Wednesday, April 21, 2010

White Rice: a Cuban staple

I think it's safe to say that every 9 out of 10 families of Cuban descent (living in the U.S. that is) have some kind of white rice in their pantry.  It's just the way it is.   I grew up on long-grain enriched rice served with just about anything.  Even when another carb side dish was prepared such as potatoes or corn, we would still have white rice. 

How do we cook the rice?  With an "Hitachi" of course.  "Hitachi" is short for Hitachi Rice Cooker and no matter what brand you own we still call it the "Hitachi".  It's pretty simple to make even though my dad says I can't make rice.  I don't take it personal, if it doesn't taste like my mother's cooking he always says that something is missing.

White Rice Cuban Style
(serves 5-6)
3 cups long-grain enriched white rice
3 1/2 cups water
2 t of salt
1 t of vegetable or olive oil

Rinse rice under cold water until water runs rather clear.  Place the rice in the rice cooker with with the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover, and turn on cooker.

Once it is ready fluff up the rice with a fork before serving.  This is served traditionally with black beans, or some other legume.  However, I could eat it just like this with a banana cut up into thin slices.  This is my favorite comfort food!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream

When I decided to start this blog I had in mind trying at least 2 to 3, new recipes a week and blogging about them. I could manage that I have to cook anyway right? Right...I have found myself every night working on this "little" project. Adding music was an adventure into the wee hours of the night! I'm driving my daughter crazy asking her all kind of questions about "HTML", and now I want to start adding pictures. This is really addicting! I have to pull myself away from the computer. My book club is meeting in a couple of weeks and I'm only half way through the book! This month's selection is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. .

OK, enought of that. Last night I made Sumpremes de Volaille aux Champignons (Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream) a recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was wonderful! The chicken was tender and the sauce was decadent over brown rice (tried to make it somewhat healthier).

This is the perfect recipe for when you need to make an impressive meal in a short amount of time. However, you need to adjust the cooking times just a bit. She suggest cooking the chicken for 6 minutes in the oven and it took me at least 20 minutes. Perhaps I did not flatten the chicken enough. Next time I could just purchase the "thin" chicken breast. Of course I did not not purchase a fryer and debone it myself as she suggested....I have to finish reading my book!!

Julia Child Supremes De Volaille Aux Champignons (Chicken Breast with Mushroom and Cream)

  • **Please Note: although Julia suggests to check the chicken after only 6 minutes, this amount of time seems inadequate to thoroughly cook the chicken; cooking time appears to be closer to 30-40 minutes. Please use a meat thermometer to ensure the correct temperature before serving!**"

    1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    white pepper, 1 big pinch
    5 tablespoons butter
    1 tablespoon minced shallot (or green onion)
    1/4 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    For the sauce
    1/4 cup stock (white or brown)
    1/4 cup port wine (or madeira or dry white vermouth)
    1 cup whipping cream
    salt and pepper
    2 tablespoons freshly minced parsley
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a heavy, oven-proof casserole, about 10 inches in diameter until it is foaming. Stir in the minced shallots or green onion and saute a moment without browning. Then stir in the mushrooms and saute lightly for a minute or two without browning. Sprinkle with salt.

    Quickly roll the chicken in the butter mixture and lay a piece of buttered wax paper over them, cover casserole and place in hot oven. After 6 minutes, press top of chicken with your finger. If still soft, return to oven for a moment or two. When the meat is springy to the touch it is done.

    Remove the chicken to a warm platter (leave mushrooms in the pot) and cover while making the sauce (2 to 3 minutes).

    To make sauce, pour the stock and wine in the casserole with the cooking butter and mushrooms. Boil down quickly over high heat until liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly. Off heat, taste for seasoning, and add drops of lemon juice to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

    Servings 4

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ina's or Julia's, that is the question.....

OK, I realize it may have been a "little" on the spur of the moment but on Monday while at work I decided I would make "Boeuf Bourguignon" for dinner. Yes! Of all the recipes from the gazillion cookbooks that I own. I chose to make BB on a week night! If you are not familiar with this dish it is the French's classic version of beef stew with red wine. It is not difficult to make but it is a lengthy process.

The next decision was Julia Child's or Ina Garten's......hmmmm. On a school night with not too much time to spare I went with Ina's from Ina Garten's BAREFOOT IN PARIS . Even though it was half the time it did take close to 2 hours, but well worth the effort.

This dish was a great success with my family. Ina mentions in her book that it tastes even better on the second day, she is absolutely right. Even my son CJ, who does not like to eat leftovers had no objections when I served it again on Tuesday night. Make sure you have plenty of french bread the sauce is absolutely delicious for dipping.

I will attempt to make Julia's recipe next weekend. We'll compare notes then.

1 tablespoon good olive oil

  • 8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup Cognac
  • 1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone orPinot Noir
  • 1 can (2 cups) beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound frozen whole onions
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

For serving:

  • Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In response to my dear friend Ani's comment: I did not post on Thursday because I did not cook!

But I promise to write every time I try out a new recipe or even some old ones that I think are worth sharing. I will also let you know if they don't turn out as well as expected. In other words I WILL share my good and bad cooking experiences.

Dinner at Bridget and Jeff's

To be continued in the morning......I'm too tired right now. But well worth it.

My cousin Bridget and her husband Jeff had a barbecue last night for her cousin Madeline which I had not seen in years, and her hubby Joe. My brother Arnie, his family and mine joined them for what turned out to be a GREAT evening.

The menu was simple Jeff grilled some churrasco style steaks (just added sea salt before grilling), Argentinian sausage, and I'm not exactly sure what the other cut was on the barbecue. For the sides I baked some sweet potatoes. Jeff grilled some asparagus after they were steamed for a few minutes and seasoned lightly with olive oil and crushed garlic. Excellent.

For dessert we had shots of Patron XO Cafe (Tequila Liqueur).....need I say more, WOW!!

Thanks guys for a wonderful time and Bridget like always is the perfect host.

Sweet Potatoes

5-6 sweet potatoes (should be one per person about 4 to 5 inches long)
butter (room temperature)
1/4 c sugar and 1 t of cinnamon mixed together well

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place aluminum foil on a cookie sheet . Rinse off the potatoes and cut the very tip on both ends. Place the potatoes on the cookie sheet making sure they are not crowded and bake for 45 - 50 minutes. The outer skin will turn very dark and some clear liquid may ooze out from the ends which is just it's natural sugars. If you are not sure if they are ready you can pierce the end with a cooking fork or toothpick and it should slide right in when tender enough.

Place cooked potatoes on a serving platter and cut them down the middle. Spread butter on both sides then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Delicious!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dinner at Home

Tonight's dinner was delicious, easy and quick. Rib eye steaks w/Bobby Flay's recipe for Thyme Au Jus.

Rib Eye Steaks w/Thyme Au Jus

-6 steaks (try to get ones that are well marbilized but not thick fatty borders)
-olive oil
-garlic powder
-coarsely ground black pepper
-2 c red wind
-4 c beef stock (Swanson or Progresso)
-1 T chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place steaks on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush lightly with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder on both sides. Place in oven for 8 minutes, turn the steaks and cook for another 8 minutes for medium doneness. Remove the steaks to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Take the roasting pan and place on your stove (over two burners) at medium to high heat. Add the wine to the pan, scrape the drippings and mix well with a wooden spoon until liquid reduces to half the amount. Add the beef stock and reduce again to half the amount. Add thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring until sauce thickens slightly. Pour sauce into gravy boat through a sieve and pour over steaks when served.

We had two side dishes: baked sweet potato fries(frozen from a bag) and asparagus (roasted if fresh is best but if you don't have the time out of a can sprinkled with olive oil will do).

My husband Carlos and the kids loved it......and that's good enough for me!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Hubby Cooks!

Like I mentioned before my husband IS a great cook!! Last night he got home before I did and he prepared dinner for the family. It was his version of Cuban Roasted Chicken "on the run" like he calls it. It was delicious!!

Cuban Roasted Chicken
(serves 5-6)

-A whole chicken cut up in parts and a family pack of wings (we love them)
-olive oil
-naranja agria (bitter oranges - it also comes bottled)
-mojo (out of a bottle like Badia or GOYA)
-salt and pepper
-cayenne pepper (optional if you want to spice it up)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place chicken in roasting pan, rub or brush the chicken lightly with olive oil . Pour generously the mojo and naranja agria over the chicken so that all pieces are soaked in it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, easy on the salt because the mojo if bottled contains salt as well.

Place roasting pan in center of oven for about 2 hours until chicken is no longer pink inside and crispy golden on the outside. Keep an eye on it and cover it with aluminum foil half way through cooking time so that the chicken does not overcook and the "salsita" does not dry up.

Enjoy this with white rice or mashed potatoes and some veggies, or your favorite side dish.

A note about the salsita: a cuban version of gravy. What I like to do once I have removed the chicken from the roasting pan I add white or red wine (depending what we are drinking at the time) to the drippings. Place the pan on the stove on low to medium heat, for a low boil
(do not let it burn). With a wooden spoon scrape the drippings mixing them well with the wine. Stir until reduced into a slightly thick and velvety sauce which is delicious on the chicken, the rice, or as a gravy for your mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I know, another food blog. However, I decided to start this blog for me, because I love to cook and I wanted to write about my experiences with new recipes. I actually had the idea before I saw "Julie and Julia", but it gave me the incentive I needed to start trying a new recipe at least once a week. I have put off the writing until now....

I will share some wonderful recipes that are very precious to my family. These recipes were passed on to my daughter from her grandmother better known as Abuela Acela.

My husband is a great cook, he inherited that from his mom. I'm sure he will be adding his two cents here as well.
I will also add some of my favorite recipes I've come across over the years, including my mom's "arroz con pollo", my daughter Elise's "picadillo",my nieces low calorie "flan", Bob's delicious "meatballs", Tia Mari's "bacalao a la vizcaina", and Tia Booby's "Christmas Day casserole". There are some I have to bribe to get their recipes, but I will eventually! LOL
I really enjoy cooking for my family and friends, my best and worst critics.