Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ensalada de Aji Con Mojo (Fireroasted Bell Peppers in Mojo Sauce)

We love this in my house, it's sooo good, we devour it, it one of those things we don't make very often because bell peppers tend to be expensive here (well from a Californian stand point I know other states that are poorer in agriculture pay a fortune for all vegetation haha), but this week Green Bell Peppers where on sale for 2 pounds for 1 dollar! I was like HOLY CR@P lets make some "Ensalada de Aji"

You can use any color of bell peppers, or any mixture of colors. Typically it's red or green or a mix of both.

-4 large or medium bell peppers
-1/2 red onion, cut in half, thinly sliced julienned
-6 cloves of garlic
-juice of 1 fresh medium green lime
-1 teaspoon salt
-2-4 tablespoons olive oil more or less

1)On medium heat blacken bell peppers skin all over on direct heat turning carefully with your hands or some tongs.
(2)Put them in a plastic or paper bag closed wrapped in a cloth/ towel around bag for about 5-10 minutes.
(3)Meanwhile make a lighter "Mojo de Ajo" sauce, in a mortar with a pestle crush garlic to a paste with 1 teaspoon of salt, squeeze in lime juice and stir well, now whisk with a fork and stream in extra-virgin olive oil until it has as much or as little as you like just enough to change the color a bit and give some richness, set aside.
(4)Remove from bag and peel by rubbing with a napkin and taking skin off.
(5)Now simple cut in half, remove insides DO NOT RINSE OR IT WILL LOSE IT'S FLAVOR. Cut into strips.
(6)Now set on a plate nicely, put purple onion thinly sliced over it, spoon over "Mojo de Ajo" until all over it.
(7)Enjoy as a side dish, it is kind of spicy from the garlic and onion but it's very tasty.

Jose's Arroz Con Pollo (Jose's Cuban Chicken and RIce)

Oh this was amazing good, I love it, the Cuban version of Chicken and Rice is the BEST by far (maybe I am just very biased at times). I had never made a Cuban "Arroz Con Pollo" the way it's suppose to be.

This recipe is basically me calling up my grandmother, consulting with her how she would make the best arroz con pollo, then using the recipe from a blog called:

Arroz y Frijoles which I think the writers name is Jose. He has some nice post and his Arroz Con Pollo has some of the BEST TECHNIQUE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A CUBAN KITCHEN, he has lots of patience to cook down the aromatics in this dish which makes a huge difference and makes this full of goodness.


I altered his recipe a bit (if interested in his recipe check here: Jose's Arroz Con Pollo, using some of my grandmas advice and touches as well as my personal taste in the Cuban kitchen (I have to have Cumin in most Cuban dishes to me it's a must for somethings)

So here's my version combining Jose's awesome technique and doing things like him for the most part with some of my touches and grandmas influence I guess

Ingredients for marinading Chicken in brine:
-2 chicken thighs and drumsticks (remove most of the skin leave bone, you can also use 1 whole chicken, divided into sections/ it's pieces as well, I suggest bone in for more "oomph)
-1 clove garlic (crushed/ mashed to a paste in mortar or if you can't use a garlic press)
-2 teaspoons salt
-Juice of 1 medium to large lime
-1 cup water

Ingredients for the rest:
-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 medium or small green bell pepper finely minced
-1 medium or small red bell pepper finely minced
-1 large spanish yellow onion finely minced
-6 cloves of garlic (mashed to paste using mortar or garlic press)
-1/2 small can tomato paste and 1/2 cup water to dilute it
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-2 dried bay leaves
-1 teaspoon "Bijol" (achiote seed powder google "Bijol" if you don't know what it is)
-2 1/2 cups Valencia rice (you can use Bomba, Calasparra, Japonica, or Calrose varieties similar to Alborio/ rissoto rice? Other medium-short grain rices)
-3 1/2 cups water
-1 cup chicken stock (I just dilute 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon in water by whisking well I use "MAGGI" brand or "KNORRS" the msg in it make it more tasty)
-1 bottle of beer anywhere from 8- 12 oz. use your favorite beer

Ingredients for garnish (garnish is optional but it looks prettier)
-1/4- 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted just by rinsing real quick in cold water and draining
-1 red bell pepper (fireroasted, just blacken outside it all over with the fire on the stove top, put in a bag any kind for 5-10 minutes, carefully peel of skin with napkin by rubbing, cut in half, remove seeds DO NOT RINSE, cut into thick strips)

(1)Wash and clean chicken well.Rub chicken well with garlic, salt, and lime, now put in a large ziplock bag with 1 cup water. Seal well place on a plate and in the fridge 1-4 hours no longer than 4 is recommended.
(2)Remove chicken, from marinade, pat-dry, throw away the rest of leftover brine.
(3)Before you start the rest, rinse rice by swooshing in a pot with water and draining well do this like 6 times until water runs clear and not starchy, then leave the rice on a strainer over a bowl or something to make sure it doesn't retain any excess water
(4)Heat a large pot or dutch oven on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, when heated add chicken brown on each side about 5-8 minutes be patient. Set aside on a plate and loosely cover with aluminum foil
(5)Now add more oil the other 1/4 cup and add minced bell pepper and onions cook down lowering heat to medium for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add garlic and cook for another 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally.
(6)Add all the spices, cumin, bijol, bay leaves, oregano until it smells good about 1-2 minutes. Now add tomato paste mixed with 1/2 cup water. Cook it down until it becomes a pasty maybe 3 minutes.
(7)Now add chicken with any juices that came out on the plate, fold in well, now allow this to cook about 3-4 minutes.
(8)Set chicken aside again on plate (it'll make it easier to mix in rice)
(9)Now add rice (2 1/2 cups), and mix well for about 2 minutes, incorporate it well make sure every grain is coated with everything.
(10)Add chicken fold in, add now 3 1/2 cups water, and 1 cup of chicken stock/broth. Now bring to a boil UNCOVERED, when boiling stir well, scraping bottom making sure nothing gets stuck, now cover and lower heat AS LOW AS POSSIBLE, it may seem to low but leave as low as possible. DO NOT OPEN FOR 20-30 MINUTES DO NOT PEAK!!!!!!!!!! DO NOT LOOK!!!!!! LEAVE IT ALONE.
(11)20-30 minutes have passed open it, open you beer bottle, pour it in, mix it well, turn of heat YES YOU HEARD ME TURN OF HEAT! Now cover and rest it with heat turned of for 10 minutes DO NOT UNCOVER trust me here.
(12)Now to garnish just sprinkle peas all over the top not lots just sprinkles here and there, and then arrange the red bell pepper in the form of a flower.
(13)Your done enjoy, this is best served with only a salad on the side. I had it with a "Ensalada de Aji Con Mojo de Ajo"

You can use saffron it will make it more fragrant.
You can add some "Spanish Chorizo" (not Mexican but Spanish) to the sofrito for a special kick, like after browning chicken, you can render some of the chorizo fat with more olive oil until it infused then lower heat and continue your sofrito as it infused with the Chorizo.
Do the same thing as variation 2 but add a good quality ham cut into chunks to the sofrito
Not doing variation 2 and 3 and just simple rendering some bacon maybe like 4 after browning the chicken in the same oil, you can set aside bacon and then mix it in to cook together with everything.
I tend to go overboard on "Bijol" I dash like a maniac just how my grandmother does and get this strong dark yellow, maybe you might wanna use 1/2 teaspoon but I always use like 1 teaspoon instead hehe.
(6)Some people like it "a la Chorrera" which is a really sticky soupy version of the dish they add more liquid about 5 cups water and 2 cups chicken stock plus 12 oz. of beer. It's really tasty.
(7)Some people like it really "seco" just add 2 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cups and 2 tablespoons chicken broth.
(8)Some like it "Asopao" which means just a little wet and moist mine was a littel "Asopao" so just use the ratio in the recipe.