Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)

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One of my favorite episodes of I Love Lucy is called Job Switching. It's the one where Lucy and Ethel switch places with Ricky and Fred, where the girls find jobs while the boys take care of the home. Although the most memorable scene of the episode is definitely the chocolate factory, another one of my favorites is when Ricky tells Fred he is making the Cuban dish arroz con pollo, or chicken with rice, for dinner and then all hell breaks lose.


In honor of this hilarious moment in television history, today I'm sharing a much less messy recipe for arroz con pollo. It's easy to make, very comforting, and full of flavor. The peas, asparagus, and pimientos brighten up the dish, while the chicken and rice are tender and comforting. I actually used a mixture of chicken parts from a butchered whole chicken including 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and a bone-in breast cut into 3 pieces for a half portion of the recipe below. It made about 4 to 5 servings, but the full recipe for up to 10 servings follows.


Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)
Serves 10
Adapted from (The Cuban Table)

Chicken:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, cored, seeded and cut into rounds
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rice:
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups water
One 12-ounce bottle of pilsner-style beer, divided
1/2 pound asparagus, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch long pieces
1 medium yellow onion, grated
1 cup jarred pimientos, drained and sliced
1 cup English peas, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and mashed into a paste
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cube chicken bouillon
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground achiote seeds or Bijol seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 1/2 cups Valencia or similar short-grain rice, rinsed

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in an ovenproof, 6-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven until hot but not smoking. Add the green pepper to the oil. Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Set aside the browned chicken and repeat with the remaining pieces. Remove the green pepper and discard.

To deglaze the pot, add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits. Return the browned chicken to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients except for the rice, and half the beer and part of the pimientos to add at the end. Bring to a simmer.

Stir in the rice and simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from direct heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and set in the preheated oven, and bake until the rice is tender but still moist, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and immediately pour in the remaining beer. Garnish with the reserved pimientos.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Peach Cobbler

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Summer just isn't the same for me without stone fruit desserts. Think cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums. These are the fruits of summer, and I LOVE using them in desserts like pies, or in this case cobbler!


This peach cobbler is crazy easy and fast to make. As much as I love a good peach pie, this recipe is such a breeze to make in comparison that I simply can't resist whipping it up on a hot summer day.


The batter mingles with juicy peaches and caramelizes beautifully in the oven to yield a sweet hodgepodge of crispy and soft textures. A scoop of vanilla ice cream is the cherry on this figurative sundae.


Peach Cobbler
Serves 6

Peaches:
5 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Cobbler Batter:
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup milk
Ground cinnamon

Cook the sliced peaches, sugar and salt in a saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the peaches release some of their juices. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut butter into chunks and add to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place the dish in the oven while it preheats to allow the butter to melt. Once melted, remove the dish from the oven.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk just until combined. Pour the mixture into the pan over the melted butter, and smooth it into an even layer.

Spoon the peaches and juice over the batter. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Shaking Beef

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Shaking beef, or Bò lúc lắc, is a classic Vietnamese dish typically reserved for special occasions, since beef is considered a luxury. The term "shaking" refers to shaking the pan back and forth to quickly sear the cubes of marinated beef.


This dish is surprisingly light and refreshing, especially for a red meat recipe. The salad served beneath the beef cubes is slightly sweet, tangy, and vibrant. It does a great job cutting through some of the richness of the beef. The meat juices are also extremely delicious and fragrant, boasting the melange of flavors found in the marinade. It all blends together in a hot and cold concoction that cooks in minutes to shake up your summer menu.

Shaking Beef
Serves 4
(From Vietnamese Food Any Day)

Marinated Beef:
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, put through a press or minced and smashed
1 1/2 pounds boneless tri-tip or New York strip steak, trimmed and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil

Salad:
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion or shallot
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar or honey
2 pinches fine sea salt
About 4 grinds black pepper
4 cups lightly packed watercress, baby arugula, or other salad greens
6 to 8 halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh mint, basil, or other herb leaves, torn (I used fresh cilantro)

Make the beef: Stir together oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, fish sauce, pepper, and garlic in a medium bowl. If a saltier finish is desired, add up to 1 1/2 teaspoons more oyster sauce. Add beef, toss well to coat, and let marinate 20 minutes at room temperature.

Make the salad: Rinse onions in a strainer under cold running water for about 10 seconds; set aside. Whisk together 2 tablespoons water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add onion; top with greens, tomatoes, and herbs. Do not toss.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over high, and add oil. When oil is shimmering, carefully add beef in a single layer. Cook, shaking pan every 30 to 60 seconds, until seared on all sides and meat reaches desired degree of doneness, 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare. (If you want to minimize mess, cover the pan with a splatter guard, and flip the meat with a spatula.) Remove from heat.

Quickly toss salad, and transfer to a platter or serving dish. Pile cooked beef and juices on salad, and serve immediately.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Spaghetti Sciuè Sciuè

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Spaghetti Sciuè Sciuè literally translates to Spaghetti Hurry Hurry, and it's pretty much the ultimate summer weeknight pasta dish. The sauce cooks in the same time it takes to boil the pasta, and the flavors are bursting with the essence of summer days, from the juicy cherry or grape tomatoes to the fragrant basil.


The inspiration to make this dish actually began beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris back in May when my mother ordered it at a charming Italian restaurant. It was really the simplest dish imaginable, and yet it blew away everything else we tried on the menu (and everything was delicious!).


Ever since then I've been waiting for tomato season to kick into high gear so I can make it myself. The local cherry tomatoes aren't quite ready, but I definitely plan to make this dish again later this summer when they are. The sauce is also very basil forward, but you can scale back on the herb if you want the tomatoes to shine more on their own.


Spaghetti Sciuè Sciuè
Serves 4

1 pound dry spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
3 pints (about 2 pounds) large cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (don't get the super tiny ones, they aren't as juicy)
Kosher salt
1 cup loosely packed basil, sliced into chiffonade, plus 4 basil sprigs from the top of the stem for garnish

Cook the pasta until al dente in boiling salted water.

Meanwhile in a large, deep skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic and chili flakes. Cook for a couple minutes until very fragrant, but be careful not to overcook, as the garlic can burn. Add the tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of salt, stir and cover, mixing occasionally until the tomatoes have softened and released their juices but are still relatively intact, about 10 minutes. Uncover during the last couple minutes to thicken slightly. If any of the tomato skins slip off, feel free to remove them! It will make eating the dish even more enjoyable. Stir in the basil chiffonade.

Strain the pasta and add it to the tomato mixture. Toss gently until thoroughly mixed, and serve immediately topping with a basil sprig per serving for garnish.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Bastille Day Festivities at Ellie's

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If you follow me on social media, you would have noticed all last week I shared French recipes in honor of Bastille Day, French independence day, which was on Sunday, July 14th. I have been obsessed with France and French culture since I was a child, so celebrating Bastille Day is something I obviously enjoy doing!


My favorite local French bakery and cafe, Ellie's, recently expanded into a full bistro in new, larger location in downtown Providence. They continue to serve their excellent breads, pastries, and breakfast and lunch offerings, but are now also open for dinner with a sit-down menu, and alcoholic drinks.


For the past couple of years I have joined in on Ellie's Bastille Day festivities which until this year were hosted in their former, smaller location. The party was always free to all, and featured delicious savory and sweet bites, sparkling wine, and live French music.

Team Ellie's

This year they combined the Bastille Day party with a grand opening of their new location. Although the new location had been open for a couple of months, I hadn't been able to visit until now, so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to check out the new digs.


I loved the old charming, cozy location, but I really love the new location as well! It's larger, but still not huge, and features a lot of the same charm. In the center is a beautiful communal table where I would love to host a group dinner someday.


The party was split between the upstairs dining room, and the pastry kitchen in the basement. Here we sampled a couple of sandwiches off their current seasonal lunch menu, Blackbird farms ham, gruyere, cornichons, and Dijon on a croissant, and roasted chicken salad, marinated cucumber, and pea greens on a milk bun.




A spread of pastries and desserts was also featured on the lower level, along with hand-dipped signature French vanilla macarons. We sampled their London Fog Cake, a vanilla cake with lemon curd and Earl Grey buttercream (hallelujah!), their raspberry pistachio cake (also fabulous), the tiramisu cake (shockingly I skipped this one), their delectable Kouign Amann pastries (my absolute favorite), and sample-size chocolate croissants.





We returned upstairs and parked ourselves at the communal table right by the band. Passed hors d'oeuvres included escargots in choux buns, pork terrine with Dijon and cornichons on crostini, Camembert and hot pepper jam crostini, mussels with capers and olive oil, and two varieties of beignets with cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar.







There were some additional sweet treats set up near the bar, however I think these were leftovers from earlier in the day when they were open for breakfast and lunch, and did not appear to be replenished once they were all gone. I managed to snag half a sweet herb and lemon Kouign Amann, and it was excellent.



The French-inspired celebration was a hit! The music brought me right back to Paris, and many of the offered delicacies were reminiscent of foods we enjoyed abroad. Most importantly, I was thrilled to visit the new location, directly across from the Providence Performing Arts Center, and plan to return again soon!


Do you celebrate Bastille Day? What are your favorite French dishes? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Steak Tartare

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Steak tartare, also known as beef tartare, is a combination of hand-chopped raw beef, finely minced shallot/onion, capers, and cornichons, all tossed in a tangy and acidic Dijon mustard-based dressing. Sometimes egg yolks are included in the dressing, and sometimes they are presented whole atop each serving.


I ordered steak tartare during my recent trip to Paris, and although it wasn't my first taste of the raw delicacy, I was suddenly reminded of how much I enjoy steak tartare and decided to make it upon my return to the States.

There are many recipes for this dish throughout the interwebs, and in essentially every French cookbook. There are of course similarities and some differences, from the type of beef used to the slight variations in how the meat is seasoned. The late great Anthony Bourdain's recipe in the Les Halles Cookbook includes ketchup, anchovies, and Cognac, which I did not see in any other recipe I came across.


After much research I put together my own formula using a more traditional approach. Although some folks use top round or sirloin for their tartare, you're best off using beef tenderloin if you can afford it. My local meat market was selling it for $10.99/lb which I thought was very reasonable for this top cut.


This particular recipe is a bit more acidic than some others, but I really wanted to replicate the highly acidic flavor of the steak tartare I enjoyed at Cafe Blanc in Paris back in May. It definitely packed a punch, and that's what I liked so much about it. It's important to taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking once everything is mixed together, and of course as is the case with any raw preparation of meat, be sure to serve it cold and immediately.

Steak Tartare
Serves 4

1 pound beef tenderloin (I have seen recipes that use sirloin--Anthony Bourdain's does--and top round, but beef tenderloin should be your first choice if it's affordable)
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
A couple shakes of hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the beef in the freezer for about 1 hour until the exterior begins to firm up and form crystals but it's still easily pierced with a knife. This will make it easier to finely hand-chop.

Meanwhile, prep the shallot, capers, cornichons, and parsley in a small bowl, and set aside. In another small bowl whisk together the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, oil, Worcestershire, and hot sauce.

Remove the beef from the freezer, slice it thinly against the grain, then slice into fine strips, and then finally dice into small cubes, about 1/4-inch across. Transfer the beef to a large mixing bowl and gently combine it with the shallot and caper mixture as well as the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, etc.

Divide into 4 equal portions, press each portion into a round cookie cutter on a plate. Remove the ring and serve immediately, preferably with fries and/or toast points, and salad.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Viennoise au Chocolat

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During my recent trip to Paris I enjoyed many spectacular pastries and breads. In fact, nearly every morning I visited La Maison d'Isabelle for some morning treats. My first visit to this award-winning bakery in the Latin Quarter consisted of a croissant, a pain aux raisins, and a Viennoise au chocolat, all of which my mom and I shared.


Although I had eaten many of the first two pastries in my life, this was my first time enjoying a Viennoise, or Vienna bread. It's made with enriched dough, shaped like a short baguette with a softer crust, and in this case is studded with chocolate chips.



This recipe is much easier than attempting laminated dough for croissants and the like, and if you are looking to make some homemade French-inspired treats for this upcoming weekend in honor of Bastille Day (one of my favorite holidays!), then this Viennoise au chocolat recipe is for you! It only requires about 1 1/2 to 2 total hours of proofing, and minimal kneading and shaping.


The flavor and texture reminded me slightly of chorek, a beloved Armenian egg bread typically made for Easter. These Viennoises are extra special because of the molten dots of chocolate throughout. They're really quite scrumptious. Bon Appetit!

Viennoise au Chocolat
Makes 4 to 8 depending on size
(Adapted from Une Plume dans la Cuisine)

1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
10 grams (3 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
75 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
475 grams (scant 4 cups) all-purpose flour
100 grams (3/4 cup) chocolate chips (I may even increase this amount in the future)
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the milk and cream to 110 degrees F. Be careful not to overheat it or it will kill the yeast. If you accidentally overheat, let cool to 110 degrees. Add the yeast and mix to combine.

In a large bowl whisk together the melted butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and the milk-yeast mixture until smooth. Add the flour in a couple additions, mixing well after each. Knead the dough until it's completely smooth and soft and all the flour is absorbed. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise, preferably in a warm spot, for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until nearly doubled in size.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the dough and knead the chocolate chips into the dough until they are evenly distributed. Divide the dough into 4 or 8 equal pieces. It's easiest to weigh the dough and then divide the weight by the number of pieces you plan to cut, and then cut pieces of that size (my dough was 920 grams, and I divided it into four 230 gram pieces). Shape the pieces of dough into small oblong loaves. Don't make the centers too fat or they won't bake through evenly.

Arrange the mini loaves on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with a towel and let them rise at room temperature for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with the rack in the center of the oven.

Uncover the loaves, brush the tops and sides with the egg wash, then use a sharp knife to cut a few diagonal slashes across the top. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes for smaller loaves, or 10 to 12 minutes for larger loaves until dark golden brown. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. It's best if the chocolate chips are still gooey! You can refresh the loaves in a 350 degree F oven for a few minutes if they are a day or two old.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Grilled Fish Tacos (Disney-Inspired)

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Earlier this spring I dined upon mouthwatering fish tacos at the Oasis Bar & Grill at Walt Disney World's Polynesian Village Resort. These were some of the best and most memorable fish tacos I've had, and although I asked how it was made I wasn't able to get an actual recipe, just a few ingredients in the cilantro-lime crema: mayo, cilantro, lime, and spinach.


With basically nothing to go on but my taste buds, I decided to recreate the dish to the best of my ability. I made a similar slaw, similar grilled fish, and a similar sauce, though I'm calling it mayo and not crema, because it's mayo-based.


If you don't have a grill basket for fish, you can carefully cook the fish in a cast-iron pan or on a griddle. I wouldn't recommend grilling small pieces of fish on a regular grill without the grill basket. This may lead to fish tacos in your grill instead of in your mouth. Sad face!! :(


Although they're not identical, they're pretty darn close! These fish tacos are crunchy and flavorful with a nice bit of citrus zing from all the lime. Note that the slaw should be lightly dressed so it doesn't make your tacos soggy, but an extra squeeze of lime over the top goes a long way!


Grilled Fish Tacos
Serves 4 to 6

Cilantro-Lime Mayo:
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup packed baby spinach leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fish:
1 1/2 pounds flaky white fish (such as cod, halibut, or mahimahi), cut into approximately 1-inch-by-4-inch pieces (I yielded 17 pieces)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon oil (optional)

Slaw:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
One (12-ounce) bag coleslaw mix (combination of green and purple cabbage, and carrots)
1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

To Serve:
Small flour tortillas (fajita size, about 6-inch diameter) or corn tortillas (gently heated to soften)
Lime wedges

To make the cilantro-lime mayo: In the bowl of a food processor or blender add the fresh cilantro and spinach. Make sure the leaves are dry; if they are wet they won't mince nicely. Process until the leaves are chopped fine. Add the garlic and blitz again until the garlic is minced. Then add the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste, and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the fish: Combine the spices in a bowl, and sprinkle the spice rub over the pieces of fish. Drizzle with the oil, if desired. Gently mix until evenly coated. Heat up your grill, and grease the inside of a fish grill basket (you can also lightly brush the pieces of fish with oil on both sides if you are especially worried about them sticking). Line the fish pieces inside the grill basket, and grill until cooked through. Remove from the grill, and carefully remove the fish pieces from the grill basket. If any of the pieces have stuck, use a small spatula to remove them gently.

To make the slaw: Meanwhile, whisk together the honey, lime juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil, and adjust seasoning to taste. Toss the dressing with the coleslaw mix and cilantro leaves in a mixing bowl.

To serve: On each tortilla, add a small scoop (tongs are good for this) of slaw, then a piece of fish, and finally a generous drizzle of the cilantro-lime mayo. Serve with lime wedges on the side for extra zing.

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