Restaurant Week(s) in New Mexico

Restaurant Week in New Mexico is underway!  For three wonderful weeks one can experience some of the greatest food in New Mexico.  Best of all, you can reach all of these restaurants from the Sandhill Crane  – tho the Taos group may be better as a lunch excursion to get you back to the inn by evening.

The schedule for New Mexico Restaurant Week is as follows:

  • Santa Fe Restaurant Week 2017: February 19 – 26
  • Taos Restaurant Week 2017: February 26 – March 5
  • Albuquerque Restaurant Week 2017: March 5 – 12

Restaurant week showcases some of the best restaurants in the northern part of the state and features all kinds of cuisine.  And no, everything is not covered in chile!  The restaurants  prepare special prix fixe menus showcasing their cuisine. Over the course of the three weeks you have the opportunity to sample French, Italian, Contemporary American, Fusion/Eclectic, Spanish, Brazilian, Greek, North African, Mediterranean, Cajun, Farm to Table, Latin American, Bistro, Mexican and last, but not least, Southwestern Cuisine. Some of the restaurants feature both lunch and dinner menus, allowing you to pack in a lot more eating by enjoying lunch at one place and dinner at a different venue!

Last week we kicked off Restaurant week by visiting Geronimo in Santa Fe. It is one of the great restaurants in Santa Fe and a THE place to go for a romantic dinner. The Restaurant Week Menu featured the following options:

First Course

  • Wasabi Caesar —  Organic Romaine Spears, Crispy Rice “Dice”, Japanese Horseradish Infused Caesar Dressing
  • Wild Mushroom & Sherry Bisque —  Asparagus, Shitake & Oyster Mushrooms
  • Fujisaki Asian Pear Salad —  Bleu d’Auvergne “Grilled Cheese”, Arugula, Watercress Cashews & Cider Honey Vinaigrette
  • Maryland Blue Crab Cakes —  Caviar Dill Sauce, Braised Leeks & Baby Watercress

Main Course

  • Durham Ranch Pan Roasted Organic Chicken —  House-Made Cavatelli Pasta, Fontanini Fennel Italian Sausage, Fresh Wild Mushrooms & Sherry Chicken Au Jus
  • Green Miso Sea Bass —  Bok Choy, Scallions, Ramen Noodles, Truffle Essence, Lobster Miso & Citron Rouille
  • Fiery Sweet Chile And Honey Grilled Mexican White Prawns —  Jasmine Almond Rice Cakes, Frisee’ Red Onion Salad & Yuzu Basil Aioli
  • Steak “Frites” —  Prime Flat Iron Steak, Sautéed Organic Chard with Bacon, Hot & Spicy Hollandaise, Au Poivre Sauce, Horseradish, Caramelized Onion & Hand Cut Russet Potato Fries
  • House Made Potato & Parmigiano Gnocchi —  Chantrelle Mushrooms, Pistachio & Basil Pesto, Morney Sauce, Italian Truffles & Burrata Cheese
  • Double Cut Port Chop – With fingerling potatoes, cippolini onions and a sweet pepper puree. This one wasn’t on the original menu but was added by the chef.

Dessert

  • Flourless German Chocolate Cake —  Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Smoked Seasalt Caramel Sauce
  • Banana Cream Pie —  Cinnamon Chocolate Ice Cream, Orange Chocolate Tuile & Coffee Anglaise
  • Ice Cream And Sorbet Trio

So many choices. George and I usually order different things so we can sample more of the food and dinner that night was no different.

George started with the Crab cakes, I opted for the Wild Mushroom and Sherry Bisque.  If I could have licked the bowl clean I would have.  A wonderful earthy flavor with a nice crunch supplied by cut asparagus.  I’m going to attempt making this soup for us in the near future.

Moving on to the entrees George opted for the Steak “Frites” with four different dipping sauces. I had thought about the steak until our waiter mentioned the pork chop that was not on the printed menu but had been added last minute by the chef.  George’s steak was tender and cooked perfectly. Unfortunately the “Frites” were a huge disappointment – not at all crispy.  We suspect they sat under a heat lamp too long.  My pork chop was really delicious and very filling – I brought about half of it home and had it for lunch the next day.

Then it was time for dessert.  George loves Flourless Chocolate cake so I let him have that (tho I really wanted it)  and I ordered the Ice Cream and Sorbet trio.  George’s dessert came with TWO slices of the cake!  Guess who got one!  One of my trio was a coconut sorbet.  George got that all to himself as I am not a fan of coconut.

We had ordered a bottle of wine with dinner as Geronimo “corks” the unfinished bottle so you can take it home.  We enjoyed the remaining bottle the next night with my home made spaghetti sauce.   Great wines and comfort food pair very well, thank you!

Restaurant Week has moved to Taos for the next seven days.  There are only a few restaurants included so we are taking a pass on the long ride.  Next week it will be Albuquerque’s turn to open their restaurants to excited food lovers.  We are going to try a new Brew Pub that is about 20 minutes from the house.  Looking forward to that!

You will note there are no pictures of our dinner at Geronimo.  I  am not a big fan of taking pictures of food when I dine out.  You’ll have to come stay with us and visit these restaurants to experience the food yourself!

Posted in French Food, meat, Menus, New Mexico, New Mexico, Pork, Restaurant Week, Restaurants, sides, Soups, Southwestern States, steak | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Sous Vide Success!

I just can’t get enough of my SanSaire Sous Vide cooker. I am trying  – tho not always succeeding – to use the immersion cooker at least once a week.  This week I decide to try Tuna steaks.  I’ve used the machine with great success to make salmon and trout so I was pretty sure tuna steaks would fare well.

George gave me a sous vide cookbook at Christmas but the recipes are designed to be used in the Sous Vide Supreme machine – one of those big counter top models that require a vacuum sealer top encase the food items.  I found a recipe for Teriyaki Tuna with Wasabi mashed potatoes that sounded intriguing.  I figured with a few modifications I could make it using my SanSaire.  As you can guess, I was right. Recipe changes included making the mashed potatoes on the stove top, substituting snow peas for snap peas, and adjusting the timing for my machine.

Here’s my version of Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Mashed potatoes, Teriyaki Sauce and Snow Peas       For  2 people

For the Teriyaki Sauce ( you could use store-bought but this was easy and REALLY good!)

  • 1/4  cup soy sauce – I used dark soy but you could use any soy sauce
  • 2 tbl Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tbl brown sugar

Add all the ingredients to a small sauce pan and heat until sugar is dissolved.  Continue  cooking over low heat until the sauce reaches a syrup consistency.  Can be kept on low heat or made ahead and GENTLY reheated.

For the Wasabi

  • 1 tbl wasabi powder
  • 1/4 cup sour cream  – you could also use creme fraiche

Mix the ingredients together and let stand, covered, for a minimum of 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.  Refrigerate if not using right away.

For the Tuna

  • Two 4 to 6 oz tuna steaks
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Grapeseed ( or any mild vegetable oil) to help “seal” the fish in the bags.

We like our tuna medium rare so I set the machine to 122 degrees F.   Pat the tuna dry and season with salt and pepper.  Place the tuna steaks in individual quart zip log bags and add a bit of oil to both sides of the steak. When the circulating water reaches the desired temperature, slowly lower the steaks into the water and seal the bags.  Our steaks were a little over one inch thick so I let them cook for 75 minutes.

To complete the dish:

While the tuna is cooking peel and cook potatoes and place in salted water.  Cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

Pull the strings form the snow peas and blanch in boiling water.  Remove and place in an ice bath to retard cooking.  Drain and turn out on paper towels to dry.

Just before the steaks are due to be removed from the immersion cooker, begin heating a grill pan that has been lightly oiled.

Drain the cooked potatoes and mash with the wasabi mixture and additional sour cream if necessary. Keep warm while you grill the tuna and quick fry the snow peas – I used my little wok – in a small amount of oil.

Plating

Mound the potatoes on the plate and top with the tuna steaks.  Drizzle a small amount of teriyaki sauce onto the tuna and over a bit of the potatoes.  Place the snow peas on the side and garnish if desired.  I had a bit of water chestnut left over from another dish and used that, minced, as my snow pea garnish. I think red pepper flakes might also work well.

Pass any leftover sauce on the side.

Here’s the completed dish.  We loved the flavor combinations and were especially happy with the home-made teriyaki sauce.

Oh, and Zoey, our 5-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback gave her stamp of approval on the Wasabi paste.  She ate the first batch ( my fault, I left it too close to the edge of the counter) and was looking for more!

Tuna with teriyaki sauce and  wasabi mashed potatoes

Tuna with teriyaki sauce and wasabi mashed potatoes.

Posted in appliances, Cooking, Entree, Family, fish, Food, Kitchen tools, Meatless Meals, Recipes, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, sides, Sous Vide, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hummus in a Hurry

My husband loves hummus; plain, red pepper, garlic. kalamata olive, doesn’t matter. He loves them all.  Fortunately, hummus is not hard to make from scratch – just mix together tahini, chick peas, your desired flavoring and seasoning in a food processor.  Turn on the machine and within minutes – Hummus!  Sounds easy and it is, except for the tahini.  The oil and paste will separate during storage and must be re-blended before it can be used.  It’s not hard, just a step I rather not have to deal with.

A few weeks ago, our grocery store, which runs a promotion called Free Friday, offered a chance to try a new product by Bush called Hummus Made Easy.  I was a bit skeptical about how it would taste but I figured what have I got to lose.  It was free and I already had a can of garbanzos at home.  Why not give it a try.  So I grabbed a package of the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Made Easy package and headed for the checkout lane.

Hummus Made Easy product

Hummus Made Easy product

The product certainly lived up to the name.  The instructions on the package said to drain and rinse one 14.5 oz can of garbanzo beans.  Place the beans and the contents of the Hummus Made Easy package in a food processor and process until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. I wanted this to be a fair test of the product so I didn’t make any modification to the directions by adding any additional seasoning.

It took about 90 seconds in the food processor to achieve the smooth consistency I was looking for.

Finished Hummus

Finished Hummus

Turns out my skepticism was ill-founded.  The hummus was well seasoned with a very definite roasted red pepper taste.  George gave it a try when he came home, by then it had been in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, and gave it a big “thumbs up.”

 

Bush offers three different varieties of Hummus Made Easy – Classic, Roasted Red Pepper and Black Bean.  I would debate the black bean version as it is made with black beans and not garbanzo beans.  To me that is a black bean dip not hummus, but as hummus is essentially a bean dip…….

We liked it enough that I would consider buying the classic version and trying it in the near future.  I will definitely buy the Roasted Red Pepper version, especially if I want hummus and don’t want to spend $6+ for tahini!

Posted in Cooking, Family, Food, Food Processor, Middle Eastern, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stuffed Breast Success!

For the last several years I have made a stuffed chicken breast  stuffed with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves and then wrapped in prosciutto.  I would sauté the wrapped breasts over high heat to sear the prosciutto, cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook until the chicken breast were cooked through.  The only problem with this method was by the time the breast was cooked through the mozzarella had melted and oozed out of the wrapped breast.  I tried to prevent this from happening in several different ways; reducing the amount of cheese, increasing the number of slices of prosciutto, baking the chicken instead of finishing on the top of the stove.  Nothing solved the problem of oozing mozzarella. Until I got my immersion cooker.  Last week I thought about using the sous vide technique and decided to give it a try.  I figured I had nothing to lose.  Tuesday night was the test.

I planned on serving zucchini and a small amount of pasta to round out the meal.  I assembled all my ingredients and set up my sous vide machine.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts    serves 2

Ingredients for Stuffed Chicken Breast dinner

Ingredients for Stuffed Chicken Breast dinner

  • 2 four to six oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 pieces of mozzarella sliced from a ball of fresh mozzarella
  • 4 large leaves of fresh basil
  • garlic salt to taste
  • 4 pieces of thin sliced prosciutto

 

 

With a very sharp knife parallel to the counter top, butterfly the chicken breasts.  In hindsight I should have butterflied these breast before they were completely defrosted.  Doing so would have given me a more even cut.  But you work with what you have. Open the breasts and add garlic salt to taste. Place the basil leaves on the bottom piece of the breast and top with the mozzarella.

Butterflied breast

Butterflied breast

Breast stuffed with Basil and fresh Mozzarella.

Breast stuffed with Basil and fresh Mozzarella.

Fold the top half of the breast over the filling.

Wrap the one piece of the prosciutto around half of the chicken breast.  Wrap the remaining half of the breast with the second piece of prosciutto, overlapping slightly.

Place the wrapped beast into a quart freezer bag and add olive oil – I used about 1 teaspoon.

Wrapped and stuffed chicken breast ready for the immersion cooker.

Wrapped and stuffed chicken breast ready for the immersion cooker.

Repeat with the second breast.

Slowly lower the bags into the circulating water and seal.  Cook in the immersion cooker for the desired time and temperature.  I set my immersion cooker to 144 degrees F and, based on the thickness, cooked them for about 65 minutes.

While the breasts were cooking I used my mandolin to create zucchini strips.  I diced up three large cloves of garlic. In a heavy sauté pan, I heated up some olive oil and sautéed the garlic just until fragrant.  Then I added the zucchini and cooked over low heat until just warmed through.  I put my cast iron pan on a high burner and let it heat up until it was smoking hot.  I did not add any oil to the pan as my cast iron is pretty well seasoned and there was a bit of oil clinging to the breast after being removed from the freezer bags.

Just before serving dinner I removed the breasts from the immersion cooker.  I was overjoyed to see the mozzarella was contained inside the wrapped breast.   I placed them in the super hot cast iron pan to crisp up the prosciutto – about 45 seconds per side.  When it came time to serve I placed a bit of pasta on each plate and topped it with the stuffed chicken breast.  I served the zucchini on the side topped with some fresh tomato.

Stuffed chicken breasts, pasta and zucchini.

Stuffed chicken breasts, pasta and zucchini.

Next time I will try this with some red sauce.  I love this new toy!

Posted in Chicken, Cooking, Family, Food, Italian, Kitchen tools, meat, pasta, sides, Sous Vide, Uncategorized, vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You’ll Roux the Day

For the past several weeks I have attempted to make a new chicken and sausage gumbo recipe but something always seemed to preclude my making the dish.  This new recipe came from Cooks Illustrated magazine and touted a new way to make a ‘faster’ roux.  I’m all for a faster roux.  If I make my roux in a traditional way I stir together the flour and the oil and spend at least 45 minutes stirring the roux over the heat to achieve the perfect color.  (I once had a guest tell me the perfect roux took a six-pack of beer – start the roux and open the first beer.  By the time you have finished the six-pack your roux will be done! Not for me.)

Earlier this year I discovered the way to make a roux in the oven – stir together the flour and the oil and bake in the oven until the roux reaches a desired color.  It takes almost as long as cooking on the stove but you don’t need to spend the time constantly stirring the pot.  An occasional stir does the trick.

This new recipe, in the current Cooks Illustrated magazine,  described yet another way to make a faster roux.  Once again it involved using the oven. This recipe called for me to place the flour in a 12 inch skillet and place it in a 425 F oven.  The flour toasts in the oven – with occasional stirring – until it achieves the desired color – 40 to 55 minutes.  While it is toasting you can prepare the rest of the gumbo.  After the flour has reached your preferred color it is removed from the oven and allowed to cool.  It is then mixed with chicken stock to form a smooth, thick paste which is stirred into the gumbo mixture.  The dish is cooked for another 25 minutes to allow the gumbo to thicken.

I measured out my flour into my skillet and put it in the oven.  Every 15 minutes or so I would give it a stir to make sure it browned evenly.  As the flour baked it began to take on the nutty smell associated with toasting flour. At this point I checked it more frequently as I didn’t want it to burn.

Flour, browned in the oven, for my roux.

Flour, browned in the oven, for my roux.

I used the roux color guide in my Paul Prudhomme cookbook to determine that the color I wanted.  I removed it from the oven and left it to cool  As it cooled I kept watch on the rest of the gumbo ingredients until the chicken was cooked through.  A this point the recipe directs you to remove the chicken to a plate to cool and prepare the roux paste by adding chicken broth to the toasted flour.  This paste is then whisked into the gumbo.    The andouille is added to the gumbo and it cooks until the roux thickens.  Meanwhile I shredded the chicken, as directed by the recipe and diced the green onions for garnish.

I ladled the gumbo into bowls and we sat down to eat.  The first mouthful convinced me that I won’t be making this version of a roux again. The color was right and the taste was spot on but it failed the mouth feel test.  The roux had a grainy texture that neither George or I cared for.  I believe the graininess was due to the fact that no oil was used in the roux.  Making the roux on the stove top or using the oven to bake the oil and  flour roux yields a much silkier product.

Lesson learned.

Posted in Chicken, Cookbooks, Cooking, Entree, Family, Food, meat, New Orleans Food, Southern Food | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sous Vide Salmon

Since receiving my SanSaire Immersion Cooker two weeks ago I have experimented making poultry, beef and pork,  Last night it was time to try fish. Last Friday, during my weekly grocery shopping trip, I purchased a large salmon filet.  I cut two evenly sized filets from the center of the piece for the express purpose of cooking them in the immersion cooker.  I opted to cook them to medium so I set the immersion cooker to 130 degree F.

I prepared the filets by sprinkling them with some freshly chopped dill and slid them into the freezer bags with a dash of grape seed oil.  The recommend cooking time was 22 minutes so while the fish cooked I made long grain and wild rice and a dill sauce. Yellow carrots and a sauté of spinach completed the dish.

Salmon filets immediately after being removed from the immersion cooker,

Salmon filets immediately after being removed from the immersion cooker.

 

If you click on the photo to the left you can see the vacuum seal around the fish.   The fish came out moist and tender.  I left the skin on during the cooking process but removed it before plating.

 

 

The recipe for the dill sauce included 1 tbl of butter, 1 tbl of flour, chicken broth, cream dill, salt and white pepper.  I melted the butter and added the flour to make a roux.  I let the butter/flour mixture cook until the roux was lightly colored.  Then I added the cream and chicken broth until the sauce reached the consistency I wanted.  I added the dill and  allowed the sauce to gently simmer for a few minutes to give the flavors time meld.  Salt and pepper to taste was all that was needed to complete the sauce.

Here’s the plated dish.  I served the salmon atop the sautéed spinach with a bit of the dill sauce.  The extra sauce was passed on the side.  The sauce paired nicely with the carrots as well.

For those of you considering  the purchase of an immersion cooker I will tell you that I love mine.  There are a number of things I want to try in the cooker and look forward to

Plated sous vide salmon with dill sauce.

Plated sous vide salmon with dill sauce.

experimenting.  For example, whole stuffed trout,  beef short ribs, stuffed chicken breasts. The list is as long as my imagination!

Posted in appliances, Cooking, Entree, Family, fish, Food, Kitchen tools, Meatless Meals, Recipes, Salmon, SanSaire Immersion Circulator, sides, Sous Vide | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting an End to Good Use

We eat a lot of fish.  I usually have fish on the menu at least once a week – sometimes more.  I prefer to buy either whole fish or a whole filet if possible as it provides me with so many options.  Trout is usually cooked whole. But I often cut up salmon to get two nice filets from the center, leaving the tail and head end for other uses.

On New Year’s Eve I made Salmon en Croute.  I had a beautiful piece of wild caught salmon that gave me two filets perfect for the dish.  The remaining pieces I wrapped up for the freezer.  NOTE – the head end does not include the head!!!!! This week I am trying out Salmon filets in  my new immersion cooker so I had the tail and head end of that filet.  Friday those pieces came together and were the star of our dinner.  The dish?   Pasta with Smoked Salmon, Leeks and Peas.

I started the dish prep by smoking the salmon in my stove top smoker over Alder wood.  About 15 minutes in the smoker and they were done.  Granted, I could have just purchased the required amount of smoked salmon but why not use what’s on hand. I let the salmon cool so I could flake it for use in the dish.

That evening dinner came together in a snap.  It was perfect for a cold winters night!

Pasta with Smoked Salmon, Leeks and Peas  Serves 2

  •  8 oz piece smoked salmon (do not use the sliced product)
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1 tbl unsalted butter
  • 1 medium leek, white and light green part only, washed, cut in half length-wise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted and drained
  • 1/2 tbl tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (you can substitute a lower fat product but it will impact the mouth feel and creaminess of the sauce)
  • 3/8 tsp dried tarragon
  • 6 oz fettuccine or similarly sized pasta
  • 1 1/2 tbl minced parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Remove skin and bones from the smoked salmon and pull into pieces.  Set a pot of salted water on to boil over high heat.  While the water is heating, heat the olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the leeks and peas, cover the skillet and cook , stirring often, until the leeks are tender.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook until fragrant.   Add the broth and the cream, raise the heat and bring to a boil  Add the tarragon. Reduce the heat til the sauce is at a gentle boil and cook until the sauce is reduced by half.

Add the fettuccine to the boiling pasta water and cook until al dente.  Do not overcook, you want some tooth to the pasta.  Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Return the pasta to the pot and add the sauce, salmon and parsley. Cook over gentle heat until the salmon is heated through and the sauce is lightly thickened.  Add the reserved pasta water, a bit at the time if the pasta is too dry.

Divide into bowls and garnish with additional parsley.

I serve this with a baguette.  Fast, filling and oh so good!

Posted in Cooking, Entree, Family, fish, Food, Meatless Meals, pasta, Salmon, Smoked Food, Stove Top Smoker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment