Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Piquillo Peppers with Chorizo and Goat Cheese

There was a very tasty photo on the Food Porn Daily site of Chorizo, Chevre and Herb Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. The picture is below and the link to their website with an even larger close up can be found at: http://foodporndaily.com/pictures/chorizo-chevre-and-herb-stuffed-piquillo-peppers/

Being a fan of all three main ingredients we decided to make our own version of these. They were delicious and will become a part of our appetizer collection. A few important notes to keep in mind if you make our recipe:
  • Piquillo peppers are small, sweet red peppers with an almost heart-like shape. They are typically roasted and sold in jars or flat tins and imported from Spain.
  • Until a few months ago piquillo peppers were somewhat hard to find on retail shelves. Our web source was: http://www.amigofoods.com/vipidelpiex.html. They are now available at Trader Joe's in jars. 
  • Do not confuse piquillo peppers with peppadew peppers which are sweet and tart - those are very different peppers! Peppadews can be a bit overpowering and I would not recommend their use in this recipe.
  • Make sure to use a dry-cured Spanish style chorizo. The fat in Mexican style chorizo is too liquid and the filling will ooze out in an unappetizing manner. Also the flavor of the pimentón (smoked paprika) used in Spanish dry-cured chorizo is important in this recipe.
  • Do not overmix the filling. Just crumble the goat cheese and lightly mix with the other ingredients. You do not want a paste where you lose all the character of the individual ingredients.
  • Use fresh thyme leaves if at all possible. It makes a great flavor pairing with goat cheese, olive oil and black pepper.
  • Do not use a spoon to fill the peppers - fingers are the best utensils to grab some of the filling and drop it into the peppers. A spoon just smears the filling, is hard to get off the spoon and makes more of a mess.
  • Fill the peppers only 3/4 to 7/8 of the way. The filling will spill out during heating if they are too full.
  • Let the peppers rest after heating. When too hot the flavors are muted. Serving at room temperature works well.
Piquillo Peppers with Chorizo and Goat Cheese

3 oz Spanish dry-cured chorizo
3 oz goat cheese
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
8 roasted, jarred piquillo peppers

1. Cut 1/8" thick slices of chorizo into small dice. Add crumbled goat cheese, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix very lightly just to combine - do not make a paste!

2. Remove piquillos from liquid reserving liquid. Stuff peppers with approximately 1 tablespoon of chorizo mixture - do not fill each pepper completely.

3. Place stuffed peppers on foil lined sheet pan and pour pepper liquid over them. Refrigerate up to two hours if not ready to heat.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake peppers until heated through - 10 minutes if just stuffed or 15 minutes if they were refrigerated. Allow to cool at least 5 minutes or bring to room temperature before serving.

Servings: 4 as an appetizer
Yield: 8 peppers, 2 per serving
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Taqueria La Vaquita - Durham, North Carolina

If you are searching for some tasty tacos when in Durham make your way over to Taqueria La Vaquita at 2700 Chapel Hill Rd. Don't worry about missing the place, once you are within a block you won't be able to miss the painted cow statue sporting a straw hat that is on the roof of the building. With only a few picnic benches for communal dining and no indoor seating, the large overhang offers some welcome shade from the sun.

Order at the left hand window and when it's ready they'll serve your order out of the right hand window - just like the old-style ice cream stands.

They offer a very broad menu including tacos, tortas, huaraches and burritos. All can be ordered a la carte or as a dinner with beans and rice. Having returned from Mexico and many delicious tacos only a week earlier, we were pleasantly surprised by the authenticity and delicious flavors found this far north of the Rio Grande.

On the right side of the plate is an Al Pastor taco. It was almost as tasty as those in Mexico with chile rubbed meat, onions and chopped cilantro but was missing the requisite piece of sweet pineapple typically served with Al Pastor in Mexico. On the left side a carnitas taco held soft and moist shredded pork with just lightly crisped ends. At the top of the plate a taco with stewed nopales and chicharon (fried pork rind) left us wondering why they had left out the flavor - perhaps it is too subtle a flavor for gringos to appreciate.

Grilled steak tacos had a good beefy flavor with tender pieces of meat. The red sauce was quite hot with a good balanced flavor. A green sauce was flavorful yet much milder and nicely accented the flavor of the tacos.

A freshly made guacamole had a light whipped texture and bright green color - a refreshing change from the typically heavy and dull versions offered at many locations.