Category Archives: cast iron pans

Angus Beef recipe, Chef Luis Noriega and Puerto Vallarta

Among the five course festival menu Chef Luis Noriega created for Coco Tropical, the Angus short ribs marinated in a fragrant mixture of sautéed dried peppers, herbs and spices then wrapped in banana leaves and slow braised  was something I never tasted north of the Rio Grande.

Barbecued Beef Guerrero Style
Barbecued Beef Guerrero Style
Chef Luis Noriega
Chef Luis Noriega

Chef Luis Noriega’s illustrious international career has taken him from Acapulco, European capitals to Chef/Professor at leading Mexico culinary collages. He is chef/owner of Restaurant La Guia in the south central Mexican Pacific coast city of Zihuatanejo. Recently Chef Noriega conducted an in-depth daytime cooking workshop and lunch at Puerto Vallarta’s Coco Tropical for the 22nd Festival Gourmet International.

Unlike many culinary festivals, Festival Gourmet International in Puerto Vallarta stretches over eleven days with dozens of events among one-time theme dinners and brunches, wine and tequila tastings to daytime cooking classes and lunches with guest chefs throughout the city. Additional participating restaurants offered nightly festival menus created by their sponsored guest chefs.

More than one first time visitor to both Puerto Vallarta and the festival commented how they had “no idea” cuisine in Mexico was so varied. The name of one popular American icon of Tex-Mex food was often cited. The breadth of the 22nd annual Festival Gourmet International ranged from Pakistani to Austrian fusion menus.

Yet the festival’s hallmark was highlighting Mexico’s ever evolving New World  cuisine.

Chef Heinz Reize & Chef Luis Noriega
Chef Heinz Reize & Chef Luis Noriega

Chef Heinz Reize has owned the beautiful oceanfront Restaurant Coco Tropical on Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon for years and is a founder of Puerto Vallarta’s Festival Gourmet International. This is not the first time Chef Noriega has teamed with his old friend.

Barbecued Beef Guerrero Style – 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 1-½ pounds Angus beef short ribs
  • 2                                 dry Guajillo chili peppers
  • 2                                 dry Ancho chili peppers
  • 1/2                                     medium white onion diced
  • 2 medium             ripe tomatoes diced
  • 2                                garlic cloves diced
  • 1 tablespoon      ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon      ground clove
  • 1 tablespoon      ground cinnamon – preferably fresh ground stick
  • 1 tablespoon      fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pinch                  dry thyme
  • 1 pinch                  dry marjoram
  • zest from one    medium naval orange
  • 2 each                    hojas de (leaves of) aquacate & guayaba (at Latino food markets)
  • 1/4th cup              apple cider vinegar
  • 2 each                    large fresh banana leaves (at Latino food markets)
  • or
  • 1                               12” X 18” sheet of parchment paper
  • 24 ounces diced fresh yellow sweet potatoes (not yams)
  • 3 tablespoons     sugar
  • 7 tablespoons     fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 7 tablespoons     sour cream
  • pinch          freshly grated nutmeg
Angus short ribs
Angus short ribs

Preparation:

  1. Wearing gloves, remove the veins from the chilies and as many of the seeds you wish – they contain much heat – and sauté in a hot cast iron pan with one tablespoon oil for 5+ minutes. Add the onions and saute 5 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook additional 2 minutes. dsc06456
  2. Remove pan from the heat and add one cup boiling water – slowly or else it’ll splatter on you. Add the leaves, if available, and soak for 20 minutes.
  3. In a dry small hot cast iron pan quickly toast the ground spices and orange zest stirring constantly for a minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from heat.
  4. dsc06470In a blender add the vinegar, chilies, soaking water, toasted spices and dry  herbs. Blend until liquefied. Transfer to a small saucepan and, over medium-low heat, simmer until reduced to a sauce.
  5. dsc06472In a very hot cast iron pan brushed with just a touch of olive oil sear the Angus beef on both sides for two minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and brush both sides liberally with the chili sauce.
  7. dsc06480Line a baking dish large enough for the beef with the banana leaves or parchment paper and fold the leaves over encasing the short ribs. dsc06478
  8. Cover and bake in a pre-heated 240° Fahrenheit oven for 4 hours.
  9. During the last hour gently simmer the diced sweet potatoes with the orange juice, sugar and 1 cup cold water in a sauce pan for 30 to 40 minutes until fork tender. Mash along with the sour cream. Serve with slices of beef.vade-vinos

The dish was superbly paired with a Spanish petit verdot imported by Va de Vinos. This new import company is quickly adding to Mexico’s reputation for embracing fine wines. The deep berries of the petit verdot melded with the rich natural sauce of the braised beef.

Keep in mind, this was a major international festival, but Puerto Vallarta’s culinary scene is smoking every day.

 

When you go:

Puerto Vallarta is served by many international airlines.

For the 23rd Festival Gourmet International in November 2017 check the web site: http://www.festivalgourmet.com/en/

Disclaimer: the author was a guest of the 22nd Festival Gourmet International, Puerto Vallarta Tourism, Restaurant Coco Tropical, Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel and Hotel Cathedral.

spice mix
spice mix

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

Original World Insights

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A surprise pairing: vanilla, pineapple, salmon, scallops

Sautéed salmon and scallops with caramelized pineapple and vanilla sauce
Sautéed salmon and scallops with caramelized pineapple and vanilla sauce

Vanilla sauce and pineapple certainly don’t seem like they ought to pair with fish and seafood. Yet this savory sauce along with caramelized fresh pineapple accent the natural sweet notes of salmon and scallops in surprising ways. Just as in desserts, the vanilla highlights the natural flavors of this dish.

As a chef I enjoy playing with food especially deconstructing dishes I’ve enjoyed in restaurants. The recipe I’ve created for this dish was inspired by several variations of these four ingredients over the years. For this dish please resist substitutions.

vanilla bean
vanilla bean

Vanilla extract will be too intense whereas the natural bean provides a subtle essence of vanilla. Sweet unsalted butter will coat your mouth with flavors in a way oil will not. Canned pineapple is too wet to properly caramelize; seek out a ripe fresh fruit.

Sautéed salmon and scallops with caramelized pineapple and vanilla sauce

wild salmon fillets over fresh tarragon
wild salmon fillets over fresh tarragon

Ingredients for two generous servings

  • 2 six ounce wild salmon fillets with skin
  • 6 sea scallops, approximately ½ pound
  • 3 one inch thick slices of fresh pineapple, skin removed
  • 7 tablespoons sweet butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
  • kosher salt and white pepper to taste
vanilla bean infusing wine
vanilla bean infusing wine

Ingredients for the sauce

  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 1/3rd cup (5 ounces) white wine
  • 2 tablespoons grated sweet onion
  • 2 tablespoons sweet butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons white wine
  • kosher salt and white pepper to taste

Preparation

Place one large cast iron pan and two medium size cast iron or heavy stainless steel sauté pans into a cold oven and preheat the oven to 425° F.

pineapple caramelizing
pineapple caramelizing

For the salmon, scallops and pineapple

  1. Lightly season the salmon on both sides with kosher salt and white pepper.
  2. Dry the sea scallops with paper towel.
  3. Remove the pineapple skin and cut 3 one inch thick round slices. Slice each round in half. (reserve and refrigerate the remaining fruit for other uses).
  4. Pull off 1 packed tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves

(Set all these ingredients aside and make the vanilla sauce before proceeding with step 5).

  1. Using a thick potholder remove the large hot cast iron pan and place it on the stove over high heat – leave the other 2 pans in the oven. Melt 3 tablespoons of sweet butter in the pan, add the fresh tarragon leaves and top immediately with the salmon fillets skin side down. Sauté the salmon for 2 minutes.
  2. Using a thick potholder, remove the medium pans from the oven and place on the stove. Using the same potholder place the large cast iron pan with the salmon into the oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Leave the salmon skin side down as it will become crisp and flavorful.
  3. Place the medium cast iron or stainless steel pans onto high heat and melt 2 tablespoons sweet butter in each. Sauté the pineapple in one pan until lightly caramelized for 5 to 7 minutes turning half way through.
  4. While the pineapple is cooking  sauté the sea scallops in the other medium pan for about 2 minutes per side.
  5. When the pineapple and scallops are finished remove the salmon from the oven and follow the plating instructions.
fresh tarragon in the pan ready to be topped with the salmon
fresh tarragon in the pan ready to be topped with the salmon

For the sauce

  1. Slice the vanilla bean in half and gently scrape the seeds into a small saucepan and add the pod. Pour the wine over the vanilla. Over medium heat bring the wine to a simmer and reduce to 4 tablespoons (2 ounces). Discard the pods.
  2. In a small sauté pan melt 2 tablespoons sweet butter over medium heat and add the grated onion. Gently cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent. Do not brown.
  3. Add the onions to the reduced vanilla wine and pour in the almond milk.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes.
  5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tablespoons white wine and stir into the almond milk. Simmer gently for 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
  6. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain the sauce into a small heat proof bowl and keep warm by placing into a larger bowl containing enough hot water to reach half way up the side of the sauce bowl.

(Continue with steps 5 – 9 of the salmon, scallops and pineapple).

To plate the dish

  1. Cover the bottom of a dinner plate with vanilla sauce. Place one salmon fillet in the center of the plate. Arrange 3 sea scallops on top and/or to the side of the fillet. Arrange 3 half slices of pineapple to the side of the salmon and scallops.

Enjoy this mélange of flavors from the tropics and the sea with a crisp green salad and a dry white wine such as a sauvignon blanc.

Sautéed salmon and scallops with caramelized pineapple and vanilla sauce
Sautéed salmon and scallops with caramelized pineapple and vanilla sauce

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

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Cajun Maque Choux with Pork Chops

Cajun Maque Choux with Pork Chops
Cajun Maque Choux with Pork Chops

IMG_3261Cajun dishes rank among the most misunderstood regional cuisines in the United States. That’s not surprising since it is part of the melange of cultural influences that make up southern Louisiana – French, Spanish, Native American, African, Caribbean and Central America. Often confused with its spicier neighbor, Creole, true Cajun dishes share similarities but are less complex. IMG_3264Today’s Louisiana Cajuns are descendants of the survivors of the Grand Derangement – the British ethnic cleansing of Acadia, French Canada’s Maritime provinces, in the 1760s which resulted in the death of half the Acadian population. Given refuge by Spanish controlled Louisiana, they settled in undesirable disease ridden bayous and marshes. Liz Williams, Director of the New Orleans Southern Food and Beverage Museum stated, “It is very peasant food; a one pot food…it’s more the practices, the mindset rather than the ingredients” that determined Cajun recipes.

1/2" thick boneless pork chops
1/2″ thick boneless pork chops

Acclaimed New Orleans Chef Frank Brightsen commented, “The roots of Acadian culture are living off the land and that means hunting. The heart of Cajun culture around Lafayette is not coastal. Even in grocery stores you’ll find butchers. The pig is central to Cajun culture…”

pork chops with Cajun seasoning
pork chops with Cajun seasoning
diced salt pork
diced salt pork

Simple Acadian dishes such as salt cod cakes became impossible in the absence of potatoes and salt preserved fish. Rice became the starch and the abundance of fresh fish, game, alligator and seafood the additions. Rice, shrimp, and peppers replaced potatoes, cod and cabbage, but a basic Cajun meal is still one dish or simply prepared.

minced parsley
minced parsley

What else constitutes Cajun cuisine – and traditional Acadian fare? Anything deep fat fried – alligator and crawfish (not in Acadia) fish fillets, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, pork chops, rabbit, game, chicken, and shrimp. Crabs, shrimp and crawfish come steamed as well. Lots of carbohydrates accompany a Cajun meal – and an Acadian meal – with rice, potatoes and corn not uncommon on the same plate along with okra and beans.

blanch a tomato in boiling water
blanch a tomato in boiling water

The greatest difference separating Cajun and Acadian cooking is spices. Acadian rarely goes beyond salt and pepper although they do use pickled combinations such as chow chow to enliven a meal. Cajun uses spices borrowed from Creole cuisine – a different fusion altogether. Of course world famous Tabasco sauce made for the past century and a half on Avery Island has become a Cajun standard even though its origin is clearly West Indian.

skin easily peels away from blanched tomato
skin easily peels away from blanched tomato

Maque Choux is a classic Cajun side-dish that has elements of both Acadian and Cajun dishes. Most of the ingredients are Native North American – corn and peppers – with pork introduced by European colonists. If you visit Louisiana’s Cajun country you will experience variations including some that add sugar – a later 19th century addition.

diced peeled tomato
diced peeled tomato
Cajun seasoning mix
Cajun seasoning mix

There are many variations on “Cajun seasoning.” It’s basically a mixture of salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, onion and assorted spices. The “assorted spices” are best determined by an internet search. Especially important if you have a salt preference, packaged mixes have varying degrees of salt – both Cajun and Creole cooking love salt – but I prefer less  (more for taste and thirst than health reasons).

Maque Choux
Maque Choux

Cajun Maque Choux with Pork Chops Ingredients – 2 servings (simply multiply all ingredients for more servings)

for the pork:

  • 4 – 1/2 inch boneless pork chops
  • low-salt Cajun seasoning

for the Maque Choux

  • 1/4 cup small dice salt pork
  • 1-1/2 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup diced bell pepper – green, yellow or red
  • 1 cup diced, peeled fresh tomato
  • 1/8 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 cups corn kernels – cut from the cob or frozen
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons low-salt Cajun seasoning
  • hot sauce to taste (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Rub the pork chops with a thin layer of cajun seasoning and refrigerate while preparing the Maque Choux.
  2. To prepare the peeled tomato: bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Drop a large tomato into the boiling water for 30 seconds (small tomato) to 60 seconds (large tomato as pictured.) Remove the tomato to a cutting board. With a sharp knife make a thin cut around the tomato. The skin will easily slip off with your fingers or the blunt side of a dinner knife.
  3. In a heavy frying pan – preferably cast iron – sauté the salt pork until crispy and all the fat has been rendered. Remove the salt pork with a slotted spoon and discard.
  4. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the celery and sauté for an additional 2 minutes
  6. Add the peppers, tomato, parsley, corn and Cajun seasoning. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. In an oven proof baking dish spoon some of the Maque Choux to make a bed the size of a pork chop and place the chop to cover half. Overlap the corn and pork for the remaining chops.
  9. Cover with foil and bake for 90 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Serve with rice, a green salad, cold beer or a nice red wine.

salt pork in cast iron pan
salt pork in cast iron pan
saute salt pork
saute salt pork
rendered fat (right) with crisp salt pork (left – discard)
rendered fat (right) with crisp salt pork (left – discard)
saute onions & celery
saute onions & celery
add peppers, tomatoes, parsley
add peppers, tomatoes, parsley, corn & seasoning
arrange in baking dish overlapping pork and Maque Choux, cover with foil and bake according to directions
arrange in baking dish overlapping pork and Maque Choux, cover with foil and bake according to directions

You can read all my articles and subscribe to my Examiner columns at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner

Food & Recipes Examiner

Suite 101

Luxury versus Industry Leader: which one is better?

 

Cast iron pans: (left) Lodge, (right) Finex
Cast iron pans: (left) Lodge, (right) Finex

 

I’ve been a professional chef for 35 years. I look forward to challenge and trying out new equipment.  I believe in cast iron. It’s been used in making cooking pots for over 2,000 years for good reason.

 

identical ingredients/measurements used in the 1st of 5 blind taste tests
identical ingredients/measurements used in the 1st of 5 blind taste tests

 

Finex is a new company out of Portland, OR, that made some news in the food world the past year by raising their start-up money through Kickstarter.  I conducted five blind taste tests using both the Finex 12SK and the Lodge 10SK3.

Interested in the results?  And the cost difference?

Is the Finex cast iron pan a better mousetrap?

 

which is which?
which is which?

You can read all my articles at:

Hellenic News of America

Original World Insights

Culinary Travel Examiner

 International Dining Examiner

International Travel Examiner

Philadelphia Fine Dining Examiner

Food & Recipes Examiner