Honey, I’m home!!!

Do you ever want to do so much you end up doing nothing at all? Constantly adding items to a mental to-do list that never comes to fruition? Meaning to share some wonderful experience, but never actually picking up the phone or sit before the keyboard? I hope I’m not alone in this crazy little world, but that’s where or what’s been going on with me. Work is crazy busy, they’re REALLY making me work for my money. Add to that new business responsibilities and last minute travel and you end up with a MIA blogger.

I’ve missed my times with you guys, I hope you’ve missed my updates too. Even The Hubbz finally said to me ‘Blog, baby, blog!’ Honey, this one’s for you.

I went to Portland for a bit over a week to attend a conference and I had so much good food and beer. I’ve been dying to tell you all about it, but I also wanted to share the pictures I shot of the scenery so I haven’t. Why you ask? Because I have about 600 shots to review and select the good ones before I can share them with you. That means that I haven’t finish picking, but then I haven’t posted anything else because I keep wanting to share the pictures! Do you see how this crazy cycle has been spinning? So, I decided to go back to what I promised you from day one. Food. I will talk to you about a few dishes I’ve put together in the past few weeks, a few dishes that will rock your world really hard. Promise.

Fish. I don’t know what to call this one, but I’ll tell you how it came about. Have you heard of fish a la Veracruzana? Usually snapper. It is a Mexican recipe, hailing from the province of Veracruz. It is fish cooked in a tangy and flavorful sauce that features tomato, herbs, olives, capers and  spices. I had some fillets in the freezer and started out thinking I would prepare them that way.

As the day progressed, I kept thinking about how to Caribbeanize the recipe. A bit of curry came to mind, a bit of serranos for spice. What the heck, let’s make it creamy and add a bit of coconut milk. Yep. That’s what I did, and let me tell you, The Hubbz and I ate more than we needed to AND fought over the leftovers… I won. I’m such a lucky girl! Wanna know the details? Yes you do!

Pescado a la Caribeña (Caribbean Fish)

1 lb fish fillets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 serrano pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cp sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cp sherry or white wine
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp anise seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cp coconut milk
Water
Fajita seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste

Season the fillets with a sprinkling of fajita seasoning, if not available, salt & pepper works just fine; set aside. In a large saucepan, heat up the oil and add the onions and bell pepper, cooking them until softened. Once the onions are translucent, add the serrano, garlic and continue to cook for a minute or so, just make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Lower the temperature to about medium and add the sundried and fresh tomatoes, curry, anise and cinnamon. Use the sherry to deglaze the pan and remove any bits that may have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the sherry/wine to evaporate before adding the coconut milk and water. Season as necessary.

This sauce will cook down for about 20-30 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld together, so you want enough liquid in the pan to allow the fillets to cook. I would say that by the time it cooks down you’ll want to have about 1/2-inch of liquid. I added about 1 cp of water in addition to the coconut milk.

Once this sauce cooks down, simply drop in the fillets, making sure to pour some of the sauce over each one. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the fish for about 5 minutes or until the fillets flake nicely. Serve over rice and wait until you have that first bite, YOU.WILL.NOT.BELIEVE.THE.AWESOME.

Did I mention I got a new camera? I’m still learning it, but here are a few more shots.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Curry. Curry.

I didn’t ‘discover’ Indian food until 10 years ago, give or take. I don’t know why that is. It was not mainstream in Panama, even though we have a huge Indian presence there. A friend invited me to lunch at a local restaurant a decade ago and I fell in love. It would be a few years before I tried my hand at recreating Indian dishes.

These days my pantry is always stocked with spices and sauces commonly used in this cuisine. I have to admit I have a soft spot for curries, but I do love it all. It is all so flavorful and delicate.

Anyway, here’s my rendition of a green curry. Hubby prefers to have a crust on his fish, so I fried the fillets and added shrimp to the curry sauce. I hope you’ll try it.

Shrimp & Fish in Coconut Green Curry

2 fish fillets (your favorite fish)
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cp panko crumbs
1 egg white
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cp cilantro stems, diced
1/2 cp cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tbsp garlic, crushed
1 serrano pepper, finely diced
1/4 cp Thai basil, chopped
1 cp coconut milk
1 cp chicken broth
2-3 tbsps green curry paste
Oil for frying

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Put the fish and shrimp in a bowl, add the salt and pepper make sure to disperse it well. Set aside.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high temperature, add the 2 tbsps of oil. Once the  oil is hot, add the onions and cook until they begin to turn clear. Add the garlic, serrano and cilantro stems. After a few minutes, add the cilantro leaves and basil.

Mix in the curry paste, coconut milk and broth, allow it to come to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, it will thicken slightly. Add the shrimp and keep stirring to coat them all. After 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and cover it with a tight-fitting lid. In the meantime, get started on the fish.

Heat up enough oil to fry the fish in another skillet. Beat the egg white in a bowl, dip the fillets in the egg. Then dredge them in the panko crumbs and slowly drop them into the heated oil. Fry them until both sides are golden brown. Set aside on paper towels to catch the excess oil.

Serve with jasmine rice. Place a fillet on the plate and top with the curry shrimp. Soooo good!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Foodie Joust: Bacalao Casserole

Jen, from The Leftover Queen, has a monthly contest featuring 3 predetermined ingredients. She calls it the Royal Foodie Joust. For February, the ingredients are fish, coconut milk and nutmeg. I simply had to enter. Those are 3 of my favorite ingredients.

Coconut milk is ever present in Panamanian & Caribbean cuisine, besides that, I LOVE the flavor it imparts to food.
Fish–well, I come from a country which name means ‘abundance of fish’. Need I say more?

Nutmeg. I love its smoky, sweet aroma and taste.

There’s a dish my mom prepares, a casserole of sorts. She recently reminded me of it and I’ve had it on my to do list for a few months. Turns out, I’ll be using my mom’s basic dish, then tweaking it to fit the joust.

Her dish calls for bacalao (salted dry cod), potatoes and a béchamel sauce. Can you guess? Instead of béchamel, I’m using coconut milk, yeah baby, yeah! So, without further, you know, babbling, here’s the recipe.

Bacalao Casserole

1 lb bacalao (dry salt cod)
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
3 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp habanero sauce (optional)
1/4 cp white wine
1 cp coconut milk
1 cp water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, approx
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cp panko crumbs
1/2 cp bread crumbs

First you need to reconstitute the bacalao. Reconstitute is a fancy way of saying hydrate. Put the cod in a bowl and add boiling water, let it seep for about 15 minutes. Drain water and repeat the process once more or until the fish feels pliable. Drain and shred the fish. Set aside.

I weighed the contents of a 1lb container, it only weighed 12ozs

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over medium-high heat just enough to render the fat and give it a bit of color. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the red pepper. Cook until softened. Add the bacalao, garlic and habanero sauce, stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Add the wine and cook it down until evaporated, this will only take a minute or two since the pan is quite hot. Once the wine has evaporated, add the coconut milk, water and nutmeg. Stir and bring it to a boil, then turn down the temperature to a simmer and cook covered for about 20 minutes. The flavor of the coconut milk intensifies overnight, so I did this part of the recipe the day before I served the dish.

Preheat oven to 375°.
Lightly brown the bacon in a skillet, remove and drain. You want your potatoes cubed pretty small. Add enough oil to the skillet to be able to brown the potatoes. Fry the potatoes in 2 batches. Once you have browned the first batch, transfer them to an ovenproof dish. Finish the rest of the potatoes, then mix in the bacon right into the baking dish.

In the same skillet, melt the butter and add the breadcrumbs, stir them frequently until lightly browned. Set aside.

Add the bacalao mixture over the potatoes, then top the potatoes with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving. This would go beautifully with tajadas.

By the way, come check out the other entries and vote for me!!! Rock the Vote!

That’s it. Enjoy!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Pigeon Pea-holed

It’s only natural for me to be the most comfortable cooking traditional Panamanian dishes. It makes sense for these dishes to have special meaning to me. That the mere thought of them takes me back home, to the house I grew up in on Calle L, to watching my mom busily stirring pots and pans. There are dishes that remind me of Sunday dinners with aunts, uncles, cousins.

Guandúes are also known as gandules, or pigeon peas and are commonplace in Puertorrican and Caribbean tables and generally combined with rice. In Panama it is usually made with coconut milk and rabito–salt cured pig’s tail. I don’t have the luxury of using freshly picked guandú, but I can find them in the frozen section or the Latin aisle of most of the grocery stores in my area. Goya is a well-known brand for Hispanic products, they have the frozen ones.  

 

Arroz con Guandú

2 cps rice
1 cp frozen guandú (pigeon peas)
2 cps coconut milk
1/2 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Sea salt

In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, brown the salt pork/bacon rendering some of its fat. Add the guandúes (pigeon peas), coconut milk and a bit of salt. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat until it simmers. Cook it until the peas are tender, about 40 minutes. Strain the liquid and measure, add enough water to make 3-1/3 cps of liquid, set aside.

This recipe uses the frozen peas, however, if you are using the canned variety, just skip the step above. Instead, strain the peas and measure the liquid in the can, then add coconut milk and water to  measure 3-1/3 cups. Fry the salt pork or bacon just before adding the rinsed rice.

Add oil to the pan with the peas, rinse the rice and add it to the pot stirring all the ingredients. Add the liquid, check the salt, stir this well. Make sure you remove any drippings that may have been stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a slow boil; once the liquid boils do not stir it again. Keep the temperature on medium high.

Once the liquid is almost completely evaporated, bring the temperature to low and cover with the lid. Allow to steam undisturbed for 40 minutes. When you remove the lid, all the peas will be at the top, go ahead and stir them into the rice. You’re done!

Note: The flavor of the coconut milk will intensify with time. You can cook the peas a day ahead to allow the flavors to meld together.

So, how did your pot come out?

Cookingly yours, 
Anamaris

Saveur!

Do you ever watch the cooking contests on Food Network and the likes? The ones conducted at fairs or at the bequest of a brand or product? I do and have always wondered what it’s like to participate in one. How many entries are against yours, is your idea unique or interesting enough. Do you have a legitimate chance, will anyone other than family and close friends enjoy or appreciate the recipe? I imagine these are but a few of the questions swimming around someone’s mind when participating in such a contest. I say that because those are the questions swimming around my mind today.

I’ve decided to enter a recipe contest! Saveur magazine has a contest for family recipes and so I’ve picked one and entered it. I don’t know what will be of it, if anything, but it is a good recipe. Family and friends have said so. I’m not sure it is unique, but I do know it is different. I’ve sent it on its cosmic way to see what impressions it causes on those not related to me.

This contest was weird in that they’re not tasting my cooking. I guess they’ll read the recipe and and determine whether or not it sounds appealing enough to recreate. If it does, it’ll be one of the finalists they will taste test. In any case, I’m sharing it here with you. Try it and let me know your thoughts. My mom would whip this up for us. Except for boiling the pasta, this is a one-pot dish. It is like chicken & rice, but using pasta instead of rice. The Caribbean flavor comes from coconut milk and curry powder.

Pasta con Pollo Caribe (Caribbean Chicken and Pasta)

 

Ingredients
4 lbs chicken thighs (10-12 on the bone with skin)
2 cloves garlic, crushed (1 tsp garlic puree)
1 tsp habanero paste or your choice of hot sauce
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbs Italian seasoning
2 tbs Worcestershire
Combine these ingredients and allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes or longer if possible. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the ingredients:

2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic or 2 cloves finely chopped
32 oz stewed tomatoes, chopped-liquid included
16 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 bay leaves, dry
4 tbs Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cp water
1-2 tbsp butter
Sea salt
1 lb linguini pasta (or your favorite type of pasta)

Preparation
In a heavy-bottom saute pan, brown the thighs on both sides and set them aside. Because the chicken still has skin, I like to drop just a dab of vegetable oil onto the pan and spread it around with a napkin before putting the chicken in.  As the chicken browns, you’ll begin to develop drippings at the bottom of the pan. Do your best to scrape these and save them; they will add lots of flavor as the chicken stews.

When you have browned all the chicken, check the fat that was rendered. You need about 2 tbsp left on the pan, remove any excess. Now add the onions and cook until they begin to get translucent. Add the garlic, 3 tbs of parsley and tomatoes and loosen the drippings. Add the coconut milk, curry powder, bay leaves, water and stir. Adjust the salt as necessary.

Make sure there aren’t any drippings stuck at the bottom, bring it to a boil before putting the chicken back in. Turn the chicken pieces to coat them with the sauce. Lower the temperature to a slow simmer and continue to cook the chicken for 40 minutes.

Once the meat separates from the bones, turn off the heat and allow the chicken pieces to cool down in the sauce. The flavors in the sauce will intensify overnight. If you have the time to begin this recipe the day before serving, I recommend preparing it up to this point, though it isn’t necessary.

Begin boiling the water to cook the pasta. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and put it back into the sauce. Keep the sauce and chicken warm, add the butter and stir until melted and well incorporated.  You will have about 5 cps of sauce and chicken. Cook and drain the linguini, which should be cooked al dente. Add the pasta and remaining tablespoon of parsley to the sauce and mix well, and allowing them to cook a bit longer in the sauce, about 5 minutes. Serve!

Makes 8-10 servings