Who loves a good dip. I’d be happy just dipping my pretzel into mustard truth be told, but I was thinking of a beer cheese dip a local restaurant near me serves; but it’s almost impossible to get a table there without waiting for an hour. It had me reminiscing the last time I’d had it, so decided to just whip one up. The pretzel recipe is one I’ve made before but this time I tweaked it a bit by baking the baking soda ahead of time. Yes, that’s right- you heard me right. I’d seen this trick posted several times on Pinterest and decided to give it a try and it did not disappoint. The reason for “baking” the baking soda [haha] is that it draws out some of the moisture and makes your pretzels darker like those of the German style that uses actual lye. Another trick is to use barley malt syrup-but if you’re like me I don’t particularly like to buy an ingredient I most likely won’t use again for something else and it will just take up space in the cupboard.
Cheesy Beer Dip
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
5 Tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. onion powder
3/4 Cup milk, room temp or warmed slightly
2 1/2 tsp. spicy brown mustard (I used Guldens brand)
1 Cup lager beer, room temp (measure w/no foam) *[I used Four Peaks Kilt lifter Octoberfest] a local beer]
1 1/4 Cups pepper jack cheese shredded (use from a block and not pre-shredded)
1 1/4 Cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (use from a block and not pre-shredded)
Serve warm or at room temperature with soft pretzels.
In a medium saucepan melt the butter and then add the flour and the seasonings. Heat over medium-low heat to cook the flour mixture for about 5 minutes whisking the entire time. Add in the milk slowly whisking to avoid lumps until smooth, then whisk in the mustard. Slowly and gradually add in the beer whisking entire time and cook for about 3 minutes until appears thickened. Slowly stir in the cheeses with the whisk until combined and melted. Taste for seasoning; if you like your dip more zingy you could add in the finely diced jalapenos or hatch green chilis if you like.
For the pretzel bites; I used the same recipe as my soft buttered pretzels (click on my link below) but prepared the baking soda by laying out on a tinfoil lined sheet tray a cup of baking soda and “baked” that at 250 degrees F for one hour and then allowed the baking soda to cool. Use the same amount of baking soda that is called for in the recipe to ‘dip’ into the boiled water for prepping the pretzels and bake as directed. I simply portioned the dough and rolled into logs and cut off about 1 inch pieces. I used the same dipping method. For pretzel nibs I found it took me about 14 1/2 to 15 minutes to get my pretzel bites cooked thoroughly inside. Pull out your tray and sacrifice one to check for doneness.
You can see how flaky this crust is…it’s divine.
Are you a spice girl? Or spice dude? I am. I love spice, and I love green chili. I was fortunate to live in New Mexico for 4 months-years ago- during the [Hot Damn!] part of Summer. The silver lining of triple digit summer heat? being able to buy fresh roasted Hatch green chili’s. The goal of the chili’s destiny is to be roasted- blackened (literally) to blister the skin to impart flavor and to ensure that you can also peel the skin off.
If you live in New Mexico or the Southwest during chili harvest time you will know- because you will start smelling the aroma of roasting chili’s wafting in the air around town. Dare I say it- it’s kind of a sexy thing. It’s like food porn, but for the nose. In New Mexico especially, during harvest time- you’ll see large, horizontal spinning roasters/vessels right in the parking lots of major markets that do the roasting for you. Imagine some dude in a cowboy hat in faded well fitting Wranglers, hand cranking the drum roaster of vibrant green chili’s while they tumble over the hot flame. Yeah…double sexy.
It’s not unheard of to buy several plastic bags of the roasted & peeled chili’s and squirrel them away in the freezer. You’re gonna need several bags, because after one bite, you will become a green chili addict. You can of course roast & peel them yourself-roast them right over an open flame on a gas stove, under the broiler, or on the grill. The smell of a fresh roasted Hatch green chili is something you never forget; intoxicating and earthy. New Mexican’s put roasted green chili’s in anything, and everything-and I DO MEAN everything. It’s a beautiful thing. A green chili cheeseburger is something you NEED to try at least once in your lifetime, but today- I’m making a green chili and cheese quiche.
Sitting down to eat it with a sexy, Wrangler wearing cowboy- optional.
This chili in the picture was not quite dark green as the others, but you’ll see varying colors of green chili’s (they’re all good)
Green Chili & Cheese Quiche
1 1/4 Cup Heavy cream
1/4 Cup Milk
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Cup grated “Mexican 4 Cheese Blend”
5-6 large fresh roasted & peeled green chili’s, diced fine (see how to below for roasting and peeling)
To Assemble Quiche:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare and blind bake the crust as per instructions below. Whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Fold in the cheese and diced chili’s. Pour into the baked and slightly cooled crust(s) and bake at 375° F until center of filling is set; about 18 minutes for the minis and about 25-30 minutes for a 9-10 inch quiche. Note: depending on how deep your tart or quiche pan is, you will have some filling leftover. I used a 10 inch pan and had a bit leftover to make a few extra mini’s. Give the extra’s away as a gift or wrap the baked and cooled quiche well in plastic wrap and freeze.
How to roast and peel green chili’s:
Wash and pat dry the chili’s. Place chili’s over a hot grill, medium flame, or broiler until they become blistered and totally blackened, turning with tongs frequently while roasting. Once they are totally black, place in a heat proof deep bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 5 minutes to allow them to steam. Remove plastic wrap and carefully peel of the blackened skin. Discard stems and seeds. It’s helpful to use a damp paper towel (if too hot) as to not burn your fingers while peeling. Note: I DO NOT RUN THEM UNDER WATER- using water (IMO) washes away the flavor, so I just use the damp paper towel to remove the skins. Once cooled, dice the chili’s and set aside. You can do this a day or two ahead also and store in the fridge covered in plastic wrap to save time.
Easy Flaky Cream Cheese Crust
yield: enough for 2 nine-10 inch crusts or several mini quiche. (leftover dough freezes well)
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp, cut into cubes
2 sticks (1 Cup) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and kept cold
2 Cups flour
1 tsp. salt
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, place the flour and salt and pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold butter and room temp cream cheese cubes and pulse until mixture just comes together. Gather dough together and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to let rest. To roll out crust, sprinkle flour onto bench, roll out crust and place in tart pan. Note: if making mini quiche I simply flatten a piece of dough and press it into the tart pan. Chill the crust again for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes. Blind bake crust at 375° F until lightly golden.
Who doesn’t love a good “pot pie?” The Husband, that’s who. When I first got married The Husband informed me “Never make chicken pot pie”. That was the only food flare he shot up. Now, this is a man who will EAT ANYTHING, and I do mean anything. I mean, he hails from Taiwan- the island of stinky tofu for God’s sake. He’s like a clone of Andrew Zimmern, the man would eat rattlesnake if I served it. The back story behind this aversion to the pot pie stems from his childhood. You see, apparently growing up, every Friday night (or maybe more-and I’m sure he’ll clarify it after reading this) his parents would go out to fulfill military social obligations and leave him a frozen pot pie to heat and eat. This little ritual went on for a number of years, hence the extreme aversion. These little gems aren’t really a pot pie. No scary peas and carrots hiding inside. Think of them as an individual pocket of spicy Cajun goodness. Filled with juicy chicken, fresh summer sweet corn, onion, fire roasted red pepper, cilantro and lots of Cajun spice, and topped off with a Serrano chili (if you dare). What’s not to love?!
I mean, seriously, does this filling not look good, or what? there is nothing to fear…
Individual Cajun Chicken Pies
recipe adapted from “Pocket Pies” by Pamela Clark
yield: 4 individual “Texas size” muffin pies
Short crust Pastry:
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 oz. cold, butter chopped, kept cold
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp. ice water (approx.)
In a food processor place the flour and salt and pulse a few times. Add butter and pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add yolk and 1 1/2 Tbsp. water and pulse until dough comes barely together, and add more water as necessary. Knead pastry lightly on a floured board until smooth. Press into a flat circle and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 30 minutes before attempting to roll out.
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 fresh corn cob, kernels removed (if you don’t want to use fresh you can substitute 1 cup frozen corn kernels)
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (I like “Slap Ya Mama” brand- can be found at Cost Plus Markets)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into about 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/4 Cup diced roasted red pepper (purchased in jar)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 Cup chicken broth
2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
fresh Serrano chilies (optional)
For egg wash: one egg beaten
1. Heat olive oil in large saute pan add onion, corn and garlic and cook over medium heat until onion softens. Add Cajun seasoning and saute for 1-2 minutes. Remove to a bowl.
2. Heat another 1 Tbsp. oil in the same pan and add chicken and seasoning. Cook the chicken until browned. Stir in the diced red pepper. Add the flour and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture thickens. Stir in the onion corn mixture and stir. Stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust any seasoning as necessary (I actually added a sprinkling of cayenne and paprika). Remove to a bowl and allow to cool before assembling pies.
3. Note: if you don’t want to make fresh pastry dough you can also use purchased pie dough, or purchased empanada dough rounds. You could also use puff pastry dough and make hand pies.
To assemble and bake:
Brush or spray 4 wells of a texas size muffin pan. Cut out 4 rounds of dough into 5 inch circles. Place the dough rounds into the wells; pressing the sides and bottom to fit. Fill the wells evenly with the chicken mixture. Cut out 4 more rounds that are 4 inch size and brush one side with the beaten egg, then turn over and place the egg side down over the filled pies. Brush the tops of each pie with egg wash, and (if desired) pierce the top and insert a fresh Serrano chili. Bake in a 400° F preheat oven for 24-25 minutes. Cool in the pan until cool enough to remove.
Several years ago I went on a Caribbean cruise with a stop in Jamaica. It was a quick stop and I really, really, really, wanted to go on this agricultural tour, so I signed up since I’m a total geek when it comes to things like that (I love anything that involves a working plantation where they show you how they harvest crops). I’m a sucker for it-I Love it. It did not disappoint. I was able to see trees of cocoa pods, allspice trees, and various other tropical fruits and plants. After our tour we were taken to another part of the island to have a catered lunch which had Jamaican meat patties as part of the spread. OMG, where had these little beauties been all my life. Well- duh- they were in Jamaica. I needed these in my life. Eventually of course I forgot about them until fast forward, years later when I came across an actual recipe for them by chef Lucinda Scala Quinn. You may know her by the show Mad Hungry. She apparently spent quite a bit of time in Jamaica in her day and her cookbook-which I checked out from the library has some amazing authentic recipes. I did tweak the recipe slightly by adding a pinch of cinnamon, a little more salt than her recipe, and ended up using empanada premade dough rounds found in a Hispanic market, but I’ve included her original recipe for her dough here.
Jamaican Meat Pies “Patties”
recipe: slightly adapted from Lucinda Scala’s Cookbook: “Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen”
Pastry: recipe from original recipe which I did not use*
*Full disclosure- I used store bought Goya empananda dough rounds-which I found in a Hispanic market in the frozen food section. They worked perfectly! They came 12 in a package- which ended up working to use exactly all of my filling. If you can find them it saves a lot of time, but here is the original recipe for the pastry.
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 Cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 Cup ice-cold water
(optional: 2 Tbsp. curry powder- I personally would omit this– it’s part of the original recipe) by Lucinda (I’m not a huge fan of curry and I thought the curry in the filling was suffice)
Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and (optional curry) in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl. Working quickly; using fingertips, squeeze together the flour mixture and butter and toss together by scooping under the mixture with both hands. When mixture resembles a very coarse meal, add the water to the bowl. With floured hands, mix and squeeze the dough just until it forms a ball. Knead it once or twice to combine it fully (avoid too much kneading). Form the dough into 2 pieces, flattening each into a thick pancake shape. Wrap in plastic and set them in the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before using it.
Roll out each dough round on a lightly floured surface and cut 4 3/4 inch sized rounds. (This is the size of the Goya empanada rounds I found and thought the size was perfect).
Place a large spoonful of the cooled filling on one side of the dough round, and using a clean finger, paint water around the border. Fold over the opposite side of the dough; being careful to press out any air bubbles and press to crimp. Use the tines of a fork to crimp to seal. The patties may be frozen at this point and saved to bake off later. To bake: brush with egg wash, sprinkle with (optional) a little bit of kosher salt, and bake in a preheated oven at 400° F. for about 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.
Egg wash: one egg whisked together with 1 Tbsp. water.
1 lb. ground beef (I used 90 % lean)
1 small-medium onion, diced
3 scallions, chopped fine (white and green parts)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Habanero peppers, seeded, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cinnamon
2 Cups water
1/2 Cup plain (dried) bread crumbs
1. In a large bowl mix the beef, onion, scallions, garlic, peppers and thyme. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat and add the beef mixture. Fry until the meat is browned and the moisture is evaporated. Add the curry powder, salt, black pepper, and cinnamon, stirring constantly and allowing a crust to form somewhat on the bottom of the pan; scraping frequently to avoid burning. Add the water and stir the mixture, scraping the bottom to incorporate any browned crust. Add the bread crumbs and stir. Cover, and reduce heat to very low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the meat mixture to a bowl and allow to cool, refrigerate if you plan to assemble the pies on a separate day.
I’m a huge fan of slice and bake. These little tasty crackers are the savory cousin to the sweet sable we all are familiar with, such as pecan sandies. Slice and bake is your friend when you need to bring something to a party since you can make the dough ahead of time and they take no time to slice and bake off. These sables taste even better the next day after baking-they intensify a bit in flavor. You can easily double the recipe and store extra logs in your freezer for an impromptu party snack- just make sure to wrap them well in parchment paper and label them and seal the ends well. You can increase the cayenne in these if you want a really spicy cracker, but the amount I’ve used below also packs a nice subtle after burn.
Romano Parmesan Cheese Sables
yield: ~ 4 1/2-5 dozen
13 Tbsp. (1/2 C + 5 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temp
1 Cup grated Romano cheese
3/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1. In a food processor combine the softened butter and cheeses to combine. Add the flour, salt, and pepper and pulse to combine. Divide dough in two halves and roll each half into a log about 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Wrap each log in parchment paper and chill for about 40 minutes.
2. Unwrap paper and slice logs into 1/4 inch slices. Place crackers at least 1 inch apart on a parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake at 325° F for about 17-19 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool over a wire rack. Store leftover crackers in an airtight container.