Sunday, May 31, 2015

Belize Garnache

     A Traditional Belize Garnache! 
     Garnache is a popular snack throughout Central America, especially in Belize.  Garnache is traditionally served as a dinner appetizer or as an afternoon snack.  Garnaches are one of the most refreshing food items that there is for beating the summertime heat!
     There are only a few ingredients on a Belize Garnache, yet the flavor is downright addictive.  Refried beans are the featured ingredient.  Garnaches are very healthy and they are light on the tummy.  No meat or spicy chile peppers in the list of ingredients.  A traditional Belize Garnache is made only with a few select vegetables.  When vinegar, lime juice and salt are sprinkled on the cabbage and carrots, it creates a cool refreshing flavor.  The light fresh vegetables and vinegar cause an appealing cooling sensation.
     Belize Garnache:
     This recipe yields 1 medium size Garnache.
     A flour or corn tortilla can be used.  Flour tortillas are more common in high volume tourist destinations in Belize.
     Fresh home made refried beans are the best, but canned refried beans are good for this recipe too.  You may have to add a splash of water to canned refritos.  Refritos recipes can be found in the Daily Beans Index Page in this website. 
     Step 1:  Heat 1/3 cup of refried beans in a sauce pot over low heat.
     Keep the refritos warm over very low heat.
     Step 2:  Heat a large sauté pan or griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Place 1 large flour tortilla or corn tortilla in the pan.  (An 8" to 10" tortilla.)
     Grill both sides of the tortilla, till it is toasted crisp with light brown highlights.
     Step 3:  Remove the tortilla from the pan and place it on a counter top.
     Spread a thin layer of the warm refried beans on the tortilla.
     Sprinkle a thin layer of shredded cabbage on the refried beans.  (Shredded kale or endive can be used too.  I used shredded endive for the garnache in the pictures.  Both are in the cabbage family of plants.)
     Sprinkle some thinly shredded carrot over the cabbage.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of grated queso fresco over the carrots.
     Step 4:  Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar over the garnache.
     Sprinkle 1 or 2 pinches of sea salt over the garnache.
     Step 5:  Set the garnache on a plate.
     Garnish the garnache with a thick slice of lime.
     *The garnache can be cut into pie shaped pieces or it can be simply folded in half and eaten like a taco.  Garnaches are finger food! 

     Belize Garnache is a very nice tasting hot summer appetizer!  Delicious! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gnocchi al Cilantro Pesto Mexicana

Raw Pesto Mexicana
Heating and gently sauteing the pesto in olive oil. 

Pesto Mexicana after adding the hot pasta water

     Potato Gnocchi With A Nice Tasting Mexican Style Cilantro Pesto! 
     I learned how to make pesto from two great Italian chefs at a restaurant that I apprenticed in.  Pesto means paste and nothing else.  An authentic Italian style pesto has a very condensed strong flavor.  The texture is very thick and smooth.
     Pesto sauces that are made at corporate chain restaurants look like chopped herbs in a cream sauce.  This is not pesto.  Many American chefs add Pesto Genovese to reduced cream to make a pesto sauce.  This is not correct either.  Pesto is never served as a cream sauce in Italy!  Only hot pasta water and olive oil are used to turn a Genovese style pesto into a sauce.  If a Pesto Genovese is made correctly, then it contains everything that is needed to make a sauce with the addition of a small amount of hot water.

     One thing that I learned while working in Italian kitchens is that Italian chefs do like to experiment with international cuisine flavors, if traditional Italian cooking methods are part of the process.  Experimenting with ingredients that are not Italian often is done with secrecy.  
     I walked into the Italian kitchen where I was apprenticing one day and I saw something that puzzled me.  The great Sicilian chef was making a Genovese style pesto with cilantro and pine nuts.
     The chef noticed me watching him with a dumbstruck look on my face.  The Sicilian chef said, "Whatever you do, you got to promise me to not tell anyone that you saw me doing this!  Okay!  I just wanted to create a different flavor for my lunch!"
     I just responded by saying "No problem!"
     I did ask about the flavor that he was trying to create.  The Italian chef told me that he recently started to like the flavor of cilantro and he wanted to try to make a Mexican style pesto using Genovese pesto making techniques.
     After the chef finished his lunch in the dining room, I watched as he came back into the kitchen.  The chef had a look on his face, like the cilantro pesto needed a little bit more work to be perfected.  I did not have to ask.  The chef looked at me and said "The Spanish pesto was a good idea, but it needs something.  The pesto just seems to lack a flavor that would pull it together."
     I saw the chef make the pesto, so I noticed the ingredients that he used.  I said to the Sicilian chef "Try adding a green jalapeño pepper to the mix and see what happens."
     To my surprise, the chef from Sicily said "Thats it!" 

     We never offered that experimental cilantro pesto as a special du jour at that Italian restaurant, but I never forgot that day.  That was the day that the two Italian chefs started calling me "Good Cookie" every time that I did something good.  That was nice!
     Italian chefs can spend hours discussing a recipe in detail or a plate of food that they like.  The two Italian chefs at that restaurant spent hours talking about the possibilities of me becoming a successful chef, just because I made one good suggestion for a recipe that was being created and because I worked very hard in their kitchen.  I had no way of thanking them enough for teaching me great Italian cooking techniques.  Their Genovese pesto making technique was the best.

     So eons later, today I finally remembered that afternoon of pesto experimentation in that great Italian restaurant kitchen.  The memories of my promise to never tell anyone about how I witnessed the great Sicilian chef secretly experimenting with making a non-Italian cilantro pesto for himself came to mind.  I guess that by writing a recipe I am breaking my vow of silence.  Breaking a vow of silence can have very serious consequences!
    I decided to make a Mexican style cilantro pesto by using the Italian Genovese pesto making techniques that I learned from the chefs at that fine Italian restaurant.  The flavor is well rounded and this cilantro pesto has no shortcomings.  Today's Mexican style pesto will please any guests that like southwestern cuisine!  

     Cilantro Pesto Mexicana:
     This recipe yields enough pesto for 2 portions of gnocchi!
     • It is best to make the pesto first and then refrigerate the pesto for at least 1 hour, so the flavors meld.
     • The pesto sauce should be started at the same time that the gnocchi are dropped into the boiling water.  The pesto sauce only takes a couple of minutes to heat up.  Heating for too much time will cause the bright green color to fade.
     • Pine nuts are part of Pesto Genovese.  For this Cilantro Pesto Mexicana, pine nuts can be used, but there is a less costly option.  Modern Mole Paste is made with sesame paste (tahini) and ground pepitas (toasted calabaza seed).  These two items can take the take the place of pricy pine nuts.
     • A large heavy mortar and pestle or a food processor is needed to make this pesto.  If you use a food processor to make a large batch of pesto, then only pulse the food processor occasionally, so the friction from the blade does not cook the paste.
     Step 1:  Trim the thick stems off of 1 large bunch of cilantro.  Only the sprigs are needed.
     Place the cilantro in a food processor.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of baby spinach leaves.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced seeded green jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced epazote.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Mexican Oregano.
     Add 1 teaspoon of herba buena.  (Dried Mexican Mint)
     Add 7 crushed cloves of garlic.
     Add 3 tablespoons of grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Step 3:  Add 3 tablespoons of tahini.  (Sesame paste)
     Add 1/4 cup of pepitas.  (Toasted hulled calabaza seeds.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Pulse the food processor and puree till a smooth paste is formed.  The paste should look like a thick heavy smooth puree that can easily stand up in a spoon.  (Refer to the pictures above!)
     Refrigerate the pesto while making the gnocchi, so the flavors meld.
     Potato Gnocchi:
     This recipe yields 2 portions of gnocchi!
     Step 1:  Cook 12 to 13 ounces of peeled russet potatoes in gently boiling water over medium heat, till they are starchy and very soft.
     Cool the potatoes under cool running water.
     Drain the water off of the potatoes.
     Step 2:  Thoroughly mash the potatoes in a mixing bowl.
     *After mashing there should be about 2 cups of potato in the mixing bowl.
     Step 3:  Add 1 cup of bread flour.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 whisked large egg.
     Mix the gnocchi dough with your fingers, till a sticky potato pasta dough is formed.
     Step 4:  Add a tiny amount of flour at a time, while mixing, till the dough easily pulls away from the bowl and it does not stick to your fingers.
     Step 5:  Place the dough on a lightly floured counter top.
     Cut the dough into 3 even portions.
     Step 6:  Roll each gnocchi dough portion back and forth on the countertop with your hands, till the dough portions look like long ropes.  The dough ropes should be 3/8" to 1/2" thick.  
     Cut the dough ropes into 1" long segments and place the gnocchi on a flour dusted plate.
     Use a fork to roll shallow groove indentations on each piece of gnocchi.
     Chill the gnocchi till they are needed.
     Gnocchi al Cilantro Pesto Mexicana:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  
     Step 1:  Boil a pot of water over medium high heat.
     Place about 25 gnocchi in the boiling water.
     Cook the gnocchi while preparing the pesto sauce.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low/low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add about 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of the Pesto Mexicana per portion of gnocchi.
     Gently heat and sauté the pesto, so it becomes aromatic and partially cooked.  (Do not allow the pesto to cook for too long or it will brown!)
     Step 3:  Add 2 ounces of the boiling pasta water from the gnocchi pot.
     Stir the ingredients together, till a medium consistency pesto sauce forms.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 4:  After the gnocchi float in the boiling water for about 2 minutes, then they are ready.  Use a fryer net to gather the boiling gnocchi from the pot and place them directly into the sauté pan with the pesto sauce.
     Toss the gnocchi and sauce together.
     Step 5:  Place the Gnocchi al Cilantro Pesto Mexicana on a plate.
     Sprinkle a tiny amount of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with a cilantro sprig.

     The pesto sauce finishing technique is so simple, that many cooks cannot fathom the idea.  As one can see, the sauce turns opaque and creamy with just the addition of hot water.  This is because a small amount of Parmigiana Cheese is in the pesto. 
     Gnocchi al Cilantro Pesto Mexicana tastes fantastic! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Beef Chorizo and Queso Manchego Spanish Omelette

     A Nice Spanish Omelette Variation!
     In classic American diner restaurants, there are many standardized omelette recipes.  The Denver Omelette, Western Omelette, Mexican Omelette and California Omelette are just a few examples.  Customers know these omelets well and the ingredients are the same no matter where one of these classic omelets are purchases.  
     An American diner style Spanish Omelette also is a classic customer favorite.  A diner style Spanish Omelette is made with green bell pepper, onion, tomato and black olives with American Cheese or Cheddar Cheese.  Sometimes a spicy tomato sauce is poured over a Spanish Omelette, but this option has pretty much become a relic of the past. 

     Today's Spanish Omelette recipe variation features Mexican style Beef Chorizo.  Mexican style Chorizo in an uncased loose bulk sausage that has a very high fat content.  The grease can be drained off after cooking, but it should be saved for flavoring rice or other recipes.  Mexican Chorizo fat is loaded with rich paprika flavor.
     Mexican style Queso Manchego has its roots in La Mancha Spain, but the Mexican version of this cheese is far removed from the original recipe.  Mexican Manchego is a mildl tasting sharp sheep milk cheese that is rarely aged for more than a month or two.  Spanish Manchego is usually aged for quite a long time and the flavor is much stronger.
     Mexican Queso Manchego is a good choice for an American diner style Spanish Omelette.  This cheese easily melts and it is more healthy to eat than Processed American Cheese.  

     Beef Chorizo and Queso Manchego Spanish Omelette:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty omelette.
     For some odd reason I had no black olives when I made the omelette for the photo example.  This reminded me of way back when I was doing some breakfast cooking in diners.  Many customers used to order Spanish Omelets with no black olives.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 5 ounces of Mexican style uncased beef chorizo sausage.
     Gently sauté and break up any clumps that form.
     Sauté the chorizo, till it is fully cooked, but not excessively browned.
     Step 2:  Place the cooked beef chorizo sausage in a strainer over a drip pan to drain off the excess grease.  (The grease can be saved and used to flavor Mexican style rice!)
     Keep the chorizo warm on a stove top.
     Step 3:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 3 tablespoons of chopped green bell pepper.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 3 tablespoons of chopped seeded fresh tomato.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sliced black olives.
     Sauté till the tomato just starts to cook.
     Step 5:  Add 2 whisked large eggs.  (2 eggs for a petite omelette or 3 eggs for a full size omelette)
     Use a rubber spatula to even the edges of the omelette.
     When the bottom half of the omelette is cooked firm, flip the omelette.
     Step 6:  Spread the prepared beef chorizo sausage over one half of the omelette.
     Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of grated Mexican Manchego Cheese over the omelette.
     Step 7:  When the eggs are fully cooked, fold the omelette in half and slide it onto a plate.
     Place a dollop of sour cream on the plate next to the omelette.
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onion over the omelette and sour cream.

     Mexican style beef chorizo and queso manchego in a Spanish Omelette adds a nice touch! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Elk Patty Melt with Pepper Jack and Smoked Provolone!

     A Classic Western Diner Style Elk Patty Melt! 
     The consequences of eating a sloppy fatty patty melt that was made with a cheap ground beef at a greasy spoon diner is a sour feeling tummy.  Antacid tablets are the only hope to feel better after eating a greasy hamburger patty melt that is made with cheap American Cheese and imitation butter.  Its no wonder that the patty melt sandwich has gone by the wayside during the last 20 years.
     Modern trendy diners that feature old fashioned scratch cooking do have a great food reputation.  The same cannot be said about national brand diner restaurant chains.  If one seeks great classic American diner style food, then one has to go local.

     In the western mountain states, the local diner restaurants usually feature a few wild game menu items.  This is especially true in areas that hunting resorts and hunting guide services.  For example, the Cactus Cowboy Restaurant in Hatch, Utah, is in the middle of prime elk hunting territory.  There is a free range American Bison ranch right behind the restaurant.  Both elk and buffalo are featured on their menu.  The Cactus Cowboy Restaurant is an example of a good old fashioned classic western diner.

     A Patty Melt that is made with an Elk Burger Patty actually feels good on the tummy!  That heavy grease overload feeling does not occur after eating an Elk Patty Melt.  This is because elk meat is nearly fat free.  No excess grease on a patty melt makes the tummy feel 100% better.  
     I make my food the traditional way and I prefer to use quality ingredients.  Readers will never see items like imitation butter flavored oil, spray can gimmicks or Processed American Cheese in my recipes.  The more natural, the better.  In the long run, the more that food is modified, the less healthy it is.  Items like unsalted butter and nice quality hand crafted cheese pose less of a health threat than margarine and low fat imitation cheese.
     Cheap Processed American Cheese has a list of chemical ingredients that are a mile long.  Is it cheese or is it plastic?  Chemically, Processed American Cheese actually is one molecule shy of being plastic.  Maybe this is why there are so many fast food cheeseburger eating mannequins at shopping malls.
      I used a high quality artisan crafted Smoked Provolone from a small farm in California for today's recipe.  A nice local Pepper Jack Cheese was also selected this patty melt recipe.  The two cheeses combine to create a nice campfire cooking style smokey flavor with spicy hot pepper aftertaste.  California Sourdough is the best choice of bread for a western style patty melt.  This turned out to be a great tasting western diner style Elk Patty Melt!
     Basic Patty Melt Spread:
     This recipe yields enough spread for 2 patty melts.  
     Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of organic catsup.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sweet pickle relish.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Chill the spread till it is needed.
     Elk Patty Melt with Pepper Jack and Smoked Provolone:
     This recipe yields 1 sandwich.  
     Step 1:  Place 6 ounces of ground elk meat on a counter top.
     Roll the ground elk into a ball shape.
     Press the ground elk into an oval patty shape the is as big as the sliced sourdough bread that will be used to make the sandwich.
     Chill the elk patty till it is needed.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of diced bermuda onion.
     Sauté till the onions are lightly caramelized.
     Keep the grilled onions warm on a stove top.
     Step 3:  *The elk patty and the grilled bread have to be cooked at the same time.  Elk is so lean that is only takes a few minutes to fully cook.  
     Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle over medium heat.
     Add pour 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter on the griddle.
     Place the elk patty on the griddle.
     Season the elk patty with sea salt and black pepper.
     Grill the elk patty on both sides, till it is cooked medium rare to medium.
     Step 4:  Brush 2 slices of sourdough bread with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the buttered bread slices on the griddle.
     Step 5:  Immediately place a few thin slices of smoked provolone cheese on the bread.
     Place a few thin slices of pepper jack cheese on the bread.
     Step 6:  Spread a thin layer of the patty melt sauce over the cheese on one of the bread slices.
     Step 7:  Place the grilled onions on the cheese on other slice of bread.
     Step 8:  Grill the bread, till it is toasted to a golden brown color.
     Place the elk patty on the slice of bread that has the grilled onions on it.
     Place the other slice of the grilled patty melt bread with the spread on top of the elk burger patty.
     Step 9:  Transfer the Elk Patty Melt to a cutting board.
     Cut the sandwich in half.
     Set the two sandwich halves on a serving plate.
     Garnish the plate with Italian Parsley sprigs and a few Bread And Butter Pickle Chips.

     Viola!  A great tasting elk patty melt that actually makes a tummy feel good!  

California Gazpacho

     Delicious, refreshing, cool relief from the heat!  California Style Gazpacho!  
     The original Andalusian Gazpacho recipe was made with stale bread, field vegetables and water.  The ingredients were minced and mashed together, then left to marinate for a short time.  Often the bread caused the ingredients to start fermenting and a semi sour flavor was the result.  The original Andalusian Gazpacho was made for field workers that were parched from the heat of summer.  The cool refreshing vegetable soup revitalized a tired soul and fought off fatigue.

    There are several ways that Gazpacho can be made and the choice of vegetables that can be used in  is endless.  The earliest Andalusian Gazpacho recipes had no tomato or ingredients from the western world.  After the Colombian Exchange, new world vegetables like peppers and tomatoes were part of the recipe.  This is when the character of Andalusian Gazpacho changed to become the familiar recipe that most modern chefs recognize.  After pureeing the bread, tomatoes and field vegetables together, a modern style Andalusian Gazpacho has a creamy orangish red color and a zesty flavor.
     A California style Gazpacho usually has no stale bread in the recipe.  The broth is usually a highly seasoned tomato and vegetable juice puree.  Sourdough Bread is usually served on the side with California Gazpacho and torn pieces of bread are added to the soup as it is eaten.
     Texture is a key ideal to keep in mind when making Gazpacho.  An element of rustic peasant food design has to be part of a Gazpacho recipe.  A thin Gazpacho that is pureed very smooth is nothing more than seasoned vegetable juice or a sauce.  A Gazpacho that is minced by hand and the vegetable juices are pureed "al passata" style (pressed through a fine mesh strainer by hand) will have a much more authentic character.    
     Just like with the original Andalusian field worker Gazpacho, the best Gazpacho requires the vegetables to be minced by hand the old fashioned way.  As far as pressing the vegetables through a strainer to make juice goes, it is far easier to juice use a bottle of vegetable juice or tomato juice.
     The vegetables for the California Gazpacho in the photos were prepared only with a paring knife and a ten inch chef knife.  Knives must be razor sharp to mince or brunoise dice the vegetables by hand.  A razor sharp paring knife is needed for making the tomato rose garnish too.
     A food processor can be used to make today's recipe, but the texture will not be the same, especially if the vegetables are pureed for too much time.  When making a large batch, a food processor is the way to go.

     Californian Gazpacho:
     This recipe yields 3 portions of soup.  (About 7 cups)
     Step 1:  Very finely mince a 1/2 cup of each of these field vegetables:
     - celery
     - onion
     - the white section of green onions
     - red bell pepper
     - green bell pepper
     - peeled seeded cucumber
     Step 2:  Place the minced vegetables in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin sliced green onion tops.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of brunoise diced seeded cored yellow squash.  (Brunoise is 1/8"x 1/8" x1/8" dice.)
     Add 1/2 cup of brunoise diced seeded cored zucchini.
     Step 4:  Using a very sharp paring knife, peel 5 ripe plum tomatoes.  (Turn one whole plum tomato peel into a tomato rose garnish!)
     Remove the seeds from the peeled tomatoes.
     Very finely mince the peeled and seeded tomatoes, till they are nearly a puree.
     Add the minced tomatoes to the mixing bowl.
     Step 4:  Add a enough tomato juice to the vegetable mixture, while stirring, to give the gazpacho a medium thick soup consistency.  (About 1 1/2 cups)
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced curly leaf parsley.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced cilantro.
     Mix the ingredients together
     Step 6:  Cover the gazpacho and chill in a refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours, so the flavors meld.
     Allow the Gazpacho to warm up to room temperature before serving.  (72ºF)
     California Gazpacho Presentation:
     Ladle the gazpacho into a soup bowl.
     Place some crème fraîche or Mexican crema in a squirt bottle.  (Creme fraiche is 1/2 sour cream + 1/2 cream.)
     Paint a creme fraiche spiral on the surface of the gazpacho, starting from the center and spiraling outwards to the edge with the squirt bottle.
     Place a curly leaf parsley sprig or cilantro sprig on the center of the soup.
     Place the reserved plum tomato peel rose garnish on the center of the soup on the parsley.
     Serve with California Sourdough Bread on the side.

     Viola!  This California Gazpacho has gotten plenty of compliments in every restaurant that I have made this recipe. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mojarra Rellena de Camarones

     Salvadoran Style Pan Fried Whole Tilapia And Shrimp!
     The translation of this Salvadoran fish entrée may be confusing to those who use computer generated translator websites.  There are many entrées worldwide that have regional or local name which translates figuratively.  It helps to do a little bit of research to find the correct traditional name of such entrées.
     The word "Rellena" usually refers to to an item that is stuffed.  The shrimp and sauce are usually spooned over the tilapia in today's recipe.  The cavity of the whole fish is not stuffed with the shrimp.
     Tilapia is usually called Mojarra.  Mojarra refers to a fair size panfish that is used  bait to catch bigger fish.  Mojarra Frita refers to a Whole Fried Panfish or Tilapia.
     Today's recipe is prepared north of San Salvador too.  In Mexico today's recipe is usually called Mojarra con Mojo de Ajo Camarones or something along that line.  San Salvadorans call today's entrée either Mojarra Rellena de Camaron or Mojarra Rellena de Camarones.

     The sauce for the shrimp is a quickly made sofrito of tomato, garlic, cilantro, onion, mild peppers and mild chile powders.  Coriander, cumin and a couple of pinches of ground anatto give this sauce a pleasant savory flavor.
     The Mojarra Frita cooking technique is a great way to cook tilapia.  The whole tilapia is gutted and scaled first.  Deep gashes are cut into the flesh to the bone, so the frying time is reduced.  The oil must be about 1" deep in a large cast iron skillet or sauté pan.  The oil must be 360ºF, so the skin and highlights of the fish are cooked crisp.  The fish is fried one side at a time and the fish needs to be flipped a few times to prevent excessive browning.
      Restaurants usually cook Mojarra Frita in a deep fat fryer, but many professional cooks still use the deep cast iron skillet pan frying method.  The pan frying method results in a whole fish with caramelized crispy highlights and the meat underneath the surface is moist.  Pan frying a whole fish seals the flavor and moisture in!

     Mojarra Frita:   
     This recipe yields 1 pan fried tilapia.
     Step 1:  Gut and scale 1 medium to large size whole tilapia.
     Cut slices through the skin and meat down to the bone on both sides of the fish.  Do not cut through the bones!  The scores should be spaced about 3/4" apart.
     Step 2:  Dredge the scored whole tilapia in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Heat about 1" of vegetable frying oil in a deep sided cast iron skillet or sauteuse pan to 360ºF.  (The pan must be wider than the length of the fish.)
     Step 4:  Carefully pick the fish up by the tail and place it in the hot frying oil.
     Pan fry the tilapia, till one side starts to become crisp.
     Turn the tilapia over and cook the other side till it is crisp.
     *Flip the tilapia about once every two minutes, to prevent excessive browning.  Tongs work best for flipping a whole fish.
     Keep on pan frying and turning the fish, till it is fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     Step 5:  Place the whole fried tilapia on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Keep the fried fish warm on a stove top.

     Mojarra Rellena de Camarones:  
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     The shrimp and sauce should not be made ahead of time for this entrée.  The sauce can be made while the fish is frying.  This sauce only takes about 4 minutes to make!
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 3 cloves of minced garlic.
     Saute till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 12 to 14 peeled and deveined medium size shrimp.  (Remove the tails for this recipe.)
     Sauté till the shrimp are halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Add 1 cup of imported Spanish or California canned crushed tomato.
     Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of light chicken broth.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed chile pequin.
     Add 1 pinch of ground chile pasilla.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
     Step 5:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 6:  Place the Mojarra Frita on a plate.
     Spoon the shrimp and sauce over the fried tilapia.
     Garnish with cilantro sprigs or parsley sprigs.
     Serve with rice on the side.

     Lime is always added last, so the refreshing lime flavor remains sharp.  This is a healthy Salvadoran entrée that is not difficult to make! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Carnitas & Monterey Jack Burrito with Guacamole y Jicama Salsa

Carnitas after shredding and before they are simmered.

     Old Fashioned Slow Cooked Carnitas!  
     Carnitas literally translates to little meats.  Carnitas are usually made with pork shoulder meat or pork shoulder scraps.  The small cuts of pork shoulder are pan fried till crisp and brown, then they are slowly simmered in broth toll they are very tender.  After the liquid evaporates, the carnitas are shredded by hand.  The carnitas are placed in a pan with liquid and seasoned.  Then the carnitas are slow simmered one last time, till the liquid evaporates.  It takes a lot of time to make good carnitas the old fashioned way!

     Jicama has a very light refreshing apple flavor.  Jicama is perfect for making salsa.  The light apple flavor of Jicama Salsa compliments the flavor of pork carnitas!

     This recipe yields about 11 ounces.  
     Carnitas take several hours to make!
     Step 1:  Heat a pot over medium heat.
     Add about 1/4 cup of lard.
     Add 12 ounces of pork shoulder meat that is cut into long 3/8" thick slices.  (Be sure to slice the meat with the grain of the meat, instead of across the grain of the meat, so the meat can be shredded!)
     Pan fry the pork, till each piece is browned and crispy on the outside.
     Step 2:  Add 3 cups of water.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the pork, till it becomes tender enough to shred.  Add water if necessary.
     Step 4:  Simmer and reduce till the liquid evaporates and only the lard remains in the pan.
     Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Gently pan fry the pork, till it is browned again.
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool.
     Remove the pork from the pot.
     Pour the excess grease out of the pot.
     Shred the pork by hand.
     Return the shredded pork to the pot.
     Step 6:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of New Mexico Chile powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the carnitas, till the liquid evaporates.
     Keep the carnitas warm on a stove top or reheat the carnitas to order.

     Jicama Salsa:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.
     Place 1/2 cup of diced jicama in a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped bermuda onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped seeded jalapeno pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped cilantro.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice. 
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Set the salsa aside for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld. 

     This recipe yields 1 portion!
     Peel and seed 1 medium size avocado and place it in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small diced red bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of small diced bermuda onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Thoroughly mash the ingredients together.
     Set the guacamole aside.

     Vinegar Savoy Cabbage Strips Garnish:
     Place 1 small handful of thin savoy cabbage leaf strips into a mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 small splash of apple cider vinegar.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Set the vinegar cabbage strips aside and allow the flavors to meld.

     Carnitas & Monterey Jack Burrito:
     This recipe yields 1 large burrito.
     Whole heat Flour Tortillas are a nice option.
     Step 1:  Place 1 large 12" wide whole wheat flour tortilla on a counter top.
     Sprinkle 1/4 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese across the center of the tortilla.
     Place 6 to 8 ounces of the carnitas on the cheese.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of roasted chile poblano on the carnitas.
     Step 2:  Fold one end of the tortilla over the end of the burrito ingredients.
     Roll the tortilla and ingredients into a burrito cylinder shape with one open end.
     Trim the open end, so it looks nice.
     Step 3:  Place the burrito on a roasting pan.
     Bake the burrito in a 350ºF oven, till the cheese melts and the burrito is piping hot.  (Do not allow the tortilla to become crisp or brown!)

     Carnitas & Monterey Jack Burrito with Guacamole y Jicama Salsa:
     Place the burrito on a plate.
     Place a trimmed small savoy cabbage leaf on the plate as a bed for the accompaniments.
     Place accompaniment size portions of the guacamole, jicama salsa and vinegar savoy cabbage strips on the cabbage leaf.
     Garnish the accompaniments with thin sliced green onion, a slice of lime, sliced jalapeño and a cilantro sprig.
     Garnish the plate with a sprinkle of small chopped tomato.

     A rich tasting Carnitas Burrito!