Marx Madness

Remember last year when my foodie obsession with Marx Foods began? I remember it like it was just yesterday, aahh that Mangalitsa ham *sigh*. Well, thanks to that very gorgeous piece of ham, I’ve been lucky enough to receive samples of their products as rewards for creating recipes. I’ve gotten so many goodies, it’s madness! The best part is that it allows me to stretch my foodie wings and palate and that makes me a better (and bigger) foodie, cook, aficionada, etc, etc.

Tellicherry Peppercorns from Marx Foods

I submitted recipes for more of their contests, which means I’ve gotten more goodies. I have a box of yummy things in my pantry. Since work has been so hectic, I’ve not had much time to experiment in the kitchen, even less time to share the results with you guys. But I’ve been dying to tell you about a couple of dishes I came up with using some of my loot. This post is not a very good step-by-step one. I blame it on work and exhaustion, that said, these two dishes are way too good not to share with you! Oh.eM.Gee!!! These were sooooo good! I’m drooling  just thinking about them.

 Keep in mind, many of the spices were gifts from the good Marx Foods peeps, they are not paying me to say good things about them. What they do want is some honest feedback about their products and hopefully, if all is good, that may generate new customers for them. I know I’m onboard. OK, that’s my little disclaimer, on with the food!
I made two separate dishes for this evening, a Chayote and Mushroom Cream as an appetizer and, for the entrée, Beef Cheeks with Ancho & Guajillo Peppers over White Truffle Rice Cakes. Yeah. Uhuh. Sounds über
good, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how good they both were, but I’m gonna try.

Let’s start with the soup. You probably know I’m a huge fan of chayote squash, it was one of the few veggies my Mami could get me to eat when I was a kid. As of late, I’ve been using them in a few new-to-me ways, you can find some really good recipes on my blog by doing a ‘chayote’ search. This little vegetable has a very mild taste most similar to a yellow squash IMO.

Chayote and Mushroom Cream

For the soup, I used a variety of dehydrated mushrooms, oyster, porcini and shitake, from Marx Foods. I steeped them in hot water for about an hour, then strained them out and used the reserved liquid to cook the chayotes. I ran the mushroom broth through a coffee filter to catch any grit–though there was none to be found.

Oyster, Shitake and Porcini Mushrooms

I peeled and cubed 3 chayotes, then cooked them until tender in the mushroom broth (you may need to add a bit more water, just enough to cover the chayotes. The broth was seasoned with Smoked Salt. Once the chayotes are tender, run them through the blender to puree the soup. Return to the pot and add heavy cream, about 1/2 cp or to taste.

Smoked Salt and Tellicherry Peppercorns

While the chayotes cooked, I roughly chopped the mushrooms and sautéed them in 2-3 tbsp of butter. I added 1 tsp ground Tellicherry Peppercorns, more Smoked Salt and about 1/2 cp of dry sherry that was cooked into the mushrooms. Keep warm.

To plate: pour the cream in your bowl, top with a dollop of  the sautéed mushrooms, a sprinkling of the Smoked Salt and grated Manchego or Parmesan cheese.

Now, what can I tell you about the entrée…??? I had never cooked beef cheeks before, but I find myself obsessed with them now. I will admit it isn’t one of those things you can make on the fly, because that meat needs to be brought into submission before making it magical. I certainly hope you give it a try, the rewards are indescribable. The meat is melt in your mouth tender and possesses a sweet unctuousness about it.

Ancho & Guajillo Chilies

For this recipe I finished the cheeks with Guajillo & Ancho Peppers and a bit of Fennel Pollen, this gave the final dish a perfect balance of sweet, savory and spiciness that had The Hubbz and I swooning over our plates. The above decadence sat atop rice cakes that had been laced with White Truffle Oil and cream before being crisped in butter.

Fennel Polen from Marx Foods

The scent and taste of the Truffle Oil was so rich and intoxicating, it played beautifully against the other ingredients. I then channelled Iron Chef Symon and topped this concoction with a watercress salad that helped cut through this incredibly rich plate. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Beef Cheeks with Ancho & Guajillo Peppers and White Truffle Rice Cakes

To prepare the beef cheeks, I removed any excess fat and tendons early in the day, just before allowing it to braise for an hour or so in water that was seasoned with a couple cloves of garlic (peels and all), bay leaf, salt & pepper. Once tender, cut into cubes, but make sure to reserve the broth produced.

I simmered 2 guajillos and 2 anchos in about 1 cp of the reserved broth, just until they became soft, about 10-15 minutes. If you want to minimize the heat in the dish, remove the seeds before steeping the peppers. I allowed the peppers to cool just enough to handle and chopped them up and added them to a hot pan with about 1tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, followed by 2 tsps of Fennel Pollen, the zest of 1 orange, 1/4 cp of dry sherry, the cubed meat and seasoned with salt & pepper. I added enough of the reserved broth to simmer the beef until it was melt-in-my-mouth tender, about 30-40 minutes.

While the cheeks cooked, I added 1 tbsp of  White Truffle Oil and 3 tbsp of heavy cream  and 2 tbsp of finely chopped chives to about 2 cps of cooked leftover jasmine rice. I formed the mixture into 4 patties and placed them in the freezer for about an hour to make them easier to handle. Once they were firm on the outside, I  ran them through a breading station: flour-egg-panko crumbs. These were then crisped in a skillet in a combo of butter and oil until golden brown.

I made a make-shift vinaigrette for the watercress, by combining the juice of the orange with a bit of Truffle Oil (probably less than 2 tsps), I dressed the watercress with the vinaigrette and a sprinkling of salt & pepper just before serving.

To plate: I placed 2 rice cakes on the plate, topped them with the beef braise and topped that with the watercress salad. Once you make this and take the first bite, you really will think you died and went on to happy orgasmic heaven.

About the Marx Foods ingredients aka The Loot:

Tellicherry Peppercorns: I love these and will be adding them to my pepper mill. Its black peppers on roids! Really big, bold peppery goodness. A must have.

Smoked Salt: I think it is really cool just to look at, but the flavor it adds to your food is surprising. It really makes it taste smoky. Really excited to have my hands on this one.

Dried mushrooms : These were good, but I wasn’t wild about the texture of them, it made me think of seaweed. I still have some left and will try them again, because I think I might’ve not reconstituted them properly. For now, I’m sticking to the fresh stuff.

Dried Guajillo and Ancho Peppers: I simply love these and I’m pretty familiar with them and have them available at almost every grocery store here in town. I did notice that these seemed ‘cleaner’?? Sometimes when I pick them up at the grocers here they look ‘dusty’ and I rinse them before use. The Marx peppers were ready to go.

Fennel Pollen: Yeah, another keeper. This was the second time I incorporated it into a recipe and I absolutely love it!

White Truffle Oil: This baby is sooo good, it should come with its own choir so that you here them chant ‘aaaaaaaaah’ everytime you open the bottle. Gimme, gimme!

There’s more Marx Goodness to come, so stay tuned.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

A Ridiculously Delicious Challenge

Here we are at the 2nd part of my first Marx Foods challenge of the year. The Ridiculously Delicious Challenge is divided into multiple rounds. The first one was to choose 3 ingredients we would like as our prize should we win the final. My chosen 3 were Wild Boar, Heirloom Potatoes and Saffron Strands. I really hope I get a chance to play with all of those.

This is the second round: create an original recipe using 2 of the ingredients sent to us in the mystery box we received as a gift when we made it through the first round. It was an interesting choice of ingredients, as usual. It included things like Iranian saffron, several types of chilies, juniper berries, dried cherries, grains of paradise and dill pollen. Several of the ingredients were a first for me, which is exactly why I love participating in Marx challenges.

I wanted to make sure I used the ingredients in a recipe that would highlight my Latin heritage. I really had to think about it: sweet, savory, sweet, savory. In the end, I settled on savory, a play on Arroz con Pollo. I wanted to use something more exciting than chicken, though. In the absence of duck, I went for lamb. As for the mystery box, juniper berries, grains of paradise and dried cherries would be the other willing participants.

This was an easy dish to put together, but it doesn’t taste or look like it. WOW! So much flavor. First let me tell you about the mystery ingredients. Grains of Paradise taste like herby peppercorns. Then there is the Juniper Berries, biting into one is like sniffing good gin, they have an inherent briny taste. Finally, Dried Tart Cherries. Exactly what they sound like, sweet and tart, perfect substitutes for raisins and prunes. I picked lamb shoulder chops, I wanted the flavor the bones would add to the broth and also a cut of meat with some fat. OK, let’s cook!

Arroz con Cordero (Lamb & Spicy Rice)
6-8 servings

Approx 2lbs lamb shoulder chops
For marinade:
12 juniper berries
1-1/2 tsp grains of paradise
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cooking sherry
I put all of these in my grinder then rubbed it on the lamb and allowed it to sit for about 20 minutes or so while I prepared the rest of the vegetables needed to braise the lamb.

Braising broth:
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 carrots, quartered
1/2 cp cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
about 1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cp sherry
water

Heat a medium-sized Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the lamb on both sides. Once all the lamb chops have been browned, deglaze the pan with the sherry, scraping the bottom to loosen the bits that are stuck. Add the vegetables and lamb and enough water to cover everything. Bring to a slow boil, lower temperature to a simmer and cook until the lamb is tender. Remove the lamb from the broth and allow it to cool.

Run the broth and vegetables through the blender to get everything smooth. Debone the lamb and chop it into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

For the rice:
3 cps long grain rice
1 cp baby carrots, halved
1/2 cp olives, pitted and chopped
2/3 cp dried cherries
1 roasted pepper, sliced
1/2 cp cilantro, finely chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Reserved broth

In the same dutch-oven, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Rinse and drain the rice before adding it to the hot oil. Stir well, making sure the oil coats all the grains and they turn from translucent to chalky white.

Add this time you can add 5 cps of broth, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Once the broth has almost completely evaporated, layer the remaining ingredients. DO NOT disturb the rice, don’t stir it or you’ll end up with unevenly cooked, mushy rice. Top with the lamb, carrots, peppers, olives, 2/3 of the cilantro and the cherries. Reduce the temperature to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow it to cook/steam UNDISTURBED for another 20 minutes.

At the end of that time, remove the lid and mix in all the ingredients. Serve with a salad and top with fresh cilantro. Enjoy! Be sure to stop by MarxFoods.com to see the other contestants throwdown. Also, I’ll keep you posted, but you’ll get to decide which of the yummy recipes move on to the next round. Yep, it’s voting time…, soon. Not yet.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Another year, the first challenge

That’s right, the first challenge of the year. I love these cooking challenges, they make me stretch my creativity, especially when Marx Foods sponsors it. Not only does it mean I get goodies, but I really have to challenge myself to best use the ingredients they provide. This year I’m going to add to my challenge and force myself to give the recipe a Latin flair.

To participate in the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge, I have to let the good folks at Marx Foods know what I would do with 3 of the ingredients they’re offering as loot. The idea here is to move them with either an enticing recipe, a funny, naughty, or depressing story, it doesn’t really matter to them. Make an impression, that’s my task. There will be tough competition, as expected, so here I go. To be honest, I want them all, but since my hand has been forced, I’ll follow instructions and pick 3, abandon all those other beauties and be responsible for their ensuing inferiority complex. I’m a terrible human being.

My choices were based on my relationship: the TX wild boar represents my Hubbz. Wild boars can be traced to Germany and they’re strong and resourceful, just like my honey. I would definitely say he’s sweet and slightly nutty, more similarities. We both enjoy all things Latin, Latin America wouldn’t be what it is were it not for Spain’s influence. How appropriate then to have that gamey, nutty, sweet boar basking in the glory of a Spanish saffron sauce. Finally, I just have to check out those Heirloom potatoes, I mean, seriously. One is called Maris and the other is a German butterball, coincidence? I think NOT.

Almost 2 years ago, our reception

Here’s hoping we get to go on another Marx adventure, I’ll keep you posted.

Anamaris

Mangalitsa and a secret

Just before Xmas one of my recipes was chosen by the folks at Marx Foods as their favorite use of cured Mangalitsa ham. To my surprise, they sent me more Mangalitsa goodness! Only, this time, it was a fresh, not cured, piece of meat. A neck roll, to be precise. This was a gift from Marx Foods and Heath Putnam Farms (they raise the piggies).

After some research, I learned that this cut is known as Secreto (secret) in Spain because it is the butchers’ best kept secret and I can understand why they keep this cut to themselves. Per Heath, this cut is known as pork collar or coppa and it is all the rage at the  fancy eateries these days. He suggested preparing the roll in a couple different ways. First, I should slice a few pieces and sear them in a pan, then roast the rest. I listened and took his advice to heart; boy am I glad I did.

Since it arrived just around the holidays, my intention was to prepare and share with you another dish rooted in my Panamanian heritage , but, alas! I was so busy towards the end of the year, I never got around to posting it, though I did cook and eat it. Oh yes we did! I kept thinking about lomo relleno (stuffed loin), which is a dish typically served around the holidays. It can be beef or pork loin and it is generally stuffed with carrots, olives, raisins and many variations after that. Let’s talk pig!

Stuffed Mangalitsa Pork Collar

I wanted to make sure the meat itself was seasoned, so I made a nice rub for it. I combined Spanish paprika, pureed garlic, sea salt and black pepper with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and rubbed onto the pork collar, allowing it to marinate for a few hours.

For the stuffing I chopped and rendered the fat out of some bacon, then cooked in some chopped onions, garlic, cilantro and prunes. I did allow this to cool completely before stuffing the pork. I didn’t go fancy butterflying route, instead, I simply sliced the pork collar, just shy of about an inch from the opposite end and piled it with the stuffing*.

A little twine helped keep everything even and in place for searing and roasting. You can opt-out of pan searing and simply cook it at 450° for the first 15 minutes, then lowering the temperature to 300° for the remainder of the roasting time.

I placed it on a roasting rack with some carrots, onions and garlic strewn about the bottom of the pan. This was a 4-lb piece of meat an it roasted for about 3 hours or so, until the thermometer read 145°. I then removed it from the oven and allowed it to rest for about 15 minutes covered with foil. Believe me, we had a REALLY tough time staying away from it that long.

*Following Heath’s suggestion, and to keep us at bay while this baby roasted, I sliced off a few pieces of the collar before I made the cut for the stuffing. I heated a saute pan and added just a dab of olive oil and seared those little collar cutlets, they were about 1/2-inch thick and cooked for 2 minutes or so on each side, we still wanted them to be pink. That’s how we like our piggy. And…Oh.eM.Gee!!! We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.

Let me just try to explain something about Mangalitsa pork. It is obnoxiously delicious! I mean, I just know those little pigs trot around the pen mocking the other pigs and telling them how much better tasting they are. And you know what? THEY ARE!!! The Hubbz said this was better than beef tenderloin, yep. THAT good. The fat in the Mangalitsa is almost creamy buttery.  And the meat has a slight gamey sweetness to it. I don’t know what to say or think about it, all I know is this is some really good sh#t!

Back to the roast. Once it rested and all the juices had redistributed around, we snipped off the twine and began slicing the roast.

Undoubtedly, the prunes added a delicious sweetness to the meat, just a hint, don’t worry. We feasted on this roast for a couple of days. By the time we were down to just a few bits and ends, I pan fried them to get a bit of a crust on the meat and used it to topped toasts points that had been toasted with olive oil and gotten a light spread of a fig & olive tapennade. JOOOOOOOOOYYYYY!!!! Sorry, no pictures of that madness.

I will admit that we are completely in love with Mangalitsa and with the Secreto cut. I also have to admit this will be one of those things we purchase once a year for VERY special occasions, but purchase it we will! I’d like to thank Marx Foods and Heath Putnam Farms again for such a generous and DELICIOUS treat. You can see all the porky shots here.

Mangalitsa longingly yours,
Anamaris

Johnny, show them what they’ve won!

Well, it’s official! Chefoodie, aka Me, will be skiping off to Marxland with… drummmmmmmrollllllll….

Norma from Mangoes, Platanos & Me

AND

Heather from Girlichef

Thanks again to the awesome people at Marx Foods for this fab giveaway. I’ll let you know what I get when I get it.

I’m psyched! That is all. Carry on.

Anamaris

The Adventures of Chefoodie in Marxland

Foreword: You have to read this using voices for the different characters and narrator. Trust me. You just do.

Once upon a time in a land called Foodietown, there was a foodie called Chefoodie, she was looking for love, I mean, inspiration in all the wrong places. Chefoodie wandered through the world, also known as the world-wide web, searching for the love of a lifetime: new and exciting ingredients.

One day Chefoodie’s messenger (i.e. Inbox) came bearing grand news. She had been selected to join the Foodie Fairy and participate in a great adventure in a far away land known as Marxland (that’s on the interweb again). Chefoodie was happy as a clam, or a Mangalitsa ham, to hear of this great honor. To add to her merriment, the Foodie Fairy had also sent a magic wand that would grant the same honor to two deserving citizens of Foodietown.

Overjoyed, Chefoodie pranced around Foodietown sharing the amazing news and all her fellow foodies joined in the prancing about. Then Curiousoodie asked ‘who will you choose?’. Chefoodie was troubled, because she knew she couldn’t pick just two. Then Wiseoodie said, ‘let the Wizard Random.org do the picking.’ Chefoodie thanked Wiseoodie and was merry again. And a few days later Chefoodie and two foodies chosen by the wizard went on to the great adventure in Marxland and lived happily ever after. At least until the next contest.
The End.

Not quite the end. I got a bit goofy, but hey, I’m super excited! So, here’s the whats. The awesome Marx people are having a party or contest and they’re inviting us. There are stockings being filled, goodies being shipped and recipes being imagined. And, as luck would have it, I get to hand out 2 stockings to one of you.

My friends at Marx Foods have their own set of participation rules, I’m going to mix it up a bit. However, you will still have to participate in the recipe challenge planned for January and submit a recipe according to their rules (tbd).

What do you need to do now?

Leave a comment here telling us:

  1. Which one of the ingredients listed below you’d like to see in your stocking; and
  2. What naughty things you plan to do with said ingredient.

aged balsamic vinegar, natural truffle oil, fennel pollen, bourbon vanilla beans or saffron threads

Answer the questions by noon (CST) on Wednesday, December 15th. You may submit several comments, but they must be for different ingredients each time. I will then visit the wizard and announce 2 lucky foodies who will then receive the selected ingredient and stocking from Marx Foods.

PS: Sorry, you must reside within the contiguous United States.

Fairy Godmotherly yours,
Anamaris

Iron Foodie Contest: Allez Cuisine!

UPDATE:

What I really want to do is bounce around with a placard yelling EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! But this will have to do.

Santa Marx has opened the polls for voting, so if you missed the elections, get you fix there. Click on this link to go to Marx’ post and choose your favorite use of the secret ingredients. I will tell you there are 25 fabulous entries, yes, I’m including mine. Go check’em out and vote for me your favorite one. It’s one vote per IP address, so be choosy when you imagine me spending those $200 on Marx goodies.

~~~~~~~~~~

Just before Thanksgiving madness started, I mentioned I had thrown my apron into the Iron Foodie contest hosted by Marx Foods (aka Santa Marx) and Foodie Blogroll. It was too tempting to pass it up. The challenge was set up a la Iron Chef / Chopped; we would receive mystery ingredients that we would then incorporate into an original creation.

 Let me tell you, there was all kinds of excitement at home for about a week. It all started out with the Iron Foodie contest. I had to submit the application post and wait a few days (read: eons) to learn if I had been selected. Once selected, I waited another few eons days to receive the mystery box. We knew we would receive a total of 8 items and had to use at least 3 in the recipe.

The waiting was killing me, so in the meantime I decided to torture myself with the offerings on the Marx site. That’s when it happened. I found their blog… and another opportunity for freebies. I tell you what, I was like a crack addict. Every time I saw the UPS or FedEx or USPS trucks I would start pacing around, hoping for that hit, I mean knock on my door. And when I received all my deliveries, I yearned and longed for the knock again. OK, sorry.

This post is about what I did with the mystery ingredients. Once I had the hot little box in hand and discovered what was in it, I went from giddy with excitement to totally freaked out in about 2.2 seconds. Some of the ingredients left me dumbfounded i.e., Dulse Seaweed???? Others, I had heard of but never tried before: Fennel Polen, Maple Sugar. At first I wanted to try making something sweet because I don’t seem to offer you enough desserts, but the sweets just don’t speak to me.

I will tell you that I made an earlier attempt which included the seaweed, chile panca, vanilla bean and peppercorns. I kept thinking about a savory flan and because the seaweed is, well, from the sea, I went with shrimp. I incorporated the maple sugar and Telicherry peppercorns in the bacon. It was good, but I should’ve made a sauce for it and, overall, I didn’t see myself making that dish ever again. Back to the drawing board I went.

I had planned on a dessert and I WILL make it in the next few days, but then I was struck by a thought or a memory or something. I love Chinese Salt & Pepper Shrimp or Calamari. I’ve never made it, but I loooooove it. So I thought, I could make that with the Smoked Salt and Tellicherry peppercorns! That’s how this came to be. Instead of deep-frying, I pan-fried. Instead of shrimp or calamari, SALMON! I finished it up with a creamy sauce incorporating the chile panca and fennel polen. YUM!

Salt & Pepper Salmon with Fennel & Panca Cream

Salmon fillets, skinless
Smoked salt
Telicherry Peppercorns
Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cp heavy cream
1 small chile panca, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel polen
Smoked salt
Telecherry pepper

Though I love salmon skin, I chose to have it removed for this application. I started out with 2 fillets cut from the thick part of the fish, those fillets were then halved into 2-inch sections (approximately).

Grind the peppercorns; if you don’t have a spice grinder (like me), place them in a baggie, put the bag over a towel and use a rolling pin to break the peppercorns. Another alternative is to use a mortar and pestle. Combine about 1 tablespoon smoked salt and pepper.

Dip the salmon pieces in the salt/pepper mixture (top and bottom).

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat, add a swirl of olive oil and sear the salmon pieces on both sides–about 2 to 3 minutes per side depending on thickness and how done you like it. Set aside and keep warm.

Rinse out the skillet, heat over medium and add a bit of olive oil. I removed the seeds from the chili before chopping, I wasn’t looking for heat, just the fruity flavor.

Add the panca chili, stirring constantly. Add the cream and fennel polen, season with smoked salt and ground pepper. Remember the salmon will be heavily seasoned, so don’t add too much salt to the sauce. Allow it to come to a soft boil for a minute or two. Run through a blender before serving.

I grilled a few asparagus spears, poured the cream on the bottom of the plate, then came the asparagus and salmon over that. This salt is incredibly flavorful, the salmon tasted as though it had been smoked. And the peppercorns are strong! They really wake up your palate.

Finally, the creamy sauce brought it all together. It was silky, rich with a hint of sweetness from the fennel, but not at all overpowering. This one goes in the archives and you, you should really try it.

For more shots, click here.
Cookingly yours,
Anamaris