Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Latin Simplicity.

As a socialite chef, one can get into the rut of only cooking for special events, family get-togethers, church meetings, work potlucks and the like. At times it seems as if home cooking is mundane and useless when it hasn't been indubitably appreciated by the audience of 1 with whom you live.
Today, instead of fretting over the likes, dislikes, and carbohydrate limitations of the man of the house, I made what I like to call the Essential Latin Dish.
I start with a good sofrito. My recipe was passed down to me by my suegra who can cook for an army and used to cook for the Navy.
If you're not familiar with what sofrito is, I would liken it to the soul of Caribbean Latin cooking. It's in everything from soups, to beans, to chicken fricaseé.

1 cup fresh cilantro, (Use fresh recao leaf if you know what it is and where to get it)
1 cup raw onion
1 cup bell pepper (Any color will do, use ajiz if you know what it is and where to get it)
About 6-7 garlic cloves
1 packet of Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote
A couple tablespoons of olive oil and a little water
Dash o' pepper
Dash o' Adobo Goya con Pimienta
7-8 Spanish pitted olives w/ pimentos (add a little juice if you like)

Blend ingredients in the blender, but leave a little cilantro, onion, bell pepper and garlic aside...about 2 tablespoons to be minced finely.

Pollo Guisado
Once you have your sofrito ready, heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan on medium. Place several chicken pieces in a gallon size ziploc bag (I prefer boneless) and season with a little Adobo Goya (your choice of flavor) garlic powder, and about 2 tablespoons of white vinegar (nothing fancy, the 99 cents/gallon kind will do just fine) and about 1/2 cup of chopped onions and seal. If you have boneless pieces, you may pound the chicken with a smooth mallet (not a meat tenderizer, it will puncture the bag) or a pilón (if you don't know, don't worry about it) until the chicken pieces are thoroughly flattened to about 1 inch in thickness. This is done to disperse the flavors into the meat and tenderize.

Place the chicken pieces in the pan and brown each side, uncovered.
Once the chicken is browned, add 1 can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce.
Add approx. 3/4 - 1 cup of sofrito, stir.
Add approx. 1 cup of chopped potatoes, about 1/4 inch thick (no need to peel, I like baby reds)
Add a little more vinegar...about 2-3 tablespoons
Then...the REAL way to do it- add some beer. Don't get fancy, Coors Lite will do the trick...Feel free to drink what you don't use ;-)
Cover and lower the heat to a simmer, cook for approx. 35 minutes and break out a large sauce pan for your beans.

Habichuelas (Beans)
Heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium
Take the cilantro, onion, bell pepper, and garlic you set aside and mince as finely as possible.
Sauteé this mixture in the olive oil until just before garlic browns.
Add a tablespoon of white vinegar
Dash o' pepper
Dash o' Adobo Goya
Add 1 can of black or pink beans
Add 1 can of tomato sauce, and 2 cans of water
Add 1/2 cup of sofrito
Add 1/2 cup chopped potatoes (same as you used above, sliced approx. 1/4 inch thick- you can also use yams or sweet potatoes)
Add 1 tablespoon finely minced Spanish olives w/ pimentos

Lower to a simmer and cook for approx. 35-45 minutes or until potatoes are thoroughly softened.

This will be easier if you have a rice cooker, but if not- cook it on the stove top.
For whatever rice method you use, for every 1 cup of uncooked rice you make, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Ensalada de Pepino y Aguacate
Take one whole English cucumber, cut in half width wise, and then each half length wise. dice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick semi-circle slices and place in a large salad bowl.
Add approx 1/4 handful of thinly sliced red onion
Add approx 1/4 handful roughly chopped cilantro
Cut ripe avocado in half. Use side w/o pit, and using a pair knife or other small knife, cut avocado into a grid. Peel back skin and use pair knife to release avocado pieces into bowl.
White vinegar
Olive oil
Garlic powder

OK. Once you have all this going, serve the beans on top of the rice, the chicken on the side, and the salad in separate bowl. ¡Buen provecho!

Cultural Note: If you want to be Dominican for a day, eat a bite of banana between every 3rd bite. Sounds crazy, but do it once and you'll do it again and again.

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