Monday, June 28, 2010

83: Chicken Pasta Bake / Macarrones con Pollo

1 chicken, 3 lbs, cut into quarters
1 lb pasta (ziti, penne types)
3 Tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 lb ham cubes (diced small)
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon white vinegar
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup gouda, grated
1/3 cup galleta molida (cuban cracker crumbs)

1. Heat the oil and fry the onion and ham until heated through.
2. Add the chicken pieces and mix well.
3. After a few minutes, add the garlic, tomato sauce, dry white wine, one cup of the chicken broth, salt and pepper.
4. When sauce starts to boil, lower heat to medium, and cover. Chicken needs to completely cook through at this point.
5. In a large pot, boil three cups of the chicken stock.
6. Add the box of pasta and let it cook for 10 minutes.
7. As the pasta cooks, remove the chicken pieces from the sauce, shred the chicken meat off the bone and add the chicken meat back into the sauce.
8. When the pasta is ready, add it to the chicken sauce and mix well.
9. Pour everything into a glass baking dish and cover with grated gouda and cracker crumbs (galleta molida).
10. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Chicken Pasta Bake (Macarrones con Pollo)

I was expecting a Macarrones con Carne, but with Pollo. You’d think it would be that simple, but of course, we’re 83 recipes into this. Nothing is that simple.

Recipe #211: Macarrones con Pollo

macarrones con pollo ingredients

Cutting a chicken into quarters is no biggie when you have pre-cut chicken in your grocery store. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to cut a chicken the right way. Maybe I won’t. Luckily, it is inconsequential for The Project.

Making a chicken sauce like a meat sauce is pretty cool. You make an onion and ham sofrito, and then you add in the chicken pieces.

add the chicken pieces

After a few minutes, you add garlic, tomato sauce, dry white wine, chicken stock, salt and pepper.

and the sauce stuff

Once the sauce starts to boil, you lower the heat to medium and cover until the chicken cooks through. Then, you get started on the most absolute best way to make pasta. Laugh if you must, but until this day, I had only boiled pasta in water, oil and salt. Boiling pasta in chicken broth – homemade chicken broth made by me, many many months ago and frozen – is just genius.

I will say, however, that I freaked out when Nitza said that all I needed for a whole pound of pasta was three cups of broth. Freaked out.

perfect pasta, made with chicken broth

But, she was right. I boiled the three cups of stock, added the pasta and let it cook for ten minutes. The pasta sucked in all the broth and I couldn’t stop tasting the pasta for doneness. Who am I kidding? The pasta was done. It was too good to not keep picking at.

While the pasta was boiling, I had taken the chicken out of the sauce and shredded the meat off the bone. You add the meat back into the sauce.

cut chicken into pieces

Once the pasta is ready, you add it to the sauce.

add perfect pasta into chicken sauce

Apparently pasta is very thirsty. Not only does it suck in the chicken broth completely, but it also sucks in the tomato chicken sauce pretty thoroughly.


You lay it all down into a glass Pyrex, shred gouda and galleta molida (cuban cracker crumbs) over the top, and bake for 25 minutes at 350.

Heaven on earth. With perfect pasta. And gouda.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

82: Huevos en Salsa de Queso (Eggs in Cheese Sauce)

3 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon mustard
1 cup gouda, grated
2 teaspoons dry white wine
4 flat bread halves (English muffin-like)
4 hard boiled eggs
4 teaspoons mayonnaise
4 stems parsley

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
2. Toast the bread.
3. In a blender, mix the milk, flour, salt, pepper and mustard.
4. Add the blended liquid to the saucepan, over low heat.
5. Stir constantly until sauce begins to thicken.
6. Add the grated cheese and continue to stir.
7. When the cheese has fully melted into the sauce, add the white wine, mix well and remove the saucepan from the heat.
8. Spread the mayo on each bread half.
9. Slice hard boiled eggs and place slices of one egg on each bread half.
1o. Cover each bread topped with egg with the cheese sauce, liberally.
11. Bake at 450 degrees for ten minutes, or until cheese sauce starts to bubble and turn golden brown.
12. Place a fresh sprig of parsley on top of each serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Egg Breakfast

Some egg dishes are standards: revoltillo, tortilla, Florecitas de Huevos Rellenos (Deviled Eggs) and Huevos pasados por agua. Standards in my mind, at least.

Eggs Florentine, if this is what I made, and Eggs in Cheese Sauce are not standard. And, while I’ll leave the anchovy paste of the Huevos a la Florentina (Eggs Florentine) behind, there is no chance you’ll catch me modifying Huevos en Salsa de Queso (Eggs in Cheese Sauce). Ever.

Recipe #168: Huevos a la Florentina

I decided to try this recipe on the day I found anchovy paste in the Publix in the Keys. I remembered there was a recipe that called for it and that’s how we got here. Reading through the prep, it wasn’t one I was excited to try.

ingredients for huevos a la florentina

Preparing the dish is simple, really. Sauteeing spinach is fun.

sautee-ing the spinach

Putting the spinach in little ramekins and cracking an egg in the middle is funner.

crack an egg in the middle

Taking the anchovy paste that comes in a toothpaste-like tube and circling it 'round the egg yolks, well, that’s just creepy.

ring o' anchovy paste

Grating gouda over the top, back to the good stuff.

grated gouda

And baking them in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the egg sets, is just plain greatness.

huevos a la florentina

Anchovy paste should be used at the discretion of the comensal (the one doing the eating). I’ll just dab my egg yolks in the middle with a pea-sized anchovy drop next time. That will do the trick.

Now, on the other extreme of the spectrum, we have the best egg dish known to mankind (read: known to me from the 7 of 27 egg recipes I’ve made so far).

Recipe #169: Huevos en Salsa de Queso

ingredients for huevos en salsa de queso

Any recipe that starts by having you make a cream sauce to add cheese automatically falls into the awesome category.

adding the gouda

To this day, I’m still not 100% sure that I know what an acemita is. I know it’s a bread, similar to an English muffin, or a flatbread, or unleavened bread. I haven’t found a package labeled, acemita, which is frustrating. So, if anyone has insight on this, please share. I’ve used either English muffins or Arnold’s Sandwich Thins, as they’re as close as I can get to what I think an acemita is.

You build an egg sandwich on your toasted, mayo spread, bread and you drench it with your cheese sauce.

adding the salsa de queso

Then you bake it for 10 minutes until the cheese gets bubbly and brown.

Huevos en Salsa de Queso from afar

You top it with perejil (parsley) for Cuban-ness and you take a bite. Of heaven. On a plate. Smothered with cheese. On an acemita wannabe.

Huevos en Salsa de Queso close up

My favorite egg dish, indeed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

81: Huevos a la Florentina (Eggs Florentine)

2 cups cooked spinach
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 eggs
1/2 tube anchovy paste
1/4 lb. gouda cheese, shredded
Four ramekins, greased with butter

1. Sautee the spinach in the butter for a few minutes until fully wilted.
2. Season with the salt and pepper.
3. Divide the spinach into four servings and place in the ramekins.
4. Crack an egg in the middle of each ramekin, over the sauteed spinach.
5. Squeeze out the anchovy paste, creating a ring around each egg yolk.
6. Top each ramekin with shredded gouda.
7. Bake at 325 degrees for ten minutes, until the egg is set.

Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

80: Florecitas de Huevos Rellenos / Deviled Eggs

12 hard boiled eggs
2 small cans, deviled ham
½ cup mayonnaise
12 olives, stuffed with pimentos, sliced in half

1. Hard boil your eggs by placing them in a saucepan and covering them with water. Let the water boil for one minute and then cover the saucepan, take it off the burner and keep the lid on for 13 minutes. Drain the water and cover again with water and ice to stop the eggs from cooking and to begin the cooling process. Peel when cool enough to handle.
2. Slice the peeled, hardboiled eggs, lengthwise.
3. Scoop out the yolks and place them in a plastic bag.
4. Cut a little sliver off the back of each half to keep them steady for the stuffing process, and for serving.
5. Add the deviled ham and mayo to egg yolks in the plastic bag.
6. Mash the items and mix them well by working the bag with your fingers. You can also blend the ingredients outside in a bowl and then transfer to a pastry bag or plastic bag. Cut the bottom tip off the plastic bag, to imitate a pastry bag.
7. Stuff each egg white half with the yolk paste.
8. Place an olive half over the stuffing in each egg white half.

79: Guacamole

1 large pineapple
2 avocados
¾ cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6oz cream cheese

1. Slice the pineapple in half, from top (leaves) to bottom (base), leaving the leaves on each half.
2. Scoop out the pineapple from the middle of the fruit, making sure that you leave the pineapple shell intact.
3. Chop the scooped out pineapple.
4. Cut the avocados in half, remove the skins and cut six slices from one half and cut up the remaining avocado from the other three halves.
5. Mix the avocado with the pineapple.
6. Beat the cream cheese with the salt and the pepper (using a hand blender).
7. Add the mayo, a little at a time, and continue beating the mix.
8. Add the mayo cream cheese mix to the avocado and pineapple and blend well.
9. Pour the guacamole mix into the pineapple and serve with the slices of avocado as decoration.

Tailgating, Cuban Style

My day job has nothing to do with cooking. I work in marketing, PR, communications, etc. My day job has everything to do with marketing our company’s brands and working to create new ideas for our advertising clients. My colleague, our creative director, thinks that The Project is cool, so when faced with the opportunity to pitch a client with a multimedia campaign that included TV commercials for tailgating tips, he thought it would be a great idea to use me as his "chef".


So after plenty of weeks of avoiding eye contact and direct questions, I finally gave in and agreed to do this.

Tailgating video shoot

And, in the true way that I do things, I prepped until four in the morning, right before my "chef" television debut. Good thing that our creative director’s better half is a makeup artist. I was going to need the help.

I was asked to come up with a menu that would be great for tailgating. So, I went with Guacamole (oh, so, not what you think), Deviled Eggs (pretty impressive) and Fritas (which I had made last year, but they’re just so good I had to include them). Easy enough.

Recipe #324: Guacamole

guacamole ingredients

First of all, this recipe is odd. It’s one of the worst I’ve made and it’s not that it’s gross, it’s just odd. You take a pineapple and slice it in half, lengthwise, which I actually had to pull up on YouTube because I had no idea how to really cut a pineapple and gut it.

scoop out pineapple

You take the pineapple guts you took out, cut them up, mix it with avocado, cream cheese, mayo, salt and pepper. Then, you put the pineapple guac back in the pineapple you gutted out.

The recipe is easy, the result is kind of icky. And, since I was prepping the night before, I was majorly stressing about how to keep the guac from turning brown. I put the avocado pit in the guac and kept the guac in a plastic container. I wrapped each pineapple with plastic wrap and hoped that wouldn’t turn brown. They fared well, so indeed the tricks worked.

final pineapple guacamole

Recipe #178: Florecitas de Huevos Rellenos (Deviled Eggs)

deviled eggs ingredients

This, too, was an easy recipe. I had pre-boiled the eggs a day earlier so that didn’t take up time during marathon prep night. The yolks are mashed up with deviled ham and mayo, then topped with olives, which gives these deviled eggs such a nice flavor. I had never made deviled eggs before and I will tell you that this recipe is definitely one to make again.

I don’t have a pastry bag so I used a plastic bag and cut one of the ends off.

pseudo pastry bag

It piped into the eggs easily. My friend, Alex F., has a good tip that I’ll use next time: mash the yolks and all the ingredients inside the plastic bag so you have less cleanup to do. I had mashed everything in a bowl and then transferred it into the bag, which works also, but the less cleanup, the better.

Another trick is to take a sliver off the back of your egg white in order to keep it steady for filling and displaying. No wobbly serving platter.

slice the back

And then, the Fritas. I had made Fritas back when I first started The Project and since it was a recipe I had already gone through, I decided to play around with it and add some chorizo. Adding chorizo was a great idea, but I have to find a way to grind it up finer. I put the chorizo through the food processor which gave me little chorizo disks that I blended into the meats. The taste was great, and the visual for the commercial was awesome – all the grease rendering in the skillet was pretty.

fritas done

So, as football season comes upon us (since I’m so backlogged in my blogging), this post’s timing couldn’t be better.

Hope you have fun making these recipes. But please, prep smarter. Don’t stay up until four in the morning before a football game. There won’t be a makeup artist around and you’ll probably be asleep by kickoff. And that, isn’t the way to enjoy a football game. Besides, if you’re asleep, no one will tell you how good your food is. And that’s no return on your 4 a.m. investment.

food set

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

78: Carne con Papas

2 pounds beef (for stew), cut into large chunks
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can tomato sauce
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
2 pounds small red potatoes, cut in quarters.
1 cup capers

1. Heat oil in a large pot and add the beef chunks.
2. Cook the beef until golden and fat has been rendered.
3. Add the salt, paprika, black pepper, bay leaf and mix well.
4. Add the onion, garlic and green pepper and mix well.
5. When liquid starts to boil and the vegetables have softened, add the tomato sauce, wine and water.
6. Leave on high heat until boiling.
7. Add the potatoes and capers.
8. Cook on low for 30 minutes.

Serves 6-8 people.

Carne con Papas

From the moment I started this project, my husband had two requests: Carne con Papas and Fricase de Pollo. I’m not only proud because I have only one more to create for him, but because this first one, literally Meat and Potatoes, was as perfect as the classic he was hoping for.

I did a grocery run during lunch to gather the ingredients. It was a Tuesday and I was determined to have us eating before 8 p.m. I wish, of course, that we’d be eating during the week at a decent 6:30 p.m., but, alas, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s going to take some more discipline on my part to leave the office right at 5 p.m. in order to have us eating earlier. It’s a big struggle.

I tend to get confused with what type of meat to use for what so when I asked the butcher lady what meat I’d need to use for Carne con Papas, she quickly escorted me to pre-cut beef chunks labeled, Beef for Stew / Carne Para Guisar.

Easy enough. Carne con Papas is on.

carne pa' guisar

Recipe #75: Carne con Papas

This recipe is so simple. It’s straightforward and best when served alongside killer (white) rice. I didn’t even have to cut up the meat because I found it in perfect squares in the grocery store.

I threw the meat in with hot oil and when the meat was golden and had released its grease, I added salt, pepper, paprika, a bay leaf and the Cuban trilogy.

meat with trilogy

When all that is nice and sofrito-ed, add in a can of tomato sauce, white wine (using the tomato sauce can to measure) and water (using the tomato sauce can again). Leave on medium heat until boiling and then add in the potatoes and capers. I left it on low for 30 minutes so I could make the killer rice and sit down for a few minutes.

in the pot

This is a good make-ahead meal and a good weeknight meal, if you’ve got everything chopped up and ready. It could take you about 45 minutes to whip this up, which gives you time to start on some homework or have your hubby bathe the kids.

A word of caution – your house will smell very Cuban when you make this recipe. It hits every scent from my childhood and I’m sure it will do the same for your home. Maybe I should pitch my cousin at Soy Delicious candles this scent idea – Carne con Papas candle, anyone? Sofrito smell, anytime. Any takers?

carne con papas