Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Albondigas Con Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

This is my grandmothers recipe for Meat balls in tomato sauce. It is a Cuban version of meat balls of course though every cook and culture probably has their own style of doing it. For example my mother's meatballs taste COMPLETELY different in flavor but that will be for another post.

My grandmothers recipe tastes very smokey and hot BUT it is not spicy! Cuban food can be hot but not spicy at all. It get's the smokey hot taste from black pepper and cumin.

-1 1/4 pounds ground beef
-2 eggs cracked and beaten
-1/2 cup of cracker meal or breadcrumbs, seasoned Italian breadcrumbs also work here
-1 onion minced
-1 bell pepper minced (I use 1/2 green and 1/2 yellow)
-1/2 a head garlic finely minced mashed to a paste (mortar and pestle or garlic press)
-1 cup tomato sauce (you could use canned my grandma for this dish uses already prepared "Ragu Sauce" that comes in a bottle like container sometimes "Mushroom Flavored" or "Meat Sauce" flavor)
-1/2 a bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley only the leaves finely minced (if you hate parsley like my mother use "Cilantro" but when I'm cooking this dish I think parsley goes best with it)
-2 teaspoons cumin
-2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (I grind whole peppercorns in my mortar with a pestle)
-2-3 teaspoons salt more or less to taste

(1)Get the ground beef in a large bowl, add 1/2 of the minced onion, 1/2 of the minced garlic, 1/2 of the minced parsley, some salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, and the cracker meal and eggs. Mix well but don't over mix just enough to incorporate everything. Form the ground beef into medium small ball shape.
(2)In a deep pan heat generous amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, sautee the minced onions and bell pepper on medium high for 6 minutes until translucent and fragrant, add the garlic and sautee 2 more minutes, add the other 1 teaspoon of cumin and pepper and sautee 1-2 minutes.
(3)Now add the tomato sauce and dilute it with some water to desired consistency (about 1 cup water depends how thick sauce is it will cook down a bit and thicken as it continues cooking so keep that in mind), stir well, bring to a boil taste for salt and adjust to taste, add the meatballs in one layer cover for 10 minutes then uncover and flip it to the other side cover and cook another 10 minutes.
(4)Uncover, to test for doneness get one meatball and cut in half if it is not pink in the middle it is done. Now garnish with parsley.
Serve over white rice. My grandmother sometimes use to cook spaghetti (according to package instructions) drain it and toss with the meatballs and tomato sauce, this would be a Cubanized "Spaghetti and Meatballs" ha ha!

Arroz Frito Con Huevo y Jamon (Egg & Ham Fried Rice)

This is my grandmothers version of fried rice, very simple, straight forward, and delicious. It's good for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner...Wait isn't fried rice Chinese? Well Cubans eat it to, it's part of some of the Chinese influence from early Chinese migration to Cuba and Fried Rice became popular. There are tons of variations of fried rice, there is no correct way of making it, it can have almost anything in it, some people use it as a way to get rid of leftovers, and use up old rice.

Some general rules though are to use leftover cold rice that way your fried rice has the right texture. If you use fresh cooked hot rice it will become sticky and clumpy when frying it together with the other stuff, and fried rice is suppose to be a little loose and not feel wet. If using the same day, make sure to cool the rice first.

-3 eggs (beat the eggs with a pinch of chicken bouillon, a little soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar, or if you don't want to just salt)
-2 cups leftover cooked cold or room temperature rice
-1/2-1 cup chopped pork ham
-1 onion minced
-4 clove garlic finely minced
-soy sauce to taste (I used 1 tablespoon)
-1/2 cup or 1 cup peas (for color)

(1) Get beaten seasoned eggs, and heat oil on medium high heat in a pan, add eggs and cook them like scrambled eggs, kind of swish them a little and be gentle, make them sort of like a omelet. Set aside and chop em up a bit.
(2) Add more oil to pan not a lot, heat it up on medium high and add onion, garlic, and chopped ham, sautee together until fragrant and onion is slightly translucent.
(3) Add rice and break the rice up, you don't want any clumps of rice, it should be a little loose, when rice is heated through and well mixed, drizzle with some soy sauce (about 1 tablespoon more or less to taste), fold in cooked eggs and peas.
(4) Your done! Very simple. I had this for breakfast this morning with some "Cafe Con Leche" (shot of Cuban coffee diluted in a cup of hot milk)
P.S. You can use leftover "Lechon Asado" instead of ham (Cuban Roast Pork marinaded in citrus then roasted yum... recipe for that some other time in my home we usually do it with lime but sour oranges are the best I'm waiting to go visit a friend to get some sour oranges from their garden for a good cuban roast pork).