Adam and I were in a rut. A food rut. Our dinners had become a rotation of about 6 favorite (or super-easy) meals. Adam suggested we choose a cookbook – any cookbook – and just start cooking our way through it, a new page/recipe every night. Appealing? Absolutely! I love trying new recipes, both for the new flavors and also because I find cooking really fun. New recipes teach me techniques I haven’t used before and improve what I’m already doing. And Adam and I are foodies. We love food. Love. Food.
However, I began picturing grocery store receipts and, in my vision, the totals were growing, multiplying, exploding. We’re still trying to stick to a budget (remember that whole credit card debt thing?) and, in an abundance of caution, suggested maybe we start with one new recipe a week. That way, we can work the unusual/new ingredients into the rest of our meals without wasting say, 3/4 lbs of shredded coconut.
We haven’t done anything with coconut, yet, but I’m all for it. Mmm… coconuuuut.
For our first adventure, I looked to The Epicurious Cookbook. It’s separated into seasons, so I headed to summer. We already had chicken on hand, so I focused on the chicken recipes. Southwestern lime chicken with ancho chile sauce piqued my interest, and wouldn’t require an investment in a lot of new ingredients, thanks to an amply stocked spice cabinet and my herb garden (nope, won’t stop talking about that). Knowing that we would need more than just chicken, I decided to also try Epicurious’ grilled Caesar salad.
Southwestern lime chicken
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
8 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
8 slices Monterey Jack cheese
1. Combine the lime juice, soy sauce, oil, sugar, herbs, garlic, chili powder, and cayenne in a medium bowl; whisk to blend. Place the chicken in a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish 2 inches deep. Pour the marinade over. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.
2. Prepare a grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill until just cooked through, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Place 1 cheese slice atop each chicken piece; cover the grill and cook until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to plates. Serve with Ancho Chile Sauce.
Ancho Chile Sauce
3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
First hurdle: locate dried ancho chiles. At my local, mainstream, grocery store (Publix), they only had one dried pepper – dried chile peppers. NOT the same as ancho chiles. Checked the pepper section, nothing was marked ancho. And so first hurdle became first lesson. Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers.
New step in recipe – dry out poblano peppers. Turn on your oven to about 150 degrees. Place whole or split peppers on a cookie sheet. Place sheet into oven. Crack oven door to allow air circulation. The size of the peppers will determine the amount of time they need to spend in the oven, but we’re talking at least 6 hours. You want them to wrinkle up completely.
1. Place the chiles in a medium metal bowl. Pour enough boiling water over the chiles to cover. Let stand until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.
2. Puree the chiles, 3 tablespoons soaking liquid, and the lime juice in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Whisk in the mayonnaise, brown sugar, oregano, rosemary and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Grilled Caesar Salad
2 flat anchovy filets, drained and chopped
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 (1/2-inch-thick) slices baguette
1 large egg
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
3 hearts of romaine
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Puree the anchovies, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth.
2. Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas).
3. Brush both sides of the baguette slices with some of the anchovy dressing, then grill the bread, turning over occasionally, until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg and lemon juice to the dressing in the blender and blend until emulsified, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt.
4. Cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise, then grill, cut sides down, covered only if using a gas grill, until grill marks just appear, about 2 minutes. Cut the romaine crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips and transfer to a bowl.
5. Halve or quarter the toasts and add to the romaine along with the cheese.
6. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat and serve immediately.
Southwestern lime chicken with ancho chile sauce
and grilled Caesar salad
And it was delicious. The chicken could be done without the sauce and Adam is convinced that the sauce should go on everything. Cheers to new recipes and expanding our mealtime repertoire!