Monday, October 22, 2012

American Dishes- Comforting but healthy and fast Chicken and Dumplings

I made a quick crockpot Chicken and Dumplings recipe.  It was so delicious.  This is the "healthy" version and loaded with flavor.

Healthy Crockpot Chicken

4 flash frozen breasts of chicken OR regular chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 stalks of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
1 pkg of sliced mushrooms OR a pound of mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, julienned
4 cups of chicken stock
3 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper (optional for a warmth)

1 cup of milk mixed with 3 tablspeoons of corn starch.  (or more if you like it very thick)
1 tbsp of vinegar
Salt/Pepper to taste (the red pepper and carrots will sweeten the soup considerably)
Biscuit dough, your choice. See below for ideas 

Throw all ingredients except the milk, vinegar etc to the crockpot.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8.  When done, take lid off, turn on high.  Remove chicken with a slotted spoon.  If you spot the bay leaf, remove that as well  Shred/slice chicken into bite sized chunks.  Add milk mixture, vinegar and stir through.  Then taste for salt/pepper and season to taste. Add back in the chicken and stir.  Then add bite sized pieces of bicuit dough all over the surface of the bubbling stew.  Put them in a single layer and then cover.  Leave for an additional 30 minutes on high.  Don't check and don't lift lid.

Serve with a cold crisp salad alongside.

Biscuits notes:  I used Trader Joe's Multigrain Baking mix.  I followed the recipe for biscuits, added a tsp of fresh thyme leaves, 1/4 tsp of pepper to it for a complementary flavor to the stew. You can use refrigerated bicuits or make homemade.  All works well with this stew.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another comforting Spanish Soup- Galician Caldo de Gallego

Since I had such great success with the Spanish Garbanzo Soup, I decided to recreate another childhood favorite of mine.  Caldo Gallego.  This is a white bean soup from Spain with a Cuban twist.  I am limited in obtaining locally my typical cuban ingredients so this is my "version".  If you want to use an authentic version and able to get ingredients easily, try this one Three Guys from Miami Recipe.  Mine is loosely based on theirs.  There are alot of sites out there that have their versions but they are a bit too out there and away from the original flavor profile I am used to.  Their site is the most consistent and closest to the Miami cuban flavor profile I grew up with.  Onward to the soup.  A note here on Chorizo.  I use the dry/cured chorizo specifically from Spain.  They make theirs with wine and paprika.  Other versions, especially from South America isn't the same or remotely similar.  Especially the fresh kind from Mexico.  If you can't find the chorizo from Spain (I found mine finally at all places, Whole Foods!) then please use a smoked kielbaska, or even italian dry salami type sausage.  But if you can find or order the chorizo, it's worth it.  The flavor is incredible.  Link to a picture of the type of sausage is at the end of this recipe.  This is a crock pot version  but I really recommend taking a moment to sear the chorizo to release it's fragrant oils, and to saute the vegetables for a few minutes as I outline below.  It's well worth it but if time is an issue, then you can just toss it all in.

Caldo Gallego

1 pound of dried small white beans, I like navy for this one.  But any small white one will do.  Rinsed and picked over.*
Olive oil to cover bottom of pan
1 cup of chorizo sliced. (about 3 small links, 1 large link) *
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 cup of white or yukon gold potatoes, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 pound of smoked ham, diced I like Serrano or Country but you can use any type
1 smoked ham hock  OR smoked neck bones OR smoked turkey leg, your choice (parboil for 5 minutes)*
6 cups of water
1 cup of white wine, any dry white wine works well
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of each, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano

2 cups of a leafy green, kale, spinach, collard greens with stems removed etc.
1 tbsp of lime or vinegar
Salt/Pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, cover bottom with olive oil and cook chorizo slices till lightly browned.  Using a slotted spoon, remove chorizo slices and place into crock pot or a dutch oven.  Add onions and stir through till translucent.  About 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and stir through till coated.  Then scrape all into crock pot.  Add rest of ingredients except the leafy green.  Turn on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.  About 15 minutes before serving, add leafy green and turn on high.  Just before serving, add lime or vinegar and stir.  Mashing up beans to the side of the crockpot bowl to thicken soup.  Taste for salt/pepper.  Then serve with crusty bread and a tomato salad.

*Additional notes:
You can soak your beans, I don't.  And shorten the cooking times an hour.  If you use canned beans, shorten 2 hours.

I like to parboil any smoked meat/hocks/wings etc to remove any bone bits or tidbits that sticks to the outside and to soften them up.

Spanish Chorizo

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slow Cooker Spanish Inspired Garbanzo Soup

I had 2 cups of dried garbanzo beans that I was going to transform into hummus when family requested soup.  So soup it is.  Now here is a little tidbit about soaking dried beans.  There are 2 schools of thoughts on this.  Some like to soak beans overnight or do a quick soak which is 10 minutes in boiling water and then turn off heat and cover for 1 hour.  Or they just cook from dried beans.  I have grown up cooking without soaking.  Some say the soaking help make beans less gastro.  So it's up to you.  The following recipe I didn't soak.  If you do soak, just reduce the time to about 3 hours on high and 8 hours on low.  Chorizo is a beloved sausage of Spain/Cuba etc.  But it's always cured and dried.  Do not substitute for Mexican version of Chorizo, it's a complete different taste and texture.  Also, you can add Serrano ham to this in place of the ham seasoning.  The ham seasoning isn't of your typical american Ham but more of the Serrano flavor or the Country Ham which is very similar to it.  I included links to so you can see the pictures.

1 pound of cured chorizo*, sliced
2 cups of dried garbanzos, picked over and rinsed well
6 cups of water
1 rough chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes OR add a fresh tomato, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp of oregano
1 tsp of onion powder
1/2 tap of garlic powder
1/2 tsp of cumin
1 packet of Sazon Goya con Azafaron*
1 packet of Country Ham Seasoning*

Juice of a lime OR a tbsp of vinegar
Salt/Pepper to taste

Toss all but the lime/vinegar into the crockpot.  Put it on low for 10-11 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.  Upon serving, add lime or vinegar to it, stir through and taste for salt/pepper.  Then serve with crusty breads on the side. 

Oh so simple but delicious Cuban Rice Pudding

I can go on and on the beauty that is Cuban Rice Pudding which has no relation to the American baked rice pudding.  It's served cold and creamy.  I grew up eating this and it's truly comforting and indulgent.  Now onward to the rice.  I have tried this with many variations of rice.  Some are too firm, others are too soft and some that is just right.  (I couldn't resist the reference!)  I am a snob when it comes to rice preferring the premium brands, but gosh darn it.  The cheap medium grain rice is best for this recipe.  So I buy it just for this.  And please don't substitute lemon for the lime, just omit outright.  Lemons do not belong in any Cuban cooking and it's the bane to my existence.  If you do sub lemon, don't tell me.  Ever. :)  Link to see the grain is at the end of the recipe.

1 1/2 cup of medium grain rice
3 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 inch peel of a lime peel, only the green part
1 vanilla pod, slit

1 can of evaporated milk
1 can of condensed milk
1/2 cup of regular milk

Cinnamon powder for dusting.

Add the water, rice, cinnamon stick, lime peel and vanilla pod. Bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat to a low and cover tightly.  Set timer for 20 minutes.  Then add the evaporated milk, condensed milk and the regular milk.  Stir through and cover and leave on low for another 5 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Remove the lime peel, cinnamon stick and vanilla pod.* Transfer into individual or a casserole dish and sprinkle cinnamon on top and cover.  Chill overnight or all day in the refrigerator.  This is such an important step.  Don't rush it and it will become magical tasting!  Serve.

*Don't discard the vanilla pod!  Rinse well under warm water, air dry for an hour and bury it in your sugar canister.  You will have vanilla kissed sugar.

Medium Grain Rice

Oven Crispy Fries-Two ways

I had been on a search for the ultimate oven crispy fries.  I have tried many and narrowed on two favorites.  One is a bit labor intensive, the other easy.  Both are different but both give you that crispy almost deep fried taste.  Pictures coming soon of each step.

The labor intensive (not really that much) version.

4 potatoes
1/2 Tsp of salt, pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
2 well oiled (with olive oil) cookie sheets
Preheat oven to 400

First start a pot of water to boil.

Meanwhile cut 4 white or yukon gold potatoes into thin planks.  Not too thin or too thick.  Toss into pot of water as you chop.

Let it boil for about 5-7 minutes till just softened.  Drain thoroughly.  In a bowl toss 4 tbsp of olive oil with a 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper.  Shake out on to both trays till you have an even layer of fries with plenty of space.  Place in oven.

Cook for 15 minutes, shake pan and using a spatula, turn over fries.  Then rotate cookie sheets from front to back.  Cook another 15 minutes, shake and rotate again.  Then cook another 5-10 minutes till crispy and golden brown.  This can vary from oven to oven from uneven temps etc.   You can also add a touch of cayenne, chipotle, montreal pepper blend etc.  Anything, this is a starter recipe to expand on or leave as is.

Easy recipe!  I was inspired by this recipe,, and made a few changes to suit our family.  Below is our version.

4 white or yukon gold potatoes, cut into wedges or planks
4 tbsp of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely diced

4 tbsp of corn starch
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup of parmasean cheese (I used locatelli)

2 well oiled cookie sheet (with olive oil)
Preheat oven to 400

In a glass or microwave safe bowl, add potatoes, oil and garlic.  Toss well.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap.  (making sure it's not touching the potatoes) Place in microwave for 3 minutes.  Remove, add rest of ingredients and stir through again.  It will get clumpy!

Shake out onto both cookie sheets, in an even layer.  Place in oven with a timer of 15 minutes.  Rotate front to back and bake another 15 minutes.  Then check as it could be done at this time or a little longer.  Depends on your oven and how thick your fries are.   You are looking for a golden and crispy exterior but creamy insides.

Cuban Black Beans Recipe

We moved to a city that thinks all Spanish people are Mexicans and cook spicy.  I have endlessly told people that Cuban/Spanish cooking isn't spicy across the board.  In fact most common dishes don't have a lick of heat in them.  Hispanics cuisine is so widely varied it's amazing at the span of the dishes ranging from meats, heat index and ingredients.  Cuban cooking tends to be very island influenced cooking from Spain.  Island as in use of citrus and tropical herbs like Cilantro etc.

Below is a beloved staple that can be find in most Cuban households in Miami.  Because I live in a place that is limited in finding my "ethnic" ingredients, I have to use what's available to me locally. If I still lived in Miami, the recipes would be very different.  However I made do with that I have and it's still tasty.  * Will lead you to the notes/ingredients link at the end of the recipe.

Black Beans from canned, Feeds 6

2 cans of plain black beans, rinsed.
2 cans of water
1/2 cup of cooking wine *
Olive oil, 1 tbsp
1 onion, coarsely diced
1/2 red pepper, coarsely diced
2  cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp of EACH onion powder, garlic powder, oregano and salt.*
1/4 tsp of cumin
1 packet of Sazon Goya con Azafaron*

Dash of vinegar OR lime

In a sauce pan, add olive oil and put the heat on medium.  Start chopping onion and add to the oil.  Let it cook till translucent.  Add pepper, garlic and bay leaf.  Warming the bay leaf will help it release it's flavor.  Stir through for about 5 minutes or till soft.  Then add spices and let it cook till fragrant.  About 1 minute.  Then turn up the heat to medium high and add the bans and liquids but NOT the lime/vinegar.  Stir well and bring to a boil.  Then once it's bubbling up, simmer to a high low.  About 3 on my stove.  You want it to bubble lightly on the surface but not boiling.  You will want to cook this for about 20 minutes which is perfect as this is when you can start your rice cooking.  Both will be ready at the same time.  The liquids should reduce by half.  Just before ser
ving, mash up the beans against the side of the pan to thicken.  Add vinegar or lime in it to brighten the flavors, stir and taste for salt.  Serve over rice.

To make with dried beans:
1 bag of black beans, picked and rinsed.

You can soak beans overnight in room temperature water OR place beans in a pot of boiling water and cover tightly for 1 hour on medium high.  Drain beans and rinse.  Use in recipe above but with 6 cups of water along with the rest of the ingredients and cover for one hour.  Then remove lid and let it reduce on medium till softened.  All in all about an hour and half.  You can speed this up by putting everything in the pressure cooker and cooking over medium for 30-45 minutes.  This is still with the beans that have been softened in the first step.

Cubans tend to use both fresh and dried spices in cooking.  Both give flavors in different ways despite it being the "same" spice.

Links to ingredients for preview so you can see the brand/texture etc for your next shopping trip.  These can be found locally at ethnic grocery stores if you can't find them in your grocery store.  The spices, if you can't find Badia, don't buy granulated or fine powder.:

Sazon Goya con Azafaron

Edmundo Cooking Wine

Note on Essential Ingredients

Staples in the kitchen and common ingredients I cook with.  I will put links to Amazon/Other stores of what they are at the end of each recipe.  You can try subbing, but please realize some are essential and will drastically alter the flavor profile I am looking for.  Especially if you are trying to recreate the same dish from memory and it doesn't quite taste the same with the sub.  And I can tell you right now that I hate green peppers with a passion.  So I don't cook with them but alot of Cubans do, feel free to sub the peppers back to green peppers.  And if any questions whatsoever, please post in comments.  I will answer any and all questions.