Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mussels on the Grill!

There's a fun little restaurant in San Antonio called La Frite Belgian Bistro.  They have all sorts of delicious, traditional dishes like vol au vent, crepes, and other fancy sounding foods that I understand are actually home-style meals-- at least in Europe!  One dish that Ben and I enjoy there is Moule Frite, a dish of mussels cooked in a flavorful wine-y broth and served with French fries!  Yum!  I never got into dipping the fries in mayonnaise, but I'm told that's traditional.
Anyway, so mussels are a super easy meal to prepare at home!  They are a good source of all kinds of vitamins and minerals, are a sustainable sea food (a farm-raised product), and cook up super fast.  Plus, they taste great!  If you haven't eaten them before, they have a kind of mineral-y, clam-like taste, but sweeter than other bivalves.  Mussels were on sale the other day at our market, so I thought it might be fun to try cooking them outside on the grill-- you know, less Belgium, more Texas :)
Well, this was the BEST dish of mussels I've ever made!  The broth was slightly smokey and the mussels cooked up very tender and sweet.  Served with sweet potato fries (although regular fries are ALWAYS good!), this was a different, delicious twist on an already terrific dish!

Mussels on the Grill (2 entree sized portions)
2 lbs. fresh mussels 
2 Tbl. olive oil
2 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1-1.5 cups vegetable broth (I like Trader Joe's organic)
chopped parsley or chives
Cast iron skillet (or another type that can go directly on an outdoor grill)

Nowdays, farm-raised mussels have been cleaned quite well.  Still, check them all very carefully to make sure they are still alive.  Each mussel should feel heavy and be tightly closed.  When you tap on it, it shouldn't sound hollow.  If a mussel is open, tap on the shell.  If it closes, the mussel is good, but if it doesn't, then throw it away.
Wash the mussels in a colander under running water to remove any sand or grit.  Remove any black stringy things that might be hanging from the mussels.  Those are called the "beard" and help the mussel anchor itself to rocks, etc.  
Put the skillet over hot coals.  Add the olive oil, bacon, and garlic.  Cook until the bacon is looking crisp.  Add the vegetable broth, salt and pepper and heat until boiling.
Now add the mussels all at once.  Stir gently.  Cover the grill and cook the mussels for 5 minutes.  They should be open and look very dramatic :)  Bring the skillet to the table and sprinkle the chives over.  Ladle the mussels and broth into bowls.  Throw away any mussels that didn't open.
Serve with sweet potato (or regular) fries and crusty bread to soak up the delicious broth!
Bon appetit, ya'll!

P.S.  My next entry will be my 100th post!  What should I do?  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pork Picadillo Tacos

Do you ever use ground pork?  Sometimes I buy it to mix with ground beef and ground veal to make meatballs or meatloaf, and it's the protein of choice for Chinese dumplings, but it's also really tasty in Mexican dishes!  Now days you can buy very lean ground pork and it's economical also.  I like to use it as a change to ground beef or ground turkey.  The flavor is very mild, so it takes well to lots of spices and herbs.
This pork picadillo taco filling is super easy and comes together in one pan.  Serve it in soft, whole wheat or crispy, corn tortillas, or put it over tortilla chips as the beginning of delicious nachos!
This is an quick, simple recipe.  The secret to it's delicious-ness is to allow everything to brown well at the beginning!

Pork Picadillo Tacos (makes 6 generous tacos)
1-1.5 lb. lean ground pork (or turkey)
1 rather large jalapeno pepper, chopped (keep the seeds if you want it super spicy!)
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 large clove garlic, sliced thinly
6 medium sized mushrooms, chopped coarsely
2 Tbl. sliced almonds
1 Tbl. golden raisins (regular are fine)
1 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt 
Baby greens

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the pork, mushrooms, garlic, and almonds, stirring to break up the pork.  After it's broken up, let it cook without stirring much, to let things brown nicely. 
Add the tomatoes, jalapeno and raisins.  Stir and cook about 3 minutes.  Add the salt and about 1/2 cup water.  Let the mixture cook down until the water is almost evaporated.  Taste for seasoning.
Heat the tortillas in the oven a few minutes.  Place a few baby greens on a tortilla and top with some picadillo.  Fold over and eat!  Repeat!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Maple Cream Pie: For Canadians Only!

Okay, well, you know I LOVE pies and making pies, but this was a new one for me!
There was one more event to commemorate at my friend, Jane's, house.  She got a new job as an art teacher!  Since Jane is very creative and loves children, this was a terrific opportunity for her and for her new students!  Being a new teacher is wonderful, but hectic, so I told Jane I'd love to bring over a meal for her family during her first teaching days.
Jane is Canadian, so I was thrilled to find a recipe in "Canadian Living" for something called "French Canadian Maple Cream Pie"!  It looked so innocent and simple in the photograph!  When I looked at the recipe, I was surprised at how simple it was, but I knew Canadian cooking tended to be "no frills", so I thought this would be just the thing!  It was super easy too!
Oh, my gosh.  I have never tasted anything so rich, creamy, decadent, sweet, did I mention rich? in my life!!  Obviously, this pie is meant only for those northern people that will be shoveling snow and playing hockey, and tapping more maple trees right after dinner!!  
I'm giving the recipe for curiosity's sake, but if you're not living in a place where there will soon be temperatures at minus something, I'm not sure I'd recommend making it!  However, it would be a good pie for a crowd because this thing could probably feed, oh, say, 100 ? :)

French Canadian Maple Cream Pie
12 oz. Grade B Maple Syrup (not a misprint!)
1 cup heavy cream (again....not a misprint!)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1, pre-baked, 9-inch pie shell

Whisk together the syrup and cream.  In a separate bowl, whisk the cornstarch and water.  Combine the two, whisking well, in a heavy saucepan.  Heat over medium-high, stirring well, until the mixture comes to a boil.  Boil softly for 2 minutes, stirring.  The mixture will be thick.
Pour into the pie shell.  
Refrigerate until set, 4 hours or more.  

Note:  I got the fun pastry cutters at Williams-Sonoma!