Cook Like a Champion bio picture
  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: May 2010

Southwestern Brisket Tacos with Chipotle Slaw

Have you ever heard of a taco truck?  Eric and I had heard about ones in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.  Imagine our surprise when we moved to Richmond and discovered that there is one here and that it has seriously awesome tacos.  These aren’t just any tacos – they’re fusion tacos, combining different cuisines and flavors.  When I tried them for the first time, I was a little nervous about slaw being on the tacos.  However, it turned out to be one of the best combinations I’ve ever had.  This recipe is a sort of play on that.

The brisket is melt-in-your-mouth tender, bursting with tons of southwest flavors.  Not to mention, it is a breeze to make.  All you have to do is season and sear the meat, then slow cooker does the rest.  The brisket is delicious on its own, but the addition of the chipotle slaw really takes this meal to another level.  It’s smoky, spicy, a little sweet and goes perfectly with the brisket.  This does make quite a bit of food, especially if you’re only cooking for two, but the leftovers taste just as delicious.

I highly recommend having all the ingredients for the brisket prepped and ready before you start cooking (a technique called mise en place).  I’m not great about always doing that when I cook, but I knew I would have to with this one as soon as I read the recipe.  It moves very quickly, and you don’t want to be measuring out spices or vinegar while your garlic is in the skillet about to burn.  If you take the time to prep ahead of time, this recipe will go much more smoothly.

Southwestern Brisket Tacos with Chipotle Slaw

Southwestern Brisket Tacos
3 pounds beef brisket
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices (I could only find 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes and just used half a can.)
1 to 2 whole canned chipotle chiles in adobo (I got plenty of flavor from using just one, but use two if you like it spicy.)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
To serve:
Corn or flour tortillas
Chipotle Slaw, recipe follows

-Generously season the beef with salt and pepper, to taste.
-Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke.
-Add the meat and sear about 5 minutes each side, turning only once.
-Transfer meat to slow cooker, leaving skillet on the heat.
-Add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander and cumin to the drippings in skillet and stir until fragrant, about one minute.
-Add vinegar and allow to boil until it’s almost gone, scraping the bottom of the skillet to get up the little bits.
-Stir in water and pour mixture over brisket.
-Crush tomatoes through your fingers into the slow cooker; add juices, chipotle, bay leaves and molasses.
-Cover the slow cooker and set it on low heat.  Cook for 8-10 hours, until fork tender.
-To serve, you can take the easy route and simply pull the beef apart with two forks and stir into the sauce, discarding the bay leaves.
-If you don’t mind doing a little more work, strain the sauce to remove the vegetables and bay leaves.  Skim the fat and place the sauce into a small saucepan.  Simmer to reduce and thicken just a bit.  Add back to pulled brisket and stir to thoroughly coat brisket with sauce.
-To serve, heat the tortillas.  Add brisket and top with Chipotle Slaw.

Serves 6-8, depending on how much you stuff the tacos

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Food Network

Chipotle Slaw
2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotles in adobo
1/2 cup mayonaise
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 pound (about 2 cups) shredded white cabbage
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

-Combine chipotle, mayonaise, honey and lime juice in a large bowl.  Add cabbage and onions, tossing to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
-Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Caramelized Ancho Cashews

The moment I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it.  I adore cashews, but I’ve never had any similar to this.  The original recipe called for cayenne pepper, but I couldn’t resist using ground ancho chili pepper instead.  It gave these cashews such a wonderfully smoky flavor that I think went well with the cumin.  The maple syrup lends a bit of sweetness and makes these cashews caramelize perfectly.  These can be made up to three days in advance of when you need them, but it won’t be easy to keep them around that long!

Caramelized Ancho Cashews
Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups unsalted cashews 
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chili or cayenne pepper

-Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray sheet of foil with cooking spray and set aside.  Lightly spray rimmed baking sheet.
-In a medium bowl, mix together maple syrup, cumin, salt and ancho pepper.  Add cashews and toss to coat.
-Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until cashews are golden brown and fully coated with maple syrup mixture, stirring occasionally.
-Immediately pour cashews onto prepared foil and separate any clumps with two forks.
-Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2010

Fusilli with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

Green is my favorite color, so naturally I loved all the green in this dish.  All that green not only gives this pasta dish a pretty color, it gives it a ton of fresh flavors.  Instead of having a heavy sauce that would drown out all that freshness, the pasta mixture is simply tossed with pasta water to loosen it just enough to create a very light sauce.  Even after countless meals cooked, I’m still amazed at what fresh, simple ingredients can do.

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of olive oil, and Eric and I found that to be way too much.  I’m not sure if it’s because of our nonstick skillets, but I’ve halved the amount here.  You can always add more if you need it.  Also, if you’re making this for two people, I suggest halving the recipe because the leftovers don’t taste nearly as good.

Fusilli with Zucchini and Goat Cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt
1/4 pound goat cheese
1 pound fusilli or other spiral pasta
1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup slivered basil
freshly ground pepper

-Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about two minutes.
-Increase the heat to medium-high and add the zucchini.  Sauté until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
-Remove from heat, add 1 teaspoon salt and goat cheese.  Stir to combine.
-Meanwhile, bring water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.  Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions.
-Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
-Add the pasta, parsley, basil and a generous amount of pepper to the skillet with the zucchini.  Toss to combine.  Add the pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.
-Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma