Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's Freezing Today

Ok it's not really freezing, but it has been very delightful for August in the South. This morning honestly felt like a fall morning and was a great day to sit on the deck with a cup of coffee. But the freezing thing has nothing at all to do with the temperature. I spent the day (Ok not really the day but at least a few hours) cooking for the freezer.

When school starts back and Son3 has an erratic late schedule I like to have meals on the table when he comes in. It is never a problem if I am home a few hours before he gets here, but every day is different and it is so nice to have something in the freezer to fall back on.

This afternoon I was getting ingredients out for supper and realized I was going to use 1/2 of 3 different types of peppers, part of an onion and would have to break a new bulb of garlic apart. I was trying to think of something really good to do with the remaining peppers and garlic when the light bulb in my head went off! Fix some picadillo. It is one of Will's favorites and when I surprise him next week with it he will be thrilled.

Picadillo is a Cuban beef hash that we first had at The Columbia in Tampa. They had a little gift shop and it had a big old fat Columbia Cookbook for purchase. Of course it came home with me and inside was a recipe for the picadillo. I do not think for a minute this is the exact way they make it ( If I had a restaurant I would give out recipes and leave out a couple of ingredients that would not make the recipe fail, but would alter it slightly from the restaurant. There is no need to go back if you can make it exactly like it at home) but it is close enough to be delicious. Since I have made this on a few occasions it does not count as a new recipe, but it is too good to keep to myself.

Picadillo The Columbia Restaurant Spanish Cookbook

2 pounds boneless beef ( preferably chuck) trimmed of all excess fat and ground ( This =2 pounds very lean ground chuck in my world)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup onion finely chopped
2 large green peppers finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 bay leaves
6 medium firm ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup small pimento stuffed olives (I chop mine finely cause I don't want a big bite of olive)
1/4 cup seedless raisins ( I mince this finely for the same reason as the olives)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup burgundy

I know this seems like a lot but it goes together so fast. I also know you will see raisins and olives and think OMG how horrible! This is just one of those things you have to trust me about. It is delicious and I can't explain the flavor magic but it works

Heat oil to hot but not smoking in a 12 inch skillet. Saute' the onions and peppers until they are soft but not browned. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Stir until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the ground beef, oregano, bay leaves and cumin. Stir until the meat is no longer red. Add salt, pepper, vinegar, raisins, olives and wine. Cook at a low temperature for about 15 minutes. Traditionally this is served with fluffy white rice. Serves 4-6 HUGE portions.

The night we have this I will post pictures. I froze this in 2 different containers for 2 meals.

The second meal I cooked for the freezer was Hungarian Goulash. I had a big mess of ground beef left and had to find something to do with it. (Reminder to self: NEVER freeze 3 pounds of ground beef in one package again)

I looked through a couple of cookbooks with little or no inspiration, so I turned to Google and did a search something like : freezer food using ground beef. Voila, up popped a recipe for Goulash and I had everything on hand so that kind of sealed the deal.
Hungarian Goulash courtesy of Google

Now I will be the first to admit I have never eaten Goulash before so I have no idea if this is good or bad, but I did taste a little bit of it and it tasted fine. Again I have no past Goulash experience to compare this to.

Hungarian Goulash

1 pound ground beef
2 onions, chopped
1 (10-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with garlic, undrained ( I used 1 can of crushed tomatoes and added 2 cloves minced fresh garlic)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1-3 teaspoons paprika, to taste
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup water
3 cups rotini pasta
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, if desired

In very large skillet, cook ground beef and onion until meat is browned and onion is tender, stirring to break up meat. Drain well.

Add soup, diced tomatoes with their liquid, vinegar, sugar, paprika, marjoram, salt, pepper, and water and cook for 8-10 minutes until mixture starts to boil, stirring frequently.

Add pasta and bring back to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until pasta is tender, about 12-18 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if using, and serve.

As I said this tastes fine, but I will withhold final judgment until we actually eat it for supper. I think the flavors might meld and develop over time.

Will also post a picture of it then.

Tonight we had another Cuban inspired dish.

Arroz con Pollo via the Columbia Cookbook

3 pound fryer cut in pieces
2 onions chopped
1 green pepper chopped
2 medium tomatoes peeled seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups long grain cooking rice
few threads saffron
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup small peas ( can use frozen)
4 asparagus tips
2 roasted red peppers cut in strips
1/4 cup dry white wine

In skillet saute the chicken in heated oil until it is golden. Remove Chicken and place in a casserole ( very large dish) I used a large enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven. In the same oil saute' the onion, peppers, tomato and garlic for about 5 minutes. Pour it over the chicken. Add the chicken broth, saffron, salt bay leaf and rice . When mixture begins to boil, cover and bake in a 350 degree over for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with wine and garnish with peas, asparagus and pepper strips.

I had 5 boneless chicken breasts I thawed this morning and rather than going to the grocery store for a fryer I used them. I also used brown jasmine rice,so I did not add the saffron. I thought it might be an unattractive color if I added the yellow to it. I made a marinade and let the chicken swim in it for about 2 hours before I cooked it.

1 cup sour orange juice (found in the Latin food sections of some grocery stores)
12 peppercorns, ground
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup olive oil ( I did not use the oil because I was going to be cooking the chicken in oil. If i were grilling it I would have put the oil in the marinade.)

Mix all together and pour into a ziplock bag to cover the chicken. Let rest in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.

I had no asparagus tips so they were left out and I had maybe a tablespoon of frozen peas. Instead of using them for garnish I just stirred them into the rice mix. I would love to post a picture here, but I forgot until we were about midway through. No problem. I thought I would just arrange the left overs in a bowl and shoot it. That would have required more leftover than just about 1/4 cup of rice. There is no chicken,no peas, no peppers...nothing but rice!

I am sorry I don't have one, but I guess the no leftover thing is a testament to how delicious this is. There is a reason Cuban and Thai foods are my favorite. I guess it is because of the multi layered flavors that sing inside my mouth

For dessert I continued on a Cuban theme. Doing an internet search I found a few Cuban cupcake recipes but I didn't want to go to that much trouble so I kind of incorporated ideas from a couple of them to make a single dessert.

Make your favorite one layer cake recipe ( Jiffy yellow cake mix) and fill paper lined cupcake tins with the batter ( Can anyone actually get 12 cupcakes from a single layer mix?) While the cupcakes were baking I put 1/2 cup of sugar. 1/4 cup of water and 3 tablespoons of dark rum in a small saucepan. I brought it to a boil and let it cook for about 2 minutes to burn the alcohol off, but would still have the delicious rum flavor. I took it off the heat and let it cool while the cake continued cooking. When I took the cupcakes out of the oven, I quickly poked holes through the cupcake and poured the now warm syrup into the holes. ( Make sure the muffin tin is positioned where drips will not matter because it will drip. )

The cakes were frosted with a basic chocolate butter cream frosting . If you wanted to use prepared frosting it would work just fine. I had none so I had to make it from scratch. It was a good and quick dessert. I think I will do it again but not for a while.

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