Jun 21, 2013

Chop Suey

This is a weird one, I know.

I like Chinese food a lot, from the authentic to the, um, well, fabricated. Come on. Who can say anything bad about Panda Express's Kung pao chicken??  [side note: if you had asked me how much I liked Chinese food after returning from my 17 day trip to China, I would have had a different answer for you.]

I've never ordered chop suey in a Chinese restaurant, so I'm not quite sure how it's supposed to taste. Do they still have the dish on menus??  The only association I have with it is the scene in Lady and the Tramp when Jim Dear braves a snowstorm to bring his pregnant wife the chop suey she is craving. Maybe when I'm pregnant, I too, will crave this dish, cuz it turned out pretty tasty.

This recipe comes, once again, from Nitza Villapol's Cocina al Minuto. And it's not as far fetched to find a Chinese American invention in a Cuban cookbook as you may think! First off, the cookbook is definitely influenced by the popular cuisine of the 1950s & 60s, which is why such retro gems as aspic, baked Alaska, and chicken a la king are included. Secondly, there was actually a large Chinese population on the island starting as far back as 1847. The Chinatown in Havana, called the barrio Chino de la Habana, is one of the oldest in Latin America. [You can read more here.] It's quite common to see arroz frito on menus at Cuban restaurants.

I now know that chop suey is essentially a stir-fry coated in a mild, glossy sauce. Totally kitch, but totally satisfying for those nights when you just want to eat out of a takeout container. Feel free to switch out the meat & veggies for whatever is available in your fridge. I apologize in advance, I thought this was going to be a one pot dinner, but it turned into a two pot. But, on the bright side, you didn't have to tip the delivery guy.

Chop Suey
Adapted from Cocina al Minuto

1. In a large sauté pan, sauté 2 sliced leeks in a bit of olive oil til they start to soften.

2. Peel and de-vein 2 lbs of shrimp. [I left the shells on. It's more "rustic" that way.]

3. Add the shrimp to the leeks and toss to combine. Let the shrimp cook on medium til they turn pink.

4. In a stock pot, sauté 1/2 lb of cubed smoked pork in a swirl of oil until the pork starts to sizzle.

5. Add to the pork 8 oz of sliced mushrooms & 2 chopped zucchinis. Sauté until veggies soften. Season with a little salt & pepper.

6. In a bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1 cup of chicken broth. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pork & veggies along with an additional 2 cups of broth. 

7. Bring the stock pot up to a boil, or a rapid glop. Add the cooked shrimp & leeks. Turn heat down and let everything simmer together for 10 minutes or so.

8. Serve over white rice with soy sauce & Sriracha on the side.

Notes:  I found smoked pork at an ethnic supermarket as chuletas ahumadas or smoked pork chops. I'm super excited that I finally found them because they appear in several recipes in the book. I bought extra and froze what I didn't use in this recipe.

Jun 19, 2013

Bacon + Caramelized Onion Sliders with Spicy Mayonaise

Originally, this post was to be about Cocina al Minuto's bistec a la hamburguesa. That is a pretty basic recipe for burgers, not to be confused with fritas, which are a whole magical item to themselves & will most def be covered here in the future. But I digress.

After taking a second look at the recipe, which calls for mixing the beef with an egg, garlic, breadcrumbs and milk, then frying the patties in bacon grease, I thought it was kind of blah. Except for the bacon. Everything's better with bacon. 

The only thing better than burgers topped with bacon is MINI burgers topped with bacon!! So, I let myself be a little creative tonight by mixing up a simple burger patty, but really jazzing it up with the toppings of caramelized onions & bacon & a spicy mayonnaise. The only thing missing was a bit of green, preferably arugula, but alas, I had none in the fridge.

This is totally the kind of recipe I dig, fairly quick and simple and totally customizable. Use what you have in your pantry and fridge, people! Throw in some mushrooms with the onions or crumble on some bleu cheese. The possibilities are endless!! 

Bacon + Caramelized Onions + Spicy Mayo Sliders

1. Dice a quarter of an onion and set aside. Thinly slice the remaining onion plus 1 more onion.

2. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add onions, sprinkle with salt, pepper, & a splash of worcestershire sauce.

3. Let the onions sauté for about 20 minutes, until golden and soft. While they cook down, prep the sliders. Keep an eye on them though! I turned down the heat half way through and gave them a stir every now and then.

4. Add the chopped onion to 1 lb. of ground beef. Season with 1 tsp of garlic powder, salt & pepper, and worcestershire sauce. Mix with your hands and form into small patties. The size of the patties kind of depends on the size of your slider buns / rolls.

5. In a cast iron pan, fry up 4 slices of bacon. Once cooked, drain bacon on a paper towel lined plate while you fry up the sliders.

6. Fry the sliders a few at a time (don't crowd your pan!!) in the bacon grease, about 3-4 minutes per side. Now would be a good time to grab your splatter screen...

7. Remove sliders to another paper towel lined plate.

8. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise with a few tablespoons of gochujang paste (Korean fermented red chili paste) or Sriracha. You can definitely adjust the spice to your taste.

9. Assemble sliders on mini burger buns or rolls, spread with the spicy mayo & topped with the caramelized onions & bacon pieces.

Jun 12, 2013

Bistec a la Plancha ~ Cuban Grilled Steak

"Si no tienes las cebollas, olvidate!" If you don't have the onions, feghetaboutit!

I wish I could tell you that that was a quaint saying my abuelita used to tell me, but sadly, it's not. It just came to me as I was frying up my steak for dinner this evening. And it's really quite true-- if you toss the onion, garlic, citrus marinade, or mojo, you're missing the best part!!