Why good cooking is dangerous.

My go-to dish when we eat at any Mexican restaurant is Chili Rellenos.   I had them somewhere once upon a time stuffed with a blend of cheese and potatoes, which made my little Irish potato loving self think that was quite possibly the best version ever.  I’ve tried my hand at making them myself a few times over the years with poblanos I grew myself, with mixed success.  They are a little bit of work and while I do many things from scratch, I bake my own bread, I can, I pickle and all that jazz, I really not-so-secretly prefer one pot, one paragraph dinner recipes.  Chili Rellenos is not one of them.  You have to roast the peppers, you have to peel the peppers, if you are stuffing them with anything but cheese you have to precook that. There is the sauce to go on top and something to round out the entire meal.  Really, much easier to just go out and order it from your favorite Mexican restaurant.  

Because I spend so much time putting up produce from about May through now, I just happened to have some pre-roasted and peeled peppers in my freezer, ready to go.  I pulled them out the other night and while they were thawing, I threw some sweet potatoes in the oven and baked them.

When I was at city market a few weeks ago, there was a farmer selling sweet potatoes by the bucket.  Of course I had to get some and now have a glut of them.  I also had some goat cheese hanging out in the fridge and the idea of a goat cheese sweet potato version of chili rellenos struck me as a really great idea and one I could just taste.

I served them up on a bed of grits and man, they were good. They were even better than I thought they would be.  As I cooked up the sauce to go with them, I realized it was basically the same sauce as the one I make for enchiladas.  There was a bit of a kick from the chilis I used in the sauce, as well as from the fact that I did not remove all the seeds from the peppers I stuffed.  It was fine for me & Pat and Edie was a trooper about it, so it turned out okay.  I think I have a few more whole roasted peppers in the freezer which are definitely going to be made in this version of chili rellenos.  I don’t think any Mexican joint is going to come close to touching how good these were.  I hate when I spoil it for myself, especially something like this.  The down side of cooking, definitely.  Sometimes you really should stick to take out.  Yes, I said that.

My experiments in bread baking have achieved a new level of goodness as well.  The last few batches I’ve made of both extra tangy sourdough bread as well as sourdough baguettes have been scrumptious. I’ve used whole grain flours in them and have given them extra time to rise.  A few years ago, I assisted in a bread baking class at the cooking school taught by Gerry over at Albemarle Baking Company, who makes the best baguettes this side of the Atlantic, hands down.  Among the tips he shared for baking good bread was letting the dough have plenty of time to rise and let the yeast do it’s thing.  Admittedly, it had not clicked with me to try this with bread recipes other than his, but in making recent batches of bread dough, I’ve realized that these have sat longer than called for, to spectacular results. Turns out that guy might know actually know something about baking after all.  I’ve also been experimenting with adding extra gluten as well as water when using whole grain flours.  The last baguette batch I think I used whole wheat pastry flour combined with regular whole wheat flour as well as bread flour.  I had a jar of unlabeled mystery flour, it could have been whole wheat pastry flour, it could have been high gluten flour I keep on hand for pizza dough or it could have been some rye flour.  Not really sure. It was also way too sticky for me to knead it long enough and somehow,  despite all that, that bread was light and airy and delish. Another eureka moment I recently had was to make the entire recipe, even when it results in 2 loaves or 6 loaves, and before the second rise, pop the extra dough into the freezer.  That way, the next time I’m feeling like a loaf of fresh baked bread, I don’t need to start first thing in the morning.   This has been met with much applause by the waistband of my jeans, because as you can tell by the photo above, I cannot stop eating the glorious fruits of my labor long enough to take a picture of a full loaf of bread, which is dangerous when you just pulled 6 loaves out of the oven.

By the way, that was a foot long baguette when it first landed on that cutting board.

4 thoughts on “Why good cooking is dangerous.

  1. Cassi Renee says:

    Going out to dinner with my mom is always a problem for the same reason. She is the best cook I've ever encountered (even now, at 85, and scooting around the kitchen on a rolling chair) and she is always so disappointed when she eats at a restaurant. Hearing about the disappointment makes eating out with her a poor choice 🙂

  2. Patience_Crabstick says:

    Your rellenos look delicious! I've never attempted to make them myself (and I hate roasting/peeling peppers) but I might have to try these.

    Back when I used to bake bread a lot, I read a comprehensive book on baking that recommended letting the dough sit in a cooler place than you would normally use, to lengthen the rising time and improve the flavor of the bread. That cured me of the habit of using a slightly-warmed oven for raising my dough. I have never managed to make a decent baguette, though.

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