Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

You may find that these foods tend toward protein and away from carbohydrates - this is due to diabetic issues, so I try to only sparingly use carbs, and good ones at that. Of course, sometimes I forget....

Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or just to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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I want to thank you for the time that you spend here, and hope that you can find useful things here.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tomatillados de Barbacoa

Thanks for joining me on another foray into "Tex-Mex", my favorite portmanteau. Almost everyone knows about enchiladas. All that means is something that has had chiles added to it.* These are almost like enchiladas, but not quite - a different twist on a familiar face.

3/4 lb barbacoa (recipe elsewhere)
1/2 white onion, finely diced
8 corn tortillas
1 lb tomatillos
8 oz queso quesadilla cheese
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
salt, pepper, garlic powder

Warm up the barbacoa in a skillet, and season with salt, pepper and garlic to taste. Add in the onion, stirring to incorporate. Remove from heat and set aside.

Warm the tortillas to make them flexible without breaking. Here i am keeping them in a tortilla warmer, heating them on a comal, and spooning in about an ounce and a half of the filling into each one. Then I roll them up snugly and start laying them in an 8x8 casserole dish. Continue until dish is full.

Remove the stems and husks from the tomatillos, place them in a food processor or blender with a little salt and whiz them until relatively smooth. Pour a decent layer of this tomatillo sauce over the tortillas

Grate the queso quesadilla liberally over the tortillas in an even layer. This Mexican cheese is very much like mozzarella, but has a more pronounced and unique taste.

In the picture below, you can see the cheese nicely distributed. I had a little of the filling left so I just tucked it into the unused corner of the dish.

Pop into a 350° over for 20-25 minutes. You don't have to cook anything, just get it all nice and hot. After it comes out, top with chopped cilantro, or a nice fresh salsa. Momma was hungry, so I didn't get a 'complete' finished pic:

Here is the final product, along with some Spanish rice and refried beans:

*Enchilada is the past participle of Spanish enchilar, "to add chile pepper to," literally to "season (or decorate) with chile." - Diccionario de la Lengua Española, Vigésima segunda edición. Real Academia Española. 2003.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Sometimes a Sunday family meal, these little Mexican-style meatballs are simple, tasty and filling.

3 lbs ground beef
2 eggs
1 cup minced onion
1/2 cup white rice
salt & pepper
1 1/2 lbs of ripe tomatoes (6 lbs, 2 or 3 cans)
3 cloves garlic

Using your hands, mix together the first five ingredients. Form this mixture into 1" meatballs.

Place them one layer deep in a large Dutch oven and brown, turning gently to keep them from falling apart, browning them for about 15 minutes.

While these are browning, combine the tomatoes and garlic in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the Dutch oven over the browned meatballs, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, until rice is done.

Carne Guisada, #2 style

Carne guisada, is Spanish for “stewed meat”, but it is tastefully so much more. Thick, delicious and hearty, there are many variations on the dish depending on where you are and who's making it. Here's a good solid slow-simmered version that always comes out tasty, and it's easy to remember. Pretty much 2 of everything...

2 lb chuck or similar, trimmed, 1" cubes
2 T flour in gallon zipper bag
2 T vegetable oil
2 each small onions (or 1 medium), sliced into 1/4" strips
2 each poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced into 1/4" strips about 2-3" long
2 each roasted red peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced into 1/4" strips about 2-3" long
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans beef stock
2 T chili powder
2 T cumin
2 T double-concentrated tomato paste, or 4 T regular tomato paste

salt & pepper to taste

Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a heavy Dutch oven, and turn the heat to medium. While this is heating, trim approximately 2 lbs of chuck, loin or other roast-type beef of all fat and silver skin, and cut into approximately 1" cubes.

Add 2 tablespoons of AP flour to a gallon plastic zipper bag. Next, about half-pound at a time, add the cubes to the bag and shake to completely coat lightly with flour. Add these coated cubes to the hot oil, turning to brown on all sides. You don't want to add too much at once or the oil temperature will drop.

Repeat this with the remaining meat cubes.

While meat is browning, chop up the vegetables as described above. Once all the meat has all been browned, toss the vegetables in to the Dutch oven and cook until softened. Below are the onions and poblano peppers; the red peppers and garlic haven't made it in the pool yet:

Once the vegetables have softened, it's time to add the meat back in and stir it all together. Next, you add the beef stock, remaining spices and the tomato paste. Stir well to incorporate all, then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for two hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so. When meat reaches desired tenderness, season with salt & pepper to taste. You can also continue to simmer over low heat to make the sauce thicker if you desire.

You end up with a product that is rich, hearty and yet not too spicy. You can always jack the heat up in your own preferred method. I like to eat my carne guisada in flour tortillas for tacos, with some fresh cilantro and hot sauce as toppers. On can also serve it up on a plate with Spanish rice and refried beans for a nice Tex-Mex meal.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day '11 - Canned home made Barbacoa

Well, today is the first chance I got to use my Christmas goodie, a 23 qt. pressure canner. Now I can safely put up lots of things, and not just high-acid foods. It will also see some use as a pressure cooker, but canning will be it's forte. I decided that I would combine this device's maiden voyage with a real family favorite around here - home made barbacoa. If you've ever made it you know there's a bit of hand work in it, but the results are so satisfying, and you know exactly what's in it and haven't paid $5.00 - $8.00 a pound for it!

Here's what the canner looks like:

In this part of the country barbacoa de cabeza is traditionally made from a cow's head. However, the vast majority of the stuff actually comes from the cheek muscles which are quite large, because as you know, cows are chewing almost all day long. That being said, beef cheeks are not that hard to find around here unless you are looking only at the national chains. Hit up an ethnic or an independent grocer, or maybe a butcher, and you might find them pretty reasonably priced. This next shot shows about 10 lbs of the 18 lbs of meat I picked up for the barbacoa:

Traditionally, barbacoa is cooked in a hole dug in the ground and sandwiched between banked layers of coals. If you have been to my place, you know that it's solid limestone, so that just isn't happening. Instead, I lightly salt the meat, then wrap it in a double wrap of heavy duty foil, taking care to make sure that all seams are sealed tight and that nothing can escape. Here's the start:

... and the next shot shows the finished capsule. Just for scale, that roasting pan is about 18" wide!

This goes into a preheated 300° oven for six hours. Yes, six hours! there's no need to check anything, turn anything or take it's temperature, it will always come out fine if you have sealed the foil well. Next, you'll want to open the package carefully so as not to burn yourself, and as Pablo Menudo would say, "let it BREATHE!" What we need to do is to let it cool down enough to handle, without getting too cool to separate. Notice that the texture and appearance have changed quite a bit, and that there is a lot of liquid in the foil pouch as well:

Now comes the work. There is a lot of connective tissue in beef cheek meat, and quite a number of other goodies as well. You will find that much of the fat has rendered, and it is this special type of fat that gives barbacoa it's unique flavor, consistency and umami (LOL). You will need to carefully go through all of the meat, removing the un-rendered fat, connective tissue, and depending upon your desires, perhaps the nerves, blood vessels, and random glands and lymph nodes. If you take all of that stuff out, it's referred to as 'all-meat' barbacoa and commands a premium price. Up to you. I also drained out all the liquid juice and grease, and stuck it in the freezer to separate. I saved both of these things; a bit more on this later. Here's what 18 lbs of raw product was reduced to - about 9.5 lbs of finished goodness. That's about right, like a good brisket, you'll lose about half the weight during cooking.

Following good canning practices regarding cleanliness et. al., I loaded up nine one-pint jars with my freshly made barbacoa and got the air bubbles out, I then added back some of the reserved and separated cooking liquor up to 1" of head space in the jars. Into the canner for 75 minutes at 11 psi per specs:

Well, the time finally passed, and God smiled upon me, as all of the jars sealed well. They are now out and cooling, so we will not know the longing of being without next time we are struck by the need for some barbacoa breakfast tacos!*

*Barbacoa served on corn tortillas, topped with chopped onions and cilantro, and a squirt of lime. Salt & pepper and a little hot sauce to taste are optional, but never flour tortillas, guacamole, cheese or God forbid - SOUR CREAM!

¡La comida mas fina!

Happy 2011, Y'all!

Greetings, all, and Happy New Year! ¡Prospero Año Nuevo!

It's been forever since I have posted here and for that I am sorry. Sometimes life is a busy time, in can be insidious as to how it creeps into your day. But it's a new year with new intentions, I hope that this New Year's Day finds you with faith in the future, and more importantly, faith for the future.