — it’s more about how each prepares those items.  The salsa, or guacamole — and especially the refried beans — many will say the particular flavor of typical menu items are what makes a shop their favorite.  I miss the carnitas from Los Dos, a plate of food I can smell the minute my husband walks in the door with it.  Wrapped in foil and filled with little mounds of shredded pork, rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo just waiting to be loaded into a piping hot flour tortilla, smothered in both red and green salsa, and then folded like a burrito.  Oh, my.  So very, very delicious.  Although I rarely finished the entire plate, I routinely failed at not eating that second flour tortilla all by itself — the giant sized version.

Each time after dinner, with my stomach so uncomfortably full I swore I’d never order another carnitas plate, it was only a matter of weeks before I’d find myself in the same situation, feeling miserable.  I don’t miss that feeling — something that comes more from overeating in general.  And because my success rate at eating only a portion of that plate — about half — was so poor, I decided doing without was the best way to go.

So how have I compensated for not eating something I used to enjoy so much?  By choosing similar flavors in far more manageable quantities that are delicious — and doing some heavy planning when we do decide to have take out for dinner.

There’s nothing quite like the flavor of a roasted poblano chili, and when they’re stuffed with the perfect mixture of ingredients, my taste buds are completely satisfied.  So does that make this recipe “Mexican?”  Not by a long shot, but the flavors are reminiscent and that’s good enough for me right now.

And if you’ve never roasted a chili, this is a great reason to learn.  It’s easier than you might think!

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Green Beans and Chantrelles with Fried Onions

Home Fried Onion Rings
Green beans go way back in my family.  And when I think of them, it's usually not the crispy sauteed with garlic and a few shallots way I routinely fix them now, but something that's a meal in itself:  A big pot of fresh green beans with quartered, unpeeled potatoes, and lots of onions, sauteed in bacon fat, and then stewed slowly until the mixture is somewhere between a soup and a stew. We ate it for dinner, and I can imagine that it most likely was light on my mom's wallet.  It wasn't a favorite, but I wasn't allowed to mention that part because it was food.

I have found a happy medium for dinner now, occasionally.  Especially during the holidays when someone expects "Green Bean Casserole."  You know the casserole I'm talking about, right?  The one developed by the Campbell Soup company in the 1950's  and made with Durkee's fried onions?  Yes, that recipe.

Because my family never ate green beans in a casserole, and we'd never have had our version of beans at a special dinner, I'd never tried green bean casserole until I was well into my adult years.  And when it was my turn to make it for a holiday meal, I did what I normally do — alter the recipe. 

It had to be better if it was made with fresh green beans that still had a hint of crunch to them, didn't it?  And the creaminess had to be able to come from something other than a soup can.  Don't get me wrong.  If you've spent any amount of time reading here, then you know that I was raised eating very simple, wholesome food.  So, I played around with a fresh mushroom saute with caramelized onions, rehydrated mushrooms and used the broth, made a white sauce, added some garlic, but never quite got the flavors to blend well.  It always tasted like greenbeans with sauce on them.

A year ago, I saw a recipe in Saveur that I had to try.  The only problem with it was that I'd have to make crispy fried onions and couldn't imagine doing that on a busy holiday cooking day.  Who comes up with these ideas?  Clearly, someone who doesn't have responsibility for an entire meal.  The only problem is, even though I prepped everything the way the recipe read, I sort of forgot to think about the whole onion frying thing.  Oops.

Since then I've tried the recipe quite a few ways — fried onions and no fried onions, and have found the flavors so nice, that a few shallots works just fine when you're too busy to mess with deep frying.

This year, since we're seriously out of commission due to construction, I'm in charge of green beans for Thanksgiving dinner — and a bunch of other non-turkey items.  I'm going to fry the onions at home first, and store them in an airtight container to assemble the dish after the drive to my sister-in-law's house right before baking time.  I'll have to let you know how it goes since I am anything but the Queen of the Deep Fry.

Have green been casserole, will travel.  Green Bean "Casserole" with Chantrelles

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Brined Pork Roast with Mushroom Sage Polenta and Collards

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Everyone’s been waxing prolifically about the onset of Fall weather, and although I can say that maybe…but only a slight maybe…the air in the early morning has a slight chill, there’s no way it’s Fall here yet.  Of course the calendar swears it’s October.  And yes, magazines have arrived sporting all things orange, brown, and sage green.  Grocery stores have displays of apples in every size and color, and yes, oddly shaped squash and pumpkin are everywhere.  So I pretend, and I indulge myself by fixing a braised piece of meat and some vegetables knowing that the resident hunkster will smile when he sits down with his plate to yell at the television and one of his many fantasy football players’ latest indiscretions on the field.  That’s how I really know that Fall has arrived, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, whether the sun is shining and the palms are swaying in the breeze or not.

This is a lovely and satisfying meal that takes some time to prepare since the roast needs to be brined over night.  I’d say that qualifies it for being slow, wouldn’t you?  The cooking time isn’t all that long, however, so the pay off is big.  Plus, there’s a Low and Slow event being held at The Constable’s Larder I’d like to send this off to.  Today’s the last day, and true to form, here I am late even though I prepared this meal well in advance and specifically for the event.  In fact I prepared two.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

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Chicken and Morels in Madiera Sauce

<img alt="Morels"/>
There’s an asset to having two sons who work for Whole Foods.  When something arrives in the produce section that’s unusual, or that other markets here would never stock, I get a phone call.  The last time, the call was to let me know that morels were in.

Sure, I knew that morel season had pretty much drawn to a close so who knows what I’d find, but I didn’t care.  It had been years since I’d made anything with morels, and at that time, they’d been dried — also hard to come by around here.  And although the dried morels were tasty, they left me wondering what fresh morels might taste like.

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Roasted Chicken with Bacon and Mushroom Sauce

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I am more inclined to think of a special dinner to make instead of which restaurant I’d like to visit.  I know.  Huge surprise.  It isn’t that I don’t enjoy eating out — we love to and have done so for years, choosing different restaurants each time just to see how many we can sample.

But it’s such a luxury to prepare a special meal for only two — something I rarely get to do.  The last time I went all out for Valentine’s Day, we still lived in our old house.  It was a beautiful California Ranch built in 1948 that only one other family had lived in before we arrived, constructed with gorgeous pegged oak flooring that had aged to a deep caramel color and was soft to the touch.  I used to hand wax it, believe it or not!  In the living room, there were enormous hand hewn beams that supported the roof and ceiling constructed of tongue and groove hand milled cedar.  The bricks that lined the large hearth were from antique foundries and varied in color and shape.  When there was a fire crackling in it, the room warmed to a golden color, and I could think of no place I’d rather be.

So I set up a table for two in front of the fireplace and made lobster and fennel napoleons to start, and individual beef wellingtons.  We enjoyed our dinner with a very dry bottle of Cabernet and candle light.  It was completely lovely.

But that was then.  As I said, it isn’t often that I get to take the time to pull something like that off.  Usually, I’m feeding more like ten or fifteen which isn’t exactly romantic.  It is fun though, and I’d truly enjoy it.

So where am I going with this?  Sharing.  That’s all.  Just passing on a suggestion for a great main course for Valentine’s Day.  I’ve tried this recipe twice just this past January– amazing in and of itself — and both times, it has turned out excellently to the ummmmms and whoooooaaaaaas of those lucky enough to sample it.
The recipe is one that comes from a source I’ve mentioned a few times in the last month — Saveur.  It’s not a challenging recipe at all, which is what makes it that much more amazing.  The first time I made it, a crowd was coming.  We were going to celebrate as an extended family after we returned from VA this past Christmas, so I wanted to prepare something delicious, but without all the fanfare of a traditional holiday meal.  “Poussins en Cocotte ‘Bonne Femme'” or “Poussins with Bacon and Mushroom Sauce” seemed perfect for the occasion.

Since I absolutely knew I wouldn’t be able to get poussins at any of my regular markets on that day and didn’t feel like searching elsewhere, I decided to use organic roasting chickens that I purchased at Trader Joe’s instead– three four to five pounders.  Using the basic directions for roasting chicken (convection roast at 325 degrees F 18-20 min. per pound — internal temp. 180 degrees F in thigh), I kept to the directions for the original recipe as closely as possible — even the searing.  And you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried to sear three fat chickens in a roasting pan over four stove burners.  Suffice it to say that a sturdy wooden spoon shoved into each orifice of each bird gets the job done fairly well even if it was still a bit awkward!

The photographs are awful because I had left my Canon in VA and was waiting for my sister to ship it.  So much for my old HP digital!  The difference in picture quality between the two cameras is amazing.

The chickens turned out deliciously —  the meat was extremely tender and moist, and the sauce created in the pan was beyond amazing.  Truly excellent.  So good I knew I had to make the recipe in its original form — with the required poussins which I found at Whole Foods while cruising the meat counter one afternoon.

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