July 30, 2009

Cafe Cubano

Filed under: drinks,philosophy,recipes — Jose @ 11:05 pm

Years ago, I worked at a small technology consulting firm in Miami. We did hardware, software, technology presentations etc. I enjoyed the work and got along well with the staff of whom there were about a dozen. Not surprisingly (it’s Miami, yo) there were 3 Jose’s on the payroll. Actually, we all worked in the same 20′ x 20′ office. For the sake of clarity, a naming system was devised to avoid 3 responses each time someone called out “Jose”. By order of seniority, I was the first and thus managed to retain my birth-given name “Hose-A”. The successive “Jose’s” were nicknamed “Hose-B” and “Hose-C”. To this day, I remain friends with both Jose’s and recently, Hose-B was my house guest and during his stay he demonstrated an incredible talent for making “el nectar negro de los dioses blancos” also known as “cafecito”.

buche

In most offices in Miami, a “colada” of café (please don’t call it espresso) is made about 25 times a day. That is a conservative estimate. This means you are riding the caffeine superhighway from sun up to til sun down–a glorious thing. Actually, I know plenty of people who take a shot (perhaps mixed with some milk to make “cortadito”) before bedtime.

What distinguishes Cuban Coffee from other similar brews (Thai, Turkish or Italian) is two things: Mucho sugar and frothing up that sugar into “espumita”. To make it, you’ll need some specialized hardware in the form of an Italian coffee maker called a “Macchinetta”. Realize no one I know actually calls it by its Italian name, even if it is distinctly Cuban sounding “¡Oye Fefo, traeme la maquineta!” alas, we call it a “Cafetera” useful link. Cafeteras come in all shapes and sizes but the principle is the same, pressurized steam goes up through the coffee and out of a spout into a covered vessel. Here’s a really informative page about this device. You can find these cafeteras anywhere, even Wal-Mart has them. I bought mine at Marshall’s for like 6 dollars. Works like a charm.

Although you can use any espresso roast ground up as fine as possible, most Cubanos use one of two pre-ground arabicas:

bustelo
Bustelo
pilon
Pilon
or


Prepare the cafetera:

1. Fill the lower vessel with water (preferably bottled/filtered) up to the steam release nut.

2. Insert the funnel looking thing that holds the coffee grounds. Insert one spoonful of coffee at a time in to the funnel, packing it down with the back of the spoon after each spoonful. You want the coffee to really be packed in there. Fill to the top edge and then add a bit more to make a slight mound.

3. Carefully screw on the top part of the cafetera. Screw it on really tight, using a towel but careful not to use the plastic handle to do so, it will break.
nutbustelo1

Prepare your colada container:

1. In a cup or mug (I use a pyrex measuring cup) add your sugar. Depending on the size of the cafetera, you will have to adjust the amount of sugar used. My cafetera makes about 1 cup of coffee and I use about 3 tablespoons of sugar. Adjust accordingly keeping in mind that it should be VERY sweet. Set aside.

flow

Start Making café:

1. Open the top lid and turn heat to high and position the cafetera so as to keep the plastic handle away from the flame/heat as it will melt.

2. Depending on your stove, in about 5 minutes the dark brown coffee will begin to pipe out of the top of the vessel. Watch closely! This is critical as this is the most concentrated coffee which you must use to make your espumita. Remove from heat and pour about 1 teaspoon of coffee into the colada container you prepared.

3. Return the cafetera to the high heat, this time closing the lid.

4. Meanwhile, stir the coffee and sugar together with a small spoon adding wee bits of coffee a bit at a time in order to gain a thick milkshake like consistency. The resultant pre-espumita should be beige, not brown, in color.

5. The coffee will continue to pour out of the cafetera in to the upper vessel and if left under heat for long enough it will run out of water and start making a sputtering sound. You don’t want to let it come to that point. You are to remove the cafetera from the heat when the upper vessel is like 3/4 full or less. This is because we want thick and syrupy coffee, not watery coffee.

6. Add the remaining coffee to the espumita mix and stir, carefully pour into demi-tasse cups or shot glasses and serve immediately with plenty of ice water.

espuma_progression

Additional notes:

  • Don’t use soap to clean the cafetera, a quick rinse with water and perhaps a rag to wipe down the oily remains of the coffee. Me? I leave that residue in there as it seasons the cafetera. If you insist on cleaning it, run the cafetera through a cycle using half water, half vinegar and NO coffee.
  • It is customary to offer visitors café at any time of day.
  • Despite everything you’ve ever read and/or felt, the darker the roast of coffee, the LESS caffeine it has (roasting diminishes caffeine’s efficacy)
Share

February 5, 2009

Dulce de Naranja Agria (Seville Orange)

Filed under: dessert,fruit,recipes — Jose @ 6:08 pm

from the farm to your door

I heeded my own advice last week and ordered some Sevilles from a farm down in Reedley, California.  I only had in mind that I’d juice them, but they were so beautiful that I felt guilty not using every bit of them.  To this end, I peeled them (zesting some for use),  juiced them (used for mojo), extracted their pulp (from which I fashioned a rope… jk), dried and preserved the seeds (for planting, someday) and made this dessert with their piths.

  • It’s goin down:

  • 10-12Peeled, halved, Seville oranges (naranja agria),  with pulp extracted
  • 4 CupsWater
  • 3.5 CupsSugar
  • 1 Cinnamon stick

It is easiest to peel the Sevilles when they are firm, which is also a sure sign you have a fresh orange.  Hold the orange in the palm of your hand as you peel in a clockwise motion (or counter if you are a lefty) with the other.   I use a vegetable peeler but you can also use a sharp paring knife to peel the oranges. Either way, if you are a fruit peeling badass, you will peel the entire skin in one continuous strip.

peeleandando

Cut the oranges in half, along their “waists”.  Juice the oranges well,  being ever careful not to tear the piths.  I know you wanna get aggressive cuz you be juicin’, but please, be gentle!

Remove the pulp and seeds content from each half.   You want to get to the white, dry part of the fruit. I use a grapefruit spoon to get under one of the segments and then work my way around, scooping out the rest.  Wash them and remove any remaining pulp matter.   Place in a large pot with water to cover, under high heat and bring to a boil.  Once it does, strain the oranges and rinse out the pot.  Do this twice click this link here now. If you omit this step the syrup and the oranges themselves will be way too bitter (unless you like it that way).

Take your twice boiled oranges and set them aside. Place the pot back on the stove and add the 4 cups water, 3.5 cups sugar and the cinnamon stick and place under medium heat. Stir frequently until the sugar has dissolved.   Add the orange halves to the pot, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cover.

islas l'range

As they cook, the orange piths go from an orangey white color to translucent.  This doesn’t happen all at once and you will see them changing as you check every so often.  They will take at least an hour and a half or more, depending on how chewy you want them to be.  I like them a bit on the less chewy side so I cook for longer (up to 2 hours).   Just taste for texture once they are translucent and see what you like. You will also want to taste the syrup and make sure it has some orange flavor (not just cinnamon). If the syrup is weak, take a couple of 3-4 inch segments of the peel and cook along with the piths for 15 minutes or so. BAM! Orange flavor boost.

img_8815-1

Once done, remove to a large bowl and let cool. Once they reach room temperature, place covered bowl in the refrigerator. Enjoy at your leisure; these will keep for a couple of months, at least.
queso con
You can eat these straight up or on toast but I like them with a mild, savory cheese such as Monterey Jack, thinly sliced. The salty creaminess of the cheese perfectly balances the bitter sweetness.

My mother usually made this dessert with grapefruit (available year round), using the same method. I’ve also seen this made with lemon. Maybe I’ll go eXtreme and try this with the largest of the citrus fruits, the Pumelo.

Share

January 19, 2009

Naranja Agria (Seville Orange)

Filed under: recipes — Jose @ 10:25 am

Did I just discover a Cuban meal supplement that helps you lose weight???  From the wikipedia:

“Bitter orange is also used in herbal medicine as a stimulant and appetite suppressant, and has replaced the banned stimulant ephedra in many herbal weight-loss products.”

img_8747

Perhaps a new reality show called “The Fattest Gordo” where you eat nothing but chuletas de puerco marinaded in naranja agria.  NBC: you know how to reach me blog link.

Anyway, these citric gems are in season right now but despite that, are still difficult to find.  You can try your local hispanic market but in lieu of that, I have found an online source:

RipeToYou.com

They are only available through February so I suggest you get some, juice ’em and freeze ’em.

Update 2/3/09: It seems that ripetoyou.com is having technical difficulties right now and is not accepting online orders. 

Share

January 11, 2009

Getting better at cooking

Filed under: culture,philosophy,recipes — Jose @ 8:42 pm

And so it happened that one day, when I called upon my good friend’s mother, Azalia, for advice on making something or other for the 10th time in as many weeks that she said:

“El cocinar es probar”

Now, that may sound vague and uninspiring and I can honestly say it didn’t mean a whole lot to me then.  But time has given the statement validity and today, it defines cooking for me.

img_7670

As far as sustenance goes, we don’t need much. Technically, you could survive eating buttermilk and potatoes for the rest of your life.  But who wants to live like that?  Not me and probably not you either.  You wanna get better at cooking?  Fer reals?

Taste early and taste often.

  • Taste your marinade (before you put the meat in it), if it tastes yummy-sour-salty, you are golden.
  • Taste your sofrito after you add all the ingredients but before you add the protein to it… Is it tomato-sweet pepper-sherry goodness?  Aces.
  • Taste that water the rice is cooking in, if it’s salty like ocean water, you will be pleased with the result.
  • Did you over-salt something?  Try removing some of it and replacing with water or milk, cook for 5 minutes and taste again.
  • Is your sauce dull and insipid?  Add some salt or a pat of butter or a squeeze of lime.

Try to hit as many of the sensations you can: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, umami.  If all else fails, salt is your friend.

p11109381

When you taste as you go, you get a better understanding of what influence your ingredients or techniques have on what you’re preparing.  Like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it.  So get to it–and taste, taste, taste.

True fact: The sense of “Taste” used to be known as “Gustation”.  Talk about old-skool Spanglish!

Share

December 15, 2008

Chicken Vaca Frita

Filed under: chicken,philosophy,recipes,restaurants,rice,sides — Jose @ 11:38 am

I went to Barnes & Noble the other day and perusing the cookbooks (as I almost always do), I discovered that the ever industrious Estefan’s have published a cookbook. It’s a handsome bundle of paper and has all the “standard” dishes you’d expect. However, one recipe in particular that caught my eye is the topic of this post, a dish I’ve had maybe two times at Lario’s (no coincidence it used to be partially owned by the Estefan’s).  This naming convention is not to be confused and does not translate from “Chicken Fried Steak” even if it is an accurate and literal translation.  Chicken fried steak is actually “Bistec empanizado” (recipe to come..one day) oddly enough.

I’d hesitate to call this Nouveau Cuban as it’s really a classic Vaca Frita preparation with a different protein. I don’t see why you couldn’t make it with pork or lamb (fish, not so much). It’s very flavorful and the cubanocity rings in your mouth with each bite.

  • It’s goin down:

  • For the Mojo (“mo-ho” not “mo-joe”, Austin Powers be damned):
  • 3/4 CupFresh orange juice
  • 2/3 Cup Fresh lemon juice (lime works too)
  • 4-6 ClovesGarlic
  • 1 tbspSalt
  • Combine ingredients and stir to dissolve the salt.

img_7918-1

  • Stage 1:
  • 2boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.25 lbs.)
  • 1/2 chicken bouillon cube

Place the chicken breasts that you rinsed in a pot and just barely cover with cold water.  Add the bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 20-30 minutes (you really can’t overcook the chicken like this).  When the chicken is done, remove and set aside.   You can discard the broth you just made or you can strain and reuse at your leisure–chicken soup anybody?

When the chicken has cooled enough, shred, along the grain, with your fingers or a fork into 1/2 inch strips or if you like your chicken-fried-cow more crispy, shred even finer.   Place in a bowl and pour in Mojo, such that the chicken is immersed and covered by the mojo.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour but no more than 3 hours.

  • Stage 2:
  • 1medium onion, sliced into thin (approx 1/8th”) rounds
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable or canola or corn oil

Remove the chicken from the mojo and dry with paper towels on a plate. Important: Reserve the leftover mojo.

Place a heavy bottomed, shallow skillet or frying pan under medium-high heat.   Once the pan is hot, add the oil, it will shimmer and maybe smoke a little.  This is good.  Add the dried chicken shreds in one even layer to the pan.   Using my trusty Lodge 12″ cast iron pan,  I can only do about half the chicken at a time.  Do not stir-fry, allow the chicken to brown, nearly burn.  After about 2 or 3 minutes, turn over the chicken evenly in order to brown the other side (the higher the walls of the skillet, the trickier this is).

img_7942-1

After another 2 or 3 minutes, toss in the sliced onion and stir fry a bit.  When the onions have begun to get soft ( about a minute) add a “chorro” of the reserved mojo and continue stir-frying.  Oh yeah, un “chorro” equals about 3 tablespoons.  You’ll get some nice steam action to finish cooking the onions along with mad flava.  Stir fry for another minute or so and once the mojo has mostly evaporated, pour out onto a platter.  I like this best with just white rice but I ain’t gonna complain about some frijoles negros over the rice.

img_7961-1

Share

March 20, 2008

Arroz con pollo

Filed under: chicken,recipes,rice — Jose @ 1:33 am

As a young, growing, laddy I would eat copious amounts of anything, save for a few items. One of these was arroz con pollo (acp), especially “a la Chorrera”, which translates into “sweaty-sweet festering rice fermentation” (Don’t try to to look that up, it’s Cuban regional speak).

As I got older, and as has happened with so many other foods I did not care for as a boy, I really grew to appreciate acp and all it’s variations. This includes “a la chorrera” even though I still prefer “seco” which is this post’s focus.

My lovely mother in law helped me with this dish. She is a rare bird in that her cooking prowess is matched by her patience and tolerance with others in the kitchen (yes, that would be me). This makes learning easy, as long as you don’t ask for precise measurements.

yes, that is a paper plate

We used boneless, skinless thighs and breasts which made for a bit less chicken oomph, but why pick through bones when a highly trained poultry worker at a sanitary facility has already done this for you? Also, I don’t need to tell you that you should be spending the extra dollar per pound and buying organic birds and bird parts, right?

It’s goin down:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 minced garlic clove
1 lime’s juice
2 tsp salt

Place a cup of water and the remaining ingredients except for the chicken in a double-bagged gallon size zip top bag. Add the rinsed chicken (always rinse meats before using) to bag, toss it up a bit with a spoon and seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Marinate / brine for no longer than 3 or 4 hours but at least 2, turning and rearranging a couple of times dietary supplements for weight loss. Don’t be afraid to throw in some macerated fresh herbs like oregano or thyme or even an un-macerated rosemary sprig??

The meez:

1 large chopped green/red/yellow/orange sweet pepper
1 large chopped yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 fat pinch of saffron (think dip, not leaf)
2 medium size bay leaves
1/2 cup Virgin olive oil
1/2 can tomato paste (small can)
1 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 cups Valencia or Arborio or some sort of risotto rice
3 1/2 cups water
1 bottle beer, imported–of course, try Lowenbrau

After the chicken has soaked long enough, take it out and dry it on and off with some paper towels. To your dutch oven that has been gathering momentum for the past 5 minutes over medium high heat, add 1/4c of the oil. Once the oil starts a-shimmerin and a-smellin, place as many chicken parts in there you can without crowding. You are trying to give the chicken some nice brown crust, so as much of it should be in contact with the pan. Brown on the other side and place browned chicken in a dish covered with foil (loosely). Repeat with remaining chicken.

img_4466-1.JPG

Add the other 1/4c of oil and when ready, add the chopped onion and pepper, reducing the heat to medium now. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, scraping up the browned chicken bits off the pan.img_4471-1.JPG

Add the minced garlic and cook for another 4-5 minutes until all these veggies are nice and soft and and quite silky in their extra helping of oil (it’ll come in handy for the rice). Add the oregano, the bay leaves and the saffron and stir some more, until the saffron fragrance tapers (1-2 min). Now add the tomato paste that you mixed with a 1/2 cup of water and cook this SERIOUS sofrito down for a few minutes so as to be more pasty than watery.

img_4479.JPG

Throw in the chicken and it’s juices collected in the plate, making sure to toss all this together to coat the chicken in the sofri. This goes on for another 3-4 minutes. Now, add the 2.5c of rice and toss that with the chicken and sofri for a few minutes. Finally, add the 1 cup of chicken broth and 3.5c of water (ok, 4.5c if you want it sloppy), mix and bring to a boil. Stir, cover and reduce heat to as low as possible on your range. I use a “lumisnake” because my stove’s LOW just can go that low. Now kick back for the next 20-30 minutes and get your beer. I mean, you can go ahead and pound a couple, but save one for the rice!

Your rice is cooked now and there is still some liquid in the pot amongst the rice. This is good, yes. Crack yer beer and pour that bad boy in there and don’t be all slow or careful about it either, it’s not champagne for chrissakes. Look at that sucker foam up! img_4516-1.JPGNow cover immediately and turn off the stove. Wait at least 10 minutes before serving. How about a crisp romaine salad with a lime vinaigrette?


Share

Lime Vinaigrette

Filed under: recipes,salad,sides — Jose @ 1:33 am

This is a not so traditional Cuban dressing but I think the fact we are using limes makes up for that:

1/4 cup The best tasting EVOO you can get your hands on
1-2 tbsp Fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp Fresh minced shallots
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Salt (to taste)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly with a whisk or a food processor. Taste. It should be somewhat potent in acidity and salt so adjust accordingly. Let sit at least one hour, overnight is even better. Re-Whisk prior to tossing with your salad in a cold bowl. This scales nicely, just keep the ratio of oil to lime juice at about 3:1

Share

October 29, 2007

fu + fu + fu = Fufú Fufú de platano

Filed under: pork,recipes,sides — Jose @ 10:36 pm

I understand Fufú is an adaptation of a santeria word for “garlic infused platano and pork belly mash-slop is a staple food of West & Central Africa. No really, I read it on the internet tubes.

This 3 ingredient dish (5 if you count the optional salt and lime) is easy to make and is in the top 4 Cuban food names

(more…)

Share

October 8, 2007

Chicken of the Fric-a-seeFricasé de Pollo

Filed under: chicken,recipes — Jose @ 1:57 am

Along with picadillo and bistec de palomilla, Fricasé de pollo is one of the protein dishes we ate most frequently growing up. Using basic Cuban cooking ingredients and techniques you end up with a savory-sweet tomato sauce and succulent soup-style chicken and potatoes. Think chicken cacciatore, but with more vegetables.

(more…)

Share

Freely hosted by Your Clicks. Powered by WordPress. Theme by H P Nadig