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Product Talk: HOLY MOLY GUACAMOLE


Guacamole was probably the first dish I ever taught myself to make. I was about 14, and had recently moved to East Texas with my family from Corpus Christi. I really missed the authentic Mexican food I grew up on in South Texas, and one day, when I was craving guacamole, I figured I could just make it myself. Avocados, lime juice, a little pico de gallo–how hard could it be?

I wish I could say that’s the day I knew I would become a chef, but that’s not exactly true. Eventually, I did graduate from the Culinary Institute of America, and set out to cook my way across North America. I worked in restaurants, hotels, and gourmet markets in New York, San Francisco, Dallas, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Cozumel and Fort Worth before joining Brookshire’s in 2008.

But, that first guacamole turned out pretty good, and that small success did jumpstart my interest in the kitchen, encouraging me to try to cook more. Lucky for me, I picked a first dish that’s pretty forgiving, and can be as simple as you want it to be.

Good guacamole depends on just one main thing– avocados that are perfectly ripe. Too hard, and they won’t mash up smooth and creamy. Too ripe, and the guac may taste bitter or “off.”  From there, the only must-haves in my book are fresh lime juice and salt. Everything else is up to you–tomatoes, fresh cilantro, jalapeños, onions, garlic, or your own secret ingredient.

Now, as Brookshire’s corporate chef, I develop recipes for a living–I create most of the recipes you see in Celebrate Cooking every month, as well as work to bring you new, interesting, and delicious foods in all our Brookshire’s stores.

But the simple recipe I’ve created here for guacamole isn’t all that far off from the one I remember making in my parents’ kitchen in East Texas so many years ago. It’s creamy, bright and fresh, and when I eat it, it makes me think of home.

Ingredients:
2 perfectly ripe avocados
1 Tbs red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small jalapeño, minced
2 Tbs fresh cilantro leaves,chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
1 Tbs lime juice 

Directions:
Halve avocados, remove pit, and scoop flesh into medium bowl. Using fork or potato masher mash lightly with onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, and kosher salt until just combined, but still chunky. 

Sprinkle lime juice over and mix lightly with fork until combined. Adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary, and serve. Can be covered with plastic wrap, pressed directly onto surface of mixture, and refrigerated up to one day. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.  

Nutritional Information:  Calories per Serving: 109, Fat: 10 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 199 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 1 g 



Dine-In: Pan-seared scallops


If you watch many of those TV cooking competitions, like Top Chef, you know that when the stakes are high and the chefs need to turn out something glamorous, they’re likely to pick one ingredient:  Scallops.

I understand why. Scallops are super-easy and super-fast to cook. (It takes less than five minutes to sear one perfectly.)  And especially as seafood goes, they appeal to lots of people. Cooked correctly, they have a silky but meaty texture and a very mild flavor that goes with everything.

It’s easy to dress up sea scallops, by drizzling them with a fancy sauce or resting them on a bed of risotto or polenta. But, like many things, I think they’re best when you keep it simple. You can add an herb-butter sauce to this classic dish, but I like them best just served right from the pan, with a squeeze of lemon.

Pan-seared scallops

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, 10 to20 per pound
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions:
To prepare scallops, remove small side abductor muscle; it should tear off easily with your fingers. Rinse with cold water, making sure to remove any grit, and pat dry with a paper towel.

Sprinkle scallops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add half of scallops in single layer, flat-side down, and cook, without moving, until well browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

 Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops; continue to cook, using large spoon to baste scallops with melted butter (tilt skillet so butter runs to one side) until sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, 30 to 90 seconds longer (remove smaller scallops as they finish cooking).

Transfer scallops to large plate and tent loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet with wad of paper towels and repeat cooking with remaining oil, scallops, and butter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Shop the Sale: Bacon and Eggs


I’m not much of a breakfast eater, but I love bacon and eggs. So how do I get my fix? At lunch, brunch, and even supper.

This recipe for an Italian-style frittata may sound breakfast-y,  but the texture and heaviness of a frittata works well at other meals. At brunch, pair it with a fruit salad dressed with yogurt; at lunch or supper, a nice green salad with an oil-and-vinegar dressing works well.

With special prices this week on Food Club large eggs and Brookshire’s thick-sliced bacon, there’s no better time to try expanding your egg-dish repertoire. A frittata, by the way, is simply kind of a cross between an omelet and a quiche. The ingredients that would normally be the filling of an omelet is mixed in with the eggs, and the whole thing is finished in the oven like a quiche, except there’s no crust.  So, you may want to warm up some crusty French bread or yeast rolls to round out the meal.

If you prefer, you can substitute four ounces of pork sausage for the bacon. (And lucky for you, Owens country sausage, in both mild and hot, is also on sale at your neighborhood store this week.) Just cook the sausage as you would the bacon, and use the reserved fat to brown the potatoes.

Look for more egg dishes in the April issue of Celebrate Cooking, in stores soon!

Bacon, Cheddar and Potato Frittata

Serves 2

Ingredients:
6 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces bacon (about four slices), cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1/3 cup)
2 green onions, sliced thin on the bias

Directions:
Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Whisk eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper in medium bowl until well combined. Set mixture aside.

Fry bacon in 10-inch nonstick  skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Pour off bacon fat from pan, leaving 1 tablespoon of bacon fat behind. Add potatoes to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender.

Stir cheddar, green onions, and bacon into eggs and add egg mixture to skillet and cook, using spatula to stir and scrape bottom of skillet, until large curds form but eggs are still very wet, about 1 minute. Shake skillet to distribute eggs evenly; cook without stirring for 30 seconds to let bottom set.

Place skillet in oven until frittata has risen about 2-3 minutes; when cut into with paring knife, eggs should be slightly wet and runny. Remove skillet from oven and let stand 5 minutes to finish cooking.

Using spatula, loosen frittata from skillet and slide onto platter or cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale


Shop the sale: Pears


A very simple pear-blue-cheese-and-pecan salad  was one of the most popular dishes on my menu when I owned a restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico.

No one ever seemed to figure out the secret ingredient in the dressing (maple syrup!) but everyone loved the texture and contrast of sweet, juicy, crisp pears to the salty, savory cheese and nuts.

Both green D’Anjou and Bosc pears are at special prices this week at your neighborhood store, so when you’re buying some for lunchboxes, get a few extra for this salad. You can use either one, as it’s a matter of taste and appearance preferences. Personally I find the brown-skinned Bosc tend to be a little sweeter, so you may find they present a little better contrast to the strong blue cheese flavor.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Pecan Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 small container spring mix lettuces  (or any lettuce mix of your choosing)
1 large or two small pears, halved, cored, and sliced thinly lengthwise
4 to 6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup salted or candied pecans
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, optional

For dressing:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup lime juice, fresh only (do not use bottled)
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
For dressing: In a squirt bottle or sealable plastic container, combine maple syrup, lime juice and olive oil. Seal container and shake well to combine. Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste. Shake again and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

In a med.-large mixing bowl, combine spring lettuce mix, pear slices, blue cheese and pecans. Toss to combine. Remove dressing from refrigerator and shake well to recombine.  Add about ¼-1/2 cup of dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Divide onto salad plates and serve immediately.



Dine- In: Easy French Toast


French toast may be my favorite weekend breakfast/brunch dish: It’s just as easy to make as a pancake, it’s a great centerpiece for bacon and eggs, and it’s even a smart way to use up bread that’s just on this side of going stale. Really, what’s not to like?

This super-easy recipe not only makes a good brunch dish, but you can even serve it as a dessert, especially if you dress it up with fresh berries and whipped cream, or even a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

If you’re going the fruit route, try a technique called macerating to sweeten and soften it up:  Place berries (or other cut-up fruit, like peach slices) in a small metal bowl, sprinkle with granulated sugar, splash with a bit of vanilla, honey and fresh lemon juice, and stir. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Easy French Toast

Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
2 slices crusty white bread
Maple syrup

Directions:
Beat together egg, milk, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.

Heat a lightly oiled skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Soak bread slices in egg mixture for 20 seconds on each side, or until thoroughly coated and slices have begun to soften slightly. Cook bread until both sides are lightly browned and crisp. Serve hot with maple syrup.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine-In: New Orleans Fried Oysters


Gear up for Mardi Gras next week with this classic New Orleans-style dish – fried oysters.

This recipe gets some heat from the cayenne pepper, but if you like it hotter, kick it up a notch with up a little extra cayenne.

These are good all by themselves, hot out of the fryer with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice or dunked into a side of cocktail sauce. (Serve guests their own ramekin of cocktail sauce and put out some hot sauce on the side, so each can doctor it to their own level of heat.) Or to really channel that Mardi Gras feeling, turn them into oyster po’boys: Stuff hoagie rolls with fried oysters (at least six per roll), lettuce, tomato, and a good squeeze of tartar sauce. And let the good times at the table roll.

FRIED OYSTERS

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
3/4  cup fine-ground cornmeal
3/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2  tsp. salt
3/4  tsp. ground black pepper
1/4  tsp.  Cayenne pepper
1 pound shucked Oysters , in their liquor (about 45 oysters)
5 – 6 cups peanut or vegetable oil
Lemon wedges

Directions:
Heat the oven to 200 degrees.

In a large, shallow dish, mix together cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. In a separate, medium bowl, combine all oysters with their liquor (juices) and remove any bits of shell.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop up about 8 oysters, briefly allowing the excess liquor to drip off, and scatter them across the cornmeal mixture. Shake the dish to coat the oysters evenly with cornmeal mixture. Transfer the oysters to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining oysters.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 400 degrees. Drop 1/3 of the breaded oysters (about 15 oysters) in the hot oil. Using a wire skimmer, stir and poke at the oysters as they fry to prevent them from fusing together. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the oil at 400 degrees. Remove the oysters from the hot oil with the wire skimmer when they have turned golden brown and the frying has slowed, about 1 minute.

Transfer the oysters to a plate lined with several layers of paper towel, then transfer to oven to keep warm. Return the oil to 400 degrees and repeat with remaining oysters. Serve with lemon wedges or dipping sauce.

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Posted in: Dine In, Seafood


Shop the Sale: Raspberry Fool


Celebrate the arrival of fresh spring berries – on special this week at your neighborhood Brookshire’s – with this deceptively simple berry dessert, called a fool.

A fool is a traditional British dessert of sweetened whipped cream, layered with pureed berries. Here, we’ve used both strawberries and raspberries, and added a bit of crunch with crushed graham crackers, to create a grown-up parfait. (And everybody likes parfaits!) 

It’s a little bit of work, but totally worth it for a dessert to wow company, or for your special Valentine next week.

Raspberry Fool
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 quarts strawberries, washed, dried, and stemmed
1 pint raspberries, washed and dried
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 graham crackers, finely crushed
6 sprigs fresh mint leaves

Directions:
1. Process 1 quart strawberries, 1/2pint raspberries, and 1/2 cup sugar in food processor until mixture is completely smooth. Strain berry puree through fine-mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup (you should have 2 1/2 cups puree; reserve any excess for another use). Transfer 1/2  cup puree to small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top; stir until gelatin is incorporated and let stand at least 5 minutes.

2. Heat remaining 2 cups puree in small saucepan until it begins to bubble. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Transfer gelatin-puree mixture to medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, chop remaining 1 quart strawberries into rough 1/4” pieces. Toss strawberries, remaining 1/2 pint raspberries, and 2 tablespoons sugar together in medium bowl. Set aside.

4. Place cream, sour cream, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on low speed until bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue beating until beaters leave trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high; continue beating until mixture has nearly doubled in volume and holds stiff peaks. Transfer 1/3 cup whipped-cream mixture to small bowl and set aside.

5. Remove thickened berry puree from refrigerator and whisk until smooth. With mixer running at medium speed, slowly add two-thirds of puree to whipped-cream mixture; mix until incorporated. Using spatula, gently fold in remaining thickened puree, leaving streaks of puree.

6. Transfer uncooked berries to fine-mesh strainer; shake gently to remove any excess juice. Divide two-thirds of berries evenly among 6 tall parfait or sundae glasses. Divide creamy berry mixture evenly among glasses, followed by remaining uncooked berries. Top each glass with reserved plain whipped-cream mixture. Sprinkle with crushed crackers and garnish with mint sprigs. Serve immediately.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale


Dine-In: Bacon Jack Quesadillas


Even if your team isn’t still in it, the Super Bowl is always a good excuse for a party. There’s always the half-time show, and the special Super Bowl commercials. And, of course the food.

Quesadillas are always a good go-to option. Pretty much everybody likes them, they’re quick to make, they don’t cost an arm and a leg even if you’re serving a crowd, and they match perfectly with the chips, salsa and guacamole that seem to show up at every Super Bowl party, everywhere.

This easy take on quesadillas uses one of my favorite ingredients – bacon. You can easily double, triple or quadruple this recipe if you have a lot of guests. You can either serve as you cook, or keep them in the oven to warm and serve on a platter when you’re finished cooking. If you use a good nonstick skillet, you can skip the step of brushing the quesadillas with oil or bacon fat, but I find just a little extra fat adds a lot of flavor and helps the tortillas crisp up a little better. Finally, if you don’t like spicy food, you can skip the jalapenos and substitute regular jack cheese for the pepper-jack.

Bacon-Jack Quesadillas
Makes 4 quesadillas

Ingredients:
4 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
4 flour tortillas, eight-inch
1 1/3 cup pepper Jack cheese (6 ounces), shredded
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, minced (optional)
Vegetable oil or bacon fat
Sour cream, guacamole and salsa, for serving

Directions:
Fry bacon strips in nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate; pour fat into small bowl and reserve, if desired. Wipe out skillet with paper towels.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat until hot. Spread 1/3 cup cheese, 1/4 the bacon, 1/4 the green onions and 1/4 the jalapenos (if desired) on a tortilla. Fold tortilla in half and press to flatten. Brush surface lightly with oil or bacon fat, and set aside. Repeat to form remaining quesadillas.

Place two quesadillas in skillet, oiled sides down; cook over medium heat until crisp and well browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Brush surfaces with oil or fat. Flip quesadillas and cook until second sides are crisp and browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer quesadillas to cutting board to cool slightly. Repeat cooking process with remaining quesadillas. If making a larger quantity, cooked quesadillas may be kept in a warm oven (200 degrees) while you finish cooking.

To serve, halve each quesadilla. Serve with sour cream, guacamole and/or salsa.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine-In: Tex-Mex chicken casserole


One of the only downsides about being a chef is that no one ever wants to invite me over for dinner.  I guess everybody assumes that I’ll go all Gordon Ramsey on them, criticizing their chopping technique and refusing to eat anything that doesn’t meet chef standards, whatever those may be.

The reality is A. I’m always happy when someone else does the cooking and B. I eat pretty much anything, as long as it’s good. In fact, at home, we eat a lot of simple dishes, especially in the winter – soups, casseroles and even one-dish meals. Even a chef doesn’t want to spend hours cooking every night.

This casserole is one of those simple dishes, a kind of Tex-Mex take on chicken lasagna. It has a lot of flavor, but uses short-cuts (canned beans, prepared chicken broth and cooked rotisserie chicken) so you can get dinner on the table without laboring too long in the kitchen.

Tortilla Casserole

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cans (15.5-ounce) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 cups tortilla chips (3 ounces)
2 cups Mexican style cheese, shredded (such as asadero or quesadilla; Monterey jack will also work)

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and bring to simmer.

Stir beans, tomatoes, and chipotle into sauce and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken, 3 tablespoons cilantro, ¾ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper.

Spread 1 cup tortilla chips over bottom of 8-inch baking dish and top with 1 cup chicken mixture. Spread 2 more cups tortilla chips into dish and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Spread remaining chicken mixture into dish and top with remaining tortilla chips. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over top.

Bake until cheese is golden brown and casserole is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro before serving.



Shop the Sale: Brookshire’s Bacon


Like a lot of chefs, bacon is one of the few foods I could probably never give up. Nothing really can substitute for it, and I use it in everything including sweets. (Candied bacon? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.)

So I will be stocking up on Brookshire’s own bacon this week, thanks to the special (2 packages for $7) deal we have going.

Because we use so much bacon in my house, I often cook two or three packages at a time, drain it, crumble it and freeze it. Then, we’ve got instant, homemade bacon bits, ready to thaw out quickly for salads, baked potatoes, omelets or to use in recipes like this dip. It’s good with crackers, chips or, if you want to be a little bit healthier, raw veggie sticks.

By the way, this may be one of the few recipes I’ve ever made in which you could possibly over-caramelize the onions. If the onions are too caramelized, the dip will be a little too sweet in my opinion. So, do not over-cook them.

Bacon Onion Dip

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:
6 medium onions, julienned (cut into long thin strips)
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 – 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and drained, crumbled
2 cups sour cream
2 1/4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/2  tsp. Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

Directions:
Peel onions by cutting of top and bottom (root and stem ends).Remove skin and julienne as finely as possible.

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over med. high heat. Add onions and season with salt. Reduce heat and gently cook the onions down until translucent and golden brown. You will need to stir onions frequently, as the longer they cook the easier they will burn. This step should take at least 30+ minutes up to about an hour. If it takes longer all the better. Once cooked set aside to cool.

When onions are cool, chop finely.

Mix all ingredients (including onions) in medium bowl. Serve immediately or chill.

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Posted in: Shop the Sale


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The products mentioned in “Share, the Brookshire’s Blog” are sold by Brookshire Grocery Company, DBA Brookshire’s . Some products may be mentioned as part of a relationship between its manufacturer and Brookshire’s.

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