Quatro de Mayo [Tamales]

We had our Cinco de Mayo party yesterday (4 May).  It was just my wife and I making tamales, so we did it it in two batches over two days.

We made 3 types of tamale:  Chicken and Cheese, Jalapeno and Cheese, and pulled pork.  Tamales are a time consuming affair (much like making dumplings), but they are very simple to make.  As such, it is important to make sure that you use good stuff for the ingredients.

One of the biggest things you can do to intensify your tamale flavour is by making your own stock for the masa (the dough).  I used a store bought Rotisserie chicken for the chicken and cheese tamales (using the chicken carcass + vegetables/herbs to make the stock for the masa).

For both the chicken and jalapeno tamale I used a combination of shredded CoJack cheese and crumbled Queso Fresco.  We made both of these sets the night before, putting them in a sealed container to keep the corn husks from drying out and splitting.  Before going to bed, I put the pork into a slow cooker for the pork tamales.  I have used a variety of pulled pork recipes in tamales and they have all been excellent.  This particular case was a traditional Chinese BBQ (the type of meat that ends up being dyed red on the outside).

Putting a tamale together is simple.  You take a flexible (soaked in water) corn husk, spread the masa on it, then put the chosen ingredients in the middle (like filling a burrito), then roll it up.  Traditionally, spicy tamales are tied up with string/twine/corn husk strips.  Then, throw them in a steamer for an hour.

Jalapeno/chz and Ckn/Chz Tamale

Jalapeno/chz and Ckn/Chz Tamale


Clam Chowder with Bacon

We had a ton of milk so we made several types of pudding and clam chowder.  I am still experimenting with my chowder recipe so I dont have anything to share just yet.  Instead of salt pork, I used Bacon this time.  I thought it was nummy.  But there are 2 houses of Baconness.  Chewy and crunchy.  I, professing of the chewy bacon religion, really enjoyed the bacony chowder with bits of bacon in it.  However, some of those whom prefer the darkside of bacon (literally), didnt care so much for the new addition to my chowder.  Heretics!

Clam Chowder with Bacon

Teriyaki Chicken

I’ve been so busy lately that I have not had the time to post yummy stuff.  But here is the promised Teriyaki Chicken that I make.  IT is a super easy recipe, all 1 skillet (with a lid).  You don’t even have to pre-make the teriyaki sauce like most recipes will call for, and this is still real teriyaki sauce (can/bottle = yuck!).

I usually cook this when we have company, so I use my largest and deepest skillet with lid.  I can manage to get 11-12 chicken legs into it.

The Cast of Characters:

  • Chicken Legs
  • oil for frying
  • mirin
  • cooking sake
  • soy sauce
  • caster sugar (super fine sugar – not powdered)



Score the chicken legs to help them cook evenly.  In med-high skillet, heat oil then add chicken legs until brown on all sides. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes, Remove legs. Add the mirin/sake/soy (1:1:1 ratio; 1/2cup ea for ~8 legs), and sugar 2-3 teaspoons to skillet.  Boil until sauce becomes glossy. Return chicken to skillet and continue to boil until caramelized (turning the chicken on occasion).

Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki Chicken

Spicy Seafood Gumbo [Hunger Games]

Another recipe from the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook. This is part of my Summer Cajun Cooking event.  I did a fair bit of adjusting to this recipe, so I will list my version, based off of this recipe.

HG Gumbo

Hunger Games Gumbo

The Ingredients:

  1. 1 stick butter
  2. 1/4 cup flour
  3. 1/2 chopped onion
  4. 2 cloves minced garlic
  5. 1 small bell pepper, diced
  6. 1 small tomato (or 3 campari or roma)
  7. 1 cup sliced okra (or 1 can, NOT pickled)
  8. 2 can chopped or whole clams with juice
  9. 1 cup  fish stock ( you can use bouillon)
  10. 2 tbsp seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  11. 1-2 tbsp Cajun Hot sauce (Tobasco or similar)
  12. 1/2 tspn cayenne pepper
  13. 2 pounds large shrimp (peeled, deveined, no tail)
  14. 1 pound spicy sausage (precooked)
  15. 1/2-1 tbsp File powder as needed to thicken

The Method:

  1. Make Roux. Melt butter in large heavy pot/dutch oven on med-high heat. Add flour and continuously stir for ~15 minutes. Mixture will begin to darken to a reddish brown colour. That is the gumbo starter. It must be mixed continuously like pudding, do not burn.
  2. Mix in ingredients 3-14. Cover and Reduce to Low. Simmer 20min.
  3. Uncover, continue to cook for at least 15 min. Add File powder as needed to help thicken it a bit. (add 1/2 tbsp anyway, it does add a bit of flavour.
  4. Serve in a bowl over rice =)

Clare’s Cappuccino Muffins [Coffehouse Mysteries]

One of the book series we read is the Coffehouse Mystery series by Cleo Coyle.  The main character runs a fashionable NY coffeehouse, and the author knows her stuff.  If there is anything you ever wanted to know about coffee, you will learn it reading these books, I do not jest.  At the end of each book is a list of coffeehouse recipes.  Today I am making the fictional coffee sleuth’s (Clare) Cappuccino Muffins. Anything with with 2 varieties of coffee in it must be good (and yes they are).

The Dry Team:

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tspn baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp dark roast ground coffee
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped almond or hazelnut
  • 1 tspn orange zest (about half a small orange)


The Wet Team:

  • 1 stick butter (soft)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup espresso or double strength coffee (cooled)

The Plan:

  1. Oven 375. Prepare cupcake pan with liners.
  2. Combine dry team. Mix to ensure no chunks of cocoa or brown sugar. (yes, throw coffee grounds into it).
  3. Mix wet team with hand mixer.
  4. Pour wet team into dry team. Mix until smooth, do not overmix.
  5. Scoop into baking cups. These are muffins not cupcakes, fill them to the top or just below.
  6. Bake 20-25min. Until toothpick comes out clean.

The “Froth” for the Cappuccino Muffins:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 1/2 stick butter (soft)

Use hand mixer on butter in a med bowl. Mix in other ingredients until smooth (this is icing, it will be relatively thick).

As an added coffee garnish, I added a mini espresso chocolate as the crown.


Cappuccino Muffin





There are many other coffeehouse/coffee inspired recipes on the Coffeehousemystery website.

Tips for Cooking for a Dinner Party

As promised yesterday in my Slider Dinner Party blog I am going to run down a few tips for hosting a dinner party.  Cooking in the sanctuary of your own kitchen is quite different when you know there are a bunch of hungry guests expecting a good meal.  You are entertaining and feeding people that have time expectations of when dinner should be served and a time when they need to leave.  Its a bit akin to catering in your own home.  And what is a catering chef’s secret weapon?  Preparation.

For my dinner party, I had the following list of items on my menu:

  • homemade slider buns (white and honey wheat)
  • 5 types of sliders
  • raw veggies and dip
  • variety of peppers for grilling
  • mixed veggies for grilling
  • ranch style beans

My preparation for this party started by 10am. I had 2 batches of slider buns to make.  In the downtime between dough rising and baking I working on veggies.  I separated all my ingredients according to task:

  • burger toppings (lettuce, tomato, pineapple, etc)
  • pre-dinner grilling (peppers)
  • mixed grilling veggies
  • raw veggies and dip(s)
  • burger ingredients (for the individual burger types: Thai, bbq, etc)

The burger toppings I prepared in large ramekins for serving as is, covered in plasti-wrap and stuck them in fridge.

I grilled the peppers, seeded, and chopped them for their specific purpose (jalapeno for toppings, poblano for ingredient, etc)

Cleaned, and chopped up grilling veggies. Placed in large ziplocs, added olive oil and herb selections.  Ready to shake and grill.

Cleaned and chopped raw veggies for dipping and into ziplocs.  Make dip(s).

Burger ingredients went into separate large ramekins/bowls.  To await being mixed into meat when showtime draws near.

Preparation is your bff

With all of that out of the way, the only thing I had to contend with is cooking the burgers, beans and grilling veggies as guests arrived.  While my lovely wife plays host, I am running back and forth between kitchen and grill, anxious about how the burgers will turn out (a much better anxiety than wondering if your guests will starve before dinner is served).  The guests have raw veggies and drinks to entertain themselves while the burgers finish cooking.  Afterwards, make sure there is enough main course to last the party, then make yourself a plate =)

Slider Dinner Party [Food Revolution Day]

For Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day, I hosted a Slider Dinner Party with a boatload of veggies. It took the better part of the day to prepare for the party – I will post some tips on  hosting a party tomorrow, I had planned to do it this afternoon but the opportunity never presented itself.

Sliders, of course, are mini-burgers.  They need not be beef, I used mostly pork and I had some ground turkey standing by, although I did not end up needing it.  One of the most obvious logistical issues with sliders is…well getting mini-buns to put them on!  The best way is to make your own!  I spent the lion’s share of the afternoon baking slider buns, both white and honey wheat.  My goal size for my sliders was about 2.5 – 3 inches. So you can bake 18-24 buns per large cookie sheet.

Sliders, like all mini-foods, are disgustingly cute. However, the point of these mini-foods is customization.  I did a ton of prep work while baking bread.  Not only do you need your standard + elite burger toppings (tomato, lettuce, onion, bacon, avocado, pineapple, cucumber, thin apple slices, raw and sautee mushrooms, variety of cheeses), but you need to consider prep-work for alterations to the very foundations of burger building.

I planned for 5 different burgers:

  • BBQ – added bbq sauce and garlic to the meat patties them selves. Covered with more bbq sauce before pulling the sliders off the grill.
  • Thai – added soy, ginger, and lime juice to the meat.  Glazed with Thai sweet chili sauce before taking the sliders off the grill.
  • Breakfast – standard prepared burger, adorned with bacon and a fried egg.
  • Poblano – chopped grilled poblano pepper and cubed colby-jack cheese mixed into meat.
  • Regular – salt and pepper only for topping freedom and children.

NOTE: when making sliders,  make your meat patties thick – like slightly flattened meatballs.  This helps ensure that your guests will not be just choking down a pound of bread while sampling your slider selection.

I grilled poblano, jalapeno and bell peppers as part of my food prep. I prepared some spinach dip and a bunch of raw veggies to go with it.  Also for grilling, I prepared a grilled veggie dish: red potato, red onion, squash, olive oil and seasonings.  Lastly, was a pot of ranch style beans.

(Sadly, I almost forgot to take a picture, and they turned out pretty crappy =/)

Slider Dinner Party

Food REvolution Day