Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps

The jar of leftover chipotle chilis in adobo from a $1.69 can beckons my guilty gaze when I open my fridge when I start to make dinner, because much like leftover tomato paste from a .50 cent can or half a tin of evaporated milk, I cannot abide by throwing what I don't use away but I also can't for the life of me remember to use them before they have overstayed their welcome. I caught sight of my chipotle jar loitering near the back of the fridge yesterday and determined to finish the stragglers off once and for all. In noodling around for some new ideas I came across an entry on Bev Cooks for chipotle chicken lettuce wraps, which got the ball rolling. The other household half opted for tortillas instead of lettuce, but I was very pleased with the verdant crunchiness of the lettuce contrasted with the smokey spicy bite of the piquant chipotle sauce. Leftovers successfully and deliciously dispatched! 

Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Makes 6-8 lettuce wraps

Recipe inspired by Bev Cooks

*2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
*Cooking oil
*1/4 cup chicken broth
*1 cup tomato sauce (I use a can of El Pato Mexican Hot Style Tomato Sauce which I find at my local Walmart)
*2-3 canned chipotle chiles en adobo (remove the seeds, if you want)
*1/4 onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic          
*Pinches of oregano, thyme, cumin, allspice
*Couple sprigs' worth of of cilantro leaves (or more, depending on how much you like cilantro)
*1 teaspoon lime juice
*1/2 small red bell pepper, diced
*Boston or butter lettuce 
*3 scallions, sliced
*Lime wedges for serving

Heat some oil in a skillet over medium and season the chicken breasts. Saute about 5-6 minutes per side or until entirely cooked through. Meanwhile, blend the chicken stock, tomato sauce, chipotles, onion, garlic, spices, cilantro and lime juice in a food processor until smooth. When chicken has cooked, move to a cutting board and pour the chipotle sauce into the pan and cook over medium-low while occasionally stirring for 10 minutes or so, until it's a little darker and thicker. Dice the chicken and in a bowl, combine it with the diced bell pepper - add as much of the sauce as you want and stir until the chicken is well-coated. Spoon portions into the lettuce leaves and garnish with scallions before serving with lime wedges and any additional sauce to drizzle on top.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Maple Nut Granola

Throughout granola's pretty storied and interesting history involving patent infringements and puritanical health-guru doctors its always been seen as a model healthy foodstuff, although if we're all being honest here, granola sometimes isn't any healthier than an oatmeal raisin cookie. Which, because I go through granola like crack, is why I tend to make a batch of it only once in a while. You can't make good granola without the fat 'n sweet stuff. However, if enjoyed in units of a couple tablespoons spangled over yogurt, or a handful here and there for a snack, I don't think too much guilt (or calories) will accrue! It's just the self-policing that gets difficult.

Much thanks to a recipe posted on The Kitchn for introducing me to the magic missing ingredient that, in tandem with all the others, makes granola clump up so well - oat flour! Simply blitzing some old fashioned rolled oats in a food processor until they're powder will work perfectly.

Maple Nut Granola
Makes about 8 cups

*3 cups oats, 1 blitzed to powder, the other two blitzed a few times to break 'em up
*2 cups coarsely chopped raw nuts (I used hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios)
*1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*1/3 cup maple syrup
*1/4 cup brown sugar
*1/8th cup almond oil
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 tablespoon water
*Big pinch kosher salt
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1 cup dried fruit (I used cherries and cranberries)

Preheat the oven to 280. In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat powder, nuts and spices. Heat the syrup, butter, oil and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot. Stir in the vanilla and salt and then pour the hot sweet sludge over the oats and nuts, combining well to coat. When it's uniformly moist, let it sit a few minutes.

Spread the mix out on a large baking sheet, separating it into clumps with your fingers, and allowing for space between the clumps. Slide into the middle of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating once or twice, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and flip clumps over, gently breaking up the knots into smaller clumps. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes or so before stirring again. Take stock of the granola - is it as crunchy and browned as you'd like it to be? If you want to push on further, continue the stir-check cycle in 8-10 minute increments. When it's to your satisfaction, cool completely, then stir in any dried fruit you want to use.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature and it'll keep for a couple weeks (but it won't last nearly that long).