Taco bar – fish, chicken, beef and shrimp

We are going to celebrate May 5th aka cinco de mayo with a little taco party for family and friends.  While it may look like a lot of work it really isn’t too bad.  Your time will be spent mostly dicing and slicing and a little frying.  The reward far out weighs an hour or so prepping for your party.  And pulling off a party in less than 2 hours is quite satisfying.

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some of the ingredients for today – plus I made a frittata with some of these ingredients

Being the Saturday before and writing this I have made up my shopping list and am just about to head out to the store.  I am going to make up a few things today like the Mango salsa the chipolte mayo and the beef taco mixture and then tomorrow will be a cinch to pull everything together.

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I plan on setting out several small bowls filled with sour cream, salsa, fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, lime wedges, diced green onions, shredded cabbage and lettuce and some shredded cheese.  I think that is all that is needed to top your taco no matter which one you choose to make.  I’ll set up my fry station and assembly line the fish, chicken and shrimp. and them place them on a platter for everyone to create their own special taco.
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When everyone arrives it is nice to have something to snack on and what better than a 7 layer dip. you could also set out some chips and salsa for a slightly lighter fare. Since I will have my fryer out I might just have to make churros but we’ll have to see if everyone has room for something sweet after the taco bar.

Beef Taco
1 pound hamburger
1 small can tomato sauce
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder

Brown meat and drain excess fat.  add tomato sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.
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Chicken, Shrimp and Fish Taco
F
lour
Egg beaten
Breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Set out 3 dishes, 1 for flour, 1 for eggs, 1 for breadcrumbs. make sure to salt and pepper each one.  Dip each piece of meat in the flour first, then the beaten eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs. An easy way to remember the dipping order is FEB flour, egg, breadcrumbs

Fry in batches in 350’F oil till browned and cooked through.

Chipotle Mayo
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1 cup sour cream
  3. 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  4. 1 tsp adobo sauce
  5. 1/2 lemon, squeezed
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to blender. Blend until combined.
Cooking at Clark Towers https://cookingatclarktowers.com/

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Mango Salsa
2 Limes – sectioned, diced
2 ripe mangoes, diced
4-5 red radishes, small diced
1 small red onion, small diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper

Add all into a dish stir and refrigerate until ready to use.
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It can be intimidating to slice up a mango. They naturally have a flat bottom; slice along both sides. If you can’t slice through just move over a little bit.
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Make vertical and horizontal slices to the skin not through it. Flip the skin inward and then you can slice off all the chunks.

7 Layer Dip
1 can refried beans
1 container Sour cream
1 packet Taco seasoning mix
1 jar prepared salsa
handful of iceberg lettuce shredded
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped tomatoes – dry on paper towel and seeding them will help with wetness
Green onions – chopped

Mix the taco seasoning into the sour cream, set aside.
Layer refried beans, sour cream mix, salsa, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes top with green onions
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Crispy Potato Gnocchi & Pesto

It is a pretty big day here in New England. The Patriots are playing for the AFC championship later today. We were supposed to get 1 to 2 feet of snow I guess at one point they said 30+ inches. But it looks like 6-7 inches, guess it was fake news. I really wanted at least a foot; I mean I feel if it’s going to be this cold at least it can be beautiful and I got snowshoes for Christmas that I want to try them out.
IMG_3927.JPGA friend of mine posted this little Sunday prayer that is quite clever and made me laugh so I have to share it.

Our Brady, who art in Foxboro, hallowed be thy arm. Thy title will come, it will be won, in Kansas City as it is in New England. Give us this Sunday, our weekly win & give us many touchdown passes, but do not let the Chiefs pass against us. Lead us not, into frustration, but deliver us to the valley of the sun. For thine is the MVP, the best of the AFC, & the glory of the Patriots, now & forever, AMEN!!  GO PATS!!!
IMG_3902.JPGBack to food – I still have some gnocchi that I was going to either freeze or make something. I think i mentioned my freezers are ridiculously full so I ended up making something pretty delicious that I wanted to share with you. Honestly I have no idea why I have never made them before. Potato Gnocchi; I feel I have to specify that they are potato since there are many variations out there in the world. But who doesn’t like crispy potatoes and why wouldn’t a crispy potato gnocchi be marvelous? Well it is so here you go!
img_3908.jpgCrispy Potato Gnocchi & Pesto

Ingredients
Package of gnocchi – or make your own if you adventurous (I plan to try making my own some day)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cups Basil pesto – store bought or clink on the link here cookingatclarktowers basil pesto  

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Bring a pot of water to boil, add the gnocchi and when they float to the top remove them from the water.
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In a saute pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter, once hot add the gnocchi, try not to over crowd (like I did) or they will steam instead of fry (like mine did) let them brown before turning over, brown them all over.
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Remove to a shallow dish and cover with about a quarter cup +/- of pesto. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
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Recipe adapted from two peas & their pod

Scallopini – Milanese – Piccata

Super quick dinner that everyone will love; if they don’t you are probably reading / following the wrong blog. Or maybe should rethink who you eat dinner with – OK I know you can’t probably stop feeding your kids but you can definitely make them take the “no thank you” bite and they might just like it enough to keep going.
IMG_3737.JPGYou might be thinking I am confused today having 3 different “meals” listed in the title. Well it is quite possible. Last night was our annual Christmas party and I am literally writing this while setting up for it and directing 3 of my on hand “staff” aka as my daughter, one of her friends and my sister-in-law. So if this blog is a little frazzled you’ll know why.  I am SUPER multi-tasking right this minute.

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Yes that is my glass of wine – wink wink

OK so back to why I listed the 3 above and they actually are in order of how you can make a quick dinner that again you will love. They all start with thin sliced meat. Usually Chicken but I had Turkey on hand and usually always do in my freezer so that is what I used. So thin sliced meat lightly breaded and fried in a little oil in the pan. This is the definition of Scallopini. To make it a Milanese you need to make a sauce by deg-lazing the pan with white wine and a little lemon juice and then finish it off with a tab of butter. Then to make it a Piccata you add a small jar of capers. Voila dinner 3 ways!
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Turkey, Chicken or Veal cutlets – buy them or slice your own
salt & pepper
flour
2 tablespoon Olive or vegetable oil
¼ cup white wine
3 cloves garlic
½ cup chicken broth
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 jar capers
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lemon sliced

Salt and pepper both sides of the cutlets, dredge lightly in flour. Shake off the excess.
IMG_3726IMG_3727Swirl some oil in your saute pan, place them in the pan, not touching and leave them alone until they release on their own. Should be about 3-5 minutes. Flip, cover and cook another 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside. If there is excess fat in the pan, pour it off.  
IMG_3729IMG_3730Deg-laze the pan with white wine and add the minced garlic; cook the garlic just till it starts to get brown and cook till the liquid is about gone. Don’t walk away from the stove about 2 minutes. Add the broth, lemon juice and capers.
IMG_3731IMG_3732IMG_3733Return the cutlets to the pan and let the juice reheat the meat up. Transfer to a warm plate.
IMG_3734IMG_3735For the sauce add the butter and sliced lemons, once the butter melts pour the sauce over the cutlets. If you want to be fancy and have fresh parsley it looks really nice chopped sprinkled on top.

Thanksgiving Leftover Egg Roll

I hope you had a wonderful day/weekend however you spent your time! We had 9 for Thanksgiving dinner and today (Saturday) will be 11 for homemade pasta (another personal cooking class for my sister-in-law) and Bolognese.
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For as far back as I can remember my family took all the leftovers from Thanksgiving and made them into a casserole of sorts. Basically take a 9×13 container and fill it or several of them with a little bit of everything and then top it with gravy. I still love doing this but this year when the family was cleaning up after eating I asked them to put everything in their own containers. I wanted to try making a thanksgiving leftover egg roll after seeing something similar floating around on FB.

IMG_3658And I had recently had an appetizer couples cooking class and I had them making a typical egg roll; pork, cabbage, carrot and scallions; except I had them air fry them, for the only reason being that there were 6 of them and we had made a lot app’s and it was the last one we made. I was a little worried about all of us being around hot oil. Did I mention that they bring wine with them. Just didn’t think it would be a good idea.
IMG_3659They were good air fried but we all were in agreement that we should have fried them in oil especially since the definition of a egg roll is “a Chinese-style snack consisting of diced meat or shrimp and shredded vegetables wrapped in a dough made with egg and deep-fried.” So egg rolls have been on my mind.
IMG_3661The ones I made were super easy and a big hit with everyone. I made 20 egg rolls and there were 7 of us that made them basically disappear. There were 2 left and my daughter brought them to one of her co-workers who also thought they were awesome. I wasn’t too sure about dipping sauces but they are a must. They just add another level of flavor. I always have thai sweet chili sauce in the fridge, I wanted to use the leftover cranberry sauce I made but my husband threw it away grrrrr. Thankfully I had a can of whole berry sauce that I added some orange juice and sriracha too that made a really nice tart sauce with a little heat. And of course there is always leftover gravy that I didn’t get a picture of but everyone gobbled up all 3 sauces.
IMG_3663Thanksgiving Leftover Egg Roll

Egg roll wrappers
Leftover turkey chopped up
Leftover stuffing chopped up
Cranberry sauce
1 egg – beaten

Oil for frying
Yes it was that simple

Cranberry dipping sauce
whole berry cranberry sauce
splash of orange juice
sriracha to taste
place everything in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil for about a 2-3 minutes

A few comments from the crowd
“what a fun way to eat leftovers”, “you are just amazing”, “these are SO good”

IMG_3662On the back of the package of egg roll wrappers will tell you how to fill, wrap, seal  and fry.

Fried Brussel Sprouts & Piperade sauce

I wanted to give you all an update on my quest to like brussel sprouts! OK so that might not be the most exciting statement of the year, week or even day but I did come across another way that my husband will eat them.  My daughter and I actually do like them and would probably add them to my grocery shopping list a little more often if the faces and comments I get from my husband were a little less ummmm painful to see/hear.
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The other day my husband was at the grocery store with me; I’m not a fan of him going to the store with me; don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t mind if he didn’t end up spending me more money than I was thinking of spending. He’s like a little kid ooohh that looks yummy; and puts it in the cart. So I was grabbing the things that were on my list and yes there were brussel sprouts on it; he made a comment and a face and said several times that we really didn’t need them; such a child!
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My daughter had tried some fried brussel sprouts with a some red pepper sauce that she absolutely loved. Trying to recreate something we’ve had at a restaurant is kind of our thing. Sometimes it works and sometimes not so much. After making the sauce my first comment was; “where has this been all my life?” We all know the true test would be my husband. All I can say is my daughter and I both witnessed him finishing his plate AND reaching into the sprout bowl and grabbing a large one with his fingers and eating it.  YUP I win!!!!
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Piperade Sauce – definition below

Ingredients
3 plum tomatoes or use whatever you have on hand
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 red or green bell peppers (we used red because that is how Abbi had it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot Paprika or Espelette

Brussel Sprouts
Oil for frying
Balsamic vinegar
salt

Directions
using a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat, add the oil until hot but before it starts to smoke. add onions, peppers and the salt. saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and pepper start to lighten in spots; about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for another minute or so.
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Add the tomatoes and the paprika, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook till the tomatoes are starting to breakdown and the peppers are soft; about 15  minutes.
removing the cover and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, you want to let it thicken a bit. It should be the consistency of a slightly runny relish.  Adjust the salt and enjoy!
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Brussel Sprouts
prepare your sprouts by trimming off the outer, dry leaves, cut the bottom off and slice lengthwise. Fry them in batches in about and inch or so of oil. Drain, salt and place them in a bowl with the piperade sauce, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, stir and serve.
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Not my favorite picture to share but it tasted delicious!

wikipedia definition of Piperade
Piperade
(Gascon and French) or Piperrada (Basque and Spanish), from piper (pepper in Gascon and in Basque) is a typical Basque dish prepared with onion, green peppers, and tomatoes sautéd and flavoured with red Espelette pepper.

 

 

Crispy Risotto Cakes

I am SO excited to have another trick up my sleeve for leftover risotto. I only have leftovers because I double or so the batch every time I make it 🙂  My daughter works at my favorite local restaurant and she has a tendency to text me when she knows that her dad and I would love their special for the night. This is both awesome and terrible. Awesome because we have an amazing dinner, terrible because it gets mighty costly since they make such amazing food we can’t seem to resist.
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One such dish is dayboat scallops over a crispy risotto cake with some greens and a light sauce. Let me just say that seared scallops are just plain heavenly; all they need is a little salt and pepper and I am one happy camper. Throw in a crispy risotto cake and ahhhhhhhh!
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I am in the habit of making a double batch of risotto. While it is not difficult to make it is a little time consuming as you can’t or at least shouldn’t leave the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong you can still multitask but it’s best to hang around the stove so you can be sure to add more liquid to the rice before it dries out completely.
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I have shared with all of you how I make Arancini see link for the post/recipe https://cookingatclarktowers.com/2016/03/20/arancini/

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I started out using the wrong pan
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had to switch to a nonsitck
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I made a mess of the first pan!

The guys at the restaurant shared with Abbi how they make the crispy risotto cake. She came home and declared we can totally make them; So we did!

Directions:
Spread out the risotto on a nonstick sprayed rimmed sheet pan, using a cookie cutter that I would also spray with nonstick spray.  Cut out your rounds, on tray that will fit into your freezer, cover it with wax paper and freeze your rounds for an hour or so.  Transfer to a freezer bag for use anytime you want to make them. Great for a quick side during the week.

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It is a messy job but my rice was super wet, I might dry it out a little more next time.