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From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa has been awarded the honor of "WINNER" in the "Cookbooks: International" category of the 2014 International Book Awards!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Azteca Style Chicken or Mexican Style Chicken

This is one of my friend Laraina's favorite recipes. Azteca Style chicken looks complicated at first sight but happily once you assemble your ingredients mise en place (a French phrase which means "everything in place") it goes together and cooks quickly. It will take more time to assemble the ingredients than to actually prepare this delicious chicken.

Azteca Style is a broad category and is just another way to say Mexican Style. But it does sound more exotic, doesn't it?
More about mise en place: most of the Mexican cooks that I know have small to tiny kitchens with almost no workable counter space and ingredients are stored in many locations. So, they need to arrange all of their ingredients prior to actually cooking the dish. This method is also used in the culinary world by professional chefs. Once the meal begins to cook, there is no time to seek out the ingredient, measure it or find out you are missing one of the vital parts of the recipe. These Mexican cooks taught me this technique early on and I use it every time I either cook or bake something and it has saved 'my bacon' on more than one occasion!


(don't let this list scare you!) I have divided the list into sections that you will prepare individually.  (this should make it less daunting)

6 Tablespoons chilled butter, divided usage (2 Tbls; 4 Tbls)
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil or mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1-1/2 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar or good quality red wine vinegar, divided usage (1/2 cup; 1/4 cup)

1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided usage (1/2 tsp; 1-1/2 tsp)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided usage

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, diced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted oil-cured black olives
1/4 cup drained capers, rinsed
1/4 cup dry Sherry
1/3 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 Teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, or 1/3 teaspoon dried
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with the vegetable (or olive) oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions; cook until deep brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Pour in 1/2 cup vinegar; cook until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer these caramelized onions to small bowl.

Preheat oven to warm - about 200°F (95°C). Mix salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and pepper in small bowl. Rub the chicken breasts all over with this spice mixture. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken breasts, skin side down. Sauté until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to baking sheet. Keep warm in oven.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté 20 seconds. Add the caramelized onions (from step 1), 1/4 cup vinegar, tomato, olives, capers, and Sherry. Cook until liquid reduces slightly, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin, chicken broth, lime juice, sage, thyme, and rosemary. Add avocado and cook until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add 4 tablespoons butter and stir until blended into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Place 1 chicken breast on each of 6 plates; spoon sauce over.

Serve this delicious Azteca Style Chicken with rice or mashed potatoes and your favorite fresh vegetable salad.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How to Pasteurize an Egg

Because many recipes call for raw beaten egg yolks or whites, I thought today would be a good day to chat about what you can do kill those pesky salmonella bacteria that might be present. One of my favorite and well used books is Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher. If you don't have one, check it out at your local library, it is chock-full of information. The book is more the science behind food than a cookbook and is a fascinating read.

Although the information I am talking about today is available all over the internet, I chose to use Mrs. Corriher's book as my reference guide.

Many foods from mayonnaise to ice cream include raw eggs, either whites, yolks or both in the recipes. I love to make my own mayonnaise for instance, but I don't feel comfortable using raw eggs. So I pasteurize them myself. I also don't like those eggs in a refrigerator carton, you know like the ones milk comes in. There is just something that makes me gag about having pourable eggs.

To pasteurize a whole egg, you are going to love how easy this is, you only need to put the room temperature egg in hot water 145°F (63°C) for 3.5 minutes – yes 3½ minutes. They can be in the water up to 5 minutes. I personally do it for 4 minutes – always being cautious. Make sure to use a thermometer to keep the water temp correct. After the time is up, drain the water off and allow the egg to come to room temperature before refrigerating or using. Word of warning, eggs cook at 180°F (82°C) so watch your temperature, and they won't pasteurize under 145°F (63°C).

You can also pasteurize just the yolks individually. (this excerpt is from Cookwise) “Heat 2 egg yolks and ¼ cup liquid from the recipe – for example, lemon juice and water in mayonnaise or cream in truffles – and ½ teaspoon sugar in a small skillet over very low heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan constantly with a spatula. At the first sign of thickening, remove the pan from the heat, but continue stirring and dip the pan bottom in a larger pan of cold water to stop the cooking. Use in the recipe instead of raw yolks.”

Now you do not have to be afraid of those raw egg recipes. I normally pasteurize 6 eggs at a time and keep them in a covered plastic container in the refrigerator separate from the unpasteurized eggs. I almost always have pasteurized eggs on hand for any last minute recipe I want to make.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lime Mosquito Repellent

What do limes and mosquitoes have in common?

Answer: Nothing – they hate each other...........want to know more? Ok, I'll tell you.

Living in the tropics has many wonderful aspects and living in the tropics has things that drive you crazy! For me, I HATE bugs and insects! Actually, hate is not a strong enough word for how I feel about those pesky, annoying and disgusting creatures. One that I truly hate is the mosquito. Being in a humid climate for many months during the year, you learn to live in harmony with these little buzzers. Yeah.....dream on!
The other night in bed I was awakened by something crawling on my arm. After Pete had loosened my fingernail grip from the ceiling, we saw a huge cockroach on the bed! Cockroaches here are about 1-1/2 inches long and they bite. I was not bitten thank goodness, and was ever so thankful that it was not a scorpion who decided to share our bed. Needless to say, all the covers were removed from the bed, checked in all the nooks and crannies around the bed and deemed it safe to go back to sleep- with the light on of course! Just as I was finally dozing off, I heard bzzzzzzzz in my ear! Geez, now the mosquitoes are here too! Being the mosquito magnet that I am, I flew down the stairs to the kitchen, cut a lime and rubbed it all over my head, arms, neck, legs and feet. I was NOT going to get a mosquito bite tonight!

In the morning I did two things. First, to Pete's protests that it is too early in the season, I put up the mosquito netting around our bed. I need to get some sleep after all. Second, I blitzed three whole limes in the blender with some water, strained it and put it into my ever present spray bottle. I may smell like a citrus drink, but I won't get any mosquito bites!

If you are also a mosquito magnet, then you are well aware of that fact. I have tried so many 'guaranteed to work' sprays, candles, vitamins, and food (I have eaten so much garlic I can keep vampires at bay just with my breath), that I have lost count. I do not however, ever use chemical sprays.

I have resorted to mosquito netting in all the important areas of my home. Surrounding the veranda, around my patio table and totally encasing my bed, floor to ceiling!

My poor husband just cringes each time I tell him I am going to the fabric store. He knows I will come home with another 30 yards of netting and enough Velcro to cover the city. Then, of course, it is his job to put it up! After all, it is the least he can do for the 'mosquito magnet'.

Mosquito season here takes off around June and lasts until May. There are certain times of year that are not too bad, but why take chances?

About a month ago, I was visiting with Doña Carmen, a 93 year old friend I have come to adore. She stands about 4' tall, weighs about 80 pounds and briskly walks the 5 blocks to her neighborhood grocery store every day. She is a wealth of knowledge and always makes me laugh.

We were sitting on her porch having tea and cake, which she still makes from scratch, and the mosquitoes were particularly annoying that day. I was batting them, squishing them, smacking them on my arms and legs, one even bit me on the forehead! Darned mosquitoes! I had, however, noticed that she was not being bothered by them. Some people just don't have that attraction.

She asked if I had rubbed my skin with lime before I came over. I starting laughing and told her no that I had never rubbed limes on my skin. I normally put my limes in food and drinks. Well, she looked at me like I was from outer space, stomped into the kitchen, cut a lime in half and ordered me to rub it all over my exposed skin. Being a polite guest, I smiled and rubbed the lime all over my arms, legs and forehead. I had lime pulp everywhere. Then I noticed something, I wasn't getting buzzed anymore. Maybe there really was something to this. But something had to be done about all that pulp hanging on me. I looked like I had pustules ready to pop at any second.

Being the skeptic that I am, I needed further testing. I came home, blitzed a couple of limes in the blender. I had to add some water to make it blitz well. Strained it through several layers of cheesecloth and put it in a spray bottle. Sure smelled nice.

Every time I went outside, no matter where I was going, I would spray myself with the lime juice and rub it in. I always smelled fresh too.

I tested this method for a month. During humidity ratings of 89% to 94% we certainly had our share of mosquitoes.  But, I did not get even one bite in all that time! I thought maybe there was something about the mosquitoes at this particular time of year, perhaps they weren't as blood thirsty. As a test, I put the lime juice all over my arms, neck, face, ears, and one leg, leaving the other one vulnerable. Sure enough, the minute I walked outside, I got a bite on that one leg. I ran back into the house and applied the lime juice to the naked leg and again I was protected.

To summarize: If you are a 'mosquito magnet', you know who you are, get yourselves 3 key limes, scrub them up, toss them in the blender with about a cup of water and blitz away. Strain it through 6 layers of cheesecloth and pour it into a spray bottle. I keep mine in the fridge because I don't know what the shelf life is if I leave it on the counter.

The moral I guess to this story is, if you have an elderly friend or family member who gives you 'insider tips', listen and be respectful even if you don't believe a word, because they may just teach you something you didn't know!


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