Green Chile Pork

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Who needs a super easy slow cooker recipe for the winter?  I got ya!

I love a good slow cooker recipe and this one really exemplifies what they stand for – easy to put together, easy to walk away from and delicious to eat!  Set it and forget it, right? You can adjust the heat level to your preference and serve it over rice, polenta or wrapped up in tortillas.

I’d call that a winter win!


Green Chile Pork

  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 ½ lbs pork shoulder/butt roast
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cumin
  • 1 (16-oz) jar green salsa
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped or torn, plus more for garnish
  • 2-3 jalapeños, halved and seeded, if preferred
  • 1 lime
  • radish, cilantro, cotija cheese for topping, if desired

Spread the onion across the bottom of your slow cooker, making a bed for the pork to rest on.  You can chop the onions into a large dice or strips – whatever you prefer for your end results.  I usually do a large dice as you can see here.

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Sprinkle the pork with the salt, pepper and cumin.  No amounts here – just do what feels right!  You just want a nice base of seasoning across the entire roast, all sides.  This recipe works well with any type of pork roast, shoulder or pork butt, bone-in or boneless.  Today I had a bone-in pork butt so I just keep in mind to remove any bones before shredding later.

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Place the pork in the slow cooker on top of the bed of onions.

Pour the jar of salsa (I’m partial to the Herdez brand) over the pork and add the cilantro and jalapeños.  Here’s where you can control the level of spice in your dish – the salsa can range from mild to spicy and you can remove or leave the seeds in the jalapeños.  If you are feeling extra adventurous, swap the jalapeños for serrano peppers!  I chose a medium salsa and removed seeds from the jalapeños on this one.

Time to walk away!  Cover and cook the pork on low for about 8 hours. You want the meat to be tender and easily shred when done.

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When ready, shred the pork using a couple of forks.  Remember to pull any bones out!

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Squeeze some lime juice into the pork and serve over rice or polenta.  This pork also makes some delicious tacos and quesadillas!

What’s your go-to slow cooker recipe for the winter?  Let me know!

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Full Recipe

Green Chile Pork

  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 ½ lbs pork shoulder/butt roast
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cumin
  • 1 (16-oz) jar green salsa
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped or torn, plus more for garnish
  • 2-3 jalapeños, halved and seeded, if preferred
  • 1 lime
  • radish, cilantro, cotija cheese for topping, if desired

Spread onion on bottom of slow cooker.

Sprinkle pork with salt, pepper and cumin; add to slow cooker.

Pour salsa over pork, sprinkle with cilantro, and add jalapeños.

Cook, covered, on Low until meat falls apart easily, about 8 hours.

Shred the pork and veggies using 2 forks.

Squeeze lime juice over pork.

Serve over rice or polenta.

Garnish with radish and more cilantro and cotija cheese, if desired.

RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

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You know those days when it’s time to make dinner and you got nothin’? You open the fridge… nothing.  You open the pantry… nothing. You even open the freezer hoping that in some moment of brilliance you made extra of something else and… nothing.  This recipe is a result of one of those days.

It’s like a “Chopped” Challenge – how do you take the odds and ends of what is in your kitchen and make a dinner? The initial prep went something along these lines:  the ground beef was already defrosting in the sink.  I see enough pasta in the pantry for a dinner, and that can of RoTel is calling to me.  Cheese, of course, makes everything better so we can work with that.

The first attempt was okay, not stellar, but I wrote it down and we played with the portions and flavors a bit until we had it – RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta.

And wouldn’t you know it?  It’s become a family favorite!


RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ box linguine, spaghetti, or any pasta
  • 1 can RoTel Tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 T chopped pickled jalapeno 
  • handful cilantro, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a pot of salted water up to a boil and cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 6-7 minutes.  You want it to have a pretty decent bite to it still, a healthy “chew”, as it will continue to cook in the sauce as it bakes and you don’t want it to become gummy as it bakes.  I like the linguine for this dish, the flat noodles hold the sauce really well.  However, you can use spaghetti, or really any pasta shape you like.  Drain the pasta well and set it aside when it is ready.

Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic.

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When the veggies begin to soften, add the RoTel tomatoes and continue to cook to thicken and evaporate the extra juices.

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As the meat cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the flour to form a paste and then slowly add in the milk, whisking continuously to avoid lumps.

Whisk until the sauce is thickened then add the cheese.  Continue to stir until the cheese is melted into a smooth sauce.

Combine the ground beef, cooked pasta and cheese sauce together – I just remove the beef skillet from the heat and work it all together in the pan.

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Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Add the cilantro, if using, and chopped jalapenos. Cilantro is one of those things, right?  You either love it or hate it? I’m firm in the “love” category and think that it adds a little brightness to the dish.  If you don’t care for it, or just don’t have any on hand tonight, simply skip it.  Chopped green onions or chives would be nice here as well.  If you happen to have a spicy can of RoTel tonight, you may skip the chopped jalapenos – this part is totally to your liking.

Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

This is a great place to stop and either chill or freeze.  You can stick this casserole in the fridge to cook within the next 24 hours or so, or let it cool and freeze the dish for future baking.

Bake the casserole for 20 minutes, or until it starts to bubble and brown.  From chilled, you’ll bake the dish for about 40 minutes.

Let the dish sit a few minutes before serving.

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What’s your throw-together dish that’s become a family favorite?


Full Recipe

RoTel Cheeseburger Pasta

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ box linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 can RoTel Tomatoes
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 T chopped pickled jalapeno
  • handful cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.

Cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, about 6 minutes – it will finish cooking when it is baked.

Rinse well in a strainer.

Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic.

Add the tomatoes.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Whisk in the flour.

Slowly add the milk and whisk until thickened.

Add the cheese and stir until melted.

Combine the ground beef, pasta and cheese sauce together.

Add the cilantro and jalapenos.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

**At this point, you can cool down the dish and refrigerate until cooking or freeze for future baking**

Bake for 20 minutes until it starts to bubble and brown.

**From chilled – bake for 40 minutes**

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

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I’ll start this post with a warning:  this recipe is not a quick one to prep.  It’s not difficult to put together but it does involve a lot of “chill time” before cooking.  You can, however, prep and freeze the chicken ahead of time for a quick mid-week cook!  I’ve noted in the recipe below the best place to pack up and freeze for future cooking.

Another warning: slightly mushy story about this recipe coming up.

Will and I love to have friends over for dinner.  We love to plan a full dinner from appetizers to dessert, usually having guests contribute parts of the meal, and enjoy some wine and bourbon along the way.

One Friday night mid-June, we had some friends over for dinner.  We had made the butter-stuffed chicken before and thought it was a good dish to prep ahead of time and easily cook for a dinner party. Dinner was delicious and we went outside to enjoy the night and continue conversations.  Everyone was settled and Will brought out a wine bottle to refill glasses as needed.  He looked around, said “Now that everyone has a full glass…”, dropped down to one knee on the deck of our back porch and pulled out what instantly became my most favorite ring ever.

There was nervous laughter on my part, excited exclamations from our friends, that super-cute smile of Will’s and then a very firm “YES!” from me. Champagne was popped and thus began our year of wedding prep and life of marital bliss.

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I’ve said since this day that when we move out of this house, I’m taking with me the board that Will’s knee was touching on June 15, 2012.  We’ll serve Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken for dinner the night the board finds its new home 😉


Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place the onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano and coriander in a food processor. Pulse everything together until all the veggies are a fine dice.

I love my food processor as it cuts down chopping and mixing time and effort in many situations.  We have both a 3.5- and a 7-cup size and they both get a workout frequently!  Don’t have a food processor handy?  Chop all the veggies into a fine dice from the start – since this is part of the filling inside the chicken roll-up you just want small, fairly equal sizes so that it stuffs and stays inside the chicken well.

Take one tablespoon of the butter and melt it in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute the veggie mixture in the butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook the mixture until all the moisture from the veggies evaporates – about 15 minutes or so.  Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool a bit as you move on to the next step.

Mash the cream cheese and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter together. Mix in the cilantro and lime zest.  Stir in the veggie mix then taste to check for seasoning.  Add a little salt and pepper, if needed.  Place the butter in the fridge to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

While the butter is firming back up, prepare the chicken breasts.  Place one chicken breast inside a resealable plastic bag with just about 1 teaspoon of water inside of it – the water helps the chicken to not stick to the bag as much.  Pound the chicken breast to 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick with the smooth side of a mallet.  You can also use the bottom of a heavy skillet or pan to pound the chicken down.  Repeat this with all four chicken breasts.

Once the butter if firm, divide it into quarters. Place one quarter of the butter in the center of each pounded chicken breast. Fold one end over the filling, tuck the sides of the chicken in, then continue rolling until the filling is covered.  Tightly wrap the stuffed chicken in plastic wrap and repeat the process with the remaining breasts and butter.

Chill the wrapped chicken at least one hour or as long as overnight.  If you are in a little more of a hurry, pop the wrapped chicken into the freezer until just firm.  You want the chicken breasts firm around the filling so that when they cook the chicken stays together without having to secure the meat with toothpicks.  I can never find all those toothpicks after cooking…  😉

Season the flour with salt and pepper.  Unwrap the chicken then dredge the roll-up in the flour.  Dip the roll-up into the egg, then roll in panko, pressing the panko into the chicken to coat it well.  Wrap the breaded chicken in plastic wrap again and chill to set the coating at least one hour, up to three hours.

** This is a great point to freeze any roll-ups that you don’t want to cook the same day **

Heat your oven to 450.

Heat about 1/2-inch of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  You want the oil to be about 375 degrees.  I don’t like to drag a deep-fry thermometer out so here are a couple ways to check oil temp without one:

  • Stick the handle of a wooden spoon, or use a chopstick, into the oil.  If the oil starts steadily bubbling, the oil is ready for frying.  No bubbles – keep heating.  LOTS of vigorous bubbles – let the oil cool a bit.
  • Drop a 1-inch square of bread in the oil.  If it takes about 60 seconds to brown the oil is at 365.
  • Drop a single kernel of popcorn into the oil. The kernel will pop as the oil reaches 350-360 degrees.

Fry the stuffed chicken, a couple at a time to not overcrowd the pan, until browned on all sides, about 5-6 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a rack set over a baking sheet and continue to fry/brown the rest of the chicken.  Place the rack with all the chicken breasts into the oven.  Roast the chicken until cooked through, about 18-20 minutes.  This is where you do want to grab a meat thermometer – when done, the chicken should register at 150-155.

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Let the chicken rest a couple minutes before slicing and serving so that the stuffing has a chance to settle a bit – if it is too hot when you slice the lovely juices will run out and you’ll end up with a messy, drier chicken breast.

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The stuffing can be changed up several different ways to swap out the flavors.  Simply leave the butter/cream cheese base the same and mix up the veggies – maybe a little drained spinach and feta?  Green bell pepper and mushrooms?  Sweet cherry peppers and olives?  How would you change it up?


Full Recipe

Mexican Butter-Stuffed Chicken

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon minced fresh lime zest
  • four boneless skinless chicken breast, 6 to 7 ounces each
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cups panko

Place onion, poblano, jalapeno, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, and coriander in a food processor.

Process until everything is a fine dice.

Sauté vegetable mixture in 1 T butter over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper.

Cook until moisture evaporates, about 15 minutes.

Set aside to cool a little.

Mash cream cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, cilantro and lime zest together.

Stir in veggie mix.

Season with salt and pepper.

Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, then quarter.

Pound chicken breast to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick one at a time inside a resealable plastic bag with 1 teaspoon water using the smooth side of a mallet.

Stuff chicken breast by placing a quarter of the filling in the center of each pounded breast.

Fold the end over the filling tucking the sides then continue rolling until the filling is covered.

Tightly wrap the stuffed breasts in plastic wrap and repeat stuffing and wrapping with remaining breasts.

Chill breasts at least one hour or as long as overnight, or freeze just until firm.

Season the flour with salt and pepper.

Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour, then dip into egg, then roll in panko, pressing to coat.

Wrap the breaded breasts in plastic wrap and chill to set the coating at least one hour or up to three hours

**Freeze any wrapped chicken breasts you do not wish to cook today**

Heat oven to 450.

Fry the stuffed breasts in ½ inch of canola oil heated to 375°, until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.

After browning, transfer breasts to a rack set over a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Roast stuffed breasts until an instant read thermometer inserted into the chicken registers 155°, 18-20 minutes.

Mango Jalapeño Pork Tenderloin

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Summertime = grill time. Just about every night we can step out into our backyard and if our grill isn’t fired up, we can smell another one somewhere in the neighborhood. The smells of summer!

We like to keep our grilling recipes pretty simple.  Case in point, this tenderloin is an easy,  but extremely flavorful option for summer nights.  Will sous vides the tenderloin as it marinates in a Mango Jalapeño jelly and then bastes again before grilling.  Simple, yet delicious!

What’s your favorite thing to grill during the summer?


Mango Jalapeño Pork Tenderloin

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lb pork tenderloin
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Mango Jalapeño jelly

Take a few paper towels and blot the tenderloin to remove any excess moisture.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Cover the tenderloin with the Mango Jalapeño jelly.  Place in a vacuum-seal or air-tight storage back to sous vide.

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A couple notes here:

First, pork (as well as chicken) is great with any “sweet heat” baste – a fruit base with anywhere from mild to spicy pepper kick.  Here, we are using Turtlefly Fields’s Mango Jalapeño jelly as the baste.  Turtlefly Fields* also makes a Pineapple Habanero, Raspberry Jalapeño and plain Jalapeño that would also be very nice on the pork.

Secondly, in this recipe we are using the sous vide method to cook the tenderloin before grilling.  Alternately, you could grill the tenderloin with just the salt and pepper seasoning, then baste the jelly on the tenderloin as it reaches an internal temperature of 150°.  Adding the jelly earlier will cause the sugar to burn, leaving a not-as-nice bitter taste to the baste.

*(Disclaimer:  Turtlefly Fields is owned and operated by myself and my sister, Laura)

We set the temperature on our sous vide to 150 and let it do it’s thing for a couple hours. If you haven’t tried sous vide… look in to it!  Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” and is the process of cooking food to a precise temperature in a water bath.  This method allows you to cook food to the exact level of doneness you select and keeps meats extremely juicy and moist.  We have the Anova Precision Cooker and have fallen in love with this method!

Remove the tenderloin from the sous vide bag and glaze again with the jelly.

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Grill on the hot side of the grill with direct heat to sear all sides of the tenderloin.

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Remove the tenderloin and let it rest a couple minutes. Slice the tenderloin on a bias.  If desired, thin a small about of the jelly with a touch of water and brush over the tenderloin slices for one last hit of flavor.  The glaze also makes for a nice presentation 🙂

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Serve it up!

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Full Recipe

Mango Jalapeño Pork Tenderloin

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lb pork tenderloin
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Mango Jalapeño jelly

Blot the tenderloin with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the tenderloin with the Mango Jalapeño jelly and seal in a plastic bag.

Sous vide to 150°.

Remove tenderloin from the bag and cover again with jelly.

Grill over direct heat to sear all sides.

Remove tenderloin from the grill and let it rest a couple of minutes.

Cut on a bias and baste with a thinned mix of jelly, if desired.

 

Polenta-Crusted Fish and Cilantro Risotto

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Summer- summer- summertime!  Yeah!

Does everyone just pause and take a breath when summertime hits?  Being in the world of education, I can tell you I do!  Even though I work throughout the summer, once the break hits for students and teachers everything just mellows out a bit.  Days are longer so there isn’t a rush to run those errands post-work and before heading home.  Fridays off mean that I can join those summer revelers a little bit and still have a weekend.  Road trips come a little easier.  It’s hot out… but it’s supposed to be, amiright?

Summer dinners also lighten up.  Crockpots are put away and grills are brought to the forefront.  Heavy stick-to-your-ribs dinners make way for salads, kabobs and, as we have here, fish.  I love fish. I love my fisherman husband and his knowledge of how to catch and prepare fish.  Fried, baked, grilled, sashimi, sushi, ceviche… we could go all Forest Gump here in the multitude of ways we can cook fish but today we going to focus on a winning style we found on our Honeymoon.

Just about five years ago (this Friday!) Will and I said our “I dos” and then headed out for a week of fun and sun in Costa Rica.  It was such a memorable, exciting trip filled with many, many great meals.  One of my absolute favorites came from a meal provided after an excursion.  Several places offer a breakfast before or lunch after their scheduled activities so we weren’t surprised that the zipline adventure we chose provided lunch at the end.  We made our way out to MidWorld Costa Rica and had an absolute blast on our zipline courses.  If you ever travel to the Manuel Antonio area of Costa Rica, do yourself a favor and look them up.  They have several fun options including ziplines and four-wheeler routes, are so professional and friendly, offer the longest double-cabled line in Central America (the Superman) that give amazing views of the landscape and, as a major bonus, have great food!  The lunch we were provided was so good – we even had to get a little information about it from the chef before leaving MidWorld.  We feasted on fish, plantains and the typical gallo pinto found accompanying most meals in Costa Rica.

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The fish is what really got me.  (Obviously, as I had to remind myself to put the fork down and snap a quick pic of it!)  It was so simple but had the perfect, light fry to it that makes for a great summer meal.  When we asked the chef she simply said “polenta, salt and pepper”.  Without the heavy breading of a flour-based coating the fish was left to shine and truly made for a meal that I remember often.

We’ve made this polenta-crusted fish now several times.  Here, we forgo the gallo pinto (which is soooo good we will have to devote a whole other post to) and sub in Cilantro Risotto, another summertime fave of mine.  Polenta-crusted fish always satisfies – both in taste and in memories recalled.


Polenta-Crusted Fish and Cilantro Risotto

For the fish:

  • fish fillets – grouper, snapper, tilefish, etc
  • s&p
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T of water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • ¼ – ½ cup veggie or frying oil

For the Jalapeño Cream Sauce:

  • 3-4 jalapeños, roasted, seeded and sliced
  • ½-1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (fresh or roasted)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼-½ cup cream
  • Salt & pepper

For the Cilantro Risotto:

  • 6 cup chicken stock
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T onion, finely diced
  • 5 small cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ cup arborio rice*
  • 1 cup white wine (pour it, then let it sit on the counter as you start prepping)
  • ¼ tsp salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

For the purposes of cooking this meal all together, we will start with the Jalapeño Cream Sauce so it can chill in the fridge and allow the flavors to all meld together.  Then we’ll move on to the risotto and then quickly wrap up with cooking the fish.

A quick note regarding risotto:  it is a labor of love.  Risotto-making really is a simple process – start with onions, toast your grains, slowly add warm liquid and let it absorb in and develop the starch as you stir.  You are somewhat shackled to the stove as you stir but the results lend itself to a silky, creamy rice dish that looks so impressive as it pours out on a plate.  You can easily swap out the flavors but the process remains the same – toast, slowly add warm liquid, stir until absorbed, add more liquid, repeat.  Try it out – you’ll impress yourself and your dinner guests!

Alright – let’s cook.

Start with the Jalapeño Cream Sauce:  you’ll need 3-4 roasted jalapeños to start with.  Simply place your jalapeños on the grill or beneath a broiler until the skin starts to blister and blacken.  When they are all blistered up, put them in a bowl and cover them with saran wrap or a towel for a few minutes so that they steam and the skin loosens from the meat a bit.  After a few minutes, you should be able to slide the charred skin off of the pepper “meat”.  Then, simply slice them open to remove and discard the seeds.

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Place the jalapeños, cilantro and garlic in a food process and pulse until you have a smooth consistency.  You may add a little olive oil as you puree, if needed, to keep the consistency smooth.  Blend in the sour cream and lime juice. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to your taste.  Place the sauce in  the fridge for later use.

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Now, start the risotto.

In a medium pot over medium heat, warm the chicken stock.  If you are going for a vegetarian risotto, sub in veggie stock here.  Two things about the stock:  First, please do not use water as a replacement.  This is your chance to sneak some great flavor into the rice. Use a low-sodium stock so that you can control the salt added in to the dish as you cook.  Second, make sure you warm up with stock.  If you were to add in a cold/cool stock to the rice as you cook, you are dropping the temperature of the dish, bringing it back up, dropping the temp down, etc.  Keep your liquid warm for a consistent cooking temperature that will keep your risotto rocking until the end.

Heat a large skillet with edges (you’ll be stirring quite a bit and want those sides to help you keep in all contained) over medium-high heat.  Add the butter, onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent.

Add the arborio rice and saute, stirring until the rice is slightly toasted.

*Why arborio rice? Arboria is a short-grained rice full of starch. It’s a short, fat, oval-shape rather than the longer, rod-shape of traditional rice.  As you cook and stir, the release of the starch is what gives risotto its signature creaminess.  You won’t get quite the same effect with a traditional white rice.

When toasted, add the white wine to the pan and stir until most of the wine has been absorbed.

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Notice my setup here with the risotto pan and the stock pot?  Keep the stock close, you’re gonna need it!

Add about a cup, or a good ladle-full, of warm stock to the risotto.  Stir constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed.  For this first ladle-full, you want to stir constantly and it will absorb somewhat quickly.  Keep stirring until you can pull the rice back and the liquid doesn’t instantly fill the track in, as pictured below.

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Add another 1/2- to 3/4- ladle-full to the skillet stir until the liquid absorbs into the rice. As you add liquid, you will be able to back off on the stirring a bit as it won’t absorb as quickly.  But don’t wander off – keep an eye on the skillet so that it never completely absorbs all the liquid. You don’t want the rice to sit on the hot skillet and form a crust along the bottom.  Keep it moist and moving so that the starch of the rice creates a creamy, silky texture as it cooks.  When you pull back the risotto with the spoon and can see that track along the pan, it’s time for more stock.

You will repeat this process until the rice is al dente, or to your desired texture.  This usually take about an hour or so, depending on heat levels and the texture you want to achieve.  I like my risotto to be just a little past al dente – still leaving a bit of a bite to the rice.

When it looks like you are reaching the end of risotto-stirring, grab the Jalapeño Cream Sauce from the fridge and place it in a small pot over low heat.  Whisk it up with the cream until you have your desired temperature and consistency. Check your seasoning again and set it aside for topping later.

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Now, prep your fish fillets so that they are ready to cook:

Make sure your fish fillets are cleaned and bone-free.  Here, we had a nice grouper Will cleaned up and portioned out for dinner but we have also used tilefish and snapper in this preparation.  Any flaky, firm white fish is perfect for polenta-crusting.  Lightly season the fish with salt and pepper.  Grab two shallow bowls – one for the polenta seasons with salt and pepper, the other to whisk in the egg and water for a light egg wash.

Lightly dredge the fish fillets in the egg wash, then the seasoned polenta.  You want just a light covering on the fish, not a thick crust at all.  Set this aside on a plate until you are ready to pan fry the fillets.

Back to the risotto:

When the rice has reached your desired texture and consistency, remove it from the heat. Add the parmesan cheese and black pepper.  Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

Fold in the chopped cilantro and serve the risotto warm!

Finally… let’s finish the fish.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cover the bottom of the skillet with a light coat of oil, just so the oil is about 1/4-inch thick across the bottom.

Pan fry the fillets in the skillet, about 3-4 minutes on each side, just until they are golden brown.

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Top the fillets with the Jalapeño Cream Sauce and serve with Cilantro Risotto!

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*As you can see here, the scallops looked so good in the fish market we just had to grab a couple to serve as well!  A couple tips for cooking scallops:  First, pat them dry with a paper towel before seasoning and placing in the pan.  If they are wet, the scallops will steam rather than sear.  Second, sear them for just about 90 seconds on each side with a little butter in a screaming hot pan.  You want a crust, but you don’t want to cook them all the way through so that they become tough or chewy.

We hope you enjoy this recipe!  It’s a favorite in our house that always brings back some good memories of Honeymoonin’ in Costa Rica.  What are some of your food-related travel memories?


Full Recipes

Polenta-Crusted Fish

  • Fillet fish – grouper, snapper, tilefish
  • s&p
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T of water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • ¼ – ½ cup veggie or frying oil

Make sure fish fillets are cleaned and bone-free, lightly season with salt and pepper.

Season the polenta with salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.

Whisk together the egg and water in a shallow bowl.

Lightly dredge the fillets in the egg wash.

Lightly dredge the fillets in the seasoned polenta – this is a light covering, not a thick crust.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat.

Cover the bottom of the skillet with a light coat of oil, just about ¼-inch thick.

Pan fry the fillets in the skillet, about 3-4 minutes per side, just until golden brown.

Jalapeño Cream Sauce

  • 3-4 jalapeños, roasted, seeded and sliced
  • ½-1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼-½ cup cream
  • Salt & pepper

Puree the jalapeños, cilantro and garlic in a food processor until smooth.  

Add a little EVOO as you puree, if needed, for a smoother consistency.

Blend in the sour cream and lime juice.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed.

Before serving, place sauce in a small pan over medium-low heat.

Whisk in cream as it warms to desired consistency, checking for seasoning.

Cilantro Risotto

  • 6 cup chicken stock
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T onion, finely diced
  • 5 small cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ¼ tsp salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

In a medium pot over medium heat, warm the chicken stock.

In a large skillet, add butter, onions and garlic.

Saute over medium heat until onions are translucent.

Add rice and saute, stirring until rice is slightly toasted.

Add the white wine and cook until the wine is absorbed.

Add 1 cup of chicken stock stir constantly until liquid is absorbed.

Keep adding chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until all chicken stock has been used and absorbed into the rice.

Once rice is al dente and to desired texture, remove from the heat and add parmesan cheese, salt & pepper.

Stir until well combined.

Fold in cilantro and serve warm.