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Mexican Spice For The New Year

The Saturday Early Show is adding some heat to its New Year's Day celebration with a festive, Mexican-inspired meal, thanks to this week's Chef on a Shoestring, Scott Linquist, who is the executive chef at Dos Caminos Restaurant in New York City.

First, the food terminology for his style of cooking:

Chilaquiles: Sort of a cross between nachos and pizza, chilaquiles are crunchy, gooey and delicious. A great way to use leftovers, they make a wonderful first course, snack or entree in a soup-and-something supper.

Churros: Originated in Spain many years ago. As its popularity grew, churros quickly spread to Mexico and Argentina. These short, fluted sticks of fried dough are eaten for breakfast with a cup of thick hot chocolate. Mexican-style churros are usually longer and sometimes filled with custard.

Actually, Linquist has loved Mexican food since he was young. Born and reared in Los Angeles, he had access to great, flavorful Mexican food. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he has worked at Boulevard in San Francisco, as well as at Lutece and Gotham, both in New York City. Eventually, he returned to California to cook Mexican-influenced food at the Border Grill.

Linquist took a short break from the restaurant business to teach at the California School of Culinary Arts. But he says he realized that although he enjoyed teaching, he really missed working in a kitchen.

Steven Hanson tapped Linquist to open Dos Caminos in 2002. Dos Caminos is part of the B.R. Guest Corporation, which also runs Blue Fin and Fiamma.

RECIPES:

Chile Popcorn

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup popcorn kernels
3 ounces butter
1 Tablespoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying (for less fat, these can be baked on a cookie sheet in a 355-degree oven for 8-10 minutes)

Method:

  1. In a covered pot over medium heat, pop corn kernels. (Alternatively, an air popper or microwave popcorn can be used.)
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter and add fresh squeezed lime juice.
  3. Mix all spices and salt.
  4. Toss popcorn with butter and lime juice mixture and toss in spice blend to your personal taste.
  5. Enjoy throughout the day.

Jalapeno "Poppers"

Ingredients:
24 large fresh jalapeno peppers
1/2 pound Chihuahua cheese (Mexican cheese similar to Monterey Jack, which will substitute fine)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups Italian bread crumbs

Ingredients for Dipping Sauce (Lemony Aioli):
2 cups mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, chopped
4 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Roast chiles under a broiler or on a grill until outside begins to turn black and bubbly. Place chiles in a Zip-Loc bag or a container covered with plastic wrap and let cool.
  2. Grate cheese and chop cilantro, mix together and hold for later.
  3. In three separate bowls, place flour, beaten eggs and bread crumbs. (This is referred to as standard breading procedure: first flour, then egg, and then into the bread crumbs.)
  4. Peel skin from chiles by wiping with a dry towel or by lightly running a paring knife over the surface of the chile.
  5. Carefully cut a slit lengthwise in each chile and then carefully cut out the seeds.
  6. Take the chiles one by one and stuff them full with the cheese and cilantro mixture. Place them each into the flour, then egg, and finally, into the bread crumbs. Now you have jalapeno poppers which you can hold in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to serve them.
To Serve:
Heat a large pot with vegetable oil over low-to-medium heat for frying. (The optimal temperature is 325 degrees.) Fry the Jalapeno Poppers for 3-5 minutes until crispy on the outside and soft in the center. Serve hot with the aioli for dipping.

To make the aioli, simply mix all ingredients and let stand until you are ready to use.


Chilaquiles
(serves 4 to 6 people)

This is a classic weekend breakfast and brunch item, commonly eaten after a long party night. It works well with leftovers such as chicken, beef and grilled vegetables, and it's wonderful with bacon or chorizo added. Linquist personally likes chilaquiles with fried eggs on top, so that's how it's served it at the restaurant where he works.

Ingredients:
Tortilla chips (about 2 cups per person)
1 1/2 quarts roasted tomato chipotle salsa (recipe to follow)
8 ounces sour cream
1 pound Mexican cheese (Linquist prefers Chihuahua or Queso Oaxaca, but Monterey Jack or Cheddar will do perfectly well.)
1 dozen eggs

For garnish:
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced avocado
1/4 cup grated cotija cheese

For the roasted tomato chipotle salsa:
10 medium tomatoes
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2-4 chipotles (canned)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt to taste

Method for roasted tomato chipotle salsa:

  1. Place tomatoes, onion and garlic on a sheet pan and into a 350-degree oven and roast until tender and lightly browned.
  2. Place roasted ingredients, chiles, vinegar and salt into a blender and puree until smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and simmer slowly for approximately 20 minutes and reserve.
Method for chilaquiles (cook in batches for two people at a time):
  1. In a large skillet add 2 to 3 hands full of chips and 6 ounces of roasted tomato sauce and toss gently until chips a covered with sauce.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons sour cream and 4 ounces of grated cheese and toss again gently.
  3. Place the skillet into a 350-degree oven and bake until lightly browned and crispy on the edges and soft in the center.
  4. Remove from the oven and add more sauce if necessary and sprinkle the top with a bit more cheese.
To serve:
Spoon out chilaquiles onto a plate and top with two sunnyside-up eggs (eggs can be cooked any style). Sprinkle with garnishes of red onions, tomatoes, cilantro and cotija cheese. Serve hot with extra salsa on the side.
Enchiladas Con Salsa Verde
(Makes 12 enchiladas)

Ingredients For Salsa Verde:
10-12 tomatillos
2-4 large jalapenos
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups chicken broth or water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

Method:

  1. Place tomatillos, jalapenos, onion and garlic on a sheet pan and place in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned and soft.
  2. Place these roasted ingredients into a medium saucepan with the chicken broth, oregano and sugar. Simmer ingredients for 20 minutes.
  3. Place simmered mixture into a blender with cilantro and lime juice, puree until smooth.
  4. Season to taste and reserve salsa.
Ingredients for the chicken:
1 whole 3-pound chicken cut into pieces (all breast or all leg can be used if preferred)
1 quart salsa verde
1 cup water
4 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper and place in a large covered casserole with all other ingredients.
  2. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until thoroughly cooked and falling off the bone. (Cooking time may vary, based on the cuts of chicken used.)
  3. Allow chicken time to cool.
  4. Pull meat from the bone into small shreds and then toss with remaining cooking liquid. Reserve.
Ingredients for enchiladas:
12 corn tortillas
2 pounds shredded chicken
1 cup vegetable oil
1 pound Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
1 quart salsa verde

Garnish:
Pico de gallo
2 cups diced tomato
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped jalapeno or Serrano chile
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt to taste

Method for enchiladas:

  1. Heat vegetable oil to 325 degrees and submerge each tortilla briefly until it becomes soft and pliable.
  2. Place tortillas on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  3. Fill each tortilla with 3 ounces of shredded chicken and roll gently.
  4. Place enchiladas into a large rectangular baking dish.
  5. Ladle salsa over the top of each enchilada and cover with grated cheese.
  6. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve topped with pico de gallo and a dollop of sour cream.
Enchiladas can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator or frozen. Also are great leftover and warmed in the microwave oven.
Chipotle Bloody Maria mix

Ingredients:
2 quarts V8 juice
1 Tablespoon celery salt
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
4 Tablespoons horseradish
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons salt
1/4 cup lime juice
2 canned chipotle chilies
1 Tablespoon Tabasco sauce

Method:
Quickly buzz mixture in an electric blender.

For the drink:
In a large glass filled with ice add:
2 ounces silver tequila (El Tesoro Platinum works very well)
4 ounces Bloody Maria mix
Garnish with celery, lime wedge and a canned pickled jalapeno

Suggestions:

  • If you like, salt the rim of the glass by rubbing its edge with a lime and dipping it into kosher or sea salt.
  • Place ice, tequila and mix into a martini shaker and shake vigorously and then pour into a tall glass or strain into a martini glass.
    Hot Spiced Chamomile Cider

    Ingredients:
    2 quarts fresh apple cider
    1/4 cup chamomile flowers or 4 chamomile tea bags
    1/2 cup honey
    2 large sticks Canela (canela is Mexican cinnamon, regular cinnamon sticks may be used to substitute)
    4 all-spice berries
    2 cloves

    Method:

    1. In a medium-sized saucepan, add all ingredients except chamomile, then bring to a simmer.
    2. Once you have reached simmer, remove the pot from the heat and add chamomile and allow to steep 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how strong you prefer the flavor.
    3. Strain and serve hot. Cider can be made in advance and reheated.
    4. Garnish with a wedge of apple and a cinnamon stick to stir.
    Suggestions:
  • Add a shot of rum or brandy for festive hot beverage.
  • Coat the rim of the cup with cinnamon and sugar by rubbing an apple wedge around the rim of the cup and dipping it into a mixture of ground cinnamon and sugar.
    Churros (Mexican doughnuts)

    Ingredients:
    2 1/2 cups water
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon salt
    4 ounces butter
    2 cups cake flour
    1/2 cup all purpose flour
    3 eggs
    2 quarts vegetable oil for frying

    Method:

    1. In a medium-sized pot, add all ingredients except flour and eggs.
    2. Bring to a boil and then add flour.
    3. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The dough will form a ball in the center when it is through cooking.
    4. Move hot mixture to a mixing bowl and whisk in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
    5. Let dough cool and then place it in a pastry piping bag with a large star tip.
    To Cook:
    1. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet to 325 degrees and pipe the dough into the pan in long sticks.
    2. Fry until golden brown and serve by sprinkling each one with cinnamon and sugar.

    Mexican Hot Chocolate
    (The perfect accompaniment to serve with churros)

    Ingredients:
    1 pint milk
    1 pint half-and-half
    8 ounces Mexican chocolate
    4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

    Method:

    1. Grind chocolate in a food processor and then bring milk to a boil.
    2. Reduce to a slow simmer and gradually whisk in the chocolate. (Linquist says he likes to put the hot chocolate mixture into the blender after heating to create a frothy consistency.)
    3. Dip churros into the Mexican hot chocolate.
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