Post Party Chilaquiles


For July 4th, we had a casual Mexican fiesta dinner on the backyard patio.  My guests brought guacamole and various salads.  I braised a pork shoulder for deshebrada tacos and created two flavors of gelato –Toasted Almond Joy was my personal favorite. I’m chagrined to confess that I polished off the remainder yesterday. Sidetracked by the festivities, I forgot to take photos to share with you.

Today, I used the leftover dibs and dabs secreted in the corners of refrigerator to create my version of Chilaquiles.

Chilaquiles with Ancho sauce

3 Ancho chili pods (dried pasilla)
1 fresh pasilla chili (roasted, skinned and seeded)
4 roasted garlic cloves
4 roasted tomatillos
2 small handfuls of cilantro
Salt to taste
9 corn tortillas cut into eighths, preferably stale
Corn oil for frying
½ chopped onion
Handful of queso fresco

Soak ancho chilies in hot water for 15 minutes. Seed and stem chilies. Blend both kinds of chilies, garlic, tomatillos and cilantro in a blender until smooth. Add ancho soaking liquid as needed if sauce is too thick. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

Fry tortillas in oil, in batches, until almost crisp. Drain on paper towel and salt lightly. Remove most of the oil from the pan and sauté onion until soft and beginning to brown. Add sauce to pan and simmer until warm. Add tortillas and cover with sauce. Cook about 3-5 minutes until tortillas begin to soften but aren’t mushy. Top with queso fresco. Remove from heat. To gild the lily, top with a fried egg with runny yolk. Serves 4.



He said “yes”!

Key Lime Tartlet

Key Lime Tartlet

I got the email today:

“I loved the key lime and apricot.  When can you stop by and teach Veronica how to make them?”
 – Big D

19 words that made me very happy.

Cookie Plate

Cookie Assortment

Gisslen’s Professional Baking recipe was the winner, with some tweaking, of course – more butter, more sugar and ¼ of the sugar switched to brown sugar. Two weeks after the initial batch, I’ve created six different cookie recipes using the same base – each passed my taste test and I’ve gained two pounds to prove it. I also shared them with the masses – coworkers and neighbors. Starting from the top of the plate:

  • Cardamom Caramel Triangles (one of my favorites, but the cardamom scares some people)
  • Almond crescents (very similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies)
  • Hungarian Apricot Disks (easy and popular) – needed a drizzle of glaze
  • Key Lime drops (also easy, but not so popular) – may try lemon next time
  • Cherry Streusel Bars (very popular with the neighbors, but the last cookies on the plate in the office)
  • Walnut Derby Cups – in center (delish, but labor intensive)

I’ve made each of these recipes at least twice, plus three additional recipes that didn’t make the cut (Coriander, Curry  & Coconut anyone?), plus more versions of butter cookie base than I can remember. I submitted the photo and descriptions to the steakhouse and suggested we a schedule a tasting.  This was the answer:

“looks delicious.. how about a choc chip??”

Really, that easy? Chocolate chip?! Ugh – back to the drawing board.

Groundhog Recipes



Last Sunday felt like the Groundhog Day for recipes. I baked seven versions of basic butter cookie dough – again and again and again. Yep, seven, all using relatively the same ingredients – all distinctly different – and not one passed the test.  Who knew finding the perfect cookie base would be so difficult?

There’s a purpose to my butter cookie baking compulsion – an excellent reason, in fact. The owner of the steakhouse where I briefly worked called me unexpectedly. He wants help with his dessert menu. Me? Me! – for his 4.9 star -rated restaurant. They are looking for a citrus dessert as well as a cookie plate, hence seven versions of basically the same cookie. Sadly, none of them hit the mark.

Here’s the lowdown:

Cookies 1-3: The cookie recipes from, Taste of Home and Good Housekeeping were all similar and didn’t stand out, perhaps from my overworked flavor receptors. Good texture, but tasting like the Wonder Bread of the cookie world. Slap some canned Birthday cake frosting and sprinkle with jimmies and we have Albertson’s Lofthouse sugar cookies with the thick, super-sweet overly colorful frosting.

Pro:        Good texture, minimal spread, versatile
Con:       No flavor

Cookie 4: A straightforward, well-textured cookie – versatile, but with barely more flavor essence than the three above. Possible save – try with more salt and possibly substitute pastry flour for APF. This recipe was from BBC Good Food.

Pro:        Similar to above, good texture minimal spread, versatile
Con:       Limited flavor – try ramping up with salt

Cookie 5: My favorite in regards to taste are these brown-sugar, crisp yet chewy delight from Cookies and Cups. These would be addicting sandwiched with a brown butter frosting or made into a nutty or chocolaty treat. Nutella sandwich cookies, anyone? I however, need The Ultimate in versatility. Nope, not going to work – but a recipe definitely worth saving. I devoured almost the entire Tupperware container of these until I felt sick. True confessions – I even shoveled a few more in my mouth after my stomach protested.

Pro:        Great flavor, minimal spread, good crispy texture
Con:       flavor may not work well with lime

Cookie 6 and re-bake 7: The recipe from Sugarywinzy has the most potential with a prominent butter taste without the limiting flavor of brown sugar. I was so hopeful this cookie would be it. It has a similar texture to the cookie from Cookies and Cups, but these cookies spread in an odd uneven manner.   My first reaction was, “user error” – I didn’t allow these to firm up enough. Unfortunately, I let them set up overnight and they did the same thing the next morning. My next move was to try a hotter oven to set them up faster. Nice try, but no dice, these cookies still spread oddly. Strangely, this recipe didn’t call for any eggs, so I may give it one more try with an egg, but I’m not hopeful.

Pro:        Great Flavor, Great versatility
Con:       Spreads unevenly

Ready to fling the cookie plate across the room and move on to the citrus dessert instead, I have three more iterations to bake this weekend: Cookie 6 with egg, Cookie 4 with salt and pastry flour…and if neither of those work…the recipe in Gisslen’s Professional Baking tome, which I probably should have made first. I have a sneaking suspicion that one is going to be the winner.

Miles to go before I sleep – after I finally decide on a base, I need to decide on the actual cookies.

Moroccan Chicken with preserved kumquats and olives

Moroccan Chicken with preserved kumquats and olives

The chicken was an overall success.  Such layers of flavors!  Too many layers, sadly; I lost the kumquat flavor entirely.  Just a hint of citrus was all that remained.  I’m going to try them with a simpler flavor profile next time.

 Moroccan Chicken with preserved kumquats and olives
8              garlic cloves
1 bu.      cilantro
½             chopped onion
2 T.         vinegar
2 T.         olive oil
2 T.         smoked paprika
2 t.          ground cumin
1 t.          salt
½ t.         pepper
½ t.         cayenne
¼ t.         saffron threads

Chicken thighs, bone-in, skinless
Oblique carrots
½ onion, finely sliced
¾ cup oil cured black olives
1/3 c. chopped preserved kumquats

Process first 11 ingredients into a paste.  Cover chicken with paste and refrigerate overnight.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place sliced onion, carrots, olives and kumquats in dish.  Add chicken and spice paste.  Add a bit of water, if needed.  Cover and bake for 1 hour.  Transfer to platter.  Reduce sauce if needed and spoon over chicken and vegetables.