Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Rosie Makes Tzatziki With Blackened Chicken.

 Youngest Hawthorne waltzed in the other day and said, "Mama, you think you can make me some blackened chicken tzatziki for lunch today?"  Honestly, I don't know where he comes up with some of this stuff.  But I said, "Sure, why not?  I'll just table those precious little ortolans I was planning for another day."  And here we are, with Blackened Chicken with Tzatziki Sauce.

 I’ve cut chicken breasts into strips, blackened them with a spicy rub that offers a bit of heat, then I’ve tempered the kick with a cooling and refreshing tzatziki sauce, a staple of Mediterranean cuisine.

The beauty of this combination is that both the chicken and the sauce are versatile. The chicken can be used in tacos, salads, bowls, wraps, or sandwiches, and the tzatziki sauce can be used as a dip for vegetables, chips, or pita crisps, or it can be a surprise replacement for a spread, such as tartar sauce or mayonnaise. There are all sorts of possibilities here, but the marriage of spicy blackened chicken and zesty tzatziki sauce is a perfect coupling.

Rosie's Chicken Tzatziki
Tzatziki Sauce 
1 English cucumber,  shredded and drained
5-6 garlic cloves
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 cups plain yogurt, drained  (Use full fat Greek yogurt.  Don't skimp here.)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped dill
2 TB chopped parsley
freshly ground pepper, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
For the cucumber, I haphazardly peel it, leaving dark green peel in places, because I like the green flecks in the sauce.  Use a box grater to shred the cuke.  Place the shredded cucumber in a strainer, lightly salt it (1/2 tsp kosher salt), and let it drain, pressing it down every now and then to remove excess water.  Drain for at least an hour, then squeeze out any remaining liquid.

Plop the yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and let it drain, stirring occasionally, for an hour or so.  Discard liquid.

Combine all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors do their thing.
Before serving, drizzle a little extra virgin olive over top for extra flavor.
One of my favorite extra virgin oils is Corto Truly, which I've only found available online (Amazon). If you're unsure what to use, I advise going to an olive oil store where you can taste-test the oils before buying and pick out something you really like.  Dill-flavored olive oils are also available, so that, too, would be an option here, and it would complement the fresh dill in the sauce quite nicely.

The tzatziki is a great little sauce to use for all sorts of stuff - with a crudité platter, with grilled meats and vegetables, pita, gyros, chips.

Blackened Chicken Strips
2 chicken breasts
Pound the chicken breasts until about 1/2" flat.  Cut into 1"-wide strips.  You want your strips a uniform size so they cook evenly.

Combine the seasoning mixture:
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp onion powder
Dredge chicken strips in spice mixture, coating evenly.

In medium skillet, heat a thin layer of peanut oil to 450°- 475°.  Add a tablespoon of butter and let it sizzle.  The oil is for the high smoke point; the butter is for flavor and giving the strips a more blackened appearance.  Add in the chicken, without crowding the pan and lowering the temperature.   Cook 2-3 minutes each side.  Do not overcook your chicken.

If you have a meat thermometer, remove the chicken when it gets an internal temp of 160° and let it rest.  Carry-over cooking will finish them off outside the pan, so they reach 165°, but don't dry out.
For the step-by-steps:

Drain the yogurt.
  Pour it into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and let it drip, stirring occasionally.

I let the yogurt 
drain for at least
an hour.

Coarsely grate 
the cucumber.

Set in sieve.

Lightly salt the cucumber and let it drain, occasionally pressing out the liquid.

Parsley, dill, rice vinegar, lemon, yogurt with cucumber and minced garlic.


as needed.










Pool in a little extra virgin olive oil and you've got a delicious dip.

You can use the dip for vegetables, pita chips, crackers, whatever.

While you're dipping into the dip, start preparing the chicken.

Pound breasts until uniform thickness, then dredge through seasoning mixture and fry. Slice for serving.


Cut the breasts into 1-inch wide strips.

Dredge strips through seasoning mixture.

Just a thin layer 
of oil and
some butter.

2-3 minutes
first side
then turn.

2-3 minutes
second side.
Depends on
heat and thickness.

Let rest.

Slice strips.

For toppings, I have sliced green onions, chopped tomatoes, and sliced lettuce.0

If you like, add in some black beans and rice.

For serving:
I always like to provide edible plates, so I fried up a flour tortilla to place my blackened chicken on, which I first sliced into bite-sized pieces. I topped with diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, and shredded lettuce and then spooned on the tzatziki sauce. Additional accoutrements you might consider would be diced avocado doused with lime juice, black beans, and/or rice.

If nothing else, do yourself the favor of making the tzatziki sauce and explore all the possibilities for dipping and spreading. The tzatziki is a great little sauce to use for all sorts of stuff – with a crudité platter, with grilled meats and vegetables, pita, gyros, chips. Just use a bit of creativity.

For example:
Try a spread of tzatziki on a BLT sandwich instead of the mayo.
Or you could thin it out with more olive oil and lemon juice and use it as a salad dressing.
Traditionally, tzatziki is paired with lamb, but it would go well with all sorts of meats, particularly grilled kabobs.
Try topping a hamburger with tzatziki sauce for a little something different and special.
Toss a macaroni salad with green peas, colorful diced bell peppers, red onion, and fresh herbs with tzatziki sauce.
Top a spinach and feta omelet with tzatziki.
Accompany any type of fish – baked, grilled, or fried – with tzatziki.
Or substitute tzatziki for the sour cream on a baked potato.

A little imagination goes a long way.


Saturday, May 4, 2024

Rosie Makes Chiles Rellenos.



For this Cinco de Mayo, I’m celebrating with Chiles Rellenos.  A chile relleno means "stuffed pepper."  Typically, it's a green chile pepper stuffed with cheese and/or meat, dipped in a fluffy egg batter, and deep fried until golden brown.  There are all sorts of variations. Different types of chiles can be used, for example, Anaheim, pasilla, Cubanelle, poblano, jalapeño, or hatch.  Different fillings - cheeses and/or meats -  can be used for stuffing.  Melting cheeses can vary - Oaxaca, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, and provolone.  You can pick from an assortment of meats - ground beef, shredded pork, chicken, or even shrimp.  The sauces can vary also – from salsa roja, a red tomato sauce, to a salsa verde, a green sauce made from tomatillos. There’s no “one way” to do this, but I’ve come up with my own quite palatable version which we really enjoyed. 

 I’m making my chiles rellenos with large, mild poblano peppers stuffed with a combination of seasoned ground beef and cheeses, served with a salsa roja.

 Now, let’s get cookin’!


Rosie’s Chiles Rellenos

Enough for 8 stuffed peppers, but you can certainly reduce the number of stuffed peppers and use the extra tomato sauce and beef filling to make tacos or enchiladas, or top tortilla chips with the beef mixture, add cheese, and make a nacho platter.


Salsa Roja
 1 lb. tomatoes, peeled and seeded (This time of year, I use Roma or Campari tomatoes.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 serrano peppers, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp sugar

To peel tomatoes, I drop them into boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Remove.  The skin will split and can easily be pulled off by hand.  I then slice them in half and, using my fingers, pull out the jelly-like sacs with the seeds.  Discard seeds, or, better yet, press them into soil in the garden or in planters and grow your own tomatoes.

 Place tomatoes with juice, garlic, serranos, onion, and cumin seeds into processor and purée.  Pour into a small sauce pan, add salt and sugar, bring to simmer, reduce heat, and cook low for about 30 minutes, letting the flavors develop.  Taste test and adjust seasonings if needed.  Keep warm.

 For the ground beef stuffing:

1 TB unsalted butter
1 lb ground beef
¼ cup chopped red pepper
½ cup chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (1 TB)
1-2 tsp cumin (to taste)
1-2 TB oregano (to taste)
1 tsp Kosher salt (to taste)

 Melt butter in skillet over medium high heat.  Add meat and cook, breaking up with a spatula, until browned.  Stir in onion, pepper, and garlic and cook another minute.  Season to taste with salt, cumin, and oregano.

 For the peppers:

 I’m using poblano peppers for my chiles rellenos.  They’re a mild chile and large enough to hold a decent amount of stuffing.  The skin in waxy and tough, however, and the pepper needs to be charred first.  Roasting over an open flame enhances the chile flavor, giving it a smoky, slightly sweet taste, and also allows you to peel the chile, making it softer and more pliable so you can slit along one side and stuff it.

 To roast chiles, set them over an open flame, blackening the skin, turning as needed, until the entire chile, save for the stem, is roasted.  After charring, dunk the chiles into ice water.  Using your fingers, rub the chiles to remove the char.  Use paper towels to clean the peppers.

 Rosie Note:  For easier roasting, pick chiles that do not have deep creases.  Flat-surfaced chiles blacken quicker and easier.

 Make a slit down the side from stem to bottom.  Remove any thick membranes inside and cut off that seed cluster at the top.  The cleaned peppers are now ready to be stuffed.

 I’m using two types of cheeses - Monterey Jack and  Nuestro Queso Talavera cheese (also called Quesadilla cheese) - for stuffing, as both melt very nicely.  I put a few slices of one cheese on the bottom of the pepper, layered in the meat stuffing, then put a few slices of the other cheese on top.  Don’t skimp on the cheese here! Carefully close the peppers, bringing the edges together, and secure them with toothpicks so the stuffing doesn’t fall out. 

 Egg Batter:

 4 eggs, separated, room temperature.
Beat egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peaks form.
Beat yolks in a small bowl until light.
Beat yolks into whites.  Batter should be light and fluffy.

 To Fry:

Chiles rellenos need to be deep fried, so I use a heavy, 5” deep fryer pan.  I pour in 2 – 2 ½  inches of peanut oil and heat it to 375°.  I always use an instant-read laser thermometer when frying to take out the guesswork.

 Have an assembly line ready with stuffed peppers, then a plate of ½ cup flour mixed with ½ tsp salt, then the foamy egg mixture.  Roll the stuffed peppers in the flour to completely coat, shaking to remove any excess, next dip into the egg batter, and then gently place the pepper in the hot oil.  I fry 2 peppers at a time.  You don’t want to crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil.  Fry three minutes per side, until the batter is golden brown and crisp.  Transfer to a rack to drain.


 To serve:

Remove toothpicks.  Spoon salsa roja onto your serving plate and place a chile relleno in the sauce pool.  Serve with chopped cilantro, chopped red onions or green scallions, and some crumbly queso Cotija or queso fresco.


 Now, for the step-by-steps:

For my tomato sauce:

Salsa roja
1 pound tomatoes
3 serrano chiles, seeded
2 garlic cloves
1onion, chopped (1 cup chopped onion)
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted

To peel the tomatoes, drop into boiling water. Leave about 30 seconds.

Scoop out and the peels are peeling.

Remove all of peel.

Slice in half.

Remove seeds.

Remove seeds from serranos.

cumin seeds.

Place in

a few times.

I like a little texture in my sauce. 
Pour into a small saucepan and bring to simmer.
Reduce heat.
Cook about 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.
Taste test and season with salt, if needed.
While the sauce is cooking, start on the peppers.


Place poblanos over an open flame.

to blacken.

Char all over.
Dunk in 
ice water. 

While the peppers were chillin', I started on the filling.

Beef filling:
1 lb ground beef 
1 small red pepper (1/4 cup chopped)
1 small onion (1/2 cup chopped)
1-2 garlic cloves (1 TB minced)
1-2 tsp cumin
2-3 TB oregano
kosher salt, to taste



In a medium skillet, I melted a tablespoon of butter and dropped in the ground beef.
Normally, I buy 80/20 beef (That's 20% fat.) and you wouldn't really need the butter,
but 93/7 was what was on sale, and that can use a little extra fat for flavor, hence the butter.

Use spatula
to break up
the meat into 

Add about
 1 tsp kosher salt.

When the meat is almost browned, add in the onion, garlic, and pepper.



Keep browning.

Add in oregano.

Add in cumin.

On the left - peppers ready to be peeled.
In the middle - tomato sauce.
On the right - ground beef.

Now let's get working on the peppers.

Use your fingers to rub off the char.

Any stubborn pieces, you can clean up with a paper towel.
It's not necessary to get every bit of black off.  There's flavor in that char.

After the peppers are cleaned, make a slit down the side.

I remove the membranes.

And I take out all the seeds. 
 Just cut out that cluster of seeds at the top.
ready to stuff.

For stuffing, you want to pick out cheeses that will melt nicely.
The Monterey Jack and the Quesadilla cheese are for stuffing.
The Cotija cheese is a crumbly cheese for ...  crumbling ... over the top of the chiles rellenos.


Place some cheese
in bottom
of pepper.

Add in
meat filling.

More cheese
on top.

Close peppers and use toothpicks to hold together.

Ready for batter:

Separate yolks and whites.
Beat whites first, until stiff peaks form.

Next, beat yolks.

Notice I'm only doing 4 peppers and 3 eggs.
I had right much batter left over, so I'm guestimating 4 eggs would be enough for 8 peppers.

Beat yolks until light colored.


 Pour yolks
into whites.









Beat until


Roll peppers
in flour.






Dip in egg mixture


Fry 3 minutes per side.

Don't crowd  the pan when frying.


Drain on rack

Remove toothpicks.

Have toppings ready for chiles rellenos:

For the toppings, I'm using:
chopped red onion
sliced green onions
chopped cilantro
crumbled Cotija cheese

And serve: