Saturday, March 16, 2013

When eggs go south - south of the border, that is

Spending my formative years among artsy people in Texas taught me appreciation for many things that were not part of my childhood, or were a part of it in a twisted way that I couldn't appreciate. For instance, my dad loved Mexican food, but what we got was tamales in a can, Hormel Chili, and El Patio frozen Mexican meals. It's a wonder I ever stepped inside a Mexican restaurant after that experience.

But step I did, at all times of the day and night. As much as I loved Tex-Mex, more authentic Mexican food from different regions was making inroads into Houston in the 1970s, and with those came places that served Mexican breakfasts. I ate it all.

I still love a good Mexican breakfast, so I keep cans of Herdez sauces in the pantry, because I am not awake enough to do any sauce from scratch before 10 a.m. When I saw a Food & Wine recipe in my email for Mexican Eggs in Purgatory, I knew I had to try it. But I also knew that I wouldn't be running to the grocery store to get a pound of tomatillos before breakfast. So again, Herdez to the rescue.

If you have access to fresh tomatillos and want to try the original recipe by Grace Parsi of Food & Wine, here's the link: Mexican Eggs in Purgatory

Lori K's Fast Mexican Eggs in Purgatory
Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons crumbled bacon
1 can Herdez salsa verde
2-3 eggs
2 ounces Cotija or feta cheese, crumbled
2 green onion tops, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Warm corn tortillas for serving

Preheat the broiler and position a rack about 8 inches from the heat source.
In a cast iron pan or shallow flame-proof casserole, heat the oil on a stove burner set on low. Add the garlic and the bacon bits, and cook for 5 minutes. Take a paper towel, fold it in half and place it on top of the pan, holding one end. With a wooden spoon, gently press to remove extra grease. Discard.
Add the can of salsa verde to the pan, raise the heat to medium, and cook until it bubbles vigorously, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs gently, far enough apart so they don't touch one another. Add the crumbled cheese over the top of all, avoiding the yolks.
Put the pan in the oven. Set the timer for 3 minutes.
Put 6 corn tortillas in a towel or warmer, and put in the microwave. When there's a minute left on the timer, turn on the microwave for 1 minute.
When the timer goes off, check the eggs. The whites should be set but the yolks runny. If the whites aren't set, keep them under the broiler for another minute.
After you pull them out of the oven, sprinkle with the green onion slices and cilantro, if using. Serve immediately with the warm tortillas.
Good with sliced avocados and refried black beans; for a hardier meal, serve with hash browns or country fried potatoes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A great meal, on the lamb

The video above is of cute lambs, if you don't mind seeing where your food comes from.

We had a huge dump of snow last week, knocking out our power for several days. So I did a lot of cooking (to be frank, most of the time was spent planning for what to eat next, to make the most of the food that might not make it through the outage), and not too much writing.

But we did have one truly spectacular meal that I had to write about: a lamb tangine. I had already decided I'd use ground lamb instead of the traditional cubed lamb in it to cut down on cooking time, but  I further adapted it into a totally one-dish meal so that I wouldn't have to dirty any more dishes than necessary, since in our house, no electricity means no running water, either. So I upped the water a bit and added dry couscous to the pot before serving, letting it simmer for about 5 minutes to make sure the couscous was fully cooked and fluffy.

And with only the candlelight for illumination, it was quite romantic as well.

Ground Lamb Tagine
Adapted from a recipe by Ethan Stowell, Food & Wine magazine
Serves 8

1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, zest removed, and juice reserved
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
Kosher salt
2 pounds ground lamb
4 cups water
6 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cups pitted green Picholine olives, rinsed
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
3 cups of cooked couscous

In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, ginger, paprika, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, cloves, saffron, cinnamon stick and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Add the lamb mix well. Refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, scrape the lamb and spices by tablespoon into a tagine or a medium enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the water, carrots and onion and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for about an hour.
Refrigerate. When you get home from work, spoon off any fat that is on the top, then cook until everything is tender and the liquid has reduced. Stir in the olives, season with salt (if needed) and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, cilantro and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Ladle into bowls over couscous and serve.