Monday, January 31, 2011

un taco de carne asada por favor

This was my least favorite of all the tacos. I definitely prefered the steak as leftovers in my salad the next day. I'm not a steak fan, but I did find this steak quite delicious. This would be a great recipe for fajitas.

taco de carne asada
1 1/2 lb flap steak
4 limes, juiced
2 oranges, juiced
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 dark beer such as negra modelo
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c cilantro, chopped
1/2 c olive oil 

Whisk together the citrus, beer, garlic, cilantro and olive oil.  Marinate steak for 1-8 hours.

Grill each side on medium-high for about 10 minutes, or until done. Let rest for 5 minutes. Slice against the grain. Do this by first cutting the steak in thirds. Turn the steak 90 degrees and make thin slices.

Friday, January 28, 2011

j + m

Jax likes chayote.

Murdo likes chorizo.

This is their taco: 

One of the best parts about college was the magical appearance of foreign foods. Jax cooked a Fillipino dish with chayote squash. Chayote squash:

The texture reminds me of either an unripe pear or an apple. The flavor is subtle and respondes well to citrus. Instead of putting it on a taco, it also would make for a very nice, unique side/vegetable dish.

j + m

1/2 lb chorizo sausage
1 large baking potato, shredded
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 chayote squash, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lime
1 T olive oil

cotija cheese - this is a salty crumbly cheese somewhere in between parmesan and feta but with its own unique flavor.
chopped cilantro
adobo chile tomatillo salsa (recipe below) or toasted guajillo chile salsa or pico de gallo

Dry the potato shavings in a potato ricer or with clean kitchen towels. Drying the potatoes makes for better crispifying.

Take chorizo out of casing and heat over medium heat in a sauce pan. Break up chorizo with a wooden spoon. Heat til almost cooked. Add potato and onion. Continue cooking until potato is cooked as desired. I liked the potato browned in spots, like hashbrowns.

While the chorizo/potato mixture is cooking, heat olive oil in a separate pan on medium heat. Cook squash until just softened (3-5 minutes). Squeeze with lime juice and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

 Assemble taco with chorizo/potato mixture, chayote squash, cilantro, cotija cheese and salsa.

adobo chile tomatillo salsa
(Rick Bayless' recipe)

4 medium tomatillos, husks removed
2 cloves garlic
2 cans chiles en adobo (I used only one can and it had a nice little kick without being overpowering)
1/4 c water

Split each tomatillo in half. Place cut side down in a pan over medium heat. Place garlic in pan. Heat til the tomatillos are caramelized and soft (3-4 minutes). Repeat on other side. Flip garlic as well.

Blend tomatillos and chiles en adobo in food processor with the water. Note, more or less water can be added depending on your desired salsa consistency. I didn't use any water and liked the thicker consistency.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

the HK

On a post-it:

Accused of "working together too much." Three phrases in each of our half page outlines bore striking resemblance to the other two outlines. You caught us, Professor Harris. All along, we schemed to write one brief jointly between the three of us, make three copies and each turn one into you with our own name on top. We threw pennies daily into Buckingham Fountain wishing that you would never notice. But alas, our wishes did not come true.

Called into the professor's office, we received a lecture on Kent's code of conduct policy regarding academic dishonesty.
"But, Professor Harris, you told us to work together to develop a rough outline, " Ansonia inquired.
"Well, Ansonia, I may have said that, but that's not what I meant. I didn't mean for any of you to write anything down while you were together. I just meant for you to have some in-depth discussions about the specifics of the case and formulate a general outline in discussion. You weren't supposed to write down anything while you were all three together. I don't want to read three of the same briefs."
"We just wrote down some sentences to help develop our ideas. The briefs are thirty pages. I hardly think three sentences will result in identical briefs," HK explained.
"Writing identical briefs is not the point. The point is that Kent has a very strict code of conduct regarding academic dishonesty. Have I made myself clear?"

Absolutely. Not.

Since then, HK and I have made salmon burgers, attempted to fry tempura and coconut shrimp, and created a feast for last year's Superbowl. And, of course, who could forget the crawfish.

We also enjoy stealing recipes from each other . . .

HK and Joel invited me over for dinner a few weeks back and made wonderful tostones. I'm not sure if the crunchy sweet plaintain or the mouth watering roasted garlic aioli began my tostones obsession. In any event, I was hooked. So, I stole her recipe and turned it into a taco. This delicious taco features tostones, roasted poblano peppers, lime aioli, queso fresco and mole sauce:

the HK

3 unripe (green) or partially ripe (yellow-ish with black spots) plantains
oil for frying
flour tortillas
3 poblano peppers, roasted
queso fresco

Heat enough oil for frying on medium heat. Remove plantain peel and cut plantains into 1 inch tall cylinders. Fry until the bottom is golden brown. Flip each plantain piece and fry until the other side is golden brown.

Remove from oil. Smash each plantain with the bottom of a glass until flattened and about 1/4 inch thick. Return to oil and fry until the inner parts of the plantain are also golden brown. Remove. Tostones!

Serve the tostones in a tortilla with roasted poblano peppers, aoili (recipe below), mole (recipe below) and top with queso fresco. Note, that the partially ripe plantains will turn into sweeter and softer tostones than the unripe, green, ones.

3 heads of garlic
juice from 2 limes
about 1/3 c olive oil

Chop of top of garlic so that each clove is exposed. Drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil. Bake in the oven at 325 for 1 hour.

After letting the garlic cool, squeeze out the cloves into a bowl. Add the lime juice. Add enough olive oil to create a pasty sauce.

This serves as a delicious dip for the tostones. This is how HK served the tostones when I had dinner over at her house. Dangerously addicting.

mole (mol-ay) sauce
by ciao at

4 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (recommended: Hershey Special Dark, it has a sweetness that mellows the sauce)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over med-low heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, cumin and cinnamon. Cover and cook until onion is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Mix in chili powder and flour, stir for 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in chicken broth. Increase heat to med-high. Boil until reduced, about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate; season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Monday, January 24, 2011

bourbon bananas flambritt

Sitting around our wobbly kitchen table, tornado, flambritt and I discussed what foods most represent our apartment. The ultimate goal, turn those foods into a taco.

"Ok, Britt, your five foods. Go."
"Whisky, cheese, mushrooms, salmon, artichokes."
"Hmmm, that sounds appetizing and all . . ."
"No, make me a dessert taco! With whisk!"

Just like that, the bourbon bananas flambritt was born. Well, at least we knew the taco would be whisky based.

As the dessert aficionado of the house, flambritt typically enjoys 100 calorie "ice cream" sandwiches. They're alright if you're into that airy fake sugar kind of thing. I'm not. This dessert would be different.

During the week, flambritt can be found hula hooping, sipping on vino, eating sushi or engaged in costume design for the weekend. Most often, a combo. The weekend: bluegrass and whisk. Is there anything else?

That begs the question, what kind of a taco might a hula hooping, bluegrass dancing, whisky drinking roommate like to eat?

A fiery one.

bourbon bananas flambritt
Inspired by Julia Child's Bananas Flambe

3 bananas, sliced lengthwise
1/2 stick butter, cut in small pieces
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c real maple syrup
juice from 1 lemon
1/3 c bourbon such as Maker's Mark
homemade flour tortillas
vanilla ice cream


Grease your pan with butter. Add the bananas. Squeeze the lemon and pour the maple syrup over the bananas. Sprinkle the butter and brown sugar over the bananas. Bake at 315 for about 20 minutes, or until the bananas are soft. Baste the bananas with the liquid in the pan about every 5 minutes.

Heat the bourbon in a pan on the stove on low heat. Be careful not to let it boil.

Pull the bananas from the oven. Pour the bourbon over the bananas. Light the bananas on fire. Voila, bourbon bananas flambritt!

Sprinkle with cinnamin and serve with vanilla ice cream in a homemade flour tortilla.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The Tribune seems to think that January is soup month. Something about it being cold and snowy and windy in Chicago. But, hello, Tribune, didn't you get the memo? It's taco month. Duh.

Oh taco month, how I love thee . . .

This taco was inspired by a certain roommate of mine who we affectionately call "Tornado." Her New Years Eve celebration started on the 29th of December, at noon. She refers to herself as Cherise. She takes about a dozen vacations a year. All in the name of Umphrey's McGee and a certain pony-tailed boy. Let's call him Ruben. 

Tornado likes her meals doused in hot sauce, preferably Frank's. And if the shrimp are drinking tequila, perf. More Corona for Tornado. Don't forget the lime.


1/4 c fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 Franks RedHot Sauce
1/4 c tequila
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

Mix the lime juice, hot sauce, tequila. Add the garlic and cliantro. Mix. Place shrimp on skewers. Note, if you are grilling over fire, don't forget to soak wooden sticks in water so they don't catch fire. Pour the mixture over the shrimp and marinate for about 30 minutes. 

Grill shrimp 3 min. a side.

Serve in warm tortillas with toppings of your choice. Tornado and Flambritt (her taco blasts off later this week) liked the mango salsa (recipe below) party atop their tacos. I preferred mine with just avocado and queso fresco. Without the salsa, I could really taste the tequila, lime and hot sauce flavor of the shrimp. These shrimp would be great atop a salad dressed with a citrusy vinaigrette. 

Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa
by FHIVESHOT on allrecipes

1 mango - peeled, seeded and diced
1 avocado - peeled, pitted, and diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil. To blend the flavors, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


One of the most wonderful features of the taco is adaptability. One day the taco hauls around pork to feed its carniverious fans. A few days later, the taco cozies up to chihuahua cheese, piles on the grilled veggies and bathes in roasted tomatillo salsa to appeal to a traveling vegetarian.

(berenjena = eggplant)

1/2 c chopped oregano
1/2 c chopped basil
1 c olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 yellow squash, cut into1/2 inch slices
2 tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges each
12 oz chihuahua cheese, shredded
8 flour tortillas, preferably homemade. It is definitely worth making the additional trip to your local Mexican bakery. I got these tortillas from Nuevo Leon on 18th Street at Ashland.

Mix the oregano and basil in a food processor till finely chopped. Slowly add the oil until you have a pesto. This may be less or more than 1 cup.

Heat your grill on medium high.

Brush the pesto on one side of the vegetables. Place marinade side down on the grill. While on the grill, brush the marinade on the other side. Grill each side for about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 415 degrees. Place the tortillas on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese. Cook until the cheese is bubbly and a little golden, about 8 minutes.

Layer veggies on your taco. Top with toasty guajillo chile salsa (recipe below). Enjoy!

To reheat: place tortilla on tinfoil and veggies in pan on top of woodburning stove.

Rick Bayless' Salsa Roja de Guajillo Asado
(Toasty Guajillo Chile Salsa)

4 medium (about 8 ounces total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and halved
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 (1/.2 oz total) dried guajillo chiles, stemmed
2 T vegetable oil

Measure the oil into a large skillet and set over medium heat. Tear the guajillo chiles open and sweep out the seeds with your fingers. Lay the chiles in the hot oil. Turn constatntly until they're aromatic and have changed color slightly, about 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon, scoop the chiles into a blender jar, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

With a paper towel, wipe out the oil from the skillet (no need to wash it). Set the skillet over medium-high heat and lay in the garlic and tomatillos (cut side down). When the tomatillos are well browned, 3 or 4 minutes, turn everything over and brown the other side. Scoop into the blender jar and add 1/2 c water. Blend until nearly smooth. Pour into a salsa dish and cool.

Thin with a little additional water if necessary to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 t.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

pineapple powers pork

The new year brings great things. Such as, taco month.

What better way to ring in the new year than achiote seasoned slow cooked pork wrapped in banana leaves served on a taco with pineapple salsa?

Slow-Cooked Achiote Pork by Top Chef Masters winner, Rick Bayless

Serves 6

Half a 3.5oz package of achiote seasoning (Rick recommends Yucateco brand)
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (divided use)
Half a 1-pound package banana leaves (I found mine frozen)
3 lb bone-in pork shoulder roast
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup water
6 oz beer (not part of the master's recipe, but I find that slow cooked dishes really like a drink. They deserve it - all that hard work to make the food tasty.)

Mix the achiote seasoning with 1/2 c of the lime juice and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix into a smooth, thick marinade.

Line your slow cooker or dutch oven with banana leaves. One goes accross the length, and the other accross the width. Lay in the pork and pour the marinade over the meat. Scatter the white onion over the meat. Pour 1 c water around the meat and half of the beer you're drinking. Wrap up the meat with the banana leaves.

Cover and slow cook on high for 6 hours (the dish can hold on the slow-cooker's "keep warm" function for 4 more hours or so). Alternatively, cover and slow cook in a 300 degree oven for 3 hours, then turn down and cook at 250 for another hour.

While the meat is cooking, place the red onion in a quarter cup of lime or lemon juice to marinate. Stir occassionally.

Eating delicious snacks is a crucial component of slow cooking pork. Enter Marcia's famous taco dip:


While the meat cooks, make pineapple salsa.

Pineapple Salsa:
1 pineapple, diced (1/2 inch cubes)
1 red pepper, diced (1/2 inch cubes)
2 serrano peppers, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
juice from 2-3 limes
1 cup chopped cilantro

Mix. Grab a chip. Dip.

 Before you know it, the pork is done:

When the pork is finished cooking (it falls off the bone), pour the extra liquid into a sauce pan and heat on medium-high until reduced to a sauce of your desired consistency.

Assemble taco on a soft corn tortilla with meat, a tablespoon of sauce, marinated onions and pineapple salsa.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Branecki Family Christmas Eve

On the first day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the second day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the third day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table. 

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Six puppy ears,
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Seven presents to open,
Six puppy ears,
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Eight extra pounds,
Seven presents to open,
Six puppy ears,
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Nine grandchildren,
Eight extra pounds,
Seven presents to open,
Six puppy ears,
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Ten quarts of soup,
Nine grandchildren,
Eight extra pounds,
Seven presents to open,
Six puppy ears,
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Eleven Christmas carols,
Ten quarts of soup,
Nine grandchildren,
Eight extra pounds,
Seven presents to open,
Six puppy ears,
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.
On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my family sent to me
Twelve ingredient mussels,
Eleven Christmas carols,
Ten quarts of soup,
Nine grandchildren,
Eight extra pounds,
Seven presents to open,
Six puppy ears,
Five golden cookies,
Four drunk aunts,
Three kinds of pierogi,
Two inches of snow,
And oplatki 'round the dinner table.


Mussels in White Wine
from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

4 lbs mussels (cleaned and debearded)
1 t saffron threads
4 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 C chopped shallots
1/4 C chopped garlic
1 C chopped canned tomatoes, with juice
1/3 C chopped parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 C good white wine
2 t salt, or to taste
1 t fresh ground pepper

Soak the saffron in 1/4 C of warm tap water for 15 minutes.

In a large nonaluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.

Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes; then add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more, or until the shallots are translucent.

Add the saffron with the soaking water, the tomatoes, parsly, thyme, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don't burn on the bottom. Pour the mussels into a large bowl and serve hot with crusty bread. Alternatively, serve over pasta.