Channeling Bayless

I am a huge Bayless fan. But let’s put things in perspective here. Emily & Jenn are ginormous fans. If Emily isn’t waxing poetic about Smitten Kitchen, she’s doing it about Bayless. And Jenn, I mean, just look at one of her recent Bayless concoctions! The two of them even started a ‘Bayless Fest’ where they get together and cook Bayless-inspired dishes. I, regretably, am not that hardcore, although I could probably eat at Xoco every single day with no other food in the world and die a happy girl.

You wouldn’t know I wasn’t hardcore by this picture, wouldya? It’s practically like Rick and I are BFF, right? But honestly, this was taken during Xoco’s opening night, as we went following our last class in culinary school. We used that specific reason as an excuse to allow him to get his picture made with us :). I’m sure it was one of many photos he was part of that day, but despite his possible annoyance, he smiled, introduced himself (as if that were needed), congratulated us, and was super genuine. Meanwhile, I was sweating like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and trying my damndest to contain myself.

I will admit though, that I haven’t been to Topolobampo, despite trying. Maybe it isn’t as hard as getting a reservation at Schwa, but you do have to allow plenty of advance planning; one week simply will not do. And if you’re thinking going sans reservation, plan on waiting 2-3 hours. Both reasons are how we ended up at Xoco a few weeks ago and at Epic during Cheryl & Luke’s visit, not that I’m complaining or anything – both were scrumptious, just not my first choice.

And so, in light of my unsatiable Bayless hankering, I took matters into my own hands and pulled Mexican Everyday from my cookbook stash atop my refrigerator.

Mexican Everyday is a great weeknight go-to, and is loaded with quick, fairly easy recipes. This one, however, is better for a weekend, but even easier than the weeknight recipes. It’s just that you gotta break out the slow cooker for the afternoon, which is a bit difficult if you’re a full-time worker, like yours truly. But you dump the stuff in, and you move away. You come back, hours later, to an ultra-tender, perfectly balanced one pot wonder.

Chicken a la Veracruzana
Adapted from Mexican Everyday; serves 6

this is a great dish to make over the weekend because it makes the whole house smell like Bayless. as you can see, i used olives in the pictures (as per the recipe), but i should know better, since i hate them. I’d leave them out b/c it makes the dish too salty. instead, add a little extra parsley and maybe a squeeze of lime juice, if you want.

printable version

4 medium red-skin potatoes cut into slices (~1.5 lbs)
6 whole chicken legs, skinless (I left on)
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, fire-roasted, cut into small chunks
4-6 pickled jalapenos, cut into strips
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t dried thyme
1/8 t g cloves
1/4 t g cinnamon
salt to taste
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley + more for garnish

special equipment: slow cooker

spread potatoes over bottom of slow cooker and top with chicken.

in a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, Worcestershire, and spices. Pour oven chicken. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours; keep warm until ready to serve.

transfer chicken to platter (it will literally fall off the bone, so be careful). mix in parsley and adjust seasonings. spoon over chicken and garnish with more parsley.

Battle Cinnamon: Warm & Toasty

Acutely comforting, cinnamon has always been a favorite spice of mine. Could it be because there is generally a direct correlation between the smell of it and the nearby gratification that is eating a cinnamon roll, or an apple pie, or perhaps a hearty stew? Probably. But no matter the reason, my eyes lit up when I opened the attachment describing this month’s Iron Chef theme ingredient.

It wasn’t long before I had my two dishes chosen; for once, I didn’t vacillate, which historically, is customary for me moments before setting foot in the grocery store.

Amidst watching the Olympic games, listening to Emily’s impressive iTunes playlist that eerily seemed as if we had chosen the music from our own library of tunes, and chatting about blogging, Anton Ohno’s ‘soul patch’ and Lindsey Vonn’s creepishly long eyebrows, we ate our way through 12 dishes, most of which are pictured below (minus the cinnamon horchata).

[Dishes, from left to right and down: cinnamon lime chicken fajitas, cinnamon raspberry cupcakes, cinnamon and goat cheese dumplings, cinnamon toast crunch and white chocolate cookies, cinnamon biscuits with cinnamon pear butter, cinnamon roasted vegetables with chickpeas and quinoa, roasted cinnamon-chile sweet pototoes, cinnamon-peanut butter cups, and cinnamon rice pudding with cinnamon roasted bananas]

Despite the somewhat fuzzy picture quality, all dishes were gorgeous and tasted even better. I made a (surprise) Moroccan lamb stew and some cinnamon buttermilk biscuits n’ pear butter. My favorites of the night? The cinnamon ice cream, Jenn’s quinoa dish, and Hope’s dumplings (even though she was saddened by how they turned out, I thought they were mighty fine). My fellow blogger and buddy Emily pulled through with the win, bringing a creamy, rich, and smooth cinnamon ice cream to the table; the cinnamon roasted pe-cans may have sealed the deal. It seems ice cream is the way to go, as it’s won 3 of the 9 battles (this, my basil ice cream, and Jim’s peppercorn custard).

The top three (pictured below):

1. Emily’s Cinnamon Ice Cream with Cinnamon-Roasted Pecans
2. Christina’s Cinnamon-Lime Chicken Fajitas
3. my Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Caramelized Onions 

Battle 10 will mark our Iron Chef anniversary! Hard to believe a year of battles has gone by, but it’s definitely been fun. And Emily claims to already have the ingredient picked out – but if she’s like the rest of us past winners, it will change 25-50 times before next month!

Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, & Caramelized Onions
Loosely adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2008; serves 6

printable version

6 c Vidalia onions, thinly sliced (~ 2 lbs)
2 lbs bone leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 c beef stock
2 cinnamon sticks
2 t g cinnamon
1 t salt
1 t g black pepper
1 t g ginger
1/8 t crumbled saffron threads
4 chopped plum tomatoes
1 peeled and chopped sweet potato
4 T chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 T olive oil

Combine 2 c onions, lamb, and 2 c broth in heavy large pot. Add cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, salt, pepper, ginger, and saffron; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently 1 1/2 hours. Add tomatoes, sweet potato, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Continue to simmer, partially covered, until lamb is tender, sweet potatoes soften, and juices thicken, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove cinnamon sticks. If mixture is more watery than desired, turn heat up to high and reduce broth, which will further concentrate flavor of stew.

Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add remaining 4 c onions. Sauté until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; sauté until onions are deep brown, stirring often, about 45 minutes. Cool, cover. (Rewarm prior to topping stew)

Transfer lamb stew to large shallow bowl. Scatter caramelized onions and remaining 2 tablespoons parsley over.