The more I cook with tomatillos, the more I love them. Their tangy and grassy flavor pairs perfectly with green chili peppers making them a foundation for salsa verde or green sauce in Mexican cuisine. Like tomatoes, but not related, tomatillos taste great either fresh like in a raw salsa verde, or roasted and cooked. In this recipe, it is the tomatillo sauce that sets these chicken enchiladas apart.
Chicken Enchiladas with Verde Sauce
Simply put, I love this tomatillo sauce which I adapted from Rick Bayless, Roasted Tomatillo Sauce from More Mexican Everyday. As the title of the recipe link says, “It is a recipe to know by heart.” Once you get comfortable making tomatillo sauce you will want to make it repeatedly. Just like Poblano Chili Cream Sauce, it is easily adapted for recipes with eggs, cheese, or any grilled fish and meats.
Chicken enchiladas with a verde sauce is one of my favorite Mexican foods. Red chili sauces may have a more complex flavor, but I love the fresh and bright taste of fresh chilies when I cook with them. Fresh chilies make everything more invigorating and upbeat. I never feel heavy when I eat a meal prepared with a verde sauce, unless, of course, I loaded it up with extra cheese and sour cream. Normally I add avocado to all my Mexican inspired food, but the roasted tomatillo sauce is so satisfying, I do not miss the avocado.
Making chicken enchiladas is a great way to use up left over chicken as well. A rotisserie chicken from the store is also perfect for chicken enchiladas. You only need a shy 3 cups (750 ml) of shredded chicken to fill these enchiladas. Using precooked chicken frees up your time to make the tomatillo sauce and it is worth it. Sure, you could make a verde sauce from jarred salsa verde, but the taste won’t be as bright or have that personal touch of homemade food.
Additionally, you can fill enchiladas with just about anything that goes well with the sauce. You can easily substitute the chicken with shredded pork, cheese, fish, legumes, or other vegetables.
Chicken Enchiladas Variations
I adapted Rick Bayless’s chicken enchiladas recipe by adding more herbs and spices to the sauce. In addition, I mixed together sautéed onions and poblano peppers with the chicken filling. Originally, I set out to make chicken enchiladas with a verde sauce filled with shredded chicken and poblano rajas, but I pared down my original idea to reduce some of the prep work. Also, Rick Bayless recommends garnishing the enchiladas with raw onion slices. I do not enjoy eating raw onions, so I roasted onion slices and garnished the enchiladas with them instead.
For this recipe I recommend charring and peeling the skins off the poblano pepper. Charring the poblano pepper and removing the blistered skin adds a smoky flavor to the pepper and enchiladas. You can roast the poblano pepper when you roast the vegetables for the tomatillo sauce, but unlike the serrano chilies, it should be peeled, and seeds removed before you chop them up for the chicken filling. Peeling off the skin is not necessary, but it is a nice touch. If you are pressed for time, do not roast the poblano pepper, instead chop it up without peeling it, and sauté the pepper and onions together until soft but not browned.
The sauce carries some heat which I enjoy, but I realize not everyone does. If you are making the enchiladas for your family, or for people who do not like spicy food, substitute the Serrano peppers with half of a poblano pepper and roast it along with the tomatillos. You will need to peel off the skin before you purée the roasted vegetables. The sauce will taste bright from the poblano chili pepper, but the heat level will be significantly reduced.
Vegetarian Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
For vegetarian enchiladas, make the filling with 1½ cups (375 ml) of good melting cheese like Monterey Jack cheese or Cheddar cheese. Sauté a whole onion with a whole poblano pepper, cool slightly then mix with the grated cheese. Assemble the enchiladas as directed in the recipe. Black beans, kidney beans or white navy beans are a nice addition with the cheese and vegetables as well. Some cooked fish like tilapia, mahi mahi, or cod will taste great as a filling for enchiladas with the onions and poblano peppers. However, do not add cheese to fish enchiladas, or for the garnish.
Pointers for Success
Mise en Place – Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking. This will help with the timing for making the sauce and assemble the enchiladas.
- Gather all ingredients and place the spices near your stove
- Slice and chop the onions then organize in three piles as you need them at three different stages. To save some time, roast the onion slices for the garnish along with the onions for the tomatillo sauce. When they are done, make sure you separate half an onion’s worth of the onion slices before you add the remaining sliced onions to the tomatillo sauce.
- Shred the chicken
- Grate the cheese
- Chop the cilantro
- Place the tortillas in a microwave safe plastic bag and set aside until needed.
- Pull out your baking dish or dishes, and set aside.
Assemble the enchiladas when all the ingredients are still hot from the stove. This cuts back on the cooking time and helps keep the enchiladas from falling apart. The longer the tortillas cook in the sauce the soggier they get.
Use the best quality tortillas you can buy. If possible buy tortillas from a tortilleria or Mexican market.
Microwave the tortillas when you are ready to assemble the enchiladas.
Microwave the tortillas in a plastic bag leaving an opening for some of the steam to escape. My tortillas got soggy after being heated in the microwave and sat in a sealed and steamy plastic bag. Rich Bayless recommends microwaving on high for one minute, but I think it was too long. You may need to experiment with the amount of time you need to heat the tortillas up.
Assemble the enchiladas a minute after you heat the tortillas. Any later and the tortillas will get soggy.
Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Chicken enchiladas have such a bright and invigorating taste when paired with a verde sauce. Roasted tomatillos, serrano peppers, onion and garlic set the stage for the enchilada sauce. The tomatillo sauce is adapted from Rick Bayless, More Mexican Everyday, Roasted Tomatillo Sauce.
There are some specialty ingredients in this recipe. You can find tomatillos at well stocked grocery stores, Asian produce markets, or Mexican markets. The dried spices like epazote and Mexican oregano you can find at Mexican markets or on line. Epazote has a unique flavor that cannot be matched. If you cannot find epazote, add one bay leaf to the sauce then remove it before you assemble the enchiladas.
Bake the enchiladas in one large baking dish or individual dishes large enough to hold 2 enchiladas.
Best eaten right out of the oven.
- 1 lb. tomatillos
- 4-5 garlic cloves peel intact
- 2 serrano chilies or half a poblano pepper for a mild sauce
- 1 white onion sliced across the equator in ½ in thick rings
- ¾ tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 poblano chili pepper charred, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
- 1 white onion divided
- 2 cups (500 ml) Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
- 1 ½ cup (375 ml) chicken stock
- 1 tsp dried Mexican Oregano
- 1 tsp dried crumbled epazote
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- Shy 3 cups shredded chicken
- Handful of cilantro
- 10 corn tortillas
- Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese grated
- ½ cup (125 ml) Crème fraiche
Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
Turn the boiler up high and place the oven rack at the top position.
Take the poblano pepper in the chicken filling section and slice it in half lengthwise then remove the seeds. Arrange the halves on a rimmed sheet pan then add the peeled tomatillos, serrano chilies, garlic cloves, and slice onions rings for the sauce in an even layer. If you want to save some time arrange the onions slices for the garnish (half an onion) on the baking sheet with the onion for the tomatillo sauce.
Slide the sheet pan under the broiler and roast the vegetables until they get nice and charred. Check after 4 minutes and continue if the vegetables need more charring. Each vegetable will brown at different speeds, so you will have to adjust the timing for each one. Once they get browned turn them over and brown the other side. This can take from 8 -15 minutes. If the onions need more time than the other vegetables, remove the browned vegetables and place the tomatillos in the bowl of a blender or food processor and chilies and garlic cloves on a cutting board. Pour off any juices in the pan into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Set aside and continue to brown the onions if needed. Remove when done.
Place the poblano chili halves in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it steam for 15 minutes.
When the Serrano chilies and garlic are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin from the garlic cloves and place the roasted garlic in the bowl with the tomatillos.
Cut off the stem of the serrano chilies and slice down the middle. Remove some of the seeds and pith if you want to turn down the heat., or leave them be. Add the serrano peppers to the tomatillos and blend, or process, the vegetables until smooth. Makes about 2 cups (500 ml).
Pre heat the oven to 400 °F (200°C / Gas Mark 5) with the oven rack set in the middle position.
Heat a 10-inch (25.5 cm) skillet with 2 TB olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 cups (500 ml) roasted tomatillo purée to the skillet and simmer until it slightly thickens. Add the chicken stock and Mexican oregano, epazote, ground coriander, and Kosher salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Simmer the sauce on low, stirring occasionally until ready to assemble the enchiladas.
Meanwhile, remove the poblano halves from the bowl and peel off the skin. Quickly rinse under cold water to remove stubborn skin. Chop the poblano into ½ inch pieces.
If you have not done so already, slice the onion in half across the equator, slice one half into rings and set aside. Chop the remaining half in ½ inch pieces.
In another skillet heat up 2 TB of vegetable oil and add the chopped onion and poblano pepper. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the shredded chicken and ½ cup chicken stock. Stir to mix. Cook until the liquid evaporates and the chicken is warm. Add about 2 TB of chopped cilantro and stir to mix.
Heat up the tortillas. Place the tortillas in a zip lock bag and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Make sue the bag is not closed all the way. Remove the tortillas from the microwave and let the tortillas rest in the plastic bag for a minute.
Assemble the enchiladas.
Set aside a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking pan. Place a tortilla on a work surface and add 2 spoonfuls of the chicken mixture across the center of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla to cover the chicken filling. Place the rolled-up tortilla in the baking dish. Continue to fill and roll up the tortillas. You should have enough chicken filling for 10 enchiladas. It will be a tight fit in the baking dish. If you have a small baking dish, perfect for two enchiladas, add the last two enchiladas to a separate dish, otherwise fit the last two enchiladas to one side of the row of enchiladas.
Completely cover the enchiladas with the tomatillo sauce and sprinkle grated cheese down the middle of the enchiladas.
Place in the oven and cook until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 5-8 minutes.
If you haven’t roasted the onions for garnish already, heat up a skillet until almost smoking. Add the onion slices, intact, to the skillet and dry roast the onions until browned. After a couple of minutes check to see if the onions have browned, then turn over to brown the other side. When done, remove from the skillet.
Serve immediately with crème fraiche and garnish with the browned onions and cilantro.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
During the month of March, despite modern farming and trade making fresh produce available 365 days of the year, there is clear evidence that the remnants of winter produce are coming to an end. In the northeast, as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of spring with its’ young seasonal produce, there is a “I’m tired of winter,” expression on many faces. Unfortunately, our winter blues is made more pronounced with the slim pickings at the farmers market. Fortunately, some winter produce, like cauliflower, is easily dressed up with a vibrant sauce made with available winter greens and seasonings. Seared cauliflower with kale parsley sauce is a spring alarm clock for the winter weary.
Throughout the winter I particularly enjoyed roasted broccoli and cauliflower. The charred flowerettes and roasted flavor comforted me on many cold winter nights. Yet, I get antsy in March and seek out clues for an awakening spring. The blustery days still have me craving comfort food like slow braises and stews, but something more vibrant and less rich is dawning. As a result, I decided to add a zesty sauce with my usual seared and roasted cauliflower to waken up the senses after a long winters nap.
Kale Parsley Sauce for Cauliflower Steaks
Kale parsley sauce is a hybrid similar to pesto and chimichurri, but not quite a true member of either one. The heft of the sauce comes from blanched lacinato kale and puréed with assertive ingredients to soften the bitterness of this hearty winter green. To counter the bitterness I added anchovies and lots of garlic. The acid from the capers and vinegar give the sauce a bright and semi-sweet flavor to counter the bitterness as well. Even though this sauce resembles a South American chimichurri sauce, it has a distinct Italian personality.
The most important thing to remember when cooking with kale, no matter what variety, is to remove the whole stem running up the middle of the leaf. The stems are very fibrous and unpleasant to eat and as a polite gesture to your dinning companions remove the stem before cooking. If you want your kids to eat kale, get rid of the stem. Kale leaves have a naturally dry and chewy texture that does not appeal to everyone. Served with the sharp and fibrous stem your children will cross their arms and turn up their nose. Harrumph. You won’t win this battle.
To remove the stem from the kale leaf, simply run a sharp paring knife along the length of both sides of the stem and slice it out. Or, fold the leaf in half like a book with the stem as the binder. While holding tight at the base of the seam (where the stem meets the leaf), yank upwards on the stem and tear it away from the leaf.
How to Slice Cauliflower Steaks
It is easy to slice cauliflower into “steaks” at the center of the cauliflower head. Unfortunately, you may only get two to three intact steaks. First trim off any leaves at the base of the head then trim the stem even to the bottom of the cauliflower head. Then, slice right down the middle of the cauliflower from pole to pole. Beginning at the cut side, slice the cauliflower into half-inch (1.5 cm) wide steaks then repeat with the other half. Cauliflower naturally wants to break into flowerettes the farther away from the core so do not despair if they start to come apart.
If it is important for appearance and presentation that you have as many intact cauliflower steaks as you have guests, then buy a couple heads of cauliflower for some insurance. Chop up and roast the remainder flowerettes and add it to toasted farro with mushrooms, or in risotto, or roast in a 400°F (200°C /Gas Mark 6) oven with olive oil and Romano cheese for a side dish for another meal.
What to pair with Seared Cauliflower with Kale Parsley Sauce
Seared and roasted cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that is perfect as a vegetarian meal or a side dish with grilled or roasted meats. The prominent bite of the kale parsley sauce comes from the vinegar (like chimichurri sauce) and requires a hearty food like grains, pasta or steaks to pair alongside. This recipe will make more kale parsley sauce than you need, so use the remainder as a sauce for pasta with cauliflower, peas, chickpeas and grape tomatoes for an easy weeknight dinner.
Seared Cauliflower with Vibrant Kale Parsley Sauce
Cauliflower naturally wants to break into flowerettes, but in the center through the stem you can slice the cauliflower sections with the stem and flowerettes intact. You will get anywhere from 2-4 intact steaks depending on the size of the cauliflower. Don’t despair if they break apart, it will still taste delicious. Buy a couple of cauliflower heads for backup if the cauliflower steaks break apart or if you want your guest to have similar looking pieces.
The kale parsley sauce is a vibrant hybrid of a chimichurri sauce and a pesto. The acid brightens the sauce while the anchovies, capers garlic and hot pepper flakes give it depth. It is a delicious sauce to add some pizzazz to roasted vegetables and meats.
If you have some leftover cauliflower it is delicious stirred into penne or fusilli pasta with some chickpeas and sliced cherry tomatoes, coated with the kale parsley sauce.
See notes for a vegan alternative.
- 4 oz (125 g) lacinato kale
- ¼ cup (34 g) pine nuts, more for garnish
- Shy ounce (26 g) Italian parsley
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2-3 anchovy fillets 1 tsp white miso paste for a vegan substitute, optional
- 2 TB capers rinsed and dried
- 2 TB red wine vinegar
- ¼ - ½ tsp red pepper flakes (Depending on how hot you want the sauce)
- ¼ tsp Kosher salt
- A couple of rounds of fresh black pepper
- ½ cup (125 ml) 125 ml extra virgin olive oil plus more for the cauliflower
- 1 large head of cauliflower
Make the kale parsley sauce
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
Bring a large stock pot half full of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt to the pot. While the water is combing to a boil, clean and remove the stems from the lacinato kale. Chop the leaves into thirds. When the water reaches a brisk boil, add the kale and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove the kale from the boiling water with a spider or tongs and add to the ice water bath. Once the kale is cool to touch, drain from the water and spread out over a clean lint free kitchen towel. Gently pat dry. Set aside.
Toast the pine nuts. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Add the pine nuts. Keep the pine nuts in constant motion so they do not burn. Shake the pan and move it back and forth on the burner, or stir with a wooden spoon. The pine nuts are toasted when you start to smell a warm nutty scent and the pine nuts are slightly browned in parts, about 1 minute. Quickly pour the pine nuts onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
Trim off most of the parsley stems and rough chop the parsley leaves.
In a bowl of a food processor or blender, add the blanched kale and give it a few pulses to break it up and start to make a purée. Add the parsley and pulse to blend.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil and pulse to create slightly textured purée. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Pour out the kale sauce into a small bowl and add the olive oil. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside on the counter.
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5
Trim away any leaves from the base of the cauliflower head. Rest the cauliflower head on its bottom, stem end down, and cut the cauliflower head in half vertically. Push one half aside and cut ½ inch (1.5 cm) width slices making cauliflower steaks. You might only get two intact cauliflower steaks per side, and the remaining cauliflower may fall into pieces. Repeat with the other half.
Spread the cauliflower steaks on a rimmed baking sheet and gently brush with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper.
Heat a griddle pan or large skillet to medium high heat. I set my griddle to 325°F (160°C). When hot add the cauliflower steaks to the griddle or skillet and sear for about 5-6 minutes a side. Check after 4 minutes to see the progress. You want a nice brown sear along the flat surface of the cauliflower. Carefully turn the cauliflower steaks over and sear the opposite side.
Place the cauliflower steaks on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until the cauliflower is tender in the middle, about 10-12 minutes.
Plate the cauliflower steaks on a serving platter or individual plates, and drizzle with the kale parsley sauce. Garnish with pine nuts and chopped parsley and sliced grape tomatoes.
Serve with grains or grilled or roasted meats and chicken.
If you want to make this a vegan meal, omit the anchovies and add white miso paste. Start with a teaspoon of miso paste and taste. It will give the kale parsley sauce some body similar to the anchovies, but you lose some of the Tuscan vibe in the sauce. Another alternative is just omit the anchovies and add more capers to your liking.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
A silky and chunky mushroom sauce recipe perfect with fresh or dried, long wide shape pasta. With a pound and a half of mushrooms, it has a deep mushroom flavor seasoned with dry Spanish sherry and fresh rosemary.
My stress level is very high now and I desperately need to chill out. In-between two nor’easters, extended power outages, and no internet, I migrated my website from one hosting service to another. Maybe I should have waited until the storms cleared, but then I would still be waiting. No internet.
For over a week my website fluctuated between it’s old home and new one, appearing with different styling and connections. Just like we went from house to house seeking warmth and shelter after the storm. Fortunately, we had a place to go, not like my website that was floating between two homes.
Mushroom Sauce to Sooth the Soul
Amid cleaning out my refrigerator and freezer and restocking our supplies, I spied a pint of store made fresh cream of mushroom soup. I grabbed it up like it was the last pint of soup in the store. Instinctively, I knew other than my internet service returning, cream of mushroom soup was the medicine I needed to calm my mind.
Back home, with each sweet and earthy slurp my body melted into the serene soup. Selfishly, I wanted more and next to mushroom soup, pasta with mushroom sauce grounds me. Like cream of mushroom soup, mushroom sauces for pasta is at the top of my favorite food list. When two of the most comforting foods combine, it is difficult to hold onto any worries. It is time to make this at home.
How to store mushrooms Once I open a sealed package of fresh mushrooms, I put any remainder mushrooms in paper bag. Mushrooms get slimy in plastic bags and containers.
Pappardelle with Sherry Mushroom Sauce
Wide flat noodles are my preferred pasta shape with this smooth mushroom sauce. Often pappardelle or tagliatelle are hard to find so penne is a good substitute. If you can get fresh pasta go for it, but make sure you time the pasta to reach just shy of al dente when the sauce is done cooking. Fresh pasta is best eaten right after it is cooked.
This recipe is adapted from Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali, Tagliatelle with Mushroom Sauce.
- .5 oz (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms*
- 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
- 1 lb. (454 g) dried or fresh pappardelle pasta or tagliatelle, or penne
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 lbs 750 g assorted mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1 leek cleaned and minced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 TB fresh rosemary minced (thyme or sage)
- 3 TB tomato paste
- 2 TB dry sherry or Cognac
- 1 - 1.5 cups (250 - 375 ml) reserved mushroom liquid, or a combination of vegetable or chicken stock and mushroom liquid
- 2 TB butter
- Handful of Italian parsley chopped for garnish
- Fresh finely grated Romano cheese
Reconstitute the dried mushrooms
Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms and poke at them to submerge the mushrooms under the water. Quickly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid my lifting them out with your hands or a slotted spoon and rest them on a cutting board. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer, lined with a double layer of cheese cloth, into a small bowl. Finely chop the reconstituted mushrooms and set aside. Reserve the mushroom liquid for later.
Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to boil. Once the pasta water reaches a vigorous boiling point and add about 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
Prepare the mushroom sauce
While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large skillet, about 12 inches (30cm) or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil add all the fresh mushrooms to the pan. (If you use a smaller pan, you may want to sauté the mushrooms in a couple of batches.) Sauté stirring occasionally until they are cooked through and all their liquid has evaporated.
Add the minced leeks, garlic, minced reconstituted porcini mushrooms, half the minced rosemary, Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper then stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until the leeks are soft about 5 minutes. Push aside the vegetables to uncover the hot spot of your pan and add the tomato paste to toast it over the hot spot for about a minute. Mix the tomato paste with the vegetables and cook for 4 minutes. Add the liquid, either just the mushroom stock or a combination of mushroom and chicken stock no more than 1. 5 cups (375 ml), and the butter. Turn down the heat to medium and simmer the mushroom sauce until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Add the pasta to the salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Refer to the directions on the back of the pasta box. Occasionally stir the pasta so the strands do not stick together. Once cooked, remove the pasta from the water using tongs and add it directly into the pan with the mushroom sauce. Toss to evenly coat the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining minced rosemary and serve.
Serve immediately garnished with minced parsley with finely grated fresh Romano cheese.
Dried porcini powder is another way to get earthy mushroom flavor when cooking with cultivated mushrooms. Start with 1 teaspoon. Taste, then adjust with more if needed.
More mushroom recipes for the mushroom lover:
Mix up the Mushroom Sauce
Instead of a pasta sauce, spread the mushroom sauce over polenta, grilled steaks, chicken or white fish.
Top bruschetta with the mushroom sauce. Toast slices of crusty French or Italian bread then paint each slice using a garlic clove. Top the garlic toasts with the mushroom sauce and serve as an appetizer.
Add some cream or crème fraîche to the mushroom sauce for a creamy adaptation. Start with a half of cup (125 ml) and taste. If you use cream add it with the stock, but do not let the sauce boil. If you use crème fraîche, add it at the end before you add the pasta.
Switch up the herbs to reflect the season. Mushrooms taste delicious with thyme, rosemary and sage, but in the summer months, try it with basil.
Experiment with the texture. For a slightly smoother sauce, purée half of the sauce until smooth, then add the purée back with the other mushrooms. Adjust the thickness with more stock.
For a heartier mushroom sauce, add roughly chopped tomatoes to the sauce before you add the stock. Proceed as directed.
If it wasn’t for free Wi-Fi at various stores in my area I would not have been able to get my website up and running and publish this post. Thanks to Panera and Starbucks for providing the service. It was a real-life saver for many people like myself during the aftermath of two nor’easters within a weeks’ time. This is not an ad or a sponsored post, just a friendly thank you.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
It is October and that means I need to trim my herb garden and use up all the annual herbs before the temperature drops below 50°. It would break my heart if they went to waste, especially my basil. I have four basil plants and after a rough start they grew, continuously producing new stems and leaves for my pleasure. I was not so fortunate last year. What a difference having an herb garden makes. I can select the amount of herbs I need, and pick them when I want them. Nonetheless, it is time to use it or lose it. Fortunately, the best way I know how to use up a bunch of fresh basil is make basil pesto.
There is nothing like a fresh herb pesto to add bright herbaceous pizzaz to pasta, vegetables, and fish or chicken. Usually, I also add in an extra leafy green vegetable or herb, like arugula or spinach, when I make basil pesto. The additional greens add extra body and texture to the pesto. Spinach leaves really softens the basil flavor and smooths the pesto. Arugula’s peppery bite brightens the basil flavor. Both versions taste delicious. For my recipe if you want to omit the arugula, go ahead. This is a classic basil pesto recipe, if you omit the lemon zest and arugula there is no need to add in more basil leaves to supplement it.
Pesto has three essential ingredients: basil, olive oil and freshly grated cheese. The quality of these ingredients influences to the flavor of the pesto. I always recommend buying the best quality food or product you can afford. This is especially true for the olive oil. For pesto, an all-purpose extra virgin olive oil is fine to use. There is no need to buy top shelf extra virgin olive oil, save that for salads. I use California Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil for my every day use and I am very happy with the flavor. Unfortunately, the labels on olive oil are misleading and not regulated. 100% olive oil is often not 100% olive oil. For more information about buying olive oil, here is an article about how to find real olive oil at the grocery store. Also, here from Business Insider.
Other than the fresh herb in pesto, the freshness of the grated cheese impacts the flavor. The traditional cheeses in pesto are Parmesan or Romano and sometimes both. I use Romano cheese for its sharper flavor, and it’s less expensive than Parmesan. Whichever cheese you use, only use freshly grated cheese. If possible, buy a chunk and grate the cheese at home. Parmesan and Romano cheese are expensive, but they last a long time. If you need to buy grated cheese, buy the cheese that is grated at the store. It is a lot fresher than buying factory grated cheese with preservatives in it.
Want more herb sauce recipes? Check out my recipe for Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Every Italian cookbook author, says never to cook Basil pesto. In general I follow this rule, unless I am grilling salmon with pesto (without cheese). Any level of heat will darken the color of the basil, dull its flavor, and diminish the scent. For best results, serve pesto at room temperature, stirred into warm pasta. When I make it, I make a batch and freeze it before adding the cheese. That way if I need it for pasta or to garnish a soup, I can use the pesto either with or without the cheese. Stir in the cheese a little before adding the pesto to your pasta dish. This will allow the ingredients to meld and the cheese to absorb the oil and basil.
My Favorite Basil Pesto
- 2 cups lightly packed (38 g) basil leaves cleaned, dried, and stems removed
- 3/4 cup (20 g) arugula cleaned , dried and stems removed
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1/4 cup (27 g) pine nuts lightly toasted
- Zest of half a lemon
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (40 g) freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, or a blend of both
- Little squeeze of fresh lemon juice if needed to brighten the pesto*
Place the basil leaves in a food processor and process until the leaves are slightly chopped. Add the arugula and process with the basil to combine.
Add the garlic, lemon zest, Kosher salt, and pinenuts and pulse until an even consistency is achieved.
Add half of the olive oil and process until smooth. Using a rubber spatula scrape down the sides of your food processor and stir it around. Add more olive oil until you reach the consistency you want. Taste and correct seasoning. Before you add more salt, remember the cheese is not added yet and is salty.
If using soon, pour the pesto into a small bowl and stir in the grated cheese. Start by adding half the cheese, stir and taste. Add more cheese as you wish. Regrigerate the pesto without the cheese until needed. Add the cheese to the pesto before using.
Stir the specified amount of pesto into your favorite pasta and serve immediately.
Pesto is best used immediately or the day it is made. It will last for a week in the refrigerator, or freeze, without the cheese, for 3 months.
Never heat up pesto. Heat causes the pesto to change color and the flavor lose its intensity.
*Adding an acid like lemon juice could change the color of leafy greens and other vegetables. If you feel the pesto needs to get brighter, add a little squeeze of lemon juice just before using.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
We went exploring at a new Farmer’s Market last weekend and picked up chimichurri sauce from one of the vendors. Usually, I like to make my own pesto and sauces, but I made an exception with this one. The flavor was fresh and the garlic did not overwhelm the other ingredients. Also, this sauce was my concession to what I really wanted to buy.
The vendor was from an Argentinean restaurant, Gaucho Burger, and they were selling chimichurri sauce and Gaucho Burgers made with sliced roasted pork, lettuce, tomato and slathered in chimichurri sauce. I really wanted one of those burgers. The pork roast had a slight pink color, looked juicy and seasoned throughout with chimichurri. It looked perfectly cooked and delicious. Unfortunately, it was only an hour past my breakfast so I could not justify eating a big burger. I settled on buying their chimichurri sauce instead.
Settled on is not a fair statement because chimichurri sauce can stand on its own merit. It is an Argentinean sauce made with parsley, oregano, garlic, red pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. It is traditionally used as a condiment or marinade for beef. However, I am sure it will taste great on chicken, lamb, pork, fish and grilled vegetables. The sauce’s bright taste comes from fresh parsley and vinegar. Yet, the flavor is nicely balanced with minced garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. That bit of acid brings all the flavors together and tones down the sharp bite of fresh garlic. I love it. You can make it hot, mild, thick or thin. It is easily adaptable for any type of food.
Once home, I knew exactly how I wanted to use the chimichurri. With not enough time for a pork roast, I decided on butterflied flank steak with a layer of chimichurri sauce. After spreading the chimichurri over the meat, I rolled-up the flank steak and secured with kitchen string. The result is a steak that looks like a roast with a spiral of chimichurri sauce throughout the middle. It is tender and full of flavor.
Rolled flank steak tastes great grilled, or you can sear the meat in a skillet on the stove then finish cooking in the oven. Serve the rolled flank steak with chimichurri sauce hot or at room temperature. This makes it a perfect choice for entertaining. It is also easy enough to make during the week. Just butterfly, layer, roll-up, and refrigerate during the day. When you come home, it is ready for cooking.
Tips or Success for Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Butterflying the flank steak is an easy thing to do, but if you do not want to butterfly the flank steak yourself, ask the butcher to do it. Make sure the butcher cuts through the meat beginning on the long side of the flank steak.
Compared to other steak cuts, flank steak is a tougher piece of meat. However, with extra preparation and proper carving, a tender slice of flank steak is possible. The muscle fibers, also known as the grain, are distinct. When carving flank steak, carving the meat thinly on a diagonal and across the grain, creates tender slices of steak.
The same technique applies to rolled flank steak. When rolling up the flank steak, make sure to roll it across the grain. You will see the muscle fibers running the length of the meat. This way, when you carve the rolled flank steak you will cut the meat across the grain at the ends.
For best results, serve flank steak medium-rare. Well done flank steak is tough to chew. An instant-read thermometer is great for determining the level of doneness for a thick piece of meat. The internal temperature for rare beef is 125˚F (52˚C) and medium-rare is around 130˚F (54˚C). I stopped cooking my rolled flank steak close to 125˚F (52˚C), then I let the steak rest and continue to cook with the residual heat for 10 minutes. This is an easy step to do and prevents overcooking the steak.
It is a little more difficult to gauge the temperature in a stuffed piece of meat, you need the thermometer to be in the center. Also, how red the juices are will tell you how far along the cooking process is. The redder the juice the rarer it is. If you pierce the meat and no juices appear it means one of two things: the meat is barely cooked, or it is well done and dry.
More flank steak recipe ideas:
Included with my rolled flank steak recipe is a recipe for chimichurri sauce that I slightly adapted from Simply Recipes website.
Rolled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
- For the Chimichurri Sauce
- 1 cup 250 ml firmly packed Italian parsley leaves
- 5 medium garlic cloves
- 2 TB fresh oregano leaves
- 1/3 cup 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TB red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
For the Flank Steak
- 1- 1.5 - 2 lb 750 g - 1 k flank steak
- 3 oz - 4 oz 75 g- 125 g chimichurri sauce
- Kosher Salt about 1/4 teaspoon
- Fresh ground black pepper
Add the parsley, oregano, garlic in a food processor and process until finely pureed. When necessary, scrape down the sides of the bowl to get everything processed evenly. (See Note)
Add the herbs to a small bowl, then whisk together the herbs with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Use right away or store, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Prepare the flank steak
Place the flank steak on a cutting board in front of you with the short end facing you, and the meat fibers running perpendicular to you.
Butterfly the flank steak. Using a long, thin, and sharp knife, like a boning knife, cut the flank steak in half through the thickness of the meat. Beginning at the outer long side, either your right or left. Cut through the middle thickness of the steak, pulling back the top layer as you go. Keep the knife blade level to the countertop so you do not cut up or down, just straight across. Cut the flank steak open until you reach a half an inch from cutting all the way through at the opposite side. Open the steak like a book.
Press on the seam with the heel of your hand to smooth out any uneven dumps.
Sprinkle about a 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt over both sides of the flank steak.
Spread the chimichurri sauce over the side of the flank steak you just cut open.
Staring at the long side, either right or left depending on your dominant hand, roll up the steak with the meat grain running long and perpendicular to you.
Once rolled up, tie up your flank steak roll with kitchen twine. I use 5 ties up the length of the rolled steak. Trim off the long ends of the string.
Rub any escaped chimichurri sauce over the exterior of the steak. Cook right away or let marinate wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Marinate for no more than 8 hours.
Cook the steak.
Rolled flank steak is great cooked on the grill, or seared in a grill pan or skillet, then baked in the oven. If you marinated it in the refrigerator, bring the flank steak up to room temperature before you start cooking it. I usually take the meat out about 30 minutes to an hour before I start cooking it.
Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat areas. Oil the grill before placing the meat down. When the grill is nice and hot place the rolled flank steak directly over the flames on the grill (direct heat). Sear the meat. Turn the meat every couple of minutes and sear all sides of the surface, about 8 to 10 minutes total. Once the meat is seared, move it over to the side of the grill prepared for indirect heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, covered. Check the internal temperature. If the temperature in the middle of the meat is around 120˚F - 125˚F (49˚C- 52˚C), the steak is done cooking.
Remove the flank steak from the grill and let it rest covered with foil for 10 minutes. This resting period should produce medium-rare rolled flank steak, about 130˚F - 135˚F (54˚C- 57˚C).
Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C / Gas Mark 5). Heat and lightly oil a skillet or grill pan large enough to hold your rolled flank steak. When your pan is almost smoking, sear your flank steak, turning it over every 2 minutes searing the steak all over. When the flank steak is seared, place the pan with the flank steak in the oven and cook. After 10 minutes, check the internal temperature. Stop cooking when the internal temperature in the middle of the rolled steak reaches between 120˚F - 125˚F (49˚C- 52˚C). Place the rolled flank steak on a cutting board and let it rest covered in foil for 10 minutes. Medium-rare meat has an internal temperature of, 130˚F - 135˚F (54˚C- 57˚C).
Slice and Serve
Cut off the ties and slice the rolled flank in 1/2- inch slices across the grain. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Leftovers make great sandwiches with a chimichurri mayo, lettuce, tomato, and your favorite bread or roll.
If you do not own a food processor, you can make the sauce by finely mincing the herbs with a knife.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.