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.

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.

A Garlic Getaway

Haven’t you ever felt like Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel (minus the ballet shoes and tutu) and wanted to utter in your best German accent, “I vant to be alone!” Of course you have. Like Marlene, we all need a little space sometimes. And Greta never had to deal with email, texts or twitter.

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You know what I’m talking about. It’s moments when you want the world to back off and give you a bit of space, for crying out loud. Why does everybody, everywhere want something from you yesterday?

So do a Greta and tell everyone politely but firmly that you want to be alone. Hide you cell phone where you can’t see it. Turn off the computer. And close the curtains. Get out the box set of Breaking Bad – or better yet watch Grand Hotel on Netflix.

If folks continue to pester you, allude to some very nasty illness (a tapeworm always makes people run in the other direction) and feign doctor-ordered bed rest. Desperate times require desperate measures. Then curl up on the sofa. It helps if you have a dog to join you (consider borrowing a friend’s if you don’t) and chill.

But hold on. Before the chill phase you’ll need sustenance. You can’t be relaxed on an empty stomach. Plus all that tummy rumbling upsets Greta. I suggest a big ole bowl of Garlic Soup.

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Garlic Soup? Yes, you heard me. We’re talking about 4 cloves of garlic. Your breath? Who cares. You’re alone for heaven’s sake. Plus you should know better than to have friends/loved ones/partners who don’t like garlic. It’s very easy to make and comforting like a hot water bottle or a favorite blanket (note to self: get both of these ready too before the movie starts).

You’ll emerge  a few hours later refreshed and ready to face your inbox. Promise.

Garlic Chipotle Chile Soup

This makes enough for 2 good-sized bowlfuls.

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 bay leaves
2 cups water
Stale bread, torn off into chunks (about 1/3 cup)
1 egg, beaten well
1/8-1/4 tsp Chipotle powder
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Optional

Parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated

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Place the chopped garlic and bay leaves into a pan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Taste the broth, add salt if needed and remove the bay leaves.

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While the broth is cooking, place the bread in the bottom of your soup bowl. Add the chipotle powder to the egg and mix well.

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Remove the broth from the stove and carefully pour the beaten egg into the broth, continuously stirring as you incorporate the egg. This is key as you want the egg to form nice ribbons – not big clumps of scrambled egg. Ladle the soup into the bowl on top of the bread. Sprinkle with a bit of parsley, drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of cheese, if you like. Taste and add more chile as desired. Serve while hot and enjoy.

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