July 13, 2009
Posted by Michelle
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but when I have guests in town I love to cook for them. I especially love cooking for them when they knew me back in the day as the-girl-who-couldn’t-even-make-mac n’ cheese. Such was the case this weekend.
On Saturday night we decided to stay in and make a big dinner. I wanted to try a couple new dishes — smoked trout and grilled jalapeno poppers. This was my chance! I had another fish-eater (my husband doesn’t eat fish…I think you know that already) and spicy-food-lover in my midst!
I fired up the smoker and threw on five trout fillets and a few shrimp (all spent the day in a brine). Smoking seafood doesn’t take very long, so I didn’t have to worry about my problem with maintaining the heat. I just had to keep that bad-boy smoking for about an hour. No problem.
(Note: all of these side dishes can be made using your broiler. No need for a grill!)
While those fellas were cooking, I worked on the sauce for the seafood and the side-dishes.
If you’ve never cooked with barley, I recommend it. Aside from the fact that it is really good for you, it has a great texture (a little more bite than rice) and can be used for all sorts of dishes. I toss it in soup, use it in stir-fry, but most often I mix it with other stuff to make a delicious salad of sorts. This time, I wanted to use a red pepper that I had in my fridge and a chayote which I recently learned can be grilled (that’s all it takes to win me over). If you’ve never used a chayote, give it a try. In areas with a significant Latino community (ie, anywhere in the Greater DC Metro Area), you can find them in almost any grocery store. To prepare, you cut them in half long-ways and scoop out the little pit. I drizzed with olive oil and tossed them on the grill until they had a nice char. That’s all.
Back to the salad… so I cooked a cup of barley (it expands by four, so your liquid to barley ratio should be 4:1). It takes about 40 minutes from when it boils, so while it was doing its thing I grilled the red pepper and the chayote. Gave those a chop when they were done, skin and all. I wanted that charred flavor in the salad. When the barley was done, I strained the remaining water and heated a can of black beans in the pot. Fresh beans would’ve been better, but I didn’t have time. Black beans are heating over very low heat… in go the chopped grilled veggies and a decent amount of salsa verde. Probably a 1/2 cup, at least. Then stir in the barley. Stir. Stir. Toss. Toss. I chilled it, but you could serve it warm if you wanted to. It was a delicious and nutritious side-dish.
On to the jalapenos. I never really thought about stuffing and grilling jalapenos until I saw this contraption. I didn’t buy it because I don’t really believe in spending $20 on cooking tools that only serve one purpose, but it did give me the idea to make stuffed jalapeno poppers on the grill. I just had to cut them long-ways so they were like little delicious boats.
Most important tip here: Leave on the stems! They keep all the goodness in. I cut them off on a few and they started to spill. Scoop out the ribs and the seeds (unless you’re into that kind of heat). I mixed some cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese and filled the jalapeno boats. That’s it! You could definitely put other stuff in there if you wanted — corn, cilantro, etc — but I thought cheese and jalapeno sounded great as is. Then I took my little stuffed boats and put them on the grill until the bottoms were charred, the cheese was melted, and the peppers were cooked. Probably took less than 5 minutes. They were DELICIOUS! Like surprisingly great, actually. Jalapenos have excellent flavor and heat if you scoop out the ribs and seeds. They don’t blow your mouth away, but they definitely make your tongue dance… you know what I mean.
I also sliced some of the zucchini from my CSA box, brushed them with a little olive oil, and tossed them on the grill until they had marks. They were also great, but that’s obvious.
For the sauce, I made a recipe that I found on the Food Network’s site. Being me, I changed it up just a bit and didn’t really follow the correct amounts. Duh. I used poblano peppers instead of serrano because I wasn’t sure of the serrano’s heat. I put them on the grill until they were charred all the way around, then I cut off the stem and removed the seeds. The poblanos were good, but I would definitely use something with heat next time. Poblanos have almost no heat. Into the blender go the peppers, mango, tomatoes, garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Good whir until it is pureed… and done. The sauce was excellent — sweet and fresh tasting. We actually used the leftovers on chicken and it was terrific too. This is a great sauce to have in your files.
Side dishes are done, so back to the smoking seafood. After an hour or so, it was done. Because it smokes at a low temperature, it never really got hot inside. I had to take a peak inside to know if it was done. It was all cooked perfectly. The smokiness of the fish and the sweetness of the sauce went great together. It was really fantastic.
My guest could not believe that the meal was made by me — formerly a cooking disaster. Frankly, neither could I.
**Don’t judge this meal based on my photo. It isn’t very good; I know. Plus, that sauce has a color reminiscent of…well… I won’t say, but anyone who has a baby should recognize it. Don’t let that deter you! It was wonderful!