Thursday, April 19, 2012

Albondigas de Pollo con Hierbabuena Entomatadas (Mint Chicken Meatballs in Tomato)

Meatballs made with rice and mint are popular in Mexican cuisine (they can be made with pork, beef, chicken, turkey whatever meat of your choice or combination) often served in a soup with a variety of vegetables (if you would like to see this check my mother's recipe for "Caldo de Albondigas") . However they can also be cooked in a spicy chipotle sauce, or how I present it here in a very simple light tomato based sauce that can be made spicy, mild, or with no heat at all.

 My mother made these meatballs yesterdays using ground chicken and a simply tomato sauce that wasn't' spicy at all (we had a bowl of freshly made green salsa that was extremely spicy for those that wanted to add heat to their dishes they could simply grab a couple spoonfuls and drizzle on their plates). The dish is fairly simple, very quick to put together, and with ingredients readily available to anyone in any country I believe and it tastes heavenly and is so light on the stomach (the mint leaves are good for digestions , and rice is very easy to digest). If your looking for something simple and healthy give this a try :)

Ingredients for meatballs:
-1 1/2 lbs ground chicken (grind it yourself or buy it ground)
-1 1/2- 2 cups cooled rice (could be white rice or leftover rice of any kind, my mom used leftover yellow rice from last night)
-1/2 a large bunch of mint leaves (cleaned, washed, patted dried then finely chopped)
-1/2 chopped onion
-2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 large egg
-salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients for sauce:
-1/2 a large onion or 1 onion finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic
-5-6 fresh ripe tomatoes
-1 heaping teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
-1 cup water
-salt and pepper to taste
-extra-virgin olive oil

Ingredient to garnish (optional):
-finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

(1) Put all meatball ingredients in a bowl,

mix together to combine, but do not over mix,
  and then form meatballs into medium sized balls. Set aside.
 (2) In a deep wide sauce pan or wide pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat, sautee chopped onions, and when onions are translucent and well cooked about 5- 7 minutes.
(3) Meanwhile in a blender blend tomatoes, garlic, chicken bouillon powder, salt and pepper, and add about 1 cup of water to blend everything to a smooth sauce,
 when blended add this mixture to the sauteed onions.
(4) Bring sauce to a boil, add meatballs one by one,
 cover and simmer 20- 25 minutes, until cooked through, add more water and adjust salt if you want the sauce looser. Before turning off sprinkle cilantro or parsley if you want to.

(5) We served it over white rice, with a salad dressed in olive oil, lemon, oregano, and salt.

(1) When my mom makes the chicken meatballs like she did here, she adds more rice because the ground chicken meat for some reason seems to be "looser" than using beef, it's less compact , so if you see the recipe when she prepared the beef ones for her soup, she used less rice.

(2) Don't panic if the chicken meatballs aren't perfectly round or seem too gloppy after making the meatballs, simply before adding to the hot pot, roll them in your hand into a ball prior to dropping them in the hot pot.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mi Birria de Res y Puerco (My Mexican Pork and Beef Stew)

“Birria” is a type of Mexican red stew or soup made with pork, beef, chicken, goat, or even turkey.

    It seems everyone makes Birria different,  the versions I am familiar with do not use tomato, it is composed of dried chilies, a little bit of vinegar, &  a spice mixture which for me should always include at least cumin, oregano, bay leaves, ginger (some don’t use ginger but to me it adds a special something, it doesn’t dominate the dish but adds a hot warmth that’s subtle) and some type of  sweet spices (it can be any of the following or combination or all of cloves, allspice berries , and or cinnamon)  and is cooked on stove top.

     On my blog I have my grand aunts recipe for “Birria” this recipe I present today is how I like to make it, it’s the recipe I came up with after seeing different cooks versions of “Birria” (including my grand-aunts) and I picked the components I liked from most from them and well came up with this version, the spice combination may seem odd to certain people, but trust me, when all these spices marry, none of them are more pre-dominant that the other, they combine to form a distinct flavor that taste like well “Birria” I really suggest anyone to try it if you never have and have the ingredients available … and don’t tell my aunt but I think it’s better than hers hehe.


2 ½ kilos about 8 lbs meat (pork, beef or goat I used 5 1/2 lbs pork spareribs and 2 1/2 lbs beef neck bone)
¼ cup vinegar (to marinade meat briefly)

Other Ingredients:
-5 chiles anchos
-15 guajillos chilies (you may use “Chile California” or 10 “Chile California & 5 “Guajillos”)
-3 cascabel chilies (optional can substitute for “Chile de Arbol” or “Chile Japones”)
-8 garlic cloves
-2 inches ginger peeled and sliced
-20 allspice berries
-5 cloves
-20 black peppercors
-2 cinnamon sticks
-1 tsp. cumin
-1 tsp.  oregano
-3 bay leaves
-salt to taste

(1) Wash the meat several times in water and drain about twice, for the third time soak in water, add a lot of salt, lime juice and swish it around then drain, and rinse once more, drain well.
(2) Get meat in a deep container or pot, add vinegar, stir well, and set aside while you prepare the rest of the stuff. (the vinegar is used to get rid of any gamey flavor specially if you use goat)
(3) Now get all the dried chilies (ancho, guajilli,  & cascabel), remove stems, seeds, and veins from all chilies, peel all the garlic cloves and lightly mash, peel and slice the ginger, and bash the cinnamon sticks and set all aside and have the rest of the spices on hand except bay leaves
(4) Now heat a pan with a generous amount of oil, fry all the chilies in batches briefly about 30- 40 seconds, set aside in a deep bowl, now fry all the spices except cumin, oregano & bay leaves.
(5) Blend everything (all the chilies and spices EXCEPT bay leaves) in batches to a smooth paste in a blender, add water as needed to get a paste consistency together with atleast 2-3 teaspoons salt. Set aside.
(6) Get your meat and drain the vinegar but do not rinse, add the blended chilies and spice mixture paste, coat well, and tuck in bay leaves in the mix. Cover and allow to marinade in the fridge over night, or atleast 2 hours

(7) Next day add enough water to barely cover about 1-2  inches deep, and bring to a boil, skim off foam, taste for salt you will probably have to add 2 more teaspoons of salt or more or less to taste and allow to simmer until meat is tender.

 About 2 hours.

  Serve with minced onion, cilantro, lime wedges, & corn tortillas
In addition I like to serve it with a spicy salsa that's made from dried chile japones or chile de arbol.

(1) If you cannot stand a little bit of spicy at all,  skip the Cascabel chilies, substitute them for “Chile California” and substitute all the Guajillos for “Chile California” this way it will not really have any heat.

(2) Like I said before give this recipe a try you won’t regret it  you can use bone in skin-on chicken, beef, pork, or even a whole turkey cut into segments

(3) After cooking it, you can refridgerate over night if you'd like to remove the excess fat from the stew, but to be honest it's what makes it delicious ;) 

(4) Also if you want a less oily dish, instead of frying everything, you can lightly toast the dried chilies in a hot griddle or comal for less than a minute, and soak in warm water. You can also toast all the spices, and pan- roast the tomatoes, onion, ginger, and garlic. Puree everything in blender minus the bay leaves.

I currently add 1/4- 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds that I blend to the marinade and let me tell you it gives the dish a wonderful flavor, and hits spot on in the taste when it comes to tasting like it's from a Birriereria (place that specializes in Birria)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Turmeric Rice

Turmeric rice is a golden/ yellow colored rice colored with well "turmeric" For those who don't know what it is, it's a root related to ginger I think, that can color and tinge things yellow, it can be bought fresh at many Asian stores but is commonly sold dried, and ground in powdered form which is what I use and have readily on hand. It's also used in "home remedies"/ alternative medicine, I use it to cleanse my liver from drinking and any inflammation (hot water with turmeric, and black pepper which makes it more bio-available), or when I have colds or want to boost my immune system, and especially for swollen tonsils. Feel free to research it if you would like.

Anyways this rice dish I learned it from one of my little sisters friends parents (I don't know their name it was a LOOOooOOooong time ago, they were family acquaintances) they are from somewhere in India so I'm assuming the dish is Indian.

I use to prepare this pretty often when I learned it a few years ago, it goes well as a side with anything you would serve with white rice with (grilled, pan-fried, or stewed meats, vegetable sides, whatever you want or is appealing to you). It's a nice alternative to the Cuban yellow rice I make, and very simple and quick to put together, plus I always have the ingredients on hand (rice, cumin, bay leaves, turmeric, onions and garlic, things I believe most people probably have in their pantry and on hand) So here goes :)

-2 cups white rice (washed/ rinsed and drained)
-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
-1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder
-1 onion thinly sliced/ julienned
-4 cloves garlic (or less I really like garlic so I used 4 cloves)
-oil to sautee ingredients (whatever you like to use, I used canola)
-salt to taste
-water (amount depends on what type of rice you use, if using regular long-grain white rice use 3 cups water, if using basmati I like to use 4 cups water, if using a good quality new-crop Jasmine rice use equal water to rice)

(1) Heat a large shallow pan or pot, add oil and when oil is hot sautee sliced onions along with bay leaves until caramelized over medium high to high heat.

(2) When onions get color, add garlic and stir cook until fragrant.

(3) Now add cumin, turmeric and give a quick stir, then add rice another quick stir, hot water and salt to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons salt use more or less to taste, when water begins to boil taste it, if it doesn't taste like sea water/ the ocean you probably should add more, because the rice grows and absorbs a lot of salt other wise it may be bland)

(4) When boiling give a stir, cover, and lower heat, cook for 25 minutes, then turn off and remove from heat let rest another 5 minutes. You can fluff it if you want to at this point. It's ready to serve :)

Please Note:
*** If using a rice cooker and you want to avoid the stove top, simply add your washed rice to the rice cooker, the cold water, salt to taste, and sautee the onions, garlic, spiced with oil in a small pan and dump the stuff you sauteed into the rice cooker, stir, and cook according to your rice cooker directions :)