Bubba says ‘Dey’s, uh, shrimp!

It’s Monday. Well, it’s not Monday yet, because that would make me a magician or something. I’m typing on Sunday, but I can feel Monday creeping in almost the same way I can feel an allergy flare up. What I meant is that by the time you read this it will, in fact, be Monday. Boo Monday. I wish I could ban it from the universe, the week at the very least, but then I’d have to hate Tuesday. I think you get how this rant ends.

aaaAnyway. It’s Monday and that is sucky enough, so I won’t make this Complicated Monday. This will be Easy Monday. Easy Monday made better by easy shrimp. Easy, delicious shrimp. No recipe shrimp. Remember I shared some achiote goodness? Well, this little dish makes use of that beautiful achiote oil. OK, I’ll shut up and dish.

Achiote Shrimp

Shrimp, peeled & deveined (1 lb)
Achiote oil (2 tbsp)
Sea salt
Black pepper, ground
Oregano
Garlic, crushed
Lime juice

Note: If you cannot find achiote (annatto seeds), you may substitute them with Spanish (smoked) paprika.

Combine all ingredients except for lime juice¬†and set aside for 10-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 475¬į. Line a baking sheet with foil, this also minimizes clean up. Once the oven reaches temperature, add the juice from half a lime¬† to the shrimp and layer out the shrimp on the foil lined sheet, making sure they’re not overlapping, but rather in a single layer. Place them in the oven and cook for about 8 minutes (depending on size).

Remove them from the oven as soon as they stop looking translucent and begin to curl and turn chalky white. Squeeze the other half of the lime and bring the sides of the foil together, creating a heat and steam pocket. Allow them to rest for about 3-5 minutes before serving.

Done! See? I told you this was an easy one. If we share a love of shrimp, and I hope we do, you will really enjoy this dish. The achiote adds a warm earthiness¬†that plays beautifully with the shrimp’s natural sweetness. This method of cooking the shrimp delivers incredibly plump and juicy shrimp.

Cookingly yours
Anamaris

NOT your usual Carne Guisada

A guiso¬†is one of those universal, one-pot dishes that exists¬†in every cuisine/culture I can think of. Stew, cassoulet, kho, cocido, caldeirada, goulash–whatever the name and the main ingredient, it is a hearty soupy¬†dish, slowly braised until the various ingredients are incredibly tender. There’s usually a meat/protein involved, though not always, as is the case in ratatouille. Stews or guisos will usually have a beef base, but lamb, chicken and seafood are common ingredients depending on the culture.

In this case, I decided to switch up my usual beef version or carne guisada and opted for lamb instead. I was at Phoenicia Market, my local grocer for all things Middle Eastern, when I spotted some beautiful lamb roasts. They were calling my name. I swear it! I could hear them say ‘Anamaris! Cook me. Eat me. Love me.’ And being the softy that I am, I did.

Instead of using the customary spices that accompany lamb, I went for my Latin roots. I introduced that roast to achiote, comino and habanero paste. The end result was delicioso. A rich, gamey, earthy and vibrant dish that seemed to waltz around our little kitchen as the aroma wafted around the room. As a good Panamanian, I served it with white rice and beans. The rice was the perfect backdrop to the saucy lamb, allowing us to savor the flavors from the guiso even without a bite of lamb.

This is not to say that the rice was boring, remember my feelings on that subject. I’m just saying that the rice was a perfect partner for the very flavorful and soulful lamb guiso. And check out the beans too, I made it my mission to combine ingredients that don’t always meet each other. Guess what? It worked!

Lamb Guisado (Cordero Guisado)

3 lbs boneless lamb roast (shoulder or leg), cubed
Achiote (annatto seeds)
Vegetable oil
1 tsp garlic, crushed
2 tsp sea salt
1-2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Jugo Maggi or Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cumin powder
1-1/2 cps broth or beer
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper (or green), chopped
2 – 3 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cp cilantro, finely chopped
5-6 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large carrot, cubed
1/2-1 tsp habanero paste

Achiote¬†or annatto seeds are common in Latin-Caribbean cooking. It is the poor man’s saffron, used to infuse a similar color to dishes. It has a sweet peppery scent and taste, earthy; quite unique. To render its flavors and colors, we warm vegetable oil and add the seeds, then allow it to steep for a few minutes. In Panama, you’ll find a little bottle with this oil, seeds and all, sitting next to the stove. Every so often, it gets topped off with more oil until the seeds stop coloring it. Then you start over again.

You can make enough achiote oil for this recipe (about 3 tbsp vegetable oil + 1 tbsp achiote seeds) or a big batch as I do (about 1 cp oil to 1/4 cp seeds), or you can skip this altogether and just use plain or extra virgin oil.

After you’ve cubed the lamb, season it with 1 tbsp achiote oil, salt, pepper, garlic, Jugo Maggi, and cumin. Mix it all in and set aside while you get the veggies and aromatics ready.

Add the rest of the achiote oil to a large pan, preferably one with a fitting lid, and get it hot enough to sear to cubes of lamb. Brown the lamb in batches, trying not to crowd the pan so that you sear and not steam the meat. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Next, you will sweat the aromatics–add the onions, bell pepper and cook until the onions have soften and are translucent. Add the tomatoes after a few minutes, stir them in before adding the mint and cilantro.

Deglaze the pan with the broth or beer, use a wooden spoon to scrape off all the yummy bits that have gotten stuck to the bottom of that pan. This will not only enhance the flavor of the dish (so long as it isn’t burnt), but it will add an incredible depth of color to it.

Stir the lamb back in, then add the habanero paste, potatoes and carrots. Reduce the heat so that it simmers slowly. Allow it to cook covered for about 45 minutes or until the lamb is very tender. If the juices seem too runny at this time, remove the lid and allow it to cook down for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice and beans.

That’s one happy little lamb!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Variety is key.

It’s not a secret. I love rice best. It’s my first love and I never got over it. Never will. I can eat it just about every day and not tire of it. This time I will share another variation on the Holy Grain, it happens to be Linz’ favorite one. We fry it in bacon and add achiote powder for the color.

Arroz Amarillo (Yellow Rice)

Ingredients:
2¬†cp long grain rice (try Jasmine, you’ll be hooked for life)
2 slices bacon, cubed
Vegetable/Canola oil
1 pkt Sazón
2 1/3 cps water
Salt to taste

Put saucepan on stove over high heat and brown bacon. In the meantime, rinse the rice–easiest way is to put it in a colander and run it under cool, tap water. Let it drain; you may need to give it a quick shake to get the excess water out.

Add the rice to the pan with the bacon and drippings, stir it to make sure the grains are evenly coated. If it seems dry, add another teaspoon of vegetable oil. Stir it around every couple of minutes. Once the grains begin turning white, add the Sazón making sure you stir it evenly. Now add the water and check to determine if you need to add more salt.

It will come to a boil pretty quickly, and the liquid will begin to evaporate.  At this time put a tight-fitting lid over it before it is completely dry. You should still see some bubbling at this point. Then lower the temperature to medium low. Now leave it alone for about 30 minutes.

This part is crucial. You’ll notice that most recipes suggest a 2-1 water-rice ratio. I use a lot less liquid because the steam generated in the pot at this point will.take.care.of.every.grain. Trust me. I’ve made rice this way for about 20 years now.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork, you will also be incorporating the bacon that has floated to the top. It is now ready to serve. This is the perfect accompanient to beans and chicken dishes. This time I served it with lentils and this chicken.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris