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Short Rib Tacos

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Yea I know, what won’t this woman put in a taco??  Pretty much nothing but honestly these are incredible, not just because of the flavor but how easy they are.  Time consuming sure but the “hands on” time is almost zero.  I got the methodology from Cooks Illustrated – if you have never picked up their magazine it’s definitely worth a try.  They basically do all the work for you by testing and retesting different ingredients, proportions and cooking methods in a super methodical, almost scientific way.  I can find sometimes the flavors a bit lacking, but the techniques they share are always spot on and flavor is easy to enhance with some tweaks.  This method is just genius because it cuts out the two most annoying things about slow cooking – browning and chopping.  Browning meat is incredibly important to flavor, as the heat carmelizes the sugars in the meat and really develops them.  By lifting the short ribs out of the liquid it’s braising in on onion slices these folks have discovered a way to get the browned meat without having to spend the time cooking each side before adding it to the pot with the aromatics.  Also by pureeing the sauce you lose the need to chop any of the veggies, meaning all you have to do is slice an onion and then everything else is just tossed in the pot.  I did this in a dutch oven but you could easily convert this to a slow cooker (especially in the summer not to heat up the house).  I included both so you can do either.  This recipe makes a ton so perfect for your next taco party.  It can be frozen for up to 6 months so if you don’t eat it right away divide the rest into smaller portions and then you can have pulled short rib tacos on a week night and blow everyone away.

Short Rib Tacos 

  • 1 ½ cups beer (I used Negro Modelo)
  • ½ cup cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 6 ancho chiles, stemmed and torn into 1 inch pieces (I leave the seeds in but you can take them out for less heat)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (dried)
  • ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1-2 large onions, sliced ½ inch thick slices
  • 3 pounds boneless short ribs

Take the short ribs out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you are going to cook.  Pat them dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (if using the dutch oven).  Then dump in the beer, vinegar, anchos, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, clove and cinnamon in a large dutch oven (or slow cooker).  Season with salt and pepper again and then nestle in the onion rounds so they form a layer on the bottom of the pot (or slow cooker) that will keep the short ribs from touching the bottom.

Depending on the size of your onion it will probably only take one but have a second on hand just in case.  Place the short ribs on top and cover.  Place in the oven and cook for 3 hours (if using a slow cooker cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours).  The meat, even without browning, should have a nice crust on it.

Take out the meat and put it in a bowl.  Pull out the bay leaves and then blend the onions and the liquid in a blender or food processor.  The original said to trash the onions but why throw away flavor??  At this point you could probably just use the sauce but I like to get as much fat out of it as possible.  Easiest way to do this if you have time it to place it in the fridge or freezer until the fat creates a solid layer on top that you can scrape off (that will take a couple of hours).  If not just let sit until the fat rises to the top and skim it off.

Shred the meat with 2 forks or your fingers and stir it into the sauce.  It can be served right away, or stored in the fridge for a couple of days and the freezer for a couple of months.

Chicken Enchiladas

I know I have mentioned our Fiesta Friday tradition.  I am not sure exactly when it got started but it did come about pretty organically.  I realized I was doing tacos and margaritas on Fridays a lot because it seemed like such a great way to cap off the week.  Of course then I made the mistake of naming it and making it a thing so DSC04503that my husband, friends and colleagues were asking me every Friday what was on the menu for Fiesta Friday.  The pressure was on and while I like the idea of a fiesta to unwind after a long week, cooking a full meal can also be daunting after a week of work.  I knew enchiladas would be the answer to this problem.  Somewhat time-consuming to make but they freeze great and can be cooked right from the freezer so basically all you have to do when you get home on Friday is turn on the oven and pour the margs.  I got the cooking method for this one from Cooking Light magazine but the rest is a creation of my own.  Cooking Light often has great ideas on how to freeze things or do them in advance but I find a lot of their recipes almost too dumbed down.  That’s why its good to scavenge inspiration from a variety of sources – meals eaten in restaurants, magazines, friend’s cooking etc.  This recipe is a chameleon –  make it with shredded pork instead of chicken, tomatillo sauce instead of enchilada sauce, swap the corn for beans – you get it.  I made my own enchilada sauce but guess what?  Totally not worth it – turns out this is one of those times that the store-bought is just as good, if not better.  I would budget 2 enchiladas per person but if you were super hungry then someone could easily polish off 3.

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Chicken Enchiladas 

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 chipoltes in adobo, chopped
  • 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
  • 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 4 scallions
  • chicken from 1 chicken breast, shredded (I used rotisserie chicken or you could roast 1 skin on bone in breast)
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded jack or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (do this even if you are freezing them as you need to par bake before freezing).  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the chipotles, green chilis, tomatoes and corn.  Turn up the heat to medium high and cook for approximately 8 minutes until everything has combined and some of the liquid from the chilis and tomatoes has cooked off.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken and scallions.  Remove from the heat.

Spray the pan or pans with cooking spray and put the enchilada sauce in a shallow bowl.  Microwave the tortillas for 20 seconds (do 6 at a time so they stay warm).  Microwaving the tortillas makes them more pliable and easier to stuff.  Spread several tablespoons of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan/pans to cover with a thin layer.  Dip a tortilla into the enchilada sauce and shake off the excess.

This is a messy job so just get into it.  Stuff the tortilla with several tablespoons of the chicken mix and fold over the two sides.  If you have over stuffed the tortilla theends won’t meet, so then just scoop out a little and keep moving.

Put into the pan with the seam side on the bottom.  Keep going with the rest of the tortillas – if you are making two pans, 6 tortillas will fit in each.  Don’t worry if you have to squish them in to fit, it’s actually better if they are tightly in the pan.

Microwave the second batch of tortillas and repeat until there are no more tortillas or stuffing.  Spoon over any remaining enchilada sauce and then cover with cheese.  If eating now: bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  If freezing: bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Once room temperature, tightly cover with foil and freeze.  Then to reheat bake it straight from the freezer at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.  I baked one to eat immediately and one to freeze which was perfect.

Nutty’s French Toast

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I am not sure when brunch became synonymous with Mother’s Day but every year I get an avalanche of special menus or deals from restaurants trying to get me to over pay for eggs to celebrate Mom.  Do dads not like bubbly drinks and high calorie food?  I say celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday with a brunch in his honor and what better way to do that then with Nutella stuffed french toast??  My dad is a Nutella fan – in fact we had a hamster when I was a kid that I named after Nutella (RIP Nutty).  When I saw this recipe in House Beautiful of all places, I knew it was a must make item.  Usually I am not a huge french toast person, as I think the syrup ends up competing with the doughy toast so this is the perfect solution as it requires no syrup at all.  The recipe comes from John Besh, an unbelievable chef with a small restaurant empire down in New Orleans.  Last time Patrick and I were in NOLA we managed to eat in two of his restaurants in one day and his jalapeno grits are something I still dream about.  He says you can stuff these with peanut butter or jam if you prefer, but I think the Nutella is really perfect.  When you punch out the toast rounds don’t worry if they don’t look perfect.  As you can see mine weren’t but once they get a dunk in the egg mixture and fried up they look just fine.  Also sometimes the sandwich got a little stuck in the glass, just poke it up from the bottom and it will come lose.  I decreased the egg mixture and nixed the oj as I didn’t feel it added anything and I ended up throwing a ton of egg away.  If your bread really soaks up a ton then you can just beat in another egg and some milk.  One note – french toast is a pretty tough thing to make for a crowd but you can at least make some of these elements in advance so you don’t spend all your time with your guests in the kitchen.  I made the sandwiches and the egg mixture hours before and just dunked and fried them when ready which takes about 5 minutes.  You definitely want to serve them right away while the Nutella is nice and melty.  Happy Fathers Day to my dad and all the dads!

Nutty’s French Toast 

  • 1/2 cup Nutella (or other yummy filling)
  • 16 slices white bread – approximately 1 loaf (I used Arnold’s Country Bread – basically something with a little more texture than Wonder bread – also I used the heels of the loaf to no ill effect)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil

Lay out all 16 slices of bread and then spread approximately 1 tablespoon of Nutella in the middle of 8 of the slices.  Top those slices with the non Nutella slices to create a sandwich.  Using a pint glass, cut a round sandwich out from the middle, pulling the excess crusts off before lifting the glass.  This step can be done ahead several hours or the day before (if so store sandwiches in a tupperware).

Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a large shallow bowl.  Again, this can be done in advance just let it come up to roomish temperature before dipping.  Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Depending on the size of your skillet you may be able to do all the sandwiches at once (I did) if not fry them in batches of 4.  Dunk the sandwiches untill they are fully coated in the egg mixture.   Add sandwiches to the pan and cook until browned on both sides – about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

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