Tag Archives: Holiday

Braised Beef Tacos

Braised Beef Tacos

This year, I took over the Mother’s Day hosting duties and had the family over for a Mexican-inspired lunch.  For some time now and inspired by shows on TV about food trucks, I wanted to try a shredded beef filling for tacos.  Although I love short ribs and considered splurging on some, I decided to go with boneless beef stew instead.  The method I followed is the classic preparation for braises: brown the meat, deglace the pan, submerge in yummy liquids and aromatics, and cook long and slow. The broth that this recipe produced is the best beef soup base I’ve ever had.  Whatever you do, please don’t throw these magic leftovers out!  Next time I make this, I’m definitely reserving all the liquid and some of the beef to make a hearty soup with potatoes, carrots and rice.

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I’m ‘IT’ a little too late – The Easter Game post

I know… I’m late to the party!  My apologies to sweet Annie over at From The Bookshelf for not replying on time to the Easter game of tag!   Were I to have an Easter meal based on some of my blog posts, I would definitely go for these:

Roasted Asparagus Soup

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Salt Cod Salad – Ensalada de Bacalao

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Ah… back to reality.  The Easter holiday came and went quickly, but we got some much needed R&R.   DH and I usually make a weekend getaway to Humacao, a town in the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico from Thursday until Sunday.  Each day of our mini vacation is punctuated by food, starting on Thursday with Asian food from a nearby restaurant that makes some of the best egg rolls I’ve had.  On Good Friday, we have bacalao (salt cod or salt fish) salad with boiled root vegetables and avocado, and on Saturday a pre-assembled casserole (usually a lasagna) makes its way into the oven.   Since we have to clean out the fridge on Sunday, we have a ‘best of the weekend’ lunch before heading back out to the greater San Juan area.  I also usually take a batch of sweets and DHs beloved mezcla for sandwiches to take to the beach.  The menu has become predictable, but many of these foods are favorites that we don’t seem to tire of.  Funny how before I met my husband, I had never had bacalao salad before… now I can’t get enough of it!

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Sandwiches de Mezcla – Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

I realize that any foodie credibility I may have amassed in the last few months might go down the drain today. For the last week my cooking, if any, has been mundane and nothing I’ve made is particularly worthy of a blog post. During this creative/culinary dry spell have been working on my to-cook list for this holiday weekend, and this is what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Lasagna Bolognese (already assembled and frozen)
  • Ensalada de Bacalao con Viandas (salted codfish/pollock salad with boiled root vegetables) – I’ll be documenting it for a future post!
  • Brownies (Best Brownies sans icing + 7 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1/8 teaspoon cayenne)
  • Sandwiches de Mezcla
Sandwich Mezcla - Pimento Cheese

 

Back in the post on plantain soup, I did a mini-review on Wilo Benet’s Puerto Rico True Flavors, mentioning that he did embrace our strange love for processed foods by including a recipe for Sandwiches de Mezcla. Sandwiches de Mezcla translates to ‘mix’ sandwiches. What is the mix made of? Velveeta, Spam, and canned roasted red peppers… on white bread. Crusts are optional. Read More…

Jambalaya Risotto

“Well I’m going to New Orleans, I’m going to see the Mardi Gras” – Professor Longhair

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This is the float in my parade, and while it doesn’t go down Orleans, or St. Charles, or Canal Street, it definitely takes me back there.  I’m throwing beads at it instead of the other way around!  Read More…

Happy Valentine’s Day

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I am awed by how much candy we have today at work – it is really closing up on Halloween!  I brought in yet another variation of Martha’s One Dough – Thirty Cookies theme from the holidays.  This time, I rolled the cookies out and used a large heart cutter and a smaller round one.  I lucked out and bought the red and clear sugar crystals on a post-Christmas sale!

We had a busy weekend in the kitchen; this year we did our share of wooing-cooking after buying some special proteins at Costco to avoid the crowded restaurants.  I’m very excited to share soon three great dishes (including my foray into the French Fridays with Dorie cooking/blogging group) and hesitant about including a partial fail/near miss on the dessert front.  I’m still working on the redemption angle to that story.  

Have a sweet Valentine’s Day!  

Souper Bowl VI – New England Clam Chowder

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Adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious.com

My husband and I have been ‘celebrating’ the Super Bowl for seven years now, and our tradition has been to make a soup (hence, ‘Souper Bowl’), fry up some wings, and curl up in the couch to watch the game until I inevitably drift off to sleep halfway through the third quarter.  Sometimes we throw in a little something extra, but the soup and wings are our staples.  Last year was the exception – we hosted a Mardi Gras themed gathering and served jambalaya, crab cakes, and a king cake – washed down with Abita Ambers.  This year, we went back to basics, down to me dozing off.  To my defense, we are in Atlantic Standard Time – one full hour before the US East coast at this time of the year!

Remembering the Soups…

  • 2005 – Beer and Cheese soup (partial fail)
  • 2006 – Corn and crab chowder (WIN!)
  • 2007 – Tomato, sausage and spinach soup (WIN!)
  • 2008 – Corn & crab chowder redux (WIN!)
  • 2009 – Andalusian gazpacho (WIN!)

This year, our winning soup was a New England clam chowder.  I love clam chowder and cannot even remember when was the last time I had some.  It wasn’t difficult to make at all!  The recipe I used and will continue to use is based on Bon Appetit’s 2000 version, conveniently reprinted by the folks at epicurious.com.  All the ingredients are easy to obtain at the regular grocery store – we used canned baby clams.

  • Dice the equivalent of 1 pound of potatoes in 1/2” cubes.  The recipe calls for russets but I had a combination of red-skinned and Yukon.  I used medium three potatoes in total.
  • Set the potatoes to boil in 3 cups (bottles) of clam juice.  Since it is clam chowder, I don’t think there’s a substitute for this one!  After ten minutes, remove from heat.
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While the potatoes are boiling away, melt in your soup pot two tablespoons of butter and render the fat of four chopped slices of bacon.  When the bacon is starting to get brown, add the following items and cook until soft:
  • 1 1/2 cup of finely diced onions
  • 1/2 cup of leeks, whites and light green parts thinly sliced (ajo puerro)
  • 1 1/4 cups of finely diced celery
  • 2 bay leaves

Once the veggies are soft, add 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour and cook for two minutes.  This isn’t meant to be a savory roux – just a thickening agent.  The flour shouldn’t pick up any color.

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Open two 10.5 oz cans of clams, and reserve the liquid.  Add this extra clam juice to the soup pot, slowly whisking it into vegetables mixture.  Add the potatoes in the clam juice, the clams,1 cup of whole milk (the recipe called for half-and-half – I didn’t miss the extra creaminess), and 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce.  Simmer for about five minutes, and then adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

Allow to simmer uncovered for about twenty minutes, stirring frequently.  The flour might lodge at the bottom of the soup pot and we want to separate it.  The longer the soup simmers, the more it will reduce.  Personally, I like my chowder chunky so I waited at least half an hour before serving it.

We noshed on oven-baked wings (a sign of maturity?) with a coating of butter and hot sauce (nah!) and homemade blue brie cheese dip while the soup finished simmering.  I had a small wheel of cheese in my fridge since the holidays and put together a quick dip with a tablespoon of mayo and eyeballed amounts of light sour cream.  The brie was a lot milder than the ‘regular’ Danish blue cheese and made for a smoother dip (and future salad dressing for the rest of the week).

New England Clam Chowder 2

Green Pigeon Pea Risotto

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Today many Christians around the world celebrate the Epiphany day, when the Baby Jesus was revealed to the humanity as the Christ to the Magii, and thus, the world.  It marks the end of Christmas (the Twelfth Night), and the start of the Carnival season (bring out the king cake!). Read More…

Coquito

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Tengo en mi escritorio una botella de coquito
que me mira como diciendo ‘anda tomate un poquito!’

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We are approaching the end of the work week, and slowly but surely sweets, gifts, and decorations have cut down a little of the office productivity.  Tomorrow I’ll be bringing the aftermath of weeks of experimenting, in the shape of tins and bags of cookies to share with my friends.  Marisol, my cubicle neighbor, gave us bottles of coquito.  It’s sitting in my desk right now, and I’m trying really hard to be good and not even smell it.   You’ll see why in a minute. 

Coquito is a Puerto Rican coconut flavored eggnog-type drink that can probably be found at every household during the November-January holidays.  While I don’t make it myself, I would know who to ask for some!  Coquito recipes are very varied – some may include eggs, some might be alcohol-free, but most of them include coconut milk or cream to impart that signature taste.

If you are intrigued, here are some places where you could find recipes:

  • Karma Free Cooking has two alcohol and egg free versions, original and super creamy.
  • Here is a version with tempered egg yolks, for food safety purposes
  • An easier, no frills version without eggs

Thanksgiving Turkey – Day 2

Our turkey rocked!

To briefly recap, we prepared a brine for a twelve-pound turkey the day before Thanksgiving.  The bird soaked in the salt/sugar mixture for about twelve hours.  About two and a half hours before roasting, we melted together butter, olive oil, herbes de Provence, chopped fresh oregano (brujo), rosemary, and thyme and salt and pepper in a saucepan.  This fat was rubbed between the breast and skin, and all over the turkey’s skin to allow it to crisp.  Wedged oranges, lemons, onions and herbs were stuffed in the cavity to continue infusing flavor to the meat from the inside.

For the first half hour, the turkey roasted uncovered in a 500 F°.  Afterwards, we removed it from the oven, inserted a digital thermometer probe, and covered the breast with aluminum foil.  With the temperature lowered to 350 F°, it took close to an hour for the bird to reach an internal temperature reading of 161 F°.  A half hour resting period later, voilá:

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The Thanksgiving meal was rounded out with an oven-baked rice pilaf with chickpeas, chorizo, bacon and red peppers, creamed corn soufflé, and a simple green salad (all lovingly prepared by my Mamá).  For dessert we enjoyed a pumpkin flan with a pecan praline garnish.  Superstitious me lucked out: the Saints won over the Cowboys by just three points.  I was inhaling those pralines I set aside for snacking during that third quarter.

Packing up Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving Turkey – Day 1

I love Thanksgiving.  It is one of those holidays for which we still don’t have a definite tradition, so I don’t feel saddled to a pre-determined agenda of where to go and what to eat.  I’ve hosted, traveled, or just showed up someplace with a side dish/dessert and a smile.  This year, I’ll be going over to my parents’ with the turkey (ready to be roasted), homemade cranberry sauce, and the ingredients to make pan-dripping gravy.  I’ll also be taking some pecan pralines I made this evening as good luck token for my beloved Saints.

For the last few days, most food programming in TV has focused on how to cook the perfect turkey.  For our first Thanksgiving hosting three years ago, DH (TurkeyMaster extraordinaire) meshed together a couple of recipes we saw on television as to seasonings and preparation/roasting methods to come up with our own version.  I’m glad to report that not much has changed from that first time – technique wise – per the experts, so this approach should still produce a moist and tasty bird.  The steps include brining, preparing butter-based herb rub, roasting, and resting. Today we brined the turkey; we prepared the solution in the morning to allow it to cool while we’re at work.  The liquid brine is based on the first Good Eats turkey episode, down to the orange Home Depot bucket.

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DH mixes together the brine ingredients until fully incorporated

Our brew includes one gallon of water, one cup of salt, half a cup of brown sugar, a tablespoon or so of peppercorns, eight vegetable broth bouillon cubes and a heaping tablespoon of dried herbes de Provence.  We brought it to a boil, and then turned off the burner.  To prepare the turkey for soaking, we removed all the giblets from the insides and washed it thoroughly.  The cooled brine went into the bucket, followed by the turkey and enough ice water to cover it. The copious amounts of salt in the brine should keep the turkey safe from harmful bacteria as it soaks up the flavor and moisture.

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Keeping the turkey away from the reach of curious pets is just as important!

This is it until tomorrow morning, when we do the compound butter blend with more herbes de Provence and roast the turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving 2010.

 

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