Monday, September 27, 2010

Meatless Monday: Croquetas de Yuca

So, no... I did not make this up. Turns out this is quite common in the Colombian cuisine.

1 lb or more of frozen yuca (you can use fresh peeled yuca)
3 tbsp olive oil or butter
salt and pepper to taste
all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
bread crumbs
oil for frying

Boil your frozen yuca until tender. Strain and let cool. Remove the center root piece and any other hard pieces. Cut up into small pieces add your olive oil or butter and mash it. Add your salt and pepper to taste. You can used your hands to knead it into a ball making sure the oil and seasonings are distributed evenly. (Sorry, I did not get a picture of this step).

Line up three shallow bowls. In the first one pour some flour. In the second the beaten eggs with a bit of water, and in the third your bread crumbs (I used seasoned bread crumbs which is what I had on hand, but any bread crumbs or cracker meal will do). Using a tablespoon separate a small amount of yuca and roll it into a ball and then a cylinder. Coat it with your flour, then your egg wash, and lastly the bread crumbs. Place onto a plate. Repeat this process until you've used up all your mashed yuca.

In a heavy skillet heat about 1/2 inch of oil, fry your croquetas in small batches, regulating the temperature of the oil so that they don't brown too quickly. Transfer when golden brown to a paper towel lined plate. Serve as is or with your favorite dipping sauce.... in my case, Heinz Ketchup!

This was a very basic recipe. To your mashed yuca you can add ingredients such as garlic, parsley, pepper flakes, chives, etc or if you don't want to go meatless you can add bacon bits or chopped ham. Be creative.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vaca Frita • Fried Cow (Fried Shredded Beef)

I had bought a one pound flank steak thinking I would use it in a stew, but then the temperatures soared this week and I put the stew out of my mind. I decided to make Vaca Frita. Vaca Frita translates to Fried Cow. Who in their right mind would come up with such a name? We're not frying a whole cow!... It's really fried shredded beef and it's simple to make, but I like to complicate things a bit. You see, the flank steak has to boil for about 2 hours, so why not kill two birds with one stone and go ahead and prepare a yummy beef broth which I can use for soup or separate into containers and freeze for another day?

For the Vaca Frita
1 lb Flank Steak
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp dry sherry
olive oil

You can boil your flank steak in water with just a bay leaf and some salt for about two hours, maybe less, just until the meat is tender.

I boiled my flank steak in water to make a broth. I added garlic, onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots, bay leaves, beef bouillon, bijol, and half a tomato.

Once your meat is tender let it cool. Slice it across the grain, cover it with plastic wrap and then pound it with a mallet or rolling pin to separate. Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and bring to a medium high heat. Sautee you onions, peppers and garlic. Add your meat, salt, cumin and dry sherry and quickly toss it in the pan, adding more oil if necessary browning your meat until some pieces become crispy. Serve with white rice and fried plantains. Or if you prefer, you can make a sandwich, a wrap, a taco, etc. Be creative.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meatless Monday: Tostones de Papa con Mojo • Crushed Potatoes with Mojo

These new potatoes are boiled then pressed and fried as you would to make plantain tostones. They even look like them! The dipping sauce (mojo) gives it the Latin flavor; otherwise, all you get is fried potatoes. You may think I made this up, but I did not! (Okay, I made up the name) I got the idea from a recipe called  "Papas Pelayo" from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz. I just made some modifications of my own; they are as follows:

10-12 small to medium sized new potatoes, unpeeled
oil for frying
1 cup fresh parsley chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil

Boil the potatoes in salted water to cover until tender.

While the potatoes are boiling prepare the mojo. Chop your parsley and onions, press your garlic with the salt. Place these ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Ad you lime juice and olive oil. Stir.

Drain the potatoes and let cool a bit on paper towels. Cut a piece of aluminum foil and place one potato at the end, fold the aluminum foil over and gently press with the palm of your hand to flatten. Don't press them down too thin or you'll get mashed potatoes. Repeat this process for all your potatoes. Heat your oil to medium high and fry the potatoes in batches until crisp.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fried Breaded Pork Chops

I bought a new computer and have been fooling around with iMovie. Let me know what you think of the little video.

3 Bone-in Pork Chops
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup lime juice
juice of 1/2 orange
1 egg
seasoned bread crumbs
oil for frying

If your pork chops are thick as mine were, you should pound them to flatten a bit. Cover with plastic wrap and go at it. Prepare your marinade with the garlic, salt, rosemary, lime juice and orange juice. Pour over pork chops and refrigerate for about an hour. After the hour has passed beat an egg in one bowl and pour bread crumbs into another. Pass your pork chop through the egg coating both sides and then coat both side of the pork chop with the bread crumbs. Repeat this process. Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a frying pan ad drop in your pork chops. Let brown on one side then flip and brown on the other. If they are browning too quickly turn down the heat. If your chops are thin enough they should cook within about 10 minutes. If the chops are very thick you may have to finish them off in the oven. (I always have a hard time judging the doneness of fried food... so I cheat. I pull one out and cut down the middle to check.)

Posts that never made it

I was deleting photos from my computer when I came across some dishes that never made it onto the blog. I cook all the time. Of course many times I repeat recipes, so no use in taking pictures, but sometimes I start to take pictures and somewhere along the way I lose my impetus and never follow through to the end. Above are four examples: (1) I'm not sure where I was going with the potatoes  (2)  fried breaded pork chops (3) shrimp wrapped in bacon (4) a stove top pot roast. The last is the most pathetic of all.... I never even started....(5) stuffed peppers! LOL. Well, maybe another day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mejillones al Ajillo • Mussels in Garlic Sauce

My daughter and I love mussels. When she was in elementary school I would pack her lunch and sometimes I would put canned mejillones en escabeche in her tupperware container. The other kids would make fun of her, but she was thrilled to eat it.

3 dozen mussels
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 mild onion, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 tsp Salt

I used frozen mussels which is what I was able to find here. If using fresh mussles discard any with open or broken shells. Scrub the mussels with a stiff brush, debeard and rinse under cold water.

In a large skillet heat your olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic. Add the wine and bay leaf and boil 2 to 3 minutes to reduce liquid slightly and concentrate flavors. Add mussels and parsley. Cover and boil over high heat, shaking pan frequently, until shells open, about 5 minutes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Potaje de Garbanzos • Chickpea Stew

Time to clear out the freezer. I found a ham bone, 1/2 a large Spanish chorizo, some frozen butternut squash and frozen green bell pepper... hmmmm.... check the refrigerator....onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots.... okay Chickpea Stew... check the pantry... oh noooo! No garbanzo beans. Easily resolved. Send the hubby to the market. Here we go.

1 lb dry garbanzo beans (chickpeas) soaked overnight
1 ham bone or two ham hocks
Spanish chorizo (whatever you have on hand be it 2 small links or one large one)
2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, quartered
1 bay leaf
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
6-8 garlic cloves, pressed
2 medium sized potatoes, quartered
1 carrot, sliced
3 to 4 cups worth of calabaza or butternut squash cut in large chunks
olive oil
salt to taste

The big question in all this is how much water to use, and since I eyeball all of it, I'll just tell you to fill a large pot with plenty of water, enough to cover all your ingredients (including the ham bone) and then some, you can always let it reduce by simmering uncovered or you can always add more water if  thickens too much. Just check it periodically.

Okay so on high heat bring your large pot of water to boil with the garbanzo beans, ham and bay leaf and a drizzle of olive oil. After  a few minutes this will start to foam, you can remove the foam with a slotted spoon. While this boils prepare your other ingredients. Now some people may want to sautee the onions and pepper and garlic and chorizo with the tomato sauce, but I just drop them in the boiling pot. So whichever way you prefer, go ahead and add the mentioned ingredients to your pot. You are going to have to let this boil on medium heat for about 2 hours (covered) after this time, check the tenderness of your garbanzos and the level of the water. Remove your ham or ham hocks at this time and pick off any meat that you may want to put back into the stew. If your garbanzos are still hard, you need to cook longer, if they are tender then go ahead and add your potatoes, carrots and calabaza (squash). Bring to a gentle boil, cover and cook for another hour or so.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meatless Monday: Homemade Rice-A-Roni

Considering Cubans love rice, I don't believe there is a Cuban recipe that calls for a rice/pasta combination. In doing some research I read that the inspiration for the famous San Francisco Treat came from an Armenian recipe. Go figure, and you thought you had never tried Armenian food.
This is a very basic recipe to which you may add parsley, mushrooms, peas, etc.

1/4 cup pasta, cracked into small pieces (I used angel hair)
1 cup long grain rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth (or water plus vegetable bouillon)

Heat your olive oil in a skillet, drop in your garlic, pasta and rice and stir until well coated and the pasta browns slightly. Add your broth and bring to a boil. Stir. Turn heat to low and simmer covered for 15 - 20 minutes. Fluff rice with fork and serve.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meatless Monday: Black Bean Veggie Burger with Plantains and Avocado

I have been thinking of trying something like this for a while. I have seen modern chefs preparing steak sandwiches with plantains, and it ocurred to me to create this vegetarian Cuban flavored sandwich. I thought it was very tasty.

Black bean veggie burgers
ripe plantains, fried (mine were still a little yellow, but they worked out well)
avocado, sliced
red onion, sliced
hamburger buns

I used the Morning Star Spicy Black Bean Burger which I thought went well with the combination and the black beans make it so Cuban.

I grilled them in a little olive oil with some onions and sprinkled on some seasoned salt.

I fried the plantains and sliced the avocado.

I toasted the buns and started layering.
 Finished it off with a little ranch dressing. Yum.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cuban Style Pork Butt Steaks

The Cuban ladies of my mother's and grandmother's generation used their ovens for storage. The larger the oven the more they could store in there: pots, pans, utensils, rolls of aluminum foil, etc, and of course it was (is) the perfect place to ripen your plantains. Growing up, baking and roasting was not a usual occurrence in our household; after all, who would want to pull all that stuff out just to roast a chicken or bake a cake—and where would we put it all? With the exception of holidays or special occasions the oven stayed turned off and everything was prepared on the stove top.

I bought a 4 1/2 lb sliced pork butt the other day. I wasn't sure what to do with it. It was sliced into steaks and I've never really made pork butt steaks... didn't know whether to treat it like pork chops or pork shoulder. I did some research and found that this cut of pork needs to be cooked for quite a while to tenderize. I had a bit of running around to do, so I couldn't afford to have it sit on the stove top nor the oven so I took out the crock pot!

4 1/2 lbs pork butt steaks
1/2 green or red bell pepper (mine were frozen)
1 onion, sliced

For the mojo:

1/2 head of garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablesppon ground cumin
2 cups sour orange or (1c sweet orange + 1c lime juice)

Prepare a mojo with the above ingredients and let marinate over night. The next place your onions and peppers on the bottom of the crock pot and layer your pork steaks on top. Put the lid on it and set it on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. That's it. The bones literally fell off. Serve with white rice, black beans and fried plantains.