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Soul of the Desert

Mexican Dishes

Beef Fajitas with Sides

This recipe is derived from several attempts at fajitas. I believe that the method of cooking is probably as important as the marinade. Use a flank steak—tenderized or not. Flank steak is generally a little more expensive than skirt steak, but it is miles better.

Marinade

ÂĽ cup lime juice
ÂĽ cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
2 dashes of liquid smoke flavoring
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp black pepper

Place 1 to 1 and ½ pounds of fajita meat inside a bowl and cover with marinade. Store covered in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours, turning the meat once or twice.

When it is time to cook the meal, prepare an iron skillet by melting a tablespoon of butter and stir-fry at least one sliced onion. You can add peppers too if you like them. These should cook down in the skillet for about twenty minutes.

Grill the steak, but make sure you save the marinade.

After the meat is done, remove the onions from the iron skillet and set aside. Slice the meat across the grain into nice fajita strips. Heat the iron skillet very hot. Put the fajita strips in the skillet with half the marinade. Let it sizzle for a few moments, add half the onions, add half the remaining marinade, add the rest of the onions and marinade and let it sizzle. Most of the marinade should be soaked up when this dish is done. Serve with refried beans, salsa, sour cream and cheese.

Salsa

I love fresh salsa!

Refried Beans

Home made refried beans like grandma used to make!

Spanish Rice
Spanish Rice

Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Breakfast Burritos

Sausage or Bacon
I generally cook sausage ahead of time (Jimmy Dean Hot or Sage) and keep it in the freezer. For burritos for two you’ll need about 1/3 cup of cooked sausage or 1 cooked and chopped strip of bacon.

Small Potato:

You’ll need about 1 cup of diced, cooked potato. The fastest cooking method is microwave. Stick a small raw potato several times with a fork (this keeps the potato from exploding).
Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes on high.
Turn the potato over and cook for another 2 minutes. Test doneness with fork. If soft, remove and dice. If not quite ready, microwave for another minute and test. Repeat until the potato is soft. Dice.

Cooking

In a non-stick skillet reheat the frozen sausage (or cook the bacon, dice and drain extra grease from pan).

For fluffiest eggs, scramble two eggs in a bowl with 2 tsp of water.

Add the two scrambled eggs and the diced potato to the skillet. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until the eggs are done. Because of the meat, you likely won’t need salt or pepper.

Warm precooked flour tortillas or using another griddle type pan, prepare two uncooked tortillas. We use pre-formed, but not cooked tortillas. These are sold here at Wal-Mart in the bread section and also at other grocery stores. Because you basically “grill” them yourself, they are very fresh.

Line the tortillas with the burrito mix, sprinkle shredded cheese and flavor with a spoonful or two of fresh salsa!

Posted: October 14, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Chicken Casserole with Green Chiles

This recipe is actually derived from the standard “tuna casserole” that you probably ate as a child. I never loved tuna so I started changing it and this is the result.

Note about Green Chile: I get mine straight from New Mexico, but that won’t be possible for everyone. You can find canned green chiles in the Mexican food section of most grocery stores. You can also buy it fresh and roast it yourself. Roasting should be done on an outside grill. Once roasted, chiles must be peeled and eaten or frozen. If you are roasting it yourself, roast on low heat on an outside grill, turning occasionally until the skins are blackened. Cool, peel and chop—you might want to use protective gloves. Chile oils will soak through your skin and can cause severe irritation and burning. If you wear contacts, DO NOT try removing your contacts after peeling hot chilies. Trust me on this.

Discard the peelings. Depending on how hot the chilies are, you may want to remove the seeds. For this casserole, I recommend removing the seeds. If the chiles are extremely hot and you intend to freeze them, remove the seeds before freezing. Chiles freeze very well in plastic bags, but the seeds become hard and rubbery and you’ll have to remove them when you thaw the frozen chiles. I travel to New Mexico at least once a year and obtain a hefty supply of these to get me through the year.

Recipe

Boil 12 oz of dried pasta

Mix in bowl:

4 oz cream cheese
1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can of chicken breast meat (you can substitute grilled chicken of course)
Approximately 3 chopped green chiles (you can leave this out if you can’t find them, but they are yummy!)

Microwave the bowl of cheese and other stuff for one minute at a time, stirring between heating for a total heating time of about 3 minutes. Add the rinsed hot pasta and stir.

That’s it. It’s a simple meal and I think it is a vast improvement on tuna casserole.

Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Green Chile Chicken with Monterey Jack Cheese

This recipe started from a newspaper clipping from at least twenty years ago. I’d give the chef credit for his/her part in it, but have no idea who submitted it or what paper it came from! It’s an excellent dish and simple to make, but a tad high in calories if you’re watching that sort of thing.

Ingredients:

4 chicken breasts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup of chicken broth
2 small cans of green chilies, chopped (or you can use fresh roasted and diced green chiles)
2 tsp mustard

1 cup cream

4 oz Monterey jack cheese, grated

Hot cooked rice

Marinade
Marinate the chicken breasts for at least four hours in:

1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking Instructions:

You can grill the chicken breasts for additional flavor, but if not, in ovenproof skillet, sauté the chicken breasts and garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When they are almost cooked, add chicken broth, chopped chilies and mustard.

Cook on pretty high heat until the liquid has cooked down some. Add cream and simmer. Sprinkle with cheese and then put the skillet under the broiler until cheese melts.

Serve over the rice. Steamed asparagus or steamed brocolli goes wonderfully as a side for this dish.

Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Green Chile Enchiladas

This green chile enchilada recipe is a casserole. Think of it as Mexican lasagna. It freezes very well, which is a good thing because it takes about a half hour to prepare.

Two dozen corn tortillas

16 oz sour cream
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 to 1 pound grated monterey jack cheese (or mix some cheddar in there too!)

Sautee:
1 minced garlic clove
6 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
6 fresh green chiles, diced (about 1 1/2 cups) You can use roasted chiles also.
2 diced jalapenos
1 pound hamburger

When hamburger and vegetables are cooked through, mix in the sour cream and cream of mushroom soup.

Spray bottom of large casserole pan with non-stick spray (glass or metal). Use at least a 9×11 pan a deep pan is best.

Layer the bottom with a row of corn tortillas. Spoon a thin layer of hamburger mix across the tortillas and then a layer of cheese. Add a layer of tortillas and so on until the casserole dish is completely layered, ending with cheese (you should get about 3 to 5 layers.) Refrigerate for two or three hours to let the flavors begin to meld. Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes until the center is hot. You can bake covered or uncovered.

Serve with Spanish Rice and refried beans. Creamy jalapeno sauce is an excellent toppping for this casserole.

Posted: August 4, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Green Chile Sauce

This sauce is commonly used to smother burritos, tacos, and enchiladas (where green chile is already in the enchiladas, but the sauce is poured over the top for additional flavor). The sauce uses previously roasted and peeled green chiles.

In skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Saute the following:

1 minced garlic clove
1 small onion, diced

When the onions are soft, add
1 small fresh roma tomato, diced (if you’re using canned tomatoes do not saute merely add at the end)

Heat until tomatoes have softened.

Add six to eight roasted, peeled and diced green chiles and ½ cup to ¾ cup chicken stock. (Note: If you do not have roasted chiles, you need to sautee the fresh chiles with the onions!)

Simmer on low heat for five to ten minutes so that the flavors merge. Serve on top of your favorite recipes!

Can also be served as a salsa. Can be eaten as a side dish lightly smothered with monterey jack cheese.

Look here for instructions on how to roast and freeze green chiles.

Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Appetizers, Mexican Dishes

Homemade Hamburger Helper

This recipe bears a resemblance to my chicken casserole recipe, but instead of pasta, it’s made with rice. Instead of chicken, it uses hamburger. It’s a good meal that can be thrown together quickly because most ingredients can be kept on hand (frozen hamburger, cream cheese lasts forever in the fridge, onions, canned green chiles if you don’t have fresh, and garlic.) The mushrooms are an important ingredient and hard to keep fresh on hand, but you could use canned or leave them out. I also have a rice maker, so that makes this dish speedier and easier. Here’s the dish, with the preferred ingredients:

In skillet brown/sauté the following:

1 pound lean hamburger
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium chopped onion
3 chopped Anaheim chile or two chopped poblano chiles (can substitute a can or two of chopped Anaheim chiles found in the southwest section of most stores, usually with taco supplies.)
4 to 6 ounces fresh chopped mushrooms

You’ll need three cups of cooked rice. After it is done cooking and has “rested” for five to ten minutes, add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and 4 ounces cream cheese.

When the hamburger mixture is cooked, add it to the rice.

Voila! You have homemade hamburger helper!

Additional, optional toppings:

  • Bacon bits
  • Slivered almonds
  • Toasted pine nuts
Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Red Chile – Lost Art

Today I made red chile sauce.  This is a very time-intensive work of art.  The recipe isn’t difficult, but it requires straining the soaked red chile through a vegetable mill (sometimes called a rice mill.)   This milling is done twice (sort of like first pressed olive oil and second press. )  So today I made a wonderful batch of the stuff.  This chile sauce is then used to slow cook meats or is added to beans and other dishes.  It has a wonderful flavor that cannot be duplicated, although many a restaurant cheats and thins the sauce with tomato sauce or uses dried chile powder to attempt the same sort of sauce.  Trust me, it isn’t the same.  This method is native to New Mexico, probably originating somewhere in Mexico with the indigenous Indians there.  They make a mole type sauce that is similar although chocolate or tomatoes and other ingredients (such as garlic, onions, other chile types) are usually added.

I pretty much make the sauce much like tomato sauce is made, only I don’t have to cook it down.  The chiles are rehydrated from a dried state, and so to get the right consistency it’s a matter of adding just the right amount of water.

Making the sauce is very messy because the chile stains pretty much everything it touches–instantly.  When I’m finished, everything goes straight outside to be hosed down.  This morning, I did just that. I was pretty pleased with myself. The dishes were clean and the lawn got some water. I walked around the corner of the house to rinse my hands a final time and to shut the hose off. When I came back around I saw my work sabotaged!!! Or maybe he was trying to help dry the dishes…The neighbor’s cat was licking my nice clean dishes. He looked up with a very innocent expression on his face when I demanded to know just what he thought he was doing. He then proceeded to stick his nose right inside one of the pans and slurp up the remaining water.

Sigh.

I came back inside, washed the dishes again, and began moving the containers to the freezer–only I set one on the door where it wasn’t secure.  The next time I opened the door, it slid out, smashed on the tile floor and spattered EVERYWHERE.   We’re talking have to paint some lower walls…throw out the rug that was there and someone is in serious need of a bath.

It took me the better part of an hour to clean the freezer, the doors, the walls and the floor.  I was already hot and sweaty so may as well make a day of it.

Anyway, I’ll be very happy to have the marinated pork or marinated beef in a few days.  It’s a wonderful dish.  I’m trying not to cry over the container of missing, splattered chile, but it’s hard.
Click on the photos for larger images.

 

Posted: June 25, 2008
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Red Chile and Red Chile Enchiladas

Red Chile Sauce

Growing up, my grandmother and mother both made a delicious red chile sauce from red chiles. The chiles were picked after they were red and then dried—often by laying them out on my grandmother’s tin roof and turning daily. This sauce, as far as I know, is unique to the New Mexico area. Restaurants seem to mix a red sauce that includes dilutions such as tomato sauce or is made from red chile powder, rather than the chiles themselves.

Once chiles were completely air and sun dried, they were seeded and the tops and stems removed. This process was done with gloves because the cayenne in the chiles is very potent and after handling the chiles for a few minutes, the cayenne enters skin and will start to burn!

Here’s the recipe for making the sauce:

After cleaning the chiles, soak them in warm water.
Change the water two or three times, depending on how dirty the chile is.
Fill a blender with chile (lightly—do not pack!).
Add water to almost fill the blender
Blend the mixture

Using a vegetable or fruit strainer, strain the blended chiles. The idea here is to separate the skins and tough parts away from the succulent sauce. Some vegetable strainers will do this—others may not, so you’ll have to take that into account if you’re purchasing a strainer! The basic idea is some sort of paddle that “smashes” the mixture against a strainer. This smashing process forces the sauce through the strainer into a container of some sort.

Discard the chile skins—they should remain on the top of the strainer as you press the mixture.

Once you have the sauce, freeze it and use it as needed. My grandmother liked to either mince garlic into the chile or put in a whole clove when heating it. Don’t thin the sauce before freezing. If it is too thick, after you thaw it, add chicken broth or water to thin it to desired consistency. If a particular batch of red chile is too hot (this happened a lot), buy mild chiles and mix that sauce into the hot chiles.

Making chile this way is a lot of work, but the sauce is unique and very good.

The following enchilada recipe uses just red chile sauce, no additions.

Red Chile Enchiladas

Dip corn tortillas into red chile sauce. Make sure both sides are lightly coated with chile sauce.

Layer the tortillas in a casserole bowl with:

Lightly sautéed Onions
Cooked hamburger
Cheese
More chile sauce (if the sauce is mild enough you can be very generous. If not, go easy on the sauce.)

When you have three or more layers, bake at 350 until hot in the center (depending on how big the casserole is, this usually takes about ½ hour to 45 minutes).

Enchiladas are often served “meatless” with just the cheese and the chile sauce. Some people prefer to use raw onions or leave out the onions entirely. In New Mexico it is quite common to serve enchiladas with an egg, cooked over easy in the center.

Other Dishes

I use red chile sauce to spice hot and sour soup, and it is a must-have spice for posole (meñudo).  It’s also wondeful in a dish called carne guisada or carne adovado.  Basically pork (or beef) chunks are grilled lightly and then covered with the chile and slow cooked (in a low-temp oven or crockpot) for about 5 or so hours.  The crockpot method is much easier, although in the case of oven cooking, you don’t have to grill the meat first.  Add salt, garlic and onions to the mix and then serve on warm tortillas with guacamale, sour cream and refried beans.  There is nothing like it in the world!!!

Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes

Refried Beans

Refried beans seem to be an art, not a recipe. My grandmother made them without apparent thought, and I still can’t make them as good as she did.

Pinto beans usually darken as they age–so when purchasing beans, note the overall color and health of the bean. The lighter the bean, the better.

Sort and clean about 3 cups dried beans.

Soak the sorted pinto beans in water overnight or for at least four hours.

Drain the water and add fresh water–enough to cover the beans by at least an inch–before cooking.

Add 1 tsp salt before boiling.

Stovetop: Boil low, partially covered for about 2 hours until tender. You may have to add more water. Always make sure the beans have some water over the top. Watch to make sure the beans to not boil over.

Crockpot: Cook on high for about 5 hours.

When the beans are nearly done, chop four to five strips of bacon into very small pieces (think bacon bits). Cook the bacon in a fry pan until bacon is crisp. Add the bacon and the grease to the boiling beans.

Finish cooking the beans, removing heat when the beans are tender.

Cool to managable temperture and transfer the beans into large skillet. Be careful not to splatter!

You should still have enough water to just cover the beans, but not so much that you have to “search” for the beans.

Over medium heat, smash the beans with a potato masher and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you need to add a bit more fat to get the right consistency/color/taste, you can either add a tablespoon of oil or even better, add a few slices of cheese.

Note: To make refried beans without bacon grease, just add about three tablespoons of vegetable oil when you smash the beans in the skillet. You can also substitute cheese for the vegetable oil. Each ingredient will give the beans a slightly different flavor. Restaurants often use vegetable oil and then top with cheese.

Posted: August 3, 2006
Filed in Mexican Dishes
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