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Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw

It’s been a good bit of time since I last posted. In that time I’ve been traveling, working, catering, celebrating and creating recipes . Unfortunately it just hasn’t made it to the blog. Where to begin?

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First Certain Someone spent a lovely week at Half Moon in Montego Bay to celebrate a friends wedding. It was the best experience Ive ever had in Jamaica. Imagine your own luxury villa, butlers, maids, sunshine, private beaches, and just being spoiled. We really  needed it. We will  heading to Portugal and Sweden soon for another destination wedding, and to catch up with family and friends.

I’ve been getting some great catering gigs from consulates, a European airline carrier, and just overall great clients. I’m so happy the word is spreading about Coco Cooks.

And last before we get onto the food. Certain Someone turned 40! We decided to have a belated birthday party at the house in July ( In the fashion of the Queen), as its hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules.

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I made the whiskey bottle cake, and commissioned the label and cigar from a great friend who has amazing talent. Check her out if you need customized toppers for your cakes.

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Now onto the recipe! Yes it another Old El Paso post. I was commissioned to do a total of 12 recipes for them, which are figured on their new website. While I don’t normally use prepared ingredients, I’m not naive enough as chef and career woman, that sometimes shortcuts and convenience are OK, especially when paired with fresh ingredients and creativity. Not everyone has the time nor inclination to make there own spice blends, salsa, tortillas, etc. So accepting the assignment and the challenge , where what motivated me. I love a challenge to think out the box. It’s grilling season and one can create all sorts of good things on the grill, or on an indoors grill, it you don’t have a gas or charcoal grill. I love the sight of grill marks . Check out the recipe and other great ones on the site.

Old El Paso Chicken and Pineapple Tacos with Cabbage Mango Slaw
Prep time: 
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Ingredients
  • For Cabbage Mango Slaw
  • ½ head of small green cabbage sliced thinly or grated.
  • 1 carrot skinned and grated
  • 1 mango chopped into small pieces( no skin)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ⅛ cup brown sugar
  • ⅛ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pineapple sliced
  • 2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs.
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Old El Paso Hard and Soft Taco Kit.( Contains taco shells, soft tortillas, Taco Seasoning, and Taco Sauce)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 320°.
  2. In a glass dish or bowl marinate chicken with 1 packet of the Old El Paso Seasoning and 2 tablespoons olive oil contained in kit.
  3. In a small bowl add grated cabbage, carrot, chopped mango, cilantro, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. Mix thoroughly and set aside while grilling chicken.
  4. Using an indoor or outdoor grill, preheat to higher setting to obtain a good sear.
  5. Wrap the soft tortillas in the kit in foil and place in oven. Heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Add chicken to grill and cook several minutes on each side until done.
  7. While chicken is grilling, place hard tacos shells on a placing sheet and add to the oven with soft tortillas. Don’t overcook. Turn off oven after 5 more minutes and keep warm till serving.
  8. Remove chicken from the grill and let reat a few minutes.
  9. Add pineapple slices to hot grill and sear on both sides for a few minutes. Remove from grill.
  10. Slice chicken on the diagonal and serve on platter with chopped grilled pineapple slices.
  11. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  12. Serve with cabbage mango slaw, soft and crunchy tortillas, and sauce contained in the kit.

 

 

Kumquat Confit and Kumquat Pistachio Palmiers

The other day I was in Stanley’s and saw a nice punnet of kumquat’s staring at me. Do you look at some foods and think back to your first taste, which may or may not have been pleasant? That’s how I felt with kumquat’s. I wanted to love the cute miniature citrus fruit , but a distant memory of just eating one raw off someones little tree, as child always held me back. Well I’m a big girl now, 43 years of age, to be exact and it was time to acquaint myself with Kumquats again. Surely if  I cooked them down to a confit , almost candy like, they will go down well? And yes they did. Talk about a burst of sunshine and citrus finished with a hint of bourbon and cinnamon. The kumquats picked me up and tickled my tongue, as I ate it on hot buttered bread and black coffee. Preserved kumquat’s are better than orange marmalade in my opinion.The flavor more pronounced, as it’s really all concentrated in the peel.

Certain Someone is not a big jam , preserve type. He loves his  charcuterie, black coffee , good bread and butter on lazy weekend mornings. So while I made a small batch, I wanted more applications for my confit. I had small sheets of commercial puff pastry in my freezer and nuts in the cupboard.

I took my kitchen shears and cut up a small amount of the candid kumquats  to smaller pieces, as the confit was made from kumquat halves. I spread them over the defrosted puff pastry, added a mixture of pistachios and  raw sugar which had been blended to a coarse crumb, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I then carefully rolled them up on either end, to meet in the middle.  The rolls were sliced and dipped in more of the pistachio sugar crumb and baked on a parchment lined baking sheet at 375 degrees until golden. Careful not to burn the bottoms as the sugars from the confit and  sugar crumb will caramelize. Remove from oven and let cook. You will have a nice tea or coffee time snack.


Kumquat Confit
Author: 
Recipe type: condiment, preserves
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Candied preserved Kumquats
Ingredients
  • 1 lb of kumquats, washed, halved, and seeded.
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of Bourbon
  • * apple core
Instructions
  1. Halve and seed the kumquats.
  2. Place in a heavy bottomed pot with apple core.
  3. Add sugar.
  4. Slowly bring up the temp and stir and mash the fruit into the sugar until it starts to liquify slight. You don't want to burn the sugar or cook to fast.
  5. Stir in cinnamon.
  6. Cook on med heat until all the ingredients start to liquify and boil.
  7. Reduce heat until the boil is more like a simmer. Stir periodically and cook for several minutes until the fruit becomes more transparent and candied. This may take about 10 minutes more or less.
  8. The longer the cook time, the more candied the fruit. You want to make sure its spreadable and not to thick.
  9. Turn off the heat.
  10. Remove apple core.
  11. Stir in the Bourbon . The confit will sizzle a bit with the addition of the liquor.
  12. Place in clean jars.
  13. Let cool and cover
  14. Keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Notes
The apple core, loaded with natural pectin aides the thickening.

 

Chicken Lollipop with Plum Sauce and Toasted Sesame Seeds

Since I started catering  on my own as Coco Cooks,I’m obsessed with presentation. The challenge is to provide high flavor and appeal, low-cost, but not sacrifice taste. Summer is coming and I have some events lined up. An inexpensive option for passed  appetizers is  always a tasty chicken wing. 100 wings can be cut down into 200 pieces easily. But how  can I make it more highbrow , than low brow? Lollipop them! In catering or restaurants starters are either cleverly skewered or lollipop-ed.  It’s easy to pick up, and not messy. One or two bites and your guest is  done, with your server tastefully moving away the small remains left behind. Not to mention the variations in sauces and cooking applications.Spicy, sweet, sour, dry, wet, fried,smoked, baked, etc. The list is endless. You just need a good small sharp knife or poultry shears .

The boning of the chicken wing is most intimidation part. But with a few receptive actions, you will get the hang of it and the work will go swifter. I  would be at a loss without my Wusthof Kitchen Shears. They make quick work and cut through bone in seconds. Much easier than sawing or chopping with a knife.


Chicken Lollipop with Plum Sauce and Toasted Sesame Seeds
Author: 
Recipe type: appetizer
Prep time: 
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Serves: 12-15
 
Elegant version of chicken wings.
Ingredients
  • 12 whole wings , prepped into 24 lollipop pieces.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 jar of plum sauce found in Asian specialty sections
  • 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
  • ⅓ cup toasted sesame seeds.
  • Sesame Oil
Instructions
  1. To Prepare the wing you need to:
  2. Cut off the wing tip of the chicken wing with your shears or knife.( Tip... Don't discard the wing tips, but save and freeze for chicken stock.)
  3. Now cut at the joint between the drumette and the center part, the forearm with wither shears or very sharp knife. You now have two pieces.
  4. Take the drumette and using a small sharp paring knife,slash and loosen the skin at the joint , from the bone. Gently scrape the flesh down and off the bone to push towards the top of the drumette. Leaving the skin on or off is optional. You should have the bone exposed and relatively clean of flesh or tendons. The meat slides back easily once loosened at the joint. Trim off any excess fat or skin you don't want.Set aside and store on ice until ready to cook.
  5. For the forearm loosen and slash the flesh at the base of the joint as before. Pinpoint the smaller of the two bones. Gently push back and loosen the meat away from the smaller bone. The meat will also start to slide of the larger bone. With your shears or knife cut the smaller bone at the top of the forearm. Carefully push back your meat. Again, to use or not the use the skin is optional. Trim off any excess skin or fat.
  6. Keep all meat chilled or on ice until ready to cook.
  7. Pre heat oven to 425 F
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Season wings with Kosher salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder.
  10. Place the prepped lollipop wings on the paper. Try to sit upright and leave skin, if any exposed, to crisp and brown.
  11. Bake for approx 30 minutes or until starting to brown.
  12. In a dry skillet , add the sesame seeds and lightly toast until just golden. Don't burn. Remove from heat quickly.
  13. In a small dish mix the plum sauce and fish sauce.
  14. Remove chicken when browned from the oven .
  15. Carefully dip the lollipops into the plum sauce . Try not to get onto the exposed bone ,as it will become sticky for guests.
  16. Place the dipped chicken back on the baking sheet and finish baking for another 10 minutes.
  17. Remove from oven and sprinkle with tasted sesame seeds.
  18. Drizzle with Sesame oil.
  19. Serve hot.

Pickled Fresh Green Almonds

 

“I said to the almond tree , friend speak to me of God, and the almond tree blossomed.”

Nikos Kazantzakis

 

The weather around the globe has been indecisive, but one can tell spring has truly arrived by what’s available in the markets. If you see green almonds in your culinary shopping pursuits, then spring  has arrived. But it’s so fleeting and you must catch it while you can, during the months of April , May and June. I found fresh green almonds at Arax, a Middle Eastern grocery in Niles. I had heard of them but never have seen them before. My co-worker told me of eating them when young in Iraq, and not liking the taste sour taste and gel like inside, so spitting them out.  I did more inquiry and found in some countries like Iran, Turkey and Lebanon, they are dipped in salt water and eaten perhaps with an apertif . I wanted more from the beautiful green fuzzy fruits, and saw a post where in Greece they pickled them and they call them Tsagala. I love a good pickle, and that’s what I decided to do to preserve them  before they get to hard. The pickle is perfect as you eat the green almond whole before they get hard and mature to resemble what most people traditionally think of as almonds. If unpicked the green husk of fresh almonds splits to reveal a more mature nut with a hardened shell . You can read more about green almonds here.


I brought some into work today to show my co-worker who remembered them with distaste from childhood. Ironically at a lunch a week back she was offered some green almonds by another,dipped in salt water and loved it. So naturally she was curious to have my pickled version.  She loved them and the mild heat from the Serrano Pepper infusion. She offered some to a Russian coworker who went nuts for them , no pun intended. I have to bring the rest of stash to them to share some more. The Russian, who wasn’t feeling well said it was just what she needed. Trust me she’s not easily impressed. Almonds are magical and blessed.  Perhaps there is a reason they mentioned in the Bible on numerous  occasions.  I was inspired to pickle the almonds from this post, but naturally made it my own. The flavor gets better in the brine over time, but they are delicious even a few days later. Eat them alone, or add to salad ( green, tuna, or chicken) for a crunchy treat with a bite.


Pickled Fresh Green Almonds
Author: 
Recipe type: appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Pickled green almonds
Ingredients
  • 1 lb of green fresh almonds ( available April, May, and June)
  • 3-4 cups white vinegar
  • ¾ cups Kosher Salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 5-7 Serrano Peppers, halved with seeds
Instructions
  1. Wash green almonds and pick away leaves or any debris.
  2. Dry.
  3. In a pot combine vinegar , salt and peppercorns.
  4. Bring to a boil and make sure salt is dissolved.
  5. Pack your almonds into the either two small clean jars or one larger one with garlic cloves and Serrano peppers.
  6. Pour the hot vinegar salt liquid over the almonds and make sure they are covered with brine.
  7. Seal the bottle and let cool.
  8. Store in the refrigerator . Flavor develops more after one or more weeks.
  9. Almonds can keep in the brine for several months under refrigeration.

 

Pickled Pepquinos with Daikon and Carrots

What is Pepquino, you may ask? That’s what I thought as saw these tiny vegetables looking like micro watermelons. Freaks of nature or genetically engineered? Pepquinos are a native and ancient species  from South America and marketed and brought to world by the Dutch company Koppert Kress.

Looking like watermelon on the outside, they are green on in the inside and have a sour like cucumber taste. You can pop them in your mouth raw , or pickle them, as I did.I can even imagine a fantastic cucumber like martini.Use your foodie imagination. I wanted to play with sweet and sour with some acidity. Pepquinos Availability is from April to November .

I cant go throughout summer without canning or pickling something and I quickly went to work on the Pequinos. I had some Daikon Radish and rainbow hued carrots , which once in the hot brine gave the liquid a pinkish hue. I love my relish and have been eating it with sandwiches, cheeses, pates, etc. You can process the batch or just refrigerate immediately if you plan to serve and consume within the next few weeks. The Pepquinos will definitely be a conversation starter with your guests.

Pickled Pepquinos with Daikon and Carrots
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
A pickled relish with the micro fruit Pepquinos.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz Pepquinos
  • 4 rainbow hues carrots , peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 yellow onion sliced into rings
  • ½ of a large Daikon Radish, peeled and cut into strips
  • ⅓ cup Kosher Salt
  • Brine solution of 1 part sugar to 2 parts vinegar
  • 2 dried chili peppers per canning jar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
Instructions
  1. Prep your vegetables .
  2. Wash your Pepquinos.
  3. Peel and slice your carrots, onions and Daikon radish.
  4. In a bowl add your Pepquinos,onions, carrots, Daikon . Add Kosher salt and cover with cold water.Chill overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  5. Drain vegetables.
  6. In a sauce pan heat vinegar and sugar with mustard seeds and dried chilies.Heat until a boiling.
  7. Prep and sanitize your jars (in hot boiling water).
  8. Pack your vegetables in to the jars and put the hot brine over the vegetables. Slide the dried chilies into the jar and add the lids.
  9. From this point you can refrigerate to eat immediatlety or process in a water batch for about 7-10 minutes. Don't over-process as you want the vegetables to remain crisp.
Notes
You can either process in a hot water batch to put up or refrigerated to consume immediately.Lasts a few weeks refrigerated.