Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chili con Carne

Chili con carne is one of those dishes you can't get enough. It is a chili (pepper) - tomato based stew with ground meat. It originated in the south of Texas, near the border and it became famous in the city of San Antonio. Since 1977 it is the official dish of the State of Texas. This recipe will make the best Chili con carne ever, the spice balance is just perfect and served over tortilla cups will make it for your summer parties.

Serves 10- 15

Ingredients for the Chili

2  pounds ground beef
2 cups chili beans,cooked with the liquid. (small red beans)
2 cups of diced tomatoes with the juice
3 cups beef stock
1 cup minced onion 
5 garlic cloves minced
4 tablespoon oil
2 Poblano peppers diced
2 chile Guajillos
1 chile Pasilla
1 chile chipotle
1 chile de arbol
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano (dried)
salt and pepper to taste

Reconstitute the dried chillies placing them in a bowl, and pour enough boiling water to cover, press down with a spoon to submerge. Let the plump for 15- 20 minutes. On a cutting board seed the pepper cutting off the tops and slitting down the side.

Process the chillies in a blender with some of the water used to reconstitute, process for 4 minutes until having a homogeneous paste. Set aside.

In a cast iron braiser or dutch oven heat the oil over medium high heat, brown the meat, remove from the pot and set aside. Reduce the temperature to medium and in the same oil, cook the onions and garlic for 5 minutes scrapping the brown at the bottom. Stir in the Poblano peppers and cook for 3 more minutes. Add the meat back and combine well, add the tomatoes, chile paste (you can add 3/4 of it and at the end add the rest if you want it hotter), cumin, oregano, paprika, tomato paste, salt and pepper and 2 cups of the beef stock. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.Let simmer for about 1 hour with the lid slightly askew, stir occasionally.

After 1 hour, remove the lid and add the cooked beans. I prefer to cook them myself ahead of time, but if you don't have time you can used canned beans. Add the remaining beef stock and adjust the salt and pepper. Add the remaining chili paste if you want a little more spicy.

Let simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or until the desired consistency. Serve over tortilla cups and garnish with cilantro dip.

Ingredients for the Tortilla cups

20 corn tortillas
4 ramekins
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Invert the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.
Coat 4 tortillas with cooking spray and drape the tortillas over the ramekins. Bake until golden and crisp.  Make sure the tortillas are centered so they have the shape of a cup. Repeat the process until you have enough to serve.

Cilantro Dip

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

Mix with a fork in a bowl and refrigerate until serving. Pour one tablespoonful on each serving of the chili con carne.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fried Snapper (Pargo Rojo Frito)

Every time I cook this dish at home it takes me to the Caribbean city of Cartagena where is eaten right at the beach, sold from small huts accompanied with Patacones, Arroz con Coco (coconut rice) and salad, this time I'm having it with pickled red onions. This recipe is one of my favorite ways to eat fish.

Ingredients for 1 Serving

1 whole snapper (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), cleaned, scaled and gutted
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoon minced green onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable oil to fry

Pickled Onion

1 big red onion sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Clean the fish and make sure all the scaled have been removed. With a sharp knife make 4-5 slashes along the sides of the skin all the way to the bones. Combine the green onion, garlic, parsley, lime juice and salt and pepper and rub the fish inside the belly and inside the slashes.

Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before frying.

In a cast iron pan big enough to fit the fish, heat the oil to 325 F . Drop the fish in the hot oil carefully and fry for 12 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown.

Remove from the oil and drain over kitchen towels, serve hot.

Pickled Onion

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a non reactive bowl. Soak the sliced onion in the liquid and let set for 20-30 minutes. Drain and serve with the fish or fried seafood.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Brigadeiros (Caramel fudge truffles)

Brigadeiros or negrihnos are the national truffle of Brazil. They are very popular among children specially for birthday parties. They are basically made of condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter and covered with chocolate sprinklers, almonds, pistachios, coconut or peanuts.

Ingredients for 2 dozens

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
1 tablespoonful cocoa powder
1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup decorator sprinkles

In a heavy pot, over medium heat, pour the condensed milk and cocoa powder and butter, mix well and bring to boil stiring frequently for 4 minutes. the mixture has to pull away from the bottom of the pot.

spread onto a plate sprayed with non stick cooking spray and let cool for 30 minutes.

Set your working space, lining up bowls with each topping. Spray oil in your hands and using 1 teaspoon measuring spoon form 24 balls. Roll each in the pistachios or almonds or sprinkles. Put in mini papers liners and chill for 30 minutes.

They can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Meatballs & Spaghetti ( Spaghetti con Albondigas)

Meatballs are a classic of the comfort food. Almost every country has its own version like Danish meatballs, Filipino almondigas or bola-bola, the Polish klopsy or the Middle Eastern kofta; but italians are the ones who took this dish to a whole new level pairing it with pasta. This recipe is so far my favorite for these delicious meaty balls.

Ingredients for 6 servings

for the meatballs

1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
1 grated garlic clove
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons olive oil

For the sauce

4 cups of finely chopped plum tomatoes with the juice
2 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 white onion finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
ground pepper to taste

to serve

1 1/2 pounds of cooked spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Place the ground meats in a bowl, add the parsley, bread crumbs, garlic, Parmesan, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg and combine with a fork. Using your hands form 2 inch balls you may have approximately 15 meatballs. If the mix is to dry add some warm water.

In a skillet or heavy pot add the olive oil and heat over medium low heat, fry the meat balls in batches very carefully until golden brown on all sides. Remove the meatballs and set aside. Discard the burnt oil but don't clean the pot.

In the same pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Stir in the onions and saute for 5 minutes or until translucent, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and increase the temperature to high, scraping up all the brown bits, cook until almost all the liquid has reduced. Stir in the tomatoes with the juice, parsley, salt and pepper and bring to a light boil. Add carefully the meatballs, cover and simmer in low heat for 25-30 minutes until the meatballs are fully cooked.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water according to the package instructions. Drain and serve on a big plate. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss. Serve the sauce and meatballs on top of the spaghetti, garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lobster Rolls (Sandwiches de Langosta)

A lobster roll is a sandwich filled with lobster meat. They are originally from New England, specially the State of Maine in the US and the maritime provinces of Canada, particularly Nova Scotia, where they are a staple summer meal, even McDonald's serve its own version. Now that the Lobster season is here you can make this delicious rolls and enjoy them for a perfect picnic or summer meal.

Ingredients for 6 servings

2 pounds live lobster
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 finely diced celery
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 chives finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
6 New England Style hot dog buns (top-split)
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper
potato chips & pickles to serve

Prepare a large bowl or pot with iced water. In a stock pot, boil salted water and cook the lobster for 10 minutes until they turn bright red. Remove from the boiling water using thongs and plunge into the iced water for 2 minutes.

Remove from the iced water twists off the lobster tails and claws, and using a cleaver to crack, remove the meat from the claws, knuckles and tails. Cut the meat into 1/2 inch dice. Discard the intestines, and clean the carcasses that you may wanna keep to make lobster broth.

In a bowl, combine the lobster, celery, mayonnaise,chives, lemon juice, cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic and chill for 1 hour.

In a non stick pan or cast iron skilled over medium heat, melt the butter and butter both sides of the buns. Grill on both sides until lightly brown.

Fill the buns with the lobster salad and serve with chips and pickles.