One potato, two potatoes, YUCA!

I thought I would trick you into reading this one. It’s not so much tricking as it is deceiving. The truth is, yuca is the Latin Americans’ potato. Both are tubers. They have similar textures, although yuca is more fibrous. And they could probably be swapped out in most dishes.

Today I’m going to share with you two variations in the way we prepare yuca throughout Latin America. First, let me redirect you to a post from months ago. It walks you through the process of choosing, peeling and cooking yuca. Once you have that part done, then you can move on to one of these methods. Yuca con mojo is essentially a garlicky plate of yuca. Mojo is Latin-Caribbean sauce/dressing that is spooned over foods in Cuba and Puerto Rico, especially. The other variation would be Yuca Fries with Spicy Mayo-Ketchup dipping sauce. No real recipes here, just a bit of this and a pinch of that.

Yuca con Mojo

1 lb yuca, cooked and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp garlic puree
Sea salt
Juice of 1 lime
2/3 cp olive oil
1/2 cp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

Keep the yuca warm or prepare the mojo while they cook. Heat up a small pan over medium temperature and add the minced garlic, make sure to stir it constantly to avoid burning it. Once that garlic softens, add the garlic puree and lime juice. Stir until well blended and cook for about 5 minutes over medium low temperature. Add half of the parsley and season with salt. Remove it from the heat.

Drizzle over the warm yuca and serve with another sprinkling of parsley. YUM!

Yuca Fries with Spicy Mayo-Ketchup

1 lb yuca, parboiled and cut into thick fries
Vegetable oil for frying
Sea salt
1 cp real mayonnaise
1/4 cp Ketchup
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsps habanero hot sauce
1 tsp sugar

Fry the yuca in enough oil to cover them, make sure the yuca has had a chance to cool before frying. It will take about 5 minutes to fry them to a golden brown. In the meantime, combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk them together. Check the seasoning and add a bit of salt IF necessary. Don’t forget you’ll salt the yuca after it has fried.

Serve as dipping sauce for the fries. By the way, both of these sauces/dips go incredibly well with potatoes and plantains. You can see more hunger-inducing shots here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Carnitas, Mexican confit?

Sort of, but not exactly. See, confit is a French cooking and preservation method. The idea is to salt and flavor meats that are then slowly¬†cooked in their own fat (or added fat) and later preserved in said fat. Carnitas¬†are not preserved in the fat, though I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be, except for the fact that they wouldn’t last that long at the Price household.

I’ve had incredibly beautiful and delicious duck confit in Paris. They usually use the leg and thigh portions of the duck because¬†these are fattier cuts.¬†When they bring it out, the duck skin is slightly crisp and glistening, almost see-through. The meat is super tender and flavorful, enhancing the duck’s earthiness¬†to the umpteenth¬†degree. It is very aromatic, you can pick up the scents¬†of garlic, thyme, sometimes ginger and clove.

Similarly, carnitas are made with a fatty cut of pork, most often a butt or shoulder roast. It is seasoned and slowly cooked in its own fat. The resulting meat is fall-apart tender and flavorful. Some places will serve it slightly crisped and topped with grilled onions and peppers.

There are many reasons I love making¬†these at home. It’s super cheap: pork butt/shoulder roasts can usually be found for as low as $1/lb. It’s incredibly easy to make: once the pork is sliced, there’s very little fussing¬†about. It feeds an army and works well as an entr√©e, a taco, or pretty much anything you can dream up. And finally, I love pork. Do you need more reasons?

Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands of versions and recipes. But I find that the simpler, the better and over the years I’ve come to figure out how I like ’em. I use just a few aromatics and pre-mixed fajita seasoning. If you can’t find the fajita seasoning, just use equal parts salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Here’s my super secret recipe…, yah. not really.

Carnitas (little pieces of meat)

1 Pork butt or shoulder roast, boneless (about 5lbs)
2 tsp fajita seasoning
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp oregano
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 poblano pepper, seeded & sliced
1 tbsp olive oil

Cut the roast into pieces that are about 1-inch thick and season with the next 3 ingredients (don’t discard too much of the fat). Place the seasoned in a dutch oven or heavy-bottom pan, trying to keep it on a single layer. Add about 1 cp of water, just enough to have it come up around the pork, but not necessarily cover it.

Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. It will simmer for about 45 minutes before the liquid evaporates and it begins to render the fat. At this point, remove the lid, lower the temperature and begin to brown the pieces of pork. Turning them a few times for the next 15-20 minutes.

You can cook cook the onions and peppers in a separate saute pan, just until softened. Serve with tortillas, rice and/or beans.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Flashback Friday

There is a post I’ve been wanting to bump to the front. It was one I did on the very early days of Chef It Yourself. It was kinda funny to go back and look at the way it was formatted. I’ve come a long way, baby.

Anydoo. There are several things about that post that I was, and still am, quite proud of. Good pictures, good content, good how-to directions for one of the most popular bites of Latin Caribbean cuisine. A staple really. Can be found all along the Caribbean islands, on to Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. As incredibly delicious and easy to make as these are, they seem daunting and intimidating if you’re not familiar with the main ingredient.

Since I’m not savvy enough to figure out how to bring that original post into this screen, I’m going to ask you to follow the link. The original post was titled Cut & Smash. I really hope you’ll like it as much as I do. I give you….drum-roll….. PATACONES!

Again.

Go forth and smash!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Have a ball. A crawfish ball.

I was lucky enough to hit the fantastic foodie¬†city of New Orleans about a month ago. That was probably the beginning of crawfish season in the Gulf Coast and there were all sorts of dishes¬†and yummy treats prepared with the mud bugs, as they’re lovingly called.

I had never tried crawfish balls before, but I loved them! Sorta like a crabcake¬†shaped like a ball and fried.¬†The moment I took a bite¬†I knew I would be making them at home and so I did. I don’t really think there’s a need¬†for a very specific recipe, but I’m listing the ingredients and the amounts I used here. In the end, you want the dough to be wet, but pliable enough to hold its shape.¬†These can easily be frozen and just fried as needed.

Crawfish Balls

2 cps  crawfish tails, peeled & deveined
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 serrano chili, chopped (optional)
4 slices of stale bread
1 egg
3 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
3 tbsp green onions, chopped
Salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
11/2 cups of bread or panko crumbs

If you have a food processor, don’t worry about chopping the ingredients finely. I essentially threw all the aromatics and the bread into the processor and¬† blitz it until they were pretty fine, then added the crawfish, egg,¬†salt & pepper and pulsed until blended. This way, some of the tails are still in pretty large chunks.

Shape the dough into balls about the size of a ping pong ball and roll in bread crumbs. I found it beneficial to shape the balls and place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes before rolling in the breadcrumbs. Once they have been rolled in crumbs, you can freeze them in an airtight container or ziploc bag and use them at a later date.

Fry them in a deep fryer or use a regular pan with enough oil to submerge the balls; heat the oil to 375¬į and cook until deep golden brown. Serve with a remoulade or cocktail sauce.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

P3 ~ Pickles, Pork, Pasta

I need your help. I still don’t know what to call this dish. It all started as a challenge posed by Cindy, my friendster. Apparently there was competition not long ago, for which the contestants had to submit a dish using pickles as a main ingredient. She extended the challenge to me and being the competitive sucker that I am, I accepted.

It was an odd ingredient for me to work with because I’m not all that crazy about pickles. I don’t crave them as a snack. I asked they be skipped on sandwiches. I eat them very seldom. But I had to do it, I just had to take a swing at it.

It took me a few days to settle on an idea. I envisioned raviolis, pickle ravioli topped with pulled pork. My thought was a play on a pulled pork barbecue sandwich. I would sub the pasta for bread and instead of bbq sauce, a tomato ragout.

On my first attempt, I chopped pickles and sliced carrots very thinly and used that to¬†fill the ravioli. I made about 3 ravioli, it was a test after all. That was OK and I imagined that once it was together with the pork, it would all come together. However, I wasn’t wild about the textures. The pickles were chewy in a weird way. I gave the whole¬†thing a bit more thought¬†and by the time I was ready to make the final version, I had tweaked the original version to what I’m sharing here.

Note:¬†You’ll need to plan ahead for this one as the pork will need to cook in advance. Slow-cooked even. However, you could use leftover meat instead of the pulled pork. I used wonton wrappers to make the ravioli. I really like the lightness of the dough and how incredibly easy it makes the task. This recipe made 25 ravioli, enough for 5-6 servings.

For the Pulled Pork
1 Pork butt roast (this one was about 5-6 lbs, but I used less than half for this recipe)
8-10 garlic cloves, sliced
Sea salt & black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4-5 medium tomatoes, seeded & chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cp Italian parsley, finely chopped

Cut slits into the meat and fatty side of the roast and insert slices of the garlic into each slit. Sprinkle generously with salt & pepper and let it rest for 30-60 minutes.

Place the roast into a crock pot and cook overnight on low. It took about 10-12 hours for a 5-lb roast to be done. I put it in Friday around midnight and it was ready when I woke up Saturday morning.

Remove the roast from the liquid and allow it cool. Reserve the liquid to use in the ragout. If it has cooked enough, it will LITERALLY fall off the bones. Pull the meat apart, you’re essentially shredding it. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and add the onions; cook them until translucent, then add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes break down and the chunks are unidentifiable, about 12-15 minutes.

Add about 3 cps of the pulled pork and a bit of the pot juices you reserved. Lower the temperature and simmer for another 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and turn off the heat. Adjust the seasonings by adding a sprinkling of salt and pepper, if necessary. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Pickle and Onion Ravioli
For the Pickle Filling:
1-16 oz jar of dill pickles, drained
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cp cheese, something like Gouda
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 pkgs wonton wrappers (25 per package)

To prepare: Drain the pickles completely, by laying them on paper towels for about 30 minutes. This will not only drain the moisture, but also help remove some of the pickling.

In the meantime, heat a medium skillet with the oil and cook the onions until they are translucent. Set aside to cool. Put the pickles and onion into a food processor and pulse until they’re minced. Mix in the cheese and enough of the cream to make it into a paste. Set aside.

Lay out a few wrappers at a time and brush one side with water, then place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper, then top with another wrapper. Be careful not to put too much filling.

This time I decided to use a biscuit cutter to make them into rounds. Make sure you pinch the edges very well once you’ve trimmed them. This will ensure¬†the filling isn’t lost in the boiling water. Continue until you’ve used all the filling. I froze them overnight, but you can proceed to cook them right away.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then add about 2 tbsp sea salt and a bit of oil. Drop the ravioli into the water and immediately lower the temperature to medium. You don’t want the water to be boil too hard once the ravioli are in, otherwise they will split open. Cook the ravioli for about 8 minutes, they will begin to float once ready. Carefully remove them from the water onto a colander or strainer and then to the serving plate. Be careful, they’re very delicate.

I topped the plates with fried pickles. Originally, I did it for presentation’s sake, but I have to admit they added another lovely dimension to the dish.

For the Fried Pickles I used about 15 spears, I removed the seeds and drained them on paper towels for about 15 minutes. Then I cut each spear into 3 sections, set aside.

In a small bowl combine 1 cp flour and whisk in about 1/2 cp of beer, you want the batter to be thinner than pancake batter. Dip the pickles in the batter, then roll them in breadcrumbs or panko before deep frying at 375¬į.

Plating: Place 4-5 ravioli at the bottom of the plate, top with a mound of the pork ragout and crown with the a few pieces of pickle.

I will let the judges: Cindy, Dorothy and Lindsay,¬†give you their input. They judged the dish on 4 areas: Creativity, Taste, Use of the Ingredient, and Presentation. I will say that I found it to be an unexpectedly delicious and interesting dish. But I still don’t know what to call it. What do you suggest? The components are: Ravioli filled with pickles and onions, pulled pork in a tomato ragout and fried pickles. HELP!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris