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 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.


  • 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).


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.



January 27, 2008

Top 4 Cuban Restaurants in the US

Filed under: restaurants — admin @ 12:50 pm
  1. Casa Lario’s 7705 W Flagler St., Miami
    A Miami Cuban food institution, it was the touchstone from the late 80’s until the late 90’s when the quality dropped off due to changes in management and staff. I understand the original owners are back and I can attest that the food is back to its previous level of excellence. Their style of preparation and rationing of the side dishes, quality of ingredients, bread, etc is very close to what I grew up eating and thus, try to cook today. Do not confuse this location with the one on Ocean Drive (different owners).
  2. Las Culebrinas 4700 W Flagler St, Miami
    I think Ropa Vieja con Camarones or Carne de Puerco con Pure de Aguacate would have been met with a “¿Que QUE?” and a hard cockeye or two were it ever to appear at a family meal. That said, this food is Cuban at its core with some nice, perhaps evolutionary, touches. They still have all the staples, so don’t be afraid.
  3. Porto’s Bakery 3614 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, California
    The original Porto’s is the most consistently packed Cuban bakery I have ever been to (yes, Gilbert’s included). This, the 2nd Porto’s location, has both a bakery and a restaurant. Delicious Cuban, and Pan con Bistec sandwiches, great mariquitas and mojito. Also, a full on Cuban bakery with pastelitos, croquetas, papas rellenas, palitroque, empanadas and Quinceañera cakes with neon-pink-roses frosting. All this in a high ceiling, church-like building that seats close to 200 or so.
  4. My apartment, or yours or La casa de tu Vieja
    The truth is, I’ve had the BEST cuban food in the homes of my family, friends and acquaintances. I mean, how do you convey what your grandmother’s Bistec en Cazuela tasted like to a staff of cooks?

August 29, 2007

Why eating out isn’t what it used to be (for me) Part I

Filed under: restaurants — Jose @ 11:05 am

Am I the only person who cores their tomatoes, especially for a presentation like this? This was a beautiful and tasty margherita pie from a neighborhood cafe with an actual earthen pizza oven. It’s not about eating the core, (dried tomato skin doesn’t sound all that bad, come to think of it) as much as the lack of attention to detail.

Help me out guy, turn the thing over at least.

pizza to the core


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