Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spicy Brunch Recipe: Huevos Rancheros

I love spicy food (with meat) and I love brunch.  My loves come together in perfect harmony in Huevos Rancheros.  

Heuvos Rancheros
Spice, meat and brunch.  I'm in love.
There are lots of different ways to make Huevos Rancheros, but here is my all-time favorite recpie, made with chorizo.  And the great thing about Huevos Rancheros is that it is super simple to make.  Dare I say, easier than pancakes?!

Please note, I used cooking short-cuts.  If you don't like it, then I invite you to come make me brunch.... but this girl was hungry and needed to eat.

3 chorizo links (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 package of Southwestern style hashbrowns
4 corn tortillas 
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
4 eggs
hot sauce
1.  Slice the chorizo into 1/2" circles.  Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add the chorizo and cook until browned, about 8-10 minutes.

Smokin' HOT!
2. Remove the chorizo from the pan and add about 1 1/2 cups (about 1/2 the package) of Southwestern style hashbrowns.  Fry hashbrowns on one side until browned and crispy.  Flip the hashbrowns to brown the other side, about 6 minutes per side.  (PS - you can take the long way here by peeling Yukon gold pototoes, boiling them for 12 minutes, then grating the potatoes when cooled, adding diced onions and peppers and then frying.  I just chose to cut open the bag)

Easy peasy...
3.  Once the hashbrowns are browned, add the chorizo back to the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors.

I could eat this alone, but I figured I would finish the dish
4. Remove the chorizo and hashbrowns from the pan, add a tablespoon of butter.  When the butter is melted, add one corn tortilla to the pan to brown on one side (about 3 minutes) and flip to brown the other side (DO NOT USE FLOUR TORTILLAS, you need the corn tortillas for Huevos Rancheros).  Repeat with the 3 other tortillas.

Browning the tortillas makes them crispy
5. Place each tortilla on a plate.  Place about two spoonfuls of the mix of chorizo and potatoes on top of each tortilla.

Look, little meat piles!
6.  Add a 1/2 of tablespoon of butter to the pan.  Once melted, crack an egg in the pan and heat until the bottom is cooked (about 3 minutes).  Flip the egg to lightly cook the top (about 1 minute), keeping the inside of the yolk in liquid form. Remove from the pan and place on top of the potatoes and chorizo.

You gotta flip it fast before the yolk runs off...
7.  Top each egg with a few dashes of hot sauce and a spoonful of salsa.  I prefer Crystal Hot Sauce and Green Mountain Gringo Hot Salsa.  In case the chorizo wasn't spicy enough.

Mild is one step away from diced tomatoes and medium is not much better, go for HOT!
8.  Disfrute de su picante y delicioso huevos rancheros!  


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Biking and Belgian Beer at Cock & Bowl

I exercise so I can eat and drink what I want.  Yeah, it makes me feel good after I'm done and sure, I enjoy the sense of accomplishment.  But most importantly, I like to not have to think about calories and fat content... I just want to order what I think looks most delicious off a menu.  And then eat desert.  So in order to do this, I exercise.  I run and I bike.  And NO, I do not adorn my car with stickers that advertise this fact to other drivers on the road.

Our family lives in Burke, VA and honestly, there isn't much happening around here in terms of great places to eat.  There are a few decent places, and places the kids like (such as Glory Days) but if we have a babysitter and go out to dinner, we usually head to DC or Arlington.  The other day though, I stumbled upon Cock and Bowl in Occoquan, VA.

For those of you who have never been to Occoquan, it's actually a quaint little town right outside Fairfax County, VA.  It has a historic downtown area with little shoppes and restaurants on the water.  If you've driven on 95, this is right about where you hit traffic right after the "Mixing Bowl."  Ha, now you know where I'm talking about!

When I saw the outdoor patio at Cock and Bowl, their European style menu, and the selection of Belgian beers, I knew I had to try it out.  Since it was a nice day, I thought I would take my road bike down Rt. 123 to Occoquan and have lunch with my husband at Cock and Bowl.  That way, whatever calories I burned off riding down to Occoquan I could replace with Belgian beer. Perfect.

Cock and Bowl is actually very tiny inside, I think it is a small row house.  They have about 4 tables downstairs and 4 tables upstairs.  They also have about 8 tables outside on their patio.  Lucky for us, it was not crowded at lunchtime.  But I can imagine the wait on a sunny fall afternoon during the weekend.  

We sat down to lunch and looked through the extensive Belgian beer list.  It was impressive how much beer they have on their menu.  Generally to get a beer menu like that you have to go up to DC and go to places like The Brickskellar.  But now there is one close to my house... nice!

We decided to order a beer we could share.  The first beer we chose was no longer in stock, but the waitress was smart enough to bring three other bottles to the table for us to choose from.  I always am impressed by a wait staff that actually knows what they are serving and can make recommendations based on what you originally ordered.  Nice job, Cock and Bowl.  We decided on the La Chouffe brewed by Brasserie d'Achouffe which was delicious, light and sweet with a little hoppy taste.

I don't know what that little gnome is doing, I hope it's making beer!
 Since I had biked down to lunch, I was definitely ready to eat.  We started off with the Pommes Frites and the Pâté a la Maison

Perfect amount of frites to share...
The frites were crispy, salty and delicious.  The side of mayo was exactly that, mayo.  It was not the like the lighter dipping sauce usually served with frites (which you can sort of replicate by cutting regular mayo with garlic and fresh lemon juice).  That was a little disappointing.  

The pâté (chicken liver terrine) was served with toasted bread, cornichons, and stone-ground mustard.  It was good, a nice addition to the frites.

Between the frites and pate, I had restored my salt content
After our snacks, we shared a bowl of mussels.  I like my mussels prepared in a simple broth, so we opted for the mussels in white wine, garlic, shallots, parsley and butter.

Serve these in a pot!
The mussels were good.  There were a good number that didn't open in our bowl, which is annoying.  But they provided a generous quantity of mussels, so that made up for it.       

For dessert we ordered another Belgian beer and the Turtle Waffle.  The beer, St. Bernardus Abt 12, was definitely more thick and complex than the first - it was creamy and sort of tasted like caramel.  Perfect for dessert.

Another 'person of the cloth' having fun with beer! I may be in the wrong profession...
The belgian waffle was topped with chocolate, caramel, pecans and whipped cream.  It was sooo... good!

umm, I might have to bike back home after eating this
We had a yummy lunch at the Cock and Bowl.  The food was good and the beers were even better.  And, it's super close to my house!  If you are ever stuck in traffic on 95 in Occoquan, now you know what to do... hit up the Cock and Bowl, have a beer and wait for traffic to end. 
Cock and Bowl on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Hour at Cuba Libre

For the most part, enjoying happy hours are a thing of the past for me.  "Happy hour" now consists of homework, cooking dinner and packing lunches.  But every once in a while we catch a break and are able to get out to a happy hour after work.  Last week was that rare occasion and we went to try the happy hour menu at Cuba Libre in Penn Quarter.

Generally, I try to avoid chain restaurants - they remind me too much of my days waitressing and the food is sort of 'processed.'  But I put my preconceptions aside in the name of finding a good happy hour deal.  

Cuba Libre is laid out in an 'open floor plan' kind of way with a bunch of tables in the front and a bar towards the back with a few high top tables.  The decor is mainly dark wood, with high ceilings and Spanish colonial accent pieces - sort of makes you feel like you are in a bar in Cuba minus the cigars.  

For happy hour (available Sunday-Friday 4:30-6:30), Cuba Libre offers $4 and $5 cocktail and appetizer options.  I ordered the Classic Caipirinha which is mixture of Cachaça, guarapo, fresh lime juice, sugar, and muddled limes.  It is sort of like a mojito, but with a different rum flavor to it.

3 of these little numbers and I'll be doing the Salsa!

What is UP!  This drink was strong, you could definitely taste the rum.  But it was really good - light and refreshing and not too sweet.  I was a big fan.  And it was only $5, a great deal for drink in DC.

Given the amount of alcohol in my drink, I figured I should eat or things could go down hill quickly.  So we opted for the Guacamole Cubano and the Yucca Frita.  The Guacamole Cubano is avocado, golden pineapple, fresh lime juice and extra virgin olive oil served with crispy plantain chips.  I figured it would be the traditional style guacamole.  I was wrong.

This tower of food was destroyed pretty quickly, it was that good
How fun!  I was impressed by the presentation alone, but the guacamole was yum, the pineapple chunks were a fantastic addition and tasted delicious with the plantain chips.

The Yucca Frita consisted of Cassava Cuban fries with cilantro-caper alioli.

So much potential...
So here is the deal with yucca.  It is a starchy, tuberous root that is one of the main sources of food carbohydrates in the tropics.  Turns out, it is rather bland.  The little frita looked crispy and delicious, a light golden brown.  But when you bit into the frita, the yucca was the consistency of paste and tasted like potatoes (sort of).  The alioli tried to counteract the blandness, but there was no fixing the yucca.  Sad.  The presentation was awesome though!

It was great deal for happy hour at Cuba Libre with fantastic drinks and fun snacks. I plan to go back and try their empanadas, they smelled delicious!

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soup Season

Soup season is upon us - cool, fall weather perfect for enjoying a warm soup with bread, cheese and a glass of wine for dinner.  So I've decided to share one of my favorite soup recipes - Potato Leek Soup.  This version uses bacon (of course there is meat in the recipe, would you expect any thing less from moi?) and heavy cream -- just in case you needed some fat content.  

To give credit where credit is due, my recipe is adapted based on this recipe for Creamy Potato Leek Soup II on

8 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into big chunks
4 cups chicken stock
2 leeks, sliced and chopped
1 pound of bacon
1 cup of heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel and dice potatoes in large chunks
2. Place potatoes in a pot with the chicken stock, boil potatoes until tender (about 20 minutes)

I like bigger potato chunks so that when they cook and break apart you still have some good sized potatoes
3. While the potatoes are cooking, dice bacon and cook in a large skillet until browned (dicing the bacon makes it cook faster)

Yumm... bacon!  You can leave this out if you are vegetarian
4.  While the bacon is cooking, slice and chop the leeks

Cut the white and green parts
5.  When the bacon is nice and crispy, remove bacon with slotted spoon.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.  Add the leeks to the bacon drippings and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.

Stir often!
6.  At this point, your potatoes should be done.  Check for tenderness.  Then grab your potato masher (or a fork) and break about 1/2 the potatoes in the pot to create a creamy texture in your soup.

Masher + Potatoes = Creamy Soup Base
7.  Add the leeks and bacon to the pot with the potatoes and chicken stock.  Stir and then pour in 1 cup of heavy cream.

Delicious cream

8. Let the soup warm over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the flavors blend.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
9. Serve immediately!  Or you can cool and freeze to enjoy later.

Big chunks and little chunks!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Meat and More Meat!

If you read my blog, you have probably come to realize that I really enjoy meat a great deal.  It doesn't even have to be real meat.  My favorite snack is a Slim Jim with a slurpee - and I think of Slim Jims as meat.  I like jerky.  I love scrapple.  And I will choose a hot dog over a hamburger any time.  I think it's because I grew up in New Jersey. Or I just have random taste buds.  Either way, I could never be a vegetarian willingly.

This past weekend, we enjoyed a great deal of meat dining on Korean barbeque at Hee Been in Annandale.  For those of you who don't live in the DC area (or don't venture down to the suburbs), Annandale is the home of great Korean restaurants (Little River Turnpike to be exact).  Sure, you can go to Woo Lae Oak in Tyson's, but come on, that's not the real deal.  

If you have never had Korean BBQ, you should know that it's awesome.  You select different types of meat and they cook it on a grill at your table.  And then they bring all kinds of side dishes like kimchi, roasted seaweed, and pickled vegetables.  When the meat is cooked, you make little Korean burritos of meat, sauces, and rice wrapped in lettuce.  I am sure it's an acquired taste for some (especially the kimchi) but it is really good and everyone should try it once.  

At Hee Been they have a whole buffet of sushi and Korean BBQ (among other things) but we focused on the Korean BBQ.  I started off with some Miso soup and then we got to cookin'!

Look at all that meat cooking!
We got lots of side dishes like kimchi, cucumber kimchi, seaweed, lettuce and other things I can't recall.  At a buffet it's sort of nice to get one of everything.  And then we cooked up bulgogi (thinly sliced beef) and I think I grabbed galbig (marinated short ribs).  

Add extra sauce and make it spicy!
Delicious as always!  Our Korean BBQ dinner hit the spot, nice and spicy.  We were definitely full when we left and I had no room for dessert.  As an extra bonus, it looked like they were setting up for karaoke.  We had to leave and missed the show (every hour counts when you have a babysitter, people!) but I guarantee there was some Gangnam Style.

Hee Been on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hippie Central: DC Green Festival

Check out my post over at Capital Cooking from the DC Green Festival.  

The scent of patchouli was in the air, tofu was being served by the pound, and I wore elephant dung around my neck.  It was all I could do not to start a drum circle...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Frieten and Falafels

I have been fortunate enough to travel to Amsterdam twice (once while in college and again on a side trip after attending my friend's wedding in England) and the food there is delicious.  I remember eating a lot of street food including a good amount of frites (similar to french fries) with a mayonnaise dipping sauce.  So when I saw the write up for Amsterdam Falafelshop in the Post's Washington 40 Essential Eats, I vowed to make a special trip up to Adams Morgan just to try it out.  

I will go to Adams Morgan and attempt to find parking, just for you Amsterdam Falafelshop
Like most locations in Adams Morgan, the shop is tiny with about 5 tables and a few bar stools to eat at (with a cool counter design made of 'menus' from the various coffeeshops in Amsterdam).  The menu is simple - they offer frieten and falafels.  You basically can order a large or a small falafel sandwich (small = 3 falafel balls, large = 5 falafel balls) and frieten (Belgian french fries).  I really like places that only offer two to four things on their menu because chances are, they do those menu items really well and aren't distracted by trying to do too much in terms of selection.  

They even take Euros!  But what about the guilder?  Hmm...

I got the small falafel sandwich and my husband and I split an order of frieten.  Amsterdam Falafelshop has an extensive topping bar to select different accompaniments for your sandwich.  They have all kinds of toppings including yogurt dill sauce, hummus, red cabbage, pickled beets and fried eggplant.  

So many choices and only one sandwich to work with...  Nooooo!

There is a special technique involved to be able to smash down the falafel balls and load up on the maximum amount toppings.  I have not mastered it yet, but I feel that with some practice, I could get pretty good.  For my sandwich, I added the yogurt dill sauce, jalapeno cilantro, and some tomato/onion mixture.   

The toppings make every sandwich different than the last

My falafel sandwich was fantastic.  The falafels were so good - crispy and spicy with definite flavor of cardamom.  And the toppings were the perfect additions.  Halfway through my sandwich I ran low on toppings.  You know that means - a trip back to the topping bar!  This time I opted for the garlic sauce and the red cabbage.  The special treat for my lunch were the frieten.  

Even served in the paper cone like they do in Amsterdam

The frieten were golden and lightly salted - yum!  And the mayonnaise dip was expertly crafted - creamy and smooth (very different than American mayonnaise which can be bitter and is not the same when dipping frieten).  As an added bonus, they provided the wooden picks to spear your fry and dip!
It was well worth the wait to find the time to get up to Adams Morgan for lunch at Amsterdam Falafelshop.  I would love to go again and try different combinations of toppings.  If only parking weren't so difficult!  Maybe there is an Amsterdam Falafelshop food truck in the makings?  
Amsterdam Falafelshop on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 1, 2012

Oktoberfest Beer

Today is the first day of October and the last week of Oktoberfest -- a 16-day festival celebrating beer in Germany.  In honor of Oktoberfest, we held a little Oktoberfest beer taste test competition this past weekend (and we had some extra time on Friday to go to Total Wine). 

Since this was not my idea, I got to relax as my husband prepped the competitors for the main event.  Bonus.  There were six beers entered in the race: 
  • Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Marzen
  • Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Marzen
  • Paulaner Oktoberest-Marzen
  • Weihenstephaner Oktoberfestbier
  • Harpoon Octoberfest Beer
  • Dominion Octoberfest Maerzen

Reminded me a little bit like the "waterfall" drinking game from college
Almost all of the Oktoberfest beers had the dark amber hue, but the German beers were definitely darker than the American versions.  The obvious outlier was the Weihenstepahner, which was light honeyed color.  We both tried each beer, starting with the Hacker-Pschorr. 

The first three beers tasted very similar (the Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, and Paulaner) - malty and smooth.  The Wiehenstephaner was really light and smooth, didn't feel as heavy as the other three.  As an extra bonus, it had this awesome picture on the six pack box.

Had I known this was what nun life was like, I might have chosen a different "path"
The other two were the American Oktoberfest-style beers.  I am no beer connoisseur, but these beers paled in comparison to the German brewed beers in terms of flavor and smoothness.  The Harpoon was decent, I would drink it if I were in a bar and it was on tap.  But the Dominion beer was pitiful.  It was like they just added more malt and slapped on the "Oktoberfest" label.

Finished everything else, except for the lonely poor-tasting Dominion
So, I went back to try my hand again at the three German Oktoberfest beers that were the amber color to discern a difference.  This time, I noticed a slight difference in the Spaten.  It took me a while to put my finger on it, but there was a different malt flavor that lingered after you drank the Spaten.  It was a little sweet.  And that did it for me, I declared an Oktoberfest beer winner -- the Spaten!

Winner, winner, pork and kraut dinner!
My husband was okay with my declaration of the winner, but he really liked the Weihenstephaner.  I think it had to do with the "woman in a uniform."  Turns out, he's not so picky when it's in the fridge and the game is on.

Enjoy the last week of celebrating Oktoberfest with some delicious beer!