Alejandra on Telemundo

So last Friday was a fun day at Always Order Dessert headquarters! I was interviewed and featured in a segment on Telemundo here in NYC. They contacted me because they wanted to do a feature based on a class I recently taught on the subject of cooking once for the whole week.

We filmed the segment at City Cookhouse (the amazing commercial rental kitchen here in NYC where I teach my cooking classes and host private events), and during the taping I demonstrated a few recipes and techniques that folks can use in order to prepare a week of meals in just a few hours of cooking. I talked about menu planning and selecting recipes that use similar ingredients as a way of streamlining your cooking time. The recipes I demonstrated for the taping were mini beef & mushroom meatloaf (prepared in muffin tins for easy serving and reduced cooking time); a chorizo, bean, and veggie soup, and a Latin-style ground beef saute called "picadillo" that can be served on it's own as an entree or turned into burritos for lunch the next day.

It was a fun morning with only a tiny mishap when I accidentally sliced off the very tip of my thumb (I was using a borrowed knife that was a bit dull and it slipped on a tomato)...ouch! When you spend as much time as I do in the kitchen, accidents are inevitable (the burns and scars are actually a mark of pride), but it's a little unnerving when it happens on camera! Thankfully it wasn't live. The reporter and cameraman helped bandage me up and we shot the rest of the segment without drawing any more blood (plus one bright blue restaurant band-aid).

I should note that while the interview was arranged directly with the producer, my dad is actually the anchor for this newscast. The funny thing is that I didn't tell him about it and a few days after it was all setup, my dad found out and called me. "Why didn't you tell me you were going to be on the news?!" he asked excitedly. I honestly thought he already knew!

We ended up working the fact that I'm his daughter into the package so that at the end the reporter asked me what my dad likes to eat and then I signed off by blowing a kiss at him on the camera (which you'll see on the video below). He then explained that I was his daughter on the air and the weather and sports anchors Andrea and Veronica, (also long-time family friends), commented on my cooking and treats, which they've experienced over the years.

Watch the segment that aired (in Spanish):

And click the image below to watch the web extra with my extended interview + tips (in Spanish):

I'll be sharing the detailed recipes later this week!

My Cinco de Mayo Cooking Class in NYC

We're just a few days away from my next hands-on NYC cooking class, and this time the theme is CINCO DE MAYO! Sign up for this incredible cooking class experience on Saturday, May 5, 2012  from 7PM  to 10:30PM.

You'll learn to make  8 incredible Mexican dishes that range from totally authentic (posole and chicken tinga) to totally modern (churro cupcakes!). You'll also learn how to make homemade tortilla chips, guacamole in a molcajete, and (of course) enjoy plenty of tequila cocktails.

Like all my classes, this will be taught in fun and relaxed dinner party style. We'll all work on the dishes together and, after we're done cooking, we'll all sit down to enjoy the meal we prepared. Seats are limited so sign up today!

The Cinco de Mayo Mexican Cooking Class Menu will include:
Beef & Pumpkin Empanadas
Homemade Tortilla Chips with Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
Guacamole en Molcajete (just like they do in restaurants!)
Pozole Verde (Hominy Stew)
Chicken Tinga (Mexican braised chicken)
Churro Cupcakes with Mexican Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Coconut Tres Leches Cake

And (of course!) margaritas and other tequila cocktails will be served throughout the class and with dinner (all included in the price)!!

Cost: Just $115 per person for the class, ingredients, appetizers, a full dinner, dessert and unlimited cocktails! Click the PayPal button below to add to cart & sign up!

Any questions? Email me!

Spinach & Goat Cheese Frittata Ham Cups

Something about Spring and sunny lazy weekend days just begs for easy brunch dishes like this one. This is an idea that has been around for a while, but which I finally wanted to try myself. Most versions that I see of this call for adding the veggies or cheese and then topping with a freshly cracked egg and cooking until set, but I switched it up a bit because I hate runny yolks and I hate egg whites on their own. Ick.

So I decided to turn it into more of a mini-quiche or frittata inside of a ham cup. SO much better! Also quicker, easier, and can be eaten both hot or cold, making them much less fussy when entertaining since you can just make them in advance and serve them up cold on purpose. The ham cup makes them look super cute and impressive--very key when you're essentially just serving people eggs. It's all about the presentation!

Full disclosure--I make these for myself during the week, too, as they make for a perfect grab-and-go lunch during busy weekdays. I actually prefer these cold--I think the flavors come through better and my tongue doesn't get burned as I shove them into my face. You could also make a batch of these on Sunday to enjoy as a quick breakfast during the work-week.

Tip: Have vegetarian or non-pork-eating friends? Simple skip the ham in a few of the wells and pour the batter directly into the greased muffin tin--this way you serve all your friends without having to make different dishes for everyone!

A note on the ham: You can use any kind of ham you'd like (from regular deli ham to prosciutto), but my FAVE for this and all ham-uses is this fancy ham I get from Schaller & Webber, called "Bauernschinken." It's very similar to prosciutto, but smokier and a little thicker--less delicate. If you're in NYC, they sell it on Fresh Direct, so definitely check it out. I order about a pound of it every time I do groceries (much to Eugene's chagrin--he calls it "that expensive ham."). Whatev.

Spinach & Goat Cheese Frittata Ham Cups
Makes 12 ham cups (about 4-6 servings)

12-14 slices ham
8 cups fresh baby spinach (or 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed)
4oz goat cheese (chevre)
9 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray or brush a muffin tin with oil, then line each cup with a slice of ham being sure to seal it up as much as possible (sometimes it helps to cut the ham slightly). Don't worry if there is overlap on the sides.

Combine fresh spinach with a few tablespoons of water in a large covered pot over medium heat. Let steam a minute or two, or until the spinach is completely wilted (skip this step if using frozen spinach). While the spinach wilts, whisk together the 9 eggs in a large bowl. Drain spinach & squeeze off excess liquid, then add to the eggs.

Crumble the goat cheese into the spinach and egg mixture, then add the salt, pepper, and cream. Stir until combined, then divide the mixture into the 12 ham-lined cups, filling all the way to the top.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the eggs are puffed and slightly golden on top. Remove from oven and use a fork and knife to carefully remove each egg cup from the muffin tin. Serve immediately, or let chill and serve as a cold dish.

Leftover egg cups will keep well for 3-5 days when wrapped individually and refrigerated.

Whiskey Orange Chipotle Chicken Thighs & Drums

I was seriously on point when it came to food last week. I woke up Monday morning and before Eugene had even left for work, I was already bopping about in the kitchen getting dishes ready for the week. I made a batch of my pepperoni meatballs, roasted some vegetables, and then made two delicious marinades to use on a large package of chicken thighs, drumsticks, and whole breasts that I got on sale. More about the second marinade later, but for now let's talk about my Whiskey Orange Chipotle marinade recipe.

When it comes to flavors, I pretty much always go wild for the combination of smoky + spicy. It's why I put hot smoked paprika in everything. It's why I hoard cans of chipotle in adobo sauce and get nervous when my supplies run low. It's why I go nuts for anything with chorizo in it. If I see those words on a menu, it's pretty much guaranteed I"m going to be putting that dish in my mouth.

What's awesome about this recipe, is that it couldn't be easier. You literally just blitz up a few ingredients to make the marinade, pour it over the chicken, and you're done. If you do it on a weekend day or early in the week, you can just pop it in the fridge and let it hang for a couple days, then cook it whenever you're ready.

If you have a grill, even better!

(But I don't have a grill. Or a yard. So I cooked this in my oven.)

The chicken comes out of the oven sweet and spicy with lots of little crunchy caramelized bits on the skin--amazing! I like to serve this with a fresh side dish, like a big crunchy green salad and some sliced avocado. You can also go the bbq-ish route, and serve with mac & cheese or collard greens.

Tip: Want to plan way ahead? You can also marinade the chicken and then freeze it in the marinade for a future dish (just let thaw in the fridge for a day or two before cooking).

Love this recipe? Here are a few other fun chicken recipes to try:

Whiskey Orange Chipotle Chicken
Serves 4-6 (Leftovers keep very well!)

1 8-oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (use half a can if you prefer it less spicy)
1 1/2 cups orange marmalade
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 cup whiskey (substitute orange juice for a non-alcoholic version)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 chicken thighs
6 chicken drumsticks

In a food processor or blender, combine the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, orange marmalade, tomato paste, whiskey, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour marinade over chicken thighs and drums, and let marinate in a sealed bag or air-tight container at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.

To cook:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange chicken thighs and drums in a large roasting pan, skin-side up.  (Pour in the marinade along with the chicken.) Bake about 45-55 minutes or until fully-cooked and the skin is fully caramelized and crispy (meat thermometer will read about 170 on the thickest part of the thighs).  Serve with sides of your choice and garnished with a bit of fresh cilantro.

Simple Pan-Seared Salmon with Crispy Skin

I should begin this by confessing that this was actually my breakfast this morning. I know. So weird. I didn't even add an egg on top, which seems to be the way other people justify eating whatever the heck they want for breakfast: "Just put an egg on it!"

See: Breakfast pizza, breakfast spaghetti, steak and eggs, crab cakes benedict, breakfast brownies... maybe egg-topped breakfast brownies aren't really a thing.

I just like to start my day with protein, but I was sick of eggs, and I had this gorgeous salmon in the fridge so I went for it. At first I felt a little bit guilty, thinking that I should probably save the salmon for dinner so that Eugene could have some, too.

But I really really wanted it, so I just made. And then (it gets worse) I made the other piece for my lunch.

Eugene got chicken for dinner.

The secret to delicious salmon is making sure you let the outside get super crispy. That means you need to rinse your salmon and then pat it very dry before cooking to remove any extra moisture. You also need to get your pan really hot, you need to let the oil get hot, and then after you put the fish down, you need to get the heck away from the pan and just LET IT COOK.

Whenever I do fish in my cooking classes, I find myself having to swat the students away from the pan. Everyone seems to have this irresistible to urge to fuss with the fish. Don't fuss with the fish! Depending on how thick your fish is, just let it go for 2-3 minutes, then quickly flip it to the other side and let that side go for about the same amount of time.

And for the love of God, do NOT remove the skin. The skin is the good stuff.  The skin is where all the nutrients and good fatty acids that people love about salmon live. It also tastes like a delicious ocean cracker when you cook it the right way. (And it will keep the salmon from falling apart in the pan.)

Simple Pan-Seared Salmon with Crispy Skin
Serves 2

Grapeseed or olive oil
2 4-6oz salmon fillets
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add enough oil to just coat the bottom.

While the oil heats, rinse the fish fillets and pat very dry with paper towels or a clean dishcloth. Sprinkle both sides generously with kosher salt and black pepper.

When the oil is hot, lay the fish fillets, skinless-side down, in the hot oil. Let cook for 2-3 minutes without touching. Use a spatula to flip the fish over to the skin side, and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until the skin is very crisp and the fish is cooked to desired doneness.

Remove from pan and let drain on a paper-towel lined plate for a few seconds before serving with desired accompaniments. (Can also be chilled and served cold in a salad or sandwich, if desired.)


Pepperoni Meatballs

I've had the idea for these pepperoni meatballs kicking around in my head for a couple years, but it wasn't until this past week that I was finally able to try them. I was initially inspired by one of my brother's friends who used a similar technique when making hamburgers. Instead of just using ground beef or a mixture of raw ground meats, he added finely minced pepperonis to his patties, adding an incredible amount of flavor and seasoning, with very little extra effort.

I wanted to translate his idea into meatballs, which I figured would be delicious in a rich red sauce served over pasta or veggies. I tried on multiple occasions to make these, but kept getting thwarted. Not because the recipe didn't work out, but rather because every single time I bought pepperoni, Eugene would come along and eat most of it before I got the chance to make my recipe.

Finally this past weekend I went out of my way to buy double the amount of pepperoni I needed, and made sure to issue a stern warning to STAY AWAY as it was already spoken for. It worked and so I started Monday by grinding up a pound of pepperoni in my food processor.

The awesome thing about this recipe? All the seasonings are already in the pepperoni, so you literally don't have to add anything else to the meat mixture, apart from a couple eggs, breadcrumbs, and a bit of milk for binding. Certainly makes clean-up a breeze!

I baked my meatballs in the oven in a baking pan filled with crushed tomatoes and fresh basil, and then served them just like that over a pile of steamed zucchini (I was going for a low-carb spaghetti and meatballs kind of dish). They would also be a wonderful twist in a meatball sub or even on their own as a party appetizer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I initially meant to take a final beauty shot of the finished product and even set some aside to photograph in the daylight the next day, but I got home from a work event so hungry that I was about 3/4 of the way done with the bowl before I realized I forgot to take a picture. Whoops!

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Thanks for reading!

Pepperoni Meatballs
Makes about 20 small meatballs

1/2 pound pepperoni (whole or diced is fine)
1 pound ground beef
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (optional if you want low-carb meatballs, but will make them more tender)
1/3 cup whole milk

Marinara sauce (homemade or jarred), for serving

Use a food processor or meat grinder to finely grind the salami. If you don't have a food processor, use a knife to finely mince the salami by hand (this works best done in small batches at a time).

Combine the ground peperoni and the ground beef in a bowl. Crack in the two eggs and pour in the milk, then use your hands to combine the mixture and work in the eggs, breadcrumbs, and milk. Use a delicate hand, but make sure everything is evenly distributed.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, and use damp hands to shape meatballs about 2" in diameter, placing them on the sheet about 1" apart.

To cook:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake meatballs about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. At this point, you can freeze the meatballs for use in future recipes OR transfer to a pot of your favorite homemade or jarred marinara sauce and let simmer on the stove about 20 minutes before serving over pasta, vegetables, or on their own as a side.
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