Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Higado a la Italiana de mi Tata (My Tata's Liver Stirfry with Onion and Bell Pepper "Italian Style")

Tata is what we call my grandmother in my family. She is like a walking Cuban cookbook, any recipe I wanna know I simply ask I'll get one for anything that's Cuban she knows a few Spaniard dishes here and there to.

Higado a la Italiana meaning liver Italian style is a Cuban dish which I have no clue why they named it "Italian style" maybe something to do with method of preparation of marination? No clue... all I know that the recipe became popular or known when Nitza Villapol the Cuban Julia Child who became a communist introduced this dish in her cookbook "Cocina al Minuto" also Mary Urrutia Randelman shared her family version of the dish "Higado a la Italiana"

My Tata's version is neither like Nitza's nor Mary Urrutia, the reason their version of the dish is disliked or not cooked in my house is because the liver is marinaded in a lot of liquid (a generous amount of wine and vinegar with flour, salt, garlic, and pepper) a long with julienned bell peppers, onions, and a couple bay leaves. The problem is Nitza's and Mary Urrutia recipes heat oil, add bell pepper and onion and then higher heat and add liver with all marinade and stir for a few minutes like 10 THERE IS THE PROBLEM, it just boils the liver in the marinade with the bell pepper and onion... we don't like liver to be boiled liver in my house, we dislike the texture and taste obtained it causes the liver to release it's own juices and just taste blah in my opinion. (Believe me I've prepared this dish Nitza's way)

My Tata everytime we cooked liver it would be fried in very very smoking high heat until well browned on all sides. My grandmother's version is as follows:

She get's liver cut into bite sizes, very well seasoned and marinaded in vinegar, salt, lots of garlic, and smokey cumin she then fries it in very hot oil until well browned and quickly stirfry's it together with julienned onions and bell peppers and finishes seasoning it with a touch oregano or if no oregano is wanted she fries the bay leaves in the hot oil, removes and continues with the recipe. I prefer this version any day :)

Now here's the recipe with pictorials to be more specific.

-1 ½ lbs. beef liver
-12 cloves garlic (pressed through a garlic press or mashed in a mortar to a paste)
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1- 2 teaspoons salt
-2 tablespoons white vinegar
-2 medium onions julienne
-1 large or 2 small green bell peppers julienned
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 bay leaves your choice (oregano is better in my opinion)
-more salt to taste as needed.
-1/2 cup cooking oil that can withstand high heat (canola, vegetable, corn, lard, etc. )


I know it seems like A LOT of oil, but REMEMBER this is to fry the liver, you can drain and or take out some of the oil after the liver is fried, my grandmother leaves all the oil in their, my mom likes to drain some of it.

(1) Beef liver washed, cleaned, remove nerves, silver skin, and fat leave as clean as possible even if you must waste some of the liver meat. I buy 1 ½ lbs because I end up throwing ½ after cleaning. HUGE TIP when buying liver make sure your butcher shows you all sides of it because if the entire back area or not seen area has lots of nerves and holes IT IS NO GOOD tell him to get you another because nerves and other bad parts curl and give a very hard texture sometimes. UNLESS YOU ARE POOR PLEASE JJUST CLEAN IT WELL AND REMOVE ANY QUESTIONABLE AREAS THE FINAL RESULT IS WORTH IT.

(2) Now cut liver into BITE sizes and toss with vinegar, cumin, salt, and garlic.
(3) Heat a heavy skillet or wok on HIGH HEAT with generous amounts of oil ALMOST enough to pan fry you need really hot nearly smoking temperature. (about 1/2 a cup) wait until the oil starts smoking (your gonna want windows open or that filter fan in kitchens)

(4) Add liver in one layer leave alone a couple minutes until browned about 10- 15 minutes then toss to flip or move around until it is almost cooked and not pink.

(7) Add onions and bell peppers as well as oregano or bay leave and cook until onions and bell peppers pic up drippings and get rid of raw taste of onion.



She prepares this almost identical to "Higado a la Vizcaina" which is the same as this except no bell peppers, oregano, or bay leaf. Instead towards the end when the onions are soft you add cubed crispy deep-fried potatoes you previously fried and salted to add to this dish. I have a recipe post for that you can check if you like:


In addition we also make "Higado Encebollado" (fried liver steaks with onions) marinaded the same way except whole steaks are fried set aside then in drippings lots of onions are fried and used to top the liver steak check it out here if you'd like to:


Friday, September 25, 2009

Potaje de Lentejas #4 (Lentil Stew #4)

I've tried many many versions of Cuban and Spanish style "Potaje de Lentejas" (Lentil Stew) my mother makes one that is delicious but missing something using "Emerils recipe" she uses a "Meripoix" (onion, celery and carrot) with the addition of garlic and tomato, bay leaves, salt and pepper nothing more nothing less. Simple but very delicious. My other Potaje de Lenteja recipes come out good, but I'm just not satisfied, someone in my household always ends up not liking something about whichever one.

So today I decided I am not gonna be ruled by cooking traditions or boundaries, I'm a make a Potaje de Lentejas my way, inspired by all the other recipes I've seen, the biggest inspiration being my mother's "Potaje" which I mentioned and the other being Pilar Lechuza's "Potaje de Lentejas (Lentejas Con Costilla de Cerdo).

I combined my mom's Meripoix by making a cuban sofrito with tomato with the addition of celery and carrot an idea also re-inforced by Pilar Lechuza except she adds leeks as well. Some Spanish Chorizo and chunks of pork typical in a Cuban and Spanish Potaje as well as cumin. And of course most Cuban Potaje's wouldn't be complete without potatoes and orange fleshed squash so I threw those in there. Then a heaping spoonful of sweet smoked spanish paprika that embodies the flavors of Spain. And I noticed bay leaves are almost always found in lentil stews so I threw those in too. I didn't have bacon on hand but I would sooooo love to use it in this recipe to :)

-2 cups lentils washed and drained (about 1 lbs.)
-water (about 12 cups I don't measure it)
-1 onion diced finely
-1 green bell pepper diced finely
-3 carrots peeled and diced finely
-3 stalks celery diced finely
-1/2 head garlic finely minced
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-4-6 strips of bacon minced ( I didn't have any but if you do use it!)
-extra-virgin olive oil (as needed)
-1 1/2- 2 lbs. pork stew meat or beef stew meat cut into small pieces (1-2 inch cubes)
-1 small pork bone (I had it on hand)
-2 medium or 1/2 a large Spanish chorizo sliced casing removed
-1 tablespoon ground cumin
-1 tablespoon sweet smoked spanish paprika
-1/2 tablespoon or more to taste ground black pepper
-3 tsp. minimum salt (more to taste or less I guess)
-3 large potatoes peeled cut in half
-6 chunks of peeled Calabaza (such as Banana, Hubbard, Carribean, or Kabucha squash)

(1) Heat olive oil on medium high heat, if you have bacon add it now and render it's fat. Then add sliced chorizo when it renders some fat and oil changes color add onion, carrot, celery, bell peppers and cook until transparent and fragrant like 5- 7 minutes then add garlic until fragrant, bay leaves for like 30- 60 seconds and tomato sauce.

(2) Mix in lentils, add water, sweet smoked spanish paprika, cumin, black pepper and salt. Bring to strong boil, add pork meat and bone. Bring back to boil skim of scum if any.

(3)Cover 30 minutes, then add calabaza and potato and cook another 20- 30 minutes until calabaza and potato are tender

Serve with bread in a large bowl, or with white rice. If you wish a salad to.


I know I haven't blogged in a while but I've been busy with school, but I'll try to post when I can, love you all who support me :)