Pupusas: little pockets of yum!

Around the holidays, I made some Mexican tamales, those were oh so good, we’re still eating on them. But I had a bit of the corn masa leftover… oh, what to do? What to do? The Hubbz¬†loves Salvadorian pupusas and has been asking me to try my hand at them for a while. Leftover masa? Perfect opportunity.

White corn is very popular throughout all of Central America, except for Panama. In my little country, yellow corn is king, the white variety wasn’t really known until recent years.

Pupusas,¬†a funny name for the Spanish speakers, but a seriously delicious treat. Salvadorian pupusas are similar to Venezuelan arepas and Mexican gorditas, except that pupusas are filled, then grilled. A sort of round corn empanada, really. Most commonly, you’ll find these filled with chicharr√≥n (fatty, crisp pork), cheese and black beans. However, fillings are only limited by the cook’s imagination.

I opted to go for the cheese and chicharr√≥n filling. Since I had rendered some pork fat, I was in possession of¬†some choice pork cracklings¬†and there’s ALWAYS queso fresco in da’ house! Check it out:

Pork & Cheese Pupusas

I mixed some of the fresh masa with a bit of pork lard and seasoned it with salt. It isn’t necessary to add either of those things, but I find the corn masa to be bland and dry and I wanted a flavorful, moist pupusa. If you’re using dry masa, simply follow the packaging instructions and add enough water to have a somewhat soft and pliable dough, season or not as you prefer. Shape the masa into balls.

Then flatten and begin adding the filling. I’ve seen this done from a single ball that is stuffed and flattened, but I found it a lot easier to use 2 flatten balls, put the filling on top of one and top with the other half. Seal the edges by pinching them together.

If you have a comal or a cast iron skillet, that’s the best way to grill these. If not, any non-stick skillet will work. Brown on each side over medium temperature. You want to make sure the dough cooks through and the filling is warmed up, so watch the temperature. They should sound kinda hollow when¬† you thump them, that’s how I know they’re cooked through.

Typically, these are served with curtido, a pickled cabbage salad. I’m not a¬†cabbage fan, but I did have pickled carrots and I made a dipping sauce with crema¬†fresca and homemade salsa. Yum!

Here’s more pupusa action here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Eat your breakfast

They do say it is the most important meal of the day, and I guess they are right. I am so tempted to use the infamous air quotes when I refer to they, but how would you see that? I’m also trying to trick you into thinking I’m one of the cool kids, I don’t think the cool kids do air quotes…, do they?

Breakfast. I don’t eat it as often as I should. I probably only have breakfast on the weekends, more like brunch. On weekday mornings, I have coffee and by the time that’s settled in, its time for lunch, so no breakfast. But on weekends, The Hubbz and I will partake on a morning-ish meal. There’s never a real plan, we just stumble on to the fridge and pull stuff out. Not too long ago, I came up with these.

I don’t really know what they are. A cross between a quesadilla and a tostada, some cheese and sausage and a nicely bright sunny-side-up egg to top it all off. This was perfection. We had the crunch of the corn tortilla against the creamy melted cheese and the yolk. Very easy, very quick, very good. No recipe here, just pull stuff together and make happy.

Sausage & Egg Tostadas
Corn tortillas
Sausage, thinly sliced
Queso Oaxaca or other melting cheese, grated
Eggs
Oil
Salt & black pepper

Layer tortillas with cheese and sausage. Top with another tortilla and toast it in a skillet with some oil. Crisp both sides.

Fry the eggs to your preferred doneness, you could also poach them.

Drain the tostadas, top with the egg and more of the sliced sausage.

Eat. Come. Mangia. And if you’d like more reasons to lick that screen, click here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Heeeere’s Johnny! The history of a pasta casserole

Have you ever heard of Johnny Mazzetti? If you’re Panamanian (or have lived in Panama) you probably do. Funny thing is, in putting this post together, I came to learn about the history behind the dish. I don’t think I believed this to be an original recipe by my mother, though I still think of it as her dish.¬†Johnny Mazzetti, the dish,¬†is very popular in Panama, so I¬†Googled it. Turns out the dish originated in Columbus, Ohio at a restaurant called Marzetti. Leave it to Panamanians to change someones name.

Nonetheless, this was one of my Mami’s¬†favorite party dishes because of how easy it was to prepare and how much mileage you could get from it, I mean, it goes a loooooong¬†way. Like¬†any other popular¬†recipe, Johnny Mazzetti¬†has many incarnations. My mom would make hers with olives, raisins¬†and boiled eggs, in essence, you make picadillo and grow it with pasta.

I must confess that I made this a few months ago, I was yearning for some comfort food and the memory of it came rushing back. I also have to confess that this is not really my mom’s recipe. It has been seriously adulterated… for the better. Not that there’s anything wrong with the original recipe, I just wanted…more. So I brought together 2 comfort foods: mac ‘n cheese and Johnny Mazz and ended up with a casserole of goodness. And you get dibs.

MacZetti

For the beef mixture:
1lb ground beef
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1 large onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper (preferably red), diced
2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
1/2 cp cilantro, chopped
1 small can crushed tomatoes
1 cp broth or water
1/4 cp Cotija cheese

For the pasta:
2-1/2 cps of a combination of Mexican crema (creme fraiche), heavy cream and milk (you can use all of them or take your pick)
Sea salt
White pepper
2 cps cheese (I used Pepper Jack and Cheddar)
3 tbsps butter
Dash of nutmeg
1 lb pasta (I used mezzi tubeti, but elbow, rigatoni would do)

Heat a medium skillet over high heat and add the ground beef and the next 4 ingredients, stirring well to evenly distribute the seasonings. Allow the moisture of the beef to evaporate, before adding the onions, serranos and bell pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent before adding the cilantro and tomato puree. Add the broth or water and check and adjust the seasoning as needed. Allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes over medium low heat. Stir in the Cotija cheese.

Cook and drain the pasta, then add the milk, cream and crema over low temperature. Add the cheese and butter, stirring until dissolved. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 375¬į. Liberally butter a baking dish and spoon half of the pasta, top with all¬†the beef, then the rest of the pasta. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until bubbling.

For more yummy shots, click here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Medianoche & midnight turkey cravings

Wondering whatever you will do with all that leftover turkey? I know I am! I mean, as much as I enjoy the whole¬†meal, I get tired of the original spread after a day of leftovers. I know lots of people enjoy making their leftover turkey into sandwiches, I’m not a big sandwich fan. Can’t tell you why, just not a fan. However, every now and then… something happens and I want one.

Medianoche¬†literally means midnight in Spanish and that is the name given to this Cuban specialty. They say these came about as a snack offered to night club patrons in the wee hours of partying. I totally understand that. When I’m out late drinking and dancing (not that it has happened in a while), a need a little nibble of something. And, believe me, when you’re on the sofa watching a good movie later on, you’ll be so glad to see this beauty toasting up.

No recipe again, just the ingredients. I should mention that the Medianoche¬†is pretty much the same thing as a Cuban sandwich, except for the type of bread used. If you have a bread that¬†is eggy¬†and slightly sweet, you’ll end up with a Medianoche. On the other hand, if you only have something like a baguette, it’ll be a Cuban sandwich. I used Hawaiian sweet rolls in lieu of a brioche, which aren’t readily available in Houston. The ham is a Boars Head Sweet ham, it wasn’t as sweet as the honey-roasted and worked beautifully. As for cheese, I went with a full-blood Swiss, I wanted to taste it in the sandwich.

Medianoche Sandwich

Bread
Turkey slices, thick slices
Sweet ham
Swiss cheese
Pickles
Butter

Butter the bread slices, then layer with cheese, turkey, ham, pickles, and top with cheese. Put the other half on top.

If, like me, you don’t have a Panini press, add a bit of butter to a skillet and heat over medium low temperature. Place the layered sandwich in the skillet, then press down with another pan, weighing it down, if necessary.

Allow the sandwich to toast for about 3 minutes per side. Make sure the heat isn’t too high or you’ll end up with burnt toast.

Slice the sandwich in half diagonally before serving. For more shots, follow the link to the photostream.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Perfect BBQ Sides: Corn

Fiesta is a popular grocery store here in Houston, it caters to almost every culture of the world. We have a very large Mexican-American population here in Houston, so it makes sense to find a lot of Mexican influences throughout the store, including the parking lot. Yes. The parking lot.

I think my first experience with a food truck, was outside my neighborhood Fiesta. There was a truck that served roasted corn on the cob. Let me tell you about this delicious little treat. They roast it, husk and all, then smear it with butter, crema fresca and chili powder. Insert dramatic pause here.             .  O. M. G. I still remember the first time I had it. A real thing of beauty.

Fast forward some years later and here we are. I made minimal changes to the concept, but the resulting side dish is absolutely. divinely. cornily. DELICIOUS. And fresh. A true Summertime side dish. Super f√°cil (super easy).

There’s no need for a recipe. I used crema¬†fresca, creme fraiche, but if you can’t find it in your area, sour cream will work or a bit of cream cheese loosened with milk. In addition, I threw¬†the corn onto¬†a burning grill, but you can chuck¬†the corn and cook it on the stove top or you can use frozen/canned corn.

Elote con Crema (Corn with Creme Fraiche)

Corn on the cob, roasted & chucked
Sea salt & black pepper
Crema fresca
Queso Cotija or Fresco, shredded
Chipotle pepper powder

Once you have removed the corn from the cob, simply mix all the ingredients and serve warm. Sprinkle extra cheese on top.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris