Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cascos de Guayaba y Refresco de Guayaba (Guava Shells and Guava Drink)

My grandmother gave me a small bag of Guavas when I went to go see her, her neighbor has a Guava tree and gave her some Guavas so she shared some with me and suggested to me to make some Guava Shells in syrup and with pulps and skins to make a sweet Guava drink.

Guava shells in syrup is a very loved Cuban dessert usually served with some thick pieces of cream cheese. The Guavas thin skin is removed and then the pulp is removed leaving behind a thick fleshy shell that is cooked in syrup, the remains are used to make the Guava drink. It does not matter what color of Guavas you use for this any color is fine.

My grandmothers sugary syrups for fruits and desserts are not made how many other's make it, she does not use white sugar, she makes a strong dark syrup using unrefined solid cane sugar that go by different names, in Cuba they call it "Raspadura" in Mexico they call it "Piloncillo" in Columbia they call it "Panela", in Peru they call it "Chacaca" (as odd as it sounds) and Filipinos call it "Panocha"... spanish speakers please keep your minds pure because I know "Panocha" is for many a slang term for the "female" genetalia area in Spanish or atleast for Mexicans :)

Using that type of sugar achieves a more deeply flavored syrup. If you cannot find it in your area feel free to use "Dark Brown Sugar" I buy the unrefined solid sugar cane in Mexican stores in which they are called "Piloncillo" and it's what I usually call it because I'm used to using it a lot in Mexican cuisine.

Ingredients for Guava Shells in syrup:

-2 pounds Guavas (doesn't matter what color)
-1-2 sticks of cinnamon
-1 cup water
-1 large piece of unrefined solid sugar cane (Piloncillo, Panela, Raspadura, etc.)
-1 teaspoon anise seeds (optional I didn't add it, my grandmother usually never does for this)

Directions for Guava Shells in Syrup:
(1)Peel guavas carefulle only the really outer skin using a knife carefully or a potato peeler. Now cut in half and remove just the middle area pulp and seeds with a spoon gently, leave as much of the shell as possible, leave some meat on it. Reserve the skins and pulp in a seperate bowl for later use.
(2)Bring water, cinnamon, piloncillo to a boil, cover on medium low heat until piloncillo completely dissolves. Bring back to a stronger boil on medium and stir and check until it becomes a light syrup not thick but not watery either. It should have some type of body. When you pick some with a large spoon and drizzle it back it should fall in a stream.

(3)Add Guava shells, when it comes to a boil and bubbles, remove from heat you are done. The Guava shells well get a stronger deeper color.

Directions for leftover pulp and skins:
(1)Put in a blender and blend well with water, dilute it will, strain it through a strainer to remove seeds. Add in a nice pitcher, dilute with more water until it has the consistency you likr similar to a rich juice and add sugar to taste.
(2)Chill in the fridge until ready to drink or drink immediately with some ice.

Empanada Cubana (Cuban Empanadas)

In my house my grandmother would always buy the "discos goya" to make Empanadas (pre-made, empanada disks ready to fill and fry) she would stuff them with Picadillo (Cuban Ground Beef Hash) then pan-fry or deep-fry them and that's it very simple and quick. Also she would sometimes stuff them with thick slices of Guava paste and cream cheese to have a sweet if not she'd stuff wonton wrappers with cream cheese and guava paste (I will post that one soon I have everything I need for the Wontons stuffed with Guava and Cream Cheese)

Cuban Empanadas are usually stuffed with "Picadillo" (Cuban Ground Beef Hash), Chicken, and sometimes "Ropa Vieja" (Shredded Flank Steak simmered in a tomato based sauce) and the sweet kind with Gauva paste or a combination of Guava Paste and Cream CHeese.

I always wanted to know how to make a Cuban empanada dough from scratch and Marilyn from one of my other loved Cuban cooking blog called "My Cuban Traumas" was very generous and nice to me by sharing with me her Cuban Empanada dough recipe.

Ingredients for dough:
-3 cups flour (plain all purpose/ regular white flour)
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons white sugar
-8 tablespoons shortening (I used lard because I avoid hydrogenated oils)
-2 beaten eggs yolks and whites
-6 tablespoons of dry white wine (Edmundo Vino Seco Dorado is recommended for this)

(1)In a really large bowl mix well the flour, sugar, and salt. With a fork or your hands incorporate lard until you obtain a crumbly texture. Make a space in the middle and add beaten egg and wine. Stir in a circular motion until you achieve a dough consistency.
(2)Knead the dough and slam it against the kitchen counter a couple times to obtain a compact dough. (At this point you can wrap it up in plastic wrap and throw it in the fridge until ready to make your empanadas or proceed)
(3)Move over to a table or large surface and dust with flour, roll out the dough, cut into circles of desired size and place some of the filling, you can moist the sides with beaten egg or water and press and seal making a nice little ridge with a fork.
(4)Either pan-fry on medium high on both sides until golden brown or bake in oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit or 176 degreed celsius for 20-25 minutes. (We personally deep-fry it because it is way faster and tastier)
Possiblities for the fillings:
I used leftover Chicken Fricasse I made this week, I simply deboned and shredded the Chicken in the Fricasse and used that as my filling. It is a great idea to make "Picadillo", "Ropa Vieja" or "Fricasse" and just use the leftovers the next day or whatever day as a Empanada dough filling. Make sure your filling is cooled before using it. The filling can be whatever like any type of meat dish just make sure the filling isn't something really dry or really moist if to dry it will just be chocky and nasty if to moist the juices will ruin your Empanada, etc.)

(2)Here are some links to recipes I made that you can use as filling:
-Fricasse de Pollo
-Picadillo Salteado
-Ropa Vieja