Migas

Well, hello there.

If you’re wondering if I’d fallen off the edge of the earth, you’re not alone – I’ve been wondering that myself.  But no, just extremely busy (more on that tomorrow).

I’d mentioned a bit earlier that ever since The Young One has been off to college, I hadn’t felt much like cooking.  Or at least cooking anything worthy of a blog post; most of it’s been either recipes I’ve posted before, or stuff so simple that you could hardly call it “cooking.”  A lot of it couldn’t even remotely be considered “paleo” (but again, more on that tomorrow).

At any rate, I have prepared a few things worthy of a photograph and blog post – this is one of them.

My first husband was (is, I suppose, since he’s still living) Hispanic, and his grandmother was one of the finest cooks I’ve had the privilege to have known.  It was she who introduced me to authentic Mexican cuisine, rather than the Tex-Mex I’d grown up with, and her handmade tortillas, refried beans, menudo, and caldo de res were beyond compare.  I couldn’t wait for the holidays every year, when she and my mother-in-law would crank out enormous batches of tamales, both sweet and savory, and the buñuelos she made us as a treat for New Years were the best I, or probably anyone else, have ever tasted.

And she introduced me to Migas.

In the Mexican-American household – or at least, her Mexican-American household – Migas is a simple dish of eggs scrambled together with bite-size pieces of corn tortillas, and I loved it from the first time I took a bite.  Having said that, it occurred to me when I made this particular recipe that I hadn’t eaten it in over 25 years.  You see, when I was pregnant with Darling Daughter (in 1986 – yeah, I’m that old), migas was one of those things that, for no good reason I could tell, just turned my stomach – I simply couldn’t eat it. (Pregnancy will often play horrible tricks like that on you.)  I re-entered the workforce when she was about 6 months old, and I guess it just never occurred to me to ever cook it again.  I don’t know why.

Fast forward to a couple of days after Christmas.  Jolly and The G Man had spent Christmas Eve with us, and I had made Mexican for dinner, which included beef and cheese enchiladas.  (Hey, it was our Christmas Eve dinner – we could eat what we liked.  And we did.)  So, here I was, left with half a package of corn tortillas sitting in my fridge, softly calling to me, “Here we are…are you going to let us go bad?’

The answer to that would be, “No.”  And Migas, which Beloved had never eaten before, was the result.

Ironically, this version is a gussied-up, restaurant-style, Tex-Mex version of the simple dish Grandma taught me, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious.  You can, of course, make it with just the eggs and tortillas, but the addition of the vegetables is just wonderful.  You can also leave out the cheese and half and half for a dairy-free version, or you can leave out the tortillas if you’re avoiding grains.  It won’t be Migas without them, of course, but it’ll still be pretty darn good.

Migas. Simple Tex-Mex comfort food at its finest.

Click the image to enlarge

Migas
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 8 corn tortillas, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the eggs and half and half until well blended; set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften and the onion turns translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the jalapeno and cook for another minute more.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan. Stir the tortillas into the vegetable mixture and cook for one minute; pour in the egg mixture and stir gently to combine. Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the eggs are softly scrambled. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then gently stir in the tomatoes.
  4. Divide the Migas between 4 plates; top each with cheese and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 479 calories, 30.8g total fat, 430.2mg cholesterol, 350.2mg sodium, 457mg potassium, 27.7g carbohydrates, 4.3g fiber, 3.8g sugar, 23.7g protein

Fish Tacos

I’m running very late today – we’re still quite swamped at work and the Insomnia Fairy decided to pay me a visit last night; I’m operating on about 3 hours of sleep.

Oh, menopause, how I hate you.

Anyhoo.  I’ve talked here before about the famed 80/20 rule, made popular by Mark Sisson.  Basically, if you eat “cleanly” 80% of the time, the other 20% you don’t doesn’t impact your health too terribly badly.  Some people use their 20% leeway to consume things like beer, pizza and Snickers bars; we tend to use our 20% to eat things like Blackberry Buckle and Western Style Beans, along with the occasional serving of corn, rice or white potatoes.

This recipe falls under the things we eat 20% of the time that are less than optimal.  It’s high in calories, fat (albeit healthy fats) and carbohydrates, and certainly isn’t something we eat on a regular basis.  But it’s also not nearly as bad as, say, a Big Mac or a bucket of chicken from the Colonel.

The less than optimal part of this dish is, of course, the corn tortillas.  Which I happen to love, and am thrilled to have found a local source for some that are processed with just lime and salt.  Corn, like white rice, is one of those grains that falls in the “greyish” part of the paleo spectrum, and as Mr. Sisson explains to us, when made into tortillas, isn’t necessarily all that bad:

[blockquote]Corn tortillas are probably the best way to consume corn. By their very definition, corn tortillas are subjected to nixtamalization, an ancient form of corn processing that reduces antinutrients like phytic acid, unlocks B-vitamins like niacin, and fights back against mycotoxins. It also increases the available protein content of the corn while increasing the bioavailability of the calcium. In other words, it makes a fairly nutritionally-poor food a bit more nutritious.[/blockquote]

I can deal with that, so every so often we pick up a package and make something like, well, this.

Fish tacos are one of Beloved’s favorite Mexican dishes, and I’m rather partial to them, too.  They’re not hard; in this recipe I used perch filets, although any mild white fish would do, cut them into strips and dredged them in an egg wash then a seasoned blend of hazelnut and tapioca flours before frying them in lard.  The lime-cilantro sauce turned out better than I could have hoped for – drizzled over the crispy fish it was just wonderful.  And chances are you won’t use all of it, so the calories and fat content of the recipe are probably a bit overstated.

Of course, if you are avoiding all grains at all times or have a corn allergy, you can eat these in lettuce leaves and it will still be wonderful – it will also knock the carb count down to about 14 grams per serving, which constitutes “low carb” in my book.  If you want to avoid frying it, use a firm fish that stands up well to grilling.

Fish Tacos. Crisp and delicious, these classic fish tacos are served with an addictive lime-cilantro mayo!

Fish Tacos
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound mild white fish, cut into strips
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 cup lard, or other fat suitable for frying
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • the juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lime juice and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
  2. Heat the lard to 350 F in a large heavy skillet.
  3. Whisk the egg and water together in a bowl large enough to hold the fish; in a wide, shallow dish, stir together the hazelnut and tapioca flours, salt, pepper and cayenne.
  4. Dip the fish in the egg wash, then dredge it in the flour mixture until well-coated, shaking off any excess. Fry in the lard until the fish is cooked through and the outside is brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain briefly on paper towels.
  5. Wrap the tortillas in a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel and microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute, turning halfway through.
  6. Place two tortillas on each plate; top each with some shredded lettuce, diced tomato and fried fish. Drizzle with the lime cilantro mayonnaise and garnish with thinly sliced red onion and a slice of avocado, if desired.
  7. Serve immediately.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 592 calories, 39.8g total fat, 111mg cholesterol, 582.8mg sodium, 523.5mg potassium, 39.1 grams carbohydrates, 4.8 grams fiber, 2.5 grams sugar, 19.4 grams protein

Tomato Okra Soup

And I am back from vacation.  It has been wild, wonderful and stressful; I’m both relieved and sad that it is over, especially since it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever have another like it.

I didn’t cook as many different, new dishes as I’d expected to – there were just too many people in the house to get too terribly creative – but I did cook enough to have a couple of tasty recipes to post this week, of which this is the first.  The farmer’s market is bursting with the late summer harvest and tomatoes are literally everywhere; they are, in fact, so prolific this year that we are having no trouble finding green ones for Fried Green Tomatoes, which has been a huge hit in our house this past week.  Ripe tomatoes are abundant too, of course, and I believe we’ve purchased the last of the season’s okra but you never know.

The first of the sweet corn is hitting not only the farmer’s markets but the roadside stands that pop up on nearly every major thoroughfare in our small city – it seems everyone with a patch of land large enough to hold a few rows grows some.   Fresh, seasonal sweet corn is an indulgence in our mostly grain-free home and we purchased a dozen ears the weekend before last to help feed the horde.  The meager leftovers were cut from the cobs and went into this lovely dish, which we had while in Charleston earlier this month.

We were so entranced with this soup that I emailed the chef de cuisine for Maverick Kitchens, the owners of the restaurant (High Cotton), for the recipe.  I never heard back (and I’m really not surprised; disappointed, but not surprised), but I think I’ve done a more than credible job of recreating it here.  It is a quick and simple dish, brimming with the flavors of late summer.  If you cannot find fresh okra I’m sure frozen will work, assuming you can find it unbreaded.

This was quite delicious with slices of a Mexican-spiced pork loin roast (recipe forthcoming), and would be equally good with roast chicken.

Note for my primal/paleo/low carb/grain-free readers:  Please feel free to leave out the corn if you want; I doubt if the exclusion of it will detract from the soup at all, and I’d hate for anyone to miss out because of the small amounts.  It truly is delicious.

Tomato Okra Soup

Tomato Okra Soup

serves 6

4 large tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced (about 2 pounds)
2 cups sliced okra
1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup corn kernels, freshly cut from the cob (about two ears)
2 tablespoons butter or lard
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Melt the butter or lard in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Cook the onion until soft and golden, about 5 minutes; add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Increase the heat to medium and add the corn, tomatoes and okra to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down and the okra starts to soften. Pour in the chicken stock and season with the salt and pepper; continue cooking over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are completely cooked down and the mucilage from the okra has disappeared. Season to taste with the cayenne.

Serve immediately, with slices of roast chicken or pork if desired.

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