A paella wannabe

This is another winning recipe from my old Panamanian cookbook, El Arte de Cocinar,¬†by Berta¬†de Pelaez. Berta¬†must be Martha Stewart’s sister from another mother. I don’t remember if I saw Julia on TV when I was growing up, I do know Berta’s show was a daily event for my mom and I. She inspired my mom to expand her cooking and fueled her entertaining dreams.

I don’t believe I ever had this dish while I lived in Panama, but I’m definitely gonna make up for that with gusto! This turned out to be an easy, quick and delicious recipe, almost a quick take on a paella, really. I must admit, I made this a few months ago and didn’t share, it got lost amongst files and trips and lazy days. Now, I don’t want you to think it lacks luster, it really is a dish you should make. Soon.

I’m not sure about the name of the recipe, don’t really know what makes it ‘provincial style’, but it’s not my recipe. Also, the original called for fish pieces and salchichas–these would be wieners, instead, I opted for shrimp and soft Spanish chorizo. Enough of that, here’s the food.

Arroz a la Provinciana (Provincial style rice)

1 cp pork shoulder, cubed
1 cp Spanish chorizo, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt & pepper
1 can stewed tomatoes, diced
1 cp white wine
1/4 lb squid, cleaned & sliced to rounds
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/4 cp olive oil, approx
3 cps rice

Season the pork with the cumin, salt, pepper and garlic. Add a bit of oil to a medium saucepan, heat it over medium high and add the chorizo. Once the fat begins to render, add the pork cubes and brown for a few minutes. Remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind, then add the onions and bell pepper. Continue to cook until the onions are translucent, then remove from the oil and combine with the shrimp and squid.

Return the pork and chorizo to the pan over high heat, add the wine and allow it to burn off the alcohol before adding the tomatoes. Add about 1 cp of water and coo until the pork is tender. Remove pork mixture from the  pan and reserve any liquid. Add a bit more oil and heat over high temperature.

Rinse and drain the rice and add to the heated pan, stirring to coat all the grains with the oil and until the grains look white and not translucent. Stir in the pork and chorizo. Measure any liquid that you reserved and add enough water to measure 5 cps of liquid. Add to the rice, check and adjust the seasoning as needed. Do not stir once it begins to boil!!!!

Allow the rice to cook without disturbing it, until the liquid evaporates. When it is almost dry and you can see the top of the rice, delicately add the shrimp, squid and onion mixture, spreading it evenly across the top DO NOT STIR INTO THE RICE.

Lower the temperature to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the rice to steam for about 15 minutes. At that time, you can feel free to stir with wild abandon, but be careful not butcher the cooked seafood. Now get a fork and start eating!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Cinco de Mayo? Pork in Green Sauce

The Hubbz hates the use of the word ‘juxtapose’, he says it has become all trendy and overused. I laugh every time I hear the word and look at the disgust on his face as he rolls his little blue eyes. That said, this dish is a perfect juxtaposition of flavors. Creamy, tart, spicy, hot, and a cooling sweetness. Perfect! Just pair it with a Margarita and you have the makings of an excellent 5 de mayo celebration.

Puerco en Salsa Verde (pork in green sauce) is a very popular Mexican dish that marries chiles and tomatillos with pork meat, usually the shoulder. You’ll find a few variations, with or without corn and at various degrees of heat = picante. One element that is always present, is that zingy tang of the tomatillos.

To contrast, or juxtapose, the tang, I added a radish and red pepper raita–of sorts. Raita¬†is an Indian or Pakistani sauce or condiment, usually prepared with yogurt, cucumbers and various herbs. My version, with a Latin flavor, used crema¬†fresca instead of the yogurt and some colorful Easter radishes and red peppers. This made for a deliciously fresh, cool and ever so slightly sweet topping for the tomatillo and chile sauce. It is juxtaposition perfection and tastes GOOD!

Pork in Green Sauce with Radish and Crema Fresca Raita

For the pork:
1 lb pork shoulder or butt, cubed
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, whole
6-8 tomatillos
1-2 serrano peppers (to taste)
1 tbsp cumin, ground
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cp onion, chopped
2 cps fresh corn, shucked
1/2 cp cilantro, chopped

I like roasting tomatillos, this intensifies their flavors and brings out more rounded aspects of the fruit. Spread them on a baking sheet with the onion slices, serranos and garlic cloves, and broil them for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them as they brown.

Once browned, dump the whole thing (there will be plenty of juices from the tomatillos) into a blender vessel and puree with the cumin, oregano, salt & pepper. Set aside.

In the meantime, season the pork with salt & pepper; in a medium-sized pan, heat the oil and then brown the pork pieces. Remove the excess fat from the pan, leaving enough to saute the extra cup of onions. Once the onions become translucent, add the pork, followed by the pureed tomatillo & pepper sauce.

If necessary, add enough water to ensure there’s enough liquid to cover the pork. Once it comes to a boil, bring the temperature to low, just so it is slowly simmering. Put a lid over it and allow it to simmer for about an hour or until the pork is tender.

Once the pork is fork tender, add the corn and cilantro, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Allow it to cook for another 5 minutes or so, just long enough for the corn to soften. To serve, top with some radish raita and enjoy!

For the Radish and Red Pepper Raita

1 cp radishes, julienned
1/4 cp red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cp crema fresca (creme fraiche)
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

Combine all the ingredients and keep cool until ready to serve.

Where’s my Margarita?!!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Tamales Mexicanos… I did it my way

Even though Mexican food is readily available in Houston, that doesn’t mean you get good tamales. For years I enjoyed the Rolls Royce of tamales, but most restaurants here serve tamales that are closer to a Yugo. My ex-mother-in-law made the best tamales I’ve eaten to date. She made them every year and would give each of her sons a few dozens to enjoy. I cherished those days, they only came around once or twice a year, so I had a lot of time to think and dream about them. Alicia was a generous woman, but she kept her method and recipe for tamales very close to the vest.¬† Fast forward some 15 years, you’ll find me trying my hand at recreating the coveted tamales.

Off to the interworld¬†I went looking for recipes and tips. I found lots and lots of them, all calling for chili powder as seasoning. For some reason, I can’t picture my mother in law dumping chili powder to season¬†her pork or chicken. So, I’m going to make this up as I go, combine some of the ingredients I saw her utilize in other dishes and see what happens. It all begins with the chilies. I used 3 different dried chiles:

  • Chile Ancho¬†is pretty mild by comparison to other dried peppers, it has a smoky fruity flavor. This isn’t surprising when you realize that Anchos are dried red poblano¬†peppers.
  • Chile Guajillo¬†also a mildly flavored chile, that seems to bring out the best in its companions.¬†Fruity, but with sweeter undertones than other¬†peppers. Interestingly, guajillos are also used¬†to make Harissa paste, a¬†condiment popular in North African dishes.
  • Chile Pasilla are very dark and wrinkled¬†like a raisin, they’re also pretty mild heat & fruity.

I used all three chilies a few different ways. First, to braise the pork and chicken. Yes. I made 2 different types of tamales, I had to. Both meats were cooked separately and slowly with onions, garlic, cumin, cilantro and 1 or 2 of each chili. I made sure to add plenty of water for braising, because that very broth flavors the masa later. Once the meat is fork tender, I allowed it cool before shredding.

I also made additional¬†chili sauce. One thing I remember about Alicia’s tamales, is that the dough was always very flavorful and colorful. For the chili sauce, I cooked the same aromatics: cilantro, chilies, onions, garlic, cumin and added tomatoes. Once everything had softened, I pureed and seasoned the sauce.

Now let’s talk about the masa. I opted to use premixed¬†masa instead of starting off with the dry corn stuff. But first I made lard. Yep, there’s a LOT of lard in tamales. The lard helps flavor the masa and makes it lighter, fluffier. So, I got some pork fat trimmings and rendered that fat down.

Before combining the lard and masa, I beat the lard until it was fluffy and added salt, pepper and pinch of cumin. I then worked the masa in and worked on its consistency by adding chile sauce and broth until it was about  the consistency of softened ice cream.

The tamales are cooked in corn husks, these are sold in packs and need to be rehydrated before use. Once they are pliable again, you can begin the exciting task of stuffing or making the tamales. Its not a difficult process, but it is a tedious one, which is probably why it is customary to have a few friends or family members pitch in at this point.

Once your tamales are stuffed, you can stack’em into a steamer pan. I took a vegetable steamer and placed it at the bottom of the pan, built a few layers with empty corn husks, this prevents the water from seeping through and ruining the tamales at the bottom and it also add to the flavor of finished tamales.

After about 40 minutes, you’ll end up with perfectly cooked, delicious tamales. Look at that gorgeous baby.

I also made some salsa and we sprinkled some queso fresco on top. I’m not offering a recipe here, I really kept adding and tasting things until they were right. I will say these weren’t quite Rolls Royce tamales, but I think I made it to Benz status.

 

There are lots more pictures, you can see them here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Mangalitsa and a secret

Just before Xmas one of my recipes was chosen by the folks at Marx Foods as their favorite use of cured Mangalitsa ham. To my surprise, they sent me more Mangalitsa goodness! Only, this time, it was a fresh, not cured, piece of meat. A neck roll, to be precise. This was a gift from Marx Foods and Heath Putnam Farms (they raise the piggies).

After some research, I learned that this cut is known as Secreto (secret) in Spain because it is¬†the butchers’ best kept secret and I can understand why they keep this cut to themselves. Per Heath, this cut is known as pork collar or coppa¬†and it is all the rage at the¬† fancy eateries these days. He suggested preparing the roll in a couple different ways. First, I should slice a few pieces and sear them in a pan, then roast the rest. I listened and took his advice to heart; boy am I glad I did.

Since it arrived just around the holidays, my intention was to prepare and share with you another dish rooted in my Panamanian heritage , but, alas! I was so busy towards the end of the year, I never got around to posting it, though I did cook and eat it. Oh yes we did! I kept thinking about lomo¬†relleno (stuffed loin), which is a dish typically served around the holidays. It can be beef or pork loin and it is generally stuffed with carrots, olives, raisins and many variations after that. Let’s talk pig!

Stuffed Mangalitsa Pork Collar

I wanted to make sure the meat itself was seasoned, so I made a nice rub for it. I combined Spanish paprika, pureed garlic, sea salt and black pepper with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and rubbed onto the pork collar, allowing it to marinate for a few hours.

For the stuffing I chopped and rendered the fat¬†out of some bacon, then cooked in some chopped¬†onions, garlic, cilantro and prunes. I did allow this to cool completely before stuffing the pork. I didn’t go fancy butterflying route, instead, I simply sliced the pork collar, just shy of about an inch from the opposite end and piled it with the stuffing*.

A little twine helped keep everything even and in place for searing and roasting. You can opt-out of pan searing and simply cook it at 450¬į for the first 15 minutes, then lowering the temperature to 300¬į for the remainder of the roasting time.

I placed it on a roasting rack with some carrots, onions and garlic strewn about the bottom of the pan. This was a 4-lb piece of meat an it roasted for about 3 hours or so, until the thermometer read 145¬į. I then removed it from the oven and allowed it to rest for about 15 minutes covered with foil. Believe me, we had a REALLY tough time staying away from it that long.

*Following Heath’s suggestion, and to keep us at bay while this baby roasted, I sliced off a few pieces of the collar before I made the cut for the stuffing. I heated a saute pan and added just a dab of olive oil and seared those little collar cutlets, they were about 1/2-inch thick and cooked for 2 minutes or so on each side, we still wanted them to be pink. That’s how we like our piggy. And…Oh.eM.Gee!!! We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.

Let me just try to explain something about Mangalitsa pork. It is obnoxiously delicious! I mean, I just know those little pigs trot around the pen mocking the other pigs and telling them how much better tasting they are. And you know what? THEY ARE!!! The Hubbz¬†said this was better than beef tenderloin, yep. THAT good. The fat in the Mangalitsa is almost creamy buttery.¬† And the meat has a slight gamey sweetness to it. I don’t know what to say or think about it, all I know is this is some really good sh#t!

Back to the roast. Once it rested and all the juices had redistributed around, we snipped off the twine and began slicing the roast.

Undoubtedly, the prunes added a delicious sweetness to the meat, just a hint, don’t worry. We feasted on this roast for a couple of days. By the time we were down to just a few bits and ends, I pan fried¬†them to get a bit of a crust on the meat and used it to topped toasts points that had been toasted with olive oil and gotten a light spread of a fig & olive tapennade. JOOOOOOOOOYYYYY!!!! Sorry, no pictures of that madness.

I will admit that we are completely in love with Mangalitsa and with the Secreto¬†cut. I also have to admit this will be one of those things we purchase¬†once a year for VERY special occasions, but purchase it¬†we will! I’d like to thank Marx Foods and Heath Putnam Farms again for such a generous and DELICIOUS treat. You can see all the porky shots here.

Mangalitsa longingly yours,
Anamaris

You say pork, I say MANGALITSA!

The Back Story:
I’ve recently learned about a foodie site that is every foodie’s wet dream. I’m sorry, I’ve had that thought from the first day I landed on the site (Iron Foodie), but was trying to avoid being crass. The truth is, its fantasy land! I just saw they have an entry-level¬†position open, I’m considering it. Not really, but if I had no responsibilities I totally would.

So, I’ve been glued to the website, reading old posts and such and then I found it. A post about no ordinary pork or pig. A post about sublime cured meat. A post asserting this ham was touted as the MacDaddy of hams. A post offering to share some of this goodness if one asked for it. So, I begged for it. And you know what? My Mami was right, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And I GOT. I got¬†it good! Shoulder is what I got.

The Mangalitsa Experience:
A few days later, I received my happy box in the mail. And this is what I saw after opening it. Ain’t she a beauty?

Let me tell you, they ain’t lyin’. This ham is sinfully delicious. I’ve had Jam√≥n¬†Ib√©rico¬†and Prosciutto and I love them both, though I do prefer Ib√©rico¬†over its Italian counterpart. But this baby. This baby’s got some mad skillz! Hold on, let me slice another nibble so I can properly describe it.

Very smoky. Salty with a mild sweetness. The meat is firm, like you would find in bacon and that fat. Oh boy. That’s where it is. It’s no wonder the fatty bits were considered the best sacrificial offerings.

Cooking with Mangalitsa:
Now I was tasked with cooking up a dish featuring the ham. So, as I reinvented turkey related meals, I kept thinking about this little piggy too. I had several thoughts, and I will bring at least one other one to fruition, but this one was incredibly simple AND delicious. And here it is.

Mangalitsa Crusted Halibut with Melted Cabbage & Fennel

For the Mangalitsa Crusted Halibut:
Thin slices of mangalitsa ham
2 halibut steaks
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Powdered garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Dry sherry
Butter

Note on substitutions:¬†If you can’t get your hands on Mangalitsa, Ib√©rico would be a wonderful sub, in its absence, prosciutto would work, but try to find a fatty one. As for the fish, I wanted a meaty fish, cod or even tuna would work beautifully here.

Season the halibut steaks with salt, pepper and garlic. Wrap the mangalitsa around the steaks, try to keep the fatty parts on the surface–you don’t want the meaty sections to dry out while pan-frying.

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat, until it smokes. Add a swirl of olive oil to the bottom of the pan and gently place the halibut into the pan to begin crisping the ham and cooking the fish.

After about 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, flip them over to brown the other side. Cook them for another 3 minutes, then add about 3 tablespoons of sherry, let it bubble up and cover for about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and turn off the heat, then drop 1 tablespoon of cold butter. Swirl it around until it melts, drizzle over the fish when serving.

Melted Cabbage & Fennel:
1 Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 cp Mangalitsa ham, diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium skillet, heat up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add the ham to brown and render some fat. Cook for about 5 minutes, making sure to stir it to avoid burning.

Add the sliced cabbage and fennel right over the ham. Cover for a few minutes to give them chance to wilt down. Once it wilts, it will be easier to stir into the ham. Continue cooking over medium-low heat until the cabbage and fennel seem to disintegrate, about 15 minutes.

Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper, add 1 tablespoon of butter and serve under the fish.

To see more Mangalitsa love shots, follow this link to my photostream. Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Pigging out on Pork Roast

Here it is again. Pork. Pig. Porky. Oink. I know, I know. I cook a lot of pork. But it IS the other white meat, remember? Besides, I find that it is incredibly easy to cook and almost impossible to mess up. It is also inexpensive, but can still look impressive. So why not abuse it?!

Pork butt or shoulder roasts are very versatile. You can get them boneless or with the bone in. You decide whether you want to cook it whole or in pieces. It’s all up to you. For this recipe, I went with a whole boneless piece. I’ve posted other roasts, some stuffed, some traditionally roasted, and some belly love,¬†this time it¬†was rubbed and roasted with a different set of spices.

The truth is, you can use pretty much any spice and herb combination you love. That’s the beauty of pork, it is very forgiving and not at all prissy. I hope you love this one as much as we did, I think you will, particularly because it is so easy to put together. Make sure to give at least 2 hours to marinate in the spices, it will enhance the flavor a great deal.

Roast Shoulder with Orange and Spices

Pork butt/shoulder roast, approx 4-5 lbs
Juice and zest from 1 orange
2 tsps cumin powder
2 tsps thyme
2 tsps Spanish paprika
2 tsps sea salt
2 tsps black pepper

Combine all the spices and juice together and rub it all over the roast. Allow it to marinate for no more than 4 hours, but at least 2.

Preheat oven to 325¬į. Place roast on a roasting pan, make sure the fattier side is on top. I would usually put it on a roasting rack, but this time I wanted to make sure the juices didn’t evaporate, so I used the roasting pan that came with my oven.¬†The kind that looks like 2 shallow pans and fit over each other: one is flat with slats and the bottom one is about 1-inch deep.¬†

Roast it for approximately¬†2-1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reads between 160¬į and 170¬į depending on the level of doneness you prefer. Once done, cover it loosely with foil and¬†allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes to give the juices a chance to redistribute.

In the meantime, drain the cooking juices into a small saucepan to make a quick sauce. Add the juice of 1 orange and bring it to a soft boil before adding 1/4 cup of Sherry. You can flame it or allow it to boil briskly to cook off the alcohol. Adjust the seasoning as needed, but more than likely, it will be perfectly salted already because of the drippings. Turn off the heat and stir in 2 tbsp of cold butter.

Slice the roast and serve it with the sauce over top or on the side. This went beautifully with some Arroz con Coco!

If you’d like to see the rest of the pictures, follow this link.

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