Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pan aliñado Colombiano (Colombian soft bread)

Pan aliñado is the traditional bread sold at any bakery in Colombia. It is soft on the inside and crunchy outside, buttery and has cheese inside. It is perfect with hot chocolate or coffee for a mid afternoon snack.

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 pound cheese cut in 1 inch (quesito colombiano o mozarella)

In a pyrex or small bowl warm the milk (100 - 110 F), Dissolve the yeast, add the sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir well and let stand until foamy about 15 minutes.

In a stand mixer bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the butter and using the dough hook mix at low speed for 2 minutes. 

Incorporate the yeast and mix slowly so it doesn't fly out of the bowl. Crack one egg and knead at medium speed for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover and let rise in a warm place (inside the oven with lights on) until it doubles the size (45 minutes to 1 hour).

Flour the working surface, and punch the dough down to remove air. Shape it as a long log and cut it into 5 -6 pieces.

Flatten each piece with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick, place 2 pieces of cheese at the lower tip and roll pressing against the working surface.

Make sure that you seal the edges with your fingers so the bread won't deform while baking it. Repeat the process with each bun.

Place the buns on  a baking tray with parchment paper, cover with a kitchen clothe and let rise again in a warm place for at least 45 minutes. They should double their size.

Pre-heat the oven at 365 degrees.

Beat the remaining egg and brush the top surface of the buns.

Place the tray in the middle rack and bake at 365 degrees  for 25 minutes.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sopa de Tortilla (Tortilla Soup)

It is not secret that I LOVE Mexican food and this soup is my favorite Mexican dish. There are many variations but this one, also called Sopa Azteca (Aztek soup), is my favorite. It spicy and smoky, the perfect combination of flavors and aromas.

Ingredients for the broth
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion halved
  • 3 chiles pasilla
  • 2 chiles guajillo
  • 1/2 chile chipotle (optional)
  • 1 cup tomato passatta (puree)
  • 1 spring of epazote
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

To Garnish
  • 1 cup grated cheese (queso fresco o cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup chicharrones chopped (pork rinds)
  • 1 ripe avocado diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
  • 1 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 5 corn tortillas sliced into 1 inch strip
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 limes cut in wedges
In a Pyrex bowl add 2 chile pasillas, 2 chile guajillos and 1/2 chipotle (add more if you want it really spicy) and add boiling water to cover them. Leave them re-hydrating for about 30 minutes. Once the chiles are re-hydrated, cut lengthwise and remove the seeds and the stem.

In the meantime cook the chicken in a pot with 6 cups of water and some salt and pepper. Reserve the broth. Shred the chicken meat and set aside.

In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the whole tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves until they char a little. Be careful as the tomatoes get really hot. 

Using a blender, blend the re-hydrated chiles, charred tomatoes, onion and garlic peeled. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth.

Seep the blended mix into a soup pot using a strainer and a wooden spoon. 

Add 5 cups of the chicken broth to the strainer to squeeze all the juice.

Add the epazote, salt to taste and bring to boil at medium heat, once the broth is boiling add the tomato passata, lower the temperature and simmer for 20 minutes covered. Season with more salt if necessary, remove the epazote before serving.

Cut the tortillas in 1 inch strips and fry them with 2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan. Drain over kitchen paper. Set aside.

In the same frying pan, fry the remaining chile pasilla chopped. Do not let it burn. Set aside.

To serve, add the garnishing at the bottom of the bowl: Avocado, fried chili, cheese, fried tortilla and chicharron and shredded chicken. Pour the broth and top with fresh cilantro and a spoonful of sour cream. squeeze the lime wedges (optional).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thai Spicy Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Ka Gai)

Tom Ka Gai is easily my favorite soup in the world. Tom Ka Gai literally means chicken-galangal-soup. This is a creamy, warm, tingly soup full of flavors and aromas. It is an orgasm to the palate. A must try.

  • 1 big chicken breast (bone in, if you are making the chicken stock) 
  • 1 can coconut milk (398 ml)
  • 1 basket fresh mushrooms
  • 1 Chinese eggplant (optional)
  • 1 green bell pepper seeded and cut into strips (optional)
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 small ginger root peeled and sliced
  • 1 small galangal root peeled and sliced
  • 3 stems lemon grass halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablesspoons tamarind paste
  • 2 spicy chilies sliced (add more if you like spicer)
  • 1 spring basil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 6 cups chicken stock 
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish

For this soup I prefer to make my own chicken stock. So if you are using store-bought chicken stock omit this step.
Remove the meat and the skin from the chicken breast. Discard the skin and slice the meat into 2 inches slices, set aside. Keep the carcass.

In  large pot add 6 cups of water, the chicken bones, 3 bay leaves, scallions and peppercorn. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes. Let cool and strain the stock to be used in the soup.

To prepare the lemongrass, slice and mince the lower portion and reserve the stalk to flavor the soup. Fold the kaffir lime leaf in half along the spine and tear. Slice the mushrooms and eggplant. Set aside.

In a large pot, add the chicken stock, ginger, galangal, chilies, lemongrass, fish sauce, tamarind paste, lime leaves, salt and sugar and let simmer covered for 20 minutes at low temperature so all the flavors blend in.

Add the chicken,the coconut milk (make sure your coconut milk does not contain Guar Gum in the ingredients, this is a sign of low quality) and basil, simmer until the chicken is cooked. 

Once the chicken is fully cooked , add the mushrooms, bell pepper and eggplant, cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Be careful not to overcook the eggplants as it get mushy.

Add the lime juice and season with more salt and sugar if needed and mix well.

Serve hot garnished with fresh cilantro.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Besitos Caleños (Kisses from Cali)

Besitos Caleños are a popular snack from Cali, Colombia. They are similar to Pandeyuca but they tiny hollow crunchy balls completely baked to a dry and toasted chip-like consistency.
They make the perfect snack that everybody loves. You can conserve in an air tight container or bag for 1 week.

  • 2 1/2 cup yucca starch (manioc)
  • 3/4 cup milk (divided in two portions)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cooking Directions

In a medium bowl, mix the yucca starch with the salt.

Stir in 1/2 of cold milk and mix with a wooden spoon. It should form some clumps.

In a small pan, pour the remaining milk and the oil and bring to boil over medium heat.

Add the milk-oil mix to the bowl and mix first with a wooden spoon, then work the dough with your hands.

You will have a soft non sticky dough.

Crack the egg in, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it forms a thick batter with bubbles of air.

Preheat the over at 550 degrees. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.

To form the kisses, we use a pastry bag with a round tip. You can also make them ring-shaped (Rosquillas).

Bake at high temperature (550 degress) until they puff, about 10 minutes.
Reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes until they brown a bit. Turn off the oven, but leave the kisses inside so they dry completely inside.

They must be airy, hollow and crunchy.