Sunday, January 29, 2012

La Mom's Flan

Sometimes I reminisce about my childhood in Tijuana, Mexico, and at times I can't believe the stuff I saw, the things we did, and how traviesos me and my brothers were. But what I remember most of all were the smells coming from the kitchen: the wonderful smells of my abuelita cooking beans on the stove top, or my tios grilling carne asada outside or the smell of burnt sugar. I'll always remember that smell because once my mom was teaching my tia (her younger sister) how to melt sugar (for the flan) and my aunt burnt it. It's a molassesy-burnt-candy smell. Once you smell it you'll never forget.

My mom has been making flan forever. I was quite impressed how easy her recipe is. To save time (and not dirty too many dishes) she usually just blends everything in a blender. But blending in a large bowl works just a well. Also let me say that if you've never melt sugar, you may want to start practicing first. In the beginning the sugar first may seem that it's not melting at all and then comes the point where it will melt rather quickly and if you don't keep stirring it will burn. So don't leave the kitchen when doing this step. Lastly, to make this flan even more lovely, decorate with edible flowers.

INGREDIENTS (serves 8)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt sugar until liquefied and golden in color. Carefully pour hot syrup into a 9 inch round glass baking dish, turning the dish to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Set aside.

In a large bowl, or in a blender, beat eggs. Beat in condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth. Pour egg mixture into baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake in preheated oven 60 minutes. Let cool completely.

When flan has cooled, cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight. To serve, carefully run a knife around edges of flan and invert onto serving platter with edges (there's going to be syrup running down the sides).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Homemade Tortilla Chips

If you've never had homemade tortilla chips then get your tastebuds ready to be wowed! When you make your own tortilla chips the taste, the crunch, everything is different and, oh it tastes so much better too! Although the recipe below says to use 4 cups of oil, I will usually only use a large 10" pan and only use 2 cups oil, however I do have to make smaller batches. And don't forget to add that pinch of kosher salt after every batch of your tortilla chips. Guacamole, watch out!

INGREDIENTS (Yield: 3 dozen chips)
  • 9 corn tortillas, cut into wedges or strips, whichever you prefer
  • 4 cups corn or vegetable oil
  • Salt


In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 360 degrees F.

In batches, add the tortillas to the oil, being careful not to overcrowd, and cook until golden brown, turning once, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove and drain on paper towels. Season lightly with kosher salt. Serve warm with your favorite salsa.

  • Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Macaroni Tomato Soup

    I don't know why I never made this soup before but this is the simplest, fastest recipe and not only is it great on a cold, rainy (or snowy) day, but kids seem to LOVE it. And you only need three ingredients, not including the Goldfish crackers as a garnish. Anyway, I saw the Taiwan episode of "The Layover" with Anthony Bourdain and he went to a street breakfast place where they just made tomato soup with macaroni, and you could add fried Spam or a fried egg on top or Taiwan!!! I omitted the Spam and egg and just did a straight up tomato soup with macaroni. Delish! And my daughter loves it.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4 kiddies or 2 adults)
    • 1 can of low sodium condensed tomato soup
    • 1/2 cup elbow macaroni
    • water
    • Goldfish crackers, optional

    In a 4 quart stock pot add the can of condensed tomato soup and  1-1/2  can of water (the can says 1 can of water, but I find that extra half lets the pasta cook through faster). Add the elbow macaroni and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let it cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through.Serve with a side of Goldfish crackers, if you like.

    Sunday, January 15, 2012


    I've made this meatloaf a couple of times and it always come out delicious, moist and it's definitely a crowd pleaser. Thanks to Mr. Alton Brown for this recipe. A few tips: I usually only use 80/20 ground chuck and omit the ground sirloin; I also bake it in the meatloaf pan instead of "free form" and lastly, if you don't have a thermometer, get one ASAP! It's best to use one for this recipe so that you don't overcook the meatloaf. Serve with a side of garliky mashed potatoes. Bon appétit!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 6 to 8)
    • 6 ounces garlic-flavored croutons or stale bread
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 carrot, peeled and broken
    • 3 whole cloves garlic
    • 1/2 red bell pepper
    • 18 ounces ground chuck
    • 18 ounces ground sirloin
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 egg
    For the glaze:
    • 1/2 cup catsup
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • Dash Worcestershire sauce
    • Dash hot pepper sauce
    • 1 tablespoon honey

    Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

    In a food processor bowl, combine croutons, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and thyme. Pulse until the mixture is of a fine texture. Place this mixture into a large bowl. Combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and red pepper in the food processor bowl. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed. Combine the vegetable mixture, ground sirloin, and ground chuck with the bread crumb mixture. Season the meat mixture with the kosher salt. Add the egg and combine thoroughly, but avoid squeezing the meat.

    Pack this mixture into a 10-inch loaf pan to mold the shape of the meatloaf. Onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, turn the meatloaf out of the pan onto the center of the tray. Insert a temperature probe at a 45 degree angle into the top of the meatloaf. Avoid touching the bottom of the tray with the probe. Set the probe for 155 degrees.

    Combine the catsup, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce and honey. Brush the glaze onto the meatloaf after it has been cooking for about 10 minutes.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Mushroom Soup With Bread Crust

    There is an Italian restaurant in downtown San Diego called, Bice, which I have not had the chance to visit yet but I hear so many good things about this place. And what I can't wait to try when I do finally visit the restaurant is their cheese bar. Yes, a cheese bar, and you know me, I love my cheese. I received a newsletter from the restaurant and the chef there shared his recipe for mushroom soup. Immediately I headed over to the farmer's market and bought all my mushrooms and produce and made this recipe. Luckily I already had a small bottle of truffle oil I got in San Francisco, but if you don't have some already, don't bother buying it because it can be quite spendy. I followed the recipe exactly as it is written below and it's quite mushroom-my, and very down-to-earth flavor. I couldn't find smoked mozzarella so I used a combination of regular mozzarella and smoked gouda.

    INGREDIENTS (Serves 6)

    Soup ingredients:
    • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
    • 1 cup of hot water
    • ½ pound fresh mix of cremini, oyster and portobello mushrooms
    • ½ pound fresh porcini mushrooms
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • >1 clove garlic, sliced
    • ¼ cup coarsely chopped shallots
    • 1 cup chopped leeks
    • 3 ounces pancetta
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 9 sprigs fresh thyme or tarragon, divided use
    • 4 cups chicken broth
    • ¼ cup cubed peeled potatoes
    • 1½ tablespoons dry Marsala wine
    • 8 ounces shredded smoked Mozzarella
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    For the crust:
    • Package of phyllo dough, thawed
    • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • Truffle oil (available at specialty food markets)

    To make the soup: Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them with 1 cup of hot water. Leave them to plump for at least 20 minutes. Trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms and brush them to remove any debris. Cut the cremini, porcini, oyster and portobello mushrooms into ¼-inch slices. Set aside.

    Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the sliced garlic, chopped shallots, leeks and pancetta. Sauté until soft but not browned.

    Add the sliced fresh porcini, cremini, oyster and portobello mushrooms. Quickly stir to coat them with the olive oil and sauté, stirring intermittently, until they are soft and limp. The skillet will be dry at first, but as the mushrooms cook, they begin to release their juices. Continue cooking uncovered. Lift the dried porcini mushrooms out of their soaking water, chop them coarsely, and add them to the sautéed mushrooms. Strain the soaking water through a fine mesh sieve or several thicknesses of cheesecloth into the mushrooms. Continue to stir and cook in the skillet for a few minutes to loosen the cooked bits of mushroom that have adhered to the skillet. Transfer the mushrooms from the skillet to a large saucepan.

    Crush the bay leaves and 3 of the thyme or tarragon sprigs with your hand, then wrap the herbs in cheesecloth and secure the pouch with kitchen string. Pour the chicken broth over the mushrooms, add the herb pouch and potato cubes and simmer for 35 minutes.
    After 35 minutes, add the Marsala to the saucepan and continue cooking uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and discard the herb pouch, and then add salt and pepper to taste.

    Ladle the soup into 6 small individual-sized ovenproof bowls.

    To make the crust: Separate the sheets of the phyllo pastry and cut 18 squares — 3 squares for each bowl — slightly bigger than the top of your bowls. For each bowl, brush three squares with melted butter and stack on top of each other, layering. Place each set of three squares on top of a bowl, pressing lightly on the edges to create an indentation. Take off the pastry square and brush some beaten egg on the indentation of the bowl on the pastry, as well as portions of the pastry outside the circle.

    Cover the bowls with the pastry squares and top each with the shredded smoked mozzarella cheese. Press the pastry firmly but gently so it sticks to the top and sides of the bowl. Make sure the pastry sticks so the pastry will puff up as the soup inside the bowl boils.

    Place the bowls of soup on a baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and broil until the cheese on top is bubbly and browned. To serve, garnish the crust of the soup with the remaining sprigs of fresh thyme or tarragon and brush lightly with truffle oil.

    The soup was created by Bice’s executive chef, Mario Cassineri, a native of Milan.

    Monday, January 02, 2012

    The Infamous Burgundy Mushrooms

    I started my Christmas vacation on December 19th which let me stay home, clean, do a million loads of laundry, finish my Christmas shopping and start cooking again. I also started watching daytime TV and I was quite disappointed there are so many waste-of-my-time talk shows, dumb reality shows and the Food Network just seems to run the same "Cupcake Wars" or "Chopped" episodes. I was really getting pissed off when I stumbled upon a show I've never seen before called, "The Pioneer Woman" on the food network. The Pioneer Woman, a.k.a. Ree, was cooking like a half a cow, a gazillion cinnamon rolls and she made this Burgundy mushroom recipe. After I saw it and she mentioned that it takes 9 hours...yes, NINE HOURS, to make, I was intrigued. "This I can make!" I told myself. "Bring on the mushrooms!"

    Let me just say that the 9 hours are worth the wait. What I did is I measured all my ingredients the night before and had stuff ready to go in the fridge, so that way I woke up at 5am the next morning and just dropped everything in the pot and let it simmer. Also, I wanted to use my Crock-Pot® for this but my crock pot is like from 1984 and it's not big enough to fit the 4 pounds of mushrooms and the liter of wine. But I don't see why you can't make this recipe on one of those new, huge, beautiful Crock-Pots I drool over whenever I'm over at Williams Sonoma.

    These mushrooms make a great side dish, or just serve them as an appetizer, but if you let them cool, you can use them in a salad or as your main dish because once you taste these mushrooms you will think you're eating meat...seriously!

    • 4 pounds White Button Mushrooms
    • 2 sticks Butter
    • 1-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
    • 1 liter Burgundy Wine (other Reds Will Work)
    • 1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
    • 2 cups Boiling Water
    • 4 whole Chicken Bouillon Cubes
    • 4 whole Beef Bouillon Cubes
    • 1 teaspoon Dill Seed
    • 5 cloves Garlic, Peeled

    Thoroughly wash the mushrooms and throw them into a large stockpot. Add all the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.

    Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for six hours.

    Remove the lid, then continue cooking, uncovered, for three hours.

    The mushrooms will be very dark in color. Simmer until needed. Server straight from the pot or in a serving bowl. Dip crusty bread in the juice!