A Player and a Baker

I started cooking and baking in my tiny New York City oven, as I lived the life of an actress/teaching artist. Now I do it all over the place. These days I'm living in Miami. Player and a Baker is a place for me to share my adventures, culinary and otherwise.

I rarely post on the true “player” origins of my name, but this is the essence of everything I do with kids, and it was a lot of fun to make.

Texan Feast

Hello!

It’s been a while.  A long, long while.  Ages.  Eons.  Decades.

Not really.  But I don’t really blog like I used to.  And I’ve never done a post this detailed in Tumblr format.  But when my dear friend Marc contacted me and gave me a blog challenge, I couldn’t resist.  Especially because it was inspired by my home state, Texas.

Basically, he asked me to create a meal to be enjoyed before a Robert Earl Keen concert. 

Who’s he?  Oh, just a really important and amazing Texan country singer.

Anyway, I racked my brain on what I might fix, knowing that Marc wanted something authentically Texan that would go well with an ice cold Shiner Bock.  I considered brisket and frito pie, but in the end, I knew that cheese enchiladas were the way to go. 

I got my enchilada recipe from The Homesick Texan.  I started following her when I lived in New York City, and as a fellow homesick Texan, truly enjoyed her twist on the classics of my youth.  Over time, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, but we’ll get to that later.  Because I didn’t just make a pan of enchiladas.  You can’t just eat enchiladas.  I made a whole meal, y’all.


First up is my easy guacamole.  I came up with this recipe many years ago for my family’s famous “Smarts’ Favorite Things” Christmas party.  Texan tradition states that you eat tamales on Christmas eve, and while the party is usually before that night, we uphold that delicious ritual.  Guacamole can be a pain when serving a crowd.  So much work!  So expensive!  So I created a few short cuts.

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First, as you can see above, I use Wholly Guacamole.  You can get bulk containers of this stuff at Costco, and it will make your life so much easier.  It does need some doctoring up, which is why you see jalapeños, cilantro, lime, and sour cream up there.  You don’t see garlic, ground cumin, and whole avocados, but those are in there too.

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Basically, I create a “base” to flavor the pre-made guac.  A few real avocados give you the texture you love, and the aromatics make it pop.  Simply mix together your base and chop up the whole avocados with your spoon.  Fold in your store-bought guac and serve on tortilla chips.  Serious eats says Tostitos Simply Natural are the best, and they were quite good.

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Next up is the chili gravy for the enchiladas. 

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I like to get all my spices measured out first before I get started.  We’ve got salt, pepper, powdered garlic, cumin, oregano and chili powder.

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Next, you should probably warm up your tortillas to get them soft.  Homesick Texan fries hers in oil to soften them, which yields a crispier enchilada, but it adds an extra messy step, and steaming the tortillas in the microwave or oven does the trick.  In the microwave just use a slightly damp cloth and do it right before you assemble.  In the oven wrap the cloth with foil and stick them in there for 20 minutes or so.

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Next, you make a roux with flour and canola oil.

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Once it’s a light golden brown and smelling toasty, throw in your spice mix.

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Cook that a minute, and then pour in your water or broth.  I used water and it turned out delicious. (Make sure to have it measured out while you’re cooking your roux so you don’t accidentally burn it.)  Stir your sauce and let it cook a few minutes to thicken slightly.  Add more water if it gets too thick.

Next, set up your enchilada makin’ station.

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Set up your grated cheese, chopped onion and your softened tortillas next to your enchilada pan.  I lined mine with heavy duty foil for easy clean-up.  Pour some sauce in the bottom of the pan and get to rollin’.

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You take a tortilla, sprinkle in some cheese, sprinkle in some onion, roll it up, and place it seam side down in your baking dish. 

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It makes about one large baking dish and one small baking dish’s-worth.

Top them with the remaining sauce and onions, and bake at 450˚ until brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

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Next up are some sides.  I love rajas con crema, or roasted poblano strips with creme.  I love them so much. 


You can roast your poblanos ahead of time.  Do this under the broiler or on the grill.  Just keep turning them until they’re black all around, then put them in a covered bowl to let the skins steam off.

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Remove the skin, seeds and stems (this is a good job to do under running water) and slice them into strips.

Then throw them in a skillet with some mexican crema or heavy cream.  Cook it till it’s nice and thick and season with salt.

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Did you know that refried beans are one of my favorite foods?  It’s true.

So I had to make some for our pre-concert feast.


Drain and rinse a couple of cans of pinto beans.

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Sauté up some onion in some canola oil…

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Or even better, bacon grease.  That’s about 3 tablespoons.

When the onions are soft, pour in some beer. 

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Throw in your pintos and some water or stock, let them get hot and bubbly, then give them a good mash.  Season with salt.  Taste.  Season with more salt.

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Serve with ice cold Shiner Bock.  Or margaritas.  Or both.

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And there you have it.  A Tex-Mex meal fit for a Country King.

But wait!  There’s more.  You can’t have dinner in Texas without dessert.  It just isn’t done.  I whipped up a quick peach cobbler.

Simply put about a bag and a half of frozen peaches in a greased baking dish (just make sure you have enough peaches to fill the bottom of the pan)

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Mix up your corn starch, sugar and cinnamon.  Toss that with the peaches in the dish.  Cover with refrigerated pie dough.  I cut one side of it and put it on the end to get it right.  You might want to cut some vents in it. Smear it with Mexican crema or heavy cream and sprinkle it with sugar.  You will not regret this move.

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Bake at 375˚ until it’s deliciously brown and bubbly at the edges.  

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Serve it warm with ice cream.  Bluebell, if you can get it.

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Good simple stuff.

Now, for the recipes:

Easy Guacamole for a Crowd

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped

the juice of 1-2 limes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup sour cream

3 avocados, cut in half, seeds carefully removed

3 containers Wholly Guacamole

Method:

Mix together the cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, lime juice, cumin and sour cream.  Scoop out the flesh of your avocados and chop up roughly with your spoon.  Fold in the Wholly Guacamole.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Chili Gravy
Adapted from The Homesick Texan

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons powdered garlic

4 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

4 tablespoons chili powder

4 cups water or chicken broth

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Method:

Mix together the salt, oregano and spices.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to four minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.

Add the seasonings and cook for one minute.  Add the water or broth, stirring until the sauce thickens.  Turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, until it thickens a bit.  Add water if it gets too thick

Cheese Enchiladas

Adapted from The Homesick Texan

Ingredients:

16 corn tortillas (always steam extras in case of breakage)

6 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 medium onions, diced

chili gravy


Method:

Preheat the oven to 450 and line one large baking dish and one smaller baking dish with aluminum foil. 
Steam your tortillas in the oven wrapped in a damp cloth and foil for 10-20 minutes or in a damp cloth in the microwave for 30 second increments until soft and pliable.

Ladle some of the chili gravy into the bottom of your baking dishes.

Take a tortilla, put 1/4 cup of cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion in the center and roll it. Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, seam side down.
Continue with remaining tortillas.

Take remaining chili gravy, and pour it over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top. Bake for 10-20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.
Rajas con Crema
Ingredients:
6 poblano peppers, blackened on the grill or under the broiler, skins, stems and seeds removed.
1 cup Mexican crema or heavy cream.
Method:
Slice your poblanos into strips.  Place in a skillet with the crema or cream.  Stir over medium high heat until the sauce thickens.  Season with salt to taste.
Refried Beans
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons bacon grease or canola oil
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup beer
3 cans Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water
Method:
Sauté the onions in your desired fat.  When soft, pour in beer.  Add the pintos and water. When warmed through, mash thoroughly.  Salt to tast generously.
Easy Peach Cobbler

Ingredients:
1 1/2 bags frozen peaches
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 refrigerated pie crust
1-2 tablespoons Mexican crema or heavy cream
Method:
Preheat the oven to 375˚.  Grease a baking dish.
Add your frozen peaches to the dish.
Mix together the corn starch, sugar and cinnamon.  Toss it with the peaches.  Cover with the pie crust, trimming it when needed to fit over all of the peaches.  Smear the crema over the crust and sprinkle it with sugar.  Cut a few vents on the top.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
Enjoy warm with ice cream, preferably Blue Bell Vanilla Bean.

...and a writer.: Untranslatable Words

andawriter:

This collection of brilliant words we don’t have English equivalents for first appeared on the Free Word site, but it was so good I wanted to recreate it here. Enjoy!

Gigil (Filipino) – The irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze something cute.

Neidbau (German) – A building constructed with the…

I love these words. Thanks Sam for posting.

Green Chile Cheeseburger at Bobcat Bite, near Santa Fe NM

Green Chile Cheeseburger at Bobcat Bite, near Santa Fe NM

Christmas Brunch


Sausage Casserole

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Texas Grapefruit

Christmas Brunch


Sausage Casserole

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Texas Grapefruit

Pasta alla Norma
Many have made this dish, including my friend Lena and the Amateur Gourmet. I finally gave in, because when your CSA gives you eggplants, you gotta eat ‘em.
Cube two eggplants and brown them in batches in extra virgin olive oil. When it’s all brown, throw it all in the pan and add a roughly chopped onion and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Throw in minced garlic and a healthy pinch of dried red chili flakes. Add a can of dices tomatoes and the stems from a bunch of basil, saving the leaves for later. Fill the can with water to get all the tomatoey goodness and add that to the pot. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the eggplant is completely tender. Salt. Throw in the basil leaves along with some parsley, chopped.
Serve over pasta (in my case, brown rice pasta) and garnish with extra basil.    This stuff is good. I don’t even like eggplant, but it’s abundant in the CSA, and this dish is so good, I almost welcome it.

Pasta alla Norma

Many have made this dish, including my friend Lena and the Amateur Gourmet. I finally gave in, because when your CSA gives you eggplants, you gotta eat ‘em.

Cube two eggplants and brown them in batches in extra virgin olive oil. When it’s all brown, throw it all in the pan and add a roughly chopped onion and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Throw in minced garlic and a healthy pinch of dried red chili flakes. Add a can of dices tomatoes and the stems from a bunch of basil, saving the leaves for later. Fill the can with water to get all the tomatoey goodness and add that to the pot. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the eggplant is completely tender. Salt. Throw in the basil leaves along with some parsley, chopped.

Serve over pasta (in my case, brown rice pasta) and garnish with extra basil. This stuff is good. I don’t even like eggplant, but it’s abundant in the CSA, and this dish is so good, I almost welcome it.

Local Pride

Here in Miami things are different. CSA’s (community supported agriculture) don’t start in the spring with asparagus and garlic scapes. They start in November with eggplants and cucumbers. I recently signed us up for a half share from Teena’s Pride.

I heard about them from a tweet by Slowfood Miami, and had read their name on the menu at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, so I knew they would be good. I had no idea how good, though. First, pickup is easy. They deliver to my local Whole Foods, where my box is kept in cold storage until I sign it out. They gave me a lovely insulated tote to re-use every week so they can keep the boxes. Everything is organized and beautiful: no bruised veggies or limp lettuce. In the CSA Gwen and I did years ago, we had to go down a line and pick our own stuff. It was always chaotic and the veggies were either picked over, or if I got there early, not out yet. Things were smushed. More often than not, we ended up with too many limp heads of lettuce and too few potatoes to actually make a meal. Not so with Teena’s Pride. The produce is carefully packed, heavy things on the bottom, light things on top. So far there has been good variety from week to week.

Above, you can see week 2.  I’ve got eggplants, an armenian cucumber, sugar cane, jalapeños, cherry tomatoes, okra, 2 types of sorrel, parsley, basil, and orange mint.

Stay tuned for fun recipes- the best part is that the variety means that I really can create whole meals almost entirely out of CSA ingredients!!

Milking Almonds

Inspired by Tasty Kitchen (and I’m feeling frugal)

Click the photo for the recipe.

Milking Almonds

Inspired by Tasty Kitchen (and I’m feeling frugal)

Click the photo for the recipe.