Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Midnight Special

Over a year ago, I became a full -fledged Bob’s Red Mill groupie while attending a millet cooking class at their store in Milwaukie, Oregon. Not only was the class fun and informative, the level of employee pride was infectious. I was immediately caught up in their enthusiasm ― and amazed by the line of products that they produce and sell. I was smitten.

Bob’s Red Mill is a Pacific Northwest producer of whole grains and other natural products.  Bob Moore's vision of quality and innovation created an industry model and when he got ready to retire a few years back, the employees took over operations and have continued to maintain Bob’s high standards and attention to detail.   

The Bob's Red Mill Blog  is also a great resource for preparing popular as well as lesser known grains and seeds such as amaranth and teff. Since the millet class I've tried many of Bob's other products, but the hearty and nutty steel cut oats remain a favorite.

When Bob’s third annual Spar for the Spurtle contest was announced on their blog not too long ago, I was immediately intrigued. This competition is a precursor to the international event held in Scotland, where it is all about preparing the perfect porridge.  In fact, the spurtle refers to an ancient wooden rod originally used to stir oats into submission and affect the perfect porridge. 

In the US competition Bob’s only requires that steel cut oats are used as the main ingredient; which greatly opens up the field of play.  However, there are still a few other tricky caveats:  the dish must be prepared on only two burners, use no other appliances, and must be completed within 30 minutes.  (Note:  the oats require between 10-20 minutes cooking time.)    

For the past two weeks I have been committed to solving this rubix cube ― as well as creating a tasty and attractive entry.  Wait, there was one other requirement:  submit a three-minute video on the recipe.  Of course, this is presented in such an off-handed manner:  “a simple video from your smart phone will do”.  How hard could that be?   

I will not bore you with the recipe development,  my foray into filming, or the crash course in video editing.  Suffice to say, I submitted my less than professional two-minute version on time (this past Monday's deadline) and very glad to have it all behind me. 

Happily, I am still not tired of the tasting the fantastic Country Oat Hash―nested with a perfectly cooked egg and a zingy lemon-mustard sauce. The oats shine in taste and texture, yet are fully complemented by onions, carrots and mushrooms; all are punctuated by a balanced assortment of  fresh herbs (or dried fines herbes) and exotic spices (or four-spice blend).  In 30 minutes, I also pull off the perfect egg mollet―a firm-cooked egg with a moist center― as well as a zingy lemon-mustard sauce that brings everything to life. 

It’s my Midnight Special; but it is equally good any time of the day, and definitely special enough for friends.  Try it―I think you’ll like.  

Country Oat Hash Nested with Egg and Lemon-Mustard Sauce

Country Oat Hash  
 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats, presoaked 10 minutes in boiling water and drained
 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1½ cups mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp. four spice or ¼ tsp. each nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cayenne
½ tsp. each salt and black pepper
1½ tsp. fines herbes, or 1 tsp. each fresh thyme, marjoram, savory and sage
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, on finish

1.       Toast the oats in a non-stick skillet for 3  minutes.
2.       In deep skillet, sauté onion in 1 Tbsp. butter; add carrot, the spices, and cook 3 minutes.
3.       Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook to release the liquid.
4.       Still in the toasted oats with 1 Tbsp. butter, and then the herbs. Cook the hash over moderate heat 3-4 minutes; lower heat slightly, cover and cook 3-4 minutes longer, until the oats are gently cooked.  Stir in the parsley, remove from heat, keep covered and let rest until eggs are ready. 

To Prepare Egg Mollet
4 eggs, room temperature
3 cups water, or enough to cover eggs 
1.       Bring the eggs and water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 3½ to 4 minutes.  Drain. 
2.       Rinse eggs with cold water and set in ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Let rest 5 minutes.
3.       Crack the eggs and gently peel under cold tap water.
4.       Hold in warm water bath. 
Lemon-Mustard Sauce
1 tsp. lemon and ½ tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. brown mustard
2 tsp. stone ground mustard
¼ tsp. each salt and black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup plain yogurt 
1.       Combine all through salt and pepper and whisk in oil to form an emulsion. 
2.       Fold into yogurt and let stand at least 10 minutes to blend flavors.

When ready, on medium-sized plates mound each with a heaping cup of Country Oat Hash and make a deep indentation in the center.  Set a warm peeled egg mollet into each oat hash nest, drape a portion of the egg with the Lemon-Mustard Sauce and dab additional around the edges of the hash. Serves 4. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Caldo Tlalpeño

Here’s a soup that is right up there with the ever-popular Mexican Tortilla Soup.  A friendly relative recently wanted to know if I had a recipe for Caldo Tlalpeño―apparently a popular Mexican soup made with chicken, garbanzo beans and vegetables. Huh,  I didn’t have a clue; but it  was enough to set off  flashing lights and whistling bells because garbanzos are one of my favorite beans. I cannot get enough of their hearty flavor and texture.  Give me hummus any day; I sprinkle beans onto salads and include them in entrees to replace or extend meat.    

Since I had never heard of this soup, I was completely flummoxed, and based on its build-up I was really missing the boat.  This is when the internet becomes invaluable.  Before I could get my soup pot out and heated up I was ready to head back to Mexico and try the real deal.  I quickly learned that one of the signature elements of the soup is adobo, a robust smoky sauce soaked with chipotle peppers. 

Caldo Tlalpeño originates from Tlalpan, a highly revered ecological borough in the Federal District of Mexico City.  This heavily forested region has retained much of it provincial charm and is deeply rooted in its Mesoamerican heritage.   Who knew?

After consulting several different sites and recipes, I channeled my Querétaro señora and proceeded.  I started with a rotisserie chicken, the basis of many of my stocks these days.  A note on making a delicious and easy chicken stock: I’ve learned that while the chicken is still warm and moist from the market, the meat will literally fall off the bone and within 3 or 4 minutes it is completely deboned.  

For the stock, place the heap of bones in a soup pot, cover with 6 to 8 cups water, and simmer with onion and carrot trimmings left from the pre-prepped soup ingredients.  Add a stalk of celery or about ½ tsp. celery seed, a couple sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, and few grinds of fresh pepper.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about one hour.  Strain the stock and allow it to cool and chill until needed.  When chilled, skim off any unnecessary fat congealed on top of the stock, and proceed.   

The soup can be prepared and is ready to eat in about 45 minutes but it is as good or better the next day.  The key ingredient, the adobo, varies greatly according to maker.  The day I made mine, I noticed the sauce was quite mild―primarily a tomato puree flavored with the chipotle.  You will need to bravely taste your adobo and use your judgment.  I’ve learned that in Mexico, the soup can range from mild to extremely hot.  Err on the side of caution the first time that you try a new adobo sauce; you can always add more!  I ended up using 2 chipotle peppers, seeded and chopped plus about 3 tbsp. of the adobo sauce.  My soup was spicy hot, but not a scorcher.  The following day, it was even milder. 

As with Tortilla Soup, tableside toppings are part of the fun and add to the full flavor of Caldo Tlalpeño.  A few squirts of fresh lime will brighten it; crumbled or grated cheese such as Cotija or other queso fresco offer a lingering saltiness; and cilantro leaves provide perky citrus and herbal notes.  Enjoy with tortilla chips or crush a few and sprinkle them on top, too.   

Inspired by Gourmet, October 1993, per Epicurious 

1 rotisserie chicken deboned, 2 – 3 cups meat, cut up; use the bones for quick stock
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and cut into medium chop
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into medium chop
1 tsp dried oregano
8 cup chicken stock, approximately
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
2 drained canned whole chipotle chilies in adobo, seeded and chopped, plus 2-3 Tbsp. sauce
2 cups cooked chick-peas, rinsed and drained
1 ear corn, husk, remove silk and cut into ¾” rounds (optional)
1 zucchini, cut into medium chop
½ tsp. each salt and pepper

Toppings:  1 lime cut into wedges, 1 cup Cotijo, Panela or other crumbled or grated cheese, 1 cup cilantro leaves, 1 avocado, cut up.  Tortilla chips. 

1.       In a large heavy saucepan cook the onion in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until it is softened, stir in the garlic, carrots and oregano and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the reserved broth to the vegetable mixture with the tomato and the chipotles, adobo sauce, the corn and the garbanzos; simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes. 

2.       Add the zucchini, add salt and pepper; adjust seasoning,  and simmer 10 minutes.  The soup may be prepared up to this point 1 day in advance and kept covered and chilled.

 To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and add toppings as desired:  lime wedges, cheese, cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.  Yield:  6 servings. 


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