Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rabbit Season.

When you talk to the average American about cooking a rabbit they tend to get all frowny face at you. A few tears build up in the crook of their eyes and they immediately say something like "How could you eat Thumper?" To which I reply "This was not that cute bunny from Bambi. For all you know this rabbit could've been a total jerk." I find it very interesting that our culture is super happy to eat a Mcwhopper made of franken-cow or some nice factory white chicken breast all hermetically sealed up in the grocery store but eating animals that resemble actual animals is frowned upon. Hypocrytical perhaps? Meat comes from animals. Respect that animal by knowing what it is, where it comes from, and using every single bit of it. Nose to tail cooking is what it's all about. The rest of the world (yes, I am generalizing and I'm okay with that) isn't so squeamish about their food. As Englishman Fergus Henderson said "Nose-to-tail eating is not a bloodlust, testosterone-fueled offal hunt. It's common sense, and it's all good stuff." 

Okay, so here is a random aside. I am a huge Catherine Deneuve fan (hence this blog's name The Hunger wink wink). Okay so there is a scene in the 1965 film Repulsion (which I have another blag lovingly named) where Miss Deneuve slowly goes insane in her sisters apartment where she stares at a defrosting rabbit that's sitting out for days. It is very upsetting and wonderful and for whatever reason my twisted little brain simply could not make rabbit without paying homage to that film. Okay, end random crazy aside.

So I'd only made rabbit a few other times in my life. I usually cooked it French hunters style with wine and olives and fresh herbs. The other day I came across a old recipe in one of my Spanish cookbooks for Catalan rabbit stew. My family (the Cuban/Spanish side derp) originally came from Catalonia Spain so I wanted to try it. It has braised rabbit, crushed hazelnuts, tomato and pancetta. I added my touch of a little pimentón and crushed Spanish olives for extra smokey brininess. I served it with roasted baby potatoes with fresh thyme and tons of lemon. Salty and gamey and rich and rabbity. Perfect for a winter stick-to-your-ribs meal. It would be delicious with chicken too if you can't get a rabbit or just don't want to. Either way it'll be tasty.

Conill al Romesco (Catalan Braised Rabbit with Romesco Sauce

1 rabbit, jointed into six pieces
1 cup AP flour
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, tt
olive oil

1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
4oz pancetta or bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
6 ripe tomatoes (or one 28oz can of whole tomatoes)
3 piquillo peppers (or one red bell pepper), diced
4 Tbsp Spanish olive oil
1 Tbsp sherry wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp pimentón
1 pinch saffron (bloomed in a little water)
2 Tbsp crushed and toasted hazelnuts
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup crushed Spanish olives

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Coat the rabbit pieces with the flour. In a large pan/dutch oven over medium high heat add some olive oil. Fry the rabbit pieces until browned. About 3 minutes each side. Remove the rabbit to a plate and set aside.

To the same pot add the pancetta, onion, peppers and garlic and cook for a few minutes as the pancetta renders out some of it's fat (add a little more olive oil if you need to. Add the rest of the ingredients and the rabbit back to the pot. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour. The rabbit meat should be falling off the bone. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Yum. Serve with potatoes or rice. Pretend you are a Spanish hunter and sit in the forest while you eat this. xoxo

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Incredible Edible Egg.

The egg is one of the most versatile ingredients in the culinary world.  Eggs are one of my favorite foods besides pizza, cheeseburgers, & hot dogs. I have been known to lurk awkwardly at social gatherings searching for the ubiquitous tray of deviled eggs. Once found I stand my ground. Mingling only with the delicious eggs. I must consume them all. "No sir or madam, you may not have a deviled egg. Perhaps you would prefer a slice of walnut coated port wine cheese ball on a fancy cracker. Don't make me tell you no again. Leave while you still can."  Ahem, where was I? Oh yes, I eat at least one egg a day. I show my cholesterol who's boss. Just like Tony Danza.

The first time I had Eggs Benedict was at a Mother's Day luncheon at a fancy hotel in downtown Miami. "What is this magical creation?" I asked the man at the huevos station as I pointed to the English muffin mound covered in yellow gravy. "Eggs Benedict. English muffin, ham, poached egg, and Hollandaise sauce." With a creepy grin from ear to ear I took three of them back to my table. My mind nearly exploded. An open-faced ham and egg sandwich covered in butter sauce. Hell yes. I went home that day with a new favorite food.

But then my skewed version of reality hit. Eggs Benedict was not something you could make at home. It was food you can only have on Easter or Mothers Day at fancy hotel buffets. I had never seen them anywhere else. I once asked my mother for Eggs Benedict for breakfast and she scoffed at me. "Yeah, I can't make that honey. How about a fried egg sandwich?" I would never turn down a fried egg sandwich but as I ate it I cried a few salty sad tears.

Many years later the internet happened and people could find out how to make anything but by then I had pushed the Benedict out of my mind. I started culinary school in my early twenties and on the first day I cracked open my textbook and what was the first thing I see? I saw a recipe for Eggs Benedict. I was so stoked. I was going to learn how to make it myself. Unfortunately my excitement was immediately crushed learning that eggs were a second quarter subject. I waited patiently learning about the fundamentals of cookery (okay I lied, I tried to make it without instruction and I failed miserably). My time would come. Second quarter eventually came and I learned how to make a hollandaise sauce. I could now achieve what I thought was a magical gift only passed down to Mothers Day buffet chefs from some secret ancient breakfast scrolls hidden away in a mysterious mountain egg temple.

Many many years have passed since my culinary school days. Technology has changed. Cooking knowledge has changed. There are secrets that you learn with experience but recipes have been broken down so that even the least experienced home cook can make fancy food. Eggs Benedict may not be the secret magical dish it once was but it is still really damn delicious. And that's what matters.

Spanish Style Eggs Benedict
(serves 2)
Hollandaise sauce
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp water
2 tsp sherry vinegar
6 Tbsp room temperature butter, cut into small cubes
2 tsp pimentón (smoked paprika)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper tt
1 Tbsp white vinegar
4 large chicken eggs
lightly salted boiling water
2 English muffins, halved and toasted
sweet cream butter
4 slices Spanish ham or Serrano ham (or whatever ham you have)
4 warm poached eggs
hollandaise sauce
celery leaves for garnish

Make the hollandaise.
Set up a double boiler. I use a pot of boiling water and place a larger stainless steel bowl over the pot so that the bowl gets steam from the boiling water but doesn't touch the base of the pot. There you go, double boiler. Before putting the bowl over the boiling water, whisk the egg yolks, 2 tsp water, 2 tsp sherry vinegar, pimentón, salt and pepper until fully incorporated and slightly lighter in color (20 seconds). Place the bowl over the boiling water and vigorously whisk while adding in pieces of the butter. If it starts to separate or scramble the eggs pull the pot off the heat to adjust the temperature. As you add the butter the sauce should thicken and become emulsified. After you've whisked in the last bit of butter turn off the heat and season if needed. 
Make the poached eggs.
In a large pot of barely boiling salted water add the vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl. Create a whirlpool in the pot by stirring quickly in one circular direction. Carefully add the egg from the bowl to the center of the whirlpool. The circular water motion will help keep the egg from falling apart or disintegrating. Poach for 1-2 minute or until just cooked through. Carefully remove the egg with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat the process until all the eggs are cooked.
Make the Benedict.
Place two halves of the English muffins on a plate. Spread a little butter on them. Place a slice of ham on each. Top each with a poached egg. Cover with a large spoonful of hollandaise sauce. Garnish with pimentón and celery leaves. Pretend it's Mother's day and drink mimosas for lunch. You deserve it. xoxo

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Sandwich for the Wrong Side of the Tracks.

The sandwich is the greatest human achievement of all time. Meat, cheese, other stuff between bread. Let me tell you, there is rarely a sandwich that pisses me off. Now I've had some ugly bad sandwiches before but they almost always are the result of sandwich person being a cheap bastard. Don't skimp on the good stuff. Pile it on. But not too much. Like I learned in The Karate Kid, balance is the key. If I can't insert a sandwich into my mouth hole you have failed. Messy is fine and dandy but if I HAVE to use a knife and fork to eat my sandwich you have wronged me and I will have revenge. Don't be a sandwich loser. Be a sandwich winner.

So anyways, I lived in good ole' St. Louis, Missouri for a while during my angsty years. I was broke and hungry and full of sad emo tears and I needed cheap food that didn't taste like garbage (or actually was garbage). There is a delightful sandwich with strange origins from Gateway to the West. It's called the St. Paul sandwich. It was invented in the 1940s by a guy named Steven Yuen at his restaurant Park Chop Suey in Lafayette Square, a neighborhood near downtown St. Louis. He named the sandwich after his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. It was cheap and filling and used up easy to get ingredients. The St. Paul is basically a egg foo yung sandwich. Egg, meat (or meatless if you're a hippy), sometimes cheese. Sometimes bean sprouts and scallion. Either way, it's really damn delicious.

When I was a kid I made up a sandwich called The Hobo. I was 6 years old and imagined myself riding the rails, traveling from town to town looking for work with a hearty breakfast sandwich in my hand. I also wanted to be a pirate. So yeah, I invented a basic breakfast sandwich of eggs, sausage, and cheese. A more breakfasty version of the St. Paul. But i love the addition of bean chopped sprout and scallion. My family loved it and I felt as though I had really accomplished something. I also thought that perhaps now my mother would let me follow my train-hopping pirate dreams. Alas, she said no. It was a damn good sandwich though. So I give to you:

The St. Paul Hobo Sandwich.
(2 sandwiches)

4 slices of toasted white bread
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 lb breakfast sausage
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped bean sprouts
2 cloves garlic
2 slices American cheese
Sriracha mayo (just mix some hot sauce in your mayo)

In a non-stick pan over medium high heat add a little bit of butter. Saute the garlic and scallion for 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until browned. Add the chopped bean sprouts. Spread the ingredients out in a single layer in the pan and pour the egg over the top. Cook for 1 minute. Cover the pan and cook for 2 more minutes or until the egg is just cooked through. Cut the omelet into four wedges. Take a slice of bread. Slather the hot mayo. Place two wedges of the egg filling. Add a slice of cheese. Slather the top piece of bread with mayo and top off the sandwich. Enjoy while you hop a train and get a job at a coal mine. xoxo

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You Are One Easy Chicken.

Listen, I like cooking away for hours like any food snob but some days I just don't have time for that kind of business. I'd like to set up lights and tripods to capture the perfect picture where the steam rises just so and the meat sweats perfectly (ewww) but some days my camera phone will just have to convey deliciousness in it's own charming but jinky way. I have a hungry family to feed and chronic illnesses to attend to. Before culinary school I learned how to cook from my grandmother and my mother. Some seriously delicious home cooking. I ain't afraid of chicken bouillon and dried herbs. Sure I know that homemade and fresh can be better sometimes but not always in my opinion. I prefer green bean casserole using canned green beans over fresh. Yeah, that's right. The gloves are off. Yeah, I'll buy a pre-roasted chicken from the grocery and it'll make delicious things out of it. Damn right I will. I happen to love Spam and American cheese and I'm not ashamed of it. I crave Doritos every night and drink Coke every day for breakfast. That being said I also love the salty mineral tannin in a perfectly braised Coq Au Vin. My favorite food is oysters on the half shell. I am caught between two world my dears but when it comes down to it, I just love food. Trashy food, junk food, classy food, expensive food, interesting food, comforting food, gas station food, fine dining food. I just really love to taste tasty things. Who am I to turn my nose up at how anyone cooks? I'm just a girl who loves to eat. Culinary degree or not. Just cook. Eat. Live and try to be happy while doing so.

So anyways blah blah blah. The other night I was not feeling well so I bought a rotisserie chicken. For my family of three I got three nights of meals out of it. On the first night I carved the breast meat and made Chicken and Bacon Caesar Salad Wraps. On the second night I made Cuban Fricaise de Pollo out of the leg and thigh meat. On the last night I made a quick chicken stock out of the bones, wings, and back meat which turned into Pasta Fagioli with Spicy Fennel Sausage. Quick and inexpensive and incredibly delicious.

Cuban Fricaise de Pollo (Cuban Hunters Chicken)

2 chicken thighs and 2 chicken legs (roast it yourself or buy a chicken pre-roasted to save time)
1 15oz can dice tomatos
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup Spanish olives, thinly sliced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper tt

parsley for garnish
Spanish olive oil
steamed white rice

Shred the cooked chicken. Set aside. Heat some olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic for a few minutes (until soft). Add the spices, tomato, chicken meat, and the olives. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve over white rice. Yum.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Cult of Bacon.

Hello friends and enemies. In my last post, The Sea is your Cure, I wrote about the greasy fingered dangers of an all fried food and whiskey diet. Sure, you need healthy-ish things in your mouth once in a while but lets not get fanatical or anything. I hope I didn't scare you all into an quinoa and kelp diet. I'd rather die a happy, slightly crunchy life than a sad life of exercise and crying. It's all about some sort of balance. If you eat triple bacon cheeseburgers a few day in row perhaps chill out a little and only have single bacon cheeseburgers the next few days. Balance. It's the key to life.

So anyways, bacon and tater tots. The two power foods at the top of the food pyramids. You need them to survive. I heard from the tv that tater tots and bacon, when cooked correctly, can grant you super strength similar to the powers you gain when ingesting pcp. Now, I don't know the science behind it but it was on tv so it's obviously true.

I really wanted pcp super strength so I made Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots with Smokey Three Cheese Sour Cream Dip. Take a frozen tot. Wrap bacon around it until it overlaps. Cut the bacon. Repeat. Fill a tray sheet while the oven preheats to 425F degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bacon is cooked through and the tots look crispy. I know that your first instinct will be to grab them straight out of the oven with your bare hands and shove them into you mouth hole but PLEASE LISTEN TO ME. They will melt your face and tongue to the base of your teeth. Let them cool a minute. I can't say I didn't warn you.

For the dip I melted 1 TBSP butter in a pot over medium heat and whisked in 1 TBSP flour and made a roux. Cooked it for 2mins. Whisked in 1 cup of heavy cream. Added a large handful of shredded aged white cheddar, a big handful of grated manchego (Parmesan would work too), and a medium sized chunk of Point Reyes blue cheese. Whisked until the cheese melted and the sauce thickened. Added salt and pepper and some smoked paprika. Then I whisked in a bunch of sour cream. Yum.

This dish is one of the best things to ever reach my stomach. I dream about it. I now belong to the cult of the bacon tot. You will too. Join us...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Sea is Your Cure.

Sometimes around the seventh or eighth day of eating nothing but fried chicken and whiskey you wind up craving something that makes your heartburn a little less noticeable. You start to get that feeling where your skin is greasy and your insides repel water and it takes some serious doses of caffeine and amphetamines just to wake up in the morning. You are laying there in a pool of oil crying real greasy tears. You need actual vitamins in your body my friend. I've been there. I know what it's like. You are not alone. I've tried a fried chicken and whiskey diet and let me just tell you, it hurts real good. Apparently, your body needs other non-fried things to live happily. It's true, I read it in a magazine. You have to mix it up before you're irreversibly crispy.

I went down to my fish guy. Down in fish alley. I got myself some shrimps and cod. The good stuff. Then I went down to Uwajimaya and bought some bonito flakes and kombu seaweed to makes fresh dashi broth and some green tea soba noodles. Have you ever made dashi? The broth of the sea. It's very simple and adds tons of umami flavor to Japanese dishes. So yeah, anyways, I decided to curb my slow, greasy suicide by making Poached Tiger Prawns and Ling Cod in Ponzu Scented Dashi with Green Tea Soba Noodles. After eating this I felt much better better about life. I really needed that. Now I have the energy to climb right back on that fried chicken horse. By the way, that was a figure of speech, not a real chicken horse. Although if chicken horses did exist I would probably want to ride one. That would be awesome. Just saying.

Poached Tiger Prawns and Ling Cod in Yuzu Dashi with Green Tea Soba Noodles.

for the ponzu scented dashi:
6 cups cold water
1 oz kombu (about 20 square inches)
1 cup dried bonito flakes
2 tsp ponzu (use equal parts soy sauce and lime juice if you can't find ponzu)

Bring the water and kombu to a boil. Add the bonito flakes. Turn off the heat. Add ponzu. Let it sit for 8 minutes. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. The end.

1 lb fresh ling cod fillets, cut into 4 equal portions
1 lb tiger prawns, shelled and deveined
1 7oz package green tea soba noodles
6 cups ponzu dashi broth
sliced scallion and celery leaves for garnish

Boil a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles until soft. Drain and shock in cold water. In a separate pot bring the dashi to a simmer. Season the prawns and cod with salt and white pepper. Carefully add the seafood to the simmering dashi. Simmer for 6 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add soba noodles to a bowl. Place a piece of cod and some prawns on the noodles. Ladle hot broth over the dish. Season with salt if needed. Garnish with scallion and celery leaves. Look at your pretty food. Eat it. Drink sake. Feel great. Do stuff. xoxo

Monday, March 23, 2015

Meat of the Sea and Grass.

Okay, so every once in a while I ask my adorable wife what her death row meal would be and she pretty much always says the same thing: "Steak, scallops, & mashed potatoes." It's also her stranded on a desert island meal (which would be much harder to procure, unless of course it happens to be a creepy island filled with desert cows). So I make it for her. I tell her she does not need to commit murder or hijack a yacht to scary cow island to obtain such a meal. I make a damn fine steak, a juicy seared scallop, and my Joël Robuchon style mashed potatoes are freaking bomb. We eat, make creepy chewing moany noises, and then we fall into a delicious coma. Beaten into submission by meat and fat. If my doctor ever told me that I had to cut back on these things I would tell them "Screw it, I'd rather die salty and filled with butter then sadly chewing on a carrot stick". Damn right I would.

So yeah, wanna know how to make a perfect Seared New York Strip Steak with a Sherry Caper Sauce? Just so happens I'm going to tell you. First off, buy some nice steaks. Make sure they have a nice amount of marbling (see those little white fatty veins running through the meat?) and are bright dark red in color. Don't buy no grey stinky steaks from your crappy grocery outlet. I know it's on sale, put it down! Okay, set the steaks out on the counter an hour before cooking. Seriously salt and pepper them and just let them sit there. After an hour, preheat the over to 500F degrees. Rub the steaks with a tiny bit of canola oil. Put a cast iron (or heavy duty stainless steel) pan on the stove over high heat. When the pan in blazing hot toss the steaks on. Sear for about 3-4 minutes each side until you get a nice crust formed. Toss the pan into the oven and finish cooking about 5 mins for medium rare. Okay, now this part is super important. Take the steaks out of the pan and set them on a cutting board. DO NOT TOUCH THE STEAKS FOR 15 MINUTES!!!!! Let them rest. If you do not follow this step and cut right into your steaks they will bleed out and all the tasty juices will pour out onto the counter and floor and you will cry because your dry sawdust steak sucks. Okay, so while your steaks are resting put the pan over medium heat and add 2Tbsp sherry wine vinegar, 2tsp Dijon mustard, 2Tbsp butter, 2Tbsp capers (add a 1/4c chicken stock or water to loosen it up). Scrape up the steak fond (they tasty brown bits in the pan) and stir. Cook for 1 minute and your done. Eat. Die happy.

Wanna also make a perfect Seared Scallop with Smoked Paprika Butter? Also easy peasy. Buy some fresh sea scallops. Pat them dry. Season with salt and pepper. Put a pan over high heat. Add a tiny bit of canola oil. Sear the scallops for 2-3 minutes each side. Remove from the pan. Turn heat to medium. Add 2Tbsp butter, 1 tsp pimentón, 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice. Cook for 30 seconds. Pour over scallops.

You'll have to wait for another time to hear about my potatoes. They are a secret for now. They wanted me to tell you that they are delicious and contain more cream and butter than mashed potatoes can possible fathom. Oh yeah, I also cooked garlicky wilted spinach too. They are my mashed potatoes best friend. They are tasty. I'll throw that recipe at you another time as well. I am only one person and I only have so much time to write for you. Jeez. You take and take and take... Where am I? Blacked out for a minute. Went to the dark place again. Hmmm well, until next time my dears. xoxo

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cozy Pork Blanket.

Yeah yeah, I eat a lot of pork. I really dig to dine on the swine. I am Cuban after all. I don't quite know how many times I've written about pork chops but I can tell you that it has been many times. Somewhere on this blog in multiple locations are my recipes for brined and seared pork chops. Find them here and make them. My pork chops rock if I do say so myself. I'm pretty sure I've also written about collard greens with ham and stewed black-eyed peas before too. Okay, so this blog post isn't so original. It's not about making something new and adventurous. It's about making the old tried and true. Having those household favorites that comfort and nourish your brains, body, and soul. These are the meals that wrap you up in a cozy blanket of deliciousness and rub your belly until you take a nap. Think about what those meals are to you and make them. Make them now.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

When You Wish Upon A Casserole.

My sweet little family and I took a trip to the Magical Kingdom of Disneyland not long ago. It was enchanting and wonderful and I wanted to stay there forever and ever (minus all the rude and pushy sunburned tourists). The night before we left I pulled out the old Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Cookbook to get some inspiration for a pre-Disneyland dinner. Most of the recipes in this book involve some sort of creamed can of something soup and rice and chicken. Well, I just happened to have chicken and rice and cream of mushroom soup on hand. I also had cheddar cheese and broccoli and that right there my friends is the fixins for a damn spectacular casserole.  In the cookbook Mickey Mouse had a recipe for a chicken casserole but it was a little too bland for my refined caviar and Champagne taste (lol, yeah right, I'd eat chili dog soup from a creepy gas station). I asked myself "What would Minnie Mouse do?" Minnie Mouse would do whatever the hell she wants because she's a super cool mouse like that.

So I took what I liked from Mickey's recipe and I kicked that recipe right in the taint. I made Minnie Mouse's Super Fine Chicken and Broccoli Casserole. Besides, I needed to use up a bunch of stuff in my fridge so nothing went bad on out trip (I'm looking at you sad broccoli). This is the kind of Americana casserole that my mom would make when she wasn't cooking Cuban food. Something bubbly and chickeny and covered in bright orange cheese. Hell yes.

The awesome thing about these kinds of dishes is that you can feed your whole family (or yourself for many meals) for not much money and they are super filling. It's the perfect post apocalypse meal. Aside for my theory that chickens will be over 10 feet tall and carnivorous. That will be scary. Maybe use pork or beef then. Either way, casseroles usually mean more bang for your buck leaving you more money for hookers and cocaine or whatever your hobbies are. xoxo

Cheesy Chicken and Rice and Broccoli Casserole
2 cups of diced cooked chicken
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped small
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cooked rice
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper, tt

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Melt the butter in a casserole dish. Toss all of the ingredients together (except for the cheese) and spread evenly into the casserole dish. Cover with cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes. Eat. Ride the Pirates of the Caribbean ride again. Repeat.