Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chicken Tacos with Quick Pickled Onions and Avocado Crema

So, I know I've said it before, but man do I love tacos.  And I think that the rest of DC must agree with me because there has been an EXPLOSION of taco shops.  Everything from Asian-style tacos, to traditional shops.  I squealed with delight when I saw that near me, there was a new taqueria opening up.  Yeah, I'm irrational.  But so are people who don't love tacos.  Just take my word for it.

Back to the DC area tacos. Some of my favorites, in case you're ever here:

Pica Taco (2 locations, Florida & 14th NW and Columbia & Harvard NW) - This place is legit.  Traditional tacos that have never failed me.  And when questioned by others who say, Jenn, you don't know real tacos.  Well fine, but my friend Melissa who has lived in both Texas and California says they make her homesick.  SO TAKE THAT.  I'd recommend the barbacoa and fish tacos.  Plus, they have forever made me love radishes as a topping on tacos.  Why did I never do this before?

El Centro DF (14th and S NW) - Richard Sandoval, a prominent Latin American chef/restauranteur who has several other fabulous spots, opened this place not too long ago.  And their tacos rock.  The fish tacos here are really fantastic.  Crsipy, but moist, with an excellent sauce.  And as an excellent pair, I'd recommend their take on a Mexican mojito, which is made with a spicy tequila rather than rum.  It's definitely a more upscale place, but still has a great vibe.  They also have an excellent happy hour up on the roofdeck, which includes their guacamole, which in my opinion is the best in DC.

Far East Taco Grill (It's a truck, you gotta find it) - I would be remiss if I omitted perhaps my favorite food truck.  Far East Taco Grill does a riff on Korean tacos, including an array of toppings, meats (or tofu) and sauces.  You can choose from kimchi to sauteed onions, pork or tofu...there are endless combinations.  And for 3 tacos for $8 it's a steal.  Because believe me, you will be more full than you can imagine.

So, as an homage (maybe?) to all the lovely tacos, I decided to make some tacos.  As a nod to Asian tacos, I used sriracha and as a nod to Pica, I used radishes, which make the most awesome crunch in tacos.  Rather than the classic guacamole, I made some quick avocado crema, which is simply Greek yogurt, avocado, a touch of white vinegar and honey and boom.  You got yourself some SAUCE.

These tacos are really easy to put together and the whole meal can come together in less than an hour, which makes it a great weeknight meal.  You can put whatever you'd like in yours.  But this combo was pretty amazing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Italian Sausage Banh Mi

I have a real love for Asian fusion food.  I'm obsessed with Korean tacos....add kimchi with corn tacos?  HEAVEN!  I am not exaggerating when I say that when I, or one of my colleagues, see the Korean taco trucks are parked outside of my work, I will jump and get three gut stuffing tacos.  And enjoy them until I can barely move.

But it's not just tacos.  When we were in Napa a couple of months ago, one of the best, simplest and most mouthwatering dish I had was a duck banh mi sandwich at Napa's Kitchen Door at the Oxbow Market.

Bahn mi is Thai sandwich that comes in a million different variations, but includes at least three key ingredients: pork, pickled things, and bread.  But I've come across all sorts of combinations.  In particular, I found this country pâté banh mi from Food & Wine magazine.

I thought it would be great to try.  But then I was reminded by Brett that I had left out some awesome Italian sausage that I had picked up last week from the farmer's market.  So, revisions needed to be made.  While I stuck with some of the sides that F&W had outlined (the tofu spread, pickled jalapenos, cilantro) and added some more things, like sliced jicama, I substituted the pâté with homemade Italian sausage meatballs.  Oh, and nothing is complete without Sriracha.

The sandwich was great.  Brett reflected that it was worth of our favorite sandwich place in DC, SUNdeVICH.  Which...I should note is an enormous compliment, as he was just cursing me for introducing him to SUNdeVICH last week because he is so obsessed.

I promise, you'll enjoy!  And if you want to scale back on the heat, you could do pickles versus pickled jalapenos, and don't need to add the Sriracha.  Although.....it's an awesome amount of heat!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fig Stuffed and Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Thighs

So I've always had a penchant for chicken thighs.  They're one of my favorite meats to cook with.  Malleable and forgiving, chicken thighs are a really great option for easy weeknight dinners.  I also have started stuffing them really with whatever I have in my fridge.  A couple of weeks ago, I did savory, combining pesto and sundried tomatoes with feta.

Well, in this case, I had just picked up some beautiful prosciutto from the farmer's market and had recently opened up a jar of fig jam.  So...why not do sweet/salty combination?  If you want to change it up, based on what you have in the kitchen, the recipe still works.  The technique still remains the same.

I also paired this with some rainbow chard that I sautéed with some champagne finishing sauce from Williams-Sonoma that was given to me as a gift.  Chard is really an easy vegetable to cook with as well.  I don't use the stems, I usually just use the leaves.  Strip from the stems, chop up a bit and cook with some olive oil on medium heat, and you're good.  But really, any vegetable is a good match for this dish.  And I served my herb sautéed potatoes.

And for what it's worth, Brett thought these were really delicious.  And they even heated up well the next day for leftovers!

Sautéed Herb Potatoes

One thing I often wish I had was a double oven. Not because I'm some huge super baker, it's because when I'm making food, if two things need to be baked, I'm out of luck unless they magically have the same cooking temperature. I encountered this issue earlier this week when I wanted to bake chicken thighs and make potatoes. I suppose because potatoes are pretty malleable little guys, they could have gone in the oven at the much higher temp that the chicken needed, but I instead decided to sauté the potatoes.

Usually recommendations for sautéing potatoes include pre-boiling them, but I decided no.  I'd just do a straight pan frying.  Turned out pretty well.

Also I had the best herbs, courtesy of my lovely Aunt Patty.  Lavender, thyme, rosemary....I love fragrant herbs.  It just adds so much more to anything.  I also have a particular love for lavender.  It wasn't an herb I thought of typically to add to a dish, but it adds a wonderful earthy yet flowery flavor.  If you haven't cooked with lavender, I recommend doing so.  Especially with potatoes. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bison Burgers with Red Wine Glazed Onions

There are many things that I love about living in DC.  The culture, the food, the beautiful monuments....love it.  I've been here six years and don't plan on leaving any time soon.  However, living in a city has its drawbacks.

A couple of years ago, Brett and I bought a place right in the best area, between U Street and Dupont.  We live in a great building in a condo that we love.  But...I don't love the fact that I have no outdoor space.  Particularly as summer rolls its way in, I wish more than anything I had a grill or an outdoor space so I could cook and eat outdoors without resorting to begging my friends to allow me to come and use their outdoor spaces (okay okay begging may be putting it harshly), or going to an restaurant with an outdoor seating area.

But this past Memorial Day weekend, Brett and I drove up to my parents' place in Connecticut to say goodbye to my little sister who is over now in Tanzania to work with the Peace Corps for the next few years (sob, sad). My parents, unlike us, have LOTS of outdoors space aaaand a grill!  So I thought that one night, I'd give my mom, the consummate cook, a break from cooking and would prepare dinner.

I wanted to take advantage of the grill and it was a beautiful night.  So I decided to make a dinner I've made before, bison burgers. Leaner than ground beef, bison is an excellent alternative for burgers.  The only trick is that they really don't need as much cooking time as ground beef.

The red wine glazed onions are a great complement to the bison burgers.  It brings an earthiness to the sweet onions.  The process of making them is essentially like making caramelized onions, just with a reduction at the end.  They are well worth the extra time and were a big hit at the house.

I paired the burgers with leftover potato salad and coleslaw from our big BBQ before.  But serve with whatever you like best!