While I am not a huge risk taker, I do love it when something pushes me outside of my comfort zone just a little bit. As my family and close friends will attest to, I love adrenaline rushes, as long as they don’t involve flying over water (I am cool with heights, but am terrified of drowning, go figure). So when this month’s The Recipe Redux challenge showed up I was psyched because it felt like a fun risk to take.
The challenge was to grab the closest cookbook and use a recipe from any page in the book that included the digits in 2016 as inspiration for a new recipe.
Why is this a risk? Because the cookbook that was closest at hand was a true favorite because the recipes are as close to perfect as I think you can get and because it already offers lots of variations, so coming up with a new version would be a challenge. Also because it is a cookbook by a chef, Rick Bayless, who loves to use spicy peppers, which was going to be tough on my kids and husband, none of who are big fans of spicy foods. But I was up to the challenge!
The recipe I landed on was his Seared Zucchini with Roasted Tomato, Chipotle and Chorizo (Tinga de Calabacitas). I decided I was going to focus on two areas of change, simplifying the recipe and making it seasonal. In order to simplify the recipe I removed two steps: rehydrating chipotle peppers and roasting tomatoes, especially since it isn’t tomato season. Instead I used chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, which are canned, and canned fire roasted tomatoes. In addition, instead of zucchini I wanted to use a seasonal vegetable and ended up settling on potatoes. And that is when it hit me! I could change this sort of stew recipe into a gratin recipe instead! It would be simple, packed with flavor, and very flexible—all qualities I strive for in my recipes. Oh, and one last added bonus: the leftovers are to die for so it makes a great lunch the next day!
Now I’m going to be honest, this one was not a huge hit with my family, not because they didn’t like the flavor, they actually loved the flavor, but because it was a bit too spicy for their tastes (for the record: I thought it was awesomely spicy). My 8-year-old actually liked the dish so much that he ate a whole plate of it but then chugged water and stuffed bread into his mouth to squelch the burn. What a trooper! If spiciness is not your thing, then you can easily make it less spicy by only using half (or less) of the chipotle peppers in the can and swapping the chorizo sausage for sweet Italian (if using sausage).
This would make a great side dish for a big holiday feast or it can be the main event, since you’ve got your food groups covered. I like to serve it with guacamole as a topping, salad, and French bread, although warm tortillas would be awesome, too!
So take a chance and try this one. I’d love to hear what you think!
- For the sauce:
- 1 15-oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 clove of garlic, unpeeled
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- For the gratin:
- 2 links chorizo sausage, casings removed (optional. Could also use sweet Italian sausage to make it less spicy)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 lbs yellow potatoes, thinly sliced (about ¼-inch thick)
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1½ cups shredded Monterrey jack cheese (could also use cheddar)
- Preheat the oven to 425. Heat a large (12-inch) cast iron skillet or a flat bottomed dutch oven over a medium-high heat the garlic still in its peel, turning occasionally until it is soft and blackened in spots.
- While you are waiting for the garlic to be ready, pull the chipotle peppers out of the adobo sauce and combine in a blender or food processor with the salt and tomatoes.
- When the garlic is ready, peel it and add it to the peppers and tomatoes. Puree until smooth.
- Drizzle olive oil in the skillet/dutch oven and add the sausage (if using), breaking up into crumbles and brown it over a medium heat. When the sausage is done, remove it to a bowl.
- While the sausage is cooking, slice your potatoes and onions.
- If you did not use the sausage, spread the olive oil around on the bottom of the skillet/dutch oven.
- Begin to build your gratin by laying out a single layer of potatoes on the bottom of the skillet with ¼ of the potatoes. Top with ⅓ of the onion, then ⅓ of the sausage, then ⅓ of the cheese.
- Repeat until you have three layers and then top with the remaining ¼ of the potatoes.
- Pour the sauce over the top and make sure it is as evenly distributed as possible.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the potatoes are done.