Bacon, Blue Cheese and Baby Red Potato Salad


Bacon, Blue Cheese and Baby Red Potato Salad | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a recipe based on a product that I [should not have] discovered at the deli counter in our local Pick’n Save grocery store. After trying a sample and gleefully purchasing a one-pound container, I hauled-ass home and proceeded to eat most of it in one sitting — and then spent the remainder of the day in a self-induced food coma watching M.A.S.H. reruns on TV Land.

Yeah, it’s that good.

This recipe took three tries to get right. The time spent reverse-engineering it was definitely worth the hassle. Share with friends at your next outdoor BBQ. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds baby red potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese  – don’t skimp on quality here, folks
5 strips bacon, cooked crispy and then crumbled
3/4 cup mayo* (please, do this dish justice and don’t go with the low-fat version)
1/2 cup sour cream
Up to 1/4 cup peppercorn-ranch dressing, to taste*
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 tbs. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. sugar
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
3 stalks scallion, finely sliced, including the greens
1/2 garden red bell pepper, finely chopped

 

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and scrub the baby red potatoes and set aside. Leave the skins on. Bring four quarts of water to boil in a stock pot. Add one teaspoon salt. Cook the potatoes for about 14-15 minutes, until fork-tender. Rinse with cold water and cut into eighths. Set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, in a separate mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Add the cooked potatoes and gently fold together until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving so the flavors have time to set up. It’s best if left to sit overnight.

*You may compensate if the dressing is a bit dry by adding more mayo or peppercorn ranch.

Serves 4-6

Garden Red Bell Pepper | Culinary Compost Recipes

2017 garden bell pepper – I’ve had the best luck growing these in five-gallon buckets placed on my back patio.

Browning Bacon in a Cast-Iron Skillet | Culinary Compost Recipes

Mmmmm….. BACON.

 

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Asian Candied Almonds


Asian Candied Almonds | Culinary Compost Recipes

 

After experimenting with a glaze that was actually meant for chicken wings, I decided to also make candied almonds with it. This recipe is Asian inspired; the deep, complex flavor comes from just a bit of Sriracha and soy sauce with sesame oil. Let the glazed almonds set up in the fridge before adding the remaining brown sugar so it will adhere better.

Enjoy! I guarantee you’ll be eating more than one handful.

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Blue Diamond® whole natural almonds
1/4 stick salted butter, melted
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbs. sriracha sauce
1 tbs. honey
1 tsp. garlic powder (not salt!)
1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke seasoning
1 tsp. sesame oil
4 tbs. brown sugar for the glaze coating

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 300° F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, melt the butter for 20 seconds in your microwave. Add the remaining ingredients except for the almonds. Beat with a spatula for two minutes until thoroughly combined. Add the almonds and mix well.

Line a large cookie sheet with baker’s parchment paper and fold the edges up to form a lip on all four sides. Spread out the almond glaze mixture on the paper.

Bake uncovered for 12-14 minutes. There is no need to turn them. Remove and let cool slightly on your stovetop.

Spoon the mixture into a colander and let the excess glaze run off. Transfer to a covered bowl and place in your fridge for 1/2 hour to set up.

After a half hour, sprinkle 4 tbs. brown sugar over the top and fold in with a spatula until all of the nuts are evenly coated.

Serves 6

NOTE: If you bake the almonds any longer than the time indicated, you risk scorching the butter. Watch them carefully when baking.

 

Mike’s Mesquite-Grilled Chicken Tortilla Soup


Mike's Mesquite-Grilled Chicken Tortilla Soup | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is my original version of a Mexican classic, with a bit of southwest flair infused by New Mexican Hatch chili powder and mesquite wood smoke. As a shortcut, you can fry the chicken in a pan or just boil it before shredding, but why would you want to? Taking the extra time by preparing it on the grill adds an entirely new dimension to this satisfying dish. On a related note, blackening or charring the tomatoes, tomatillos and poblano pepper is essential for the depth of flavor needed — do not skip this step.

I absolutely love this recipe! I hope you do too.


INGREDIENTS:

For the Chicken Marinade~
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 large cloves garlic, crushed then minced
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1/2 cup XV olive oil
1 tsp. ground coriander
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

For the Tortilla Soup~
4 tbs. XV olive oil
32 oz. chicken broth
1 tsp. dry chicken base
4 large cloves crush garlic, minced
2 tbs. pure mild New Mexican Hatch red chili powder
1 tsp. ground Mexican oregano
1 tbs. chipotle en adobo sauce
1 tbs. ground cumin, preferably from toasted seed
4 medium tomatoes, charred (2 10-oz. cans Rotel® fired diced tomatoes may be used as a substitute)
2 large tomatillos, charred and cored
1 large poblano chili, charred and diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 charred six-inch corn tortillas (preferably home-made) cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 14.5 oz. can black beans
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

Garnish With~
2 charred six-inch corn tortillas (preferably home-made) cut into 1/4″ strips
2 Haas avocados, cut in 1/2″ strips
Mike’s Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema
Chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
Thinly-sliced red onion or green scallion
Shredded Mexican Cotija cheese (Nuestro Queso is an excellent brand)

You’ll also need mesquite wood chips for the grill; about 3/4 cup

 

PREPARATION:

The night before, prepare the chicken marinade so the flavor has time to set up. Pound the chicken breasts flat by using a spiked meat mallet. This will ensure that they cook evenly on the grill and allow the wood smoke to penetrate the meat. Place them in a ziplock storage bag. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour in with the chicken. Seal tightly and double bag it using another plastic storage bag to prevent leaks. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

The next day, prepare an outdoor charcoal fire on a kettle grill. Use real lump charcoal, not briquettes. Prior to lighting the fire, soak a handful of mesquite chips in a bowl of water for about two hours. You only need a little as the flavor from the mesquite smoke is very intense. Place the soaked chips directly on the white-hot coals.

Grill the chicken over direct heat for about four minutes per side, ensuring that they have a nice crusty char on each side. Remove and let cool on a plate. You need not be concerned if they are a bit underdone. They will continue to cook in the pot in the next step.

While the chicken is cooling, heat a 5-quart cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until soft taking care not to scorch the garlic.  Dice the charred tomatoes and tomatillos and add to the pot. Increase the heat to medium, and stir occasionally for another 5 minutes.

Next, add the chicken broth, the New Mexican Hatch chili powder, chicken base, chipotle adobo sauce, Mexican oregano, salt and pepper. Increase the heat and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the soup is simmering, cut up the charred tortillas and add them to the pot.

Carefully transfer this mixture to a blender and pulse until smooth. Return the ingredients to the pot.

Prepare the poblano pepper by charring it with a propane torch or stovetop gas burner. Dice and add to the pot. Using two forks, shred the chicken and add to the pot.

Drain the canned black beans and rinse in a colander with hot water. Simmer them in the soup for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve with the garnish ingredients indicated. Leftovers freeze wonderfully.

Serves 4-6

 

Note: Use extreme caution if using a propane torch indoors.  I would highly recommend using a cast-iron pan on your stovetop as a makeshift heat-shield.

Tomatillos and Garden Jalapenos | Culinary Compost Recipes

Hand-Ground Cumin Toasted From Seed | Culinary Compost RecipesMesquite-Grilled Chicken Breasts | Culinary Compost RecipesFire-Roasted Tomatillos and Poblano Chili | Culinary Compost RecipesFired Tortilla Shells | Culinary Compost RecipesMesquite-Grilled Chicken Tortilla Soup | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pico de Gallo Salsa


Pico de Gallo Salsa | Culinary Compost Recipes

 

This is a classic chopped salsa which means “Beak of the Rooster” in Spanish. It is traditionally quite spicy due to the serrano chilis. You will not find it this way in most restaurants, as they invariably default to a very mild salsa for mass appeal, which I think is a big mistake. Chop the ingredients by hand using a very sharp knife. You’ll need that keen edge so you can ensure precise cuts and not risk mashing the tomatoes. Also ensure the ingredients are chopped uniformly, so the color and texture stand out. Let sit for a half hour before serving so the flavors have time to incorporate. If you must put it in the fridge, do so only after trying to use most of it — the cold kills the flavor and texture, and it sadly won’t be as good the next day.

Enjoy – this is a classic that I serve with many recipes. It never fails to please.


INGREDIENTS:

2 medium-sized plum tomatoes
10 garden cherry tomatoes, preferably yellow/orange for color contrast
1 cup loose-packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 large serrano chilis – fired using a propane torch
2 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 tsp. salt, to taste
Dash of fresh-squeezed lime juice, to taste


DIRECTIONS:

Cut the ingredients into 1/4″ sized chunks. Do not use a food processor. Place in a mixing bowl. Stem and fire the serrano chilis. Then coarsely-chop them and leave the seeds intact.
Crush and finely-mince the garlic. Add with the salt and lime juice.  Toss gently and let stand at room temperature before serving.

NOTE: You may need to remove a bit of the water left after standing for 1/2 hour. This is a normal reaction to salt. Compensate by adding a bit more lime juice after this separation.

Makes just over two cups.

Baja Fish Tacos


Baja Fish Tacos | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is my spin on a classic recipe from west coast Baja Mexico. I have had it served with both halibut and mahi-mahi. The ocean fish is traditionally breaded and deep-fried, but you can also get it grilled. I like it both ways, but the deep fried version is more authentic. Choose only the freshest fish — it should be market fresh and no more than a day old. Here in Wisconsin, you may have to settle for Atlantic cod fish, as halibut and mahi-mahi are extremely hard to find.  Charred corn tortillas are traditionally a staple with this recipe. The bright color and vibrant flavors are perfect for summer get-togethers. Enjoy-

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound fresh, firm ocean whitefish like halibut or mahi-mahi (you may substitute Atlantic cod fish in a pinch)

For the Beer Batter~
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup cornmeal (masa)
12 oz. Mexican lager beer (Dos Equis)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs. ground ancho chili powder
1 tsp. ground chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin, from toasted seed
1 tsp. garlic granules
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
2 tsp. baking powder

Top With~
Finely-sliced red cabbage
Diced avocado
Chopped cilantro
Mike’s Pico de Gallo salsa
Mike’s Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema
Your choice of Mexican hot table sauce

Six-inch fresh corn tortillas; preferably home-made, charred over a gas stove burner or with a propane torch
1 quart peanut oil for frying

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the salsa and set aside for an hour in the fridge. Prepare the crema and set aside in your fridge for at least two hours for the flavors to set.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the batter ingredients. Mix until just smooth and set aside for one hour before cooking.

Cut up the fish into 1/2″ by 2″ chunks and allow to sit on a serving plate, blotted with paper towel. Ensure most of the moisture is removed from the fish before frying. You may need to switch out the paper towel when it becomes saturated.

Next, place the fish pieces in the batter and evenly coat.

Heat a 4-quart cast-iron chicken fryer over medium heat with 1 quart of peanut oil. When the oil is ready for frying, a drop of cold water should sizzle on contact.
Working in batches, carefully place 10 to 12 pieces of battered fish in the fryer and cook until darkly-golden brown. Remove promptly with a strainer and set aside on paper towel to drain.

Serve over charred corn tortillas with the red cabbage, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, Pico de Gallo salsa, Mexican crema and hot sauce.

Serves 4-6

NOTE: For a crunchier coating, reserve the Panko bread crumbs in a separate mixing bowl and double the volume to one cup.  After dipping the fish chunks in the batter, roll in the Panko crumbs, then deep-fry as shown.

Baja Fish Tacos | Culinary Compost Recipes

A four-quart cast-iron chicken fryer is ideal for this recipe. You only need a couple inches of peanut oil.

 

Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema


Mexican Chipotle-Lime Crema Sauce | Culinary Compost Recipes

My version of a classic Mexican cream sauce, kicked up with zippy chipotle adobo and fresh-squeezed lime juice.

This condiment is a must on authentic Baja fish tacos. You can also serve it with huevos rancheros or as a dipping sauce for a variety of other needs. Double the recipe if you need more. Will keep for at least a week in your fridge.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo (please do this dish justice and don’t use the low-fat version)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbs. + 1/2 tsp. San Marcos chipotle adobo sauce
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Buttermilk (used as a thinner, if necessary)

 

Place the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously for two minutes. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk.
Either serve in a dish or place in a plastic squeeze bottle. Refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Makes one cup.

Blueberry Dump Cake


Blueberry Dump Cake | Culinary Compost Recipes
A confession for my fellow foodies — I’m here to talk about dumps. Specifically, dumps that make people sniff, stand up and take notice. Dumps surreptitiously snuck in at the last minute of a highbrow dinner party, completely sideswiping hapless guests… Dumps that effortlessly upstage that atrocious concoction your Aunt Edna hastily left after the annual booster’s club meeting.

Dumps that make you question yourself “Holy Crap, why didn’t I think of that before I tried my half-assed attempt at a dump?!!?”

In retrospect, it’s hard — I’ll admit I’ve tried to make a few dumps and sadly, they fell short of achieving their intended effect — be it stress, public interruption, lack of focus or creative endeavor. Invariably, I was flushed with envy. However, I finally got my **** together and never looked back.  (Hey, what passed in the past is the past.)

Trust me… try this foolproof recipe (if you can actually call it that) and guests will run to you, screaming “Who just made that %#€@&!$ Dump?!!?”

It’s a Wisconsin classic. Enjoy—

 

Ingredients:

1 16.5 oz. box of yellow cake mix
1 21-oz. can of blueberry pie filling
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 stick of butter
1 Hail-Mary, hoping this half-assed podunk culinary hack will actually work

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Dump the can of blueberry pie filling on the bottom of a 9.5 x 13 cake pan.  Spread out with a spatula. Dump and spread the crushed pineapple over the pie filling and top with 3/4 of the fresh blueberries. Evenly sprinkle the dry cake mix over the top of the fruit. Melt 3/4 of the butter stick and drizzle over the cake mix.

Cube the remaining butter in 1/8″ chunks and place over any remaining dry cake mix.
Sprinkle the rest of the fresh blueberries on top of the cake mix.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake topping is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, let stand five minutes and serve warm over vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4-6