Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday - It's Chile Picking Time

I have to say I had a blast researching and cooking for this week's Chile Dim Sum Sunday. I've never been a pepper fan so it's not like I have a go to recipe. So I googled. Quite a bit actually. I found tons of the typical recipes which sounded good but just didn't connect. It wasn't until I hit upon Central Market's recipe web site that I finally found what I was looking for, Apple Hatch Bison Meatballs. Why did this recipe resonate with me? It called for a decent amount of chiles, it features a protein I haven't used before, and it calls for fresh sage and mint which just so happen to grow abundantly in my backyard. That's not to say it was perfect. One of the ingredients is a cup of roasted Hatch Poblano pesto which I gather is a jarred condiment sold at this market. I had a choice, go without or concoct my own. C'mon, it's pesto, how hard could it be?

Not that hard. A classic pesto is pine nuts, basil, garlic and salt, a hard dry cheese and olive oil. The Hatch chiles took the basil's role, pumpkin seeds or pepitas became the nuts, the garlic, salt and olive oil remained the same. The cheese was a bit of a problem. I wanted a nice dry pepper jack but got lucky at Whole Foods.

(excuse my cell phone camera and the Midwestern Goober spelling of Chiles)

It seems Hatch Chile Peppers were one of their feature items this week which meant fresh, roasted and an excellent Hatch Pepper Jack Cheese. While the cheese was fragrant with peppers, it was a little too moist for my pesto so I added in some Pecorino Romano to help even out it's mixability. Worked like a charm. But I wondered, would the meatballs really need the pesto?

The mixing of the meatballs was fairly easy. I left the adding the pesto until the end and scooped out enough of the meat mixture to make two meatballs. Once I had those two samples, I incorporated the pesto into the remaining meat mixture and fried them up. I tasted the pesto-less balls first. The balance of savory bison was overcome by the flavor of the cinnamon. The the meatballs with the pesto were much more balanced. The bite of the peppers combines with the sweetness of the cinnamon to give an interesting backdrop to the deeply complex and meaty bison. Where ground hamburger seems to be more about fat and juice, lean ground bison gets all of it's flavor directly from the meat. It's a good hearty flavor, certainly bold enough to dance with the Big Jim Chile peppers. I also took a tip from the website and made up a batch of Smoky Hatch Blue Corn Grits so I could use even more of my Hatch Pepper Jack Cheese.The meatballs and the grits hit all the right notes for this early fall day, hearty, spicy and stick to your ribs good. Thanks to Moi for including me in the Harvesting of the Peppers.


After all the chile action I decided I needed a cool refreshing dessert to cool off my tongue. Virginia Willis's Tipsy Watermelon Salad was called into action. Here's the original recipe:

1 6 lb watermelon, halved lengthwise

1 cup lemon juice

2/3 cup sugar

½ cup Vodka

1/3 cup crème de cassis

pinch of fine sea salt

¼ cup chopped fresh mint

To prepare the watermelon, using a large ice cream scoop, remove the watermelon flesh from the rind and place balls in a large bowl. Reserve the scooped out rind of one half to use as a serving bowl.

To make the dressing, whisk the lemon juice and sugar in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the vodka and crème de cassis. Season the mixture with a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the watermelon and gently stir to combine and coat the balls.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour and up to two hours.

When ready to serve, gently toss the watermelon balls once or twice to redistribute the liquid. Transfer them to the reserved scooped out watermelon "bowl." Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint and serve. Serves 6-8.

As you see I've hacked the recipe just a tad. See I've got this teeny tiny melon baller and I was dying to use it. So instead of big ice cream scoops of watermelon, I've got little delicate drops. Plus I paired it up with some mascarpone cheese in the base. I also plan to freeze some of the watermelon drops so I can later plop them into some lemon or limeade. That is if I can keep from eating them all before I get some into the freezer. It's a really good dessert.


Susan said...

OMG those meatballs sound SO good ! The cinnamon, apple, sage and mint- yummy. I'm glad that you tried the chili sauce and I agree it is the perfect all round condiment and I as well could eat it straight from the jar. Kind of a chili sauce, kind of a relish and kind of a chutney. It's A Fruity Tomato Chili Relish Chutney Sauce and photos and link to recipe are up over here at Black street (along with my ever faithful creative director, photo assistant, sous chef and all round love muffin - Oliver).

Big Shamu said...

Yes, everyone should give Susan's recipe a try, it is sooooo good. For me, it's addictive but in a good way since it's fruit and veggies.

h said...

Great colors and unique flavor profiles. Yum.

I'm up with 3/5ths of a breakfast.

moi said...

This recipe looks awesome! I make pesto all the time, but never thought to make it with my chiles. I'll give it a try.

Three years ago, I replaced all ground beef with ground Buffalo and haven't looked back since. Buffalo quite simply rocks. I make a meatloaf from it that will knock your socks off. I'll have to post it to the baking site. Meatloaf qualifies as a "baked" good, right?

Anyhoo . . . those grits! Girl, I know first hand that you are the Grits Master! (maybe that should be your Sioux name . . . hmmmm . . .)

P.S. So, your market is selling actual chiles from Hatch, as in Hatch, New Mexico?

Big Shamu said...

That's what it appears to be. They even had free cds demonstrations on how to cook with the chiles.

LaDivaCucina said...

I'm lovin' your dish on so many levels Sham! I loves meat-a-balls and have not ever tried bison (I don't use ground beef that much) but am going to try it now. I do a lot of meatballs, esp. for my class so I think it's good that you added the pesto and apples, esp. since bison probably is not very fatty meat.

And for the pesto, wow! I never thought to use chilies for a pesto either! LOVE your blue corn grits! (I've never made grits, am a polenta girl meself)

And your local WF sounds so much better than mine.

So WHAT IS the correct spelling of chili? I am used to putting chile and then it comes up as spelled wrong. So I put chili. Now I'm all confused?!

I'm up! Great post! Happy DSS!

Big Shamu said...

Thanks La Diva, I'm going with Moi's spelling since she's the homegirl. Those meatballs are really good. By the way, I can't take credit for the pesto, I was just adapting so I could stay true to the recipe. It would be interesting to know what kind of nuts they use in their jarred pesto.

Dani said...

WOW! Sham that is some beautiful eats you cooked up! I'm not much of a meat eater, but the bison and the good review makes me wanna try it out.

I'm up on my end. Happy DSS. :)

Big Shamu said...

I know you don't eat much meat but it's really lean has a really good meaty flavor. I wonder if this is what beef used to taste like before we started fatting the calves.

Coming over.

Buzz Kill said...

You've used a lot of things I've never made. Bison, grits and even pesto. I do make meatballs and will have to try it with bison. The recipe I use (my mom's) calls for some bacon fat to keep them moist. I also do them in the oven instead of frying. Did you have any problem with yours drying out?
Susans' right, sage and mint sound like a good combo (that I've never heard of before). Nice job.
I did a minimal work DSS this week over at the Buzzkill. But it has a good write-up with it.

Happy DSS!

Buzz Kill said...

Hey, the dessert wasn't there a minute ago. When I first saw the picture, I thought it was cherries. That's some really red watermelon.
Happy DSS (part deux)!

Big Shamu said...

The beautiful heart of the watermelon Buzz. Plus the crème de cassis darkens it up.

MakingSpace said...

Oh lordy. You had me at "chile pesto" but then to combine cinnamon, bison, and chiles? And then cheese? Grits? Gaaaah! Fabulosity!

The dessert looks insanely crazy good too. Sham I think you've outdone yourself. Hail!

Jenny said...

**counting up flyer miles***

and I don't even like chiles.


Grits Master!!!! I found that box in the cupboard last month.

Big Shamu said...

That box will probably still be there by the time I get back to Bainbridge.

Big Shamu said...

Don't forget to go visit all the good folks who Chiled Up this week, Susan at 29 Black Street, Troll at the Troll Report, Dani at Gardening Under the Florida Sun, Buzz at Buzzkill and La Diva at La Dava Cucina.

MakingSpace said...

Kitchen Bitches would be a great band name. Will there be t-shirts? A logo? Joining Boxer in counting ff miles... and off to look at everyone else's DSS. Woot!

Dani said...

What do you think I could use to substitute the vodka in the watermelon for Elizabeth?

LaDivaCucina said...

Ahh yes, vodka and fruit, my favorite kind of dessert! Very nice! I like the smaller balls too, delicate!

Hey Buzzkill, if your meatballs are drying out you can make them the way my dad's wife does. She bakes them in the oven on a rack over water, kind of steams them. They always come out very moist and she plunks them into sauce. Or like my Polish great aunt used to tell me: if they are moist before you cook them, they will be moist after. I make my meatballs so that they barely hold together and they are delish.

YUM! Want bison balls NOW!!!

Big Shamu said...

Hmmmm, Dani you might try white grape juice or apple cidar mixed with lemon juice or something totally different, the fake champagne. The Creme de Cassis is made with black currants and rum so you might want to use black currant syrup.

Buzz Kill said...

Diva, my balls are just fine with the bacon grease added. And I usually letthem cook in the sauce for a few hours. I will have to try the steam bath though.

LaDivaCucina said...

Yes, the trick is to keep them moist that's why Sham had to add the pesto and apples cuz the bison was low fat. Bacon grease, huh? mmmmm.....Sham, are you listening?

Big Shamu said...

Baconization Baby!!!

moi said...

Here in Nuevo Mexico, we spell chile with an "e" because it's the Spanish spelling of the word. See:
for a quick explanation.

You can spell it with an "i" but then I'll have to call you a Texan, podna. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

LaDivaCucina said...

Muchas gracia, amiga! You know I'm a stickler for correct pronunciation and spellings! ahha!

Hey, does anyone else here have chile cravings? If chile is mixed with something sweet (like mangoes and chile) I can't stop eating it. Does chile do something to your brain, like serotonin and oxytocin? Curious...since we're on the subject and all of you are so smrt!

Big Shamu said...

All I know is that I didn't want to be called a Texan...and I think I'm pretty safe in saying that since I might have had 3 readers in Texas in the last 3 months.

moi said...

La Diva: chile with sweet is the BEST! I sprinkle red chile powder on top of chocolate cake, mango slices, peanut butter, and on marshmallow fluff. And, yes, I do believe there is something in it that is addictive. People who grow up eating it and then leave for non-chile climes start having withdrawals. You don't wanna know what childhood friends of mine pay to have it shipped to their current homes in Japan, Missouri, and Iowa.

Pirate, a Nuevo Mexico native just like Moi, even had burritos flown into Scotland when she was living there. For true.

Actually, Shamu, some of the nicest, friendliest customer service I've ever experienced in my life has come from Texans in Texas. They're just so ding dang NICE.

Big Shamu said...

Well, I'm still sad Moi didn't get any shoes out of this whole deal. I wonder if Jimmy Choo likes chiles?