Thanksgiving Dinner: The Cocktail

You know how the say Disney is the happiest place on earth? I think cocktail hour is the happiest hour of the day. I don’t want you to think of me as a drunken floozie, though I am, but I love a good cocktail and I wanted to bring one to the table for the Thanksgiving dinner.

I have to say I’ve been thinking about this long and hard. I wanted to stay away from cranberries, because I wanted the drink to be in a shade of orange rather than¬†red. I kept eyeing persimmons, but the price point is pretty high and I don’t even know what they taste like, do you? If you do, please share.

I also thought the drink should be flavorful, a nod to all the spices used throughout this holiday, but I wanted to keep it light. So, off I went to my local super liquor store and then I saw it. It was love at first sight.

Have you ever seen a prettier bottle? And filled with ginger goodness no less! I was in love for sure. The other components fell right into place and these cocktails are very special. Enjoy!

Apricot Gingersnap

2 ozs apricot juice
1-1/2 ozs spiced rum (Myer’s)
1 oz ginger liqueur
Ginger ale
Lime squeeze (optional)
Sugar to rim the glass

After you’ve rimmed the glasses with sugar, fill with ice before layering in the rest of the ingredients. Give it a stir and enjoy!

Salud! Check out the full photostream here and for the rest of the Thanksgiving meal, click this link.
Cookingly yours,


Get in my Pork Belly!

I admit it. I just had an Austin Powers/Fat Bastard¬†flashback. “I’m higher on the food chain. Get in my belly!” LOL

Ok, I digress. Pork belly seems to be all the rave these days. It is¬†another cut of meat that used to be reserved for the commoners, but that the elite have found out about and want to claim as their own. It’s ok, we’ll share because we, the people, are generous that way.

This preparation method may not seem Latin inspired, but believe me when I tell you we love our fatty piggy. In Panama we eat chunks of pork that have the crunchy, crisp skin/rind, the ooey¬†gooey fatty butter, and lightly seasoned meaty parts. It is often fried into chicharr√≥n or cooked in its own fat, preserving some of its moisture. That’s what I did with this baby. I was so excited about it too. I did¬† my happy piggy dance. Yep. I did.

I opted to roast it in the oven because I’m chicken and I’m afraid of the angry stove top¬†piggy. It sizzles, sputters and splatters¬†everywhere, me included. Not wishing to sport third degree burns, I ovened¬†it. I started out a day ahead with a dry rub to infuse it with flavors. There isn’t a ‘recipe’ here, you can really add just about anything you like and you will end up with crazy deliciousness. Look at him, ain’t he a beaute?

Rubbed Pork Belly

Pork belly slab (this was about 4lbs)
White pepper
Sea salt
Rosemary sprigs
Fresh ginger, slivers
Garlic cloves, whole
Onions, halved

Day before prep: Since this cut includes the outer skin of the pig, you’ll want to check it for residual whiskers. I usually take¬†the flame from a lighter to any hairs that may still be around. Trust me, you want to get rid of these, they’re not pleasant to find when you’re eating. Rinse and pat dry.

Take a pairing knife and score the slab ever so often, about 2 inches apart. Do this on both, the skin and meaty sides. Piercing the skin will allow it to stretch instead of puffing up like a balloon.

In a small bowl, combine the allspice, pepper, salt and sugar. Sprinkle half of the rosemary sprigs at the bottom of a sealable container large enough to hold the belly in a single layer.

Now rub your belly. Your pork belly, I mean. Use that salt mixture and work it into the rind and meaty sides. Don’t be afraid of the salt, you will rinse it off before cooking, so be generous. Place it rind-side up into the container it will marinate in. Then top with the remaining rosemary sprigs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day of prep: Preheat oven to 375¬į. Instead of using a rack, I used the vegetables to elevate the slab from the bottom of the baking sheet. I halved the onions, cut the carrots in 2-inch pieces and left the skin on the garlic cloves. I spread all of these, including more rosemary and the ginger slivers,¬†on an aluminium lined sheet, I was thinking ahead to the cleaning stage.

Remove the pork belly from the fridge and rinse under cool water. Pat dry and lay it over the vegetables. Place it in the preheated oven and forget about it! After about 30 minutes, you’ll notice that the skin begins to develop bubbles.

I roasted this one for about 1-1/2 hours, before turning up the heat to 475¬į to crisp the rind. I allowed it to cook at this temperature for another 15 minutes or so, or until the skin was nicely golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Slice and see if you’re able to stay out of this. Oh my. I want more!

GET IN MY BELLY! It’s like bacon on steroids!

Cookingly yours,

Spareribs with Tamarind Glaze

I love tamarind. In Panama we make a drink with it, this isn’t exclusive to my little country, of course. We also process the pulp, mix it with brown sugar and¬† make it into balls that are then dipped in sugar and sold. It is an incredibly good snack, just thinking about it¬†is making my mouth water.

Speaking of tamarind balls…, when I had just moved to Houston, I had probably been there for a little over a year, I was yearning for Panamanian treats. I used to go to a little store called La Michoacana, it was (is) a primarily Mexican store, but it was the only place I could find ‘some’ of the products and produce I needed for home-cooking.

On one of my visits to the store, I noticed they were selling tamarind balls. Oh Joy!!! I was so excited. A little piece of home…, or so I thought. I got back in my car, heading home after picking up all the essentials, unwrapped the little ball and took a nice, healthy bite of it. . . I almost threw up! They like the tamarind balls in Mexico too, but like many of their treats, they add chili peppers to it. Totally ruining that fix for me, just be happy you weren’t in the car with me that day. I sounded like a sailor.

In any case, I’ve had some tamarind pulp sitting in the pantry for a few weeks now, planning to get to it. The wait is over. I decided to cook with it, instead of limiting it to sweeter applications. These pork spareribs¬†turned out finger-licking OHMYGAWD¬†good! I recommend you plan ahead for these so you can marinate the ribs as I did.

Day Before Prep:

Dilute the tamarind paste in water. I used about 1/2 cp of the pulp and diluted it in about 3 cps of hot water. Let it sit there for a bit to help the pulp separate from the seeds. Once the water has cooled, strain it and use a spoon to help remove more of the pulp from the seeds. Discard the seeds and reserve the concentrated juice.

For the marinade:

In a bowl or large ziploc bag combine
1 cp tamarind concentrate
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp habanero paste (or habanero hot sauce)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp fresh ginger, slivered
2 tsp garlic paste (crushed garlic)

Mix all these ingredients well, then add the pork spareribs. For the recipe I used about 3 lbs. of bone-in pork spareribs. Make sure all the ribs are coated and refrigerate at least 12 hours, preferably overnight. Turn the ribs a couple of times to make sure they all soak up the marinade.

Day of – Cooking:

Preheat oven to 325¬į. Line a baking sheet with foil paper and lay out the ribs in a single layer. Make sure to remove any chunks of ginger you see. Cover with foil and bake the ribs for 1-1/2 hours.

In the meantime, prepare the glaze. Once the ribs have cooked for the first 90 minutes, remove from the oven and drain and reserve the liquid. Return them to the oven uncovered.

Tamarind Glaze
2 cps tamarind concentrate (whatever is left, plus some water)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, crushed
1/3 cp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed (garlic paste)
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 cp green onions, diced (greens & whites)
1-1/2 tsp habanero paste or hot sauce
Cooking juices from the ribs
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste

Heat a medium saucepan, add a bit of oil to coat the bottom, then add all the white pieces of the green onions and half of the greens. Allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes, just long enough to soften, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt.

Stir well and adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Allow it to simmer over medium low heat, stirring every so often until it begins to thicken. Once the glaze thickens to the consistency of heavy cream, add the rest of the green onions and remove it from the heat. Set aside.

After the ribs have cooked through and begin to get tender (about 90 minutes), raise the oven’s temperature to 450¬į and generously brush¬†the ribs with the glaze on one side. Return them to the oven and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Flip the ribs, glaze the other side and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Finally remove them from the oven, flip and glaze them once more, but just let them sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

I sprinkled a bit more of finely chopped green onions just before serving and accompanied them with some Bacon Potatoes.  They were tangy, sweet and sticky good!

Cookingly yours,

Eating Summer: mango mousse


Oooooh mango-time! The one time I don’t complain about Houston’s increasing temps and humidity is when I find beautiful mangoes at my local grocery store. Even better when they’re in the season and, thus, affordable. Can you say win-win?!!

I can eat mangoes like nobody’s business, but I can’t write a valuable post with that as the subject. So I’ve kept my thinking cap on, trying to find ways to incorporate them into a recipe. That’s how this little treat came to be.

Have you been watching the new Cooking channel? I hope you have. I’m loving it and found a few new chefs that have quickly moved into my DVR’s record list. This recipe comes as the result of adapting a recipe from the show French Food at Home. Laura Calder is a French chef bringing that fancy cuisine into normal people’s homes. On one of her episodes, she made a pumpkin mousse, the perfect platform for a mango coup.

She served it with a chocolate sauce, but not being a chocolate fiend and knowing I would need some texture, I opted for some crumbled ginger snaps. It’s easier too.

Mango Mousse with Gingersnap Crumble

3 cps ripe mango, peeled & chopped
2-inches fresh ginger, peeled (optional)
1 pkt unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon rum or bourbon (water works too)
2 cps heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cp sugar
Gingersnap cookies

First, you will need to turn that mango into puree. Place the mango in a medium saucepan, add the ginger, 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 cp water. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat, reduce heat to medium and allow it cook down until the mango softens–about 10-15 minutes.

Stir the rum/bourbon and gelatine together in a cup, and let soften 5 minutes. Add a third of the cream and¬†the vanilla to the¬†saucepan with the mango syrup. Stir in the dissolved gelatin and the rest of the sugar to dissolve. Remove the ginger pieces and the mango mixture¬† to cool just a bit before running it through the blender or food processor to puree. You’ll need to strain the puree, mango is very fibrous; set aside to¬†cool and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled and starting to get thick.

Whip the remaining cream and fold it into the chilled mango mixture. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Spoon into individual serving dishes or goblets topping with crushed gingersnap cookies.

This was delicious and the crunch from the ginger cookies added a much needed textural dimension. Tell me, how do YOU eat your mangoes?

Cookingly yours,

The Couscous Chronicle.

You’d think this wasn’t a cooking blog, like I somehow schemed you into believing it was then just stopped cooking. My cooking has been placed o hold by a vicious allergy attack. Injections, inhalers and super harsh antibiotics and I’m back. Sorta.

It’s almost time for the next round of entries to be submitted for the Top Chef It Yourself challenge. For a few days there I thought maybe *I* wasn’t going to submit anything. But I’m here, I cooked, I’m posting.

I selected the ingredients.¬†I should’ve¬†picked something easy, familiar, but nooooo. I had to push myself. Go where no Anamaris had gone before. Glad I did.

But first, let me tell you what I found out about couscous. It’s tricky. I had never cooked it before. It was easy enough to prepare, but someone should warn you that it grows and multiplies like, like… I dunno. Like in the cartoons when they drop a droplet of fertilizer and suddenly a whole backyard is full of grass. Like that. I had beucoup couscous! I used the instant-ish kind, no real cooking required (not that I knew there was a different kind).

See? I started out with 4 cps of water and 2 cps of couscous. NOBODY needs that much couscous!

Then there were dates. My only experience with those was from my mom’s fruit cakes, those are usually rum-soaked and generally not my favorite. I found these Medjool dates at my local Middle Eastern grocer. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but it worked out quite nicely.

Here’s my entry:

Couscous Fritters with Date & Ginger Sauce

For the fritters:
2 cps water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cps couscous
1 egg
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying

In a microwaveable bowl, heat water, garlic and salt for about 2 minutes, then stir in the couscous and cook for about 1 more minute. Remove the bowl from the microwave and cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let it sit for 15-20 minutes or so.

Uncover the bowl and fluff the couscous with a fork. Check the seasoning. Allow it to cool before mixing in the egg, parsley, salt & pepper if necessary. It will be a bit sticky, while still seeming dry at this point. Don’t worry, it works out.

Pat the dough into patties, this is easier if your hands are slightly moist. Make them into patties that are 3-4 inches wide and 1/2-in thick. Put them on a tray or plate and cool them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a medium-sized skillet and add 1-2 tbsps of oil. Brown the patties on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side if your skillet is over medium high heat.

Date & Ginger Sauce
1 cp dates, peeled and seeded
1/2 cp ginger, coarsely chopped
2 cps water
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Add the dates, ginger, water and salt in a small saucepan bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Once it boils, lower temperature to medium, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the dates cook down, it will become thick, like a paste. Turn off the heat and pass the paste through a strainer. I added a bit more water to help the paste strain, about 1/2 cup.

Rinse the saucepan, return the strained paste to it and add the vinegar, oil and pepper. Cook it over medium low heat until it thickens, about 10-15 minutes. I have to say I think I needed to cook my sauce a bit longer to keep the liquids from separating (see photos). All in all, it still tasted awesome!

Serve the sauce alongside the fritters and enjoy. I made this for dinner, it was the side for some pan seared salmon. Can you say Yum!?

The salmon is delicious and OOH so easy. Check out the recipe here.

Cookingly yours,