Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dinner in 30: Chicken Flautas

From start to finish, chicken flautas is one of the easiest, and tastiest meals you can make. All you need is some boneless, skinless chicken, flour tortillas, oil, and your condiments! Of course, you may want a side or two: I like to make a quick version of Spanish Rice to go with these cylinders from heaven. First, the rice: All you need is some chicken stock (I used Trader Joe's for both the flautas and the rice), some tomato bouillion, dried minced onion, ancho chili powder, and the rice. Toast the rice quickly in a little butter, then add the bouillion, onion, chili powder and broth or stock. For 2 cups of rice, I use 2 cubes of bouillion, 2 tbsp onion, and 2 tsp of chili powder to 4 cups of broth. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover tightly. Cook for 18 min, then remove from heat, still covered, until ready to serve.

For the Flautas:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1-2 tbsp Better than Bouillion, chicken flavor
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • enough chicken broth to cover the breasts in the pan
  • flour tortillas
  • condiments: guacamole, sour cream, salsa, hot sauce as desired
  • Optional: lettuce (shredded) and cheese (shredded)
Place the chicken breasts in a large skillet or fried chicken pan. Add the onion and the broth to cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer. Cover and let cook 8-10 min, until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from pan to a cutting board.
In the pan, add the Better than Bouillion, and let the stock reduce. Remove onions and discard. Keep stock until ready to use.
Shred the chicken using two forks. Return to pan with stock and simmer until chicken absorbs liquid, about 1-2 min. Meanwhile, warm flour tortillas to prevent tearing while rolling and heat about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan. Roll about 3 tbsp of chicken mixture in each tortilla.
Fry each flauta about 1 min on each side, until deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with sour cream and any other condiments you desire.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A far cry from airplane peanuts, or Is This a Sign?

So, as I was saying in my last post, we recently spent some time in Maine. We were flying home on New Year's Day, and I was not looking forward to that flight. I figured, being a holiday, it would be crowded (it was) and hectic (it was) and a pain (it wasn't!) Long story short, we got bumped to first class and discovered a whole new world!
The best part may have been the meal. Instead of the cellophane bag of airplane peanuts, we were instead treated to chicken in a roasted red pepper sauce, roasted potatoes, creamed spinach, Cesar salad, a dinner roll, fresh fruit and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert!
The chicken was surprisingly tasty, and the red pepper sauce was equally good on the roasted potatoes. The salad was accented by thin slices of parmesan, dressed in a tasty and light Cesar dressing. The roll was warm and soft, an unexpected treat. But what took the cake (no pun intended!) was the flourless chocolate cake. Rich and decadent, it was deeply chocolatey. The strawberries and black grapes were a perfect foil.
I would like to say I'll never fly coach again, but until I hit the lottery, that's not likely.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Breakfast: The most important meal of the day

Richard Walker's Pancake House in Downtown San Diego
I never used to be a breakfast person. It's only in the last few years that I have come to appreciate breakfast in the more traditional sense of the word. As a teen, spaghetti was my take on breakfast! I would make a pot on Monday, and have a little bowl of it for breakfast before school each morning. Kids, whatta ya gonna do??

Since becoming a more traditional breakfast eater, I've been on a little bit of a quest to find places that can do it right. So far, at the very top of my list is Kono's...between the food, the service, and the atmosphere (the beach!!) you can't go wrong there, really.

Recently this quest has brought me to Richard Walker's Pancake House in downtown San Diego. It's located at 520 Front Street, and it's easy to spot out because there is almost always a long line heading out the door. Don't let this dissuade you from visiting, as it usually moves pretty quickly, or at least moreso than most places.

The interior of the restaurant is beautiful and almost frenetic in it's energy. The staff is fast moving, carrying plate after plate of delicious looking (and smelling!) food to the tables. It's not a huge location, to be certain, but it's not clausterphobic as some smaller places can be.

I took a friend with me, figuring between the two of us we could take a wider sample for review...next time I'll bring more! There is so much to try! From pancakes to waffles, omeletes to salads. And for those of you who still don't care for breakfast foods, you can always grab a BLT and a bowl of Ribble Soup! I can't vouch for the soup just yet, but I will be back and I'll try it then. Now, for the first visit, I wanted to try the "Signature" of the house: Walker's Apple Pancake.

The most popular item on the menu, much hyped in the press, it lived up to its reputation on sight, at least visually. An impressively large twelve inch pancake, smothered in tender-tart baked apples and exotically scented cinnamon, it was certainly a sight to behold. I was worried, though, because I'd seen other examples of this particular dish that were dense, heavy, and soggy...so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pancake itself was light, almost airy. Moist, but not too much so, and richly flavored with egg and cinnamon and vanilla notes. The aroma of decadence wafted up from the plate as I cut into the Granny Smith apples, each coated with a generous sprinkling of Saigon cinnamon and sweetened with a hint of sugar. I'm surprised I didn't drool.

The best part is, it tastes as good as it looks and smells. The apples were cooked just enough; not too soft, not too crisp. Tart-sweet with just enough sugar and well, you can never have too much cinnamon in my book! Add the pancake in with the apples, and it's near nirvana. Near, I said. Nirvana comes when you wash it down with a cup of hot, black coffee. Sweetened coffee would have definitely put it over the top.

My friend, who is not a fan of apples (can you imagine!?) decided to sample the waffles instead, and added an omelette to her order, so she'd have something to take home for her man. Although tempted by the Blueberry Flap Jacks, which boast wild Maine blueberries in the batter *and* a blueberry compote topping, she decided instead to go with the Strawberry Patch Belgian Waffle. Unlike many places that use frozen berries, this waffle was topped with fresh, sweet berries, along with whipped cream and a dusting of confectioner's sugar. Light, toasty and sweet, it was a perfect accompaniment to the Double Cheese omelette, which features both Swiss and cheddar cheeses.

Half an hour and a second cup of coffee later, we are both sated and happy and certain we will be returning to try some of the many other choices on the Richard Walker's Pancake House menu.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Maine Thing

I'm still sorting photos and all that goes along with that, but I wanted to jump on and post because it's been a long time and I'm just feeling antsy to get working on this blog again!
The first few photos are some of my favorites from OOB, Maine. There's some amazingly beautiful sunsets on the east coast, I can tell you. This surprised me, since the sun sets in the west, so I wasn't expecting the sunset to still be reflecting over the ocean waters...but as you can see in the pics (click to enlarge), it does so, and wonderfully. Our Christmas tree was a beauty, such a comforting sight on a cold winter night...but it was dwarfed in size by the OOB tree that overlooks the ocean! It was probably 25-30 feet tall, and seeing it the night I took this photo, in the snow, was a sight to see for certain!

This was the snowfall in a matter of 4 hours one afternoon. It began with light flurries around 8 am that morning, and quickly turned to fat, fluffy flakes (say that 5 times fast! lol) by noon. By the time the sun had set around 5 that evening, it was piling up quite well. It was a gorgeous site to see, a White Christmas after 20+ years in Southern California, where all Christmases are green. Everything was layered with a thick coating of marshmallow fluff :)

One of the many places we visited was the LL Bean village. I was expecting a large store, to be sure, but not an entire village! There are half a dozen LL Bean stores surrounding a courtyard that, for the holidays at least, was decked out in brilliant, colorful lights, anchored by a huge brightly lit tree. It was a site to see, for certain. And, they're open 24 hours!

We did a lot of driving while we were there, up and down the coast. From Bangor to Penobscott Bay, from Kittery to Kennebunkport, from Portland to Boston. As I get through the photos I'll post a few more here and there, but two of my favorites were in a single location: Cape Elizabeth. Just outside of Portland, Maine, this quaint area boasts some spectacular views. Especially lovely is Two Lights State Park, where you can see the two Lighthouses in the photos above. I can't wait to go back and see them in the summer when they're surrounded by sunshine and greenery...but they are absolutely breathtaking in the winter I assure you.

Now, I know I haven't mentioned much in the way of food...I will, don't worry :) I'll post about some of the places we ate, and I have a couple pics of someo of those too. One thing I can tell you right now: I was surprised how many pizza places there were! When I think Maine, the first thing that comes to mind is seafood: Lobsters, Clam Chowder, etc. And, to be certain, there was plenty of that. But there were more pizza places than I know of here in San Diego!

This post is a little all over the board, and I'm sorry for that. I guess I'm still sorting through my brain as well as my camera! lol But I'm glad to be posting, glad to be back. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and that 2009 proves to be a joyful, prosperous year for you all!!