I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Green Chile Cheese Puffs

I love these little puffs.  They are tender and cheesy with a nice bite from the green chiles and couldn’t be easier to make.  They are a great nibble to start a family taco night but are also elegant enough for the swankiest party. 

Green Chile Cheese Puffs

I love the extra little hit of smoked paprika on top, but use sweet paprika if that’s what you have.

½ pound sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 (4-ounce) cans diced green chiles, well-drained

Paprika or smoked paprika for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Grate the cheese with the grating disc of a food processor.  You should end up with 2 cups.  Switch to the metal blade and add the flour, salt and butter.  Pulse several times until the butter is cut into the flour.  Add the green chiles and process until the dough comes together in a ball.

Roll pieces of the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball and place on the baking sheet, about an inch apart.  These will spread when cooking, so leave some room. Sprinkle a little paprika over the tops of the puffs.  Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the puffs are firm and golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 2 dozen puffs

Fresh Citrus Margaritas

 

Ah, the classic margarita.  Cool and refreshing and perfect for a late spring fiesta.  If you’re used to the neon green bottled mix, or the frozen slushee style margarita, you are really missing out on something.  This version, made with fresh lemon and lime juices, adds the welcome twist of orange juice.  Sure, a freshly made margarita takes a little juice-squeezing elbow grease, though an electric juicer would certainly speed things up.  If you microwave the lemons and limes for about 15 seconds before juicing, you’ll get more juice and it will be a little easier to extract.  Use good tequila – I prefer blue agave or reposado and a good Triple Sec or Cointreau.  I am not a rimmed glass fan, but feel free to use salt or sugar to add a little flair.  And serve these over lots of ice!

Citrus Margaritas

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups sugar

¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 ¼ cup tequila

4 Tablespoons Triple Sec or Cointreau

Stir the water and the sugar together in a medium saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside to cool.

In a pitcher, stir together the juices, then add the cooled simple syrup.  Stir to combine. (This base can be refrigerated for several days).

When ready to serve, add the tequila and the Triple Sec to the margarita base in the pitcher and stir to combine. Serve over ice.

Makes 6 margaritas

Green Chicken Chilaquiles

There are some recipes or food ideas you come across that stick with you, who knows why.  Chilaquiles is one of those ideas for me.  Over the years, I have come across recipes or food travel articles about Mexico or the Southwest that talk about this dish – one that uses leftover tortillas, sauce and meat.  My impression of chilaquiles came to be of a dish that Mexican housewives throw together in the days following a big cooking occasion, to use up the homemade tortillas that had gone stale, the intricately layered sauces and the remaining bits of perfectly roasted meat.  This idea appealed to me, and stuck in my mind as something I hoped to try someday.  Then it happened.  I came across chilaquiles on the menu of a local Mexican restaurant.  This particular place specialized in seafood, and offered shrimp as a chilaquiles option, with red sauce or green sauce.  I ordered green shrimp chilaquiles and absolutely devoured the dish, glad to finally have an understanding of what it was all about.  I ordered green chicken chilaquiles in New Mexico some time later, and that convinced me to try to re-create the dish at home.  First I considered frying freshly bought tortillas, carefully constructing a sauce with fresh tomatillos, roasted peppers and a raft of ingredients.  But it occurred to me that the whole point of chilaquiles is a great dish to throw together when you are not in the mood to spend hours in the kitchen.  So I went the other direction, using ingredients where most of the work had been done for me.  I find all these ingredients readily in the Hispanic food aisle of my local chain grocery. Chilaquiles are often served for a late breakfast, but I prefer them as a quick-to-throw-together dinner.

Green Chicken Chilaquiles

If you can’t find the canned tomatillos, use an equal weight of fresh, husked and cleaned.

For the sauce:

1 (12-ounce) can tomatillos, rinsed and drained

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

3 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon mild chili powder

½ teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional)

A big handful of cilantro leaves

Assembly:

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

9 – 10 tostadas

12 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place all the ingredients for the sauce in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour about 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of a 9” by 13” casserole, spreading to cover the bottom of the dish.  Crush the tostadas in a ziptop bag to rough shards and place about a third over the sauce.  Add the chicken and half the queso fresco, then another third of the tostadas.  Pour over the remaining sauce, and then layer on the last of the tostadas and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake the chilaquiles for 15 – 20 minutes until warmed through, bubbling around the edges and the cheese is golden in places.  Serve immediately, with extra crushed tostada if desired.

Serves 6

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