Chorizo, Chicken, and Tomato Paella

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Inspiration: We’ve been living in the same city for about eight years now, so we’ve got our favorite haunts around town. One of those places is a wine/beer/deli/fine foods store that is just fantastic. We’ve been shopping there for years and can always count on them for good advice on a bottle of scotch, help picking out the perfect wine for whatever meal we’re making, or a sampling of all kinds of cheeses and salamis and anything else that we’re looking for. It must have been a couple of summers ago (I remember that I was pregnant at the time) that we went to a pretty awesome paella demo there where we got to sit around a Big Green Egg outside, learn how to make paella, and then sample the results. Ever since then, we’ve been hooked on the idea of making paella at home. For Christmas this past year, Brandon bought me a fantastic paella pan and all of the ingredients to finally try our hands at making paella. We’ve been honing the recipe to our liking for the past several months, and we’ve finally gotten it just right.

What We Loved: As I said, we’ve been fine-tuning this recipe, so we pretty much love everything about it. The whole dish has a gloriously rich, smoky flavor due to the smoked chorizo (we use this kind and adore it – it’s our favorite single component of the meal), the smoked paprika, and the saffron. Add to that some tender, fall apart chicken; lovely bites of sweet tomato and pimiento peppers; a wonderfully rich base of delectable rice that just soaks up all of the spices and flavors of the other ingredients; and a fresh, citrusy sprinkling of cilantro to top things off, and there’s not much else that you could ask for. We crave this weekly.

Tips: We’re waiting for the weather to warm up a little bit more so that we can make this recipe on the charcoal grill outside. That will be perfection. So if you have access to a charcoal grill, I’d highly recommend cooking it that way versus on the stove top. Also, this is not a cheap or an easy meal to make, but in our opinion, there are upsides that outweigh those factors. For one, it’s such a fun dinner to make, especially for company. And secondly, this recipe makes a lot of paella. The last time that we made this, we didn’t have any guests, so Brandon, Ben, and I ate it for five dinners straight. That stretches the dollar a bit, right? And I might add that we didn’t tire of eating it for five days in a row, either.

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Chorizo, Chicken, and Tomato Paella
Source: Original Recipe

12 cups chicken stock
1.5 oz saffron
Extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 onion, diced
1 lb dried smoked chorizo, sliced into rounds and then into half moons
1 lb chicken thighs, diced
2.5 cups calasparra rice
4 tomatoes, sliced into thick wedges
1 8 oz jar pimiento peppers, sliced into strips

1. Heat the stock in a large pot until simmering. Toast the saffron in a dry saute pan until it begins to release its aroma. Mix the saffron into the stock and keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat the oil in your paella pan. Add the garlic, and toss to coat. Add the diced tomato, paprika, a pinch of salt, and the tomato paste. Stir together and cook for 1-2 minutes. This is called the sofrito.

3. Move the sofrito to the side of the pan. Saute the onion until it softens and begins to brown, and then move it to the side of the pan.

4. Add the chorizo to the pan, and saute until it begins to brown. Move it to the side of the pan.

5. Add the chicken to the pan, and saute until it begins to brown.

6. Add the rice to the pan. Mix everything together, and distribute everything evenly around the pan.

7. Add as much chicken stock as will fit into the pan. Season generously with salt. It is important to season well with salt at this stage, because you won’t have another opportunity to incorporate the salt. At this point, do not stir the paella any further.

8. Arrange the tomatoes in a circular fashion atop the stock. Let cook for 15 minutes on medium-high.

9. Reduce the heat to low. As the paella cooks, continue adding stock until you have used all of the stock.

10. When the stock is completely absorbed and the paella begins to sizzle on the bottom of the pan, the paella is done. Add the pimiento peppers shortly before this point, so that they have time to warm.

11. Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes in order for all of the flavors to meld and for the dish to cool. It is important not to skip this step.

12. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

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Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash with Pimiento Peppers

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash with Pimientos

Inspiration: I’ve seen a lot of chorizo and sweet potato hash recipes all over the web for a few years, and it’s one of those ideas that I’ve always wanted to try. It’s a recipe that could be great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Excellent.

What We Loved: This was one of those dishes that was a great contrast between spicy and sweet. The chorizo had a great spicy kick, and the sweet potatoes and peppers were both nice and sweet. I thought it was interesting that the two sweet ingredients provided different kinds of sweet – the peppers had a nice, tangy sort of sweet, while the potatoes were more in the line of sugary sweet. Combined with the spicy sausage, some browned onions, and a nice bit of salt, the flavor profile was really quite lovely.

Tips: I really went simple with this dish, which is good if that’s what you’re looking for. If you’d like to complicate things a bit, though, I think that cilantro or black beans would be a good addition, and sour cream or goat cheese would be nice toppings.

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash with Pimiento Peppers
Source: Original Recipe

1 lb chorizo sausage
2 small sweet potatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 4 oz jar pimiento peppers, diced
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Place the chorizo, sweet potatoes, onion, and peppers in a large saute pan over medium heat. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper.

2. Cover and cook, stirring often, until the chorizo is cooked through and the sweet potatoes are softened, about 15-20 minutes.

Armadillo Eggs

Armadillo Eggs

Inspiration: I just had to check out a recipe entitled armadillo eggs. I don’t know if these are a common thing to most people, but for us, they were completely unheard of and intriguing. One of my favorite things about cooking has always been discovering new dishes – I just love that there is an endless variety out there of new and exciting foods to try. This little recipe fit right into that category and had the added bonus of being full of Mexican flavors. Yes.

What We Loved: To be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of things here not to love. A cream cheese and cheddar mixture stuffed into jalapenos, wrapped in sausage, and dipped in salsa? I think that about covers it. We loved the rich and savory flavors of the sausage paired with the gooey cheese center and the crisp crunch of the jalapeno. Topping these little bites off with a great salsa (we used Frontera Guajillo salsa, which we really love) and some fresh cilantro was the finishing touch. So many great Mexican flavors all wrapped up together.

Tips: These are meant to be an appetizer, but we actually ate them as our main dish for Cinco de Mayo this year served alongside homemade guacamole and homemade refried beans. They worked wonderfully that way, but I also think that they would be great on a big party tray with a variety of salsas for serving.

Armadillo Eggs
Source: Homesick Texan

This recipe will make 24 armadillo eggs.

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt, to taste
6 medium-sized jalapeños
2 pounds sausage

1. Mix the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic, cilantro, and cumin together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt.

2. Remove the stems from the jalapenos. Cut each jalapeno in half lengthwise, and scoop out the ribs and seeds. Cut each jalapeno half in half again horizontally, resulting in each full jalapeno being cut into quarters.

3. Stuff each jalapeno piece with a spoonful of the cheese mixture.

4. Flatten a circle of sausage in the palm of your hand, and place a stuffed jalapeno piece in the center (it’s easiest to place it cheese-side down). Fold the sausage up and around the jalapeno, forming an egg shape.

5. Bake the eggs at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through.

6. Serve with salsa.

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes with Smoked Sausage and Cilantro

Inspiration: Often times, one of my biggest inspirations in the kitchen is random ingredients that I have on hand that need to be used. During Mardi Gras time a few weeks back, I made a pot of smoked sausage and red beans, stashing the extra smoked sausage up into the freezer. And then recently, Brandon was away on business for a week, so I stocked up on sweet potatoes, intending to bake them up for myself for a few easy suppers, but I never ended up using them. Add those couple of ingredients to a few chipotle peppers that have been tucked away in the freezer for too long, some dying cilantro in my crisper, and this awesome-looking recipe from Closet Cooking that I’ve had saved for who knows how long, and we had ourselves a meal.

What We Loved: This dish was a great mixture of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors. The chipotle pepper and adobo sauce added just the amount of heat for a nice kick without being overpowering; the sweet potatoes added a slightly sugary flavor; and the smoked sausage was rich and flavorful while adding a nice hit of protein. On top of such a wonderful combination of flavors, my favorite part of the dish was the way that the tomato/adobo mixture and the onions melted into a sticky, caramelized sauce that just coated everything. And to top things off, the cilantro really rounded things off with a bright and fresh flavor that was a great complement to the rest of the dish.

Tips: Make sure to cook over medium heat (not too high), and to stir often. Since the sauce is really more of a coating, if you leave everything to sit for too long or cook over heat that is too high, you may end up with everything sticking to the bottom of the pan and/or burning.

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes with Smoked Sausage and Cilantro
Source: Adapted from Closet Cooking

Butter
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
8-10 oz smoked sausage, sliced
1 chipotle peper in adobo sauce, chopped, and about 2 teaspoons of sauce
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
About 1/4 cup water
Kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat a good pat of butter in a saute pan over medium heat.

2. Add the onion, and saute for a few minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cumin, and stir to incorporate. Cook for about a minute more.

3. Add the sweet potatoes, sausage, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and tomato paste, stirring to coat. Add about 1/4 cup water, just enough to mix everything into a nice coating for the potatoes and sausage. Season to taste with Kosher salt.

4. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

5. Mix in the cilantro and serve.

Source: www.buynaturalgarciniacambogia.com

Brussels Sprouts with Mexican Chorizo

Brussels Sprouts with Mexican Chorizo

Inspiration: Well, what’s a Mexican-inspired meal without some chorizo, right? We both adore Mexican chorizo. It’s salty, it’s spicy, it’s rich and fabulous. And seeing how brussels sprouts are such a lovely fall vegetable, it only seemed logical to throw this side dish onto our Mexican Thanksgiving plates. I know that I’m thankful for chorizo, after all :)

What We Loved: One of my favorite parts about this dish was actually the little bits of onion that turned nice and orange from cooking in the fat from the chorizo. Delicious. And as for the main stars of the dish, the brussels sprouts were nice and tender with a light browned flavor, and the chorizo was a perfect, spicy complement. One of the great things about this recipe is that it’s so simple, and that simplicity really allows the main ingredients to really shine. There’s the fresh vegetable flavor of the brussels sprouts, and there’s the much richer and bolder flavor of the chorizo, and the two make a perfect pair.

Tips: Make sure to get the pan nice and hot before adding the brussels sprouts in to brown. My pan wasn’t quite hot enough, so my brussels sprouts didn’t brown as quickly as I needed them to. I ended up taking them off before they were as brown as I wanted them to be, since I didn’t want the rest of my meal getting cold. So I would recommend having the pan nice and hot so that they brown quickly and easily.

Brussels Sprouts with Mexican Chorizo
Source: Adapted from Saveur

1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
8 oz Mexican chorizo sausage (about two links)
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Place the brussels sprouts in a sauce pan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook until just tender, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the brussels sprouts to a bowl of ice water, let sit for five minutes, and then drain.

2. Remove the casing from the chorizo, and crumble the chorizo into a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions. Saute until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions are softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, and stir to combine. Transfer the chorizo mixture to a bowl.

3. Increase the heat to high. Add the brussels sprouts cut side down into the fat that’s left in the pan from the chorizo, and cook until the brussel sprouts are browned and tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Mix the brussels sprouts into the bowl with the chorizo mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Poblanos Peppers Stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche

Poblano Peppers stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche

Inspiration: Growing up, my parents always let us kids choose whatever dinner that we wanted my Mom to cook for our birthdays. I always got so excited about that and loved the tradition, so I plan to do the same for my kids one day. For now, I keep the tradition alive by letting Brandon pick a special dinner, and for his birthday a few days ago, he chose quite the meal – this fabulous recipe from a local chef, Eve Aronoff. We just bought her cookbook from her old restaurant, Eve (so sad that it closed down!), and the recipes in that book all sound so good that I’m tempted to cook from no other source for a couple of months. I’m sure that the husband would not object. Happy 28th, Brandon!

What We Loved: Everything. There was not a single aspect of this dish that was anything less than perfect, so I don’t really even know where to start. The concept of the meal is awesome in its own right – a sort of Indian/Mexican fusion – and the end result has great components of each of those cuisines that work perfectly together. The poblano peppers have that spicy, earthy flavor that I’ve come to associate with Mexican food, and the filling is flavored with both Mexican and Indian spices. To top everything off, melted smoked mozzarella and creme fraiche bring back that Mexican feel, while the carrot puree is again something that I would more closely associate with an Indian dish. Fantastic! As for the flavors of the meal, we were completely blown away by all of the layers and how well everything worked together. The seafood was perfectly succulent and tender (which really surprised me – I was worried about the seafood overcooking since it is sauteed and then baked), the andouille provided just a little heat, and the rest of the seasonings and spices added this rich, intense flavor that I can only describe as a Mexican curry. The carrot puree on top was another surprising aspect of the dish, because it didn’t have a strong carrot flavor in the slightest (and for two people like us who don’t love carrots, that’s a great thing). Instead, it had a very mellow vegetable flavor that was very crisp and refreshing atop the stronger, bolder flavors of the stuffed peppers. The dollop of cool creme fraiche (I just love how it melted down into the hot peppers like it did!) was the perfect finishing touch. This meal as a whole is quite truthfully one of the best things that I have ever made.

Tips: The original recipe calls for two separate seasoning mixes. Instead of making the mixes in big batches as they’re written in the cookbook and having a lot of leftovers, I basically just sprinkled the spices into the pan in what I thought were the appropriate proportions (to total about 2-3 teaspoons of spice). I’ll list the spices below that I included, but as a general guideline I went heavy on the curry powder, chili powder, and paprika, with smaller sprinklings of the rest of the seasonings. I used the same method with the carrot puree, scaling everything down to make about 1/2 cup. I’ll list the approximate amounts that I used, but the amounts are very rough estimates. It would be best to taste test as you go along, and adjust the levels as you see fit.

Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Curried Shrimp, Scallops, and Andouille and Topped with Carrot Puree and Creme Fraiche 
Source: Eve The Cookbook

3 poblano peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, ribs and seeds removed
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter
1 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small jalapeno, minced
Curry powder
Coriander
Turmeric
Chili powder
Paprika
Garlic powder
Cumin
Oregano
4 fresh jumbo gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, finely chopped
4 large fresh sea scallops, finely chopped
1 andouille sausage link, finely chopped
1 cup smoked mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon sriracha
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Carrot lime puree, recipe follows
Creme fraiche

1. Drizzle the halved poblanos with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2. Heat a pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos, and cook for about 3-4 minutes on low until softened. Season with Kosher salt, black pepper, curry powder, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and oregano (to total about 2-3 teaspoons of spice).

3. Add the seafood and andouille, and saute until the seafood just barely loses translucency.

4. Remove the pan from the heat, and transfer the contents to a mixing bowl. Add the green onions and sriracha, and stir to combine. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

5. Divide the stuffing between the six poblano halves. Sprinkle each with shredded smoked mozzarella. Bake in a 425 oven for 15 minutes.

6. Serve topped with a dollop of carrot lime puree and creme fraiche.

Carrot Lime Puree
1/3 small green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/8 – 1/4 cup onions, roughly chopped
Juice from 1 small lime
1 larger carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Place the bell peppers, onions, lime juice, carrot, and garlic in a food processor.

2. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is running to emulsify.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mexican/Southwest-Style Sampler Plate

Inspiration: I can be very lazy with dinner sometimes, usually on a Friday night. It’s been a long week at that point, and like everyone else, I’m tired. A lot of times we’ll go grab a beer at a pub after work or stop in somewhere for a glass of wine, and after that, it’s all over. Long week + beer/wine = lazy. So what the heck do we do for dinner on those kinds of nights? Yes!

What we Loved: This is just a fun meal all around. Being able to sample so many different items is really a treat. There’s such a variance in flavors – spicy sausage, creamy cheese and avocado, crisp lettuce, sweet tomatoes, rich baked beans, a little of this and a little of that. We loved mixing and matching the different flavors. This is a good Friday or Saturday night dinner that’s fun and delicious, and it’s already one of our favorites.

Tips: The possibilities are endless with a meal like this. We’ve actually had this meal three times before it even made it onto the blog, and the other couple of times I switched out some of the ingredients for some sauteed poblano peppers and onions, a dollop of sour cream, and sliced green chiles. And if I wouldn’t have gotten lazy last time, I would have added a nice sunny-side up egg as well. I also think that pico de gallo, pickled red onions, guacamole, roasted sweet potatoes, or crumbled Mexican chorizo are some great options. So yes, there are a million roads to take with this fun dinner. In fact, I’m going to have to use some of those options to make a completely different Mexican/Southwest-style plate. I’m also excited to use this idea to try different variations of all of our favorite cuisines, with Mediterranean being next (homemade hummus, cucumber slices, black olives, chunks of feta cheese, maybe some white beans with oregano….).

Mexican/Southwest-Style Sampler Plate
Source: Inspired by Bunny.Eats.Design.

Load up a plate with all of your favorite ingredients. I used: Spanish chorizo, grape tomatoes seasoned with salt and pepper, chopped romaine hearts topped with salsa verde, leftover white beans cooked in Belgian style beer, avocado slices seasoned with salt, goat cheese, and cilantro.