Caramelized chile pears & pecans

Well it’s official. And we knew it was coming. It’s like your mother-in-law who comes around every Christmas whether you invite her or not. It’s Autumn. Or Fall. Call it what you will. It’s officially here and it’s not going anywhere for awhile.

Come to think of it, you ask, why do we call it Fall? Well our good friend, the world wide web has a thing or two to say about this. Apparently, Fall comes from the Old English feallan which means “to fall or to die”. Well isn’t that cheery? Eventually, some smart so-and-so shortened feallan to fall. The Brits stick with Autumn while we say Fall.

And there you have it. Death. Fall means death. Summer is done and dusted and Fall is here with lots of dead things. Like leaves that fall faster than you can shake a rake at. Or that tomato plant that’s on its last hurrah. It’s over folks. Hunker down like a hibernating bear because this is it until Spring.

But hold on. It’s not that depressing, is it? Fall is pumpkins. And fires in the fireplace. And that cold nip in the air that makes you breath in deeper. It’s Halloween and that obnoxious kid from down the street who always tries to grab all the candy but you get there first and yank the bowl away. C’mon, you love. You know you do.

And finally we can cover up the BBQ and quit pretending we like to blacken everything, including our eye brows. We can go inside and turn on the oven without passing out from the heat. We can eye the box of Christmas decorations and wonder if it’s really naughty if we put the Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving this year.

And there are pears and caramel and red chile. And heck, if that’s not enough to get you smiling, then I don’t know what is.

Carmelized chile pears & pecans

4 pears

¼ cup brown sugar

2 oz. unsalted butter

¼ cup pecans

½ tsp Chile Molido Powder Hot

Pinch of salt

squeeze of lemon

COYO Coconut Milk Yogurt

Place the butter and sugar in a frying pan over medium heat. Stir in the chile, salt and pecans.  Slice the pears in quarters or sixths (depending on the size) and add to the mixture. Stir gently to coat. Continue to cook until the pears are tender but still retain their shape. Add a generous squeeze of lemon, taste and add more chile if you so desire.

Place a healthy serving of COYO into four bowls and divide the pears equally (well not equally, give yourself more) along with the caramel sauce. Devour and go to bed, it’s Fall for heaven’s sake.

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

 

Gourd-zilla

Do you know the world record for biggest squash ever grown? No? We didn’t either. Thank heavens for this new fangled thing called the ‘internet’. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. Anyway, turns out that the award goes to one Joel Jarvis from Ontario (read about lovely Joel here). His squash weighed in at almost 1,500 pounds which one news report equated to the size of a polar bear. Gosh, who knew?

SQUASHES

Joel says it was all down to lots of fertilizer and TLC. The prize-winning specimen – so we understand – gained up to 40 lbs per day. Which of course makes you wonder how they figured that one out. Did they drag the bathroom scales out to the veg patch every day?

But I digress. Why you ask, this obsession with squash? Because dear reader, the season is upon us. Plant a squash plant – just one – and you’ll be inundated for what seems a lifetime. They grow exponentially (okay, maybe not like Joel’s but you get the idea) and if you turn your back on them, they go from cute wee things to the squash that ate Manhattan.

So as summer draws ever nearer, you’ll see people frantically searching their files for squash recipes. Remember Aunt Flo (she was the one with the rather heavy beard) and her zucchini bread? Get the ovens cranked up for that puppy. And how about that squash puree bake with cracker crumbs (on second thought, nix that one)? Or just let your fingers do the walking and go to that marvelous new thing, the ‘web’. We came up with – and we’re not kidding here – over 30 million hits in .22 seconds. Don’t you love technology?

But to get you started, here’s an old favorite. Actually, it’s not that old. We just dreamed it up about 15 minutes ago. It’s quick, easy and you’ll be thanking us for the next 3-4 months. And if you are growing squash, consider setting up a sentry schedule with family members and loved ones to keep an eye out on your crop. You may not get close to Joel’s record but you’d be surprised what squash get up to when you’re not looking.

Summer Squash with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Serves 3-4 as a side dish

1 lb yellow squash (about 2 medium)
1 cup plain tomato sauce
1 tsp Chile Pequin (or more to taste)
1 Tbsp olive oil + additional for the squash
1 garlic clove finally chopped
Salt
Chopped herbs to garnish (basil, cilantro or parsley are good choices) – optional
New Mexico Chile Caribe Green to garnish

Preheat oven to 425˚ F

Cut off the stem and tail ends of the squash and slice the rest into thin rounds. Brush two baking sheets with olive oil then place the squash slices on the pans and brush the slices with some of olive oil. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and place in the pre-heated oven.

SQUASH COLLAGE

Roast until cooked through but not mushy – it shouldn’t take more than about 10 minutes. While the squash is roasting, make the spicy tomato sauce. Place the chile, olive oil and garlic in a saucepan and cook gently until the oil starts to sizzle and the garlic cooks slightly (watch it like a hawk because garlic loves to burn and burned garlic is a no-no). Add the tomato sauce and cook for a few minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

FINISHED SQUASH

To serve, arrange the squash around a platter. Drizzle some of the tomato sauce over the top and place the rest in a serving bowl so folks can add more if they desire. Garnish with the herbs (if using) and Green Chile Caribe and serve. This is also mighty tasty with the additional of a bit of goat’s cheese or cubes of feta on top.

Big Offer. Big Bowl. Big Game.

Is it just me or have bowl games become more competitive? I’m not talking about the players – I’m talking about the parties. It used to be that when someone invited you over to watch the Big Game you were pleased as punch if they slapped a tub of French onion dip and a bag of potato chips on the table.OFFER DAY 1

Now people invite you over for a ‘spread’ or ‘buffet’. It feels more like a wedding than a football game. And the problem is that you’re expected to do the same when you return the favor. So guess what? You end up spending the whole time in the kitchen so you don’t watch the game, don’t scream your lungs out and don’t raise your blood pressure to stratospheric heights. And where’s the fun in that?

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And be honest – does anyone really want a bunch of foofy food anyway? What they want is stick-to-your-ribs, coat-your-stomach food and a lot of it. So don’t bow down to Big Game Pressure (BGP). Serve up the food people want and make sure you don’t miss out on the half-time show. This year, I’ll be making a big ‘ole batch of Campfire Chili. And before you get all cutesy, no you don’t need a campfire to cook it.

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It’s quick, easy and mighty tasty. I serve it up with lots of condiments on the side– extra chile, diced avocado, shredded cheese, chopped scallions – you get the idea.

Make it on the day or better yet the day before (it just gets better and better). Bring the pot to the table and let everyone fix up their own bowlful. And please – whatever you do – don’t forget the French onion dip and chips. Promise?

Campfire Chile

Campfire Chile Kit
2 ½ lbs lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups water

Optional:
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained

Brown the meat, add water and the Campfire Chili seasoning and simmer 30 minutes. Add tomatoes (and beans, if you’re using them). Simmer 10 minutes. If you want more heat, crumble the dired chiles and add a bit at a time to get to your preferred ‘burn’ level.

Continue cooking for 15 minutes. For a thicker chili, combine the contents of the masa evelope (yellow corn flour) with ½ cup warm water and stir to dissolve. Add this mixture to the chili a little at a time to reach your desired thickness. If adding masa, continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes. Salt to taste.

Have yourself a very chile Christmas

ANIMATED-PEPPERSIs it just me or does it feel like Thanksgiving was just last week? Now here we are with Christmas looming over us and New Year’s lurking around the corner.

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If you’ve dared venture into the supermarket you can sense the siege mentality as people stock up like they’re getting ready for another Hundred Years War. To-do lists spawn secondary to-do lists and scribbled notes get shoved in coat pockets as we try to remember if we were supposed to pick up single cream, heavy, double, whipped or some other milk-based product.

photoAt moments like this it’s important to breathe and remember if all else fails you can probably find a gas station open on Christmas Day selling microwave bean burritos. Okay, it’s not much consolation but it’s something. So, for what’s it’s worth, here are some tips/suggestion/ideas to help you navigate the holidays.

  1. Eat more chile. Not just because it tastes great (natch) but because chile is said to help your body fight colds and let’s be honest – ‘tis the season. It’s also a great source of vitamin C.
  2. If you’re cooking a turkey, consider a chile spice rub. Ease the skin away from the meat (gently so it doesn’t tear) and rub in a mix of chile powder, salt and softened butter. Ease the skin back and rub a bit more butter on top. If you can, do this the night before so it has a chance to soak up all that chile goodness. Yum.
  3. Cranberries. Have you noticed how you make them and then – surprise – no one eats them. This year, place the whole berries with the zest and juice of an orange with a whole dried chile and sugar to taste. Cook until the berries start to burst. Remove from the heat and puree the chile (with or without seeds) with some of the berries then add back to the rest of the berries and stir. Very good and very spicy.
  4. Remember the chile cornbread stuffing from Thanksgiving? It tastes just as good at Christmas.
  5. Chile Bloody Marys are an important tool to help you put up with your in-laws. Think of them as medicine.
  6. Avoid wearing Christmas sweaters. This has nothing to do with chile but it will prevent someone publishing embarrassing photos of you on Facebook.

So get going. It’s time to celebrate. See you in 2014.

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Ho Ho Humbug

As soon as the words are out of your mouth you want to take them back. “Pop over for a drink during the holidays.” Are you out of your mind? What were you thinking? Pop over??? That basically means: 1) come over anytime, 2) stay for as long as you want, and 3) I’ll make sure there’s plenty to eat and drink. Big mistake.

spread

Picture the scene…you’re watching your favorite shopping channel, just about to order that 44-piece kitchen knife set (only $29.95 and if you order in the next :30 seconds they’ll throw in a set of steak knives FREE!) when ding-dong goes the doorbell. And it’s Bob from Accounting, his kids and that lovely wife of his. So you hide your bag of cheetos, turn off the TV and hope they like your reindeer pj’s.

Now of course, if you’ve planned ahead – stashed a case or two of wine and made some nibbles, it’s really no big deal. I make a batch of Chile Logs and keep them in the fridge, ready for Bob. They’re chile-cheesy and you do want to eat more and more of them. Start with a mix of cream cheese and cheddar cheese and then hot it up with some chile powder and dust with more chile powder (cuz you can’t ever get enough chile) and sprinkle with some nuts (totally optional but definitely good eating).

And if I’m really smart (50-50 chance on that one) I make an extra batch so I can bring some along when I “pop over” to see friends. If I swing by your place this season and you’re in the middle of a big shopping channel order then not to worry. Take your time answering the doorbell. I know that steak knife freebie won’t last forever.     

chile log finalChile Cheese Logs

I’d like to make this sound incredibly difficult to make but it’s not. It’s kind of ‘Mad Men’ food – you could even serve it with triscuits for a really retro feel. I like to make it in a food processor because it’s easier and less messy but you decide. The logs definitely improve with age so keep in the fridge for a day or two before serving. I made one with a dusting of chipotle and New Mexico and one with the addition of toasted pine nuts – but create your own combos.

Makes two logs; serves approximately 6-10 people

12 oz white cheddar cheese, medium grated
3 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
1 tsp Chile Molido hot
½ tsp Child Molido mild

Additional chile powder for rolling (I used a combination of Chipotle and Child Molido)

Toasted pine nuts (or chopped walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds would be good too).

INGRED 2chile log 2

Combine the first six ingredients, divide into two and shape into two logs. Roll the logs in the additional chile powder to coat and then roll in toasted pine nuts if using (make sure the nuts have cooled first). Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least a day – preferably 2 or 3 – before serving with crackers or bread. Any leftovers are great spread on toast or in sandwiches.