Suzi’s Blog

Brian’s Jalapeno and Cilantro Margartia


There is an upscale burger chain called Hopdoddy that began in Austin and now has over a dozen locations in Texas, Colorado, Arizona and California. If you find yourself near one, treat yourself and go. It’s fun. At the main Austin location, you’ll stand in line for almost an hour, just to get in the front door, where the “cafeteria-like” line snakes for another twenty minutes or so. Great burgers, accelerated with cheese and chiles. Great fries, densely salted. Great shakes, in variations like Caramel & Sea Salt, Oreo Cooking, Stout Chocolate, and Red Velvet Cake. The shakes are smallish, so you may want to order two. Just a suggestion, not a criticism.

Oh, and what great margaritas. Suzi and I saw a special there last month: Jalapeno and Cilantro Margaritas. The bartender was kind enough to share the general outlines of the recipe. Here’s my version, which is close to theirs and decidedly hot.

The heat comes from two things: jalapeno tequila and muddled jalapenos that go into the cocktail shaker.

Let’s start with the vodka. You can buy jalapeno-flavored tequila, though I’m finding it hard to do here in New York City. There is a tequila brand called Tanteo that makes it, but liquor stores here in Manhattan, which are small and go for high volume sales of any spirit, have not found it to be a best seller and have stopped carrying it. And, I’ve discovered, you can make you own jalapeno tequila for about half the price.

How? Take a 750ml bottle of tequila or a full 1 liter bottle, and pour it into a glass jar. Add 2-3 jalapenos that you have sliced. Leave the seeds. Wait for time, strain, and use. How much time? Recipes will tell you everything from a few hours to a few days. That’s where the heat comes in. I used 3 large jalapenos for a 1 liter bottle of tequila and waited for just four hours. It was and remains HOT. So, you may want to experiment just a little here, trying only 1 or 2 jalapenos for only an hour or two. You really have to taste test along the way.

Store-bought or home-made, once you have your jalapeno tequila you are ready to soar.

As usual in my margaritas, I go for equal amounts of tequila, citrus liquor, citrus juice and sweetener. While triple sec is the “standard” citrus liquor, you get a much finer margarita if you go upscale. For example, Patron, the maker of tequila, also has Patron Citronge, an extra fine orange liquor. And there is a lime one, too. Which brings me to the citrus juice. Although lime juice is again the standard ingredient, people rave about my margaritas and I always make them with lemon juice.

For sweetener, using agave will make for a more viscous beverage and you can probably use a little less of it. I like simple syrup, but you can add even more flavor to your drink by adding a handful of mint as you make the syrup.

Jalapeno and Cilantro Margarita

Yield: serves 3-4


  • ½ cup cilantro, leaves and stems are fine
  • 1 medium to large jalapeno, ends removed, sliced, seeds retained [or not!]
  • 4 ounces jalapeno tequila
  • 4 ounces orange liqueur [NOT triple sec]
  • 4 ounces lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 4 ounces of sweetener, either simple sugar syrup or agave
  • Ice


Put the cilantro and jalapeno slices in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle until truly mashed. Add the remaining liquid ingredients and the ice. Shake until quite cold. Strain into you margarita glass filled with crushed ice.

Source: Brian O’Rourke with thanks to Hopdoddy

Photo Information [Top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for1/50th second at ISO‑500

Photo Information [Bottom]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for1/30th second at ISO‑800




Duck with Chihuacle Negro Sauce, Raisins and Almonds from The Duck Cookbook by James Peterson


When acclaimed author James Peterson wrote The Duck Cookbook he seemed to have a penchant for Mexican recipes. Here he uses his favorite chiles: chihuacle negro. Yes, I had not heard of them before, either. If you cannot find them, then you can use other dried chiles such as guajillos, mulatos, or anchos. Or you can char fresh poblanos.

The sauce here is very authentic, beginning with chiles and cilantro, of course, but then layering in raisins, dried apricots and almonds. You can some or all or none of those extra ingredients but you really want to try the whole boatload. The subtlety of flavors, and the sweetness, is perfect for duck.

Duck with Chihuacle Negro Sauce, Raisins and Almonds

Yield: 6 main course servings


  • 2 dried chihuacle negro chiles, 3 smaller dried chiles, or 2 fresh poblano chiles, charred and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 ½ cups brown duck broth, chicken broth, or water
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 6 Pekin (Long Island) duck breasts or 3 mullard breasts (1 ½ to 2 pounds total)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup dried apricots, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt


Over medium heat, cook the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the duck fat in a heavy‑bottomed pot large enough to hold the tomatillos. If you’re using fresh tomatillos, peel off the papery skin and cut the tomatillos in quarters. If you’re using canned tomatillos, drain them in a colander and chop them coarse. When the onions and garlic turn translucent and fragrant, about 10 minutes, add the tomatillos to the pot. Pour the broth over the tomatillos, cover the pot, and simmer for 10 minutes to soften the tomatillos. Then remove the lid and cook the tomatillos over medium heat until you have a chunky sauce, about 15 minutes more. Finely chop the cilantro and stir it into the sauce, along with the chopped jalapenos.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. To soften the tortillas, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons duck fat in a sauté pan and gently heat the tortillas, one at a time, in the fat. Pull the skin off the duck legs and discard it, then pull the meat away from the bones, shredding as you go. Roll the shredded duck meat in the tortillas and arrange the tortillas in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Spoon over half the sauce, cover with aluminum foil, and bake the enchiladas for 15 minutes. Take off the foil and bake for 15 minutes more, until the sauce starts to bubble.

Reheat the remaining sauce. Put two enchiladas on each heated plate, spoon the remaining sauce over them, and pass the sour cream at the table.

Source: The Duck Cookbook by James Peterson [Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2003]


Chicken and Asparagus Pie from Lidgate’s


Now. Now is the time to strike out and make all those asparagus dishes you have been savoring since asparagus finally disappeared last summer. You’ve seen ideas since then, craved them, clipped them, saved them in a drawer or on your computer.

Or, you can use something new. I recently posted a review of a fabulous meat cookbook, Lidgate’s, from Great Britain. It’s a great book, one of the best meat cookbooks you will ever see, and one worthy of you taking a look. And, if you ldo ook, you will surely want to buy and try many of the recipes that are brilliantly written and photographed here. Lidgate's will appear on bookstore shelves on May 3rd. 

British food is famous for using meat, whether it is mammal, poultry or fish. And the British love their pies. Having “crust” seems almost mandatory for at least one of your dinner dishes. This pie, abundant with chicken and carefully prepared asparagus, is the perfect springtime meal. It’s hearty enough for a cool spring night and rich enough to make any brunch or Sunday family meal a fulfilling success. There are multiple steps in this recipe: making a stock with woody asparagus bottoms, cooking the chicken in that stock, sauteing veggies and then the asparagus tips, pouring all the ingredients into a pie dish, and topping with the crust. It's a dish for when you want to Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, music playing and the wine bottle slowly emptying. And, some white wine is optional here anyway, so why not enjoy a glass along the way.

Go green. Go asparagus.

Chicken and Asparagus Pie

Yield: serves 4


For the asparagus:

  • ¾ ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • ½ tablespoon plain flour
  • ¼ pint full-fat creme fraiche
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 14 ½ ounces asparagus, woody ends broken off and reserved
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pastry:

  • 7 ounces plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3 ½ ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
  • 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, for egg wash

For the stock and chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 ounces white wine (optional)
  • 6meaty chicken drumsticks
  • 17 ounces water


First make the pastry. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add half the egg wash and mix roughly with a table knife. Use your hands to form it into a dough, then knead briefly. Shape it into a ball, wrap in cling film or greaseproof paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the stock. Pour the oil into a saucepan, add the celery, onion, carrot, bay leaf and woody asparagus bits and sweat over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine (if using), bring to the boil and bubble for a minute to burn off the alcohol.

Add the drumsticks and water to the pan, return to the boil, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 4O0°F.

Strain the stock and measure out 400ml (14.fl ounces).

Save any left over for use in another dish. Discard the vegetables and bay leaf. Allow the chicken to cool slightly, then take the meat off the bones, discarding the skin. Cut into large chunks.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan on a medium-low heat, add the shallot and celery, season well and cook until soft (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in the flour, add the measured stock and creme fraiche, stir to combine and bring to the boil. Allow to bubble away to thicken slightly. Add the chicken chunks and asparagus tips and simmer for 3 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Tip the chicken mixture into a pie dish, about 25 x 20 x 7cm (10 x 8 x 3in). Put a pie funnel or an upturned eggcup in the center.

Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry so it is about 5cm (2in) larger all round than the pie dish. Cut 1-inch strips from each edge of the pastry. Press these on to the lip of the pie dish, trim off any excess and brush with the remaining egg wash. Press the pastry lid firmly on top of the pastry rim, then crimp the edges together to seal. Reroll the pastry trimmings and cut out shapes to decorate the pie, sticking them on with the egg wash.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and the pastry is cooked through.

Source: Lidgate's, The Meat Cookbook [Mitchell Beazley, 2016]