Category Archives: Gluten Free

Perfect French Fries

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Perfectly cooked fries

I love French fries. I am constantly seeking a way to make the best ones.  Sometimes I like them thin and crispy, sometimes thick and pillowy light inside (best done by roasting at a high temp.). Most often like Goldilocks, I like them “just right.” That means that they are medium cut fries, a little crispy on the outside and soft on the outside, full of potato flavor, not the grease they were cooked in. I like fries cooked in duck fat, but that is not always something I have an abundance of. Here is the method, it is simple and only requires a large pot (best for keeping splatters contained) a deep thermometer used for frying  or cheese making, a spider (or other mesh spoon to retrieve your fries and some good quality canola oil.  The thermometer is the only thing you may need to go out and buy. Here is an example. You need this because you will need to control the temperature of the oil.

Ingredients:

Russet Potatoes, well washed

Canola Oil at least 3 ” deep

Smoked or Kosher Salt

Method:

  1. Cut the ends off of the potatoes and then the rounded edges. lay flat and cut into 1/2 ” strips. Place in salted water till finished cutting.
  2. Preheat the oil to 250 degrees.
  3. Use either a salad spinner or a dish cloth to completely dry the fries. Once the oil is ready place fries into the oil. You should not be crowding them, you may need to do this in batches.
  4. Cook until they start to look slightly golden, about 4 minutes, making sure that the oil temperature stays at 250.
  5. Carefully remove to a straining tray (cookie sheet or steam pan) with a rack.  I say carefully because the potatoes are very tender at this point and can easily tear.
  6. Bring the heat of the oil to 365 degrees.
  7. Add the potatoes in batches and allow to cook till they are perfectly golden with a subtle  bit of brown on the edges. Remove to the draining tray again and salt IMMEDIATELY. Serve right away with home made mayonnaise, BBQ sauce or ketchup.

Burger and fries

Tamale Time

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tamales to steam

I make a big batch of tamales several times a year. Yesterday I made a batch of pork and green chile tamales. They are not at all difficult to make and they freeze really well. They are also easy to re-steam. Here is the recipe, but keep in mind the filling can be any number of things, from chiles and cheese to chicken, pork, crab, beef etc. Once you get the rolling technique down you will be able to make them with anything. I often triple this recipe. This recipe makes about 20 good sized tamales. You can make them smaller if you are using them as an appetizer.

filling and husks
You will need: 

Cornhusks or banana leaves for wrappers

String

4 cups of Masa para tamales (this can be found in the Hispanic aisle of most large grocery stores.

1 1/2 cups of home rendered lard (see here how to do it and why) or butter

4 cups of good stock (I used duck stock, but turkey chicken or veal stock works great)

2 tablespoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

A large pot fitted for steaming. You need a lot of water for this, so raise your steaming basket to allow for a lot of water. This has to boil for 40-60 minutes.

filling

Filling: 

2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
2 cups of well seasoned shredded pork shoulder (see my recipe here for making smoked braised pork shoulder Latin style).

1 onion finely chopped

6-8 roasted poblano chiles seeded, skinned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (or in a pinch you can use canned green chiles)

8 cloves of garlic finely minced

1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar

1 teaspoon of smoked salt (I make my own, but you can buy it here)

2 tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder

1/2 cup of stock

queso

2 cups of Queso para Quesedillas, para papusas or Jack cheese grated. Any good melting cheese is fine for this.

sauce

Sauce:

4 tablespoons of masa para tamales

4 tablespoons of house rendered lard or butter

1 cup of New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder

3 cups of good stock

Method

Cut lengths of string long enough to wrap the tamales. There are different ways of folding and wrapping the tamales, but this is my favorite way to do it. You can also tie just the ends or you can fold it so there is one side open and don’t even use strings. If you do this, you must place them upright in your steamer. Some people use parchment paper instead of corn husks or banana leaves.

Soak the corn husks in hot water, weight them down so they are immersed. Just before making the tamales, pour out the water. If you are using banana leaves they need to be heated to soften. I blanch them and place them on a wet towel.

In a stand mixer (or bowl with a beater) whip the cold lard for about 3 minutes on high speed till it is fluffy

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Fold that and the stock into the lard. Mix until a very moist (but not sticky) dough forms. Chill for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

masa

In a large skillet melt the lard and add onions. Stir and cook till the onions are translucent, add garlic in a hot spot and stir, then add the chiles and spices and finally deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to simmer till the stock is absorbed, then cool.

Set up a station on a table or counter top. You will need the masa, the cheese, the filling, the string and a platter to stack the finished tamales on.

tamale ready to fold

Start with about 1/2 cup of masa on a corn husk. Fold the sides of the husk where you will want the ends of the tamales to be and spread the masa with the folded husk. Do the same thing with the top and bottom of the husk so that the dough is spread out and you end up with a square of dough about 4″ X 4″. You will need to select the husks that are large enough to accommodate this size of tamale. You should have at least an inch of exposed husk on all sides. Place the filling in the center of the masa and lightly push down on it. Then take the bottom end of the husk and roll it forward to meet the end of the dough. Pull the dough forward making the two ends of dough meet. Then fold in the sides and roll the tamale. Place the string under the tamale and tie like a package. Repeat till you have used all of the dough or filling.

tamale folded

In a steam pot, place the tamales on a rack, cover and boil vigorously for 40-50 minutes. While you are steaming make the sauce.

Chile Sauce:

You can use New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder for this. I used red this time, but my next batch of corn, cheese and chile tamales I am making green sauce.

Make a roux of the masa and lard, stir till slightly brown. Add the chile powder and stir, then whisk in the stock. Allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Keep warm till ready to serve.

To serve, open the husks and remove the tamales to a plate. The masa should be soft and supple, yet firm enough to hold together. Spoon the sauce over and add additional cheese, crema and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

tamales steamed

tamales plated 2

 

 

 

 

Candied Bacon, Beyond Delicious

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bacon candy

File this one under DELICIOUS! This recipe could not be easier, especially if you have access to the flavored sugars mentioned. But you can also make your own by adding chile powder to raw sugar. The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston is part of a larger company with many franchise stores around the US. They also sell everything on their corporate website. I have provided links for the sugars in case you would like to order them. You can also play around with other flavors, but this is a terrific combination.

1 package of bacon, I used thick cut black pepper bacon

3 tablespoons of Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar

1 tablespoon of Spice and Tea Exchange Habanero Sugar

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  • Place the bacon strips close together on a broiler pan
  • Sprinkle the bacon with the sugars and fresh ground black pepper
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy

You may want to double this recipe… it is impossible to resist eating these.

All of the grease will go down to the bottom pan and after you pour that out clean up is easy.

 

Grilled Pink Grapefruit

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Grilled grapefruit on salad

I have two grapefruit trees. Both are heavy with yellow and pink orbs. So, when I was grilling chicken the other night, I decided to see what would happen if I grilled some. The results were amazing. The heat brought out the juices in the already juicy fruit and set the sweetness soaring. I used the wonderful Salted Caramel Sugar from The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston where I work, but you could use Sugar in the Raw with success.

grapefruit peeled

All you have to do is remove the skin and pith from the grapefruit, this is achieved in much the same way as doing orange supremes. Cut off the top of the grapefruit so you can clearly see where the pith meets the fruit. Then do the same on the bottom. Using a sharp knife, cut away the pith and skin in slices (you can save these for twists in your beverages) and once you have removed the skin, cut thick slices and place on a plate.

grapefruit slices

Just before grilling, top with the sugar and place the unsugared side on the grill. It only takes a few minutes to get grill marks. Flip and sugar the grill marked side. When the sugar has melted and started to caramelize, remove and serve immediately or cool and cut into quarters for salads.

Chicken Orzo Salad grapefruit

Best Latke Recipe! Gluten Free too!

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latke

I make Latkes (my mother called them Potato Pancakes) year round. Sometimes I make them dense as a breakfast food and other times I make them tiny and serve them as appetizers with sour cream, dill , caviar and applesauce.  Yesterday morning they were on my brunch table along with candied bacon BLTs and broiled grapefruit from my trees. While generally latkes are made with flour, I used cornstarch with mine so they are also gluten free. If you have a food processor it is a super easy recipe, if you don’t it is still pretty fast. Give them a try both ways and you will see how delicious they can be. I like mine savory, so I eat them with really good BBQ sauce and bacon, but for a fancier meal I go for the lighter version and add sour cream, smoked salmon and dill.

Ingredients:

  •  2 large russet potatoes
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill (optional)
  • 1/2″ of olive oil & 1 tablespoon of butter in a large heavy pan

Using the fine grater on the food processor grate the potatoes and onion. Place in a sieve over a bowl and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then push the excess water out.
*Note if using a hand grater, use the larger holed grater, the fine one on that is too small.

Place the potatoes and onion in a medium bowl and add the egg and stir, then sprinkle the corn starch and dill over the bowl and stir again till all are incorporated. For larger portions, create 2-3 flat cakes and add to the pan when the oil sizzles when a piece f potato hits it. For the smaller portions add cakes about 1 1/2 to 2″ across. These cook more quickly, so keep your eye on them. You want the small cakes to be lighter, more light gold and the larger cakes to be a crispy golden brown. Place on a rack to drain before serving.

Appetizer Potato Latkes

Williamsburg Turkey Soup Redux

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As a young mother, thirty years or so ago I first made a recipe of Williamsburg Turkey Soup, most probably after Thanksgiving. Back then I always did my turkeys on a Weber Grill with soaked pecan shells poured over the coals, essentially creating a lightly smoked turkey. It was a delicious soup then, but when I pulled up the recipe the other day, I was surprised at how pedestrian the recipe looks to me now. Obviously, it was time for me to kick it up a notch. The original recipe is supposed to have come from the colonies and would probably have been done with a wild turkey. And seeing that they probably did hot have half and half back then, was likely made with cream. The rice probably was not white long grain, but an earthier wild or brown rice. Regardless, I made a big pot of wonderful soup and was able to render some extra turkey stock too.

Here is my Redux Version

Part one: Make turkey stock. I roasted a turkey last week and used only the white meat. I then placed the carcass with the dark meat in the smoker and smoked over maple wood for 12 hours. You do not have to smoke your turkey, but it sure makes for great soup and stock. You could also use a store bought smoked turkey for this. After the turkey was sufficiently smoked for flavor, I made the stock.

In a very large pot place chunks of carrot, celery & onions (about 2 cups each) into a pot. You do not need to peel them as they are only adding goodness to the stock. Add 20 (yes 20!) garlic cloves. Toss in a few stalks of  rosemary and thyme and one bay leaf. Place the carcass into the pot. If your pot is not large enough, you can break it apart a bit to fit. Cover with water and place on a LOW simmer for 12 hours. The stock should never be allowed to boil, just simmer.

Remove pot from the heat and allow to cool so that you can handle the turkey to remove meat. You may want to place it on a platter to cool. Remove and reserve the meat. Then filter everything over a large pot using a fine sieve. Pour the stock into containers to cool completely so that the fat will rise to the top. Your leftover veggies can be placed in compost or fed to the dogs in chunks. Discard all of the bones. I ended up with 8 cups of rich dark stock. Some of which was used in the soup. I grabbed all of the garlic cloves and saved them for the soup.

Part Two: The Soup

1 Cup of Butter (yes, you can use olive oil if you want to)
1 Cup of all purpose flour
4 small red onions or 8 shallots finely chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 ribs of cellery finely chopped
(note all of this chopping can be done in a food processor)
Reserved garlic from the stock, which can now be smashed and added to the soup
2 cups of fresh corn kernels (if not in season, use frozen)
1 small jar of pimentos (or roast a red pepper and chop)
1 1/2 cups of wild rice/brown rice blend (I use Lindeman’s Brand)
2 teaspoons of salt (I used smoked salt that I smoke while doing the turkey.)
1 tablespoon of fresh cracked pepper
3 quarts of turkey stock
3 sprigs of thyme (leaves pulled from stem)
2 cups of reserved turkey chopped
4 cups of cream or half and half if you are giving your arteries a break

 

  • Melt butter in the bottom of a large sop pot or dutch oven
  • Add flour and stir gently for about 5 minutes to form a light golden roux
  • Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to roux and sir. Cooking over medium flame for 10-15 minutes, stirring often. The onions should be just starting to brown.
  • Add rice, corn, stock, salt, pepper, thyme, pimentos along with reserved turkey and stir all together. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste the rice and be sure that it is cooked through. Add the cream and stir. Cook on low flame till completely heated.  Taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it.
This makes a huge pot of soup, but it freezes well if you are not feeding a crowd. I like to serve it with a few slices of Hawaiian Chiles on it along with fresh chopped parsley or thyme leaves. However, many people cannot take the heat of the chiles, so you might just want to serve chiles or siracha sauce on the side. It is delicious just as it is. It also might be good with some browned crispy thin slices of jamon or prosciutto on top.

Roasted Cinnamon Gelato

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Roasted Vietnamese Cinnamon Gelato

Ingredients

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks of TSTE Korintje Cinnamon,Chunks pan roasted and ground in a grinder
1 TSTE nutmeg grated with a microplane
1/8 teaspoon TSTE Fleur de Sel
2 large eggs + 1 yolk
1 teaspoon TSTE Tahitian Vanilla 

Method

  • Mix cream, half-and-half, sugar, roasted cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium saucepan. Simmer on medium heat.
  • Beat eggs in medium bowl. Gradually add 1 cup of the hot cream mixture, whisking until well blended. Gradually whisk this mixture back into the remaining cream mixture in the saucepan.
  • Cook and stir on medium-low heat 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Strain custard into medium metal bowl. Stir in vanilla.
  • Place bowl over ice water bath. Lightly whisk custard occasionally until cooled.
  • Refrigerate at least 3 hours or until well chilled. Pour into an ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Tacos al Pastor

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One of my all time favorite Mexican foods is a street food, Tacos al Pastor or literally “tacos de trompo” . It started in Puebla Mexico, where many middle eastern immigrants came and sold their own rotisserie meat, the doner kabob.  Now, all over Mexico they have stands where the pork and pineapple that have been marinating are stacked on a huge skewer and cooked in a vertical rotisserie and then the meat and pineapple is shaved off and served on a tortilla with onions, cojita and cilantro.

When I lived in Chicago I could just go to the Carceneria and buy however much I wanted of the velvety red marinated pork and pineapple and take it home and make the tacos straight away. Here in South Carolina it takes a little more work to produce the meal… but the results are outstanding. If you too like this dish, or want to try it, you can, no matter where you live. The first thing you will need is annatto, or if you live in a place with Hispanic groceries, you can buy the achiote paste commercially made. I have always been able to buy the paste, but here in Charleston…. no soap, so I learned to make my own.

It is easy and I actually like it better than the commercial paste. I froze the extra paste in a ZipLock bag. Annatto is the seed of the achiote tree and is used in Hispanic & Caribbean cooking for color and flavor. I work at the Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston and we sell annotto, so that was easy for me. If you cannot find it near you,  we also sell it on our website. Once you have the paste made, then you make the marinade. Because of  the pineapple juice in the marinade, you do not want the meat to marinate more than 4-6 hours. Then you cook the slices of meat and pineapple and serve them the same way I described above. I usually serve them with lime slices and sometimes crema (Mexican table cream).

Tacos Al Pastor

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for cooking, or home rendered pork lard
  • One 1-ounce package achiote paste (or make your own, see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 4 chipotles in adobo sauce (you can also freeze what is left in the can for another time)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then into 1/2-inch-wide strips and then in 1/2 inch chunks
  • 12 fresh 6-inch white corn tortillas
  • 1 red onion, 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 a fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, 1/2-inch dice (0r you can use chunky canned pineapple)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves coarsely chopped
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled, for serving
  • Hot sauce, creama and lime quarters


Method:

Puree 3/4 cup of the pineapple juice, the vegetable oil or lard, achiote paste, adobo sauce, chipotles, garlic and salt in a food processor. Mix the pineapple juice mixture with the pork in a freezer bag and move around to coat. Marinate the pork in the fridge, 1 to 3 hours.

Preheat a cast-iron skillet or grill to medium-high heat. *Note: if you are doing this on a grill, leave the meat in strips and then chop after cooking. Lightly oil the skillet and add the tortillas, toasting, about 30 seconds per side. Remove the tortillas and store in a towel to keep warm.

Raise the heat under the skillet to high and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or lard. Remove the pork from the bag and wipe off any excess pineapple juice mixture. Cook the pork in batches, until charred and cooked through.

Remove the pork from the skillet. Add half of the onions and the fresh pineapple and quickly cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup pineapple juice and the chopped pork back to the skillet with the juices.

Place the pork, pineapple and onion mixture in the tortillas. Top with the remaining onions, cilantro, cotija and hot sauce.

Home made Achiote Paste

Ingredients

    • 6 tablespoons annatto seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds
    • 1 tablespoon toasted black pepper corns
    • 5 allspice berries (these can also be toasted)
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt (I use smoked salt)
    • A pinch of nutmeg
    • 6  whole cloves
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • Juice & zest of 3 limes or lemons
    • Enough olive oil to make the paste (about 1/4 cup)

Directions

  1. Put all spices and dry ingredients into a spice grinder, and grind until you have a fine powder.
  2. Take the powder and put it into the  bowl of a food processor and add the garlic, lemon juice, zest and the olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a thick paste which binds together, in a putty like consistency.
  3. Separate into Tablespoon size portions and freeze individually.
  4. When you want to use it, you can mix the TB size portion with 10 cloves of garlic crushed, and 1/2 cup of 50/50 orange juice & lemon juice and marinate pork or chicken overnight.
  5. Some recipes say to add tequila, but that is an Americanization of this Yucatecan specialty. However, I have done it and it is good.

*NOTE* Annato seeds are very, very hard, and are difficult to grind with a mortar and pestle, use the grinder or it won’t make a paste. They DO, and WILL stain your grinder, and anything you happen to spill it on, be careful. You can double, or multiply this recipe as you wish, and I usually make enough for a year’s worth at a time. It freezes well.

Prickly Pear Sorbet

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This recipe is quite simple. You will need an icecream maker of some kind, but even the very inexpensive ones work well for this. You will also need a fine sieve.

8 Prickly Pears (they call these Tuna) in Mexican markets. They come in yellow, orange and pink. My favorite is pink.

1 cup of simple syrup (half water/half sugar till sugar melts) or light agave syrup. Sometimes I put fresh mint in the syrup too.

Juice of three limes

1/4 cup raspberry liqueur  such as Framboise. This step can be eliminated if you do not want the liquor.

Often times you can find these pears growing wild and in gardens. In Mexico they also candy them. In Italy they are used to make gelato ad sorbet in the fall.

When making your simple syrup, you can add spices, in this case I used one cardamom pod, mint, a cinnamon stick and 3 star anise. These just flavor the syrup slightly.

Using a fork, cut off the ends of the prickly pear. Commercial pears like you would find in a hispanic grocery will have the little prickles removed. If you harvest them your self, you will need to be more careful. Hold the fork on one end, stand the pear on the other end and using a sharp knife cut just the skin from the pear. Then cut into large chunks and place in a food processor. Pour in the simple syrup, lime and liqueur. Pulse until the mixture is smooth.

Strain carefully, there are a lot of seeds inside. Cool the mixture.

Process as you would in any ice cream or gelato machine. Pack tightly in freezer containers. It will be ready to eat within a couple of hours.