Monday, September 28, 2009

Pumpkin Soup and Picadillo, Too

Getting to picadillo was a treat. My husband and I usually make some sort of ground turkey rendition that sometimes leans towards picadillo and other times leans towards chili without beans when we add cumin. But this was the time to really make picadillo, the Cuban way, and it was surprising to learn all the ingredients that went into it – not just one type of ground meat.

Since I had decided to do this on a weeknight, I wanted to keep things simple, but because I was already going for it, I threw in a vegetable cream soup to get another recipe in. Happy to report, that even though there were three items I made on a weeknight (killer white rice, of course, with the picadillo was the third dish), we were eating by eight o’clock. Later than I wanted for my kids, but good enough since it was a fully home cooked meal.

Recipe #9: Sopa de Calabaza a la Crema

Now that October was right around the corner, I had wanted to kick off the orange-themed season right. Luckily, the next soup in the creamy vegetable soups part of the soups chapter was for creamy pumpkin soup.

I had bought a bag of frozen pumpkin on a recent trip to the grocery store, so I had that on hand for the dish. Taking the basic recipe for cream of vegetable soup and adding the desired vegetable is the routine for seven recipes.

Sopa de calabaza a la crema ingredients

The basic recipe calls for:

3 T butter

4 t flour

2 cups milk

1 t salt

1 cup of the desired vegetable, cooked and mashed

Once you melt the butter over low heat in a caldero or large pot, you put the flour, milk and salt in a bowl and hand blend it until it’s well mixed, without flour lumps. You pour that mix into the pot with the melted butter and you let it heat through, still over low heat. You can be adventurous and play with the heat if you’re standing there because the more heat you put into it, the faster it thickens. But, there’s a fine line between thickening it and burning it, so leave it over low heat if you want to play it safe, stir every so often in-between prepping for your next dish, and once you feel resistance with your whisk or spoon, go ahead and pour in the cooked and mashed vegetable (pumpkin, in this case).

Once you pour in the mashed pumpkin, since it’s still warm from being just cooked, it will heat through with the rest of the liquid and you’re done. Leave the soup covered, on simmer, serve it when ready.

Pumpkin soup - finished product

This recipe was ok. It wasn’t a fancy creamy pumpkin very orange soup you’ll get at a trendy restaurant or from a Food Network recipe. I had something else in mind going into the recipe and when I tasted it, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Not to say it wasn’t good, but you have to know going into it, that you’re making a vianda (vegetable) type of soup.

I had taken some leftovers to work and when one co-worker started feeling under the weather, she had some for lunch and it hit the spot and gave her a lift. Maybe this is one of those Cuban-remedies type of foods?

Whatever it is – two creamy vegetable soups down, five more to go!

Recipe #56: Picadillo

Beef, pork and ham – those are the three types of ground meat that Nitza’s picadillo calls for. You definitely have to plan ahead, even if just a little, to get this one started. I have these meats in my freezer now because of The Project, but before, you’d only find frozen ground turkey on a regular basis.

Ingredients for picadillo

I searched through the recipe and didn’t find raisins. I particularly don’t prefer raisins in my picadillo, but when I saw alcaparrado (capers) in there instead, I was intrigued. After heating some vegetable oil and sofriendo some onion, garlic and green pepper in it, we were ready for the triple-meat combo. You mix the ground meats in with the sofrito and you stir it all well so it doesn’t stick to the pot.

Adding the three ground meats: res, puerco, jamon

Once the meat is good and cooked, you add in the capers, salt, pepper, tomato sauce and vino seco (dry white wine). Stir it up and leave it over medium heat for twenty minutes.

I did have to call up for help on a doubt I had: to lid or not to lid?

Picadillo - pre lid

After posting this question on Facebook, I had a slew of friends weighing in:

Armando says, "Depends on how dry you want it. If you go "topless," make sure to turn down the heat a little or you'll risk drying it out too much."

Maritere says, "I always lower the heat and cover it for at least 15 minutes. Seems to absorb more of the flavor that way. If still too liquid at the end, then I raise the temp again for a few minutes with the lid off to allow some of the liquid to evaporate."

I went with the lid on for the full 20 minutes and it was absolute perfection. The next question is – picadillo on top of the rice, or picadillo side by side with the rice. The debate could go on forever!

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