Friday, June 25, 2010

Arroz Con Pollo & 200 Posts!

Woohoo! So I have officially made it to 200 posts. Who would have thought? 2 1/2 years and it's been quite a journey. Prior to starting this blog my cooking repertoire was slim to almost none and consisted primarily of baked goods. Well, and some blue box blues. I think about 190 recipes later I've made a bit of progress. Not only have I learned how to properly cook chicken in the oven and on the stove-top (rather than in the microwave) but I've also tested my comfort zone by making my own homemade pasta and even marshmallow fondant without a stand mixer (what was I thinking??). I've gone from having to follow every recipe to a "T" and measuring everything out precisely to being comfortable switching out ingredients and measuring things out by sight. I have to admit though, it also helps to have a very forgiving taste-tester, as I've definitely had my fair share of doozies.

For my 200th post I figured I wouldn't just share any old recipe with you, but one of my very favorite meals. When I was living down in DC with my sister, our other roommate Laura taught us how to make a traditional Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo. And it is SO.GOOD. I am totally craving this right now just looking at these pictures. It's really difficult to describe the flavor of this dish, with it's mixture of traditional Puerto Rican flavors of sofrito, adobo, and pimientos except for the word delicious.

Arroz con Pollo
From: Laura Fuentes

1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
Adobo seasoning
1 jar fancy pimientos
2 cooking spoonfuls* sofrito, heaping
2 cubitos de pollo con achiote
Vegetable oil
3 cups medium grain rice

Season thighs on both sides with adobo; place into a dutch oven. Add pimientos (with liquid), sofrito, and cubitos. Add just enough water to cover chicken. Place over high heat and let boil, uncovered, for approximately 45 minutes or until thighs are tender and cooked through. Add water if necessary to keep thighs submerged. Remove thighs from liquid and set aside (DO NOT DRAIN).

Add 1 cooking spoonful of vegetable oil and the rice to the liquid. Stir. Cook over medium-high heat until water is absorbed. DO NOT stir. Once water is absorbed, stir rice gently. Turn heat to low and cover. Cook in 10 minute increments until rice is correct texture; stir every 10 min.

*A "cooking spoon" refers to the large nylon spoons used for cooking (not from your typical silverware set).

So there are LOT of side notes about this recipe. If you can't tell by the measurements and directions, it's definitely one of those recipes that have been passed down (which just supports how good this is).

First, you can use chicken breast for this recipe, and as much as I am not a fan of dark meat... it really makes this dish. White meat just gets too dried out.

Second, I cheat with the sofrito. Laura is an absolute gem and brings Jen and myself back huge containers of sofrito that one of her neighbors makes. However, if you are looking for it in the store it is the GREEN sofrito NOT the red. (The green sofrito does not use tomatoes.) Or you could make it at home using a recipe such as this: Green Sofrito.

As for the cubitos de pollo con achiote, the achiote part is very important. And very impossible to find out here in Pittsburgh. Unable to hold out for the actual thing, I combined 2 packets of Goya Chicken Bullion with 2 packets of Sazon Goya - Con Culantro y Achiote and it was almost spot on. So if you can't find the cubitos de pollo con achiote, this would also work.

Finally, if you're like me and feel that rice has a mind of it's own, stick with medium grain rice. It's a little harder to find (I had to go to a specialty store for it), but it will ensure the proper cooking time and you won't have to fight with crunchy or mushy rice. As for the whole not stirring part, yes there will be burnt crispy rice at the bottom. Don't worry, it's supposed to be that way (it's actually Laura's favorite part).

I know, I know, sounds a little complicated. But I swear, once you have it, you will crave it like none other.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ravioli with Herbed Ricotta Filling

Welcome to summer! I know to people in other parts of the country this may sound ridiculous and obvious, but up here for some reason, the weather just doesn't get the whole early summer idea. I'm pretty sure I saw 57 and 59 on the thermostat a few times this June. Luckily the temperature finally decided to get it's act together... now I just wish it would coordinate with the rain and clouds. As in, make them go away.

Even if I can't get what I want, this dish is a great fit for summer (whenever it decides to show up). The mixture of cheese, fresh herbs and lemon filling just scream "summer" at you, and the light sauce is a refreshing change from those heavy meat-laden tomato-based sauces. While yes, it does take a little bit of time to put together, I think it's well worth it.

Ravioli with Herbed Ricotta Filling
Filling & Sauce adapted from: Cooking Light, March 2009

Pasta Dough:
2 cups + 10 tablespoons (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs

3/4 cup (6 ounces) low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

6 quarts water
2 tbsp kosher salt

To prepare ravioli, place ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined colander (a coffee filter will also work); drain 30 minutes. Combine ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and next 4 ingredients (through egg), stirring until well combined.

To prepare the dough, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor; process 30 seconds. Combine 5 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon oil, and eggs, stirring well. With processor running, slowly pour water mixture through food chute, processing just until dough forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 6 times. Shape dough into a disk. Dust dough lightly with flour; wrap in plastic wrap. Let stand 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Using a pasta maker (or a rolling pin and a floured surface) roll out the each half of pasta into 15 x 6-inch sheets. Cut in half lengthwise (so you will have 4 total sheets that are 15 x 3-inches).

Place 1 (15 x 3–inch) pasta dough sheet on a lightly floured surface. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons filling mixture 1 1/2 inches from left edge in the center of sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons filling mixture at 3-inch intervals along the length of sheet. Moisten edges and in between each filling portion with water; place 1 (15 x 3–inch) pasta sheet on top, pressing to seal. Cut pasta sheet crosswise into 5 (3 x 3–inch) ravioli, trimming edges with a sharp knife or pastry wheel. Place ravioli on a lightly floured baking sheet (cover with a damp towel to prevent drying). Repeat procedure with remaining pasta sheets and filling mixture to form 20 ravioli.

Bring 6 quarts water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add half of ravioli to pot; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until no longer translucent. Remove ravioli from water with a slotted spoon. Repeat procedure with remaining ravioli.

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 6 minutes or until garlic is tender. Remove from heat. Place 5 ravioli in each of 4 shallow bowls; drizzle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic oil. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon basil and 1 tablespoon shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve immediately.

Now, the sole reviewer of this recipe on claims that it was good but you could just as easily get this in the store. I totally disagree with that. First off, I have never seen this type of flavor combination in the store -- it's usually just your typical meat or cheese ravioli. Second, fresh pasta is what makes this dish. Since the flavors and the sauce are so light, it really makes the pasta the star of the show. Hence why you would NOT want to use dried pasta in this case. I say use your favorite pasta recipe -- whether it's made with all-purpose flour, semolina, whole-wheat, whatever and it's sure to be delicious.

Usually I'm all about substituting dried herbs for fresh ones for speed and cost. However, this is once again, NOT the dish to do that in. The way I see it, why bother going through the trouble of making fresh pasta if you're going to fill it with dried ingredients? If you're going to spend the time to make the pasta, you might as well spend a little bit more chopping fresh herbs. While it's true this isn't a quick meal to make, it's definitely a tasty one.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 497Calories from fat 196
% Daily Value
Total Fat 21.8g34%
Saturated Fat 7.1g36%
Cholesterol 184mg61%
Sodium 595mg25%
Total Carbs 52.6g18%
Dietary Fiber 1.8g7%
Sugars 0.8g
Protein 21.6g
Vitamin A 11%Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 30%Iron 23%

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Creamy Taco Mac

When Adam first moved to Pittsburgh (sans me) he was skilled at making two things: pizza rolls and hamburger helper. Well, I guess and going out to eat. :) Once he dragged me out here, things changed a bit -- first I refused live off of pizza rolls and hamburger helper, and I also refused to go out to eat every night as well. As much as I like dining out, it tends to get repetitive after a while, not to mention $$$.

However, I know every once in a while Adam misses his dinner-in-a-box hamburger helper, so when I ran across Annie's Eat's twist on it, I figured, why not?

Creamy Taco Mac
From: Annie's Eats

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
8 ounces dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tablespoons taco seasoning
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese.

So it's not exactly your typical hamburger helper, but it is fairly close. I like the use of ground turkey (or chicken) to make it a little bit healthier, although I'm sure you could always substitute it with beef. I'm not sure why I was a little surprised by how "taco-y" it turned out -- the only seasoning you add is taco seasoning. I guess I just had "hamburger helper" stuck in my mind. Overall, it's a pretty good dish... fairly hard to mess up for those transitioning from the box to an actual meal. However, if it's time you're looking to save on this dish, I think the box still wins on that one.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 782Calories from fat 339
% Daily Value
Total Fat 37.6g58%
Saturated Fat 16.4g82%
Cholesterol 195mg65%
Sodium 968mg38%
Total Carbs 54.3g18%
Dietary Fiber 3.5g14%
Sugars 6.3g
Protein 53.3g
Vitamin A 29%Vitamin C 24%
Calcium 22%Iron 33%


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