The Colonel never did anything for me growing up – to this day, I am wedded to the addictive blend of herbs and spices that form a layer of lipsmacking goodness around the crisp skinned chickens roasted at the Peruvian joints in Northern Virginia (or for us OGs, two up – two down*) And I’m lying when I say joints, for there is only one location that has my heart, and that’s El Pollo Rico. The exterior of the restaurant looks like a nondescript warehouse with bumping fluorescent lighting and a steady clip of customers zipping in and emerging with styrofoam containers and brown paper bags almost translucent from the french fry grease. Like a speakeasy for chicken, my dad would always run in, broker the deal and grab the bounty, returning with parcels that perfumed the car with the scent of cumin, garlic and majesty. When we finally got home and tucked into the feast, it was scandalously good – the chicken was served with fat steak fries, and both items would receive a ceremonial dip in a mustard/mayo sauce and then a dollop of fresh minced jalapenos before making it to my greedy mouth. And if I was lucky (really lucky), they’d still have fried yucca in stock, which we’d bring home in lieu of the fries. Cracklingly golden on the outside and tender in the center, this was the first preparation I’d ever had for yucca and I was sold for life. In fact, I loved it so much that I had to find a way to prepare it at home – I couldn’t wait for trips to the right coast to get my yucca fix. Continue reading Fried Yucca with Mojo Criollo
Let Me Take You Down, Cuz I’m Going to…
Today I want to talk about straddling in the kitchen. You know, working the line between flavors, textures and temperatures to your own advantage. Juxtaposing ingredients to ensure that every bite is both sassy and class. It’s similar to the way that a chocolate-covered pretzel or a good and salty margarita scratch some primordial itch that occasionally pops up and leaves you clawing the walls for the smallest taste of the intoxicating combination. And if you don’t scratch said itch, you feel a need to indiscriminately throat chop everyone around you, until someone plies your greedy mouth with a salted caramel cupcake. I totally approve – desperate times call for desperate throat chops, and I’d kill a man for salted caramel. Continue reading Strawberry and Goat Cheese Crostini with Chocolate Olive Oil
Smother Me with Deliciousness
Sweet corn tomalito, do you want to go steady? Can I wear your letter jacket? Wanna go to prom together? Because I think you’re the bees knees. I fell in love the first time I tasted you at Chevy’s, tipsy from bathtub sized margaritas with plenty o’ salt, sneaking nibbles of you in an effort to extend the fun. I had to find a recipe hack on the web in order to bring you home with me, and it turned out that I had to dedicate a full-on hour to get you hot and ready before I could eat you up. You were a corn souffle of out and out perfection, and it meant that you needed time to rise to the occasion. But wait! How could I make things a little more dangerous? I know – I’d smother you with spicy chorizo, tri-colored sweet peppers, onions and garlic and then devour you with no hesitation and every last bit of my love. And yes, I’m willing to share you with everyone who wants you, just as long as I can still get a taste. Sound like a plan? Continue reading Sweet Corn Tomalito with Chorizo and Peppers
Once You Go Black…
Black beans and rice are soul mates as far as I’m concerned, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I am Brazilian and my peeps national dish consists of the aforementioned babies. Nah, it’s far more than simple genetics that accounts for my adoration. Black beans, glistening and gorgeous from a slow-simmer with a ham hock in the bath with them, are a treat that gets exponentially better the longer you let them hang out. Serve ’em up the next day and they’re gloriously fat from soaking up all the juices from the onions, garlic and spices. Inky and complex, I crave them fortnightly and will grow frantic (nay, manic) if I don’t make a pot to quell the storm that is my craving. Continue reading Cuban Black Beans and White Rice
I Really Meant to Name This “Shrimp in Crack Sauce”
I live for the moments in life where a mere bite of a particular dish makes me giddy. Stupid giddy. Giggling to myself like a goddamn lunatic in between bites and watching my plate like a sentry making sure that no one tries to sneak a bite. The first time that I tasted this deceptively simple dish of shrimp swimming in garlic, cream and herbs, I was actually depressed. Not because it didn’t elicit the effect that I described above. It was because my sister fucking ordered it, not me, and she felt as strongly about the shrimp as I did. With a butter knife poised to stab me in the hand if I tried to steal a bite. Ugh. Dining FAIL. Continue reading Jumbo Shrimp in Cilantro Sauce (Camarones en Salsa Verde)
Shred Me to Pieces
I was born for sexy, sultry heat, which maybe has a lot to do with why I adore the kitchen. And when the humidity cranks the knob a notch higher, my knickers turn a tizzy for a taste of something tropical. The combinations of salty, sweet and spicy are so dizzyingly addictive, I want to break out into a salsa and shake my shit until it falls off. Okay, maybe not until it falls out – I don’t really feel like dropping a co-pay for too much of a good time. What I really want is a mess of this shredded beef simmered with bell peppers, sweet onions and a sexy-as-hell tomato garlic sauce to bind it all up. And I want it with fluffy white rice and beans as dark as my intentions after too many pitchers of sangria. I want some ropa vieja. Stat. Continue reading Easy Ropa Vieja (Cuban Braised Beef)
Recipe for the Daring Kitchen
Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking
. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!
Great Balls of Goodness
I know the name “Daring Kitchen” pretty much sets the stage for a challenge, but this month was an out-and-out “what the holy hell” bit of business. And this all coming from a girl who thinks she could make the basket on the show Chopped cry uncle under the swift work of her knife. My basket ingredients are black chicken, absinthe and air? Bring it, bitches. This challenge, however, was deceptively sneaky in its seemingly simple ingredients that dared at me to be combined. They sneered at me like the cool kids smoking behind the high school, waiting to see if I was indeed as badass as I claimed to be. I had to find a way to marry one ingredient from each of the three categories into an original, cohesive recipe. Continue reading Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Roasted Vegetable Couscous
Recipe for The Daring Kitchen
The March 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, aka Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.
Love is a Thistly Warrior
Good things come to those who wait, and this month’s Daring Kitchen was proof of that fact. When I think of my two favorite braised dishes, I crave fork-tender beef short ribs with crimini mushrooms that have greedily sucked up all of the surrounding juices, and braised chicken thighs with shallots, tarragon and cream. Both are stunning and ever-so-yummy, but are wintry treats perfect for curling up to replete with the roaring fire and snifter of cognac. I wanted something appropriately light and savory for the warming weather here in Arizona, and our host of the month had a perfect suggestion.
On Carol’s list of recommended recipes, she listed Michael Chiarello (swoon!) and his Lemon Braised Artichokes. I thought that it was simple and gorgeous and would pair perfectly with a pan of chicken piccata. Turns out that the two were a match made in heaven, and I was treated to bites that sparkled with lemon, briny capers and tender chicken. You’ve gotta love it when a good plan comes together! Continue reading Chicken Piccata with Braised Artichokes
Recipe for the Daring Kitchen
This month, The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax
& Lis and they chose to present patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness. We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties.
I Want a Taste of You, Baby Cakes
This recipe was all the doing of my buddy Karen – you see, this month has been banana cakes and not in the good way. My schedule’s relentless and although I’ll never cop to biting off more than I can chew, my mouth is as full as my plate and work is looking like an endless buffet. Karen and I are cooking buddies, seeking out new techniques in the kitchen and regularly participating in the monthly challenges proffered up by the online foodie club, The Daring Kitchen.
Karen immediately dug through her mental rolodex of recipe majesty, a good thing because my brain was more fried than a bucket of chicken from the Colonel. She remembered a fabulous black bean cake recipe from Emeril Lagasse would be perfect to make. I was relieved for her quick wit and paired the cakes with a fresh pineapple salsa enlivened with piquant red jalapenos and a simple avocado crema made with greek yogurt and lime. The final result was ridiculously good – a composed plate that looked like it should be served at a fancy pants restaurant rather than the picnic table in my backyard. Plus, the time we spent cooking was a welcome respite from the piles of work in front of me. Good times! Continue reading Black Bean Cakes with Pineapple Salsa and Avocado Crema
Recipe for The Daring Kitchen
Maranda of Jolts & Jollies
was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!
Spreading Your Masa All Over the Damn Town
Back when I was little, my grandmother used to have a friend at her work who’s family would make tamales en masse at Christmas. She’d give her a few dozen and we got to feast on the little parcels of majesty for what I’d love to say was weeks after, but they barely lasted a few days. We had them steamed plain with nothing else to slow us down except for maybe some pinto beans or fluffy Spanish rice. I’ve long been searching for a killer tamale recipe in the same way as I’ve wanted the PERFECT enchilada sauce recipe. I’ve gone through MANY iterations and variations of ones that come close, but I’ve yet to hit perfection. So of course, when I found out that this month’s Daring Kitchen competition was to make tamales, I was so excited to have the opportunity to get back in the lab and start tinkering again. Continue reading Red Chile Tamales