In the mood for New Ways with Tortillas!

     In the Feedback column of Bon Appetit magazine, (you know, the very last page where they profile a famous person and ask them 5 or 6 questions about their life with food) they often ask the celebrities to name three things they have in their refrigerators.
     I figure I could go a lot of different directions with that question.  If I mention that I always have unsweetened vanilla almond milk, fresh blueberries and fish oil capsules, I come across one way.  If I admit that I  have presliced individually wrapped American cheese, a tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls and a huge jar of Welsh’s grape jelly…that’s a whole different picture.  Maybe I should showcase the jar of tiny imported Nicoise olives, the small container of creme fraiche and the beautiful capers that my sister brought back from Italy.  My frig has multiple personalities.
     Here are three of the reasons that you will always find a package of flour tortillas in my refrigerator.
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Thai Chicken Tortilla Spring Rolls
 
This recipe is from the appetizer section of the California Pizza Kitchen cookbook by Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield.  In my version, I increase the amount of chicken and serve them as dinner, with a big green salad.  Although there are several step to putting this recipe together, you can do it all ahead of time and have it ready to pop in the oven right before serving.
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
 
4 tablespoons bottled teriyaki sauce
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Spicy Peanut Dressing
 
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons asian toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
Thai Satay Sauce
 
1/2 cup canned coconut milk (stir before measuring)
1/2 cup spicy peanut dressing (from above)
1/2 teaspoon thai red curry paste
For the Spring Rolls
 
8 8-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
spicy peanut dressing (from above)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup thinly slivered carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh parsley
To make the chicken:  Preheat a stove top grill or broiler.  Lightly pound the chicken breasts to help them cook evenly and quickly.  In a mixing bowl, stir together the teriyaki sauce, olive oil, garlic and ginger.  Turn the chicken breasts in this marinade and leave it at room temperature for ten minutes.  Grill or broil the chicken until cooked through.  Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, then ct crosswise into 1/4 inch thick strips.  Cover and refrigerate.
To make the spicy peanut dressing:  In a small saucepan, combine all the dressing ingredients.  Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.  (be careful as this burns easily)
To make the Thai satay sauce:  Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
To make the spring rolls:  
 
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Lightly spread the softened butter onto one side of each tortilla.
Turn the tortillas over and evenly distribute the following ingredients over a 1-2 inch wide strip on their unbuttered sides. just below the center of the tortilla from end to end:
a tablespoon of the spicy peanut dressing
sprinkle of mozzarella
a layer of grilled teriyaki chicken
carrot slivers
sliced scallions
bean sprouts
minced cilantro
Roll up each tortilla into a tight cigar shape and place them seam side down on a baking sheet.  Keep the rolls about one inch apart.  Sprinkle each roll lightly with parmesan cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until heated through and lightly brown, 5-7 minutes.
Slice each roll diagonally into three equal pieces.  Sprinkle with minced parsley and serve with the Thai Satay sauce.  Serves 8-12 for an appetizer and 4-6 as a meal.
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Peanut Butter Nutella and Rice Krispie Roll Ups

 
This little treat couldn’t be easier, but what a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.  I found it inSkewer It!  by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford.  They garnish theirs with chocolate chips after cutting them but I like them better without.  Nutella is a chocolate spread that has been popular in Europe for years and has become fairly easy to find here in the States.   It blends wonderfully with peanut butter.
1/2 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
4 six inch flour tortillas
1/4 cup Nutella
1/3 cup Rice Krispies
Spread 2 tablespoons peanut butter on each tortilla, leaving a 1-inch border.  Spread 1 tablespoon of Nutella evenly on top of the peanut butter.  Sprinkle each one with 1-2 tablespoons Rice Krispies and roll up tightly.  Place seam side down on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, cut off the ends of each roll and slice into 3/4 inch thick pieces.  Secure each piece with a toothpick and serve.  Makes about 24.
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Tortilla Pizza

And now….the #1 reason that we always have flour tortillas in our refrigerator.  Tortilla pizzas have been a staple lunch item in our home for years.  I found that it was worthwhile to purchase a set of small perforated pizza baking sheets.  This helps the bottom of the pizza get crispy and I can easily fit 6 or 8 of them in the oven at one time.  The key to a good crispy tortilla pizza however, is to make sure that all of the toppings are sliced very thinly and scattered evenly over the surface.  If you go crazy piling on the topping, you will have to eat it with a knife and fork, although it will still taste great, I imagine.  We like to use thin slices of fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce.  This also helps keep the pizza light and crispy.  The possibilities are endless, but here is the recipe for the tortilla pizza pictured.

1 flour tortilla
olive oil
thinly sliced cherry tomatoes
thinly sliced Vidalia onion
shredded mozzarella cheese
sliced pepperoni, cut into slivers
grated parmesan cheese
coarse ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Place a flour tortilla on a pizza baking sheet and brush topside lightly with olive oil.  Scatter tomatoes and onions evenly over tortilla then top with a light layer of mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with pepperoni and parmesan and season with black pepper.  Bake until golden brown and crispy, 8-10 minutes. Serves one.

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In which I make Boeuf Bourguignon just like Julia Child….more or less.

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If you’ve never made Julia Child’s Beef Burgundy, I want to convince you to add it to your repertoire this very minute.  It is absolutely the perfect make ahead dinner party recipe.

The only way you can possibly screw up it is if you place it on the stove to reheat while you run upstairs to change and get ready for your guests and take too long deciding what to wear and scorch the pan so badly that the whole dish tastes horribly burnt through and through and you actually have to throw away not only the stew but also the pan because it is ruined beyond repair and then you have to go get take out for twelve people from the Italian place down the street.

But believe me….that will only happen once and the zillions of times that you prepare this dish, from that day forward, will all be smashing successes!

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Here is what you need:
a large, deep oven proof casserole (I use enameled cast iron Le Creuset)
a slotted spoon
4 slices thick cut bacon
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2 inch pieces (I use a rump roast)
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine (Chianti, Cabernet… just make sure it is good enough to drink)
2-3 cups canned beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves smashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
24 small white onions, peeled
1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken broth
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Here’s what you do:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Saute the bacon over medium heat until light brown and starting to crisp.  Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.  Set casserole aside while you pat the pieces of beef dry with a paper towel.  Then reheat the casserole with the bacon grease until hot and brown the beef, a few pieces at  a time, until nicely browned on all sides, as shown above.  Set the beef aside with the bacon.
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Now brown the sliced vegetables then pour out any remaining bacon grease and return the beef and the bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper.
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Sprinkle the beef and vegetables with the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly.  Set the casserole, uncovered  in the middle position of the preheated oven for 4 minutes.  Then toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 minutes more. ( This browns the flour and covers the beef with a light crust as shown in the photo above)  Remove casserole from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Stir in the wine and enough beef broth so that the meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.  Cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
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While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Saute the mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter until they start to release their juices and are lightly brown.  Set aside.
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Saute the onions in a tablespoon of butter until they start to brown then add a cup of chicken broth and simmer gently until they are tender.  Drain and set aside.
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When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.  So you’ll have the sauce in a medium saucepan, the meat and veggies in the sieve and now you can wash out the casserole to clear away any burnt bits and then return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat. (pictured below)
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Put the saucepan of sauce over low heat and simmer gently, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface.  You want to have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  If your sauce it too thin, boil it down rapidly.  If it is too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of beef broth. Taste carefully for seasonings.  Pour the now reduced and thick and wonderful sauce back over the meat and vegetables in the casserole.  *Recipe may be completed in advance up to this point.
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For immediate serving:  Cover the casserole and simmer for 2-3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.  Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.
For later serving:  When cooled, cover and refrigerate.  About 15-20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly (see introductory paragraph) for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
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