Cooks Corner

Chef Cindy Hutson reveals taste memories in new cookbook

Cuisine of the sun: Queso-stuffed chicken with fire-roasted salsa verde, from chef Cindy Hutson’s new cookbook and memoir.
Cuisine of the sun: Queso-stuffed chicken with fire-roasted salsa verde, from chef Cindy Hutson’s new cookbook and memoir. Story Farm

Chef Cindy Hutson of Ortanique on the Mile (278 Miracle Mile) in Coral Gables has published From the Tip of My Tongue (Story Farm, $35), a cookbook and memoir that celebrates what she describes as her “cuisine of the sun.”

It follows her culinary journey from her childhood in New Jersey and the Florida Panhandle to professional cooking influenced by the tropical flavors of Miami and the Caribbean.

It’s a 200-page fun read for those who appreciate the heat and sweet of sultry cuisines, with recipes that range from Bahamian-Style Conch Chowder and Red Stripe Mediterranean Mussels to Jerk-Brined T-Bone Pork Chops in Bacardi Oakhart Guava Sauce and Drunken Banana Fritters with Rum-Soaked Raisin Whipped Cream.

I found the recipe here easy enough for a weeknight meal, but special enough to serve at a dinner party. Once you’ve made her homemade tomatillo salsa you’ll have a hard time settling for a jar from the market.

Summer in a Bowl

Tried the avocado and corn salad from your column and loved it. I love the whole idea of cold foods for hot days. My favorite summer bowl is an oldie you printed in 1991 (I remember the year because I had just moved into my own apartment and started cooking on my own). It was my favorite hot beverage, café con leche, turned into a cold dessert.

Katherine

This recipe, from the old Palm Grill in Key West, has been a favorite of mine since we first published it. I usually substitute regular Cuban espresso ground coffee, such as Café Pilon or Café Bustelo, for the instant coffee. It is finely ground enough that it is not gritty and gives a great punch of flavor. I like to serve it in extra large coffee cups — dessert and after-dinner coffee in one.

Reader Question

Q. I was reading a book that was set in the future (J.D. Robb’s Festive in Death) and the Irish guy got his autochef programmed to make “tattie scones” for breakfast. I Googled it and see that tattie scones are a kind of potato cake that sounds really good and was hoping you have a recipe with U.S. measurements.

J. Birch

A. The autochef may be sci-fi, but the tattie scones are indeed traditional Scottish and Irish fare (my granddad also called them fadge). The idea is to make them from leftover mashed potatoes, but you certainly can make them from scratch.

Depending upon how thin you roll the dough you’ll either end up with a potato cake or something closer to a flatbread — and nothing like what we traditionally term a scone. You can fry tatties in bacon fat or butter, but I like them best done in a hot cast-iron skillet with just a brush of vegetable oil on the bottom so they get crispy but not burned.

We usually ate these with just a smear of butter, but you can certainly add a fried egg or make a great lunch by topping with cheese and crumbled bacon or chopped green onion.

Tried and New

Experts can tell how well a steak is cooked by literally pressing the flesh. For the rest of us it is often a game of chance, or trying to read the teensy print on a meat thermometer. The techie solution is the SteakChamp 3-Color, a meat thermometer that alerts when steaks have reached either medium rare, medium or medium-well doneness by a LED light that either flashes red, yellow or green, like a traffic light. Available at Sur la Table nationwide and online, also at Amazon; $59.95.

Pros: It even lets you know how long the meat should rest before you cut into it.

Cons: It is pretty small so easy to overlook when you’re cleaning up after grilling.

Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Café Con Leche Custard

4 tablespoons cornstarch

3 cups milk, divided

1 cup heavy cream

2 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder or espresso-grind coffee

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

Whipped cream and chocolate-covered espresso beans for garnish (optional)

Stir cornstarch into 1 cup of the milk until smooth. Place the remaining milk, the cream, coffee powder and sugar in the top of a double boiler; stir in the cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until thickened. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Beat eggs well. Slowly whisk 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining milk mixture in the double boiler, still over heat, and cook, whisking, until incorporated. Cover and cook 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour into coffee cups. Cover with plastic wrap. Serve chilled, topped, if desired, with fresh whipped cream and chocolate-covered espresso beans. Makes 4 (1-cup servings) or 8 espresso-cup-size servings.

Per serving (based on 4): 579 calories (47 percent from fat), 31 g fat, 213 mg cholesterol, 11 g protein, 67 g carbohydrates, trace of fiber, 147 mg sodium.

Source: Cook’s Corner archives.

Tattie Scones

3 cups hot mashed potatoes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided

2 tablespoons melted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir the butter and 1/2 cup of the flour into the hot mashed potatoes. Place remaining flour on a board and pat and roll the dough into round portions that will fit in your pan, incorporating the flour so the dough is not sticky. I like to make scones about 1/4 inch thick but some will argue thicker and some will prefer thinner. Use a fork to prick the dough all over.

Heat frying pan or griddle over medium-high, brush or spray with cooking oil, then slip in the dough and fry until golden on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the dough. Repeat with remaining dough. Cut into triangles and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 208 calories (33 percent from fat), 7.7 g fat (3.1 g saturated, 3.1 g monounsaturated), 10.4 mg cholesterol, 4.2 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 2.8 g fiber, 124 mg sodium.

Source: Linda Cicero from a family recipe.

Fire-Roasted Salsa Verde

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos

12 serrano chile peppers

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 cup minced sweet yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 round teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup chopped cilantro

3 tablespoons lime juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut tomatillos in half. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Rub peppers with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and place on a pan with tomatillos. Put pan under a broiler and flame until tomatillos and peppers are slightly charred. Place tomatillos and peppers in a food processor along with remaining ingredients and pulse until coarsely blended. If more liquid is needed, add a little more lime juice and a bit of olive oil. Season to taste. Makes 3 cups.

Per serving: 52 calories (30 percent from fat), 2.0 g fat (0.2 g saturated, 1.0 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 1.5 g protein, 8.7g carbohydrates, 1.9 g fiber, 497 mg sodium.

Source: Chef Cindy Hutson of Ortanique.

Queso Blanco-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Fire-Roasted Salsa Verde

Fire-Roasted Salsa Verde (see accompanying recipe)

2 large yellow bell peppers

2 large red bell peppers

2 teaspoons salted butter

1 pound baby spinach

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 ounces queso blanco, at room temperature

2 ounces feta cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup green onions, chopped

8 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin

8 leaves culantro (can substitute a bunch of cilantro leaves)

4 to 6 tablespoons clarified butter

Prepare salsa. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place bell peppers on a baking sheet. Roast until parts of the skin are golden brown. Remove and place in a non-reactive bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. In a skillet, sauté the spinach in salted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove from skillet and drain and cool on paper towels. In a bowl, mix cheeses with green onions. Set aside.

Peel and seed the roasted peppers and julienne into strips. Set aside. Place pounded chicken breasts on large piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board or countertop. Sprinkle breasts with salt and pepper and begin layering each breast with cheese mixture, spinach, peppers and culantro. Roll each chicken breast tightly, like a cigar, and tie in three places with butcher’s twine.

In a large skillet, sear each chicken breast on all sides in clarified butter, then place on a baking sheet. Finish cooking in the oven until done, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut the butcher's twine. Slice on the bias. Place stuffed breasts on a platter and pour salsa verde over them. Serve with rice and peas. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 365 calories (56 percent from fat), 23 g fat (12.2 g saturated, 5.4 g monounsaturated), 142 mg cholesterol, 32 g protein, 7.7 g carbohydrates, 2.7 g fiber, 389 mg sodium.

Source: Chef Cindy Hutson of Ortanique.

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