Roasted leeks with smoky romesco sauce

But is it authentic? How many times have you heard this toe-curling, gut-wrenching, nail-scratching-down-a-chalkboard question? You know what I mean…you’re at a restaurant, perusing the menu, wondering if eating two desserts is really such a bad thing when someone at the neighboring table or – heaven forbid – at your own, asks the dreaded question: Is it authentic?

Is it the way they really cook it in Paris, Morocco, New Orleans, Rome, Mexico City, ‘insert world city here’. It’s typically said with a smug, worldly-wise sneer, leaving the poor waiter longing for the customer who orders their Wagyu beef well done with ketchup on the side.

The whole authenticity thing wasn’t so bad in the beginning. We’d frankly had our fair share of ‘fusion’ cooking that was so confused it was an identity crisis on a dinner plate. We were tired of chefs throwing everything at the menu, leaving us confused, grumpy and often hungry at the end of the meal.

So we went the other way – we looked for dishes that were stripped down and purer and harkened back to their culinary roots. Not a bad thing but somewhere along the line we forgot that the world is one big culinary melting pot today. Neither people nor foods are only one thing – we’re an amalgam of places and tastes and flavors that come together into something special.

So when we whip up a batch of romesco sauce – that quintessentially Catalan dish from Spain we give it our own Chile Trail spin. Instead of pimenton, we use chipotle chile. Is it authentic? It is for us. And more importantly, it’s mighty tasty. And isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day?

Roasted leeks with smoky romesco sauce

Serves 2-3

¾ lb leeks, untrimmed weight

Olive oil

Salt

Romesco sauce

6oz roasted red peppers

1 slice of sour dough bread, about 1oz

1 garlic clove, peeled

¼ tsp Los Chileros Chipotle chile powder

¼ tsp Los Chileros Cayenne powder

1oz almonds

2oz olive oil

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425º

Trim the top green section from the leeks and the roots at the stem end. Slice them in half lengthwise and place them in a roasting tin. Drizzle generously with olive oil and salt. Place them in the oven and roast until nicely browned. Turn and continue cooking until softened and browned all over.

To make the romesco sauce, toast the almonds in a frying pan over medium heat for a minute or too until they release a nutty aroma. Remove the almonds and drizzle some of the oil in the pan. Add the garlic clove and the slice of bread. Sauté for a minute or two until the bread is nicely toasted on both sides and the garlic clove is golden.

Tear the bread into pieces and place the bread, garlic, nuts, roasted red peppers and chile powders in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse, drizzling in the oil until you have a smooth sauce.

Place the leeks on a serving plate and dress generously with the romesco sauce. Serve the rest of the romesco sauce on the side.

Cider vinegar & maple syrup glazed pork

cider-pork-plate-and-serving-dishWhen did we get so sniffy about leftovers? Gone are the days of the big roasts, the huge casserole dishes of cheesy, melted, layered things. Instead we cook a single chicken breast or one steak with a baked potato and just enough salad so there’s nothing left once we put the fork down. If the CSI team popped round and snooped in our fridge (this is purely hypothetical, granted) they’d be hard pressed to know we even eat.

I get the waste bit – we don’t want to store food in plastic containers only to unearth it weeks/months/you-get-the-idea later to discover we’ve created a new form of penicillin. No one wants to throw away food but on the other hand, aren’t we missing out on the joy of food? Food is messy. Food is communal. Food isn’t shovelling something into our mouths while we check our twitter feed. And leftovers are the delicious evidence of a meal enjoyed, a meal savored. Heck, a lot of food is better the next day (or the day after).

cider-pork-ingredient-shotIt’s like this pork shoulder…It’s glazed with a reduction of cider vinegar, maple syrup, some spices and chile. Yep, chile, the lifeblood, mother’s milk and all-round most awesome thing on this earth. Then you cook it for a long time (this is when you can check Facebook) and then – and then what? Then you call round every friend you can think of and you eat. And you eat. And you eat some more. When you can’t eat anymore you hug your friends goodnight, stow any leftovers in the fridge and go to bed, smug that you’ve got breakfast, lunch and dinner(s) sorted.

If you get sick of it before you finish it (this can happen) then pop the l.o.’s into the freezer. You’ll feel even more smug when you remember that you’ve got the fixings for a sandwich right there, just waiting for you.

So kiss the chicken breast goodbye (figuratively, my friend) and go big. You’ll thank me. Hopefully you’ll do better than that – you’ll invite me over. I’ll even bring my own plastic container for leftovers.

cider-pork-plate-shotCider vinegar & maple syrup glazed pork

Feeds a small army

For the glaze:

½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 dried Chile mulato

1 dried Chipotle chile

1 bay leaf

½ stick cinnamon

1 cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup maple syrup

1 Tbsp honey

For the pork:

Pork shoulder, about 5lbs

Olive oil

Salt

Chile pequin

Preheat oven to 425°

Place the pork into a large casserole dish that has an oven proof cover. Rub some olive oil and salt onto the pork. Put in the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes.

While it’s cooking, make the glaze. Place all the dry ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat for a few minutes until they’re nicely toasted. Then add the vinegar, maple syrup and honey. Cook for another 5 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain.

Baste the pork with the glaze and cook for another 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 240° and cover. Cook for 4 hours or more – until the meat is tender and flakes off easily. (You could also do this in a slow cooker.) Remove from the oven and take the pork out of the pan and place it on a plate. Put the pan with the cooking juices back in the oven and turn the temperature to high to reduce the cooking liquid. While the juices are reducing, flake the meat and then return to the pan and stir to coat. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until nicely glazed then serve, with chile pequin on the side.

Spicy baked sweet potato wedges with lime

finaldishcentredGoodbye January. I’m sorry you ever darkened our doors. Am I being a bit harsh? Perhaps, and to be honest it’s not January the month that bugs me – it’s all the endless drivel about New Year’s resolutions, ‘clean’ eating, and colonic irrigation that’s got me down. And don’t get me started about dry January…

If you must go monastic in your eating and drinking, then why not do it in July when you can sip your wheatgrass/goji berry/kale smoothie quietly outdoors in a wooded glen away from the rest of us? Meanwhile we’ll be grilling burgers and eating slightly dodgy coleslaw that should have been kept in the refrigerator just a bit longer and enjoying ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-healthy eating, I’m just tired of it being the subject of every cookbook and dinner party. To be honest, I’m more of an all-things-in-immoderation-carpe-diem kind of guy. But if you’re one of those souls who is emerging from detox January, then may I help ease you back into the human race with my Spicy baked sweet potato wedges.

sweetpotatoingredientsYes, baked not fried folks. A hefty one pound sweet potato is tossed in a mere one tablespoon of oil then baked (not fried, did I mention that?) in the oven until oh-so tender. The secret – as in many things in life – is the spice. In this case, Los Chileros Abiquiu Steak Marinade.

sweetpotatoesinpanYes, I hear you voices of descent – steak marinade on sweet potatoes? What will they think of next? But here’s the deal: we call it steak marinade but it’s mighty fine on a whole host of things. The only thing it didn’t work with was when we mixed in a fruit salad but we’re confident that with a few tweaks we’ll have that recipe for you too. In the meantime, try these bad boys. I have a tray in the oven now and the aroma is maddening.

So bring on February – cheers!

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Wedges with Lime

Serves 3-4

1 lb. sweet potatoes

½- ¾ Tbsp Abiquiu Steak Marinade

1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil

1 lime, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 325°F

Peel the sweet potato and slice into thick wedges. One large sweet potato should yield about sixteen fat wedges. Place the wedges on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Coat with the oil and then rub the spice mixture onto all sides of the wedges, ensuring they’re evenly coated.

Place the pan in the oven. Turn the wedges every fifteen minutes or so until they’re cooked through (a knife or skewer should insert easily). It should take about 45 minutes. Remove, place on a serving platter and serve with the lime wedges.

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Caviar and blinis with a chile lime crème fraiche

Caviar serving shotThey’re gone. Close the door, draw the curtains and unplug the phone. Find a comfortable chair/couch/bed and collapse. You did it: you survived the holidays. Let’s admit it – it wasn’t always easy. Tensions flared. Family annoyed. Perhaps the odd bit of food burned (clever how you scraped that off and tossed it to the dog). But you did it. You’re still standing although a shadow of your former self.

Of course New Year’s looms ahead but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.  New Year’s is all about possibilities and choices. Want to party like it’s 1999? Then by all means do so. Want to be a hermit? Feel free to wrap yourself in a goose down duvet and binge watch Nick and Nora Thin Man films.

Dress up to the nines or down to your favorite onesie. Okay, on second thought skip the onesie. It’s never a good sartorial choice unless you’re a baby sleeping in a bassinet.

But whatever you do, you’ll need sustenance. Here is where we can help at Chile Trail HQ. Forget the excesses of the Christmas season. Forget stuffing and potatoes and cranberries. Forget the pies and cakes and by all means forget that horrid mulled wine that the neighbors plied you with.

Caviar ingredientsNew Year’s is about fresh beginnings and bright new starts. It’s about things that wake up your taste buds and get you ready for the new year. Our recommendation? Blinis served with a dollop of chile crème with an even bigger dollop of caviar or salmon. If you can splurge for the good stuff then by all means do but to be honest, the jars of salmon roe you find at the grocery store will do nicely.

And might we suggest a sneaky glass of champagne or desert-dry martini to accompany? So cheers, here’s to you m’dear. May your 2017 be nice and spicy.

limeprepBlinis with caviar and chile crème

We make these with salmon roe but you could substitute smoked salmon instead or a combination of the two.

12 blinis

3 1/2 oz salmon roe caviar

1/2 cup crème fraiche

1/2 tsp New Mexico Green Chile Powder 

Chile pequin flakes to garnish

Zest and juice from half a lime

Place the blinis on a pan and warm is a low oven for a few minutes. While they’re heating up, place the crème fraiche in a bowl and add the New Mexico green chile powder, lime juice and zest.

Remove the blinis from the oven and place on a serving plate. Top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a spoonful of caviar. Garnish with a few chile flakes.

Caviar serving shot

 

Slow cooked lamb with chipotle, lime & honey

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Plated lamb

Turkey is a lot like house guests. The first day, you’re thrilled to see them and can’t believe it’s been so long since their last visit. Day two, you’re cordial. Day three, you offer to help them pack and call a taxi.

Don’t get me wrong – turkey at Thanksgiving is a treat, a tradition and literally the gift that keeps on giving. But that’s where the problem lies; at some point you get tired of leftovers. You’ve made turkey pie, tetrazzini, tacos and of course endless sandwiches. Eventually, you’re ready to see the back of turkey and can barely muster the energy to dump the carcass in a pot to make stock.

It’s exacerbated by the fact that many of us are going to whip up another bird in less than a month’s time. You do a frantic google search for ‘turkey leftover recipes’ and sigh deeply.

So what’s the answer? It’s time for something new. Pop the rest of the bird in the freezer and change culinary directions. At Los Chileros HQ, we fancy a slow cooked lamb shoulder with a spiky, zesty lime, honey, chipotle marinade. It’s the perfect way to wake up dulled taste buds and ideal for winter weather.

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You marinade the lamb overnight then cook it at high heat for about 20 minutes before turning the temperature right down and letting it go nice and slow until the meat falls off the bone. It’s even better if you eat it the next day when the flavors have really had a change to mingle and marry.

Eat it on its own, wrapped up in tortillas or on a bun – the choice is yours. It’s heaven with a bit of slaw and some dill pickles. It will make loads but invite some turkey-fatigued friends over or stash some in the freezer to have on hand at Christmas when you’re wishing the leftover turkey would scram. Go ahead and make it, you’ll thank me in a few week’s time.

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Slow cooked lamb shoulder with chipotle, lime & honey

If you can’t find lamb shoulder or don’t like it (heaven forbid), then you can opt for pork or beef – just go for a cut that likes it low and slow. The good news? These are usually cheaper too so you’ll get more taste and keep a bit of cash in your pocket, handy when you’ve got all those Christmas credit card bills to pay. But let’s not dwell on that thought…

Serves 8+

1 lamb shoulder, bone-in about 7lbs

2 Tbsp Los Chileros Chipotle rub & mix

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp honey

Salt

Place the lamb in a roasting pan. Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub over the lamb. Refrigerate overnight if possible. The next day, remove the pan from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400°F Generously sprinkle some sea salt on the lamb. Place the lamb in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 225°F. Take the lamb out of the oven, cover the roasting pan with a lid or with aluminium foil – you want to make sure you’re keeping the moisture locked inside. Return to the oven and cook at the low temperature for 3-4 hours then check the lamb – it should be falling off the bone – if not cook longer.

When the lamb is done, take it out of the pan and place on a cutting board and cover with aluminium foil. Strain the cooking juices from the pan into a measuring cup or container and place it in the fridge. This will encourage the fat to rise to the top and solidify. Remove the fat and discard then return the juices to the pan. Shred the meat and put it in the pan with the juices. Give a toss to make sure all the meat is coated. Return to the oven to warm before serving with flat bread, rolls, over couscous or rice.

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce

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Halloween – like youth – is wasted on the young. We send out a bunch of adrenalin-fuelled kids to terrorize the neighbours with thinly veiled threats of ‘trick or treat’. Meanwhile, their older hormonally-challenged siblings pelt eggs and strew toilet paper on the homes and yards of long-suffering teachers.

The young ones arrive back home with enough candy to feed a small island state and proceed to eat themselves into a sugar frenzy that ends in tears and tantrums. You get little Susy into bed (finally) just as the phone rings to alert you that her older brother is down at the station, caught red-handed with half a dozen eggs and a can of shaving cream.

Sometime around midnight you collapse into an armchair, clutching a large whiskey like it’s a life jacket on a sinking ship.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we left the kids at home and the adults went out instead? Forget the trick or treating, I’m thinking glam Halloween parties instead. Imagine costumes, but nothing made of rayon or other ghastly fabrics –Swarovski crystals and vintage Dior will do nicely, I think. Music – of course – but ‘70’s disco or classic Motown. Food – natch – will be a more refined offering and candy will be nothing less than 70% dark chocolate.

No eggs, no shaving cream, no toilet paper except in the bathrooms (Diptyque scented candles shimmering seductively, please). This is a kinder, gentler Halloween where order is restored and kids are where they should be – at home doing a rather lengthy and laborious project on the Louisiana Purchase with a babysitter who resembles Mary Poppins in look and attitude.

It’s an idea, right?

Roasted butternut squash with a chile, lime yogurt sauce   

img_0873This recipe looks long but only because I’ve given rather lengthy instructions on cutting up the butternut squash. The basic idea is that you want the squash pieces roughly the same size so they’re done at the same time. I peel butternut squash but you don’t need to – the outer skin is edible or you can remove after cooking. The choice is yours.

Serves 4

1 butternut squash, roughly 2 lbs

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt

½ tsp Ancho chile powder

Sauce

4 Tbsp CO YO coconut milk yogurt

Zest and juice of one lime

1/2 tsp New Mexico green chile powder

1 tsp honey

Garnish

1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

1 tsp New Mexico green chile caribe flakes

Preheat oven to 425°F

I peel my butternut squash as I think it looks nicer but by all means leave the outer skin on if you like. Regardless, slice off a bit from the top and bottom to remove any stem and tail. Then slice the butternut squash into two pieces. Make the cut at the end of the slender neck, right before it bulges out into the round bottom section.

Take the tall ‘neck’ portion and cut it in half creating two short columns the same size. Take one of these and slice it down the middle. Cut one half into four wedges. Repeat with the other half and then again with the other column. You’ll end up with sixteen wedges that are about the same size.

Now take the round bottom section. Slice it down the middle so you have two bowl-shaped pieces. Scoop out the seeds and remove any fibrous bits. Slice each half into six wedges, for a total of twelve wedges.

img_0875Place all the squash onto a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt.

Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes or so until they’re nicely browned on the outside. If a knife slips in the squash easily, it’s cooked. Give the vegetables a turn every ten minutes or so to ensure they brown evenly. For the last turn, sprinkle with the Ancho chile powder and give a toss.

While the squash is cooking, make the sauce. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lime juice, Green chile powder and honey. Give a good stir and add salt to season.
img_0878Place the roasted butternut squash on a serving platter. Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, Green chile caribe and the grated lime zest. Serve hot or at room temperature with any remaining sauce on the side.

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Spicy Chicken Fingers with Salsa Santa Fe

fullsizerender-3It’s official. Autumn is here. Gone are the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Heck, they’re barely a distant memory. Stretching before us are shorter days, longer nights and a definite nip in the air.

But that’s not bad – in the world of food, that’s pretty darn good. Now we can break out the slow cooker, select a sassy bottle of red (or two) and gather round the imitation-log-effect-gas-fire with friends and loved ones. On second thought, forget the friends and loved ones – snuggle up with your dog instead.

Autumn also means football and if ever a sport cried out for food, that’s the one. I mean, why were chip ‘n dip trays invented, if not for football? Don’t like football? Who cares? Turn down the sound and focus on the food instead. Plates full of cheesy nachos, bowls of salted nuts and a go bag of Tums for your guests.

fullsizerender-4 Of course at Chile HQ, we prefer to serve something more refined to our guests, game on or not. Something that whispers elegance, sophistication and drop-that-last-one-cuz-it’s-mine. Voila! Our Spicy Chicken Fingers. Now as anyone knows, chicken don’t have fingers. Thank heavens as the idea of chickens with ten digits and a pinky ring is simply too weird for words.

When we say fingers we mean strips. Basically they are slices of white chicken breast meat. Now you could slice these yourself and save a bit of money and feel smug and virtuous. Or you could whip a package already sliced off the shelves and get over it. Your choice. We’ve added a kick of green chile to a mix of cornmeal and flour. If you have the time (and you would, if you weren’t so busy slicing up those chicken breasts), then fry one up to sample. If it’s not spicy enough you can always add in a bit more chile. Too hot already? Nah, of course not.

We serve these up with our Salsa Santa Fe mix (Red & Green). Frighteningly easy to make and dazzling in its results. Close the curtains (it’s already dark outside anyway), throw another imaginary log onto the gas fire, give Fido a tickle behind the ear, and hunker down. Summer’s over but who cares. Bring Autumn on.

fullsizerender-2 Spicy Chicken Fingers with Salsa Santa Fe

Serves 2 hungry people or 3 who just ate lunch an hour or so ago

Salsa

1 ½ Tbsp Salsa Santa Fe mix (Red & Green)

1 green onion, finely chopped green part only

Juice of half a lemon

14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped

 

Spicy chicken

12 oz. Chicken breast strips

1 egg

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

1 Tbsp New Mexico green chile powder

1 tsp sea salt

Olive or vegetable oil.

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Set aside about half of the green onions and chopped cilantro to use as a garnish when you’re ready to serve the chicken. Place all of the rest of the salsa ingredients into a bowl and mix together thoroughly. Allow this to sit for about a half an hour before serving in order to allow the flavors to marry.

In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon or two of oil on medium high heat. While it’s heating, whisk the egg in a shallow bowl and add a pinch of salt. Mix the flour, cornmeal, green chile powder and sea salt in a separate bowl. Dip the chicken in the egg then the flour/cornmeal mixture. Place in the pan and fry until golden brown on one side then flip and cook on the other. Don’t crowd the pan – fry in batches if you need to and top up with additional oil as necessary. Place the cooked chicken on a serving platter and garnish the salsa and the chicken with the remaining green onions and cilantro. Serve with wedges of lemon.fullsizerender-5