Taking a gamble on taquitos


I like taquitos. You know those boxes of them that are sold in the frozen food aisle? Yes, those. But I had never thought to try making them from scratch until a few months ago. I had a bag of tortillas and some chicken that I needed to use, so I went forth without looking up any recipes online, just to see what I could conjure up without any guidance.

I knew I needed to cook the chicken so it could be easily shredded, so I chose to bake it just until it hit 165 degrees then let it rest for 5-10 minutes before mashing it with a wooden spatula. Then I added flavors I wanted to be included in the mix, filled the tortillas and baked them. That’s it.

They turned out better than I hoped. While I could have used a couple more tortillas so the six I made weren’t so over-stuffed and hard to keep closed, the flavors were perfect. I’ll definitely be making these again, perhaps trying them with another meat next time.

1 red pepper, seeded and chopped into small squares
1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1.25 pounds)
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons jalapeño sauce
8-10 white corn tortillas
Dash of white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of garlic powder or 1 clove minced garlic
Canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse chicken and put in a dutch oven or oven-safe dish. Cook in oven for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through and temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Remove from oven and let cool. Keep oven on.

Line a cookie sheet with foil.

Once chicken is cool enough to handle, use a wooden spatula to mash it, until it is nearly completely shredded. Add red pepper, cheese, jalapeño sauce, white pepper, salt and garlic and mix together until blended.

Heat a bit of canola oil in a small frying pan on medium-high heat and briefly cook tortillas, one at a time on each side, until they are soft enough to fill and roll.

Take each tortilla and fill it with about 1/4 cup filling or more, if desired. Roll the tortilla around the filling and put each one seam-side down on the cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until tortillas are slightly crispy. Serve warm with sour cream or salsa.

Transforming leftovers into comfort food


Early last week I roasted a large portion of turkey I purchased from Costco. After eating some every day, I was left with one small portion. But I didn’t just want to reheat it. I needed to do something with it.

The first thing that usually comes to mind for me when I have leftover chicken or turkey is a pot pie. Pot pies are pretty simple, as long as you have a few vegetables and basic ingredients on hand. I’ve made pot pies before, but have never found a good recipe for the sauce. Most sauces are made of mostly flour and either water, broth or milk — some of which turn out thinner than I prefer, while others are too thick. This time, I consulted my Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, and it called for a combination of the three. While I didn’t follow the recipe to a T, I did use it as a guideline and it produced the best pot pie sauce I’ve made to date.

Traditional pot pies use carrots, celery and onion, but I all I had in the fridge were onions, bell peppers and broccolini. Together, the three worked well. That’s the great thing about pot pies — you can use just about anything you like to fill them. This makes one large pot pie, suitable for one hungry person.

8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 small bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
6 stalks broccolini, save florets, either chop or discard stalks
1/2 cup chopped turkey or chicken
1/2 bullion cube
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon goat cheese
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or milk
1 tablespoon water (if needed)
Dash of dried chives, basil or other herbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated Parmesan

Combine butter, flour and salt in a small bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until the dough forms into pea-size pieces. Add water and mix in. Take three-fourths of the dough and pat into a 6-inch round oven-safe glass dish. Flatten remaining one-fourth of the dough into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and put into freezer alongside dish with crust.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped bell pepper, onion and broccolini florets. Sautee until onion is translucent. Add turkey, flour, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 bullion cube. Bring to a simmer. Once bullion cube has dissolved, add goat cheese and heavy whipping cream stir until combined. If sauce seems too thick, add one tablespoon water. Turn off heat to burner. Add basil, chives and salt.

Take prepared pan and dough out of freezer. Pour filling into pan. Shape remaining dough into crust and place over filling. Pinch edges to seal crust. Using a fork, prick holes in top of crust. If desired, grate Parmesan over crust.

Put pot pie on a cookie sheet in oven for 25 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before digging in.

A versatile dish for any time of day

The best thing about quiche is that you can eat it at any time of day, at any temperature and with anything in it, as long as you have a good base recipe.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with quiche, it’s a simple egg dish baked in a crust. It usually contains cheese, vegetables and meat, but is also simple enough to improvise and include only what you want. The base recipe I use is from Joy. I know I’ve posted a few recipes from the book so far, but there’s a reason it’s an American classic. I use Joy’s Pat-in-the-Pan Butter Dough for the crust and the Cheese Quiche recipe for the filling.

Gouda is my favorite cheese to use and I like to add red bell peppers, crispy prosciutto and chives to the filling. I’ve found that sauteing the vegetables and herbs ahead of time helps them cook better. If you choose to use spinach, make sure you cook it before throwing it in the filling. The general rule of thumb is not to leave the pieces of chopped vegetables too thick and not to overload the quiche — don’t use more than about 1 1/2 cups total of additions. If you use more, there may not be enough egg mixture to hold it together.

Once the quiche is done, you’ve got a meal that you can eat hot or cold at any time. It’s a good standby to have in the fridge, whether you’re expecting company or just know you won’t have time to cook during the next couple days.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into eight pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 beaten egg yolk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir flour and salt together. With your hands or the back of a fork, mash butter in until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle heavy cream over the top of the crust and mix in until the crumbs look damp and hold together. Pat dough into a pie dish or tart pan. Prick crust with a fork so it won’t bubble up while cooking. Bake crust for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.

After the crust comes out of the oven, turn the heat down to 375 degrees and brush the warm crust with the egg yolk.

1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (Gouda, cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss work well — you can use more than one kind if you’d like)
1 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
1/2 small onion, grated
1/8 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
(1 1/2 cups total of any chopped vegetables, meat or other additions)

Sprinkle the cheese onto the crust. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together in a medium bowl until no streaks of egg white remain. Pour the mixture evenly over the cheese in the pastry shell. Bake until the filling is puffed around the sides and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.