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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Nidito de yuca con Salmorejo de jueyes

This weekend one of my regular customers put me out to a real test. American but married to a Puerto Rican, she called me with a last minute request for a small gathering she was hosting for a a small group of friends. “I want something traditional with a twist but accompanied with something really authentic”, she said. “How authentic you want the other thing to be?” I asked her. “Something that screams Puerto Rico”, she said. And for some reason and out of the blue, crabs came to mind.

In my opinion, no other dish screams Puerto Rico lauder than Salmorejo de jueyes (crabmeat salmorejo). It is all, traditional, authentic and very popular; from the mountains down to the beach kiosks all over the island. It is served in different ways, as an appetizer, as a main dish served with root vegetables or as the preferred filling for fritters. It is like comfort food. In the mountains they use land crab and in the coast they use blue crab. They both come from the same family of crabs and are harvested locally; even in the backyards of private homes.

The name Salmorejo comes from a Spanish dish made from a very tasty and thick tomato paste based stew. So thick that you can eat it with a a fork. The most popular Salmorejo in Spain is the Salmorejo de Conejo, (rabbit salmorejo). How or when the crabmeat was incorporated into this dish is unknown; however, whom ever came out with the idea is considered a genius in my books.

For her order, I incorporated the Salmorejo de jueyes with yucca (cassava); another traditional root vegetable, into an appetizer I called it Nidito de yucca con Salmorejo de jueyes. (Cassava nest with crabmeat salmorejo). Here is the recipe for that appetizer.

Total time – about 1 hr.

Yield – 4-6 servings

Serving suggestion – as an appetizer or side dish.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces crabmeat, which may be fresh, canned (drained) or frozen (thawed)
  • 1 teaspoonful of ground garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls of chopped onion
  • 2 or 3 olives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoonful chopped green peppers
  • 1/2 tablespoonful chopped red peppers
  • two drops ofTabascosauce
  • 1 tablespoonful of olive or cooking oil
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water (or substitute with 1/2 cup white wine!)
  • 1/3 teaspoonful of salt
  • 1 lbs of yucca
  • Chicken broth
  • Butter
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

Procedure

For the cassava nest

The cassava nest is made from mashed cassava. Wash and peel the cassava using a potato peeler. Then cut into chunks, put them in a saucepan with salted water enough to cover them. Bring it to a boil and cook until tender; about 30 min. Drain and remove the wick-like core from the cassava. In a mixing bowl, mash the cassava the same way you would mash potatoes; with butter and adding the chicken broth little by little until you reach the right consistency. Not too dry, not too wet. Set aside.

Note: you can also use frozen cassava.

For the Salmorejo de jueyes

Sauté all ingredients except the crabmeat over medium heat for about two minutes, stirring continuously. Add the crabmeat, stir, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes over low heat. Stir and let stand for a few minutes, covered.

Putting it all together

You are going to need 4-6 ramekins or similar kind.

Grease the bottom and sides of each ramekin with butter.

Make the cassava nest by pouring in enough of the mashed cassava to cover the bottom and around the ramekin; pressing firmly with a spoon.

Pour in the Salmorejo de jueyes and leave some space on top.

Cover that space with more of the mashed cassava.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan Cheese

Bake at 375 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until  golden brown. Serve hot.

Buen provecho!

Later that evening my client called to thank me for the memories. It happened that all of her guests were Puerto Ricans and the Salmorejo de jueyes triggered a long night of anecdotes and stories among her friends. What a coincidence, it had the same effect on me while I was preparing me. A lot of good memories ran through my mind. And that’s what comfort food it’s all about.

For great party trays and dinner packages ideas visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

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Ceviche de Camarones

This recipe it’s a variation of my original posting; Fish Ceviche.

Total time – about 1 hr including refrigeration time

Yield – 4-6 servings

Serving suggestion – as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1 pound medium-small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 3/4 cup lime juice (juice from 4-6 limes)
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 2-3 lemons)
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 Serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cucumber, peeled diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seed removed, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Procedure

In a large pot, bring to a boil 4 quarts of water, salted with 2 Tbsp salt.  Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute to 2 minutes max, depending on size of shrimp.  (Over-cooking the shrimp will turn it rubbery.)  Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

Drain the shrimp.  Cut each piece of shrimp in half, or into inch-long pieces.  Place shrimp in a glass or ceramic bowl.  Mix in the lime and lemon juice.  Cover and refrigerate for a half hour.

Mix in the chopped red onion and Serrano chile.  Refrigerate an additional half hour.

Right before serving, add the cilantro, cucumber, and avocado

Buen provecho!

For great party trays and dinner packages ideas visit us www.piscolabiscatering.com

Kitchen tools and golf.

Determining the most essential  kitchen tools to have reminds me when I decided to experiment with golf; almost 15 years ago. I remember going to a buddy of mine who at the time had a handicap of 4 for advice. “Don’t worry”, he said. “I’ll take care of you”.

The first thing he told me was to hold off the shopping spree and to just get a good beginner’s set of golf clubs with the essentials; a putter, a pitching wedge, a sand wedge (of course…) and a #7 iron . “And preferably second-handed; you know, just in case golf doesn’t work out for you”, he said.  And so I did. I went out and got me a second-handed, multi-branded, multi-colored beginner’s set. If I remember correctly, I didn’t spend more than $50 for the whole thing including the bag. Eventually I got into the sport and ended up buying a complete set. And guess what, my favorite clubs are the ones that I originally purchased; so now I have a couple of clubs I don’t need or use.

So why the story? Take a look at your kitchen drawer where you keep all your kitchen tools. Pretty full, isn’t?  Ok, to your defense, it’s probably not your fault as most of them were given to you as wedding gifts or you bought them for just in case you needed them some day. But think about it, how many of them you actually use.

Spring is around the corner, and besides of being the season of getting our landscape back into shape, it’s also that time for backyard cookouts and when we walk around the house collecting stuff we don’t use or need to move them to their new place; the garage or the attic. Or as we call it, Spring cleaning. Let me help you with your kitchen drawer.

In my opinion, these are some of the most essential tools your kitchen drawer most have. At the end, you and only you can determine which tools are best and most essential for you.

  • Knives – No need for a 30 piece knife set.  There are four basic knives that will get the job done. A 10-inch chef’s knife; the workhorse of the kitchen and good for just about anything.  A flexible boning knife, a paring knife for smaller jobs and a long, serrated knife. for cutting breads, cakes, and things that are at risk from crushing when using a conventional knife.
  • Kitchen shears – Not only to cut food but to handle any other cutting jobs where a knife it’s not enough.
  • Digital timer – Any experienced chef will tell you that timing is key to the success or failure to any recipe. And while you develop your time keeping skills, a digital timer is your best friend.
  • Meat thermometer – Success on grilling that perfect steak or baking the perfect  holiday turkey depends on two things; time and temperature. You already have the timing part with your digital timer; however, the meat thermometer will close the deal.  Probe thermometers are the most common ones. There are also digital and laser ones. If you go probe, go with the heavy-duty ones. I personally use one that’s a combination of all of them and I found it on-line for less than $100.
  • Measuring cups – Preferably in individual sizes; 1/8 cup 1/4 cup 1/3 cup 1/2 cup 2/3 cup 3/4 cup and 1 cup.
  • Measuring spoons – Because a “pinch” of salt can mean different things to different people….
  • Microplane grater (aka zesters) – For when the recipe calls for just the flavor of ginger, onion, or citrus fruits….
  • Scraper spatulas – For your baking projects.  A large and a small and made of silicone. They are more expensive but will last you more. I also use them instead of wooden spoons to brown ground beef. Wooden spoons can develop mold if not washed and dried properly.
  • Regular spatula – For that perfect pancake flip.
  • Whisks – For when using a mixer, blender or food processor is too much.
  • A High quality can opener – There are many options out there. For food safety reasons, I use one that opens the cans from the side instead of the top.
  • Tongs – A very versatile kitchen tool. I use them for everything, from blending salads to frying or for any task that requires a good grip

Unfortunately, I stopped playing golf some time ago after I started with my weekend catering business. So what happened to my golf clubs? Well, they are sitting somewhere in the attic next to a box labeled “Kitchen tools I don’t use”.

I hope your kitchen drawer looks much better now.

Happy cooking!

For great party trays and dinner packages ideas visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

Grilled Sirloin Steak Marinated in Sun-Dried Tomato Chimichurri

Another great grilled steak recipe with a twist on the Chimichurri sauce.

Total time – about 1 hr 45 min including marinate and grilling time.

Yield – 4 servings

Serving suggestion – your favorite steak sides.

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless sirloin steaks (each about 8 oz. and 3/4 to 1 inch thick), trimmed of fat seasoned to taste.

For chimichurri:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced

Preparation

Season steaks on both sides with salt and pepper, and place in large glass or ceramic baking dish.

To make chimichurri: In blender or food processor combine all ingredients and blend until well mixed.

Cover both sides of steaks with chimichurri, spreading it evenly with spoon. Set aside remaining chimichurri. Cover dish with plastic wrap and let marinate in refrigerator 1 hour.

On very hot grill cook steaks until both sides are well browned, about 4 to 6 minutes per side. Remove and let them rest covered with foil paper.

Use the remaining chimuchurri as a side sauce for the steaks.

Buen provecho!

For great party trays and dinner packages visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

Churrasco con Garbanzos con chorizo

This recipe takes me to my youth when my dad used to grill steaks every Wednesday night. The Churrasco (skirt or fajita steak) was one of his favorite cuts and somehow he found out that the Garbanzos (chickpeas) con Chorizo mix very well with them.

Total time – about 30 min for the garbanzos and about 10 min for the steaks. Tip – prepare the garbanzos first and then grill the steaks

Yield – 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 well-trimmed outer cut skirt steaks (about 2″ thick each)

For the garbanzos

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces Spanish-style chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 ounces bacon or Serrano ham, coarsely chopped (optional)*
  • 1 small potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can chick peas, with liquid (16 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup water

Preparation

For the Garbanzos

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the chorizo, bacon or ham, potato, onion, garlic, and bell pepper, and sauté and stir for 2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir for approximately 30 seconds; then stir in the chick peas and liquid.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the water and cover again. Continue to cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and break easily when pierced with a fork.

* If omitting bacon or ham, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt or season to taste.

For the steaks

Season steaks to taste. Skirt steaks are very flavorful so salt and pepper should be enough.

Pre-heat your grill to at least 375 degrees

Place steaks on the grill. Remember, we are grilling 2″ thick steaks so for medium to medium rare, grill them about 5 minutes each side turning them only once. Grilling them to above medium will result on a tough piece of meat.

Remove, cover with foil paper and let them rest.

Serving suggestion – pour the Garbanzos con Chorizo over the skirt steak and serve with white rice and fried ripped plantains on the side.

Buen Provecho!

For great party tray and dinner packages visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

Tres Leches cake – If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Seriously, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I think that, whom ever invented the Tres Leches cake, had only one thing in mind. And that was to deliver heaven’s sweetness; not that it would become one of the most varied and controversial dessert known to mankind. And there’s no reason for it. It is a simple one with three basic components; cake soaked in a liquid mixture of three different milks (evaporated, condensed and heavy cream) and a creamy topping. That’s it; nothing more, nothing less.

It’s origins are in dispute as the combination of all three of these milks was not available until the 1920’s and 1930’s when the evaporated milk began to be widely commercially available. However, yet today, many Latin American countries claim this dessert as their own. And that’s fine with me. Regardless of the thousand different variations you can find (over 380,00 in google alone), still in my opinion, the best dessert there is and the most popular on our menu.

So here is a basic Tres leches recipe made from scratch that will deliver heaven’s sweetness as it was originally intended; without any additional bells and whistles.

Total time – about 9 hr – 45 min. prep time, 25 min cook time and 8 hr inactive (to allow the liquid to soak evenly across the cake)

Yields – a 13 x 9 cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  •  10 maraschino cherries (optional for presentation purposes)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter and flour bottom of a 13 x 9 inch  pan.

Beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar until light in color and doubled in volume. Stir in milk, vanilla, flour and baking powder.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until firm but not dry. Fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely

Do not remove cake from pan. With a regular fork, pierce surface of the entire cake. This is how the cake is going to absorb the liquid.

Mix together condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/4 cup of the whipping cream and pour milk misture slowly across the entire cake until completely absorbed.

Whip the remaining whipping cream until it thickens and reaches spreading consistency.

Frost cake with whipped cream and garnish with cherries.

Cover and refrigerate (overnight for best results, trsut me….)

Serve chilled

Note: This cake must be kept refrigerated at all times.

Shortcuts – you can save a lot of time by using boxed cake mix. My suggestion is that you avoid using store branded mix and stay within the popular brands. Also, you can us Cool Whip to frost the cake. Again, skip the store branded one.

Variations – these are some variations I have used in the past with very good feedback from clients.

  • Using french vanilla cake mix
  • Adding almond flavor to the cake mix
  • Adding brandy or cognac liquor flavor to the cake mix
  • Replacing the evaporated milk and heavy cream with coconut milk and coconut cream

My suggestion is that you start with the basic one first and then start experimenting with different flavors. Just remember to stay with the three basic elements of the dessert.

Buen provecho!

For great party tray and dinner packages ideas visit us www.piscolabiscatering.com

Recipe of the day – Mofongo

This one is for my Mexican friends that keep asking me about this classical Caribbean dish very popular in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Cuba. Although each country claims this dish as their own, the dish is ultimately of African origin and is a variant of a dish called  “fufu” and introduced by African slaves during the Spanish Colonies era. “Fufu” is made with various root vegetables, specially yams. In Cuba. “fufu” is made with plantains. The Dominican version of it is called “mangu”. Both are prepared with boiled and then mashed green plantains and served as a side dish.

Contrary to the “fufu” and the “mangu”, the green plantain in the “mofongo” is fried then mashed and contains other ingredients such as garlic and Pork cracklings (chicharron).

Enjoy it!

Total time – about 40 min

Yield – 4-6 servings

Serving suggestions – as a side dish for “carne frita” (fried pork)  or “relleno” (stuffed) with chicken or shrimp. When served as a side dish, it is normally served with fish or chicken broth on the side that you pour on top of it  to make it softer.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups canola oil for frying
  • 3 cloves garlic, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 cup crushed fried pork skins
  • 2 green plantains, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • salt to taste

Preparation

Heat canola oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Mash the garlic with the olive oil in a mortar and pestle. Combine garlic mixture with the pork rinds in a large bowl; set aside.

Fry the plantain chunks until golden and crispy, but not brown, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the fried plantains into the bowl with the garlic mixture. Toss to coat. Mash the coated plantains with the mortar and pestle until smooth. Season with salt.

Roll the plantain mixture into two large balls or several small balls before serving.

Serve while is hot.

Buen provecho!

For great party trays and dinner packages visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com

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