Tortilla Crusted Cod in a Coriander Cream Sauce

Tortilla Crusted Cod in a Coriander Cream Sauce

From June 6, 2007:  I love El Milagro tortilla chips.  They are thin, crispy, and unsalted.  I discovered them in Austin, Texas and was estatic when they started selling them this year at the Super Target here in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  I save the crumbs at the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips to use for Migas, but wanted to find an additional use for them.  This was an experiment that went wonderfully right.  It was quick to put together.  I served it with a salad and a veggie medley of onions, garlic, zucchini, and golden hominy.  A great weeknight dinner.

Tortilla Crusted Cod in a Coriander Cream Sauce

cod fillets
ground coriander
tortilla chips, finely crushed
2 eggs, 1 seperated
1 T. water or milk
2 T. butter
6 T. heavy cream
1 T. capers
1 tsp. lemon juice
canola oil for pan-frying

Season cod with salt, pepper, and ground coriander.  In a bowl mix 1 egg, the seperated egg white and the 1 T. of water or milk. Dip fish in egg mixture and dredge in the crushed tortilla chips.  Pan fry over medium-high heat, turning the fish once, until golden brown, about 4 or 5 minutes.  Remove fish from hot oil and drain on paper towels.  Meanwhile, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat.  Add cream, 1/4 tsp. ground coriander, and seperated egg yolk; whisking.  When heated through (do not let it boil) and starting to thicken, add capers and lemon juice.  Serve cream sauce with the tortilla crusted cod.

King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken is a casserole named after the King Ranch in South Texas.  I don’t think the recipe originated at that famous cattle ranch, though.  It’s one of those regional recipes that has numerous variations.  Most  versions are made with canned cream-of-whatever soup.  I have never actually eaten (or made) King Ranch Chicken before, but I was curious as to why this dish endures in popularity (in Texas, at least).  What I have found out since making this King Chicken Ranch recipe I got from is that it is much like an enchilada casserole.  It’s familiar and comforting, but not too spicy.  This recipe is good. I followed it as written except  that I microwaved the tortillas to soften them instead of briefly frying them in oil and I added 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin to the sauce.   There are a few additional changes I would make if I make this casserole again.  First, I would use milk instead of buttermilk.  I didn’t enjoy the twang so much.  I would also use black olives instead of green or use less of the green.  I love green olives, but the flavor in this recipe was a little overpowering even for my tastes.  This casserole supposedly freezes well.

King Ranch Chicken

3 tablespoons butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup buttermilk
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium poblano, chopped
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped (or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, drained)
2 tablespoons chopped pimientos

8 corn tortillas
3 to 4 cups cooked, diced chicken
1/3 cup sliced green olives
1/3 cup green onions, including tops, chopped
2 cup grated Longhorn or mild cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish or 3-quart casserole.

Make the Sauce:
Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chili powder, and sauté for a minute or two. Raise the heat to medium. Quickly sprinkle in the flour and stir to mix. Pour in a small amount of the chicken broth, stirring constantly to remove lumps and allowing the flour to “cook” briefly.

Gradually add the remaining chicken broth and the buttermilk and continue stirring until sauce has thickened, 3 or 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sauce may be prepared in advance and refrigerated.

Make the Filling:
Warm a heavy skillet over medium heat, add the butter or olive oil, and sauté the chopped onion, green pepper, poblano, mushrooms, tomatoes and pimientos until onion is transparent, about 4 or 5 minutes. Fold into the mixture the diced chicken, olives and green onions, combining well. Remove from heat.

Assembling the Dish:
In a small skillet, heat about about half an inch of canola oil. Using tongs, dip the tortillas in the hot oil one at a time, for just a few seconds, so that they are softened. Cover the bottom of your baking dish with 4 of the softened tortillas. Layer the remaining ingredients in the following order:
Half of the chicken/vegetable mixture
Half of the grated cheese
Half of the sauce
The remaining 4 softened tortillas
The remaining chicken/vegetable mixture
The remaining grated cheese
The remaining sauce

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F until casserole is heated through and bubbly. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: Possible substitutions: A small can of Ro-Tel© tomatoes and chiles for the tomatoes and poblano, OR a small can of green chiles for just the poblano.

Roasted Corn Tacos

Roasted Corn Tacos

corn tacos

These are very good and surprisingly satisfying. When the corn is roasted, it gets sweet and has a wonderful depth of flavor.  The texture of the corn also changes and it gets chewy (for the lack of a better word).

The last time I made roasted corn tacos, I added thinly sliced zucchini to the mix and will definitely do that again.  Yum!

Fresh ears of corn (frozen can be used in a pinch)
Bell pepper
Corn tortillas
Grated cheese (Cheddar or Monterey Jack)
Sour cream
Fresh cilantro leaves
Additional diced onions
Chopped lettuce

Depending on how many you are feeding, shuck and wash fresh ears of corn, making sure to remove all corn silk. (In general, allow two ears per person — but I always make more so I have leftovers.)

Stand up each ear of corn on end in a deep, large bowl or a deep cookie sheet, and with a small, sharp knife, slice down the cob in sections to remove the corn. Cut AWAY from you and watch those fingers! You want to remove as much of each corn kernel as possible, but don’t cut into the cob. Use the knife to scrape the cob to obtain as much of the corn juice as you can.

Grab an onion and peel it, then slice it very thinly. Do the same with a bell pepper. The key is to slice very thinly. Throw the corn kernels, sliced onion, and sliced bell pepper onto a large, deep cookie sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, mix well, and put in very hot oven (425-450 degrees). Roast, removing from oven and stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the corn is hot and sizzly and the onion/bell peppers start to blacken. Total cooking time is generally in the 45-minute range, though actual cooking time depends on oven heat, how much corn you got, and how roasted you like your veggies. (I think this is much tastier when the onion and bell pepper start to blacken slightly and caramelize, as they get sweet.)

Remove from oven; you can consume immediately or put it in the fridge and gently heat it in microwave before serving. The roasted corn mixture also freezes well.

To serve: heat corn tortillas, fill with roasted corn mixture, throw on some cheese, sour cream, diced onions, cilantro leaves, and salsa, and eat. Repeat numerous times.

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is one of my favorite things to eat.  I love adding the fried tortillas, cheese, chiles and cilantro to the  tomato broth seasoned with onion and garlic.  This is a good, simple version of the soup.  I usually prepare the soup first and have it simmering while I fry the thinly sliced tortilla strips (instead of following the recipe exactly).  Pureeing the onion, garlic and tomatoes in the soup pot with a hand-held blender is so much less messy than using a blender or food processor.   If don’t feel like frying the tortilla strips, sometimes I bake them instead.  I thinly slice the tortillas, arrange them on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray (like Pam), sprinkle with salt, and bake them in the oven at about 350 degrees, turning often, until golden.  If I’m really lazy or tired, I will forgo frying or baking tortilla strips and just crumble some purchased tortilla chips into the soup.  If I have  fresh pico de gallo, I also add that to the soup before eating.

Tortilla Soup

12 (or more) corn tortillas
Canola oil, for frying
4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 white onion, sliced
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice, drained, or 3/4 pound fresh tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

shredded cheese (queso fresco, farmer cheese, Monterrey Jack, or mild cheddar)
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 large lime, cut into wedges
serrano or jalapeno chiles, sliced

Cut tortillas in half and then into thin strips. In a medium (2-quart) saucepan, heat 1/2 inch oil over medium flame until the edge of a tortilla strip inserted in oil sizzles vigorously. Fry tortilla strips in small batches until golden brown and crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Pour off all but a thin coating of hot oil. Add garlic and onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, press garlic against side of pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, then transfer garlic and onion to a blender or food processor.

Puree tomatoes with garlic mixture in the blender or food processor until smooth. If using fresh tomatoes, strain puree to remove pieces of tomato skin. Heat same saucepan over medium-high heat. Add tomato puree and stir until thickens to consistency of tomato paste, about 10 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil, then partially cover and gently simmer over medium-low heat 30 minutes. Add salt.

To serve: Divide cheese and avocado among warmed soup bowls. Ladle broth into each bowl; top with tortilla strips and a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and sliced chiles.

Adapted from Rick Bayless’ version in Mexico, One Plate at a Time (Scribner, 2000).