Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sour Cream Chicken Nachos

It’s a bit over a week until the Superbowl, and I’m sure that your party menu is already planned, if you are doing one.  As promised, here’s an additional post with a recipe using another of Brooklyn Salsa Company‘s products.  I’ve been having a great time this week making a couple of different dishes with their salsa, and I’ve passed out some hints to friends about other ideas for meals to make with a few of their flavors.  My giveaway of their 5 Borough salsa pack is to give some lucky winner the chance to try them all.

The Staten Island salsa with its tomatillo and tomato roots provides the flavor base for these Sour Cream Chicken Nachos (photo below).  The first time I had these was when I went to Texas to visit a friend from college.  It was love at first bite with the spicy chicken, cool sour cream, gooey cheese, and crunchy tortilla chips.  Back in Virginia, we didn’t really have much Tex-Mex.  I’d eaten tacos with packaged seasoning and shells from a box, but that was about as far as anything resembling Mexican food ever got.  Well, except for the Chili con Queso I mentioned previously.

The giveaway!

I’d even had something that I can only now call deconstructed tacos, with all the components laid out on a table.  Originally, that idea came from someone’s Girl Scout camping trip, I believe, and went by the name of “Fork Tacos” in our house.  This drives my sister-in-law completely crazy because you scoop up the meat and toppings with a tortilla chip and not a fork.  It’s an existential argument, but she can dispute the point for hours.  I’ve actually been around when this has happened.

This is a perfect dish to make to get your Superbowl party started.  You can pull a big plate of these together and let everyone just dig in for themselves, serving them with cool, creamy, citrusy Guacamole.  The chicken can even be prepared the day before (just pack it up with some extra sauce to keep it tender).  This recipe came about in part because I was trying to make Enchiladas Suizas.  They didn’t really come out all that great, but I had all this leftover meat.  I really actually prefer nachos anyway with the crunch of the chips as a contrast to the soft, gooey toppings, so I changed the recipe around, which I think came out better in the end anyway.

Sour Cream Chicken Nachos

Prep Time: About 30 minutes, more like 45 if you need to poach the chicken
Serving Size:  As many nachos as you can fit on a plate!

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1/2 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely minced
1/4 c. white onion, minced
2-3 cups cooked chicken, shredded*
1 c. Brooklyn Salsa Company Staten Island salsa
1 Tbsp. Brooklyn Salsa Company Brooklyn salsa (optional, I just wanted more heat)
1/4 c. water
1 c. chicken stock (or chicken poaching water*)
1/4 tsp. salt
Tortilla chips, your favorite brand
Sour cream
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Assembly:
Heat oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Put jalapeno and onion into pan and let cook over medium heat until softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Take care not to let them get browned or burnt.  Add chicken and salsa and stir to incorporate.  Pour in chicken stock and water.  Bring mixture to a boil and then turn the heat down to let it simmer.

Cook for about 15 minutes, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed into the meat.  If you are not going to use this right away, store the chicken in the liquid so that it doesn’t dry out.  If you want to make enchiladas at this step, this is the perfect stage to stop as well, as there will be plenty of sauce to make them.

If making nachos, cook for about 5 minutes more at this point to have most of the liquid absorbed into the meat, as you don’t want soggy nachos.  Turn off the heat.  Add salt and stir.  Taste for seasoning.  The chicken should have some heat as a backnote but should really just be flavorful and have a bright punchy taste to it.  If you would like more heat, add some additional salsa at this point and stir.

Assemble nachos.  This might have to be done in a couple of batches.  Put tortilla chips in a single layer on a large microwaveable plate or platter.  Place a dollop of the chicken mixture on each chip.  Dot each chip with sour cream, probably no more than 1/8-1/4 tsp. per chip.  Then, sprinkle a bit of cheese on each chip to cover it.  Put in microwave for about 15 seconds on high to melt the cheese.  (I just use the “Reheat” button on mine which seems to be enough time.)  Serve immediately along with Guacamole.

*Kitchen Witch Tip:
I poached a couple of chicken breasts for this recipe, as I had them on hand, but you can use any parts.  To cook (poach) them, I put them in a Dutch oven along with a couple of bay leaves and a couple of slices of white onion.  Then I poured enough water over them to cover them. I brought the water up to a slow boil and then turned it down a bit to a simmer.  After about 20 minutes (check after 15), the chicken should be cooked through and no longer pink inside.

Remove chicken from the pan and set aside to cool before shredding it.  Put a sieve over a glass, heatproof measuring cup and pour the liquid from the pan through the sieve into the cup.  This liquid will go back in to the pot when cooking the chicken with the salsa.  This way, you don’t lose any chicken flavor in the dish.  Take the onion that you used to cook the chicken and chop that up finely to use as the onion for the above recipe.

Product Giveaway – Brooklyn Salsa Company

Today, I’m going to launch my first Product Giveaway!  I’ve become a big fan of the Brooklyn Salsa Company‘s product line and think that this should end up in someone’s refrigerator, just in time for the Superbowl on February 6th.  I have a set of their 5 Boroughs pack to give away to one commenter.  This includes one jar of each of The Manhattan, The Staten IslandThe QueensThe Bronx, and The Brooklyn (in ascending order of heat).

You might have seen my review of this product on my previous post on this site.  The reason I’m holding this giveaway is that I’m a big fan of this company and their philosophy, and I’d like one of you to have an opportunity to enjoy their salsas, too.  By way of disclosure, they did not pay me to do this or ask me to host a giveaway.  I bought the salsa from them specifically for this event.

Each of these flavors is delicious to eat on its own or used as a base for some of your favorite recipes.  I cleaned out a jar of The Bronx, with its eggplant and peppers reminiscent of the wonderful Italian shops on Arthur Avenue, in about a week as a base for a lunchtime pasta dish, using canned chopped tomatoes and mozzarella to round it out.  The Brooklyn spiced up my Chili con Queso game day party dip, and The Staten Island is going to go into my recipe for Sour Cream Chicken Nachos.

The Rules (There have to be some of these, you know.)

Eligibility: U.S. mainland residents only, as these are perishable items. (Apologies to salsa-starved ex-pats and overseas readers.)

To Enter:  Write a comment on this post with the answer to the following questions: Who is going to win the Superbowl this year?  What is going to be the point spread?*  You must also have a valid screen name to enter this giveaway.  I’ll need to be able to click on it in order to contact the winner.

Deadline:  Is Tuesday, February 1st at noon EST, based upon the date/time stamp on the comments.  (I’m going to be mean about this and make no exceptions.)  This is be able to get the salsa to the winner in time for the big game.

The Outcome:  Only one winner will be chosen for all five jars, as they are a set.  I’m going to put all the entries into an online Randomizer (like this one) to come up with the winner.  (No, I will not use my Actuary father and his magic spreadsheets to draw up the winner.)

Good luck and Buon Appetito!

*For the record, I grew up with the Washington Redskins, so I don’t have a stake in the answer.  The NY Jets didn’t make it in, so I can’t even be a “fake fan,” as my sister would call it.

Product Spotlight – Brooklyn Salsa Company

For the second morning in a row, I’ve woken up to the above scene: large snowflakes gently drifting downwards causing a vaguely snowglobe effect outside of my window as I look towards the East River.  It sort of gives a romantic glow to the block of tenements across the street from my building.  What better to do, then, to test a recipe for Sour Cream Chicken Nachos (which I’ll post later) using Brooklyn Salsa Company‘s fragrant Staten Island Salsa.  Its green tomatillo notes balanced by tomatoes, mango, spices, and other ingredients which make it a perfect base from which to build this dish.

I first came across this line of salsas when I was shopping for holiday gifts at the Brooklyn Flea’s Gifted Market and was hooked immediately by the fresh, clean taste and unique personality of each of the 5 Boroughs flavors.  This is the kind of salsa I dream about being able to make at home, but can never quite get right.  It completely transported me back to places out west where I’ve eaten to get my Tex-Mex food kick, the kind of stuff that’s not so easy to get around here (as transplants will confirm).

What better way to find out more about these products than to meet up with one of the founders/creators of the line: Rob Behnke.  Last week, I headed over to their offices in a repurposed industrial space in Brooklyn to talk to him.  Matt Burns, the other partner, was out making some more deliveries of their popular product.  Given how busy both of them are, I really appreciated the time that Rob took to talk to me about what they do and the passion and inspiration behind their salsas.

Initially, the driver for this project was that they just couldn’t get great-tasting salsa locally.  After many experiments, Rob said, they finally came up with the flavor balances for which they were looking and officially launched mid-2010.  Since then, their salsas have been a huge hit, wherever they’ve been available.  When I tried to find out if there was a “gateway” salsa, he replied that there wasn’t really any one in particular and that he hears at tastings that folks sometimes mix-and-match depending upon levels of heat and what they are planning to do with it.  They even have a page on their website for folks to send in their recipes, like I did with my Chili con Queso.
Open a jar, any flavor.  The fragrance of the salsa just awakens your sleeping tastebuds and starts your mouth watering.  Dip a tortilla chip or spoon into the jar.  Take a bite.  Robust, hearty flavor hits your tongue, followed by notes of citrus and spice, then the finish of heat and kick of peppers.  It’s just enough to make you dip in another chip and keep eating it until you realize that the jar is empty and you’ll have to go to the store for some more.  Your mouth has a wonderful tingle all over from the peppers, your brain is smiling, and your stomach is just really, really happy.  These salsa will keep you going for another few months while the thermometer continues to nosedive and the sidewalks continue to be blanketed in white.

Aside from just wanting to make products that taste great and that capture the essence of what is a “salsa” or sauce, another aspect of the company’s philosophy, which is what drew me in in the first place, is that Rob and Matt, insofar as is possible, try to work directly with New York farms who grow the raw materials that go into their products.  Obviously, some items, like mango or coconut milk, aren’t local to this region, but their next step is to work on the ground where those components are produced to develop these items in a sustainable manner that benefits the farmers.  They also pay attention to the smaller things that go into shipping their jars of salsa, like the composition of the boxes and biodegradable packing peanuts.

The pair have trademarked this methodology “Conscious Methods” to capture the essence of local sourcing, using organic materials as much as is feasible, and direct trade with the manufacturers of the ingredients that they use.  I’ve talked to a few food producers in the last several months that are trying to capture a similar model for their goods, but this is the first time that I’ve heard a phrase that really brings it all together.  This combination of philosophy plus quality ingredients is merges completely deliciously from the moment of that first pop of the seal on the jar.

Buon appetito!

Foodshed Market at Brooklyn Commons

With the frigid temperatures outside, I’m grateful that some of the folks from the farmers markets have moved indoors for a bit.  Today, some friends of mine and I paid a visit to one of these, the Foodshed Market at the Brooklyn Commons.  This space is not only being used to host vendors on Sundays, it also has other activities taking place during the week and special food demos on market day.

Normally, it would take a lot to pry me off of the couch to venture out of doors when the thermometer gets this low but having been there a couple of Sundays ago, I knew that there would be some great treats waiting for me at the end of my subway trip, including a Lobster Roll from Luke’s Lobster.  One of these was the lovely display of fish from Joseph Fisheries out of Montauk on Long Island, from whom I’d bought the gorgeous sole that went into the Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce that I made a couple of weeks ago.  I looked for it again today, but, alas, there wasn’t any.  I was a bit disappointed, but there was so much else to check out at the market today.

There was a favorite of mine, Mosefund Farm, with their amazing Italian brats (on left) and applewood smoked bacon.  I was told that beer brats, a hot Italian sausage, and a breakfast sausage will be arriving soon as additions to their product line.  I can’t wait to try those out when they arrive.  Another vendor whom I’ve mentioned before, Brooklyn Cured, was also there with his country pate and other offerings (on right).  I’m still keeping my eyes peeled for when he has his homemade mustard available for sale, as I think it goes perfectly with his smoked pork rillettes.

What was great about this market, too, was the chance for me to discover some new vendors as well.  One of this was Las Delicias with all their gorgeous pastries.  The Lavender Madeleines had a delicate floral perfume that complemented the soft, sweet cake.  I walked off with an Almond Kouing Amman which was flakey on the outside but buttery rich and robustly almondy on the inside, much like biting into an almond croissant.  Both of these were perfect afternoon treats and just enough to keep me going to check out the rest of the market.  They also carry some savory tarts as well, if you wanted to pick up something to have later on.  The husband of the owner, who was manning the table said that she (the owner) had been talking to the Greenmarket about selling in their stalls as well, so these items might be available in your neighborhood soon.

There was plenty to snack on at other tables, too.  Tierra Farm was selling its organic nuts and other products.  They have an Agave Ginger Cashew that could be an addictive afternoon snack with its sweet-sharp bite.  If you’re looking at something different to serve for your Superbowl party this year, you should check out Samios Foods (photo above) who had several flavors of their Greek skordalia out for everyone to try.  This is creamy like hummus, but with a bit of a punch from the garlic or savory note from the rosemary, depending upon the version that you try.  I really loved the contrast between its smooth texture and the crispy flatbreads that we used to taste it.

If your sweet tooth wants to be satisfied, there’s plenty in that area as well.  My friends and I liked the samples of toffee from Pure Goodies (unfortunately, their site is down at the moment).  The original and milk chocolate toffee was sweet, crunchy, buttery, and all the things it should be, much like my own version.  Their Maple Bacon flavor was smokey and sweet at the same time, if you can believe that that combination works.  It truly all blended together harmoniously.  The real hit, I think is their Cayenne Sea Salt toffee, which starts out smooth and sweet and then hits with a pop of heat at the end, in a surprising twist.  It is just enough spark to make you want to go back for another piece.

Then, there was Cibelli Chocolates who brought a smooth, creamy sea salt caramel for us to try.  Beautifully decorated, these come in interesting flavors like Peanut Butter and Jelly and Masala Chai.  Not all of these were my favorites, I have to be honest, but the passion is definitely there in the production.  I just wish my photos could do justice to how lovely these all looked.  Definitely keep an eye on her website, as she said she’s doing something special for Valentine’s Day.

Upstairs today, as the market has two floors, we checked out Swoon who had sweet and savory items on display.  The owner sells at markets, through his website, and has other private customers.  His products are gluten free and/or vegan, and he sells soups, cookies, cupcakes, dressings, and other prepared items.  The vegetarian (soy-free) meatball in tomato sauce had a great, rich, satisfying flavor.  I’m not sure that I could pass it off on my carnivore siblings for dinner, but it might be worth a try with these.  The Cucumber-Dill Dressing would have gone perfectly with the salmon my friend is thinking about fixing tonight with its creamy texture and crunch.

The hit of the market for us, however, had to be the folks at The Stand.  I’ve heard them mentioned in the press, but I’d never come across their products until now.  I had no idea what I’d been missing.  Using locally-available and seasonal ingredients, where they can, they are among the folks who are tapping into the naturally-made soda market here in New York.  With flavors like Quince, Meyer Lemon, Caramel-Apple, and Cranberry-Lemon, we were thinking “Cocktail Party,” although these are actually designed to be used with carbonated water to make homemade sodas.

All of these syrups would make wonderful hostess gifts or presents to oneself.  They also had samples of sweet quince jam and mouth-puckering Meyer lemon jam to try as well.  Those would go very well with several dishes I could think to put together or even as complements to a cheese platter.  You could even cheat and use the lemon one with a tagine, instead of preserving lemons yourself (I won’t tell anyone.).

There’s so many things available in just the relatively small space of the Foodshed, that it’s hard to do justice in this short post to all of it.  There were lots of vendors selling a wide variety of products, including raw produce.  The folks from Bambino’s Ravioli had lovely fresh pasta and today had fresh cannolis along with tubs of cannoli cream.  Divine Brine (whom I’d first tried at Pickle Day) had their pickles and chutneys available, perfect companions for winter’s heavier dishes.  For those who like amazingly delicate and rich meats, the people at Hudson Valley Duck were on hand to demonstrate their smoked duck breasts, duck rillettes, and duck proscuitto.  The only downfall of today’s visit is that I realized that I just don’t have the refrigerator space or weekly food budget to buy all of these items.  I guess I’ll just have to go back there again throughout the season to pick up something new every week.  It definitely beats having to shop at several different stores, trudging home in the freezing cold with all my bags.

Buon appetito!

To Pre-ssert

I’ve brought up a phrase a few times in some of my posts and realized last week, when it came up again in conversation, that it probably needs its own spotlight.  You might have caught it a few times, as it was mentioned recently in my write-up about our family holiday dinner this year, among other places.  That is “to pre-ssert.”

Brother in question, pre-sserting in action


This term was created by my little brother, as he came out and said in the comments on that above post, to cover up for the time that he tried to eat a cookie on the sly in front of my impressionable young niece just before they were supposed to be having dinner.  My brother is a habitual snacker, so this is no surprise to anyone, but to a parent who is trying to instill discipline and a sense of household order, it can derail things substantially when other family members violate the “no snacks before meals” rules.  To clarify, however, a pre-ssert is not a snack, per my brother’s definition and what he told my niece that day.  (This distinction completely cracked up my youngest sister, as she mentioned it again during the holidays this year.)

Same brother, different pre-ssert

I first heard him use this term, and was told the explanation behind it, when I was traveling in Italy with that same brother and his wife.  We were touring Venice, starting to think about where to have lunch, when he decided that he needed a little something to tide himself over.  Again, this was pretty close to the hour when we were going to eat, so it was away from the official snack timeframe.  A tartufo was his nosh of choice at that time, in much the same way as it would have been an after-meal dessert for someone else.

Melt Bakery – a perfect pre-ssert option

This whole thing was just too good to keep to myself, so I’ve often shared the concept with friends.  The general reaction is, as it was last week, “I love that!  I’m so going to use it!”  I actually encourage and support careful pre-sserting, I really do.  I have even practiced it myself, such as when I was at the Grub Street / Hester Street Food Festival (photo above).  Another great option is my new food favorite, Robicelli’s Cupcakes (photo below), which I discovered at Park Here.   Check out their flavors on the website.  If you are going to pre-ssert, these are definitely worth indulging in for that cause.

Would you like a pre-ssert?  Why, yes I would!

So, I pass along this favorite family expression.  Feel free to use this term to cover up your own edible indiscretions.  I can’t be responsible for whether or not it works as you try to convince your younger family members that it is perfectly all right to have that sweet (it’s always a sweet) before the meal, wiping the tell-tale crumbs from around your mouth in the process.  After all, it’s perfectly o.k.  You aren’t snacking, as you tell them, you are only pre-sserting.

Buon appetito!

Chili con Queso and Guacamole for Game Day

Today is the big playoff game for New York with the Jets taking on the Patriots this afternoon.  I don’t have any stake in this match-up or in any of the teams that will eventually make it to the Superbowl this year.  What I’ve been thinking about lately, no surprises here, is what great food I can bring to a game-watching party.  As it’s unlikely I’ll be hosting the whole thing, I’ve been toying around with some portable pre-meal snacking options.

It might sound a bit naff, but I really like the Tex-Mex classics, even though I know that they might not represent authentic Mexican cuisine, which I also do enjoy.  They were the way that I first learned about these flavors, which were completely foreign to my generic 1970s-80s upbringing.  One of the things I probably first ate was Chili con Queso.  I used to love to order it when we went out, but I never seem to do so now.

Chili con Queso

For a game day party, however, I think it is the perfect thing to offer to your guests.  It’s gooey, rich, cheesy, with a punchy spiciness.  Frankly, when I was testing this recipe, I forgot how much I enjoyed it and how addictive it can be.  Why did I ever stop eating it?  Paired with another version of Guacamole that I also created to go along with it, these two things should keep your hungry hoards satisfied, no matter who ends up winning the match.

Chili con Queso

Prep time: about 15 minutes
Serving Size: Depends upon your group

Ingredients:
8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 1/2 cup Cheddar / Monterey Jack Cheese mix (or plain Cheddar)
1/3 to 1/2 cup Brooklyn Salsa Company’s Brooklyn Salsa (or your favorite)*

Assembly:
In bottom half of double boiler, bring about 1 inch of water to the boil.  Put in the top half of the boiler and add the cream cheese, stirring until it becomes smooth and creamy, rather than being a solid block.  Add the cheddar / monterey jack cheeses and stir until they melt completely into the cream cheese.  Pour in 1/3 c. of the salsa and stir thoroughly to blend together with the cheeses.  Add more salsa as necessary to taste.  Serve immediately, garnished with tortilla chips for dipping.  This can be made in advance and re-heated.

*The salsa that I recommend, which can be found several places in New York or on line, is their hottest one, so proceed accordingly and add the lower amount first, bringing the dip up to your desired level of spiciness by gradually adding more.  If you prefer, substitute a less spicy version and add more salsa to the cheeses to give the dip its kick.

Guacamole

Prep time: about 15 minutes

Serving Size: Depends upon your group
Ingredients:
2 ripe Avocados
1 Jalapeno, finely minced
1/3 cup White Onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp. ground Cumin
1/4 tsp. ground Coriander
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1 Lime, juice of, plus wedges for garnish
Assembly:
Peel and mash avocados in medium bowl leaving some chunks, if desired.  Add jalapeno and onion and stir to incorporate.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly.  Allow to sit for at least an hour, covered before, serving with tortilla chips.
Buon appetito!

This entry is also cross-posted at Blogher.