May 27, 2009

my 100th post: fire up the grill

Rather than mark my blog's birthday, since I got to this landmark just a week and a half before it, I thought I'd point out that today's post marks my 100th. Can you believe it!? 100-plus sustainable dishes from my kitchen. 

And what better way to share this exciting moment with you than to bring you a special edition: Ryan and I took our show on the road this weekend and made an impromptu trip to his parents' house to cook dinner. We decided to team up this time--Ryan and I did equal parts cooking and prepping, and he even took some photos! It was a blast. 

They have a fantastic grill on the back porch, and we knew we wanted to use it. So before we left, I grabbed my food bible--How To Cook Everything--and we set out for a culinary journey. 

It didn't take long to decide what to cook for his parents. Recently, we've fallen in love with the Brushfire taco at Torchy's: jerk chicken with a mango salsa, a dollop of sour cream, queso fresco, and (for those who can handle it) covered in habanero Diablo sauce. The flamboyant marriage of sweet and spicy and fragrant (there's cilantro in there, too) is incredible. 

We could do it. We could make our own. 

Since his parents live in a small town, we trekked to the closest large HEB we could find and knocked out our shopping list. Ryan insisted on homemade tortillas (and in the end, I was very glad he had), and we went straight home to put the plan into action. 

Before prepping the fruits and veggies, I made the dough for the tortillas. Then I got all the veggies ready; Ryan was in charge of the chicken, and he played grill master all night. 

Here's the menu, and pics from the new camera (which apparently shoots a little on the yellow side):
Homemade flour tortillas ...I cooked with lard for the first time. I thought it was charming until I looked at the package once we were home and realized it was produced by ConAgra foods. After all the books on my reading list... I think of ConAgra to be synonymous with Devil. Maybe I can find a local source for lard in Austin, though I'm not sure they were any better than the ones I've made with vegetable shortening. 

Jerk chicken (we escaped without a photo of that part)
Grilled pineapple and onion salsa (cues taken from Bittman, but the recipe is my own creation)
Grilled corn on the cob
And finally.... grilled peaches drizzled with honey and served with vanilla bean ice cream. 
And here, my friends, are the recipes. 

Grilled Blackened Chicken 
1 1/2 pounds all-natural, boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into fajita strips
2 tbls blackened seasoning (or make your own)

Mix the chicken with the season and set aside until ready to grill. Once you're ready, cook over the flame in a grill basket until done. Specific, eh? Like I said, Ryan did the grilling, so you're on your own with the chicken. We're going to try this at home on the grill pan and see how that goes--stay tuned. Also, we failed to find jerk seasoning at the store; instead of trying to make our own by buying separate spices, we opted for the blackened seasoning. Pretty good.

Flour Tortillas 
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbls lard or vegetable shortening (watch out for the partially hydrogenated stuff!)
2/3 cup hot water 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in lard or shortening and incorporate until there are no chunks. Carefully stir in the hot water with a fork. Once the dough begins to form, dump it onto a floured surface and knead just until it forms a smooth ball. Do not overwork. Let it rest under a damp towel for 30 minutes to an hour. 

Cut the dough into 12-14 pieces and keep them under the damp towel. Heat a dry skillet to medium heat. (Note: never let the skillet get so hot that it begins so smoke; if you notice your tortillas cooking faster and faster, turn down the heat to medium-low or low.)

Roll out each tortilla with a pin until it is nearly translucent. Cook one at a time (or as many as will easily fit) in the skillet. The tortillas are ready to flip when you see air bubbles forming. They're ready to come off the heat when air bubbles form on the other side. Easy peasy!

Remove from the heat and wrap in a towel or keep in a tortilla warmer. 

Serve warm. Leftovers will not be a problem; if you don't need 'em for tacos, smear on a little butter, sugar, and salt, and chow down.

Amber's Grilled Pineapple and Onion Salsa
1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tbls olive oil
1 anaheim pepper, whole
1 tbls lime juice
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, large stems removed, roughly chopped

Carefully skewer the pineapple and onions, then brush with the olive oil. Heat about 4 inches above the flame until pineapple and onions develop a char--about 8 minutes total. (This can also be done on a grill pan.) Roast the anaheim pepper on the grill until black blisters form. 

Remove the pineapple and onions from the grill and place in a large bowl. Wrap the pepper in foil for about 5 minutes, and then rinse with cool water to remove the char. Slice the pepper open and remove the seeds, then chop into chunks and toss into the bowl. 

Squeeze the lime juice over the salsa, and mix in the fresh cilantro. Serve warm. 


I must admit, Ryan and I made quite a team. He worked the grill while I was inside rolling and flipping tortillas and readying the salsa. Everything turned out great for the meal--and our version of the Brushfire, we decided, was equally good. Even without the Diablo sauce. 

The grilled peaches were somewhat of a flop; rather than posting the recipe, I'm going to encourage you to eat fresh, local peaches with honey and all natural (or homemade) vanilla ice cream. Skip the grilling part. Ours wound up tasting like steak, and Fin got to eat the leftovers.

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank you for reading over the course of the last year. I have big goals for the next 100 posts: just you wait for all the pickling this summer, and the tomato sauces, and the garden pizzas...and even the homemade cheese. We're all in for a treat!